Tag: inspiration (page 1 of 4)

Work Your Writing Muscles!

There are some wonderful standbys when it comes to finding writing inspiration. Take a walk in nature. Reflect on a passage of scripture. Listen to music. And of course, always have that journal handy for when the muse strikes! Here are a few more that you might want to add to your arsenal.

At the spring WorDshop in Blackfalds, Alberta, instructor Susan Plett suggested using the following prompts:

  1. I remember/ I don’t remember…
  2. I want to write about / I don’t want to write about…

These are simple, yet surprisingly powerful, places to start. I was amazed at the depth that came out of such uncomplicated phrases.

At another workshop I went to a number of years ago, (also led by Susan), she chose a random line from a novel which we all had to use as our first line. Again, it was amazing how different everyone’s pieces were even though we started with the very same opening.

I’m a big fan of what used to be called ‘stream of consciousness’ writing. (It might have a different name nowadays, but I think the old term is quite descriptive.) Basically, one just writes whatever is in their mind at the moment – no self-editing, stopping to think things over, or choosing the best word allowed! The only rule to this exercise is, “Don’t stop writing!” I use this frequently in my high school English classes. I tell students to think of it as a ‘brain dump’. Unless you’re unconscious, there is something going on inside that head! Students can share their writing with me, or a peer, if they choose. If they don’t want to, they simply staple the page shut. This allows for privacy and eliminates the fear of someone reading something embarrassing.

Another idea I’ve used is writing from the point of view of an inanimate object. This can be fun and translates well into children’s fiction and poetry, but can be quite serious, too, depending on the object and the writers’ frame of mind.

Something I have not tried, but which I think sounds fascinating, is using the cards from a board game like ‘Trivial Pursuit’, “Balderdash’, or any other game that has a box of questions. Ready made writing prompts! Thus my title ‘Out of the Box Writing Ideas – Literally’.

For those who haven’t tried it, Inscribe offers ‘Word Challenges’ every month on the ‘Listserv’. (Thanks to Glynis Belec for tirelessly coming up with these prompts.) It’s a fun way for members to hone their writing skills and sometimes the pay-off is publication.

There are tons of writing prompt books and blogs out there to glean from. Writing from a prompt is great practice no matter what you ‘normally’ write. It gets the creative juices flowing and builds writing muscle. So… have fun and experiment with some new writing ideas.

This post originally appeared on Inscribe’s professional blog on August 10, 2017.

Why I’ve Become a Hybrid

This article was originally posted on Kim Rempel’s blog on March 31, 2017 under the title

What 16 Publishing Contracts Taught Me About Ego, Publishing, and Making Money as a Hybrid Author-Preneur

I used to think finding an agent and securing a traditional publishing deal was the pinnacle of writing success. It would prove I was legit. I’d finally be able to call myself a writer without feeling like a fraud.

Since my first book came out in 2009, however, my thinking has changed. I’ve signed sixteen traditional contracts, had an agent, said good-bye to that agent, used a vanity press twice, and self-published using both Createspace and Lightning Source. I’m a hybrid – a new breed of writer trying to use the best from both worlds.

The Truth About Traditional Publishing

Before we go any further, I should set the record straight about what some of these terms actually mean. Traditional publishers do not charge any kind of fee. Period. These can be big New York firms or small boutique houses, but there is no cost to the author in a traditional contract. Instead, the writer gets paid for their work, through an advance, through royalties on books sold, or both.

There are still many pros to traditional publishing. Besides the assurance (most of the time) of a quality product, one’s books have access to the company’s distribution channels. There are none of the headaches of managing all the production and bookkeeping responsibilities. However, there are some serious downsides, too. Authors have minimal control over their own work. There can be restrictions on the cover, launch date, and promotions. Less of the profit goes to the author since he or she is also fueling the larger machine of the publishing company.

Don’t Make These Newbie Publishing Mistakes

I’ve had a few less than stellar experiences with books that were traditionally published. My first book deal was for my book, And The Beat Goes On. I later learned that this particular publisher also charged for services (a vanity press), but in my case there was no charge of any kind. I worked with multiple editors, cover designers, proofers, etc. I didn’t know much about contracts, so I signed a seven-year deal for a 6% royalty on the cost price. The book originally came out in hardcover and sold for $30. Since my royalty was on the cost price, not the list price, I ended up making about $.87 per book. Even if you’re not a mathematician, you can see that I would have to sell a lot of books to make any money! However, I was just thrilled to have signed a real book deal and I was naïve enough to think that my books would suddenly start flying off the shelves.

I had a rude awakening when I realized I was still expected to do much of my own marketing. As well, my hands were tied when it came to giveaways, pricing, or sales. Add to that, the fact that I could not make any changes of any kind for seven long years since I no longer had the rights to my own work.

Here’s another story about my agent. I will not name him here, but he was a very nice man, and again, when he agreed to represent me I was thrilled, thinking I’d finally arrived. (This was a few years after that first book deal.) The first contract he found me was for my book, Wind Over Marshdale, with a small ‘boutique’ publishing house. The deal was for a much more substantial royalty, but remember, he was entitled to a 15% cut of whatever royalties I made. After hearing from readers who wanted a sequel, I decided to write a novella length story called Lone Wolf, which basically answered the question on everyone’s mind, “What happened to Thomas?” My agent felt that pitching a novella, even to the same publisher, wasn’t a smart move. I asked him if I could pitch it myself and he said, “Go ahead.” (In my case, my agent had first rights to any subsequent work I might produce.) I pitched it to the same publisher and they wanted the book, so I signed with them without my agent – meaning more royalties for me!

The story doesn’t end there, however. He had in his possession another of my manuscripts called, Three Strand Cord. He was busy pitching it to various large houses with no success. Again I suggested trying the same boutique publisher, but he didn’t feel that the royalties or distribution channels would produce a high enough return to make it worthwhile. In the meantime, that manuscript was floating around from publisher to publisher for more than a year, totally out of my control. Finally, after much prayer and a few emails, we decided that it would be best if we parted ways. It was a very amicable parting and I have nothing against him. He did his best for me, but I was beginning to realize that the bureaucracy of the traditional system, with all its gates and red tape, was not something I was interested in pursuing anymore.

A Warning on Self-Publishing

One of the biggest issues with the modern era of self-publishing is the glut of poor quality books out there. I’m not, by any means, saying all self-published books are poor quality. On the contrary, modern author-preneurs are becoming savvy marketers. Part of that means realizing that substandard quality may begood enough for the first book, but it will not sell future books. It’s worth the investment to outsource such things as editing and cover design.

 The Freedom of Hybrid Publishing

Authors no longer have to be bound by seven-year contracts or agent’s wishes. We have the means to take control of our own writing careers and maybe even make some money at it. While I’ve signed a fair number of traditional deals, I’ve also seen the wisdom in learning the ropes of self-publishing using Createspace and Lightning Source, two of the most well know DIY platforms.

I don’t plan to self-publish exclusively, though. All of my stage-plays have been published traditionally in the US and I do quite well on the performance royalties. In this case, these publishers have a reach I could never hope to duplicate. It wouldn’t make sense to re-publish them myself, since I would stand to lose significantly.

Similarly, at this time, I am not planning to get the rights back for a couple of my other books. Clean Reads, (formerly Astraea Press) a small press who published both Wind Over Marshdale and Lone Wolf, treats their authors very well. I’ve made some wonderful connections, and have been involved in some amazing promotional opportunities with them. Why would I want to leave?

There is no one answer, just as there is no ‘one way’ to get published. The advantages of being a hybrid are many. And a growing number of high profile authors are now also going the indie route. They’ve made a name for themselves via the traditional route, but now find they have more flexibility and control over their own work.

There’s nothing wrong with doing both; there is value and validity to each method. It is up to individual writers to choose what path makes most sense in any particular situation. Like never before, writers have truly become the authors of their own destiny.

 

For the Love of Writing

I grew up in small town Saskatchewan, surrounded by a sea of grain fields and nurtured by an agricultural mindset. To make a living as a farmer, one has to have tenacity in the face of uncontrollable obstacles. Grain prices fluctuate, markets can collapse, and nobody but Jesus can control the weather! “Next year…” is probably the most common phrase uttered among those that make their living off the land. It’s this ability to look to the future despite present circumstances that keeps farmers in the business. I suppose the same could be said for writers.

Like farming, writing is hard work. Crops don’t grow overnight just like manuscripts don’t write themselves. Sometimes it feels like a ‘love-hate’ relationship and one asks, “Why am I putting myself through this?” Good question. Any number of obstacles can thwart my progress. Rejection, interruptions, low self-esteem, and writers’ block are just a few. But somewhere inside is that innate optimism – that sense of “what if’ that makes me pick up where I left off and continue.

I’m not sure writers can actually cultivate a love for writing. It’s either something that is inbred or it’s not. Yes, writers can cultivate their craft. They can cultivate their methodology, marketing skills, time management and any number of other things that will affect their productivity and success. But love? The love of writing happens despite everything else. It just is. The sun will shine, the rains will come, and writers will keep on writing – just for the love of it.

*This article first appeared on Inscribe’s Professional blog, February 27, 2017. 

Wise Words From WorDshops

I collected several ‘wise words’ from the four InScribe sponsored WorDshops I attended this past spring. Ponder and enjoy…

If writing is a calling, we must be obedient; but if He calls us to another season, we must be ready to do something else. Janice Dick: (Regina)

Every story needs high stakes. Alison Lohans (Regina)

I don’t have to produce, succeed, or publish… God does not identify us by our productiveness. Marcia Laycock (Blackfalds)

Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction. Proverbs 18:20

The need for gratification will not overwhelm us as long as we are deeply rooted in the One who put the compulsion to write within us. (Unidentified quote shared by Marcia Laycock)

Memoir is not autobiographical truth. it is YOUR truth. Susan Plett (after a ‘freefall’ writing session – Blackfalds)

There is a visceral connection between the pen, paper and creativity. Susan Plett (Blackfalds)

We have been given a trust as writers… the pain and the joy of being human. We don’t need sedatives in the form of Christian books. We must write about the dark things to put them in their place – not to glorify them. The discipline of creation is an effort toward wholeness. Literature is about the handling of secrets… and about the marvellous liberation when they are revealed. We must respect our readers by giving them words of value and worth. Marcia Laycock (Blackfalds)

 

 

Passing On the Legacy – A Post Mother’s Day Tribute

This post was originally shared on my previous blog ‘Expression Express’. Since Mother’s Day has just come and gone, I share it here again. Enjoy!

My mother was a very vibrant and eccentric individual. She was known for her whimsical ways and inspired a family phrase that perfectly described the way she lived her life. The Doreen Method is our way of saying ‘make it up as you go along’. This applied to recipes, sewing, carpentry… just about anything. Mom wasn’t afraid to tackle tasks if she had no previous experience or skill, but the outcome might not be the norm. As an artist she loved to paint on any surface from canvas to rocks to whole buildings. When my sister and her husband moved into Mom’s old house they were faced with a dilemma.  There were lots of funny little murals she had painted in obscure nooks and crannies. How could one paint over them?

Mom was also a storyteller, and some of my favourite childhood memories include listening to bedtime stories and songs. We were well acquainted with Thornton W. Burgess’ Adventures of Reddy Fox, for instance. In fact, foxes and mice were the favourite characters in her repertoire of stories and songs. She shared them with her children and nieces and nephews, and the tradition was carried forward to her grandchildren and even her great-grandchildren.

Mom passed away in 2007 at the age of 80. Unfortunately, we lost her seven years earlier to dementia. It was so difficult to see such a formerly vibrant individual reduced to the shell that she became. I had the privilege of sitting with her during the hours before she passed away. Somewhere around four o’clock in the morning on January 17, 2007, she slipped away to be with Jesus, free from the mental constraints that had kept her trapped for those seven years.

While I sat with her, holding her hand, I sang some of those old songs. One particularly special song was an old Haven Gillespie tune written in the 1930s called ‘The Sleepytown Express’. (listen here!) This is the song that ushered her into the presence of the Lord.  Strangely, my sisters and my two female cousins all woke at around four o’clock, dreaming about the Sleepytown Express…

I decided soon afterward that I would like to publish a book illustrating the song as a tribute to my mother. It took several years to do the paintings and quite a bit of  research to obtain permission to use the lyrics, but finally, in February of 2014, seven years after Mom passed, The Sleepytown Express was published.

For me this project was so much more than another book under my belt. It was about sharing Mom’s legacy with the extended family and passing it on to the next generation. This is not a book to be kept in pristine or precious condition; it is a book to be sung and celebrated as we pass the memorial torch on to the next generation.

 

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