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Thursday, September 29, 2016

What Not to Do as a Newbie Writer

What not to do as a beginning writer.
by Angela Ruth Strong @AngelaRStrong

Every writer has to start somewhere, though some seem to have their careers take off a lot sooner than others. I’d be in the “others” category as I attended my first writing conference in 2006 and you probably still haven’t heard of me. (I’ve been called Ruth by editors and occasionally get an, “Oh, you’re that Angela.”) So, in the name of humility, I thought I’d share some mistakes I’ve made along the way to help you achieve success in a more timely manner.

1. Don’t think you are going to write every genre you enjoy reading. If you want to write, you probably enjoy reading, and you probably read a lot of genres. But there are reasons you should not try to write it all.

First, if you want to be a really good writer in any genre, it will take more time to study and perfect your craft. If you are jumping around from genre to genre, you will never have the time needed to reach your full potential.

Second, it will be frustrating to try to figure out the guidelines for each genre. For example, once I tried to help Jill Williamson world build for her fantasy novels once. She would nod and say encouraging things like, “I’ve…uh…never thought if it that way before.” She kindly didn’t tell me my ideas would never work as I didn’t know what the heck I was talking about.

Third, readers want to know what to expect from you. Your name becomes your promise. If you like Amish stories, and you pick up a Beverly Lewis book, you’re going to be a little disappointed if it’s all about zombies. Me and my middle grade novels, women’s fiction, romance, and suspense stories are learning this the hard way.

2. Don’t defend your writing when critiques come in. My very first novel had a revision request from my first conference in 2006. I didn’t make the changes my agent suggested. The editor did not buy that manuscript. Then I found this handy little four-step plan that was designed for victims, which I’ve shamelessly adapted to use when I feel like the victim of reviews I didn’t want.
  • Step one: Accept it. Maybe the reader didn’t get it. Or maybe they didn’t like it. Or they thought your whole ending needed to change. It is what it is.
  • Step two: Own it. Whatever the reader “misunderstood,” you’re the only one who can make them understand. It’s your story.
  • Step three: Make a plan. Sometimes a small tweak makes a huge difference, so don’t let this step overwhelm you. Figure out what you can do to make your story better. Because it can always be better.
  • Step four: Move on. Do what needs to be done, then move on to your next manuscript. Maybe your first story will be good enough to get picked up for a Hallmark movie, or maybe it will be years later when you realize what you were doing wrong in the first place. The point is, you didn’t let a little negative feedback keep you from growing as an author.

Don't prioritize writing over relationships.
3. Don’t prioritize writing over relationships. When going to my first conference a decade ago, I went through the conference packet and decided which agent and editor to pitch. It was my whole plan.  Those pitches didn’t go as I’d hoped, and I felt like a failure.

But then something wonderful happened. I made friends. One of those friends became my editor. Another friend lent me her vacation home in Park City, Utah earlier this year so I could stay there and research for an upcoming novel. Another friend and I just swapped manuscripts for critique because we write for the same publishing house.

I got so much out of these friendships that I came home to Idaho and started my own writing group. We were all nobodies at the time (even nobodier than I am now), but since then we’ve gotten contracts and won awards and published novella collections together.

Writing wouldn’t be the same without my writing friends. I wouldn’t be the same without my writing friends. And no matter how successful my writing may or may not become, I’m thankful for these experiences that have become lessons in my own life story.

TWEETABLE

Bright Star Ranch led him to her–but will he stay?

Josh Lake is forced to head home for the holidays after he’s suspended from his job in the city, but running into Paisley Sheridan could be exactly what he needed. Not only does she board him at her ranch in exchange for his advertising expertise, but spending the Christmas season with her in Big Sky, Montana, brings more joy than he’s felt in a long while. Is he willing to give up the lavish lifestyle he’s worked for in exchange for the gift of love?

The last thing Paisley wants for Christmas is to spend time with Josh Lake—the guy who broke her heart in high school—but until her bank loan goes through, she has to take all the free help she can get. Unfortunately, Josh seems to want back in her life again, and the town’s quirky coffee shop owners don’t help by hanging mistletoe at every opportunity. Will Paisley succeed in driving him away, or will she find the healing needed to have hope for a future together?

Angela Ruth Strong studied journalism at the University of Oregon and published her first novel, Love Finds You in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2010. With movie producers interested in her book, she's decided to rerelease it and write sequels as a new series titled Resort to Love. This Idaho Top Author and Cascade Award winner also started IDAhope Writers to encourage other aspiring authors, and she's excited to announce the sale of her first romantic suspense novel to Love Inspired Suspense. For the latest news or to contact Angela, visit www.angelaruthstrong.com or connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

It's Just Straw Paper

by Yvonne Lehman @YvonneLehman

Several of us go out to eat after church on Sunday. Our number of available women varies. Several who are accustomed to me, hand me the papers from their straws, and the rectangles from around the napkins that holds their utensils. I make bows from those papers and give them to the eaters or line them at the end of the table for the waitress.


Some seem to think I’m creative, but I think I’m just… let’s not say, “Bored,” but antsy, need to do more than just sit and listen or talk. Also, I write with the TV on. I need noise in the background. Makes my subconscious get into gear. And, my fingers need to be moving.

Sunday, there were only three of us. One was new to us, and did most of the talking. While she talked, I flattened the paper, folded each side toward the middle making a loop on each side, leaving two edges hanging down. I placed my index finger inside each loop to fluff it out. Using condensation from my water glass, I wet my finger and thumb, then pressed the middle to secure the bow.

Sometimes when I do this, the sides aren’t even and I start over. Many times my first effort with the water isn’t wet enough to secure the bow and the middle pops up. Sometimes the bow is lovely upon first try. Not often, however. Generally, putting that finishing touch with the water takes several attempts. But when today’s bow was finished, I gently placed it toward the center of the booth away from me, so I could satisfactorily observe my creation.

The other two women didn’t notice or comment. To the constant woman, this was commonplace. The new one was intent upon telling her story. I thought about what they did with their papers.

The new woman removed her straw, crumpled the paper and tossed it toward the center of the table away from her. It lay sprawled in an ungraceful manner. The constant woman rolled her paper around in the palm of her hand until it became a wadded ball. Then she carelessly laid it aside, without any thought to it’s potential or my needy hands. (I could excuse that since the new woman’s conversation was…revealing – or, one might say, a story idea.)

So, while waiting for my fried salt & peppered catfish and non-salt & peppered non-crispy fried oysters, I looked at my bow that went unnoticed by my companions or the waitress.

Those other straw papers, having been abused or pampered, reminded me of the writing process.

If we don't give our story ideas serious thought, it's
like crumpling them and tossing them away.
We can have a story idea in our hands, or heads, so to speak. It’s a good idea, but if not given serious thought, it’s crumpled and tossed away.

We can have an idea, hold it for awhile wondering if it’s of any value after all, roll it around in our heads, but become distracted by something of interest at the time and then carelessly lay it aside to be treated like trash.

The serious writer, however, knows that nothing is just a paper idea. Something good can come from this. I must fold, and smooth, and when it threatens to come apart, it’s as if cold ice water is applied but eventually it warms and adheres and settles into being a lovely little symbol of an idea worked into something that’s symbolic of beauty and a piece of art.

Just straw paper?

No! A lesson about life and how we handle situations, even writing a book, article, or devotion.

We might think our story idea is like a flat piece of paper to be crumpled and tossed aside. Or we can take that idea, work with it until it becomes something creative. Sometimes, no one will notice. But there’s satisfaction in creating something from what may seem insignificant. Sometimes, others will notice, laugh, comment, and enjoy the moment.

What are you going to do with your… straw paper?

Yvonne Lehman is an award-winning, best-selling author of more than 3,000,000 books in print, who founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years, is now director of the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat. She mentors for the Christian Writers Guild. She earned a Master’s Degree in English from Western Carolina University and has taught English and Creative Writing on the college level. Her latest releases include eight ebooks for Barbour’s Truly Yours line and a Harlequin/Heartsong series set in Savannah GA: The Caretaker’s Son, Lessons in Love, Seeking Mr. Perfect, (released in March, August, & November 2013). Her 50th novel is Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the TITANIC