Tag: writing (page 1 of 3)

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.

The Power of Fiction

While non-fiction is probably the most direct way of addressing issues of importance, my personal preference, for both reading and writing, uses fiction as the vehicle.

A few months ago I read a book called Then She Was Born, written by Cristiano Gentili and translated into English by Lori Hetherington. I am often asked to review books and in this case, I received an unsolicited copy. I don’t always have the time or desire to read the books I receive, but something inside nudged me to try this book. I’m glad I did for it impacted me profoundly. The book is about the plight of African albinos living and struggling to overcome deeply rooted superstitions, even in today’s ‘modern’ world. I had no idea. Although I’m sure I would have been sympathetic to the cause had I read an article in a magazine, hearing it from the point of view of a person going through it brought the issue up close and personal.

That’s what good fiction is supposed to do: transport us into the lives of the characters in such a way that we feel what they feel; experience what they experience. As a Christian writer, I see huge opportunities to spread the gospel in an unobtrusive way while highlighting some of the struggles common to both Christians and non-Christians. I don’t need to get on a soapbox to talk about drug and alcohol abuse, pornography, the occult, or sexual promiscuity. I just let my characters struggle with these issues. Hopefully, but not always, they come out on the other side with the help of the Lord and other caring individuals. Sometimes things don’t get wrapped up quite so neatly, however, but I think there are lessons to be learned no matter what the outcome.

I’ve heard it said that you should write what you know. I’m not sure I totally agree. I wouldn’t want to have to go through some of the abuse that my characters have had to and I don’t need to murder someone in order to be able to write about it authentically! I think this is where writing from a place of personal passion comes in. My goal is to expose the darkness and shine the light of Jesus on whatever situation my characters find themselves in. In the end, it is up to them how they choose to respond.

I’ve taken some criticism about the use of ‘edgy’ content in my work. My characters have pretty much done it all: drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution, pornography, dabbling in the occult, promiscuous sex – not to mention lying, cheating, stealing, greed, doubt… the list goes on. Some are believers while involved in these activities, some aren’t. For me, God’s grace and the redemptive power of the cross is everything – for those who don’t know Him and even more for those who do and mess up. While I do not feel comfortable writing graphic scenes (most of the aforementioned occurs ‘off camera’) I don’t try to hide the fact that it takes place. God’s power shines brightest against the darkness.

Perhaps part of my desire to write what I do stems from my own experiences. I came to the Lord as a young adult, having dabbled in some of the seedier side of life before crossing over to the light. My husband and I have also been in ministry for many years and we’ve seen some pretty dark things, even among believers. The truth is, all have fallen short of the glory of God. To pretend that hot button issues aren’t relevant in the church is to bury one’s head in the sand. All is not always as it seems.

The good news is, nobody is too far gone for God. Hallelujah! That’s why I will continue to write the kind of fiction that I feel called to write. God’s redemptive power can shine, even in fiction.

This post originally appeared on the Inscribe Professional Blog on June 29, 2017. 

 

I LOVE Scrivener… Now That I Know How to Use It!

I’ve been using Scrivener for about five years, give or take a few months. I loved it from the moment I started just for the way it organized my writing. but I never used it much beyond a word processing tool. Last summer I watched a free online video by Scrivener Coach, Joseph Michael, and I was so impressed. There were so many more things Scrivener can do – including formatting everything from epubs to mobi files to paperbacks to plays and more! I decided I needed to delve a bit deeper.

But… I figured as a long time Scrivener user, I should be able to figure things out for myself. I wasn’t about to pay some self proclaimed ‘expert’ to show me how to do it. Scrivener itself offers tutorials and there are tons of videos online, so I took those free tidbits from Joseph Michael and continued on my merry Scrivener way.

Things changed drastically when I went to format a book. I had done it before using ‘Word’ but apparently it was so much easier with Scrivener and the same file could be converted to an epub, mobi, paperback, pdf… whatever was needed with just a few clicks.

About forty hours later, bleary eyed from watching confusing youtube tutorials and upmteen ‘trial and error’ compilations, I gave up. Compiling my files for publication just wasn’t as intuitive as I had thought.  In desperation I signed up for Joseph Michael’s course,  LEARN SCRIVENER FAST

AND IT HAS BEEN THE BEST INVESTMENT I HAVE EVER MADE FOR MY WRITING CAREER!

I’ve managed to format and publish multiple ebooks, paperbacks, and pdfs. I organize my blog posts using Scrivener, and I even do a lot of my outlining using the cork board function. I can’t imagine writing without it and whenever I run into a snag, all I need to do is go to Joseph Michael’s easy to follow videos and VOILA! Problem solved!

LEARN SCRIVENER FAST has continued to be the best investment I’ve ever made in my writing career!

One year later, after paying for the course, I’ve decided to become an affiliate of Joseph Michael’s program. I mean, I’m always advising others to sign up for his courses, so why not get paid while doing it?

So… if you have ever thought about taking the course (and if you haven’t, you should! It’s SO worth it!) you can do so through any of the links on this page, or by clicking on the ad in the sidebar. You’ll get the benefit of Joseph Michael’s training (which you won’t regret) and you’ll help me out, too. Win-win!

I’m preparing to teach a workshop at Inscribe’s Fall Conference this September on Scrivener Basics. It will be VERY basic, since there is only so much one can do in an hour. I will be recommending that students sign up for Joseph Michael’s training. it is truly an amazing course and worth every penny hundreds of times over!

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.

 

Reviews – How Much Trust Can You Put In them?

Read any good books lately?

I discussed the quandary of book reviews in a previous post awhile back. The bottom line is this. Not everyone is going to like what I, or any other author, has written. There are books that I don’t care for that have lots of positive reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. The fact that I didn’t like them simply means that we have different tastes in reading material.

I don’t think many readers understand the impact of reviews, however. For some, it just seems like too much bother to write and post a review on Amazon, goodreads, or other places and I’m sure many readers feel like their two cents really won’t make that much difference. Think again. Reviews have a huge impact on both ranking and rating, not to mention the fact that they help other readers choose what to read next. If you are one of the people who have read a good book but have not bothered to write a review, may I implore you to take ten minutes and post one. It doesn’t have to be long, just honest.

Which brings me to another point. Honesty is all important when it comes to reviews so in a way I am glad to have a few less than stellar ones. It shows that I am not paying or otherwise coercing anyone into writing a positive review.

Rather than dwell on the negative, I try to focus on the positive feedback I’ve received. Precious to me are the hand written notes I’ve gotten in the mail from both family and friends, but also from complete strangers. One elderly woman wrote to say she really enjoyed my book AND THE BEAT FOES ON, and although she didn’t know how to write an online review, she wanted me to know how much she felt the story impacted her. She said she was planning to pass it on to others.

Another reader contacted me through facebook and expressed how she loved PLAY IT AGAIN. She said it made her feel like she was back in the 80s and mirrored some of her own experiences. My daughter lent a copy of MY MOTHER THE MAN-EATER to a colleague and after reading it, she wanted a copy for herself and for her sister-in-law. She said the ‘realism’ of Joleen’s struggles really hit home for her. She felt that her sister-in-law, a non-Christian, might respond well to the message of redemption and grace because of her own checkered past.WIND OVER MARSHDALE has had more than one similar remark from readers, either on facebook, via email, or verbally.

To my knowledge, none of these people bothered to write a review on Amazon, but the fact that they contacted me personally perhaps says even more. I can’t think of the last time I contacted an author to tell them I enjoyed a book, even though I regularly write and post reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. Sometimes the personal touch is so much more validating.

In the end, I have decided to leave reader response in God’s hands. There is always a risk – quite a substantial one, I might add – that someone who reads and dislikes a book I’ve written will write a nasty review. It happens. Honesty is the best policy, after all. Knowing that even one person was affected in a positive way is enough for me to want to persevere.

To leave a review visit my Amazon Author page or my goodreads author page

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