Monday, July 31, 2017

Writing Like You Have Nothing to Lose

with guest Natalie Monk.


Hi, Seekers and Villagers! I feel a little surreal typing this, since I’ve loitered in the comments for years, never dreaming I’d one day write a Seekerville post as a published author! I’m so excited! 

Today, we’re talking about writing like you have nothing to lose.

Remember the early days when you got a glimpse of character, dialogue, or scenery, and your brain itched until you had spun an emotion-laden image onto the page, emptying yourself of all those words and filling your writer’s heart to the brim? Remember what it felt like to write with abandon, untroubled by whether your premise would pass an editorial board? There were no rejections, no thoughts of market preferences, no eviscerating reviews to stop you. You just wrote. And you loved it. 

Is it possible for an author to return to the first joys of writing after fear of failure creeps in to paralyze creativity? 

Yes. And the solution is simple. You make a choice. To start writing like you have nothing to lose. 

Let’s unpack this a little. Why do we let our inner editor stifle us in the first place? What are we afraid of? The worst that can happen is you write a novel that doesn’t get published, and you steal away from the project carrying more wisdom and writing muscles than you had before. Not a bad deal. Taking a few months to write an educational dud is tons better than not writing for a year, then drowning in guilt and even more fear that you can’t write after so long without practice. Maybe instead we should ask ourselves, What’s the best that can happen? 


Most of the time, the choice is up to you to take a story idea and decide this one’s for you, or your spouse, best friend, favorite niece, or the cute barista guy at the coffee shop who will probably never read your work but somehow still inspires you. Ahem. But in some cases, the decision to write like a daredevil is made for you by someone or something else. Like when I wrote my novella for the Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection

My household was undergoing an internet apocalypse when I received the invite to submit a novella idea for a Barbour collection. Before we resolved reception issues, my family departed for a mountaintop getaway—also undergoing a cyber death. By the time I drove to a McD’s, where I saw said email, the deadline for submission was a WEEK away. 

ACFW conference, where Susan May Warren taught her Story Equation method. Praise be! I also reviewed notes from K. M. Weiland’s Creating Character Arcs, Cathy Yardley’s Rock Your Plot, and Melissa Jagears’ tips on writing novellas, then relegated myself to the sofa beside a cabin-esque bear statue and a Tiffany lamp. 

Six things I learned during that week. Invaluable, writerly things I don’t want to forget. (Believe me, I’m preaching to myself today.) 

1. Don’t wait until you’re ready to start. My OCD self never feels “ready.” According to Mark Twain, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Famous TV producer Mark Burnett says in his book, Jump In!, “Nothing will ever be…perfect, and nothing can be totally planned. The best you can hope for is to be about half certain of your plan….” Sling some words on that page!

2. “Write the book you need to read.” Francine Rivers shared the previous sentence with me after I asked her what one piece of advice she would give to a new writer. I don’t have to list her writing credentials here. Y’all know. Heed her wisdom. If you write to satisfy your reader-cravings, you’ll be feeding others with the same tastes. Market-pleasing worries solved.

3. Set a time limit. Struggling with your newest plot? Give yourself a week (or less!) to plot that sucker. It may be horrible, but now you’ve got something to work with! As the adage goes, you can’t revise a blank page. 

4. Don’t overthink your creative ideas. When you’re stuck, every idea is brilliant. Questioning comes later, during revision. Or sometimes during the synopsis when problems and their solutions can surface simultaneously. “Ain’t nobody got time” to mull over whether it’s believable for Georgie Ann to trip the criminal into a pit of fire ants when you’re plotting on a time limit. Dip your bucket into your creative well and see what comes up. You’ll have a chance to rearrange later when all the pieces are in place. Right now, you’re “tube riding” in the barrel of your creative wave. Think tunnel vision. Don’t look back, or you’ll lose momentum.

5. Give your story permission to be different. My current plot held me in chains for a year as punishment for expecting perfection. I internalized the fear that I couldn’t produce a novel worthy of the premise in my head. I kid you not, I contemplated calling up one of my writer friends to say, “Here’s an idea for you. You’re way more talented, and I’m just too afraid I’m going to ruin the story.” Ridiculous, right? Why? Because God didn’t give the idea to my writer friend. He gave it to me, with all my insecurities and zany life experiences that will make the finished product the story God wants it to be, and I’m now hoping to finish the imperfect version of it before the end of this year. God doesn’t give us gifts to set on a shelf or give away to someone else. Take your gift and go be amazing!

6. Throw your novel in God’s lap. When things get tough as they always do, I say, “Okay, God. This is Your book. I can’t make it any better by myself. If you want it to be terrible, no good, horrible, and very bad, so be it. If not, I’m gonna need some help.” Not that we can “make” God do anything, but He loves us and is always ready to help when we ask. Reminder: God + any story = an amazing story. When we keep ourselves in submission to His leading, we hold the pen, but He is the author and finisher. Then when all is said and published (or not, as He sees fit), God gets the glory, and lo and behold we get the benefits of having written another novel with Him. Win, win! Remember the old standby: Work like everything depends on you, but pray like everything depends on God.

I’ve been reading In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson. The essence of the book is “do it afraid.” Whatever God calls us to is going to be bigger than we can handle, because God’s plan is always bigger than us. But He is the one who fights the battles, not us. He simply wants us to be willing to step into the unknown and risk all the what-ifs. 




I’ll close with a few quotes from chapter seven of Mark’s book:

“Newsflash: you’ll never be ready.”

“If you wait for perfect conditions before you seize an opportunity you’ll be waiting till the day you die.”

“More often than not, the only thing between you and your dream is a rational excuse.”

“Willingness to fail is a prerequisite to success.”

“Lion chasers don’t let what they can’t do keep them from doing what they can…Success is doing the best you can with what you have where you are.”



When was the last time you threw caution to the wind and did something you’ve always wanted to do? What were the results? Did things turn out like you feared or better? Do you have any regrets? 

I’m giving an e-copy of any book mentioned in this post to two writers, winner’s choice. For readers, I’m giving away two copies of the Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection: a paperback to a U.S. reader, and an e-copy to an international reader. Winners announced in the next Weekend Edition.




 “For Richer or Poorer” in the Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection:

In order to bring her starving family to New Jersey, Polish immigrant and housemaid Marcella Lipski must marry wealth…so she dons her employer's discarded ball gowns and goes husband hunting at Newark's tourist spots. There are a few problems, though. Ella's shy. She knows nothing of the rules governing American high society. She'll lose her job if she's recognized. Oh, and she can't speak a speck of English. When a poor-but-mysterious cart driver catches her eye, she must protect her heart at all costs. She won’t leave her family hopeless.

Woody Harris has no desire to be rich, and he lives out his faith by giving most of his possessions away to the street kids on his freight route. When his horse spooks and bowls over Ella, inflicting bruises, Woody offers her free conveyance for a week and starter lessons in English as compensation. He's soon charmed by her innocent, farm-girl ways and her concern for "his" kids. But by the time he learns Ella will only marry for money, it's already too late for his heart.



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Natalie Monk is an award-winning writer of historical romance. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. A preacher’s daughter from South Mississippi, Natalie is a piano instructor, nonpracticing certified wedding planner, and former post hole digger. She loves book-talk, porch swings, old movies, and all-male a capella ensembles. Readers can chat with Natalie on her website www.nataliemonk.com, FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.








130 comments :

  1. Natalie, first of all I want to say congrats on getting off the island (as in being published)!!! That is a huge accomplishment & I am so happy for you :-) From your post today, it sounds like you learned a whole lot from the experience, that's always a good thing!!

    I like the way you've turned the phrase "what's the worst that can happen" into "what's the best that can happen"? I think sometimes in life we are our own worst enemies with our stinkin' thinkin' (pointing fingers at myself here). If we see a roadblock in the way, we just give up instead of trying to see if there's a way around it (determination). Looking at things from the flip side :-) My husband is always encouraging me to look at the positive, and I try. It really gives me a whole new perspective on life!

    Secondly, please add my name for a copy of "Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection", thanks so much! I've been following this one around different blogs for the past month or so and really am excited about the collection. Barbour puts out some excellent novella sets!

    A wonderful post that I know authors will get a lot out of...there's a lot of meat in it!

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    1. Trixi! What a joy to see your lovely self here!

      You are so right. Our own choice of negative or positive thoughts has such power to determine our attitude, actions, and accomplishments! I first learned to "imagine the best instead of the worst" when I was studying public speaking for a women's devotional presentation, but the technique has helped me in many other situations. It's human nature, I think, to want to cover our bases, so we try to predict possible outcomes and prepare solutions for trouble. But this can so easily turn to worry, at least for me. Imagining the best helps me trade worry for hope and anticipation of what God can accomplish!

      Your husband gave some great advice and sounds like a wise man. Thank you for your kind comments and support of the Collection! I've enjoyed getting to know you through the FB release party and other blog posts! Best wishes in the giveaway!

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  2. I'm currently thinking about the advice of "write the book that you need to read." Never thought about it that way.

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    1. I know. Right, Walt. That is really good advice.

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    2. This was one I hadn't thought of either, Walt. When I first heard it, I said, "Oh wow...NEED to read," and started scribbling the quote down in my freshly signed copy of Redeeming Love. Then Francine said, "Well...WANT to read." So I think it carries both the nuances of feeding our reader appetites and speaking to the truths we as the authors need to hear in your own life journey. I later "Googled" the phrase, "write the book you need to read," and one blogger advised authors to envision themselves two years in the future and what they might be looking for (want or need) in a book at that time. Definitely changes how I choose new projects.

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  3. Natalie!!!! Welcome, welcome, welcome. Thrilled to have you here!

    I have pastries and brought out the opulent china for visit.

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    1. TINA! Beyond excited to be here! <3
      I realized after I emailed you I forgot to bring any cyber food! So I whipped up some humble-but-tasty fried peach pies and lemonade like Woody and Ella enjoy in For Richer or Poorer.

      And for more sumptuous fare...chocolate petit fours covered with ganache and sprinkled with edible gold dust. :)

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    2. Fried peach pies..I am so on that. Of course, the chocolate petit fours look amazing too.
      Breakfast AND lunch.

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  4. Writing is a joy when you first do it?

    I didn't get that memo.

    All I've known is the tyranny of the blank page.

    For me, at least, the joy of writing comes when I've learned enough to have an idea how things should be done right and I start writing things that way.

    A satori!

    That's when I, a most ardent plotter, joyfully take flight by the seat of my pants!

    But then I'm a guy. I'm more down to earth. When I go fishing I bait the hook with food the fish like to eat and not what I like to eat. Hopelessly pragmatic.

    I really enjoy reading about the Gilded Age (as well as La Belle Époque). Are any novellas in your "Rags and Riches" collection what would be considered Horatio Alger themed? Please put me in the drawing for a Kindle copy if that is possible for an Okie. :)

    I really enjoy your positive comments. I'd like to add a favorite quote:

    "What would you attempt if you knew you couldn't fail? Do that."

    Thanks for your post.

    Vince

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    1. Hi Vince,

      Blank pages are truly fierce and fearsome creatures. :)

      Like you, I'm a devoted plotter, or outliner at least, and enjoy writing more if I know I'm doing it right. So I hope this post in no way discourages diligent study and application of the craft. For me, though, there's always been the fear I can't know for sure if a certain thread is right, so beating back the internal editor long enough to actually move from plotting to writing is probably the biggest hurdle I face.

      Great quote! That one is inspiring and carries hope!

      As for Horatio Alger, several of the stories involve characters coming into wealth or social acceptance based on an act of courage, sacrifice, kindness or loyalty. Is that what you mean? And in For Richer or Poorer, the hero champions street kids, finding the older boys work and encouraging them to become productive men of character, which I think are themes Alger used. I hadn't though of Alger when plotting for this collection, but it's a fun comparison!

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    2. Hey, this pantser loved this post, too. The advice is spot on whether you're a planner... or a pantser... or somewhere in between.

      If it ends up as a great story/book, then it's like picking a church... Jesus is the way. The church is a vehicle... and I see writing that way. However we get there, it's all good. And it's such a joy when we do "get there"!

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    3. Hi Natalie:

      By 'Horatio Alger' I mean the classic 'Rags to Riches' story of a poor person who, by hard honest work, earns riches -- the American dream that fed Ellis Island to over-flowing. In other words: 'before the income tax'.:)

      Also, I love craft books. They are like diet books. They give me hope and make me feel less guilty about not doing what I should be doing as long as I am preparing to do what I need to be doing better. It's like the joy of just coming out of confession. Life is fresh, new, and hopeful...until the 'and sin no more' comes into play.

      I do worry that sometimes the book you need to read and the one you need to write are not the same book. They told Francine Rivers not to write "The Atonement Child" but she had the courage to write it anyway and it was very successful. I gave it five stars. Mary wrote what I consider her "Atonement Child" with, "The Bossy Bridegroom," which I also gave five stars; however, it seems not to be what the readers wanted. (Of course, as a marketing guy, I would have entitled it "The Atonement Husband" so all the Rivers readers, tens of thousands, would know what kind of book it was. That is, use bait that the particular kind of fish you want to catch likes to eat!)

      What was that line in the Ricky Nelson song: "You can't please everybody so you might as well please yourself". But then is 'pleasing yourself' really pleasing? (Catholic guilt).

      The Pantser-Plotter -- James Patterson said in one of his classes that he spends two to three months on an outline to prefect a story as much as possible -- to make it as page-turning as possible and as salable as possible. In his comprehensive outlines he writes down what has to happen in each scene and what the mood of the scene is going in and the mood is going out. (He shows the outlines to ordinary readers until they start asking him when he is going to write the book because they can't wait to read it).

      Then he writes or lets a co-author pantser those scenes anyway that produces those outcomes. This is unique. It's like a whiskey and water drink but one in which each stays in its own glass. They only mix in the mouth. (Ideas like this is what you get by reading craft books and going to writing classes. It's like enjoying the trip more than the destination! :))

      BTW: The Gilded Age was the Golden Age for the dime novel. One poor romance author got so rich writing dime romance novels she bought a house next to some of the riches people in the world in the most exclusive part of NYC! A true Rags to Riches story!

      Vince

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    4. Hi Ruth:

      "Ye shall know them by their fruits." Matthew 7:16-20

      I agree with you that it is the fruit that counts. I also believe that I can very often tell pantser fruit. It's usually better in its spontaneity and in producing surprises that later seem to have been inevitable. But then again, while watching tightrope walkers working without a safety net is more interesting, it's not something I really want to do! I think pantsers, the true ones like Tony Hillerman, are writings daredevils! Bless them for they know not what they are going to write! :)

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  5. Good morning, Natalie!

    Post-hole digger, huh? There's got to be an interesting story there somewhere, lol.

    I loved your advice to give your story permission to be different. I think sometimes I get caught up in trying to write to the market and lose my way.

    Thank you for inspiring us this morning.

    ~ Renee

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    1. Hello, Renee!

      I grew up on a small cattle farm, and my Daddy often gave us girls first dibs on paid farm repairs before hiring anyone else, as long as we were willing to learn how to do the job right. Though I consider myself a girly-girl, digging post holes and laying water pipe taught me the satisfaction of a hard-earned paycheck, that I was stronger than I knew, and I could learn to do just about anything if I watched and listened well. But we can safely say when it comes to volunteering for farmwork again, post hole digging isn't at the top of my list. :)

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    2. I'm installing chicken fencing right now, and then donkey fencing... and I agree, although it's a great workout. But fence posts and spooling fencing is hard work... I love that your dad did that!

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    3. Yes, fencing is a fantastic upper body toner. Haha!

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    4. Natalie, I could have used your expertise when I was writing a fence post digging scene for a cowboy novella! LOL I actually ended up getting info from Pam and Mary. :)

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    5. Oh how fun, Missy! I'll have to read that novella! If I ever write a fence digging scene, I'll make sure it rains. Because wearing a raincoat and trying to scoop out sloshy mud "until the cloud passes over" is just so much more fun than digging in regular ole dirt. :D

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  6. Welcome, Natalie! Congratulations on escaping the island. These are great tip. I agree, overthinking will crush your creativity faster than anything. Thanks for visiting!

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    1. Hi, Jill! Thank you! I think it's do easy for all of us to fall into overthinking. It's always a comfort to finally say, "God's got this. Let's go!"

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    2. *so easy

      Really, sometimes I think Predictive Text doesn't know me at all. :D

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  7. Natalie!!! This is so wonderful to have you here... and huge congrats on sailing off the island!

    What a marvelous post. This is a lesson I learned years ago, to write what I love, write what I feel... and while not everything I write fits my brand or genre, I can guarantee they'll sell... to someone! Because the markets are there, and it's up to us to be brave and bold enough to reach them.

    I'm so proud of you!

    And I promise no one ever accuses me of over-thinking. Especially my family. :) But that's a plus with writing because whatever I begin, those opening chapters help me to learn about my characters... and my story... and give me a launch point.

    We all need that launch point and overplanning can quash creativity and emotion. And I love, love, love emotion in a story!

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    1. Hi, Ruthy!

      Yes, emotion makes a story for me. And a Ruthy book is a feast for the emotions! (This puts me in mind of Vince's reader rewards system!)

      You said, "those opening chapters help me to learn about my characters..." How true. Where are some things we don't learn about the story until we start drafting. That's a great thought for motivation!

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  8. hi Natalie
    awesome post! Now I only need to put these points into action... *eep* The last time I threw caution to the wind was the Harlequin Killer Voice contest - getting to the finalist stage surprised me beyond surprise. Fried my creative brain too (was NOT ready to write a book in less than two months). I did find out that editors did like my work though. I remind myself I am NOT a hack - just need to write.

    Congrats on sailing off unpubbed island! *Kermit flail of happiness* The collection looks wonderful and I would love to be in the draw. I've been seeing notes about the collection different places. I'll definitely need to get it since I sort of "know" you from here.

    Very excited for you and thanks again for this list of pointers to write. They sound so simple that I actually think I can do it. I especially like the "do it afraid" and "put it in God's hands" parts.

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    1. Hi, Deb! So good to see you! Your Kermit flail made my day. :)

      Congrats on making finalist in Killer Voices! That's a tough competition! I love those kinds of contests, because they stretch us and show us a little bit of what we can do when we push ourselves.

      "I am NOT a hack - just need to write." Deb, I love that sentence and am thinking to needlepoint this on a pillow. :) And then I need to repeat it to myself every morning and night!

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    2. I agree about Deb's great quote! Sometimes we just need a little encouragement to keep going.

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  9. Congratulations, Natalie! The 'Rags to Riches' collection is *awesome*.

    I think the last time I threw caution to the wind was when I switched genres. I figured, hey, all they can do is say, 'no'!

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    1. Sherri, you've chosen well. (muah-hahaha *evil laugh)

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    2. Aw!!! Thank you, Sherri!

      "I figured, hey, all they can do is say 'no'!" That's the spirit! What are rejections, anyway, but proof we actually wrote and submitted something! Now there's an accomplishment!

      P.S. I just got a glimpse of your Mail-Order Christmas Baby (that cover!) and read the blurb. So much sweet emotion packed into one book description! Can't wait to read that one. Congrats!

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  10. Natalie, welcome post side to Seekerville! I love this post!! Thanks for all the inspiring quotes, especially Francine Rivers! This is all very encouraging!

    Janet

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    1. Thank you, Janet! :) Glad you found the post encouraging. Francine is amazing for inspiration, isn't she?

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    2. Francine is amazing for inspiration and so are you!

      Janet

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  11. Good Morning Natalie and welcome to Seekerville. What a great post today and what I needed to hear. smile I love the quote “If you wait for perfect conditions before you seize an opportunity you’ll be waiting till the day you die.” Yep, that is me lately. I need to give myself a Ruthy kick in the pants.
    And let me take this opportunity to say how tickled I am for your success. It always delights me so when a Seeker friend sails off unpubbed island. Yay. Thanks again for joining us and have a fun day.

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    1. Thank you, Sandra! Seekerville has always played a huge part in my writing journey, and I'm so thrilled to be here today. And grateful for all y'all do here to help writers off unpubbed island!

      Yes, Ruthy kicks work wonders for writing slumps, don't they? Whenever I feel myself slacking, I need to come read her posts here in the archives. I always feel recharged after reading her advice!

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  12. Good Morning, Natalie! Welcome to Seekerville!

    WOW - What tremendous tips! Loved every single one of your points. "Write the book you need to read." YES! I LOVE Francine Rivers' Redeeming LOVE. That book was a game-changer in so many ways for people from all walks of life.

    Congratulations and much success on your writing.

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    1. Thank you, Cindy! So glad you enjoyed the post! Ah, Redeeming Love. What an impacting book. Not only for readers, but writers as well. Gives us much to aspire to.

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  13. Hi Natalie,
    I'm a reader, but I've been following Seekerville for three or four years. I've seen you comment here, so when I spotted your name in this collection I felt like I "knew" you. I loved your story, For Richer or Poorer and said so in my Amazon review of the collection. (Tracey~book corner fan)

    Congratulations on being a standout debut author, I'll be looking for your next book!

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    1. How fun to see the connections from the blog!

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    2. Tracey!! So good to see you here again!

      YES!! I read your review and have been floating around on that encouragement ever since. I even read the review to my mom, and it made her smile. Thank you so much for loving the book and saying so!

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  14. Natalie, what a good post to begin the week with. I agree about writing the story you need to write. Only then will it come across to the reader as genuine. I don't do this for therapy, but find that I learn so much from my characters, and every book I finish leaves me a little bit different.
    Coming to the end of a draft for my first attempt at a contemporary Christmas romance, and learning so much from my character, how she camouflages her early pain by structuring her life to the penny and to the minute, so the chaos won't seep back in. Put a lot of myself in that one, although my childhood wasn't nearly as painful as hers. Writing this way is risky but worth it.
    Working on contest entries this week> I missed the boat, or deadline, on two of my favorites, TARA and Maggie, they're done and done, but I have hopes for Phoenix Rattler and a couple others. That's risky too...
    Life is risky. I quit my full-time job in the spring with the expectation of semi-retiring and doing part-time work. One of the legs of my retirement "stool" collapsed and I am flying blind, working without a net and trusting God. You can't predict anything in this life, and if you can, you're not really living.
    Another quote I like is, "Courage is fear that has said its prayers."
    Home this a.m. catching up on things, so may check in later.
    Kathy Bailey
    Undaunted in New Hampshire

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    1. Hi, Kathy! What a fantastic quote! And I love your outlook.

      After contracting for Of Rags and Riches, I had a similar by-faith season where I quit my job as a piano teacher for a year, which inspired the faith-thread in the novella. I wrote about it over on the Coffee Cups & Camisoles Blog.

      Here's hoping your entries top out in the Rattler and other contests! And prayers for you as you trust God for the future.

      Mark Schultz has a song that says, "When you come to the edge of all that you know, God will either give you something to stand on or teach you to fly."

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    2. Faith takes hold when there's absolutely nothing YOU can do to fix things. True for my control-freak heroine, me, and probably everyone else.

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  15. Congratulations, Natalie, on your publication! Thanks for this great post. I especially liked all the quotes at the end. They all speak to me and the excuses I often give for my writing. I am almost finished writing my first draft on my novel. I think I will be throwing caution to the wind when I start sending it out in contests or whatever.

    Please put me in the drawing.

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    1. Hi, Sandy! Thank you!

      Mark Batterson has a knack for inspiring motivation, doesn't he? Those quotes are underlined in my copy of "In a Pit..." and I plan to dig them out again whenever I feel perfectionism taking over.

      Congrats on being close to 'The End'!!! It's a beautiful feeling isn't it? Contests have been one of the most important pieces in my journey to publication. They taught me so much and prepared me for submitting to publishers. Now I only wish I had written more projects and entered more contests with them!

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  16. Natalie! I'm so excited you're sharing with Seekerville today! Congratulations on your published story. I am so looking forward to reading it.

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    1. Thank you for sharing in the excitement and for your kind words, Amber! I hope the novella will be a fun and encouraging read! I know the others in the collection are. Feeling so blessed here to be a part!

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  17. Natalie, you certainly learned a lot in a week! Great tips.

    I'm throwing caution to the wind and starting a romantic mystery story. I'm not confident I can pull off a mystery (I've always written romances) but I'm going to give it my best shot. Ever since I read Nancy Drew in the fifth grade, I've wanted to write mysteries. It's about time I do it!

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    1. Go, Cara!!!! WOOOT!!! I'm working on a mystery too. When there is no deadline it's fun again!!

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    2. Yay, Cara! Can't wait to hear how you like writing it!

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    3. Way to go, Cara and Tina! I LOVED Nancy Drew and can't wait to read your mysteries!

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  18. Hi Natalie,
    Congratulations on your novella!

    Thanks for these great suggestions. As far as quotes, this one really got my attention: “More often than not, the only thing between you and your dream is a rational excuse.”

    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you, Jackie! What an impacting thought, right I've enjoyed reading "In a Pit..." and plan to read the last chapter today. I've learned a lot from the book about facing down and conquering fears.

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  19. Thanks for the encouragement, Natalie, and so glad you are a published author! Do it afraid. Posting that one on my computer!

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    1. Cindy, I don't think I got to personally congratulate you on the TBL!! So happy for you!

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    2. Thanks Missy! Sure appreciate your support!

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    3. Glad the post encouraged, Cindy!

      Like Missy, I'm not sure if I told you, but when I saw you were a double finalist for TBL, I was happy dancing! What an accomplishment!

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  20. First off, congratulations on your debut novella, Natalie! I have been eagerly awaiting this book, so yes, of course, I want entered into the drawing.

    Second, I think I was supposed to read this post today. I have been having a difficult time with my project. For some reason, my inner editor has been very vocal this past month. I am ready to gag her and get back to the joy of writing. So your post was a timely reminder for me. I am going to add it to my favorites to go back to whenever I need a reminder.

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    1. Dana, I have the same problem with my inner editor. I think I need to do what you do and gag her. :) Good luck to you as you work through your project!

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    2. Hi, Dana! First, I must say what a pleasure it was to say hello across the table from you at the ACFW awards gala last year. :)

      I hope things get better with your inner editor soon. I second the gagging idea. I'll keep watch while you fetch the duct tape. :)

      What an encouragement to know the post met a need. And thank you for your excitement about the collection!

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  21. Natalie, what brilliant wisdom you offer here! I love it!

    Congratulations on your debut novella. That's huge! Way to go living the dream!

    I loved Mark Batterson's book In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. You pulled great bits of wisdom there too.

    Point #5 was my favorite. I have a story that's a little unconventional and I've inner editor-ed myself to death about it. So thank you for the permission to be free with the story and trust God with how it turns out. :)

    I'm learning to be a plotter (my inner pantser gasps in dismay) and Point #1, #3 and #4 touched on getting out of that analysis paralysis.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful knowledge with us today.

    Blessings to you!

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    1. Thank you for your sweet comments, Sharee! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post.

      Way to go with your unconventional novel! Keep up the good work. Those are the stories we remember.

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  22. OOOH and yes, please enter me in the writer side of the drawing.

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  23. Now I must go get the PIT book. All these good recommendations and those quotes.

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    1. I first heard the title of the book on a recommended reads list from the GirlDefined YouTube channel. They rec'd several other books I thoroughly enjoyed, so I decided to pick this one up and was not disappointed. Based on the intriguing Biblical story of Benaiah, one of David's mighty men!

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  24. Hi Natalie! so nice to meet you here and congratulations on getting off the island. I loved every quote here and have pinned this post to my Seekerville board to read over and over. I love the advice to "write the book you need to read", as well as "write the book you need to write" because sometimes they're the same book and sometimes you'll end up with two great books. I'm just back from holidays and appreciated this inspirational post so I can get back at it. Please enter me in either draw.

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    1. Hi Laurie! Thank you!

      Glad to help boost you back into writing after your trip! Thank you for your encouraging words about rereading the post! Be fearless! You've got this!

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  25. Natalie, I'm so excited to have you here today with us! What a FANTASTIC post! So much of it spoke to me. I felt like it was a personal pep rally that you had written just for me!

    Thank you for the pep talk and the suggestions!

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    1. Awww! Bless you, Missy! It's such a blessing to hear that I might've been able to encourage someone who has encouraged me so much over the last few years! Thank y'all so much for having me today!

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  26. Good morning Natalie!!!!

    First, CONGRATULATIONS on landing that contract!

    Don't overthink your creative ideas. Great advice. I don't want to have to rewrite my whole book, but many times the small details can drag my progress to a crawl. That's such a waste of my time. I need to keep moving.

    Thanks for the post. And I love seeing you here on Seekerville as a published author!!!

    I know I've mentioned it before to you, but my maiden name is Monk. Makes me feel like we share some kind of kinship, even if we aren't really related...

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    1. Thank you, Connie!!!

      Oh, how fun! I forgot your mentioning your maiden name. I have distant Monk relatives in Louisiana and closer ones in Mississippi. My aunt keeps up with the genealogy, but I haven't looked back into the family tree yet. Monk is definitely a surname you don't see every day, so who knows? We might be kin! I found out after following Seekerville for a couple years that Pam and I are distant cousins on my mom's side. Seekerville certainly has a way of brinking folks together. :)

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    2. We might be distant cousins, but I feel like a proud aunt! :)

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  27. CONGRATULATIONS, Natalie on your release!!!!

    I've not yet been brave enough to do something that I have longed to do. Thank you for the words of encouragement.

    Please enter me for a copy of Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection! These Barbour Collections are a MUST read. I LOVE them and I share them with fellow readers who also appreciate Christian fiction!

    Blessings and ((((((HUGS))))))

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    1. Thank you, Caryl! Thank you for being a reader who shares books. I love that! Hope you dare to chase your longing soon! Be brave! :)

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  28. Welcome, Natalie, and congratulations on being a part of this new Barbour novella collection! Thanks also for this lovely post and for sharing encouragement and motivation for the writing life.

    My favorite: "Write the book you need to read." Many times, my stories have become therapy for whatever I'm going through in my personal life. Transferring the emotions to a fictional character can offer some much needed distance and perspective.

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    1. Thank you, Myra!

      Yes, disguised life experiences are the things that keep us coming back to fiction I think. To know that someone else has experienced what we're feeling and see how they move a character to deal with these things. And working through things in fiction is much more fun!

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  29. I'm saving this post! And I've taken notes on my favorite quotes! Please enter me in your giveaway for writers. I want to improve the book I "need to read."

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    1. So glad the post helped, Linda! And best wishes on continuing in your current project. Having the determination to improve is like rowing your boat toward the ship of success instead of waiting until your ship "comes in." Keep up the good work!

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  30. Natalie, what are you working on now? Will you be at the ACFW conference?

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    1. I decided not to attend the conference this year, since I've traveled a lot this summer and want to take the fall to get a couple manuscript proposals off the ground. But I'm hoping for next year.

      One story I'm working on now is The Music Master, a Rigoletto/Phantom of the Opera inspired story about a reclusive composer, handicapped in a theater fire and needing to keep his music alive through a protege. To hide his scars, he mentors the beautiful and promising pianist from behind a veil, using his ear for perfect pitch. But when their tragic pasts coincide, grief threatens to destroy everything they've worked for, including the fragile hope that binds their hearts.

      :)

      The second story is a twist on the wagon train and mail-order bride story, and follows a nurse's migration from MS to TX after the Civil War. She must convince a footloose preacher (who is against arranged marriages) to perform her wedding of convenience before they reach her fiance. She looses her heart to the preacher of course and must choose between love and stability when lurking danger threatens to make the choice for her.

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    2. OOOOH! Those sound wonderful. I'll be in Nashville next year. C U THERE!!!!

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    3. Natalie, wow, your two stories are so interesting and very different from the other. Both sound great!

      Janet

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    4. Natalie, those stories sound amazing!!

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  31. Wow, Natalie. You knew what I needed to read. This post was fabulous. I so appreciate your perspective. It's easy to get caught up in the mire called Fear, and sink within its lying waters. You spoke good truth here today.

    The last time I did something where I threw caution to the wind? Well, I recently went to a retreat where I didn't know anyone. In person, that is. We'd been part of a link up blogging community. The results? Amazing. I came away soul-filled and ready to tackle the rest of the crazy summer my family is living.

    And, I'm writing my next book without a detailed road map. This is huge for me. It's definitely got me relying on God more as I think through the next scene.

    Thanks for this post! I'd love to be in the drawing.

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    1. Hi, Jeanne! Thank you for your kind words.

      I loved reading about your daredevil pursuits! I've never been to a writer's retreat, but it sounds like an enriching experience! Praying God gives you inspiration and guidance as you go forward by faith in writing and living. How thrilling!

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  32. Your post was timely for me, Natalie. When I forget Philippians 4:13, it's way too easy to let fear block me from doing what I sense God leading me to do. Thank you for your post.

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    1. Hi, Tracey! Yes, that beautiful verse is a mainstay for so many situations, and no wonder, because the truth of God's strength in us is a powerful thing.

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  33. Natalie it is SOOO fun to see you posting! Even more fun to know you're doing well as a writer.

    Your post is great encouragement and reinforcement. I especially like this -- "Maybe instead we should ask ourselves, What’s the best that can happen?"

    I recently went back to one of the first western historical romances I wrote. I fully expected it to be too bad to read. But it wasn't. In fact, I enjoyed reading it and fell in love with the characters. When that happened, I was reminded that was how the story started ... with me just enjoying writing.

    And then here's your post -- perfect timing.

    Do please enter me in the drawing.

    Best wishes with your writing!
    Nancy C

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    1. Nancy! Thank you! I'm glad to hear you pulled out your early manuscript, because I love western historical romances! Going back and reading older pieces and getting reacquainted with the characters always feels like a family reunion. :)

      I sometimes wonder how many gems we as readers miss out on because we authors doubt our story's worth. I believe every story has worth. Though that doesn't keep me from wondering occasionally whether my story's worth may be buried a little too deep. Haha!

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  34. Great post, Natalie, and a huge CONGRATULATIONS on your release in the novella collection!! SO exciting!! It's always fun to see Seeker Villagers sail off of unpubbed island to become published, and I'm very happy for you. Blessings on your writing! Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

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    1. Patti Jo, so good to see you! Thank you so much! I feel very blessed. Sweet blessings from a fellow southern girl always cheers my day! How is your writing? I think I read somewhere that you attended the ACFW conference last year. We must have missed one another! Would have loved to meet you in person!

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  35. Great motivation! Thank you so much for your post today. Please put my name in the writer's give away. I just purchased the novella collection and will read some of it after I go jump into my writing.

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    1. Hi, Bettie! Thank you for picking up the Collection and for your kind words!

      What genre do you write?

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  36. What a great post. Throwing caution to the wind. . maybe when I planned a vacation with 6 children and left within 2 weeks. :-) I would love to win a copy of your new book.
    Becky B

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    1. Oh my, Becky! Now THAT sounds like an adventure!

      I see your profile name... My mother homeschooled me and my siblings. Her time and effort toward my education were such a blessing to me. Wouldn't trade that for the world!

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  37. Natalie, what a great post. It's so encouraging. THANK YOU!

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  38. Here's a saying.

    The Perfect is the enemy of the Good

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    1. Hi, Mary! Thank you! It's been such a warm welcome here!

      Wow, that quote is true in so many areas of life! How many goals does the goal perfection keep us from attempting?

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  39. Natalie, such a lovely post. Your words hit home over and over again. Francine River's comment gave me pause. "Write the book you need to read." Words of wisdom to ponder.

    Loved the first tip too. "Don't wait until you're ready to start!"

    Your anthology is beautiful, Natalie. Loved the blurb for your story. It grabbed me, for sure! Congrats!

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    1. Debby, thank you for your encouragement! All the tips are ones I myself have to rely on during a slump. It's so neat how the things God uses to minister to us can minister to others as well!

      And when I think of Francine Rivers' words of wisdom in light of that, it makes me think maybe she gave the advice because it helped her at some point, too.

      P.S. I'm loving Amish Refuge. One of the best beginnings I've ever read in a suspense! Serpent and his grim plans. Chilling!

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    2. Thanks for your kind words about Amish Refuge, Natalie. Glad the opening hooked you.

      Hugs!

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  40. All summer I've been dragging my feet about taking the test to get my driver's permit. I was scared that I would fail the test, or possibly scarier pass it (adulthood is coming way too fast for my liking, in a little over a month I'll be starting my SENIOR YEAR). Anyway I've been putting off studying the driver manual for months, until suddenly last week my mom told me that she was going to go renew my sister's licence and if I wanted to get my temps I'd better get reading that manual. Well, spoiler alert I did, and I passed (thank goodness I have always had a remarkable memory, I only really needed to read it once before most of it was committed to memory). But that's not to say that it wasn't scary.

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    1. Congratulations, Nicki! YOU. DID. IT.

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    2. Congratulations, Nicki!! How exciting!

      I'm laughing, because with one of my kids, he didn't read the manual until we were on the way to the DMV--as I was fussing at him the whole time. LOL

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  41. Hi, Nicki! I remember being freaked out before my driving test. I had put mine off as well. Then a sweet lady I knew (a responsible mom) told me she failed the first time around and it wasn't the end of the world. :) So that gave me comfort. I definitely put my best into the test, but knowing that someone else had failed and survived and then later succeeded sure helped my nerves. :)

    Thank you for sharing your story!

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  42. Great post. I'm at this point in a complete rewrite of one of my novels where I just feel like something is amiss. I'm always questioning every decision, so when I get to a point like that it's easy to stall. On the other hand, sometimes when I stop and rethink things, I come up with some really great ideas. I guess, being unpublished, I have the liberty of taking as long as I want. ;-) Congratulations on your novella publication!

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    1. Hi, Laura! Thank you!

      I've been there. Do you have a favorite guide for your revisions? I use notes from Rock Your Revision by Cathy Yardley. She has a great way for discecting chapters and scenes simply. Hope things straighten or for you soon!

      Yes, taking time to just dream is so important! That's a great reminder!

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    2. I've just been rereading some craft books. I have Weiland's books on structure and character arc. I refer to her blogs a lot. I'll have to check out the book you recommended!

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  43. This post is here a the right time. I've been working on one of my favorite series yet, but I keep going to one extreme and having to remember everything else I need to write and pulling myself on. It's a Paradise Lost retelling with spies, and is definitely different! But I love it, and know it's a gift from God that He gave only me. My sacred trust to be a good steward over.

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    1. Sounds like an intriguing series! Hope it moves along well for you! Glad the pay came at the right time. :)

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  44. Thank you for writing such a wonderful post, Natalie. I really needed these reminders today.

    Congratulations on your novella!!

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    1. Thank you, Rhonda! :) Glad the post was a help!

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  45. Natalie, thank you so much for being with us in Seekerivlle today!!

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    1. The pleasure was mine! What a fun day! Thank y'all for welcoming me so warmly and all the fun chatting!

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  46. NATALIE!! Sooooo fun to have you on this side of Seekerville! Excellent post and SUPER CONGRATS on the new novella -- VERY exciting!!

    You said: "Remember what it felt like to write with abandon, untroubled by whether your premise would pass an editorial board?"

    Yes, I do, and it haunted me. But once I got published, the pressure really kicked in, and I lost that joy of writing. Which is one of the reasons I took time off from traditional publishing to focus more on God, family, and writing for the sheer joy of writing. And, WOW, did it feel good! So your post today really hits home, and I am hoping it will encourage and lift others like it does me!

    You also asked: "Is it possible for an author to return to the first joys of writing after fear of failure creeps in to paralyze creativity?"

    Absolutely, and as I mentioned above, I've done it. Never anticipated doing it, but when the joy of writing was strangled out by the drive to win contests, accrue book sales, and snag good reviews, I knew it was time to return to my roots of sheer joy in writing. Best decision I ever made! :)

    Great post, my friend!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Julie - so inspiring. You said "once I got published, the pressure really kicked, and I lost that joy of writing." Glad your joy returned!

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    2. Me, too, Laura!! ;) I' a bear to live with when it's absent. :)

      Hugs,
      Julie

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  47. Great post, Natalie - such great advice and info! Thank you so much for sharing! And a huge congratulations on your contract - so exciting!!

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  48. Thank you for so many words of wisdom, Natalie. Great post! Congratulations on the release of your novella.....and WOW....written in a week!

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  49. This is excellent! No. 5 really sparked my heart. It's okay to be different! My love of medievals doesn't seem to fit anywhere, but 'tis there I find my mind lingering. What's not to love about a knight on a horse?

    Saving this post for future encouragement!

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  50. Wow, such words of wisdom from one so young. Natalie, this is golden, and such a hard lesson for some of us to learn.

    Over and over and over again!

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  51. Would love to read this collection :)

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  52. Sorry I'm late, but just wanting to chime in that I'm excited to read yours Natalie!

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  53. Congratulations Natalie. I am looking forward to reading Of Rags to Riches and I would appreciate being entered in the drawing. I enjoyed the thoughts you've shared and your advice is very applicable to all of us. I tend to think everything needed to be just right to start a project and that is comparable to thinking "when I become a perfect person" It just isn't going to happen! Thanks again and Blessings!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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  54. Congratulations, Natalie!

    Please enter me in the US reader drawing. I love those Barbour collections and will surely enjoy your story.

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

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  55. Congratulations, Natalie!

    Thank you for the sage advice for those of us in the writing journey. You quoted one of my all-time favorite books. I've been meaning to pull it off the shelf and re-read so this is my confirmation to do so. It's also confirmation to write with abandon and just do it.

    Blessings,
    Kimberly
    Numbers 6:24-26

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  56. "Do it afraid"....love that. :)

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