The Call to Write: Prepare, Pursue, and Persist

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My guest today is Erin Unger. She offers truths and encouragement for writers. Erin is giving away a ebook to one of at least five readers who leave a comment. Learn more about her new book, Fateful Fall, at the end of her post. Here’s Erin.

Prepare

I have often said writing is not for the faint of heart, and it takes time. This saying is as true today as ten years ago when I set my fingers to keyboard keys and typed my first sentence. But if you’re called to write, you must do it. And you must give yourself time to learn how it is done.

Writer Lawrence Block once said, “If you want to write fiction, the best thing you can do is take two aspirins, lie down in a dark room, and wait for the feeling to pass. If the feeling persists, you probably ought to write a novel.”

Block said this because he recognized how hard writing is. And I bet he wanted to help new writers understand the commitment level needed.

It takes a while to become a good writer. And it requires courage. 

Take time to pray as you consider your writing journey. We say God has all the answers, but then we don’t turn to Him to get them.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”

Pursue

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Give yourself time to bloom into an amazing writer. Do not believe that because so-and-so had their first novel published right away you are meant to do the same thing. Maybe that’s what God has planned for you…but maybe not. Work at it. Study. Go to conferences and workshops. Write, write, write. And then write some more.

There are quite a number of excellent conferences and workshops. Here is a small list of a few you could look into:

  • Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference
  • Mount Herman Christian Writers Conference
  • Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference
  • American Christian Fiction Writers Conference
  • American Christian Fiction Writers Virginia Chapter Conference
  • Florida Christian Writers Conference

Don’t discount a one-day workshop. I’ve learned valuable information at several yearly workshops I’ve attended. And it’s just as important to get together with writers as it is to learn from teachers.

Don’t waste time. Too often, we play with our first manuscript ad nauseam. Let that baby go and get to work on the next brilliant book. You learn as you write, and usually the first novel will not see the light of day—well, maybe it will years later—but not right away. Starting another story helps you grow. And it shows you that you can keep moving forward to become a serious writer.

Persist

When at last you’ve handed your hard work over to an editor or publishing house, more time passes in the publishing process. Don’t sit still. Start the next manuscript. Who knows, they may be interested in more than one of your stories. It happened to me.

Take time to do it right. And keep going. God’s got it all worked out for you.

To win an eBook of Fateful Fall, tell me in the comments below about a goal of yours that took a long time to be realized.

Buy Fateful Fall

Private Investigator Ava Worthington and her partners head to the mountains to solve the death of a farm owner’s son who was discovered murdered in an outhouse on the property. Without local cowboy Cory’s protection, Ava won’t get the chance to follow leads as the killer tries to stop her investigation. But Ava’s falling for Cory against her better judgment. She should be working and not pining after a cowboy. And Cory doesn’t want a relationship. His successful career was destroyed by a woman he trusted, and he won’t make the same mistake twice. 

One suspect after another is cleared from Ava’s list until she’s sure she has the real killer targeted in her sights, but he’s hunting her, too. How will Ava and Cory find the killer and admit their love before they are buried under a mountain of secrets?

Erin Unger was raised in the hills of Virginia, exploring abandoned houses and reading the scariest books she could find. After marrying so young it would make a great romance novel, she has enjoyed an exciting life with her hubby.But her fast-paced life sometimes rivals the suspense in her books thanks to all her mostly grown children and a couple grandkids. www.erinungerwrites.com

12 Tips to Edit a Story Draft into an Enjoyable Read

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Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is designed to shape a not-yet submitted, rejected, or self-published manuscript with low ratings into a book that shines. The method can also be a guiding resource for writers starting a manuscript. See details below.

I’m close to finishing a first draft. I’ve avoided editing, except fixes that made the plot work. I’ll edit the draft using the following tips.

Editing Tips

Tip 1 Writing to a word count can help with overwriting. In writing blog posts, my word-count goal is 500 words. It’s amazing how much better the post is when I hunt down wordy or unnecessary phrases and stick close to my goal. Same for a novel.

Tip 2 Don’t allow backstory in the first chapter. Do know your protagonist’s backstory. Do feed what’s necessary into other chapters. Do use backstory in how your character acts and reacts.

Tip 3 Get rid of repetition and explaining. Sometimes repetition comes in a different form but says the same thing. He shoveled in food, bite after bite. Explaining suggests readers aren’t smart enough to get it. He shoveled in food. He was hungry.

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Tip 4 Kill your darlings. You have a paragraph you think is clever. If you’re unsure it’s funny, something the character would say, or whether it’s melodramatic, cut your darling.

Tip 5  “Overwriting is a natural result of our own effort to figure out what’s happening in any given scene. Only after we have discovered the core truth can we know what truly belongs and what doesn’t, based on a clearer knowledge of what we’re trying to say and what the scene requires.” “The Too Long and Short of It” by David Corbett (Writer’s Digest September 2019)

Tip 6 Similar to Tip 5 but for the entire book. Understand your character’s past wounds, struggles, and values so you know how he’d react to events, people, and dialogue. Understand what you’re trying to say in your novel. With this knowledge, write a one-sentence theme for your story. Let this guide you so you don’t ramble.

Tip 7 Make sure every scene has purpose to the plot, characterization or the character’s growth arc. Otherwise, cut or change it.

image by KeithJJ

Tip 8 If you describe many body-part movements in a character’s actions, look for a single word. He tightened his fingers on the ball, pulled his arm back, and then threw the ball. Instead, He pitched the ball.

Tip 9 For all genres, add suspense to your scenes, i.e. create and hold back information the reader wants to know. End chapters with a hook or “cliff hanger” to draw readers to the next chapter.

Tip 10 Don’t explain dialogue. Dialogue itself should do the work. Write dialogue that‘s: necessary, unique to the character speaking, shows his emotion, and interesting. 

Tip 11 Don’t over describe characters or settings. Allow the reader to visualize with a few key “traits.”

Tip 12 Make sure your ending is satisfying to the reader. Wrap up all the subplots, except maybe one for the next book in a series. Don’t rush the ending. Make sure it’s plausible. Include a surprise or a reward the character receives, such as an understanding or something that relates to an item in the story. 

What in a novel do you dislike reading or skip over? 


Buy Link

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is TYFMI30D-Print-5.75x8.89.jpeg

Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools. —Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript and into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan. —Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling author of the Myrtle Clover Mysteries, the Southern Quilting Mysteries, and the Memphis Barbeque Mysteries http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/


Tips for a Successful Writing Sabbatical

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Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is designed to shape a not-yet submitted, rejected, or self-published manuscript with low ratings into a book that shines. The method can also be a guiding resource for writers starting a manuscript. See details below.


For four weeks, I’ve been on a writing sabbatical at our lake cabin. I’ve made significant progress on a romance and my first speculative novel. 

Every night, I email my sister my progress, negatives, positives, and what I’ve researched.

Here’s my sabbatical summary and tips.

Normal World

Responsibilities keep us from writing. Some of mine:

  • Prepare and teach Bible Study (9 hours weekly)
  • Half-day meetings (9 hours monthly)
  • ACFW VA Treasurer Responsibilities 
  • Interruptions: telephone calls, etc.
  • My blog post (5 hours weekly) 
  • Church tasks and social functions (I don’t work on Sundays.)
  • Marketing Tasks (huge consumer)
  • Preparation, travel, and teaching webinars and workshops (approx. one every other month)
  • Short-stay visitors (fun)
  • Housework (moderate—husband does most)

Preparation

  • Chose July when the Bible study and two half-day meetings break for the summer.
  • Enlisted 3 guests for my blog and set up posts ahead.
  • Completed 3 ACFW VA Treasurer projects ahead.
  • Created Sabbatical daily schedule.
  • Set goals. 
  • Packed printer, ink, writing resources, etc.
  • Packed comfortable clothes.
  • Shopped for soups, frozen dinners, fruit.
  • Set up a desk in the cabin loft.

Sabbatical

Workdays: Goal 25; Actual 21

Average Daily Word Count:  

Goal Speculative 2,500; Actual 1,000 

Goal Romance 2,500; Actual 1,300

Goal Total Words 125,000; Actual 48,000

Sample of Negatives:

  • Hadn’t considered research time in word-count goals. Speculative needed heavy research.
  • Scheduled inadequate time for the small weekly tasks I brought with me. So, rose earlier and shaved my 9-hour writing time.
  • Hadn’t realized ACFW VA board would prepare for our conference and contest during July.
  • Returned home to teach a pre-scheduled workshop. Unexpected technical difficulties drained time on two prior workdays.
  • Several unexpected marketing tasks required attention.
  • John’s weekend responsibilities prevented Sunday visits. Worked longer hours to make up for workday visits.
  • Car broke down. Hours spent rectifying that.
  • Made unexpected excursions for TVA approval of our new dock.

Sample of Positives:

  • Read three books. One was a speculative and highlighted issues to consider for my speculative.
  • Didn’t edit. I only performed fixes and rewrites necessary to move forward.
  • Time to print thirteen maps proved invaluable for progress on my speculative.
  • Research lessened word count, but prevented unworkable situations needing rewrites later.
  • Working on two different genres worked well; nine hours on one book would have been grueling.
  • In solitude, I had time to think.
  • A blog post I read during a break gave me a great idea for a scene.
  • Completed solid drafts covering a third of the speculative and seventy percent of the romance. And most research tasks are done.
  • Accomplished more than I would have at home.

Would I Do It Again?

image by
Alexas_Fotos

I thought I’d be protected from time-eating demands. They were partly my fault. But I’m wiser now. I look forward to my next sabbatical.

Tips

  1. Look ahead carefully for potential sabbatical crashers.
  2. Schedule sabbatical during a time where your responsibilities are lowest. 
  3. Unless your sabbatical is a nanowrimo, consider the level of research needed and set word-count goals accordingly.
  4. It may be better to do research than major rewrites later.
  5. For long sabbaticals, schedule days off.
  6. If family will visit, maximize visits on your planned days off.
  7. Where possible, complete ahead or remove responsibilities from sabbatical days.
  8. Notify necessary people you’ll be unavailable.
  9. Don’t schedule a quick non-writing project. Too risky for a potential time eater.
  10. Create a writing space where resources are quickly available.
  11. Keep your needs simple: easy meals, minimal clean up, and few laundry loads.
  12. Take breaks and time to unwind during evenings.
  13. Keep a brief daily journal. Recording progress, negatives, and positives will facilitate planning future sabbaticals.
  14. Roll with the unpreventable disasters.

What goals would you choose for a sabbatical?


Buy Link

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is TYFMI30D-Print-5.75x8.89.jpeg

Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools. —Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript and into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan. —Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling author of the Myrtle Clover Mysteries, the Southern Quilting Mysteries, and the Memphis Barbeque Mysteries http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/