Book Deadlines—Do or Die

image by geralt

Deadlines are good. They help writers focus on completing book-writing tasks. Sometimes deadlines aren’t so good. Writers may carefully plan how they’re going to meet deadlines, padding their schedules for unexpected events. Then they discover the padding wasn’t enough and they’re in a pickle.

Unexpected Events for John Writer

image by stevepb

Others experience their own unanticipated happenings. They don’t provide something John Writer needs to move forward.

An illness or accident whacks John Writer’s energy to do anything or fills his schedule with doctor appointments.

Unplanned personal events arise. Although some personal incidents are necessary to attend to, others aren’t, but John Writer feels they are. He would feel ashamed to not give of his time. Here are examples:

         ♥ A grandchild living five hours away is receiving a honor at school and has asked John Writer to be there.

         ♥ A church or charity committee has asked member John Writer to help with an event. Why should John Writer say no? The others on the committee have deadlines too. Sadly, a lot more prep work was involved than what was promised.

         ♥ John Writer’s spouse patiently waits for him to be part of her life again and, with hope filling her eyes, asks Writer to go away for a weekend.

So What Does John Writer Do?

image by kalhh

Asks spouse to drive on trips, and with a laptop on his lap, he works during the journey.

Pulls all-nighters.

Weasels out of writer group meetings; after all, the participants should understand deadlines.

Allows excellence to slip on non-writing or other writing tasks.

Dumps woes on spouse.

Lives in an overwhelmed state.

Quits marketing other books, vows never to write another book, asks the conference to be postponed so he can get his workshop developed—what?!

STOP – Find Good Solutions

Here are what I think I’m going to do or continue doing:

Pray for help. God is faithful.

Choose not to do frivolous tasks or those that can be postponed without hurting anyone, such as

♥ Leave the dust on the shelf in the closet.

♥ Don’t peruse the Grandin Road magazine that came in the mail, whose wares I will never buy anyway.

♥ Sew the bow back on my PJs.

Care for myself, such as

♥ Take rejuvenating breaks and spend fifteen minutes with my husband.

♥ Nix the mulling and worrying at bedtime; mulling or worrying is a choice.

♥ Refuse to work on Sundays.

♥ Retreat to our cabin to work—getting away from phone calls and seeing the dust on my closet shelf.

Yes, for a season, get up early on Saturdays and snatch more time where appropriate.

Ask for an extension on the deadline. If an illness or other tragedy occurs, this is valid and usually honored by publishers.

Use deadlines to help get your book written, not to kill you. Click to tweet.

How do you deal with deadlines? Give us your healthy suggestions.

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Suddenly unemployed, Allie Masterson returns home to Cary, North Carolina where she caddies for her father on the PGA Seniors Tour. There, she encounters a man who possesses an alluring gift of reading the contours of the green. Fascinated with his uncanny ability, Allie is excited to meet the Green Whisperer—until she discovers that the easygoing caddy is actually Shoo Leonard, the boy who teased her relentlessly when they were kids. Despite Allie’s reservations, when Shoo is faced with having to overcome a hand injury, she agrees to use her sport science degree to become his trainer…and then she falls for him.

 Shoo Leonard is grateful to Allie for her singular determination to get him ready for the PGA tour, but he isn’t ready for anything more. Still raw from a broken engagement and focused on his career, he’s content to be her fist-bumping buddy…but then he falls for her.

What seems like a happily-ever-after on the horizon takes a turn when Allie decides she’s become a distraction to Shoo’s career. Is it time for her to step away or can The Putting Green Whisperer find the right words to make her stay?

Cramming in Characters: Overloads & Overwhelms Readers

image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images
image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images

A common first-chapter problem is introducing too many characters in the first scene. This can also be a problem for later scenes.

The Problem

  • image by OpenClipart-Vectors
    image by OpenClipart-Vectors
    Readers feel as if they’ve entered a gala with names thrown at them.
  • People can keep track of around three characters at a time.
  • Readers become confused and forget the many characters’ relationships to the protagonist.
  • Authors are less likely to round out people when too many are introduced at once.

Solutions

  • Introduce necessary characters; don’t simply name them.
  • Use names that sound different from names of other people.
  • Determine which characters are crucial. If they don’t have a short or long-term purpose, eliminate them.
  • image by geralt
    image by geralt
    Consider whether two or more characters can be combined into one character.
  • Decide which critical characters can be introduced later. This removes first-chapter overload and starts the story faster.

 

  • Space introductions of essential characters throughout the scene and give each a memorable feature, action, or dialogue.
  • Allow only characters in the first chapter who have purposes that support the setup and keep the focus on the protagonist.
  • Consider this in a scene: At a party, we wouldn’t receive the full background of the twenty people we meet.
  • Introduce two or three new vital characters in scenes subsequent to the first—after readers have had a chance to grasp the story setup. Then, each character can have his own cameo through action, dialogue, and the protagonist’s point of view.

An Example

At Mom’s wake, Millie’s brother, Don, introduced his college roommate, Mark. Before Millie had a chance to say more than hello, Sally and Vera, her mother’s closest friends approached and threw their arms around her. Extricating herself from Mom’s chums, Millie caught a glance of Ron over by the shrimp platter. She needed to speak to him. Of course, Mom’s cousin Emma, had to come. Emily, her daughter, followed her everywhere.

image by Unsplash
image by Unsplash

An Evaluation:

  • Mark never enters the story again or has any purpose.
  • Don and Ron and Emma and Emily are essential, but their names are too similar. Possibly Emma and Emily could be detained and arrive the following day.
  • Although we’re given how each person is related to Millie, we’re given nothing memorable to keep these 8 people straight.
  • Mom’s chums could possibly be combined into one friend.

Better Rewrite:

Millie’s chest caved. Couldn’t Don have honored their mother and come to her wake sober? Millie turned her sisterly glare into a smile as Mom’s closest friend Vera approached with outstretched arms. Vera’s arm flab flapped as she waddled closer. Extricating herself from Vera’s bear hug, Millie caught sight of handsome Erik half hidden by the oriental screen. Was Erik avoiding their needed conversation?

Best Rewrite: Now have moments spaced throughout the scene in which these 4 characters hint at or show their long- and short-term purposes to the chapter and story.

Be deliberate in introducing many characters so readers aren’t overwhelmed or confused. Click to tweet.

What other suggestions do you have for introducing characters?

How to Use Art to Free Your Anxious Heart

We all bear difficult times in our lives when we feel overwhelmed. My guest, Kristin Blankenship, shares her experience and 4 tips we can employ to heal our anxious hearts.

Using Art to Free an Anxious Heart

It is important to do the work that leads to our renewal, clarity and inspiration and then remember to taste it, experience it and let it flow.  Linda Saccoccio

Let Your Light Shine
Let Your Light Shine

No one could have prepared me for the journey my heart would travel upon becoming a mom over 9 years ago.  A journey bursting with love for my long-awaited child, a little boy entering the world in hushed awe with wide-open eyes – windows to an old soul.  And, at the same time, a journey fraught with the uneasiness over the feeling that my beautiful boy did not seem comfortable outside the womb.  With the arrival of a little sister less than two years later, came frequent and lengthy meltdowns, nightly sleep difficulties, and the onset of rigid, repetitive behaviors.  My husband and I operated in survival mode for days on end.

autismbooks

Writer, Elizabeth Stone, once described having children as  “forever having your heart go walking around outside your body.” My boy and I shared the same anxious heart as I began searching for answers from pediatricians, child psychologists, behavior and occupational therapists.  At the age of 2 ½, my sweet boy was diagnosed with high-functioning autism.  And while this journey has been difficult at times, especially in those early years, it has also served as a training ground for strength, perseverance, joy and celebration as we experience God’s love through the hands and hearts of those who travel along beside us.

Being the parent of a special needs child often means chronic sleep deprivation and countless hours researching in the desperate effort to understand and make the best decisions for early intervention.  It is easy to become so focused on these aspects, that we lose our true selves somewhere in the mad dash to special schools and multiple therapies all over (and out of) town.  Even play with a special needs child requires work!  It is no wonder that when we do finagle some quiet-time for ourselves, we sit with grieving hearts, trying to remember who we are beyond the Special Needs Mom title.

Spread Joy
Spread Joy

For me, art has played an integral role in healing my own worn-out, anxious heart.  Integrating art and creativity into our daily lives fosters the opportunity to reconnect with our own inner child, that child of God who runs and laughs and feels joy spontaneously.  When we get out of our own heads and back in touch with our true essence, we are better able to connect with God, the Source for inspiration and energy that we so desperately need.  Yes, our children need our intellect.  They need us to be their advocates. Even more, they need our hearts and the joy that God has placed inside them.  Joy that offers healing for ourselves and our children.

So, how can you infuse art into your daily life?  Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Grab the crayons and draw or write with your non-dominant hand.  Studies indicate that this practice promotes access to the right-side of the brain which houses functions such as feeling, intuition, creativity, and inner wisdom and spirituality.

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  • Engage your body in joyful movement.  Try dancing to upbeat music while doing chores, such as cleaning the bathroom.

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  • Create a sculpture with air-dry clay or play-dough.  The act of sculpting and kneading releases stress and reminds us of how God created and molded us in his very own image.

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  • Cut-out magazine pictures that “speak” to you and make a collage. Figure-out ways to incorporate one or more of these ideas into the weeks ahead.VisionCollage

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Allow the creativity to flow and you just might discover a deep well of abundance. Abundance that offers sustenance for a tired heart.

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Stu&MeKristin Blankenship is the wife to her husband of 19 years and the mother of  two school-age children, ages 7 and 9. Before having children, she spent the majority of her adult career working in the public schools as an elementary school teacher and guidance counselor. More recently, Kristin ran with the desire to “unleash her inner artist,” and began working with creative coach, Amy Barr.  Through this process, she discovered healing and a renewed joy for life. Currently, Kristin resides in Midlothian, Virginia where she writes of her faith and motherhood at her blog, The Blue Mug, and creates mixed-media art, celebrating the simple beauty of life.

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