Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Best of Seekerville from the Archives and First Five Pages Critique

Everything Is Possible by Myra Johnson

In one of my Seekerville posts awhile back I shared several writerly quotes from the newspaper’s cryptoquote puzzle section. I deciphered another one this week that seems quite apropos for us writers:
“Everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and you put the work and time into it.” -- Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps
Okay, maybe not everything is possible (for a human being, anyway). But Michael has the right idea. We don’t get anywhere in this business without a huge investment of time, work, and will power. How are you doing in each of those departments?

Time. What’s your writing schedule like? Do you even have a schedule? Even putting in 30 minutes a day is 30 minutes of writing you wouldn’t have completed otherwise. Repeat that five times in a week and you’ve tallied up two and a half hours. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Do an hour a day, and there’s five hours in a week. How many words can you churn out in an hour? They all add up.

Work. How hard are you willing to work at improving your craft? Getting words on the page is important--vital, in fact. But so is learning and study. How many books and magazine articles on writing technique have you read this year? Have you taken any online courses? Attended any conferences? Which industry blogs do you visit regularly? How many published books in your genre have you read and analyzed to see why they work (or don’t)? Have you traded critiques with a wise and honest fellow writer? Have you entered contests where you could get valuable feedback? And afterward, did you evaluate the comments and revise your manuscript accordingly?

Will power. Otherwise known as stick-to-it-iveness. And after 25 years in this business, I know a little about this subject. If you don’t want it badly enough, believe me, it’ll never happen. Unfortunately, you can also want it really badly and it still may not happen. But that’s God’s decision, not yours. To fall back on a favorite Randy Ingermanson quote, “If God has called you to write, then don’t you dare quit. Don’t you DARE!”

If you’re feeling really brave, leave a comment answering the following questions:
  1. How many hours did you actually write in the past 7 days?
  2. What is the most recent craft book, online class, or workshop that made an impact on your writing?
  3. What changes and sacrifices have you made in order to make writing a top priority?
  4. What’s the one thing that keeps you keeping on?

Remember, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NASB).

Heartsong Presents and Abingdon Press author Myra Johnson writes what she likes to call “romantic women’s fiction”—emotionally gripping stories about love, life, and faith. Myra's Heartsong Presents romance Autumn Rains (November 2009) won RWA’s 2005 Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Romance Manuscript. Autumn Rains was also a 2010 Carol Award Finalist.

This post first appeared in Seekerville October 14, 2008.

Don't forget...

Today is the last day to be considered for our weekly critique.
More info here.


  1. I got fours of writing in the last seven days.

  2. Investment.

    That's what I see when I re-read Myra's succinct words.

    Get that? Succinct? The very thing I fail at repeatedly????

    Myra, I love that self-evaluation of what have you done lately?

    It's just wonderful. When we ask ourselves the critical questions, we generally see that we harvest what we sow and the trick in this business is to keep on sowing.

    I'm heading to Allegany County today to check out "Christmas" traditions there. It's the perfect time, no storms until tomorrow, and I can get a look-see at home-town traditions while I'm writing Yuletide Hearts, next December's book.

    Ask me if a full-time worker can afford one of only two Saturdays left before Christmas when her house is a mess and the decorating isn't done, and presents aren't done...


    But I gotta. This is the only time of year to 'see' Christmas, and I need to be true to the setting, right? I want the feel of the towns incorporated into the books like I did in the North Country...

    So Mandy and I are heading south, hanging out for a couple of hours to get the flavor of things, grab some newspapers, the little weeklys and daily, check out the decorations and then make the two + hour drive back in time for me to get work done here.

    Carpe diem.

  3. Ooops!

    Leaving coffee service.

    And donuts from Zarpentines Apple Farm. Cider fry cakes.

    Oh, yum!

    There are two slices of leftover breakfast pizza from yesterday.


  4. It was late last night. I think I meant I got "four hours" of pure writing in the last seven days.

    Now that I'm awake, I think it was a little more than that.

  5. Ruthy,
    Have a great research day!

    I've been on holiday with family so not as much writing time as I'd have liked. Still I managed about 3 hours. Will get more in tomorrow.

    Good post Myra. We can get in pre-resolutions for New Years. Sorta like being pre-published!

    Loved the Randy I. quote. God has called me to tell this story and I won't dare quit. Now, to see about a contest or 2 that might be beneficial. If I may, please enter me for the helpful feedback critique. Thx!

    Have a great weekend all!

  6. Thanks for the translations, Walt.

    I have given up decorations in favor of writing this year. I have had my entire life for decorating. for shopping. for the frivolous. Christmas is in my heart, right next to the writing.

  7. Well, so far this week I've actually written about one hour but that will change today! However, I attended an MS seminar/dinner with a friend so I could get additional research for my WIP, so Ruthy, I totally understand your dilemma. But research is necessary in writing!

    I'm always up for a critique...

    RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

  8. I haven't done much writing in the last seven days but I did spend like 6 hours EDITING on Wednesday. There was a little bit of writing involved in that as I added to the MS. The rest of the week has been cleaning and/or schoolwork :(. If I can get my rear in gear, I may be able to get back to some of the more writerly stuff this evening... I'm not holding my breath though...

    I'm in for the critique... :)

    carol at carolmoncado dot com

  9. Hi, Myra! I don't wish to be entered for a critique but just wanted to say that I appreciate your post . . . which I read when maybe I should have been writing . . .

  10. 1.How many hours did you actually write in the past 7 days? I am in the plotting/research stage of my next book right now, not actually writing, but got in 2.2 hours on that this week.

    2.What is the most recent craft book, online class, or workshop that made an impact on your writing? No recent workshops, but checking blogs like this one keep technique at the forefront of my mind and I tend to revisit the same books on craft, such as those of Donald Maass or James Scott Bell. Someone just told me about a book by Jack Bickham called Scene and Structure which I will pick up at the library today.

    3.What changes and sacrifices have you made in order to make writing a top priority? This is the big news for me this year. I’ve been struggling with over-commitment. There are so many important things to be involved in at church and at one point I was often tied up 4-5 days a week. On top of that, I presently have the most stressful (at times even abusive) job I’ve ever had, and 2010 has not been good times. Exhaustion has been the predominant characteristic of my life. Nothing I can do about the job but pray. The one thing I did do is make the extremely difficult choice, as of last week, to cut down to serving in just 2 areas at church. Unless I’m misreading things, I feel a strong urge to push myself hard on my writing in 2011, and for that, I simply had to free up some time.

    4.What’s the one thing that keeps you keeping on? There is an epic historical novel in me that is scratching and clawing to come out. Nothing is more difficult in the fast paced times we live in. But I will not rest until all the bits of it have leaked out of my head and onto the computer in one awesome, cohesive whole. 8-)

  11. Wow, BK. All tough decisions and focused goals. You really made me feel like getting out the machete and cutting the excess in my life.

    Way to go!!

  12. Myra - here goes:

    1) 3-5 hrs a day during the week, every spare moment on the weekends.

    2) The Heroes Journey, Word Painting, Please Understand Me

    3) Gave up television all together. Costume dramas are allowed while cooking and cleaning.

    4) I keep going because I'm driven to complete this book. I think about it day and night.

    There's no decorating at my house either, Tina. I can get away with this for a few more years.

  13. Wow, Ruthy, have fun!! And take an 8GB memory card in your digital camera and take a 1000 pictures!!!!

  14. Good post Myra. What have I done to make my writing a priority? Nothing. Lately it's been going further down the list as my family needs increase. BUT ... that will change as I start to think of how to change it. LOL


    What a lovely picture of you!!

  16. Ouch.

    1. how many hours spent writing in the last 7 days? Um...can we count the minutes that I dozed off in between typing? Did you know that if you nod off and press on one key for too long it locks your keyboard into printing only caps? Very odd. Wasted some time trying to undo that but the grand total would be a guesstamite at...15 1/2 hours.

    2. No online class or workshop but I consider checking in here as an online class. I'd have to say the critique I got has made the most impact on my writing.

    3.Changes and sacrifices? Write before I read (sometimes) I've been really bad about not taking an hour lunch at work -- just working through so I'm smartening up and taking that hour and going some place quiet and write for the whole 60 minutes!

    4. What keeps me going? Being accountable to my writing buddies.

  17. Myra~

    You make me ashamed with all those questions.

    The last seven days, I've spent about 2 hours writing.

    I own 3 craft books and have read at least part of all three of them.

    I have very little will power to accomplish anything that I should accomplish. Unfortunately, when my will power does kick in, I'm so far behind on my housework, I don't have time to write.

    I'm working on all those things, and with God's help I'll get better.

    Thanks for the kick in the pants.

    I don't need a critique, because I don't have anything to critique.

  18. Hello from the frozen tundra of Nebraska. Blizzard all day.

    ALL DAY!!!!!!!!!!!

    Only having TINA'S BOOK!!!! SAVED ME!!!!

  19. Hi Myra,
    I have been MIA because I have been spending more time writing and less time commenting. Which is good for me! But I have checked in & followed along with all your lessons.
    So, in answer to your questions:
    1)3 hours/3days this week = 9hours
    I average about 9 - 12 hours per week
    2)Writer's Journey; this blog (enjoyed the going to war post this week); GMC by Debra Dixon; weekly critique meetings, with lots of emails back & forth; writer's conference in Oct & monthly local RWA Chapter meetings (today we saw an improv group-- great for brainstorming!)
    3)Given up: cleaning! lately I've been cooking more, but there's a bottomless spaghetti pot in the fridge. Recreational shopping? What's that?
    4)What keeps me going? I am humbled by the faith & support my husband gives me. My critique group is much further towards publication than I, but I'm catching up. The community of writers who understand the voices in my head, my faraway looks, and my scribbling on any scrap of paper that's lying around. And the growing confidence & belief I'm growing to have in myself, that I'm doing what God wants me to do and has made me to do.

    Thanks for your re-post. Thanks for all of you and your lessons and opportunities.

    Please put me in the drawing for the 5page critique.

  20. Mary, did you burn my book to roast marshmallows?

  21. How many hours did you actually write in the past 7 days?
    None. I've been trying to wrap my head around a new novel idea and doing a ton of research.

    What is the most recent craft book, online class, or workshop that made an impact on your writing?
    I read something great about how not to write in passive voice that changed everything for me.

    What changes and sacrifices have you made in order to make writing a top priority?
    Right now I have a movie that I am dying to watch, but will not let myself until Wed. night, after I finish a proposal.

    What’s the one thing that keeps you keeping on?
    There are too many to only choose one.

    Enjoy your weekend everyone!

    Eva Maria Hamilton at gmail dot com

  22. Well,if determination gets a book sold, I will get mine published soon. Husband was out of town all week, so I actually, no kidding, spend about seven hours a day all week revising. That counts as writing, right?? I did add some new chapters. I recently have been reading "Forest for the Trees," by Betsy Lerner. Great insight. Attended an SCBWI conference in Nashville this fall. Wonderful agent speakers! What I usually sacrifice for all this is time with hubby.But he has been sooo understanding. And why do I do it? Determined to get this book published!

  23. Sooooo sorry I was AWOL!!!! It's been a crazy weekend. Had to get our furnace replaced, so the guys were here for about 8 hours yesterday. Big church Christmas concert this evening so a long rehearsal yesterday on top of the furnace thing and usual weekend chores.

    So obviously I wasnt writing this weekend. This time of year is really hard anyway. Which is why I have a very special post planned for next Tuesday.

    Stay tuned.........

  24. Thanks for reminding all of us writers of these important tips. I've been working on my first historical fiction novel and I know I need to get more of that daily discipline down! This past week I've only written around 5 hours I know I need to step that up! I have made my mornings my 'priority' writing time:) Like my husband reminds me "treat your writing like a job/business":)

    The most recent craft book on writing I've read is by Robert McKee called "Story". I love the words he uses such as 'falling in love with your characters' and that 'the more powerful & complex the forces of antagonism opposing the character, the more completely realized character and story must become.' I believe realizing and working with these parts of story will improve my writing overall:)

    I would have to say that the one thing that keeps me keeping on(especially on very discouraging days) is that I've had many varied, I'll call them 'God-signs' in many different ways:) ...either Words of encouragement, promptings in my prayer time or scenes that come into my head, when I wasn't even thinking of them...but probably most important, just an inner love of writing/working with words:) So that's why I can't's 'written in the book' for me(Psalm 139) and God will complete what He started:)

    Anyway, thankyou so much for this post, Myra...really needed these reminders!

    thanks again,