Susquehanna Valley Writers Luncheon

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While many people shied away from group gatherings on Saturday, due to the coronavirus, one of my friends and I drove two hours to attend the Susquehanna Valley Writers Luncheon. Our speaker, Roseanna White (pictured above), did an excellent job with the two presentations she gave.

Before lunch, Roseanna shared about the importance of having a good relationship with your editor. Even editors know how precious your writing is to you. Your stories are your babies and you like to think and want to believe you wrote your story perfectly the first time, but this is not the case.

You need to realize editors are not the bad guys. They don’t want to ruin your story. They want to help you make it better, to help you please readers and make them want to keep reading your stories. Editors do not make suggestions on changing things in your story to “change” or “destroy” your story. Their suggestions will strengthen and improve your story. You need to build a relationship with your editor, and you need to trust your editor.

Getting defensive and justifying the way you wrote something and refusing to “fix” or “improve” it, isn’t going to enable you to learn, grow, and improve your stories. If you really want to be a good writer, maybe even a great writer, it’s important to humble yourself, build a relationship with your editor, and trust that your editor knows what he or she is doing and that their suggestions will make your stories better.

Roseanna shared that when we are “called to write”, if we don’t write, or we don’t release our writing into the world, we are stealing from our readers. If we have something that needs to be written, it’s because someone needs to read it. Therefore, it is our responsibility to write it and get it out there.

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After lunch, Roseanna shared a presentation about marketing. She talked about the importance of connecting with your readers. She shared that a weekly email newsletter is a great way to connect with readers and that, when done well and faithfully, readers miss your newsletter if it doesn’t show up in their inbox on the day it’s supposed to.

She also shared that that it is important that we give our readers what they need, whether that is encouragement or hope or something else, we need to give our readers what they need.

Marketing isn’t all about us and making sales. Marketing is about serving; giving our readers something they need.

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It was a good day with a good speaker, good messages, time with friends I hadn’t seen for a while, and making some new friends.

As I listened to the speaker, then spoke with my friend on the two-hour drive home, I realized I had taken a wrong turn, made a wrong decision in my writing. If you read my November post titled, “My Writing Life”, you know that I began working as a freelance writer in November. Well, I found it to be very hard work and much of it was frustrating. In addition, it took me away from my fiction writing, which hadn’t been my plan. I thought I could do both.

However, I realized about three days before this luncheon that I needed to make a change, but wasn’t sure what that change was supposed to be. I considered trying freelance writing on my own but decided that wasn’t the answer.

Saturday, it became clear to me that I need to return to my fiction writing because that is what I have been called to do. Because that is what I have always wanted and dreamed of doing. But with one difference — with looking at it like it is a job that I need to devote time to everyday. Therefore, I will be keeping the schedule I created for myself to do freelance writing and use it to write my blog posts and my novels. I will also attempt to write historical articles to submit to places, so as to use my research for more than just my novels. I will also start a newsletter soon, and I hope many of you here will be interested in being part of that. I am also thinking of starting a Facebook group.

So stay tuned and join me on this journey.

My Writing Life

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Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

I have been writing fiction for a very long time and I love it. It is my favorite thing to do. However, it takes a very long time to make any money as a fiction writer. Yes, I have a completed historical fiction novel, but only the first draft is completed. I am working on revising/editing it, but time is another problem I struggle with.

As a homeschool mom with one remaining child/student, I spend every morning working with my child, which means I don’t get to do any writing related items until the afternoon. So, roughly three hours a day, then it’s time to make dinner. Then I may or may not have two hours to work on writing related items after dinner before I get too tired for my brain to focus on such tasks. So, on a good day, I get about five hours to work on writing related items.

What writing related items do I have to work on? Well, I have this blog, which I really enjoy writing posts for. As a writer, it is also suggested that I have a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, which means posting on all of these media sites daily. But I don’t. I have found that I am not very interested in social media, so I try to have a presence by connecting my blog posts to my Facebook writer page and Twitter accounts. At least that keeps me present there.

I have been writing for Almost an Author, a popular website for writers, for about a year now. I am one of the regular columnists for the site and am required to post four romance and four historical posts each year. This is not a huge commitment, but it is a commitment nonetheless. I am also a regular interview writer for Faith Filled Family Magazine and have been doing this for almost a year. I love the writing I do for both of these. However, none of these wonderful jobs offers a salary, but I am not willing to give them up. I enjoy them too much. Besides, they give me material for my portfolio.

Back to the part about homeschooling. Being a homeschool mom means being there for your child(ren) all day every day. This was an important decision my husband and I made seventeen years ago, and it was an important decision we haven’t regretted.  However, it can be quite challenging to live on one income in today’s world.

Therefore, I have entered a new writing world–the world of freelance writing. I have also taken my freelance editing skills with me, and have become active on a reputable freelance website, where I am applying for writing and editing jobs that I will actually get paid to do. However, the writing is not fiction. So I am learning and experiencing writing in the “real” (nonfiction) world. It’s very different and quite challenging as compared to my preferred fiction world, but I am finding it enjoyable so far. But, it is time consuming–time to look through the “want ads”, time to write proposals to apply for the jobs I am interested in and believe I am able to do, and then, time to do the jobs. So now, I am working with solid deadlines–no procrastinating is allowed or tolerated.

In conclusion, my writing life has changed once again. For now, I need to put most of my time into the freelance writing that will enable me to earn an income. That may mean that my fiction works, like my novel, will have to wait longer to meet the world. But, as in every part of my life to this point, I have always been one to do what needs to be done and to keep my priorities straight.

There are three more years, after this one, until my last child graduates, then I’ll have eight or nine hours a day to write. (At least that’s what I keep telling myself.)

Update on My Writing Journey

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may already know I finished the rough draft of my upcoming novel at the end of March of this year. I have begun revising and editing my novel and am currently working on chapter nine.

However, at the encouragement and urging of a writer friend, I wrote a proposal for my completed novel and revised and edited the first three chapters, added a query letter and sent it out to an agent. Then I tried to forget about it for the next sixty days. I also tried not to get my hopes up, as I know most writers receive many rejections before finally acquiring an agent and/or publisher.

I will say that I was surprised, when after just a week or two, I received a brief email from the agent’s assistant informing me that they had received my Book Proposal and would review it. I hadn’t expected that.

Then in early June there was an email in my inbox from the agent’s assistant. I was nervous about opening it, and after a brief pause, clicked to open it. As I read what was written, I took it as a rejection, felt hurt, posted on my Facebook Writer page that I had received my first rejection and gave myself twenty-four hours before writing or revising anything.

On June thirteenth, one of my closest writer friends was in the area and we met for lunch. At the time, she was preparing for her first published book to be released, so I printed a copy of my rejection email letter and took it along to show to her. She was glad that I had brought it because she had recently been to a writers’ conference where she attended a session about rejection letters.

After reading my rejection letter, she was really excited. She said, “This is not a rejection!” She proceeded to tell me there are three types of rejections: 1) a form letter; 2) a flat “no” with no other information; or 3) you simply never hear back from them at all.

Well, my “rejection” letter was none of the above. My letter states that “there is much to recommend in your story, and we can see your writing talent.” Then they state two things they didn’t like about my story, and end with “Because of your talent, we’d be happy to see other projects from you in the future”. Therefore, my friend said, “you should be celebrating. This is not a rejection, and I’ve been told that if you really want to try to get in with an agent who sends you this kind of information, you can revise the story, changing the things they didn’t like, and after a year, resend it to them. Or since they are willing to look at another story you write, write another one and send it.”

Her excitement and enthusiasm were catching, and what she said made a lot of sense, so I felt a lot better about the letter.

What did I decide to do in regard to my writing?

I decided that I am not going to send anything to any agent again until I finish my revision and edits on this novel and get it edited by an editor. Then I will rewrite my synopsis and send a proposal out again. I’m hoping to finish it and send it before another year passes so I wouldn’t be sending it to the same agent. Besides, one of the two things the email stated that they didn’t like is one thing I am unwilling to change because I would have to start the story all over from a completely different character’s perspective and that would change the entire story.

One thing that you will find whenever I get this novel (and any future novels) published, if you choose to read them, is that I do not write formulaic romance. I don’t know why that should be a problem, when one of the things an agent or publisher always wants to know is “what makes your book different from the others in the genre”.

I’ll keep you posted on this writing journey I am on.

Thanks for reading!

What’s Going on with my WIP

I attended the Lancaster Christian Writers’ Super Saturday one-day writers’ conference the first Saturday of April this year. I’ve been a member of LCW for just about six years now and have attended their Super Saturday one-day conferences every year in that time period. I always enjoy the conference and have met and made lots of wonderful friends and valuable writing connections through this one-day event.

I thought last year’s conference was the best yet. Then I went this year, and this year’s conference topped last year’s! I attended a very informative session about how to market your book and I attended a session that I found would be extremely helpful as I edit my WIP.

So, what does all of this have to do with my WIP, which is what the title of this post is about?

Well, when I went to this year’s Super Saturday conference, I had completed my WIP and needed to begin the edits, but I decided to take my first chapter along and meet with one of the published authors that was offering one-on-one appointments, and it turned out to be the best one-on-one appointment I ever had.

But before I explain that, I need to take a small step back a few years first. I had made up my mind, not long after starting this WIP, that I was going to indie publish. Then, two years ago, I attended the Greater Philly Writers’ conference and had a one-on-one appointment where the person I met with was impressed with what I showed her of my WIP, and she encouraged me to try traditional publishing first. However, because my WIP was incomplete at that time, I couldn’t really do anything about it at that time. So, as time passed, I went back to my original plan to indie publish.

Now, return to this year and my explanation as to why this year’s one-on-one appointment was my best ever: this author loved my first chapter and she asked if I had begun to shop my manuscript around yet. When I said I hadn’t and that I was figuring I’d just indie publish, she encouraged me to try traditional publishing first. However, she didn’t stop there. She took the time to explain to me how to go about writing a good Book Proposal and suggested several agents and agencies to query. This all made me think, ‘wow, God must really want me to try traditional publishing first. This is the second time He made sure I was confronted about it, and this time, I was given direction.’

So, I prepared a Book Proposal, and I’ll tell you, I thought writing a Book Proposal is more difficult than writing my novel. However, I did it, and I have submitted it to the first agent. I decided not to send it to more than one at first. I really want to see what happens with this agent. If this one turns me down, then I will begin to submit it to a few agents simultaneously because I don’t want to waste too much time, either, but I have just begun my edits, so I don’t want to have to send my unedited WIP either.

As my WIP continues its journey into publication, I will keep you posted.

A Writing Update and Conference Highlights

I AM FINISHED with the rough draft of my first novel! Let the editing begin — yes, that is my next step.

LCW’s Super Saturday one day writers’ conference went very well, and there were quite a few new attendees, including quite a few young people and one twelve-year-old boy. What a great thing to see!

There was a keynote address and four sessions. I attended a session presented by J.P. Robinson, who gave an information packed session on marketing!

I attended a great session on how to use setting to create strong emotional impact and suspense, which will be a great help as I edit my novel because describing and using my setting are weaknesses of mine, although I have improved from the start to the finish. I also attended an in-depth session on plot and character that had a great exercise to help understand the importance of really knowing your characters. Both of these sessions were presented by Ronie Kendig.

I also had a one-on-one appointment with Rita Gerlach who also writes historical romantic fiction. She read the first scene of my novel and gave me suggestions for two minor adjustments to improve it, but she really liked it and encouraged me in my writing. She also offered some advice on publishing.

Once again, a very valuable, worthwhile one-day LCW Super Saturday Writers’ Conference — Thank You, Jeanette Windle!

Have You Ever Tried to Write Flash Fiction?

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I know I’ve talked about Flash Fiction here before, but today I want to speak to those of you who are writers. Have you ever tried to write Flash Fiction?

I used to think it would be quite difficult to write Flash Fiction in the genres that I write: my WIP is Historical Romance, however I also like to write Contemporary Romance. Most of the Flash Fiction I have seen and read has been Fantasy, Sci-Fi, or Speculative Fiction. However, if you’ve been reading my Flash Fiction Friday posts, you’ll see that it can be done with Contemporary Romance. The fact of the matter is Flash Fiction can be any genre.

I will reiterate the Flash Fiction guidelines once again. Depending on whose definition you read, Flash Fiction can be anywhere from less than 100 words to 1,500 words. However, many Flash Fiction writers prefer to write 300-500 words. Flash Fiction stories, as all stories, still require the story to have a beginning, middle, and end. (I have a friend who thinks every Flash Fiction story she reads could be turned into a full-length novel. And, she has a good point, if you like to read novel-length stories. I know that I could, most likely, turn all of my Flash Fiction stories into novellas or full-length novels, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to.) Flash Fiction serves a purpose. Just like the renewed popularity of Short Stories in today’s world, Flash Fiction is also very popular because many people don’t want to take the time to read novels anymore. However, that doesn’t mean they want to read an incomplete story that leaves them hanging at the end.

Therefore, that’s why it’s important that your Flash Fiction stories have a beginning, middle, and end; and the end has to feel complete and it needs to satisfy the reader. It needs to bring closure to the story and bring resolution to whatever conflict you created in the short piece.

So, if you’re a writer and you haven’t tried writing Flash Fiction, I challenge you to do so. Why? Because it will definitely help you improve your writing because it will challenge you to write a good complete story in few words. My first Flash Fiction Stories were between 1,000 and 1,500 words. The ones I am writing and posting on my Flash Fiction Friday posts right now are 790-800 words, and these sometimes take a while. I began one yesterday afternoon, thought I had it finished but wasn’t happy with the ending. I worked on it again last night and I’m still not happy with it, so I will work on it again today and maybe tomorrow and another day before I manage to create a 790-800 word complete story that I believe is the best I can do with the idea I have for this story.

Therefore, I will probably continue writing Flash Fiction of 790-800 words for a while yet, until it becomes easy for me to write a complete and satisfying story of that word count. Then, I’ll shoot for 500 words. (I did write one Flash Fiction story of 500 words that I recently entered in a contest that required no more than 500 words. My story made it through the first round of judging, but didn’t end up winning. So, I took it to a critique group, got some feedback on it, tweaked it based on comments from the group, and made it a better 500 word Flash Fiction story.)

Writing Flash Fiction helps you to write concisely and to not overuse certain words or be too wordy. Flash Fiction requires you to write less characters so that you can still create one or two characters that your readers will be able to relate to; characters that are believable and that your readers will want to root for.

If you decide to take the challenge and try your hand at Flash Fiction, let me know if you post a Flash Fiction story on your website. Post a link in the comments, and I’ll visit your site and read what you’ve come up with. It will be fun to encourage each other in improving our writing skills.

A New Writing Position

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Have you noticed the new button on my sidebar? It looks just like the one pictured above, and I’m so excited to share with you that I have been accepted to become a new columnist for the “Almost and Author” blog. It’s a blog that is really more like a website and it offers so much to writers — those just starting out as well as those who’ve been writing for a while. There are posts for every genre, posts on the writing craft, posts on grammar, and so much more. I will be writing four posts a year for the Historical genre and four posts a year for the Romance genre. Since my WIP is a Historical Romance, I am qualified to write for both genres that my one genre encompasses. My first post will appear at the beginning of March in the Romance genre.

If you’re a writer or are interested in becoming a writer, and you haven’t explored the A3 website, I encourage you to do so.  And I hope if you have an interest in writing  in the Romance genre, you’ll check out my March post on the A3 website. The “Almost and Author” website is on the following lists:

Writer’s Digest Top 101 Best

Websites for Writers

The Write Life Top 100 Best

And, we were just added to the 50 Best Writing Blogs in 2018

 

Writers’ Retreat

 

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Last Saturday, January 26, 2019, a writing friend opened her home, like she does a couple times a year, for a group of writing friends to spend the day writing in a place where we can write in quiet and without interruption.

We began the day with a devotion and a writing exercise to get our creative juices flowing. Then we separated into different rooms–different spaces to spend a couple hours writing. Lunch time we came together to eat and fellowship with one another, then we did another writing exercise to stir up our creativity again, followed by a few more hours of writing before saying our goodbyes.

I really appreciate the ladies who came up with the writing exercises and the instructions they gave us because those exercises really did get kick-start my creativity,  and gave me material for one of my upcoming novels as the second writing exercise was supposed to be written from one of our character’s perspectives. Since I am just about finished with my current WIP, I chose to write from the perspective of a character from an upcoming novel, and I thought the exercise lent itself very well to that particular character and story line.

The first writing exercise required us to pull a paper bag from a box, but NOT look inside. Instead, we were to put our hand in and feel what was in the bag. Then we were to write about either the experience of placing our hand into a bag without the knowledge of what it held. Or we could use just our sense of touch or other senses to try to determine what the bag held and write about what we thought was in the bag. After fifteen minutes, we could take turns reading what we wrote and sharing what was in our bags, to see how what we wrote applied (or didn’t apply) to what the bag held. (The picture at the top of this post is of the hostess’s kitten playing with one of the bags from this exercise. She made us all smile.)

It turned out that each bag held three items. I had determined one of my items quite accurately, one I guessed fairly closely, and one I had no idea. However, the rest of the group enjoyed what I had written.

The second writing exercise required us to draw an index card from two arrays of index cards–one labeled “Truth” and the other labeled “Dare”. Then we were to read what was on the other side of each card and write about the situation on the “Truth” card from our character’s perspective. Then we were to write whether or not our character would take the “Dare” on the “Dare” card and explain or show why the character would or would not take the dare based on that character’s perspective.

I enjoyed both exercises, but I think I actually enjoyed the second one a little more than the first one because I was able to really get into one of my character’s heads and now I have two very possible scenes for one of my upcoming novels.

During our free writing time, I would have loved to have had some time to work on my WIP. However, I first needed to write a Flash Fiction story for a contest I wanted to enter, so that ended up being the only writing project I was able to do because it was difficult to write what I wanted to write and fit it into the limited 500 word count. However, another writer friend encouraged me through it, and before the day was done, I had completed the story within the word count and am happy with it. (There will be a future post here on my blog, after I hear the contest results).

Some Changes for a New Year

The holidays are over and a new year has begun, and most people are getting back into a normal routine. Every new year I take a look at this website and try to make improvements, therefore I have been working on cleaning up this website and I’m not quite finished. I’m getting rid of some old posts that were definitely not my best writing, but were probably the best I could do at the time. However, as I have learned more and worked harder and become an editor, I can now do a much better job at writing than I could at the beginning of last year. The more you do something and the more you learn, the better you get.

In addition, I have renewed my interest in Flash Fiction as it has become more popular, and I will be moving Tea and Poetry from Fridays to Tuesdays and reviving Flash Fiction Friday. Yes, that’s right, I will be doing my best to now have four posts a week. I know I slacked off and wasn’t even posting three posts a week for most of December, but that’s because the holiday season is quite busy, and I hadn’t gotten them scheduled ahead of time.

So the weekly lineup will be: Mondays will remain book reviews, writing related posts, and the occasional personal post or post from my soapbox; Tuesdays will be Tea and Poetry Tuesdays; Wednesdays will remain Wordless Wednesday; and Friday will be Flash Fiction Friday.

Flash Fiction is commonly known to be a story of any genre that is 1,500 words or less by most definitions, and many prefer 500 words or less. In my Flash Fiction I will do my best to keep it between 500 and 800 words to start, and as I get more comfortable and ideas start to flow, I may attempt to write no more than 500 words (eventually).

I really appreciate all of you who follow this blog and hope you will enjoy the changes for 2019. I welcome your comments about what you like as well as anything you might not like as much (as long as these comments are respectful).

Happy 2019!

The Value of my Critique Partners

I have been in several critique groups: some large, some small; some that meet weekly, some once a month, and some twice a month; as well as an online critique group. Why have I been a part of so many critique groups? Because I believe having a critique group is important because it helps you improve your writing and your story–to write the best story you can write even before an editor gets to work on it. It helps make the editor’s job easier, and helps me not have to pay as high of an editing fee as if I didn’t put all of this work into it first.

After participating in all of the groups above, I have finally settled into one group that I believe is the perfect fit for me. I have read other writers’ opinions about critique groups and have found that most of them say that two or three critique partners is the best size. That is what I have found. The critique group I am a part of meets twice a month and is just two other ladies and myself, although a gentleman does join us over the summer months.

I have found that this group is the perfect fit for me and works best for the following reasons: 1) too many voices giving feedback can set my head to spinning, but two or three voices make sense and are easier to sort through; 2) meeting with the same people and having them critique my work from start to finish allows them to become very familiar with my work, my writing — both my strengths and weaknesses, as well as my goals — what my story is really about–what I’m trying to say.

Because of those reasons my writing continues to improve because of their comments, suggestions, and encouragement. Just a few weeks ago, one of them said to me, I don’t like where you’re going with this. There are too many new characters, and you’ve gone astray from the main goal of your story. (Or something very similar to that.) I left critique group that day feeling a bit frustrated. I’ve been working on this manuscript for over two years already–I want to finish it and move on to the next story! I don’t want to spend years on every book I write. (But, at the same time, I want every book that I write to be the very best it can be.)

However, because I value the opinions of these critique partners and have built a good, trusting relationship with them, I had to contemplate what she said, and I did. I took a week or two to mull it over and came to realize she was right. As a historical romance writer who loves history, I was trying to include too much history, and if I continued on the current path, my book was going to be too long. She was also right that I had lost the main goal of my story.

Once I came to that realization, I had to go back to find where I had veered from the proper path–eight chapters ago! Ugh! Well, I printed everything from chapter 17 (where I was last on track) through chapter 25, and I started writing from the end of chapter 17 again with fresh eyes and fresh ideas. I am still going through the other eight chapters to see if there is anything I can salvage and keep in the story, which my critique partners also assured me that I can, and they pointed out what they liked that still kept to my story goal and made it interesting.

Now, in just a few short weeks, I am writing my new 21st chapter and I love the direction the story is now going–much closer to my intended goal, and my critique partners have assured me that they are loving the new chapters and that my writing is better, stronger, and helps them to relate to the characters so much more.

So, if you’re a fiction writer, and you don’t have a couple of critique partners that you trust and meet with regularly, I greatly encourage you to find some. It will do your writing and your confidence in your writing a world of good!