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!

A Poetry Hiatus

Hello Everyone,

I’m sorry if you are a fan of my poetry. I know I missed posting a poem last week, and this is not what you were expecting today. However, poetry is a struggle for me. I started writing and posting poems when a friend challenged me to participate in the National Poetry Writing Month about two years ago, but poetry does not come easily to me.

Also, my life is rather busy right now as I have a son preparing to graduate from Bible school and go off to a foreign country on a missions/preaching trip for three months. I also have another son who will be coming home from college today and will remain home for the summer and the fall, then return to take his final semester in the spring of 2019 and then graduate from college. I also have a son who is of middle school age that I homeschool, and we are finishing up our school year.

In addition to all of that, I continue to read books for authors who request that I read their book and write a review because I enjoy helping other writers. I also continue to work as a professional freelance writer, as well as, continuing to work on my first novel, which I hope to have completed by the end of the summer if not before.

Therefore, I have decided to take a break from poetry, and I’m sorry to say that I do not know what to fill my Friday space with here on my blog at this point. So, if you have any suggestions, I would love for you to leave me a comment, but for now, I will simply take a break from Fridays at least until the end of May.

What is a Short Story?

At a recent writer’s conference, I was talking with another writer about short stories. She happens to be working on writing some, and I have written some in the past. However, she told me that when she shares her short stories with others, they want more–more details, more descriptions, more information, more everything. I shared how I had run into the same issue the last time I had written a couple of short stories.

Then, of course, there’s flash fiction, and let’s not forget the microfiction, which means literally creating a story with one or two sentences. Now, with microfiction, I can fully understand “wanting more”. However, the thing is I haven’t heard many people declaring they “want more” from flash fiction and microfiction. Go figure!

Therefore, I just thought I’d take a look at what a short story is in a blog post. I started by doing a Google search to find out what the required word count for a short story is, since we, writers, measure everything by word count. I was surprised by the span I found. According to Writer’s Digest, they claim that according to “general guidelines”, short stories range from 1,500 words to 30,000 words. ChristopherFielden.com states “for contests/competitions”, short story length is usually between 1,000 and 5,000 words, although he has seen some competitions with a 17,00 word maximum. Finally, according to “Every Writer’s  Resource”, the short story falls between 1,000 and 15,000 words.

Now, based on my experience in looking to submit short stories to magazine publications, the maximum I have seen accepted for a short story is 2,000 words, and that’s rare. So, apparently, the actual length of a short story varies greatly, but what I know a short story must have are: a beginning, a middle, and an end. I believe that the reader should feel satisfied that they have, indeed, read a complete story when they reach the end of a short story.

However, I would like to remind readers that a short story is not a novel, nor is it a novella. Therefore, you cannot expect too many details, extremely detailed descriptions, nor every detail of your characters’ lives. What you should expect is to fill in some details with your own imagination based on the details the writer does provide, and you should definitely expect a clear beginning, middle, and end–an end that is clear and feels like an end. You should leave a short story feeling satisfied.

So, I encourage all readers to ask yourself, when you reach the end of a short story, “do I feel satisfied”, then, if you do not feel satisfied, specifically share with the writer what left you feeling unsatisfied. That could be quite helpful to the writer, but, it could also just be a matter of your personal preference for longer stories. So, I suppose one more question to ask yourself is “how many short stories do I read”.

If you are a reader of short stories, I would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments section below. And, if you’re a writer of short stories, I’d love to hear about your experience with writing short stories as well as reactions from your readers. Please comment below. I love to interact with my readers.

It was a Super Saturday After All

Have you ever planned and paid to go somewhere and been really excited about it only to have your plans changed by unfortunate circumstances?

Well, that’s what happened to me for this year’s Lancaster Christian Writer’s Super Saturday Conference. There was a fantastic line-up of speakers planned with some great seminars on the schedule. I was extremely excited that there was to be a historical novelist in the lineup since that is what I write. I looked forward to scheduling an appointment with her. Well, before I had even sent in my registration, she had to withdraw from the line-up due to a family emergency. I was disappointed but prayed that her family would be all right.

Then I registered, still looking forward to several of the scheduled seminars, and just days before the conference, another speaker, who was going to give one of the two seminars I was most interested in, had to drop out due to a health crisis. I prayed that the Lord would bring strength and healing to this speaker.

I began to wonder if I would get anything out of the conference. There was only one seminar left that I was looking forward to. Would it be worth the cost and time?

So, I prayed that God would direct me in which seminars to attend, in addition to the one I knew I would attend, and trusted that He would make it all worth it. Then this past Saturday, I drove to the conference not knowing what to expect, and found blessing in just seeing some of my wonderful writing friends that I hadn’t seen in a while.

When the conference began, one of my dear writing friends, Shelleen, sang a humorous song, to the tune of “Jingle Bells”, that she had written about the writing life, making us all laugh. Then the keynote speaker spoke, and I knew God was going to bless this day. The keynote, Pierre Eade, gave us such an inspiring and encouraging message to begin our day, and as I looked over the schedule, I seemed to know exactly which seminars I was to attend.

The day was indeed blessed, even as one speaker made me groan as she spoke of threading our backstory throughout our novel and I realized that I had begun to do that and somewhere along the line had dropped the thread. Now I have just seven chapters to finish the novel’s first draft, so I now know my revision and edit will be in depth and somewhat time consuming–more than I had anticipated. But that is why I attend these conferences — to learn more about how to write to the best of my ability so that I can produce the best novel that I am capable of producing. So, thank you Gayle Roper, who also taught another wonderful seminar I attended, providing valuable information and encouragement, as well as strong examples to read. As a matter of fact, after the second seminar she taught, I rushed back to the bookstore to purchase a book she mentioned that I remembered seeing in the book store when I had shopped earlier!

I have found that writing in Deep POV, (Deep Point of View), really does draw a reader deeper into the characters of a story and makes the book harder to put down, so I have been trying to master writing Deep POV in my own writing. However, I still had doubts that I really understood it and was actually accomplishing it, so I attended a seminar that was all about writing in Deep POV. I left that seminar affirmed and encouraged that I truly did understand Deep POV and had become fairly good at using it in my own writing — thank you, Donna Brennan.

Finally, the last seminar I attended, I simply attended out of curiosity. Shawn Smucker spoke about Speculative Fiction. I haven’t been a big Speculative Fiction reader in the past, but have been reading more of the Fantasy genre and Fractured Fairy Tales, (retellings of Fairy Tales), that fall under the Speculative Fiction umbrella. Therefore, I decided to attend this seminar simply to learn more about this group of genres. It was a great seminar as I feel like I now have a greater understanding of what Speculative Fiction is, and because Shawn shared some of his knowledge and experience with both traditional and indie publishing.

I love it when something that looks like it’s falling apart is blessed by God to make it something so valuable.