Thanks so much for inviting us to help celebrate Seekerville’s seventh year!
In case you’re wondering—yes, we are actual, honest to goodness, raised together in the same home sisters! Sisters who, coincidentally, all shared a common dream: to see our stories in print.
And now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, you’re probably wondering – How did you do it? Has your family discovered a magic pill for writing success? A secret recipe to getting published?
If only there were magic pills or secret family recipes! Like all writers, we have hectic lives with demands outside of our writing careers. Each of us has had to carve out time from very full schedules to make our dream a reality. But time is only part of the equation. We’ve each adopted a few simple strategies that have helped us achieve our writing dreams, and today we’d like to share some of those with you.
Shirlee celebrating with Mom at RWA 2014.
Her Christmas Guardian, December 2014, Love Inspired Suspense
1. Learn to Say Yes.
It may seem that if we want to have vibrant writing careers, we should be willing say no to things that pull us away from our stories. While that is true, I’ve discovered that ‘yes’ is also a powerful tool for success. A hermit by nature, I would happily spend every minute of my time at home. If given a choice of dinner out or a night in front of my computer, I’d take the computer every time. It’s relationships, though, that build the kind of stories we write, and it’s strong characterization that makes those stories come to life. The key to developing those strong characters? For me, that lies in understanding the people around me, hearing their life stories, learning their heartaches and their joys. Over the years, I’ve discovered that my stories become stagnant, my characters dull if I don’t say yes to the little things that build healthy relationships. Whether it’s saying yes to a cup of coffee or a walk through a field at dusk, time away from the computer clears the mind and allows the words to flow. So, practice your ‘no’ but practice ‘yes,’ too, and use those moments, those sweet minutes of time that you look into another person’s eyes and see her heart, to write something beautiful.
2. Adapt to Your Circumstances.
As a busy homeschool mom, I’ve found that a rigid writing schedule doesn’t always work for me. Creativity, after all, doesn’t wait for a scheduled time. I’m driven by a daily word count goal, rather than a daily designated time and place in which to write. I almost always meet my word count because my laptop is my nearly constant companion. Several of my friends joke that they have difficulty recognizing me when I suddenly appear in their midst without my trusty computer! I’ve written while on planes, in hotel lobbies, on the bus, in the basement of a creepy old building. I wrote while in China adopting our youngest daughter. Circumstances of our lives will not change to suit our writing schedules. We must adapt our thought processes, allow ourselves to embrace the circumstances and seasons we’re in, and write wherever and whenever we have a few moments to do so.
SARA K. PARKER
Sara hiking at Inks Lake with her kids and dogs.
Hubby's taking the pic!
Debut: Undercurrent, January 2015, Love Inspired Suspense
3. Toughen Up.
If I’d learned this lesson sooner, it may have saved me, oh, about twelve years of lost writing time. Being a writer is exciting, but it’s also tough, and truthfully, you need pretty thick skin. I received my first rejection on a manuscript in 2003. I really hope the editor burned that manuscript, but at the time, I was crushed and decided that perhaps I wasn’t cut out for fiction writing after all. For a while, I enjoyed writing for a couple of local newspapers and a few magazines, but six years later, I tried fiction again. An editor with Love Inspired Suspense requested my manuscript, and again – rejection. Another five years passed before my sister Shirlee was able to convince me to try again, and this time, instead of a rejection letter, I got an offer! Every rejection brings you closer to your dream, but only if you learn from it and move on. Take a day, a week even, to regroup. Then, sit yourself down, open up that dauntingly empty first page, and try again.
4. Simplify Your Routine.
I love to cook. I especially love to try new recipes. But cooking creative meals for the family takes a lot of time that I don’t seem to have lately. At my husband’s suggestion, I have built a couple easy-meal days into our weekly menu. My kids’ favorite is Mystery Night. It’s fun for them because they get to choose and make their own meals, and it’s a mystery for me, because I’m never sure what strange concoction will end up on their plates. But mealtime isn’t the only part of my life I’ve simplified. Several months ago, my husband and I took a hard look at extracurricular activities, volunteer positions, and recurring obligations, and we prayerfully made some big changes. I’ve always loved to have my hands in many pots, so to step back from several activities was a humbling experience for me. I had to admit I could not possibly continue to do it all and still give this writing thing a solid shot. If you can’t find anything to cut from your schedule, I suggest asking someone you trust to look at your life on paper and offer some suggestions. Then, consider their points, pray about your decision, and be brave!
MARY ELLEN PORTER
Mary Ellen with Tank.
He's no longer a puppy and now weighs 120 pounds.
Debut: Into Thin Air, May 2015, Love Inspired Suspense
5. Make Your Dream Your Priority.
Over the past decade I’ve had numerous ‘great ideas’ that have never come to fruition. Characters that sit silent in my filing cabinet because I never made the time to give them a voice. Why is that? The answer is simple: Because I never made writing a top priority. In fact, I never made it a priority at all. Writing was always the “dream,” the thing I would do for fun, in my spare time. But who really has spare time? I personally work full time, have two very active teenagers, and spend numerous hours each week training with a volunteer search and rescue team. My sister Shirlee told me on numerous occasions that if I just wrote a little every day, eventually my book would be written. Her incessant ‘encouragement’ finally paid off; I established a weekly word-count goal, and then I made that goal my top priority. Sometimes that meant the house was a little messy, the dog got a shorter walk, or we ate leftovers a little more than I’d like. But surprisingly the family survived—even the dog. And the first book got written. Make your dream a reality by making your dream your priority. Nothing less will bring your stories to life.
6. Forget Perfection.
I have a problem. I am a perfectionist. While this trait has helped me gain a measure of success in several areas of my life, writing wasn’t one of them. In fact, there is no doubt in my mind that my propensity toward perfection held me back. The first sentence, the first page, the first chapter were never quite good enough for me. My stories were destined to languish, unfinished because I just knew each attempt was not my best work. For my own good, I had to accept that perfection is not attainable. To finish my book I had to train myself not to re-read and re-work what I had written the previous day or week. Instead, I allowed myself to read only the last three or four sentences before delving into a new day of writing. I finally accepted that there are many ways to write the same story, and write it well. A story can always be improved, but it can’t be submitted to a publisher—or sold¬—if it hasn’t been written.
7. Build a Strong Support System.
Some people say that the genes for writing must run through our family. We say it is the support and love we’ve received from one another, from our parents, our two other siblings, from our spouses, our kids and our friends that has allowed us the freedom to achieve our dreams. If you’re struggling to find your place in this crazy writing world, seek out people who share your goals and who are as excited and happy for your successes as they are for their own. Don’t look for the most successful, the most prolific, or the most talented. Look for those who are like-minded and who care about you deeply. People who support your dreams and will hound you incessantly until the word count is met, the characters are well-written and the story flows. Plug into a local writer’s group, meet up with other aspiring writers over tea, and start building your support system—it will be invaluable as you navigate your writing career.
We’d love to hear from you. What do you struggle with most when it comes to achieving your writing goals?
Comment below to win a box of writer’s goodies, including: a Starbucks gift card ($15), a Barnes & Noble gift card ($25), a dry-erase calendar with markers, a crockpot cookbook, and the most important of all—chocolate. The winner will also receive a signed copy of Shirlee’s December release, Her Christmas Guardian, and IOUs for Sara’s January release, Undercurrent, and Mary Ellen’s May release, Into Thin Air. Winner announced in the weekend edition!
Follow us on Twitter: @3SistersWrite
Her Christmas Guardian
TO SAVE HER DAUGHTER
Former army ranger Boone Anderson immediately senses danger when he spots Scout Cramer and her precious little girl while holiday shopping. Then two cars suddenly give chase in the parking lot—kidnapping the child. His worst suspicions are confirmed, and professional instincts propel him into action. Having lost his own infant daughter years before, Boone is determined to reunite the beautiful single mother and her missing child. But when a secret from Scout's past finally catches up to her, she must work with her self-appointed guardian to save her daughter. Before the kidnappers cancel Christmas for all of them…permanently.
Mission: Rescue—No job is too dangerous for these fearless heroes
TRAPPED AT SEA
In an instant Kathryn Brooks's idyllic transatlantic cruise turns to terror. It's hard to believe someone has it out for her, yet chandeliers don't explode on their own—and her best friend has gone missing. But Secret Service agent Sam West vows to protect her as every corridor poses a threat and any stranger may be an assailant. With the ship's security providing little assistance, Kathryn puts her trust in Sam. Yet losing her own life is no longer her only fear. As she and Sam strive to stay a step ahead of the enemy, Kathryn worries that by caring for Sam…she's put a target on his back, as well.