Tuesday, August 30, 2016

How to Be a Fabulous Writer in Three (Not-So) Easy Steps

with guest Jan Drexler.

Whew! I just got back from ACFW Nashville and I’m pumped! Ready to hit the keyboard and get my work-in-progress done!
Jan Drexler & Mary Vee
But I didn’t feel the same way at my first conference – ACFW Dallas in 2012.

I remember browsing through the bookstore in Dallas, scanning titles published by Revell, Zondervan, Bethany House, Thomas Nelson…and wondering why in the world did I think my books belonged in their company?

I should just give up.

But I got over that funk in a hurry. I went to my hotel room, looked at myself in the mirror, and said: “I am a writer. I have talent. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to be fabulous. And I’ll never give up.”

And I didn’t give up. My fifth book is being published by Revell next month, and there are four more in the pipeline. That means signed contracts, books in various stages of completion, and a lot of BICHOK (Bottom In Chair, Hands On Keyboard).

I’m here to tell YOU – don’t give up. You can be a fabulous writer in only three (not-so) easy steps:

First Step: Develop your talent

Do you have talent for writing? You must, or you wouldn’t be here. This innate talent is one thing that draws us to writing. 

But talent by itself isn’t enough. 

I’ve always loved writing and books, so when it was time to pick a major in college, I chose English With A Creative Writing Emphasis. Very important-sounding, isn’t it?

But there was one problem. I had never taken one step to develop my talent. All through high school and college I garnered honors, opportunities and good grades…but I still hadn’t applied myself to my writing. 

I didn’t understand that I needed to develop my raw talent. Raw talent by itself is full of potential, like an egg in a nest. But undeveloped talent? Just think about what happens if something knocks that egg onto the ground before it’s ready to hatch.

Not a pretty picture, is it?

So how do you develop your talent?

1) Be a sponge. Soak up everything you can. Hang around experienced writers (aka Seekers!) and others who are learning just like you are (aka Seekervillagers!). At the beginning it seems like you know nothing, doesn’t it? And the more you learn the more you realize how vast this pool of information is that you’ve just dipped your toe into. I know that in my first months of visiting Seekerville I felt like I was drowning in details! It was definitely a steep learning curve.

But the key point here is that I did learn…and so will you.  

2) Seek out new avenues to learn your craft. One of the best ones I found (after Seekerville, of course!) is the series of monthly on-line courses that are included in the ACFW membership. What I learned from those courses made the cost of the membership seem like nothing!
Click on this image to see the courses up close and personal and clear.

Another great way to learn is to read craft books. I know all of the Seekers have their favorites. A couple of mine are “The Breakout Novelist” by Donald Maass, and “The Moral Premise” by Stanley Williams.

3) And most important: READ!

Reading is necessary to develop your writing talent. 

Someone told me years ago that in order to write well, you need to read well. 

What does that mean? It means that you read voraciously, constantly, widely, and deeply. You read inside your genre and outside your genre. You read classical literature, popular best-sellers, fiction, and non-fiction. You read authors you adore and authors you hate (although not quite as often). 

You learn by reading. You learn about the human condition, about God, about life. You learn how author A writes a descriptive paragraph, and you learn how author B writes scintillating dialogue. 

When an author’s writing grips your heart, you go back and read that passage again. You dissect it word by word to learn how that author connected so well with your feelings.

And when you’ve finished that book, you pick up the next one. You can never read too much!

Listen to Stephen King, not Albert Einstein. After all, which one of them is a fiction writer?

Second Step: Work hard

Writing isn’t easy. 

I know, I know. We’ve all seen these romantic images of the famous author dressed in a long, flowing white dress reclining in a hammock, thoughtfully nibbling at the end of her pen while birds sing sweetly over her head.

But that isn’t reality. Look around at your life. This is reality. And somewhere in your own reality, you need to make the time to BICHOK and write.

Why is writing so hard?

 Think of it this way -  there is no one right or wrong way to write. Every author has his or her own voice, own style, own quirks. You have your own story to tell, and no one can tell it for you. It comes from your heart and soul, not anyone else’s.

So how do you learn to tell your own story?

Write. Write whenever you can, wherever you can.

Write blog posts. The great thing about blog posts is that they are short, and you can experiment. What works? Complex sentences or simple ones? Dialogue or narration? Humor or pathos?

Write stories. Long or short, stories are where your writing really matures.

And whatever you do, write something every day. Staring at a blank paper never improves your writing. Neither does watching a television show or playing a game on Facebook. 

Writing primes the creative pump…so write!

Third Step: Persevere

Finally: Never give up. 

Writing is scary. Crazy scary.

What makes it so scary? 

At some point someone else will have to read what you wrote. 

That’s the core of it all, isn’t it? Your words in that document are drops of blood. Your blood. You have explored the darkest corners of your soul and placed each tender word into that story. 

It doesn’t matter if this is your first story or your fifteenth, when the moment comes to submit your work to a critique partner, a contest, or an editor, your finger hovers over the “enter” key, your throat fills and you hesitate as fear creeps in. 

But don’t stop there. Say a prayer and hit that button. 

If your manuscript comes winging back to you in cyber-space, don’t give up. Look at the feedback and learn from it. Make the changes you need to make and send it out again. Don’t let one rejection – or even ten rejections – stop you from seeing your story in print.

Now that we’ve covered all three steps, are you ready?

I have one more thing for you to do: 

Find a mirror. 

Look yourself in the eyes and repeat after me:

I am a writer.
I have talent.
I’m willing to do whatever it takes to be fabulous.
And I’ll never give up.

Are you ready? Which one of these steps is the hardest for you?

Leave a comment today to get your name in the coffee cup for a copy of Mattie's Pledge for one reader and for a 5-page critique for one writer. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.

Jan Drexler brings a unique understanding of Amish traditions and beliefs to her writing. Her ancestors were among the first Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren immigrants to Pennsylvania in the 1700s, and their experiences are the inspiration for her stories. Jan lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband of more than thirty years, where she enjoys hiking in the Hills and spending time with their four adult children and new son-in-law. 
Find her here:
Website: www.JanDrexler.com
And on Mondays at the Yankee-Belle Café 

Preorder here.

Mattie's Pledge

When she feels the pull of both home and the horizon, which will she choose?

Mattie Schrock is no stranger to uprooting her life. Even as her father relocated her family from one Amish community to the next, she always managed to find a footing in their new homes. Now as the Schrock family plans to move west from Somerset County to a fledgling Amish settlement in Indiana, she looks forward to connecting with old friends who will be joining them from another Pennsylvania community—friends like Jacob Yoder, who has always held a special place in her heart.

Since Mattie last saw Jacob, they’ve both grown into different people with different dreams. Jacob yearns to settle down, but Mattie can’t help but dream of what may lie over the western horizon. When a handsome Englisher tempts her to leave the Amish behind to search for adventure in the West, will her pledge to Jacob be the anchor that holds her secure?

Tender, poignant, and gentle, Mattie’s Pledge offers you a glimpse into Amish life in the 1840s—and into the yearning heart of a character you’ll not soon forget.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Cinderella to her Fairy Godmother – “Thanks for the dress, lady, but where were you ten years ago when I was enslave by my stepmother?”

Why fiction has to make sense but real live doesn’t.

Don’t you sometimes wish in our writing we could just toss in completely illogical things?

I use the Cinderella quote to show you an example of a time fiction did NOT make any sense.
Cinderella is being watched over by her Fairy Godmother who is...not that observant, apparently. Why oh why did she stand by invisibly all those years when Cinderella was being mistreated? Why did she finally snap to when there was a pretty dress needed?

Maybe she’s not all that powerful. After all the coach turned back into a pumpkin after a few hours. (I wonder why the shoe didn’t vanish. Hmmm….)

Maybe the Fairy Godmother is all knowing and bides her time and steps in  when there was a prince to lasso?

Maybe that cat driving vermin (I HATE MICE) out of the castle is somehow the bad guy. I’m sure he’s just cranky because Cinderella is protecting the stupid mice. It is perfectly reasonable for the cat to kill them. This is NOT villainous behavior, people! (hard not to root for the cat here!)

Whatever it is, it makes no sense. And, other than classic fairy tales, our books need to make sense.

Examples I think of where fiction did NOT make sense…I remember this scene. I think it was from live action George of the Jungle. There was a narrator talking now and then and once he says, “All movies need a really big coincidence and here’s ours.”

We do that, we have coincidences…and we have LEAPS, a crime solver makes some connection between a clue and the criminal and I arch my brow and wonder how he got THERE?

And also, as it pertains to Christian fiction, we can’t have miracles. I’ve worked for seven or eight different publishers mow and did you know they don’t like you to put miracles in your books?

That’s frustrating because a miracle can get you out of a tight spot, but I understand and respect why it's a no no. Mostly we don’t get flat out miracles in our daily lives. Mostly fire goes ahead and burns you. Lions go ahead and eat you. Poisonous snakes bite you and you go ahead and die.

To solve your problems with miracles disrespects their true power and also it weakens your own plot because working through the problems is the point of fiction, creating a mess and then cleaning it up, usually with the maximum amount of pain is the whole point of the exercise.

I’ve had a few miracles in my books but my main miracle is the still small voice of God. No finger carving words into a stone, no voice like thunder coming out of a boiling cloud, no burning bush. It’s people who pray and actually listen to that quiet voice and is open to the Lord enough to act on it, even when it’s as quiet as an idea.

And we all know there IS NO GREATER MIRACLE than God forgiving and saving the eternal soul of a sinner.

What about you? Do you have miracles in your books. I love intervention from God in a book in those quiet voices, but what about miracles? What about ‘convenient’ things that fall right into place at the right time.

Do you like that? Or do you wish you’d get a Fairy Godmother who’d be a little more pro-active?

Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for a signed copy of No Way Up.
I got nuthin' on Sleeping Beauty. Do you realize she pretty much SLEPT through the whole movie? The scenes, the little clips of her singing, that's it. She's not on anymore than that.

And NO I’m not starting a series on Disney Princesses. I’ve just had a couple of ideas.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Weekend Edition

Share in the comments and we have some great giveaways up for grabs.
A Surprise Book Package for a Reader and a First Ten-Page Critique for one writer. 
Let us know you want in.
Winners announced in the next Weekend Edition.

We Have Winners!

If you are not familiar with our giveaway rules, take a minute to read them. It keeps us all happy! All winners should send their name, address, phone number to claim prizes.

Winners of Castles in the Clouds are Kathy Bailey, Jackie Smith, and Trixi.

  Shannon Taylor Vannatter returned on Monday and she shared, "My Diagnosis: Writing in Layers."Shelli Littleton is the winner of  Reuniting with the Cowboy!

 In Tuesday's post, "Those Small Rewards," Sandra Leesmith talked about the rewards of writing and ways to motivate your production levels. Dana McNeely is the winner of an autographed book plus a surprise.

 Inspired by a recent trip to the Grand Canyon, Seeker Glynna Kaye shared “Rim-To-Rim: 7 Tips for Crossing the Book Canyon from Page One to The End,” on Wednesday.  Meg Brummer and Theresa Van Meter are the winners of e-copy of James Scott Bell’s “The Mental Game of Writing: How to Overcome Obstacles, Stay Creative and Productive, and Free Your Mind for Success”!

 Cara Lynn James was your hostess on Thursday with "Character Healing." Winner of a $15.00 Starbucks card is Nicky Chapelway.
A Surprise Package of Books for One Reader

Next Week in Seekerville

Monday: Mary Connealy is in the house, fresh off the whirl-wind ACFW conference in Nashville. Stop by to chat with Mary.

Tuesday: Jan Drexler returns with her post, "How to Be a Fabulous Writer in Three (Not-So) Easy Steps."  Jan has a double giveaway for our Villagers: For a reader, Mattie's Pledge, and for a writer, a first 5-page critique.

Wednesday: It's time for the September Contest Update. Do stop by to meet our contest divo/diva who will share contest wisdom. The prize vault is open!

Thursday: Candee Fick will be back talking about "Crafting Believable Bad Guys (and Then Redeeming Them),"  in addition to offering two copies of her second soon-to-be-released novel, Dance Over Me. This is the story Seeker Audra Harders gave a 5-star sigh.

Friday: Best of the Archives: THIS IS MY BRAIN: Or Why I Don't Sleep At Night with Tina Radcliffe. While comments are closed on Fridays for writing and reading, NOTE** This post includes a very live survey.

Seeker Sightings

ACFW and CFRR Nashville Pictures to Share:

More pictures will be added tonight!

L/R Patti Jo Moore, Darlene Buchholtz, Janet Dean, Debby Giusti, Ruth Logan Herne, Mary Connealy

Julie Lessman Speaking at CFRR
Mary Connealy and Ruth Logan Herne at CFRR
Janet Dean and Patti Jo Moore at the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat
And here's Julie!~

L/R Pepper Basham, Ruthy, Melanie Dickerson, Janet Dean, Kristi Ann Hunter and Julie.

L/R Melanie Dickerson, Gabrielle Meyer, Laura Frantz, Pepper Basham
Sightseeing at the Hermitage. Home of President Andrew Jackson.Myra, Debby, Janet and Mary
Hanging out. Day 1

Hanging out with Georgia Peaches.

Jan Drexler, Jackie Layton, Heidi Blankenship

Laurel Blount and Rhonda Starnes

Stephanie McGee and Janet Ferguson

Elizabeth Van Tassell

Carol Moncado, Bettie Boswell, Jill Kemerer

Hanging out!

Villagers at Bongo Java coffee shop  L/R Marilyn Ridgway, Elaine Stock, Tanya Agler, Jan Drexler, Dana Lynn, Mindy Obenhaus 
Debby Giusti and Victoria Ramsen, LI Marketing, Toronto

Debby Giusti, Pam Hillman, Janet Dean and Myra Johnson

Natalie Monk

LI Spotlight with L/R Rhonda Starnes, Laurel Blount, Tanya Agler, Dana Lynn
Sharee Stover and Mary Connealy

Sharee Stover, Joy Avery Melville, Julie Lessman and Mary Connealy

Selfie Alert!!! Pam Hillman, Dana Lynn and Rhonda Starnes.
Pam & Amanda Barratt
Pam Hillman (Center) with Tracy and Matt Jones of Jones House Creative
Darlene Bucholtz, Janet Dean and Lyndee Henderson

Janet Dean, Penelope Powell and Mary Vee

Julie Lessman, Cara Grandle, Myra Johnson, Jane Dean, Debby Giusti, and Mary Connealy

L/R Ruth Logan Herne, Katelyn Bold from Gilead, Nichole Parks from Gilead, and Julie Lessman.  
Cathy West, Julie Lessman, Susan Mason and Laura Frantz

Mary Connealy, Julie Lessman & Mary Vee

Ruth Logan Herne, Mindy Obenhaus & Senior Editor Love Inspired Books, Melissa Endlich

Patti Jo Moore and Julie Lessman
Julie, Debby, Myra, Janet, Mary and Barbara Scott
Julie Lessman and Pam Hillman
Mary Connealy and Dawn Ford

Christine Sharbrough, Library Journal & Pam

Pam & Melissa Parcel, Romantic Times Book Reviews
Love Inspired Authors and Editors
Debby and Ramona Richards
Cynthia Herron 
Janet, Debby, Preslaysa Williams and Darlene Bucholtz
Bonnie Roof (BonTon) and Debby
Debby and Tanya Agler blurring out.

Erica Vetsch, Debby Giusti and Pam Hillman

Mary Connealy and Jane Ferguson

Converse Twins, Rhonda Starnes and Sara Ella


Congratulations to Genesis WINNER LAURA CONNER KESTNER!


Gala Gals! Myra Johnson, Mary Connealy, Janet Dean and Debby Giusti.
Congratulations, ERICA!!

Random News & Information

Thank you to all who send links.

ACFW Awards Gala 2016, August 27, 2016 - 6:00PM CDT LIVE BLOG LINK HERE!

Here's the September Seekerville Calendar for those who are paying attention! You can get a PDF copy on our web page. It's a link on the RIGHT SIDE under LATEST NEWS. Yes, the August calendar is still up...it's still August.  www.seekerville.net

Did  you know that RWA has galleries of conference photos on the website? Great memories! And the conference workshops are available for purchase here.

Valley of the Sun Romance Writers Hot Prospects Contest has updated their judge list, with no time to spare. Contest ends September 1.

How to Distinguish Yourself Among Agents and Editors (Writer Unboxed) ** 

Twitter Marketing for Authors by Kim Headlee (Romance University) **

 How To Hit The USA Today Bestseller List As A Single Author With Ad Stacking (The Creative Penn)**

 What Makes a Reader Keep Turning Pages (Steven Pressfield) 

 Anne of Green Gables Series Coming to Netflix (GalleyCat)

 Specifics on How My Street Team Marketing Has Worked, ThunderClap Marketing (The Write Conversation)

Revising, Revising, and How To Make it Through (Writer Unboxed)

EBook Anatomy: Inside the Black Box (The Book Designer)**

Short on time? Read these ** and come back for the rest later!

Have a great writing, reading and conferencing weekend!