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Saturday, June 30, 2012

The 5 Stages of Rejection Grief


All writers go through it. Yet not all writers recognize there is a real grieving process when we receive those rejections. I didn’t realize it myself until one really tough rejection that knocked me so hard it had me reeling through the 5 stages of grief.

It started when my writing mentor told me to scrap my 50,000 word WIP and start over. I was shocked. Sure, I knew my WIP needed help, but to trash six months of writing. She had to be mistaken. I slipped quickly into denial. Maybe a better term for that news was "shock and awe" because I was paralyzed for an entire weekend. I couldn't think, let alone apply any of the great teaching my mentor gave me to my current WIP which was technically dead to me at the moment.

After the anxiety of the weekend wore off, I went through a mixture of anger, bargaining, and depression. I don't remember the anger stage being strong, but the depression was incapacitating at times! I couldn't write or even read. What was the point! My story was dead, and I wasn't about to try and read someone else's story while I was grieving.

Then came the bargaining. Maybe, just maybe I could salvage the WIP. So I tried writing my historical romance in first person. I only got 113 words written before depression set in again, and I realized it was useless. If I turned my WIP into women's fiction as my mentor suggested, it would be a totally different story with a different feel and plot. Which was okay, but something I didn't have the energy to do. After all, I was still grieving.

So I started revisiting an old idea, close to my heart that I'd been afraid to write. First, I reread the seven pages, the only pages I'd written. My heart stirred. I felt new life coming back into my soul. So I read it again, and edited just a few lines and added a few more. Could I do this? I wasn’t sure, but I knew I needed some encouragement so I sent it out to some trustworthy friends. They confirmed I should be working on the story. And I did, but not before I allowed myself to grieve the lost of a WIP.

Rejection is not easy, but sooner or later if you’re a serious writer and put your stuff out there, you will experience rejection. The key to surviving it without taking down those around you is to recognize that a writing rejection requires a grieving process and each person needs to feel it and deal with it in their own time. But also know the only way to get past it is to sit back down and write. 

No matter how long it takes.

Gina Conroy, a.k.a. "the other Gina," is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket. She's the founder of Writer...Interrupted and is still learning how to balance a career with raising a family. She is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, and her first novella, Buried Deception, in the Cherry Blossom Capers Collection, released from Barbour Publishing in January 2012 with her second novel Digging Up Death recently contracted with Stonehouse Ink.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Author Interview ~ Beth Vogt

Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. She’s discovered that God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.”

Her inspirational contemporary romance novel, Wish You Were Here, debuted May 2012 (Howard Books.) Her second novel, Catch a Falling Star, releases May 2013. Beth is an established magazine writer and former editor of Connections, the leadership magazine for MOPS International.

Tell us a bit about your current project.

Wish You Were Here asks the question “Can the wrong kiss lead to Mr. Right?” The novel tells the story of what happens when a woman kisses her fiancĂ©’s brother five days before the wedding. Which is the mistake? The kiss? Or the wedding?

We are all about journeys...unique ones at that. How convoluted was your path to your first published book? Share some highlights or lowlights from your path to publication. 

The first book I ever published was a non-fiction book about late-in-life motherhood, Baby Changes Everything (Revell 2007.) For years, I said I would never writer fiction – I was quite content staying on my side of the writing road. And then I hit a season of burnout when I told my husband I would never write another word – ever, ever, ever. He came home three days later to find me at the computer … um, writing. When he asked me about my vow to never write again (ever, ever, ever), I told him that what I was doing didn’t count. I was just having fun, playing around with an idea for a novel. No one would ever see it. That “just for fun” idea became Wish You Were Here. God used burnout to redirect my life – and allow me to see a whole new dream come true.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.

Self-doubt wants to tag along on this journey, kind of like an unwelcome, invisible companion. The best way to overcome self-doubt is to surround myself with my “security net” of friends – both writers and non-writers. These friends (including my husband) speak truth to me when I’m up on a ledge and want to jump off. They point me back to who I am in God’s eyes and they help me to shake off the self-doubt.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication? Or to narrow it down further what’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

That idea that you’re going to get it all done one day? It’s not going to happen.

And comparing yourself to someone else? Don’t go there. You walk your journey along the writing road and let them walk their journey. If your paths cross, cheer them on.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

I love weaving real life into my novels. Often story ideas are prompted by questions that I’ve faced and found answers to – or maybe not.  I like letting fictional characters wrestle with the issues we face in the real world. I also love mulling over the question, “What if?”  and getting together with other writers and brainstorming story ideas.

Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments you’d like to share with us, the ones wherein you get “the look” from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to use to disembowel a six foot man…please do tell.

At one time I thought Wish You Were Here was going to be a romantic suspense. Long story short: That was a rookie writer’s attempt to ramp up tension. Several years ago, during my youngest daughter’s spring break, we drove through Rocky Mountain National Park trying to find the best place for a confrontation – complete with a car going over the edge of a cliff. We were marking spots on a map of the park. I kept thinking: If the teacher asks the class what they did during spring break, what will my daughter say? “We tried to figure out how to kill somebody?”

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?
That time is relative in the writing world? That waiting is mandatory? That authors must market themselves? That social media is essential – and can pull me away from my work-in-progress … Oh, sorry. You only asked for one pet peeve.

Share a dream or something you'd love to accomplish through your writing career.

I am thankful to say I’ve accomplished more than I ever dreamed of as a writer. But one thing I hope to do in the future is encourage other writers – to help them achieve their dreams. I saw my dreams come true because of others coming alongside me and helping me. I want to do the same. 

What gives you the greatest writer buzz, makes the trip worth the hassles (besides coffee or other substances, or course)?

Relationships with other writers. We “get” each other, you know? And connecting with another writer, talking deadlines and elevator pitches and successes and “try again” moments – all of this has enriched my life so, so much.

Describe your special or favorite writing spot or send a picture if you'd like.

I have three-quarters of an office that is all mine. Or maybe it’s more like four-fifths. It’s large enough for two desks, and so the second desk is where my youngest daughter does homework or where my husband pays bills. But the office is mine – painted the way I like, with my favorite photos and sayings and mementos on the wall. 

What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?

I grab a new copy of The Book Buddy, written by best-selling author Susan May Warren. It’s an amazing work-text that helps me map out my story – everything from my theme and Story Question, to my characters and my subplots, to my key scenes. By the time I’m done working through “Buddy,” I’ve plotted out enough to begin writing my fast draft.

Have you discovered any successful marketing/promo ideas that you'd share with us?

I had the absolutely delightful experience of being part of the “Debs” with three other authors who debuted in May: Dani Pettrey, Katie Ganshert and Olivia Newport. We joined together to encourage one another months before our books launched. Then Rel of Relz Reviewz and Kelli Standish – who is amazing with web design and all the “techy” stuff – coordinated a live online launch party for us. Our publishers – Howard Books, Bethany, Waterbrook and Revell – supported our combo launch party. We also highlighted Heart of the Bride, a ministry that provides for the needs of orphans worldwide.

Parting words? Anything you wish we would’ve asked because you’ve got the perfect answer?

So … what about the llamas? Wish You Were Here is a bit quirky, in that it has a trio of llamas incorporated in the storyline. People often ask “What’s up with the llamas?” I have my husband, Rob, to thank for that. Whenever I would hit a wall and not know what to write next, he would say, “Is this when the aliens come in?” I always told him I wasn’t writing that kind of novel. One day while we were in Estes Park (yes, the same time we were trying to figure out how to kill someone off in the book) we saw some llamas. And my husband asked, “Well, how about putting llamas in your book?”
That suggestion made me laugh – and I agreed.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

5 Common Mistakes New Writers Make

Maybe you’re like me when I was a new writer. I wrote my heart out, not giving any attention to the “rules” of writing. Frankly, I didn’t know there were rules. It wasn’t until I finished my first novel and submitted it to an editor, and got rejected that I realized there were a million things I didn’t know about writing a novel. That’s when I decided to learn the “rules” of writing and discovered I was not alone in the mistakes I made.

Too Much Backstory
Everyone falls in love with their characters, and we want everyone to know everything about them so they can fall in love with them too. But what new writers don’t realize is that you don’t have to tell a character’s entire backstory to hold a reader's interest. In fact, the less you tell up front, the more intrigued your reader may be about your character.

So what if you have a bunch of backstory? That’s okay for now. Sometimes writers have to get to know their characters before than can tell their story. So let the words flow. Just remember you will have to go back and do some editing.

Then once you know your character’s story, ask yourself  “What is the most important thing about my character the reader needs to know NOW to understand my character’s action.” Include that piece of information and then later look for ways to weave in your character’s history instead of explaining it all at once in narrative. How do you do that?

You can show your character’s history through her present actions. Did something happen in her past to make her angry or cynical? Did something happen to cause her to have a bad relationship with a friend or family member? Resist the Urge to explain (RUE) why a character is acting the way she’s acting and just show it. Then as the story progresses you can drop little nuggets of information, one liners, or subtle comments through dialogue or internal thought to give the reader a HINT at her backstory. If you drop all the information about your character up front, the mystery and intrigue will be gone, and your reader will be bored and not want to turn the page.

Improper Use of POV or Head Hopping
Many new writers like to get inside the head of every character, but this can be confusing to the reader. The basic rule is to tell the story through the eyes of one character during a certain scene or chapter. The character whose eyes you see through is called the POV character and when you write action or description, you only write what that character sees and feels. Think of it like looking through a camera lens. Whatever your character sees through the lens is what you have them see in your story. That means they can’t see when someone sneaks up behind them, but they may be able to hear footsteps or smell a distinct odor as the person approaches. This also applies to emotions. You can’t know what every character thinks or feels. Just the thoughts and feelings of your POV character. Yes, some writers break the rules, and it works. But usually not for new writers.

Telling Emotions Instead of Showing
Though many new writers may have a good grasp of showing the actions in a scene instead of telling, most still have difficulty showing emotions. Instead of naming the emotions, writers can show the emotion in an action beat by researching how that emotion is displayed physically and viscerally. So a better way to convey to your reader that a character is angry is to show him being angry instead of telling the reader the character is angry. No one likes to be told how to feel. The same is true with the reader. If you allow the reader to feel your character’s emotions instead of telling them, it will make for a richer reading experience.

Not Enough Conflict
Once your character starts her journey toward her goal, there should be conflict, preferably on every page. But remember conflict comes in many forms. There’s internal conflict which stems from opposing goals, dreams, fears, insecurities, and past mistakes. There’s relational conflict where another character causes problems (external or internal) for the main character. And there is external conflict that comes from outside the character. Conflict is anything that slows the journey of your character and makes it more difficult (yet not impossible) for them to reach the end of their journey. And conflict is what drives a story and makes a reader turn the page.

No Story Structure
Instead of thinking of story structure as a bunch of rules you have to follow, think of it as destination stops on the way to where you want to go. If you were taking a cross country trip, there would be certain places you’d stop. This is the basis of story structure. But how you get to those different places has endless possibilities. For example, you can start in New York and drive to Philadelphia. Then you can take a plane to Dallas, take a bus to Oklahoma city and maybe rent a motorcycle for the rest of your journey.  Not so structured, now is it?

Though many writers start out making these writing mistakes, learning the rules of good writing isn’t hard. Are there times writers break these rules? Yes, and it can work, especially when you have a reason for breaking the rules and know why you’re doing it. But to do that, new writers should learn and the “rules” to great writing. 

Gina Conroy, a.k.a. "the other Gina," is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket. She's the founder of Writer...Interrupted and is still learning how to balance a career with raising a family. She is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, and her first novella, Buried Deception, in the Cherry Blossom Capers Collection, released from Barbour Publishing in January 2012 with her second novel Digging Up Death recently contracted with Stonehouse Ink.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lifeway $5.00 Sale on Some Christy Finalists!

$5.00 Lifeway sale for Christy finalists: 

*  Dry as Rain (Gina Holmes) 

*  First Gardener (Denise Hildreth Jones) 

* Forsaking All Others (Allison Pittman) 

. via LifeWay Christian Stores

Keys to a Great Book Proposal ~ by Tamela Hancock Murray

“I think book proposals are one of the most difficult things to write, second only to obituaries.”

When I received this email from one of my authors, Sherry Gore, (and yes, I have permission to quote her), I could relate. I’ve never written obituaries, even though writing one’s own is a popular goal-setting exercise. But I have written and read many book proposals so I know they aren’t easy to write. Sometimes they aren’t easy to read. So how can you make your book proposals easy to read? When my assistant and I are scanning proposals, here are the key points we first notice:
1) Format: Is the overall look of the proposal easy on the eye? A poorly-formatted proposal won’t be rejected if we are wowed by the content, but proposals with a pleasing appearance make a great impression.
2) Title: Tell us immediately what we are viewing: Fiction/nonfiction? Series/standalone? Genre? Historical/contemporary?
3) Hook: What is the spirit of your book?  Fried Green Tomatoes meets Star Trek? Or A Systematic Approach to Spiritual Spring Cleaning?
4) Back Cover Blurb: In two or three short paragraphs, make me want to buy your book. Take the time to make this sparkle, because great back cover copy will help sell me on your book, then the editor, then the pub board, then marketing, then your readers.
5) Info: Can critical facts be found with little effort, including:
      a.) published/unpublished status

       b.) sales figures for published authors

       c.) manuscript status, including when it can be completed

       d.) manuscript history
6) Summary: I find that one-page summaries usually work best. If you have already invested in a lengthy summary, you can include a short summary and a long summary.
7) Market Comparisons: Showing us books that are similar to yours will help us know where your book will fit in today’s market. Be respectful rather than critical of other authors’ work when comparing. Show how your book fits into the market, but is still unique enough to attract readers.
8 ) Endorsers: This area causes many authors anxiety because they may not be acquainted with big name authors, or they are afraid that listing a friend may be promising too much. Rest assured that no agent or editor thinks a big name author is a guaranteed endorser. We all know that popular authors’ schedules are packed and that the timing to read your book may or may not work. I recommending listing three names of authors you know well enough that you can approach them for an endorsement. If you honestly have no idea, it’s better not to list anyone than to list impossible names. Don’t distress — your agent can work with you here.
These key points are by no means inclusive. I have only hit the high points on some of the areas that tend to make authors jittery. Don’t worry. Do your best with the proposal, and write the best book you can. That’s all we ask!
For complete guidelines, visit our site here. These may be our guidelines, but they are universally accepted as an excellent and proper way to write a proposal.
We look forward to seeing your work!
Your turn:
What do you think is the hardest part of a proposal to write?
What is the easiest part of a proposal to write?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Writing for Love... and Money

Making money is NOT an evil thing. Unless you're a Christian writer, agent, or publisher. Then, suddenly, the tables turn and you're supposed to do it simply for "the love of the game."

I've never quite understood that.

I taught at a church recently. Two services. My topic was "Loving God With Your Mind." As the day approached, I debated whether I should use that event as an opportunity to set up a book table and sell my first novel. One part of me -- the rational, business, professional part of me -- saw it as a no-brainer. It didn't matter how awkward it appeared, or if I even sold any books. The point was to start acting like a real writer and get my face out there. Well, the other part of me -- the artsy, idealistic, Bohemian part -- argued against setting up a table. You're NOT in this for the money, I told myself. After all, this was a church. And you know what Jesus did to the moneychangers in the temple. Besides, if I really felt called to write I should be writing for the love of it, not constantly looking for promo-ops.

The money-changer in me won out.

I've heard this charge leveled more than once: The Christian book and music industry is "all about money. " Exhibit A: The Left Behind series. Did the publishers of The Left Behind series intentionally stretch the series out (to 12 books!) simply to capitalize on the series' success, as some have suggested? If so, was that blatantly un-christian or a smart business practice?

I'm not sure the answer is as clear-cut as we'd like it to be.

Whenever this issue of Christian publishing and the role of the Christian artist comes up, the subject of “profit-making” is not far behind. Have the “moneychangers” really stepped in? Is the bottom-line for Christian publishing really “all about marketing and money”? Is the real reason so many authors are left high and dry simply because of greedy publishers who are looking for the most marketable product, er, person?

When I signed a two-book contract with Charisma House, my agent negotiated with the publisher for the best possible deal. Was this wrong? Should I have simply accepted what the publisher offered? On top of this, my agent wants a cut. In fact, I hired her with the agreement that she could have a cut! So who’s the “money-grubber” in this scenario? The publisher, who thinks (hopes?) my books can sell? Me, for negotiating the best possible deal? Or my agent, for requiring a percentage of my profit?

Or maybe the “Christian” thing to do is to do it all for free.

Jesus told the parable of the talents (Matt. 25: 14-30) about using our resources wisely, which in that case meant multiplication. Applying this to us writers, simply: God wants you to multiply your writing talent. Build upon it. Grow it. Leverage it. But for what purpose? Fame? Nah. Fortune? Okay, forget fortune. For a few bucks?  Why not? Christ rebuked the unfaithful steward for not making a return on his talent.
Question: Are you getting a "return" on your writing talent?

Of course that return need not be strictly monetary. Perhaps you're inspiring others, growing personally, etc. That's terrific. But does it need to stop there? Making money, as a writer or publisher, seems intrinsic to being a good steward. Sure, we can become greedy and materialistic. Yes, publishers can abandon Christian principles to the Almighty Dollar. Nevertheless, growing your writing talent means cashing in on it, literally and figuratively.

This is not evil. This is biblical.

The truth is, the average writer makes very little, if any, money off her craft. That's just the way it is. The business is competitive. But this is not justification for resorting to some "moral high ground."  Like you're the principled writer who didn't sell-out for fame and fortune.

Well, excuse me.

It makes me wonder if the writers who talk most about writing "for the love of writing," not for money, subconsciously believe they never will make money. On the surface they appear principled, but in reality their self-righteousness allows them to curse us sellouts while doing little to really multiply their talent.

Might as well write your novel and bury it.

So go ahead, call me a shill, a sellout. Either way, I AM writing for love.. and money.

Mike Duran writes supernatural thrillers. He is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket, and is represented by the rockin' Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Mike's novels include The TellingThe Resurrection, and an ebook novella, Winterland.  You can visit his website at

Forgetting Something?

Not every writer follows the same route to publication. How you achieve your goal depends on your particular situation. Whether you're making good time or struggling to stay on your feet, Novel Rocket is here to assist you along that winding road.

One experience some have found helpful is entering Novel Rocket's LAUNCH PAD Contest: Boosting You Out of the Slush Pile.

The contest is already under way, but we're still taking entries in four of the six categories:
Contemporary Fiction/Women's Fiction (deadline for submission is July 10); Middle Grade/Young Adult (enter by August 10); Contemporary Romance (enter by September 10); and Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror (enter by October 10). Check the complete rules, including the submission deadlines, on the Launch Pad Contest tab above.

Questions? Email us at, where there's a real-live Earthling on call to provide a prompt response.

So why sit there daydreaming? Hop to it and get that baby submitted! 

Besides being our contest administrator, Yvonne Anderson writes fiction that takes you out of this world.
Words in the Wind, the second book in her Gateway to Gannah series, is scheduled for release on August 1. 
Marooned in a desolate canyon half a planet from home, a lone survivor struggles to separate reality from illusion.  
Dassa's landing craft crashes 10,000 kilometers from her intended destination. Taking refuge in a canyon from the blizzard that rages atop the rim, she learns more about her native planet than she ever wanted to know. Even if she manages to find her way home, does she have a home to return to?
Meanwhile if you haven't yet read Book #1, The Story in the Stars, here's your chance: now through July 30, you can buy it on Kindle for only 99 cents.

A Merry Heart

A merry heart does good, like medicine. --Proverbs 17:22
As my best girlfriend Marian struggled to find her way after her husband’s death, she investigated several new activities that she hoped would re-channel her grief. One of those is called Laughter Yoga. The premise is that laughter frees something inside you, even if – in the beginning at least – it isn’t heartfelt because the body can’t differentiate between humorous and forced laughter.

“You should try it,” Marian told me. “It’s unbelievably therapeutic to just laugh for no reason at all!”   

Sure it is, I thought. 

But a few weeks later, while facing one of the most stressful days I’d faced in a while, I sat at a stoplight, deep-breathing. Marian’s words came to mind. In one of those desperate-enough-to-even-try-this moments, I decided to give it a shot. With the windows clamped shut and the radio cranked up, I let out one good hardy laugh. After pausing in hope of the outcome she’d suggested, I tried it again – this time, louder. And hardier.

Just about the time that a small sense of relief actually did creep up on me, I glanced over at the car next to me where the driver gawked with pure, unabashed judgment. As our eyes met, she cocked her head and raised an eyebrow as if she’d caught me picking my nose. 

When the light turned green, she shook her head and drove away, and  – for some reason – the situation struck me as hilariously funny. I guffawed and snorted at myself all the way home.

“I told you so!” Marian cried that evening when I called to recount my experience and blame her for my embarrassment. 

And then the laughter came again, the best kind, the kind you can only share with your closest friend. I’m guessing it was no great miracle that I slept like a baby that night, waking up in the morning to the realization that a merry heart really is like medicine.

Thank You, Father, for the joy of laughter, especially when it’s shared with a friend.

* * *

Sandra D. Bricker was an entertainment publicist in Los Angeles for 15+ years. She is now a best-selling, award-winning author of laugh-out-loud fiction for the inspirational market. As an ovarian cancer survivor, she gears time and effort toward raising awareness and funds for research, diagnostics and a cure. Her latest novel, Book #3 of 4 in the Another Emma Rae Creation series for Abingdon Press, is Always the Designer, Never the Bride. Sandie invites every reader to click the FOLLOW button on her newly-redesigned BLOG and contribute to the ongoing conversations.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Don't Cheat the Reader

 I am constantly tempted to skip over heavy, emotional scenes. I want to shield my characters from prying eyes. I don’t want people to see them standing at their fathers’ graves with red, puffy eyes and snot dripping from their noses. Even worse? Watching and listening in while they smooch and call each other silly pet names. They wouldn't do that if they knew people were watching. I feel a little rude, spying on them with my hidden camera. 
Besides, these kinds of scenes—loving, fighting, grieving—take a lot of energy to write and they never feel good to me. I go over them again and again until the characters feel like cardboard people I’m manipulating for my own ends. Everything they do and say feels forced and cheesy. 
Of course, readers don't know how long we work on our scenes. It all feels fresh to them.   
Besides that… 
Readers Want to Feel Emotion: 
We read fiction because we want to go on an emotional journey with the main character. If you cheat us out of sharing the emotional journey why should we go on reading?   
I remember a book that I loved, loved, loved. This book was going to be my next favorite. I was gearing up to rave about it to all my friends.
Then . . . boom! I fell out of love with the turn of a page.
At the end of one chapter a character I really like—the main character’s mother—is injured. She collapses onto the floor, an ambulance comes, the paramedics wheel her out, and the curtain falls before we are told how serious the injury is. 
The next chapter opens . . . three months in the future.  
I turned the page thinking I'd find out what happened to the mother. Instead I found the POV character and her friend discussing the DEATH of the mother as if it was old news. To my mind she had just fallen, injured, mere moments before. 
I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. I quickly flipped back to see if I had somehow skipped a chapter. No. On the previous page the character was wheeled out on a gurney, still alive. And then we skipped forward three months and got a three-sentence summarization of her death. 
It was bad enough that the mother died, but I could have forgiven that. What I couldn’t get over was that the author gave me the news in such an abrupt, cruel way, three months after the fact. I was bonded with the POV character. When her mother died, my mother died, but I wasn’t given any time to grieve. 
I struggled through one more chapter, then put the book down and never picked it up again. I simply couldn’t reattach myself to the heroine. She was over her mother’s death and I was still reeling from it. This created a breach between us that was too wide for me to cross.
We have to write the hard scenes. The reader has to live through what the character lives through. No, we don't have to show the sex or violence, but we have to show the emotion the character is experiencing, whether it’s wildly crazy love or a devastating sense of loss. 
Do you struggle with writing emotional scenes? I shrink away from them, sometimes, because I'm afraid of being melodramatic. How can we guard against melodrama? Have you read any books where the author left out an emotional scene she should have put in? 
 is the editor of Best Books for Young Readers, a semiannual newsletter. (Subscribe for a chance to win a Kindle Fire.) She is also the local liaison for SCBWI in Cobb County, Georgia. She has published short works in a number of places and has received an SCBWI Work in Progress grant. She can usually be found blogging about young adult novels at
photo credit: pcgn7 via photo pin cc

Friday, June 22, 2012

So How Much Time Do I REALLY Have to Spend on Social Networking?

Truthfully—the bare minimum.
Yep, you read that right.
No, I'm not from another century. I know writers today need to have a platform and connection to their audience. But I refuse to believe we have to give up writing to do it.

But what about the hype, the promises, the RESULTS? Don’t the results increase in direct proportion to the effort? No, not so much.

Fairly quickly, the return on investment when, it comes to time and social networking, begins to diminish. I that sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s the absolute truth.

That said, how much time is required?
It depends…on your expertise, your audience and the desired result. 

Your Expertise
With any new skill, including social networking, there is a learning curve. It takes time to come up to speed on how to use Twitter, Facebook and Blogging platforms effectively. But, you don’t need to become an expert. After all, you want to be a writer—not a social media expert! So how do you know when you're expert enough to be effective? Here are some basics you should have mastered:

Twitter: You need to have a Twitter account and know the basics of tweeting. 
  • How to compose an effective tweet.
  • How to use hashtags correctly. 
  • The difference between a direct message, a reply and a tweet.
Facebook: You need to have a Facebook account and know how to navigate Facebook. 
  • How to accept friend requests, as well as send them.
  • How to hide unwanted updates and even people.
  • How to compose an effect Facebook update.
  • How to configure your account privacy settings to protect yourself and your family while still interacting with readers and clients.
  • The difference between a regular page and a fan page.
Blogging: You should have a blog—to practice writing on a deadline if nothing else. 
  • You need to know how often to post. 
  • How to use keywords and labels effectively.
  • How to tie your title to your keywords.
  • How to use photos and videos to illustrate and partner with your posts.
  • How to answer comments effectively.
As you can see, there isn't one right answer for everyone. But for now, here’s my short answer on how much time to spend each day—once you’re familiar with social networking.

You should spend no more than 30 to 45 minutes per day, five days a week on social networking. 

That's right. After talking with thousands of authors and writers, I’ve found that any more time than that becomes counter-productive and actually interferes with our writing.

If you’re spending more time than that per day, something’s not working. So now it’s your turn, how much time do you spend daily on social networking? Is it working for you? Do you know how to tell if it’s working? I’d love to have you share your answers and your questions in the comments.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Writing in Between

Lisa McKay is a mother (she is also a psychologist and an author, but during these foggy days of early parenthood those other identities sometimes seem remote indeed). When she is not busy preventing her baby from drinking out of the dog’s water bowl, she is busy releasing her second book, Love At The Speed Of Email. She lives in Laos.

Writing in between: Too much God for the general market, not enough for the Christian market

            My second book, Love At The Speed Of Email, tells the story of how I met the man I would marry while I was living in Los Angeles and he was living in Papua New Guinea. He was a humanitarian worker, I was a trauma psychologist, and we got to know each other entirely via email.
We wrote to each other for months before we ever met – about our childhoods, our work, and the highs and lows of our days. We wrote about purpose and passion. We wrote about ways our faith had been challenged by some of what we’d encountered during our careers.

The zealous, assured faith of our teens and early twenties had broken in profound ways when it collided with the realities of refugee camps, acute suffering, and our own shortcomings. Like Humpty Dumpty, this faith could not be put back together again; not in its original form, anyway. When we met we were both still in the process of figuring out what faith meant, then.
The book captures both of us mid-journey – in a season of questions and uncertainties and glimmers of a new, less orthodox and quieter faith.

This turned out to be a major stumbling block for prospective publishers.
In general, editors loved the story and the writing but balked at some of the faith-related content. Some of the Christian publishers ended up rejecting the book because it didn’t deliver “the spiritual take-away” they were looking for. Some general market publishers thought there was too much talk of God.
On one level this didn’t entirely surprise me. Publishing companies are businesses. Businesses survive by carving out a niche for themselves and then serving that particular audience. When it comes to a topic as personal and potentially incendiary as faith, it’s perhaps not surprising that most Christian and secular publishing companies cater to clearly defined “end zones”.

On another level, however, I did find it surprising. I know so many people who are grappling with faith-related issues similar to the ones I wrote about in this book – people who are questioning the black and white faith of their childhood and wondering about purpose and passion. There are some traditionally published books out there that speak to these issues. There are also publishing companies that are starting to actively tap this market that falls somewhere in between the self-assurance of traditional evangelical Christianity and the complete omission of any reference to God. But overall I still think there are fewer opportunities to write honestly about questions, doubts, and unfinished faith journeys than what the market could support.

In my case, after so much positive feedback from editors, my agent suggested that we explore self-publishing. I’m delighted to announce that Love At The Speed Of Email is now available through Amazon and other booksellers. Although some are sure to feel it talks too much of God and others not enough, some, I hope, will find it just right.

What do you think? Do traditional publishers really publish to the “end zones”? Why? Is that changing? What has been your experience?

Lisa looks as if she has it made. She has turned her nomadic childhood and forensic psychology training into a successful career as a stress management trainer for humanitarian aid workers. She lives in Los Angeles, travels the world, and her first novel has just been published to some acclaim. But as she turns 31, Lisa realizes that she is still single, constantly on airplanes, and increasingly wondering where home is and what it really means to commit to a person, place, or career. When an intriguing stranger living on the other side of the world emails her out of the blue, she must decide whether she will risk trying to answer those questions. Her decision will change her life.

Follow Your Weirdness

by Christa Allan 

I'm in the process of digesting PLATFORM: Get Noticed in a Busy World by Michael Hyatt. And, believe me when I say that anyone who stands 4’11”  (um, that would be me) absolutely needs a platform. 

Of course, raising me to be eye-level with the majority of the universe is not what Mike means. He defines platform as "the means by which you connect with your existing and potential fans

I summoned my creative muses, most of whom listen to me about as much as my children, so we could ponder this idea of connectedness. In a rare display of sympathy, they led me to a quote by Annie Dillard that I'd underlined ages ago. Her suggestion for new writers is (from the introduction of In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction by Lee Gutkind. . .just to prove I didn't make this up:) "Follow your own weirdness." 

 Fortunately for me, that's a short trip.

I realize that, to some--okay, maybe to many--I'm slightly off center. But, I clearly don’t want to stand on the stage of weirdness. Or, in any way, weirdly connect with my present and future fans.

The entirely unexpected weird path I am following, though, is one that leads me to write “not-your-usual Christian fiction.”  My first three novels deal with alcoholism, homosexuality, and race.  When you’re the once divorced, twice married, recovering alcoholic wife of a Jewish husband, mother of twins (one of the two has Down’s Syndrome) plus three other children, a daughter whose husband is black (and she’s not), and sister of a gay brother…well, just where are you going to go with that?

Here’s the exciting part for us as writers: it’s when we write about what we think makes us different that readers most connect with us. 

Few people want to go public with their weirdness because, let’s face it, it’s hard to go back in once you’ve been outed. We’re experts at concealing our insecurities, doubts, fears, yearnings, regrets, resentments…But, just because others can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

As writers, I believe we have to expose ourselves (not in a Bourbon Street stripper way, and not even in a navel-gazing way), but in a way that acknowledges our own “weirdnesses.” Those places where we say to ourselves, “If I say this out loud, I will be placed on a lifetime regiment of drug therapy.” 

You can’t speak it, but your characters can. And when they do, there will be readers out there nodding, saying to themselves, “I didn’t know anyone else felt this or thought this or said this.”

And that, my friend, is a connection.

Where will your weirdness take you?

1841. Ever since her parents died of yellow fever when she was a child, Charotte LeClerc has lived with her grandparents, who rarely speak of their son and his wife. They are on the verge of negotiating a marriage contract with a suitor, a man Charlotte loathes, when they discover that she enjoys the company of Gabriel Girod, a young Creole man. Charlotte's future hangs in the balance as her grandparents consider whether to stop keeping secrets and reveal the truth that they've known since before her birth -- a truth that will make the difference between a life of obligation and a life of choice for Charlotte.