Monthly Archives: July 2009

Don’t Just Stand There on One Leg!

xflamingo PICT1481

When I was in my late twenties I heard a Chinese Proverb that crazy-glued itself into my brain the moment I heard it. I’ve thought about it hundreds of times throughout my life. This Proverb is so wise you’d almost think King Solomon wrote it. Here’s it is:

“He who deliberates fully before taking a step will spend his entire life standing on one leg.”

I kind of envision a flamingo standing on one scrawny pink leg, never moving and never getting a muscle cramp. Did you know they can stand that way for hours at a time? How (you may ask) does this apply to writing? Here’s the application—

No way do I want to be a “flamingo” writer and spend my writing life on one leg of procrastination! Do YOU?

As a writer have you ever felt as though you were standing on one leg in your career? You’ve got one leg stuck in the air and you’re too afraid to take a step forward. I have. As a Christian I first pray for God to open writing doors, then I try to move toward them. If I’m trusting God I’ll start walking even if the writing territory is new or extremely challenging. If I hit a closed door with my face (SMACK!) I’ll know God closed it (at least for a time). Then, I’ll turn around and look for another door. Sometimes in my weakness and fear I’m tempted to do the “flamingo” and not move forward—then I snap out of it! In the early years of my writing career I probably had any flamingo beat for the longest standing time. Thankfully, I rarely do the “flamingo” now.

Ask yourself these questions:

* Do I spend most of my time reading blog after blog after infinite blog about writing, but never write or submit something myself?

* Do I read every book that comes out on the how-to’s, but don’t put into practice what I’m learning?

* Am I afraid to show my work to a critique group?

* Does fear of rejection keep me from sending out a submission to that magazine or book publisher I’ve been studying?

* Do I give up after my third, fifth, tenth, twentieth rewrite? (I know a recognized, successful children’s author who says she does about 50 rewrites per picture book before it’s “just right”).

If you found yourself saying “yes” to some or most of these, then it’s time to put that leg down and move forward!

Don’t be afraid of trying new things like:

* Writing for another genre (I’m doing that)

* Rewriting your chapter book in a better point-of-view (I’m doing that, too. Wow! What a difference!)

* Speaking or teaching a class about what you know. (You DON’T have to know EVERYTHING!)

* Developing a writers blog and keeping it up.

* Networking with other writers (Blogging can help with this)

* Sending queries before you’ve written the whole book (Nancy Sanders’ idea works! Get her newest book!)

* Do work-for-hire assignments for magazines and/or book publishers while you continue to work on your book. It will tighten your writing, fatten your bio, and it’s fun!

Here’s the bottom line—

Don’t deliberate so long that writing opportunities God gives you are missed!

So, I say to myself, the writer, “Don’t just stand there with one leg in the air, Sherri! It looks ridiculous and you’re not a flamingo!”

Contributed by Sheryl Crawford

Some Parting Words for July

Since I was the first one to post on this topic (Advice to Writers) and I’m almost the last one to post for this month, I’d like to share some advice I recently gave myself.

I realized that there are times when I need to let go.  For example, do I need to move from one genre to another in my writing?  Or, perhaps I should put aside, at least for a while, that book manuscript that has been submitted countless times with no success, so I can concentrate on other writing.  Maybe a certain conference or workshop, good as it is, has nothing more to offer me and I’ll want to re-think the money I would spend going to it 

I believe that when I can let go of things that aren’t working any longer, I am opening myself more fully to the blessings and opportunities that God has waiting for me.  But I need to “unclutter” my life in order to be able to accept them.

I came to this conclusion, in part, when I took my grand-daughter to see the movie “Up.”  One of the themes in this movie is how we carry so many things with us on our life’s journey, and many of them have served their purpose.  In order to live more fully and happily, we often need to let these things go, difficult as it might be.  Even more helpful, and profound, was this Bible reading I discovered at about the same time.

 “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:  everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Reading this gave me great peace of mind, and I’m now eagerly awaiting what God has planned for me next!

Contributed by Marjorie Flathers

Get those Details Right

When I began my first historical novel, Straight along a Crooked Road, I knew I wanted to tell the story of a family that left its home in Vermont and traveled by wagon to California. I had heard plenty of tales about that kind of travel, for my family loved to sit around and tell stories about the past. It would be an easy matter to translate these stories to the typed page. Wouldn’t it?

It would not . . . and here’s why. Though I knew stories about the people, I didn’t know all the details that would make those people and their experiences alive. I needed to name the flowers that grew on the Great Plains. I needed to know what bear grease smelled like — and how far away you had to stand to escape that distinctive odor. I needed to hear the shouts of the wagonmaster and the sounds of a camp coming to life before sunup. And I needed to immerse myself in the rhythms of speech of that long ago time.

In short, I couldn’t write the book until I knew what I was talking about. I was reminded of a professor I had in college. His favorite bit of advice when assigning a research paper was “Get those details right!” He would often look over a report, jab one finger at a place on the page and demand, “Are you sure about this? Can you prove it?”

So I stopped mid-plot, not once, but many times, to research. To make sure I had the facts straight, and then to use those facts to move the story forward.

Sometimes it was hard to return to the drudgery of writing after the excitement of research — but not for long. For the new-found information was what added life to the narrative, to the dialogue, to the setting.

Luanna’s little sister, Emmy, gathered not daisies, but ox-eye daisies. The family camped not in the woods, but in a stand of oaks. The rattlesnake didn’t coil on the riverbank, but on the bank of the Mojave River. When the family reached the mouth of Cajon Pass, they didn’t see a valley covered with wildflowers, but a valley covered with blue lupin, red and yellow poppies, and lavender paintbrush.

Get your details right, and don’t be afraid to weave them into the story. They will flesh out plot, make characters come to life, and help create a setting of technicolor instead of black and white!

-contributed by Marilyn Cram Donahue

Not Unto Us

As a writer who is a Christian, I have a higher calling because I have been hand-picked by the King of kings to be His scribe. Therefore, one Scripture stands out to me as the best advice for a writer, “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but to Your name give glory…” (Psalm 115:1a). When my focus is on God, and not on me, then my writing will give Him glory.

Does this mean I have to only write Christian material? Absolutely not. I can write whatever I want. But my worldview needs to come from a Christian perspective so that the topics I write are pleasing to Him. As Philippians 4:8 reminds us, “…whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.”

Shouldn’t we be trying to write for Him than the world anyway? Isn’t there enough garbage to read as it is?

-contributed by Catherine L. Osornio

Trusting God With My Writing

One tip I would give to writers is trust God. Sounds really simple. We can do that, right? Sometimes it’s easier to mouth the words than live the truth.

Can you trust God when you receive rejection after rejection from editors?

Can you trust God when no agent wants to represent you?

Can you trust God when you feel you are wasting your time, that you’ll never be published?

Can you trust God if what you hoped for is never fulfilled?

If God has called you to write, write. Just like it is only our responsibility to share the message of salvation and trust God to save a person, it is our responsibility to write and trust him to open doors.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do all you can to see your work gets “out there.” I am saying you must trust God to do with your writing and your life what he wants. It may not necessarily be what you want!

Hoping to trust God in all areas of my life, Gloria

The Best Advice

 

I wrote in last week’s blog about the advice I felt was most helpful. When I think of what my favorite advice would be, I think of God’s Word. My writing day begins with this verse: “Commit your way to the Lord.” (Psalm 37:5) I wouldn’t get anywhere if I didn’t do this very simple direction. Psalm 139:4  reminds me, “Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.” Since He has prepared the works for me He desires me to do, He also knows the words that will be at my fingertips. (Ephesians 2:10) I’m told, “Be diligent in these matters.” (1 Timothy 4:15)

Of course, we all know about patience and endurance, as Colossians 1:10,11 is an example, including pleasing God, bearing fruit, and giving thanks. To bring God glory in everything I do is the purpose of my writing as well as the rest of my life. Still much for me to learn, but I apply myself to following this best of advice.

Shirley

What Does the Editor Want?

When I attended my very first writer’s conference, I clutched my manuscript in my hands. I prayed and hoped that some editor in some publishing house would want to publish my book.

At one point during the conference, a woman walked up to me. I had seen her before but I didn’t really know her. To this day I still don’t know who she was. She told me, “I scheduled an appointment for you to speak to an editor.”

I was shocked. Who was this lady? And why had she dared to do such a thing? I sputtered my confusion and she advised me simply, “Go to the appointment and just find out what the editor wants.”

Not sure what to expect, I silenced my objections and went to the appointment. After chatting a moment, I remembered the lady’s words of advice. “Um,” I started, clearing my throat. “Um, what kind of books are you looking for?”

The editor paused for a moment and then explained that she’d really like to see a craft book written for elementary students in a new series she was planning. Crafts didn’t really interest me, but by that point I tossed all caution to the wind. I asked her to clarify exactly what she needed. For the rest of our appointment, she explained the types of crafts she liked and what she wanted to see in a proposal for this book. By the end of the meeting, much to my surprise, I had volunteered to try to put together a proposal for the book she wanted.

That is how I landed my very first book contract. And that is also how I stumbled upon some of the very best advice I ever received: Don’t just try to sell your own manuscript. Learn to ask, “What does the editor want?”

I’ve landed more book contracts because I have first tried to find out what the editor wants. Either at conferences or through queries, this strategy produces results. Try it and see what kind of results happen for you!

-contributed by Nancy I. Sanders