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Writing Roundup: October 11

Writing Roundup: October 11

 

Writing Roundup October 11, 2017

 

I’ve read several great blog posts about writing lately. I’m not always great about reading blogs, but when I do, I’m amazed at the timely content. I figured you’d be interested in them, too, so I’m sharing them here!

Amy Green, fiction publicist at Bethany House Publishers, was a guest on Seekerville Monday. She shares her “Top Ten Writing Industry Issues You Should Care About.” While all ten are terrific, I was drawn to Writing in Community and Time Management. Both are dear to my heart. I’ve linked the full article below. And stop by Seekerville all of October for chances to win prizes. They’re celebrating ten years of blogging with a month-long party! (Happy birthday, Seekerville!)

“Top Ten Writing Industry Issues You Should Care About” by Amy Green via Seekerville

 

Novelist Peter Leavell discusses how to find an adoring audience in “Gather a Flock” at Seriously Write. It’s a clever, true post, and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read it. The link is below!

“Gather a Flock” by Peter Leavell via Seriously Write

 

And, last but not least, author Jody Hedlund shows how reviews–good AND bad–are helpful in “Why Getting Some Negative Reviews Can be Positive,” at Inspired by Life and Fiction. I especially like Jody’s points about how readers need reliable reviews and how feedback keeps authors from growing complacent.

“Why Getting Some Negative Reviews Can be Positive” by Jody Hedlund via Inspired by Life and Fiction

 

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Fuzzy Blankets, Warm Drinks and Novels

Yesterday, I wrote “Fuzzy Blankets, Warm Drinks and Novels” for Ladies of Love Inspired. Pop on over for a few book recommendations!

Do you read blogs? Have a favorite? Please share in the comments!

The Right Character to Open Your Story #WW

The Right Character To Open Your Story #WW

Last night I opened a novel I’d borrowed from the library. It didn’t have a prologue, so I dove right into the first chapter. Within one page I knew who the main character would be (at least I assumed he was the main character), and I had a basic understanding of the setting and tone of the story.

The book is Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. I’ve only read one or two short stories by Mr. Bradbury, but I’d recently come across an interview of an author who rereads this book every couple of years. I figured why not?

I’ve only read a few chapters, but my initial expectations were correct. The main character is a twelve-year-old boy named Douglas Spaulding, and the story is set in an American town during the summer of 1928. I’m not sure if the town is in New England or the Midwest, but the descriptions make me believe the region must be one of those two.

Douglas is an imaginative kid, very intense, and he’s throbbing with anticipation over what a great summer it will be. There are sour apples and peaches and plums to be picked, meals to be baked with Grandma, and the town habits are so familiar to Douglas that he pretends to orchestrate the movements of the morning. It’s a delightful opening.

It made me think about a common mistake inexperienced writers often make. They open their story in a secondary character’s point of view.

 

The right character to open your story #ww

 

Who is the right character to open a story?

The main character.

Readers are taking a chance when they start a book, especially if the author is unfamiliar to them. I have certain expectations for the first chapter. One of those expectations is that the character I’m getting invested in will carry the book. If it becomes clear in the next chapters that the viewpoint character from chapter one isn’t the main character, I am much more likely to stop reading.

What if you have more than one main character?

Romance novels have two: the hero and the heroine. I’m fine with either beginning the story. What I’m not okay with is reading from the heroine’s sister’s point of view in the opening pages. Or the hero’s funny best friend’s or the sweet old aunt’s. If it’s not their story, don’t let them open it.

What about a book with multiple points of view?  You know, the one following the lives of three best friends?

Ask yourself which character has the strongest arc. Which one has the biggest journey? If you’re convinced they all have equal arcs, pick the one who has the most to lose when your story begins. And make sure she carries the book all the way to the very end. If she doesn’t? Rewrite your opening in the point of view of the character who does.

Are there any rules of thumb about characters and story openings?

I, personally, love books where the opening scene and closing scene are in the same character’s point of view.  I’ve been with him or her throughout the ups and downs of the book, and I get all emotional when the story comes full circle. Since I write romance, I have to determine which of my main two characters has the most to lose when the book opens. Who will have the bigger journey? The hero or the heroine? When I figure this out, I know which character will begin and end the book.

Secondary characters should never take over your story. The reader wants to find out what happens to the main characters. If you write too many scenes from other viewpoints, the reader will care less and less about your hero or heroine. I’m not saying the plot won’t be furthered by utilizing other viewpoints, but be careful. Readers can’t care equally about every character you introduce. Let the main ones do the heavy hitting.

To recap: the character who begins your story should be a main character, the one with the biggest journey, the one the reader will get most invested in. Wait until the main characters are established before switching to a secondary character’s point of view. And think hard before allowing a secondary character to take over a scene. Ask yourself if it will further the main plot? Or is it taking precious time away from the hero or heroine?

How do you determine which character will open your story?

There is still time to enter my gift package giveaway! Click on “The Rancher’s Mistletoe Bride Giveaway” and scroll down for the easy entry options!

The Rancher's Mistletoe Bride Giveaway

Have a great day!

Pitch Prep #WW

Pitch Prep #WW

You know what season it is? Yes, football…duh. It’s also conference season. Yay!

Writers attending conferences usually sign up for pitch sessions. *Just got a shiver down my spine.* Pitch sessions are basically “here’s my project, you’re going to love it,” sessions. Writers are trying to woo an agent or editor into requesting a partial or full of their manuscript. Maybe woo is too strong a word. Perhaps entice is better.

Whatever you call it, you don’t have much time to get to the meat of your book. Pitch sessions are typically short. Ten to fifteen minutes. Rambling is never a good thing.

Full disclosure: I’ve had lousy pitch sessions. I’ve gotten too cutesy. Focused on the this is why my book is unique aspect over the this is why readers will buy it and love it aspect. But I never let a bad pitch stop me. I took what I learned and got better. As a result, I’ve had awesome pitch sessions.

There is no magic formula for pitching, and I’m glad! Don’t worry about doing it wrong. Agents and editors are there because they want to find new clients and books. That being said, you’re not going to sell your book in a pitch session, and you’re also not going to be offered representation. You’re simply giving the agent/editor an overall impression of you and what you write. Best case scenario? They want to read your work. Worst case? They don’t. Either way, you’ll survive!

 

Pitch Prep!

So how do you prepare for pitch sessions?

Practice!!

1. Introduce yourself, share what you write and any relevant experience you have.

Example: Hello, I’m Jill Kemerer. I write contemporary romance novels for the Christian market. I’ve been writing for several years, and the book I’m pitching is a finalist in X contest.

2. Chit chat if appropriate. If it feels uncomfortable, dive right into your pitch.

3. State the name of the book, the genre, how long it is and if it’s finished. Also mention if it’s part of a series.

Example: Chasing the Agent is book one in a three book series. It’s an inspirational romantic suspense. It’s 95,000 words and is complete.

4. Condense the story into 50-75 words.

This is like the back copy of a book. Include the main characters, what they want, why they want it and why can’t they have it. Don’t give everything away at this point. It’s the teaser.

Example: Neil Delaware knows his book is destined to be a bestseller, but no agent will take a chance on him. Desperate, he flies to New York to convince top agent, Babs McCoy, to listen to his pitch. But when a deranged writer with one too many rejections holds Babs hostage, Neil must choose what is more important–his book or the life of the woman who captivates him.

5. Be prepared to mention your other books if asked.

At this point the agent or editor will either give a reason or two why the book doesn’t work for them, or they will ask you for a partial/sample chapters/proposal or the full manuscript. If they’re criticizing your idea, your heart may be pooling into a devastated puddle on the floor, but prop a smile on, thank them for their time, and later, ask yourself if they have a valid point. Maybe you focused on the wrong aspects of your story in an effort to stand out. Maybe they simply didn’t connect with your idea. That’s okay.

If they ask for a partial, send them the first fifty pages of your book along with a synopsis. Ditto with sample chapters. If they ask for a proposal, check their agency’s website for further direction. At the least, a proposal includes a cover letter, sample chapters and a synopsis. It may also include a marketing plan, books for competition and a biography. If they ask for the full, send the synopsis with it.

6. Thank them for their time.

The publishing industry is a very small world. Be professional. Be friendly. Be courteous.

No matter how well you hit it off, you are not their new best friend. It’s fine to be friendly throughout a conference, but be mindful of their time. They likely have meetings scheduled with their current clients. If you didn’t hit it off at all, don’t get a chip on your shoulder or spout off to the people around you what a jerk the agent or editor was. You might end up working with them someday.

The final step–and this is important–send whatever they requested!!

You’d be shocked at how many writers get cold feet about actually sending requested material. If agents or editors request your work, it means they actually want to see it. So send it already!

I really recommend practicing your pitch at home. Use the voice recorder on your phone or practice on a friend. This will give you a much needed boost of confidence when you sit down at your session. Jot down the important details and review it before your pitch, too.

And hang in there. It’s not easy putting yourself and your work out there. It takes guts. I’m applauding you!!

Have you ever pitched your story to an agent or editor? Were you nervous? What tips do you have?

Have a terrific day!

3 Ways to Get Feedback on Your Writing #WW

3 Ways To Get Feedback On Your Writing #WW

At some point in every aspiring writer’s life there comes a point where you are ready to get feedback. It might not be your first book. It might be your twelfth. But deep inside you can feel it–the need for an honest assessment of your skills.

But who can you trust to give you the kind of evaluation you need?

Ideally, you want someone who loves fiction and is a good judge of story. One who recognizes your strengths while gently pointing out your weaknesses. If they have experience in your genre, even better. And if they are further along on their writing journey than you are, be thankful!

 

3 Ways to Get Feedback on Your Writing

 

I didn’t have anyone I could ask to critique my work until I’d been writing full time for almost two years. At that point, I’d written three novels and was drafting a fourth. Finding a critique partner made me very nervous. When I began working on my first book, I would go to a coffee shop once a week to write. A small group of women would usually show up too. It didn’t take long for me to realize they were writers critiquing each other’s work. One woman was quite loud. One day I remember hearing her shrill voice completely annihilate a story of one of the ladies. My heart hurt for the victim.

It wasn’t until I’d been a member of a local writing group for several months that I trusted anyone enough to share my chapters. I was so nervous about having my dreams smashed. All I could think was what if she tells me I’m terrible? What if the feedback is so negative I quit?

My fears were unfounded. I got great advice and my first layer of a thicker skin. Over the years I’ve been a member of several critique groups. My storytelling skills improved based on multiple people’s feedback. I also learned a lot about the craft of writing by evaluating other writers’ work.

So how do you find someone who will give you honest feedback?

3 Ways to Get Feedback on Your Writing

  1. Find a critique partner. Do you belong to a local writer’s group? Get to know the writers there. If you click with one, ask her if she’d be interested in trading pages. If you don’t belong to a local group, consider joining a large writing organization. Romance Writers of America has local chapters as well as online ones. Chances are you’ll find someone who is looking for a CP, too. American Christian Fiction Writers has a critique group members can join. I’ve also found critique partners through social networks. We followed each other on Facebook, Twitter or by commenting on blogs like Seekerville and agent blogs. There are plenty of writers just like you. It can’t hurt to reach out to them!
  2. Enter writing contests that offer evaluations. There are so many writing contests for unpublished authors. If you’re going to spend your hard-earned money on one, make sure you’ll get a detailed score sheet or critique on your entry. Most of these contests are judged by writers pursuing publication or who are already published. They’re serious about their craft and want to help you get better. Try not to feel down if you don’t final in the contest. Enter it with the intention of getting constructive feedback to make your writing better. And, if you don’t agree with the feedback, throw it out of your head. Opinions are subjective. You’re the ultimate decision maker for your story.
  3. Hire a content editor. Many writers and professional editors offer freelance editing services. The prices will vary by a wide range. You’ll come across various types of edits. Look for someone who offers a content edit (also called a developmental edit), not a copy edit, line edit or proofread. A good content editor will help mold your story to be as compelling as it can be without trying to change your voice. When you’re shopping for one, pay attention to any testimonials on their websites. Try to find one with experience in your genre. And don’t be afraid to ask how long the edit will take and how far out in their schedule it will be. If your goal is to get traditionally published, ask if they have any advice on how to make the story more appealing to publishing houses.

The downside?

Finding the right critique partner can be hard. Maybe you write the same genre and get along great, but she’s raising two toddlers, works full time and barely has time to shower let alone read your book, whereas you’re retired and can fit her book into your schedule easily. Critique relationships don’t need to be equal, but they do need to be fair.

Contest feedback can be a wildcard. One judge might love your book, rave about your characters and give you a high score. Another judge circles repeat words, doesn’t think the plot makes sense and lowers your score dramatically. Who’s right? Who knows? You just tuck the advice away and keep writing.

If you can find a good, experienced content editor, you’ll get great advice, but it will cost you. When you’re not making any money, it can be difficult to justify the expense. And if you get one who gives nit-picky feedback or tries to change your voice, you’ll want to scream.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with feedback–try a critique group, enter a writing contest, maybe even hire a content editor. Keep writing. Keep reading blogs, magazine articles and books on the writing craft. Little by little, your talent will develop, and before you know it, you’ll be confident in your work.

How have you gotten feedback? Any suggestions I missed?

Have a terrific day!

 

August BookSweeps

 

I’m taking part in a huge book promotion! If you’d like a chance to win a Kindle Fire and over thirty plus inspirational romance novels, including ones by Becky Wade, Susan May Warren, Courtney Walsh and Elizabeth Goddard, click on THIS LINK. The contest is open internationally (check out the entry for more info) and runs until September 4!

My Favorite Books on Writing #WW

My Favorite Books On Writing #WW

Today we’re talking about continuous learning. I’ve studied dozens of books on various aspects of writing, and these are the ones I return to again and again. I’m always on the lookout for new books to help my career, and I’m happy to share. If you’re interested in taking your craft up a notch, try one of these!

 

Books on Writing Downloadable List

Revising/Editing:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

 

Plotting/Outlining:

Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing: Revised Edition by Libbie Hawker
Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell

 

Grammar:

The Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition by University of Chicago Press Staff
The Chicago Manual of Style Guidelines (Quick Study) by Inc. BarCharts
Essentials of English Grammar: A Quick Guide to Good English by L. Sue Baugh

 

Writing Faster:

2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron

 

Indie Publishing:

*Indie publishing changes often, so some of the information may be outdated. It’s still a good read.*

The Naked Truth about Self-Publishing: Update and Revised Second Edition by Jana DeLeon, Tina Folsom, Colleen Gleason, Jane Graves, Debra Holland, Dorien Kelly, Theresa Ragan, Denise Grover Swank, Jasinda Wilder

 

Writing Romance:

Kate Walker’s 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance by Kate Walker

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If you’re anything like me, six months from now you’ll be wanting a new book on one of these topics, but you won’t remember where you saw this list. That’s why I created a downloadable/printable PDF with links. It will be available on my FOR WRITERS page under the EXTRAS tab.

On a personal note, we dropped our daughter off at college last weekend, and my son begins his sophomore year or high school today. How did the summer fly by so quickly? Yikes!!

I would love to hear YOUR favorite books on writing. Drop me a comment! And have an awesome week!

Jill Kemerer is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. This does  not affect the price of the product. Jill receives a small commission when you purchase a product through these links.

The Fascinating Life of Debut Author Patricia Beal #WW

The Fascinating Life Of Debut Author Patricia Beal #WW

In late August of 2016, I was sitting at a banquet table in Nashville when a beautiful, petite woman sat next to me. I noticed her name tag and introduced myself. She explained she was Patricia (Puh-tree-sia) Beal and that her debut novel would be released the following May. As so often happens at conferences–we were at the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference–we ran into each other often. She’s a delightful person! I’m so happy to share her interview with you here. It’s hard to believe it’s already May and Patricia’s debut has released!

Let’s get to it!

1. A Season to Dance has the most gorgeous cover! Your experience dancing ballet must have added compelling authenticity to your book. What role does ballet play in your life now?

Thank you! And thank you for having me here.

I started dancing when I was eight after seeing Brazilian ballerina Aurea Hammerli on TV (the one hugging me on the photo—my mom took me to Rio de Janeiro to watch her live after I’d started my studies). I never stopped. My dream of becoming a professional ballerina didn’t work out, but I managed to dance in pre-professional companies in South America, Europe, and the United States.

My love for ballet goes beyond the art though. I have Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. One of the hardest aspects of life for us is making small talk and developing relationships. We don’t know what to say when there is nothing important to communicate, and we don’t understand body language, so it’s hard to bond with people. But in ballet, we spend hours in class and rehearsals not talking at all or exchanging only vital information. The gestures are coded. When dancers get together outside the studio, it’s often to watch more ballet—live or on TV. So it’s the perfect environment for someone with Asperger’s to thrive in and make friends—lots of passion, minimal talk.

Last year my husband retired from active duty service, so I’m now working for the Army full-time again. I don’t get to dance as much as I used to, unfortunately. But I still show up to class when I can. I will always love ballet and the ballet studio—a bastion of civility in an everything-goes world.

 

Patricia Beal dance photo

 

2. You’ve lived in many countries, and I’m sure you have plenty of tales to tell from them all. Which country holds your favorite memories and why?

I grew up in Brazil, immigrated to the United States when I was twenty, and lived in Germany twice, first as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Army and later as an Army wife. Every place is special in its own way, and it’s hard to come up with the one that holds my favorite memories. I love Germany because it’s gorgeous—the unsung hero of Europe: natural beauty, gorgeous architecture, castles, the Rhine, the people, the laid-back life style… It’s a fairytale life. I love it, and that’s why I wanted to highlight some of it in the debut.

The United States is still the amazing land of opportunities that draws half the world to its shores. In 1992, I landed in Miami with one suitcase and a million dreams. I fell in love with the English language while washing dishes at a McDonald’s in Indianapolis, learned enough vocabulary to pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), put myself through college working at a BP gas station, and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati in 1998 with a B.A. in English Literature. Worked at the Pentagon, was a spokesperson for five general officers, and I now edit class materials for every sergeant in the U.S. Army. And I have a novel coming out. Where else could this happen? Nowhere. I love the American Dream. I love dreams. I love possibilities. This is the place. A field of dreams where hard work still pays, no matter who you are or where you came from.

And then there’s Brazil. A place of lovely people but great suffering and many struggles. Have you seen recent photos of the Olympic facilities? It’s all abandoned, dirty, and overgrown with weeds. Credit card interest rates right now are 50% a month! How do you live like that? It’s hard. And it’s been hard for a long time. But growing up in the south of Brazil in the seventies, things weren’t that bad—not for my family… School was just five hours of my day, my grades were horrible, and I did homework never. Don’t tell my kids! And no one gave me a hard time over any of it. I grew up on my bike, riding through the woods, over hills, to waterfalls, and to unlimited adventures with a pack of girls (half-sisters and friends) who loved adventure as much as I did. It was fun! Maybe those years hold some of my favorite memories because all of the above, the fairytale life, unlimited possibilities, and beauty, lived together in one place and time.

 

Patricia Beal childhood Brazil

 

3. How much danger were you in when you worked for the U.S. Army? Did writing articles help pave the way for you to write novels?

I worked as a public affairs officer for seven years. I was in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when the first Operation Enduring Freedom detainees arrived, and the stories I filed during the early days of the detention operation there gained national attention. Writing from Iraq in the first year of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I focused on feature stories for Army newspapers, and a feature on a day in the life of “Bad Luck Squad” won a Keith L. Ware award in print journalism.

Was there danger? In Guantanamo no. In Iraq yes. I remember one particular event. I was out in Baghdad with a medical evacuation company. They were responding to a roadside bomb that had stopped one of our convoys. I was taking photos and didn’t realize I was too far from the unit and too close to a large group of Iraqis who were watching the rescue. That had bad news written all over it. I was back in the helicopter within a minute and didn’t venture out for the rest of the day. Very brave. I know.

Patricia Beal Iraq

 

I now work as an editor winning the war on error at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy. No danger.

As for journalism and novel writing, my whole background is in journalism. I studied it in college and was the news editor of the University of Cincinnati newspaper during my junior and senior years. We went to print four times a week. Then I studied journalism some more at Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Maryland, and used it on the field, of course.

I do think that all that news and features writing helped shape me as an author. Telling a story is telling a story, no matter the length. You want to know your audience, move in a way that’s both logical and interesting, and give the reader something to think about.

4. A Season to Dance releases May 9! Tell us a little about the story.

A Season to Dance is my debut novel. It’s the story of a small town professional ballerina who dreams of dancing at the Met in New York, the two men who love her, and the forbidden kiss that changed everything. But it’s more than big dreams and dreamy suitors. It’s about a young woman trying to fill the God-shaped hole in her heart with misguided career and romantic pursuits.

Here’s my favorite part: I wasn’t a Christian when I started. The story was initially just about big dreams and dreamy suitors. But the whole time, God had me writing my own salvation story.

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, and for most of my life I believed there had to be some kind of god out there and that being a good person was important. But in the summer of 2012, an early version of the novel was rejected in three different continents on the same week. I was tired and lonely, and I freaked out. I decided the notion of a loving god was absurd. There was no loving god, if there was a god at all.

Self-gratification became the chief end of my existence, and I looked behind every door for happiness and satisfaction. I didn’t find anything worth keeping though, and at the end of every new pursuit, I was still tired and lonely.

Then Jesus passed by. I was born again in January of 2013, and soon after that, I realized the novel wasn’t complete. I cancelled a trip to a secular writers’ conference and started a 14-month rewrite. This book, A Season to Dance, is the book that wrote me. I journeyed with Ana and pray that now others will journey with us, beyond expectations and suffering and to the very heart of Christ.

Congratulations! What’s next for you?

I wrote a second book, but I’m still editing it. It’s called The Song of the Desert Willow, and it’s a split-time military romance. The contemporary and central part of the novel is the story of a college graduate (Clara) who thought she’d sworn off soldiers forever and of a young Army captain (Andrew) whose first shot at love and marriage imploded on the steps of a West Point chapel on graduation week.

She takes a break from a long and unfruitful job search to travel to Fort Bliss, Texas, to deliver her grandmother’s last love letter, a letter to a retired general Clara has heard about since she was born. When he is delayed in Germany with a weak heart, Clara’s stuck in Texas and Andrew is put in charge of her well-being.

The story has a lot of my grandma’s history in it—life in the German colonies of the south of Brazil before WWII, the beginning of the shoe industry there (still famous worldwide, with women’s shoes always available at stores like Neiman Marcus), the life of the richest family in town, the most influential man (my great grandfather), his death, loss, change. It’s fascinating to me, and I pray I can paint a vivid picture of this most unusual slice of history and get people to care.

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Patricia, thank you so much for sharing your story with us! I enjoyed reading about your childhood, your working years, and especially, your faith journey. God bless you!!

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A Season to Dance

A Season to Dance

Ana Brassfield has her path to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House all figured out until her first love, renowned German dancer Claus Gert, returns to Georgia to win her back. Despite a promising start towards her ballet career and pending marriage to landscape architect, Peter Engberg, Ana wonders if her dreams of dancing at the Met are as impossible as her previous romantic relationship with Claus.

Then, an on-stage kiss between Ana and Claus changes everything.

Convinced the kiss is more than a one-time mistake, Peter breaks off their engagement. With an old dog crippled by arthritis and dreams deferred but not left behind, Ana moves to Germany to be with Claus. But the ghost of his late wife, Ana’s own feelings for Peter, and the pressure of earning a spot in a large ballet company are a high price for a shot at success. Ana seems on the verge of having everything she ever dreamed of, but will it be enough?

Interested in purchasing A Season to Dance? AMAZON | LPC

 

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Patricia Beal

Patricia Beal is a 2015 Genesis semi-finalist and First Impressions finalist. She is represented by Les Stobbe of the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency, and A Season to Dance is her debut novel (Bling! Romance / Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, May 2017). Patricia writes from El Paso, Texas, where she lives with her husband and two children.

Connect with Patricia Beal:

Goodreads – www.goodreads.com/bealpat

Facebook – www.facebook.com/patricia.beal.author

Pinterest – www.pinterest.com/patriciasbeal

Twitter – www.twitter.com/bealpat

Web – www.patriciabeal.com

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What is your favorite memory of where you grew up?

Have a terrific day!

Why Research Changes My Stories {Writer Wednesday}

I just started writing the second book in the upcoming Wyoming Cowboys series. I had a strong grasp on the general plot before typing the opening line, but there were many things I didn’t know (and still don’t!) about the story.

As I brainstormed possible scenes and reasons for them to happen, I kept Google open and researched questions as they came up. I always do this when starting a draft. Each article I find gives me insight into the issue and it usually changes my story.

 

The reason? I’m not an expert on anything. I have limited knowledge of many of the themes and situations I tackle in my books. One thing I love when I’m spiraling into research is when I realize I was wrong about something, but the article/book gives me an even better idea. For instance, the plot in my work-in-progress has a church youth mentoring program. My initial thoughts on how this would play into the story weren’t feasible due to the age of the little girl involved, but it allowed me to have the characters agree to a private arrangement, which serves the story better.

This type of thing happens all the time when I’m writing. It’s one of the reasons I really enjoy researching. You’ve probably read the advice to push yourself to come up with unique ideas by coming up with a list and using one of the final ideas you write. I’ve tried this method, but I don’t always find it to be logical. I want the story to be believable! Research helps me push the limits to find believable situations.

Whether you’re a writer or not, how do you feel about research? I love it!

Have a terrific day!

Expense Reports, Plotting Flow Chart, and Project Tips {Writer Wednesday}

Expense Reports, Plotting Flow Chart, And Project Tips {Writer Wednesday}

I recently revisited my For Writers page, and I realized I continue to use many of the writing tools I’ve written about in the past. That’s why I’m sharing a few posts from the archives. I hope they help you with different aspects of your writing, too.

Expense Reports and more #ww

 

Since it’s officially tax season, you might be frustrated trying to figure out your business expenses but having no clue where to begin. The following article will help you create a simple system that works for you. No, expense reports aren’t glamorous, but saving money at tax-time is!

Writing as a Business: Tracking Expenses

Just yesterday I created a new flow chart template to use when plotting a new book. And then I remembered I’d blogged about a similar one a few years ago. If you’re interested in trying something new before you type the opening to your next book, check it out.

Using Flow Charts to Plot

Next up is a topic I’ve learned to master. It has NOT been easy for this one-track-mind lady, but it’s necessary. Every week I juggle at least two projects, usually three.

Tips to Successfully Switch Between Projects

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What writing problem has been on your mind lately? I’d love to hear how you solve it!

 

Have a terrific day!

When You Can’t Focus

Two weeks ago I was pushing hard to meet my daily and weekly goals. I had a book due, and I needed every minute to finish it. I had a three-hour window on the weekend where I was in another town with nothing to do, so I decided to revise a hard copy of my manuscript. I found a corner table at a coffee shop, took out my printed book and red pen and…stared into space.

 

 

The coffee shop was crowded, conversations were loud and I struggled to concentrate. No problem, I’ll just work in my car for a while.

But the car, while quiet, brought no productivity either.

I simply couldn’t focus on the pages in front of me.

Come on, you’re on a tight schedule here. If you don’t get this done today, you’ll be behind. Do you want to meet your deadline or not?

Well, that little pep-talk didn’t help. I grew anxious. Called a friend. Tried to revise again. Failed again.

The little worries started zapping at me until I took a deep breath and told them to stop. Forcing myself to revise wasn’t working, so I read another chapter of a nonfiction book I’d been enjoying. I still had an hour before I needed to pick up my son. Rather than trying to free up brain cells that didn’t want to cooperate, I prayed. I prayed God would bless my upcoming writing week, that He would help me get my work done and guide me to make the book the best it could be.

The following Monday, my focus returned with a vengeance. I worked hard all week, and I was able to turn in my book a few days early. It felt really good!

Sometimes our plans don’t work out, and the situation is made worse when we can’t focus on what needs to be done. If you’re distracted, try the following:

  1. Take a break. Brew some coffee or tea, eat something yummy and just relax for a while.
  2. Go somewhere else to work. If you’re home, go to the library or a coffee shop. If you’re at a coffee shop, go home. If you’re home and can’t leave, go to a different room.
  3. Take an hour (or afternoon) off and don’t worry about what isn’t getting done.
  4. Pray for God’s favor. Pray for your work to be blessed.
  5. Rest, drink plenty of water, and take care of yourself physically. Sometimes we’re rundown and we don’t know it.
  6. Read for fun. All work and no play can sap the focus right out of you!

Do you ever get so distracted you can’t focus? How do you handle it?

Have a terrific day!

 

Scheduling Creative Sessions {Writer Wednesday}

Scheduling Creative Sessions {Writer Wednesday}

Creative Sessions = Dedicated time to problem solve, plot, explore ideas.

In the past two weeks I’ve read two nonfiction books that made a big impact on me. The first was The Wright Brothers by David McCullough and the second was Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. Although very different books, they shared a common theme–focus. The Wright brothers devoted much of their free time to solving the dilemma of human flight. Their passion helped them focus, and they spent hours, weeks, months and years experimenting and problem solving. In Deep Work, Cal Newport puts forth a compelling argument why anyone who wants to excel in their field needs to be deliberate about what they’re spending their time on. In other words, excellence requires focus.

 

Scheduling Creative Sessions

 

Writing, like inventing, involves a LOT of creativity. And creativity is a form of problem-solving. Fictional characters don’t always behave, and plots get off track. And then there’s the issue of what to write next.

I have many ideas I’d love to explore, so many books I want to write. Time always feels like the deciding factor. But over the past couple of years, I’ve broken free from my belief that producing a higher volume of quality books requires putting in massive overtime hours.

Last year I was tired of constantly setting aside a pet project to work on my contracted books. It hit me that if I didn’t schedule time for it, I would never finish the project, let alone publish it. I had to figure out how to work on it while fulfilling my contracts. I sensed that I could accomplish far more than I thought possible, but I didn’t know how. So, I read several time management books, prayed, talked to trusted writer friends, and finally decided to go for it.

Through trial and error, my beliefs shifted. I reworked my daily schedule, limited the frequency of social media breaks, silenced my phone and pushed myself to meet daily and weekly goals. I also added more time to studying the Bible and praying each morning which had a direct impact on my day by giving me the boost necessary to believe I could meet my goals.

In 2016, I plotted several books, wrote two category length books, a novella and a nonfiction book, promoted two novels, and organized my writing business. This was far more than I’d produced the previous year, and yes, sometimes this meant working overtime, but overall, I fit these projects into normal working hours. How? By deciding in advance what I would work on each day, devoting 30-60 minutes to my nonfiction book (the one that kept getting neglected), and limiting distractions.

The great thing about revising my schedule? My writing continues to grow. I’m confident about the books I’m writing because I’m making the time to thoroughly plot, write, revise and polish them. If my only goal was to publish more books, I’d be tempted to use shortcuts and skimp on the quality. My goal has always been to write the best book I’m capable of and that means no skimping.

One thing I’m adding this year: scheduling regular creative sessions just to think and jot notes. These time blocks will be used to plot, work through a current book problem, explore ideas for new books, and creatively solve any business issues. Setting aside 2-3 hours a week, or even 30 minutes a day, to just “sit and think” seemed absurd until I realized my brain does so much heavy-hitting for me beneath the surface of my consciousness. Scheduling regular creative sessions is another tool to get more work done in a limited time frame. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Do you ever sense you could accomplish more in the limited time you have? What strategies do you currently use to make the most of your hours?

Have a lovely Wednesday!

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