Novel Rocket

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Watch Out for Those Philistines! (And Other Writing Blocks)

by Linore Rose Burkard

Those Nasty Philistines!
When the Israelites reached the Promised Land after forty years of wandering, you can bet some hoped it would be uninhabited, just waiting to be plucked like ripe fruit on a vine. After all, this was to be their land by divine right. No earthly king or conqueror was giving it to them--it was God himself. Yet it was not to be. God had indeed promised the land to them, but His promise did not preclude their having to go in and fight for it.

As those who pick up the pen for God, writing is our "promised land." We've done our time in the wilderness, spent years learning the craft, perhaps even earning a degree. We're ready to move in to new territory!

Yet even as we recognize that our call to this land comes from God, we need also face the fact that settling into it faithfully--producing the written word--often entails a fight. God has led us to this land (of writing), encouraged us to embark on the journey to reach the end--a finished novel, say--and yet we have battle scars, or will have them, before we settle down, before that book (or that next book)  is published. Why? Because of the Philistines!

What do your Philistines look like?
Who (or What) Are Your Philistines?

We all have them: Giants, Philistines, in the land. My Philistines are
  • procrastination (fear in disguise);
  • mundane busyness;
  • and household distractions. 
  • Perfectionism in non-essentials is another.
When I have a problem to solve in a manuscript, suddenly I want to fix that three-course dinner.  And forget store-bought treats: I eat Paleo and never do I feel the urge to become the Mary Poppins of the kitchen more than when my book needs fixing.  I want to produce magic, fast. If my manuscript isn't working, I can still make a dinner to elicit instant praise. And it's so much easier.

But see, there's the Philistine. My family enjoys take-out pizza as much as the meal I slave over, so it's pride and perfectionism moving me. The solution? Slay that giant!   I can throw a salmon filet in the broiler for myself and order out for them--and still get in my word count if I really want to.The same goes for the other savages in my land.

David Slaying Goliath
Because if I can slay those big guys, I will absolutely be able to handle the legitimate endeavours (needful shopping, meal planning, cleaning and taxi servicing, for instance) that I must do for my family, while still managing time to write. But when I get my eyes on the Philistines, I get overwhelmed. Like the ten faithless spies, I want to run away and say "There's GIANTS in the land!" I want to deny that the Promised Land is really available, or promised to me, or capable of being conquered.

When that happens, I have to get on my knees. Sometimes faith is the only way to shut up the bad guys, especially when the bad guy is me.  

Wild Beasts  
Ah. The other fearful creatures that inhabit our Promised Land.  These are the unforeseen emergencies that pop up unexpectedly and want to bite us. Last week it was my refrigerator, because it forgot it was a refrigerator and started behaving like a freezer. It cost us more than $350 to have its memory fixed (by two technicians--one is no longer enough, I suppose.) But it bit a large chunk out of my day and my writing time. And this was AFTER it spent a few days growling at me while I put off calling said technicians. (Frozen eggs are no fun. Frozen milk is worse.) Obviously, the only way to deal with a wild beast if it comes at you--and wild beasts WILL come at you, sooner or later--is to slay the thing. I stayed up late to make up for lost time. The worst thing you can do is to let a wild beast derail you.

Milk and Honey  
Which brings me to the good stuff: Milk and honey! They were part and parcel of what God promised the Israelites, and when we conquer our Philistines and slay those wild beasts, we, too, can taste the sweetness of the land. It may be a byline in a big magazine or a book in your hands, but either way, it's sweet. And  when we hear from readers who've been touched deeply by our work, it's honey all over again. Best of all, we know we're using the talent that's been entrusted to us. We're taking back the land of promise.  

This doesn't mean that publication is the end-all and be-all of the writer's promised land. Sometimes, just getting the words right for yourself alone is satisfying, or for a few chosen loved ones. It all depends on what land God is directing you to. Just remember it may have natives who are comfortable, and wild life with fangs. Identify those enemies--your personal Philistines and nasty wild beasts--then draw out your sword.

When you put yourself in the right position, and show God you're deadly serious about the fight, an amazing thing happens: God fights for you!

We remember we are not alone in the sometimes hazardous territory of taking on the giants.

Images:    3.Wikipedia

Linore Rose Burkard  is best known for her Inspirational Regency Romance Series, which whisks readers to early 19th century England. Authenticity and heart-warming adventure are par for the course in her books. Fans of romance in the tradition of Austen and Heyer (such as Pride & Prejudice, Cotillion, and even My Fair Lady), enjoy meeting Linore's feisty heroines and dashing heroes.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

When Writers Block Becomes Writers Talk

From Steve Laube's blog, used with permission:

I came across an old post by Seth Godin where he wrote: 

No one ever gets talker’s block. No one wakes up in the morning, discovers he has nothing to say and sits quietly, for days or weeks, until the muse hits, until the moment is right, until all the craziness in his life has died down.

What a liberating concept! It reminded me of a great book by Joel Saltzman If You Can Talk, You Can Write.

Of course there are times where it feels like the well is dry and that you have “nothing to say.” But that isn’t really true is it? You can sit down with your spouse, your best friend, or your writers group and talk about your lack of inspiration. It is in that expression where you can find the spark of creativity.

The key, of course, is to write something. Anything. Even if it is bad. Kevin J. Anderson suggests you should “dare to be bad and then fix it.”

Still don’t feel like you have anything to say? Just imagine a topic and think of what you would say if asked the question while sitting with a panel of experts. And then write your answer. [Today’s post came from imagining a panel discussion about “writer’s block.”]

I have one client who held himself accountable by pledging to pay two accountability partners $50 each, for every week he did not hit his pre-determined and promised word count. That is motivation! He only missed his deadline once. (I’m impressed that his friends took the money! A sign of a true accountability partner.)

It would be interesting to hear what you do to get past any sort of “blockage” in your writing life. Please post your thoughts below. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Indie Publishing with Patty Smith Hall

When Ane asked me to write a column on indie publishing for Novel Rocket, my first thought was why me? At that time, I only had one self-published novella under my belt and even with that, I had tremendous amounts of help for some very savvy ladies who had more insights into this subject that I ever could. But then it hit me—while indie publishing isn’t anything new, more writers, both published and pre-pubbed, are moving into this exciting new arena.

Including myself. So who better to share what I learn as I jump into the fray of the indie industry?

But why chose to go indie rather than traditional? There are several reasons. For me, it was the opportunity to get my work in front of readers at a pace I felt more comfortable with. By the time my next book hits the shelves in January, it will be almost two years since my last book, twenty-four months in which my readers have had time to forget about me. That is, if I let them. So I decided to publish a couple of novellas and one full length novel on Amazon or Barnes and Noble in the meantime. One, because even if it doesn’t reach all my readers, it can reach a large majority of them and two, it helps me pick up new readers that might go back and buy my already published series.

There are other reasons too. Creative freedom, the entrepreneurial feeling of being in control of every aspect of your work from cradle to grave, setting your own deadlines and working within the scope of your ‘other’ life. There are probably a dozen other reasons, but like I said early, I’m relatively new at this so I’m still learning.

So what little piece of wisdom can I offer today in regards to indie publishing? What do I wished someone had told me before my first novella had come out? Here it is, folks:

Don’t push the send button too soon.

Just because you’ve typed 'the end' doesn’t mean you’re actually finished. Every manuscript that is on the shelves of your local bookstore has gone through the editing process, and so it should be the same with your self published works. This rush to publication was one of the reasons why indie publishing gets a bad rap, because some writers think they’ve created a masterpiece with their first draft when what they really need to do is step back, put some time and space between them and the project then look at it with fresh eyes. Or better yet, give it to a critique partner or beta reader who doesn’t back away from telling you the truth.

I recently went through this process with the first manuscript I ever wrote. It was a story I wrote during a time of great heartache and gave me so much joy at a time when joy was the last thing I was feeling. At the time, I thought it was fantastic; the writing had just flowed out of me at times so it had to be good, didn’t it? It made the rounds at a few publishing houses, even garnered a revision letter from one but no one offered me a contract. So I saved it to my hard drive and moved on. Earlier this year, I decided to dust off that old manuscript and self publish it, but when I did my first read though, I discovered something.

It was crap.

Not all of it, but it needed some re-writes before I could even think about publishing it. Now, think about that—what if I had self published that book all those years ago the second I finished it? How many one-starred reviews do you think it would have gotten? How many readers would have never picked up another one of my books after reading that hot mess? That is why, before you  even think about hitting the send button, you put it aside for a week or two, then look at it from a fresh perspective. If you can afford it, pay for a professional edit. Tape these words to the top of your computer screen so that you can see them any time you're close to finishing a book.

Do. Not. Push. The. Send. Button. YET!

Until next time!

Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published, award-winning author with Love Inspired Historical and Heartsong.  She currently serves as president of the ACFW-Atlanta chapter. She currently lives in North Georgia with her husband of 30+ years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters and a future son-in-love. Her next release, New Hope Sweethearts will be available in July on Amazon.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


By Cynthia Ruchti

It wasn't until the third or fourth complaint that I stopped myself mid-sentence. I'd whined about the list of tasks keeping me from what I really wanted to do. I'd whined about how difficult it was to pack lightly for a business trip that long, and in a climate that hot. I started to whine about how busy I'd be from morning until night with responsibilities, activities, and oppor-- Opportu--

I couldn't finish the word opportunities without heavy but welcome conviction settling on me, snuffing the fire of complaints, dousing remaining ashes to make sure the flames were most sincerely dead.

The night before, I'd lingered over some of my favorite passages in Jeremiah. Among the verses I'd highlighted were these from The Message:

"Use words truly and well. Don't stoop to cheap whining. Then, but only then, you'll speak for me," Jeremiah 15:19 MSG.  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

In the Mood! by DiAnn Mills

In the Mood!
DiAnn Mills

A writer friend and I were catching up over a lengthy phone conversation. After we covered a multitude of topics, personal and business, I asked about the progress of her next book.

“Oh, I’m not writing,” she said. “Haven’t been in the mood.”

This writer was one of my heroes in the industry. “What happened? You’ve always been excited to delve into the next project.”

“Creativity hasn’t moved me to begin a new novel.”

“Do you need to brainstorm?” I said.

The writing muse hasn't hit me.
“No. I’m good.” She sighed. “Dry spells come and go.” 
Her obscure tone bothered me, but I didn’t pursue the topic further. Later on in the day I was at the dentist’s office. I’d lost a filling, and the tooth throbbed. As I waited in the patient’s chair, I thought back over the conversation with my writer friend. A twinge of pain shot up from my tooth. How would I feel if the dentist wasn’t in the mood? Ouch!

I left the dentist’s office under the effects of Novocain and stopped to fill up my empty gas tank. When I reached for the pump and selected the type of fuel needed, the same thought struck me again. What if the driver who delivered gasoline to the station wasn’t in the mood? I’d be walking.

Before heading home to finish my word count for the day, I stopped at the grocery to buy salad fixings. While I stood in line to pay for my food, it occurred to me one more time. What if the grocer’s employees weren’t in the mood to work today? My husband wouldn’t have a grilled chicken salad for dinner.

The difference between my friend’s approach to writing and mine boiled down to work ethics. I write whether the words are framed in my mind, or I have to dig them up like precious stones. Everyday. No matter what my mood.

If I procrastinated to when I felt like creating, not only would the contracts stop but I believe the quality of the manuscript would slip. Other tasks fall under writing: responding to emails, social media, reading the how-to books, keeping up to date on the publishing industry, marketing and promotion, and arranging to attend quality conferences. Some areas are more enjoyable than others, but my work ethic says to complete the task to the best of my ability.

I received my work ethic model from my dad. I don’t remember his ever missing a day of work. He welded in a factory, rain or shine, in sickness and in health, whether he felt like it or not. 

What about you?

That’s my advice to every writer. Put your rear in gear and get the job done. Write, edit, submit, promote, and begin again. The satisfaction of a well-crafted piece is worth the disillusion of waiting to create when in the mood. In the midst of discovering the perfect idea or word is a wealth of satisfaction of a job well done.

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.
Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; the 2015 president of the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope, & Love chapter; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at

Friday, June 26, 2015

The ABCs of Self-Editing

by Alycia W. Morales @AlyciaMorales

ABCs of Self-Editing
A – Adverbs: These sneaky little buggers like to make their way into our prose too often. Admittedly, we need to immediately do away with most of them.

B – Backstory needs to be used strategically and in most cases should never show up in your first chapter. Sprinkle it in via dialogue and flash backs.

C – Commas are a writer’s best friend. These save us from embarrassing dialogue like, “Let’s eat Grandma.” Don’t fear the serial comma. It makes your list clear.

D – Develop your characters well. People want someone they can root for – the type of character that draws them to want to know how their story ends. Be sure to give them an arc, as well. Your character must grow and change through his/her conflicts.

E – Ellipses aren’t the new comma. Use commas anywhere you can without the sentence getting awkward. You may even need Em Dashes, depending on the context.

F – First Person, Third Person, Past Tense, Present Tense. What Point of View (POV) and Tense are you writing in? Be sure it’s consistent throughout the novel. And avoid head hopping. Please.

G – Genre: Make sure it’s clear that you’re writing a Romantic Suspense. If no one is trying to figure out who framed them, then there’s no suspense in your romance novel. If the supernatural element is only mentioned once in your political thriller, then you aren’t writing speculative fiction.

H – Homonyms are other sneaky tricksters that like to hide in our prose. Don’t rely on spell check – it’s not smart enough to find these. But I bet you are. See if you can find them here: Be a deer and set you’re mittens over their. (My spell check only found one.)

Information dumps frustrate the reader.
I – Information Dumps frustrate the reader by sucking them out of your story to learn a lesson. If you don’t think your reader is smart enough to know what you’re talking about, leave that part out of your story Use something else instead.

J – Just cut it out. Don’t fear the delete button. Cut and paste the poopy writing into a separate document if you’re worried about losing it. But don’t leave it in the middle of your exciting copy. It will only infect the good stuff.

K – Keep pet words in their cages, not on your pages. Some popular ones are very, just, of course, and various conjunctions (at the beginning of sentences).

L – Listen to the professionals. Maybe you’ve had your manuscript critiqued or gotten feedback from a contest entry. Maybe an editor has bled on your pages. Heed their advice. That doesn’t mean you have to take it all, but if five people have said the same thing, you should probably listen.

M – Margins should be set at 1 inch all around. Lines should be double spaced. (Be sure there aren’t extra spaces between paragraphs.) Times New Roman 12-point font. No extra space between sentences. Just one. Normal tab.

N – Natives can talk kind of funny, and that’s okay to share once or twice at the beginning. Once a reader gets that your protagonist has an accent or uses “like” far too often, they will naturally read that in without it needing to be there on the page.

O – Overuse of descriptions. Leave room for your reader to use their own imagination. We don’t need to know what color and style every article of clothing is. Same goes for settings. And characters.

P – Preaching is for Sunday mornings, not your novel. You can deliver a message via a character’s dialogue, but beware: your character can come off as preachy as well.

Q – Quotation marks need to be on both sides of your dialogue, unless your character is speaking from paragraph to paragraph. They also need to be facing the right direction. ”Hi, my name is Anna.

R – Repetition is this editor’s biggest pet peeve. I will throw your book across the room if your mopey character is still mopey ten chapters later. Or whiny. Or angry. People have bad days, but those moments pass. Also, beware of repeating character traits over and over again. If I know he has brown hair on page one, I don’t need that detail again unless he dyes it another color.

S – Show, don’t …

Telling can be boring.
T – Tell. Telling is boring. It’s giving the day-to-day details of what your character is doing and/or why they are doing it. Avoid this at all costs. Don’t be lazy when you write. Dig deep. Draw out the guts of your story: the struggles, the emotions, the body language, the quirks of your characters. Write real.

U – Underestimating your readers isn’t advisable. Don’t dumb down the readers. Give them the credit they deserve and avoid scenarios in your novel that will leave them feeling like you think they’re stupid.

V – Vary your sentence structure. Peter picked up the novel. Peter started reading the novel. Peter got stuck in the first chapter because every sentence started the same, monotonous way. Peter threw the novel across the room, into the fireplace.

W – Write Tight. Clean up your novel. That’s what edits are for.

X – Experts, seek them out. Not sure about something? Find someone who knows what you don’t. Ask questions. Get answers. Readers will notice when something is factually off.

Y – YELLING IN ALL CAPS ISN’T NECESSARY!!! The exclamation point should never be overused, either. If a character is excited, show it in their body language and leave off the exclamation points.

Z – Zippity-do-dah, use active verbs that move the story forward, not inactive ones that slow it down. Try to avoid verbs that need help from words like was, to be, started, and began. Caution: Don’t use verbs that overdo it, though.

For the past few years, Alycia Morales has been helping writers turn their words into brilliant manuscripts that others won’t throw across the room. Several of the authors she has helped have gone on to win awards for the same manuscripts. She also co-writes a blog for writers at
When she isn’t busy editing, she too enjoys writing and is currently working on a YA novel. She’s been published in several devotionals, compilation books, and by Splickety Love and Thriving Family magazine. Alycia lives in Upstate SC with her husband, four children, and two dogs.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Basketful of Acorns

Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho.

A man held an acorn in his palm. His stomach rumbled, and he squeezed the nut in hopes to crack the shell. He paused.

What did he really have? Food, yes, but more—he could grow a tree. The tribe sometimes looked to him to solve their problems. You’re so patient, they had said. Talented.

So he planted. And waited.

by Amphis

There were moments of excitement. The first sprout. His friends crowded around to look at the growing tree, and they congratulated him for thinking ahead, for planning. They almost saw his vision.

But trees take a long time to grow. Winters came, and as the tribe shivered with cold, he wouldn’t let anyone cut down the sapling to burn for warmth. During the summers, when the droughts scorched the throats of his friends, he kept the tree alive with what little water he could spare. To his friends, the tree was now a burden. Its spindly branches barely offered shade, they said. Or food. Give up.

Caring for the tree became habit long before he wanted to give up.

One summer, the branches drooped heavy with acorns. He picked them as others congratulated his success. But he paused. Thinking long and hard had produced a tree—what more could be done now that he had a basketful of acorns?
Tamme-Lauri: Oldest Oak in
Estonia (1326AD)
Source: Wikicommons
by Abrget47j

He handed them out to everyone in his tribe. Grow trees, he said, and explained to them how he’d been patient. He taught them how best to grow the trees, and gave those who were interested little tips and tricks he’d learned over the course of the tree’s life.

Most trees the tribe grew wilted and died from lack of water or neglect, since many in the tribe were gifted in pottery or building. But yet, some trees grew, depending on the owner’s dedication. There were enough trees over the years that the tribe was surrounded with healthy oak trees. Not only did they produce acorns to eat, they made acorn pudding, acorn tea, and acorn flour. Lumber and food was traded to their neighbors.

The man remembered his hopes of growing a tree from the tiny acorn. He’d done so much more than grow a tree. He’d grown a civilization.

How powerful is an idea? A writer’s journey and growth stems from his or her idea, and as it takes shape, changes the world. Don't dismiss or give up on your dreams. You cannot guess what can happen, except if you do give up. 

Philip Anderson keeps his past close to the vest. Haunted by the murder of his parents as they traveled West in their covered wagon, his many unanswered questions about that night still torment him. 
His only desire is to live quietly on his homestead and raise horses. He meets Anna, a beautiful young woman with secrets of her own. Falling in love was not part of his plan. Can Philip tell her how he feels before it’s too late?
With Anna a pawn in the corrupt schemes brewing in the nearby Dakota town, Philip is forced to become a reluctant gunslinger. Will Philip’s uncannily trained horses and unsurpassed sharpshooting skills help him free Anna and find out what really happened to his family out there in the wilderness?