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Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Beauty of Distracted Writing

by Laura L. Zimmerman

I used to think I couldn’t write unless I had an hour or more to devote to it. Of course this would rarely happen, since a little thing called ‘life’ would get in the way. 

The idea was sound: I wanted to avoid distraction. I never wanted to settle for a 5-minute block of time, or writing with kids around because it seemed pointless. I couldn’t do my best writing in that environment, right?

But a few years ago I read an interview with a well-known author who claimed there was no excuse for writers who said they didn’t have time to work on their craft. While in college, she’d write on her Blackberry in the few minutes downtime she had before class, and that’s how she wrote her first bestseller. No amount of writing time was too little to get her book written.

So I made my own attempt. I wrote first thing in the morning, even if the kids were already up. I wrote at night, when it was past bedtime. I wrote in the middle of the day, as ‘Cupcake Wars’ blared in the background. Sometimes these only consisted of ten minute increments, at best.

Here’s what I discovered: It is absolutely possible to write this way. Not only that, but it’s rewarding! Is my writing perfect? No. That’s where edits and revision come in. But at least it’s a start. A writer isn’t a writer if there’s nothing on the paper, after all! Dropping my preconceived notion that I must have a specific amount of time to write has greatly improved the amount I get written.

I challenge you to do the same. Make an effort to write as many words as you can in the few minutes you have each day and see what a difference it will make in achieving your writing goals! 

Laura L. Zimmerman resides in Phoenix, AZ and is a homeschooling mom to three beautiful daughters. She is thankful for a supportive husband, who is always quick to encourage her love of singing, reading and drinking coffee. Laura writes young adult and middle grade fantasy fiction. You can learn more about her at www.lauralzimmerman.com, on Twitter @lauralzimm , and on Facebook. Laura is represented by Cyle Young through Hartline Literary Agency. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Finding Your Way

                                   by Dana McNeely

Soon after I obtained my driver’s license, I learned the most ominous words in the English language. As I prepared to embark on my first cross-town errand, my mom rattled off directions involving cross streets, stop signs, and a fire hydrant on the corner. She closed with these words, which first inspired confidence, later fear:

You can’t miss it.

In writing, as in the rest of life, you can indeed get lost. Not everyone has a finely honed sense of direction, but if you get lost, you can find your way again! I struggle with plot. You may struggle with characterization, pacing, or dialogue. Writing workshops and craft books can inspire and guide our writing journey, but they can also overwhelm us. This is when we need to stop, breathe, and think about how we do our other work - our day job, caring for our family, planning a get-together with friends. We plan. We make lists. If we need  something, we go out and get it.

The Germ of an Idea

Ideas sneak up on us like a sports car in our blindspot. Pull over, grab your notebook, and write the complete idea - everything in your brain at that moment. Don’t just write “green hedgehog” because later, you’ll have no idea what that meant. Next, sit down and explore that idea. Make lists of things that might happen, where they happen, and who they happen to. Think about your main character, her friends, and her opponents. What are the worlds she lives in? There are probably more than one - her home and neighborhood, her work, where she goes for fun. What are the connections between the people in those worlds? Make sure there are connections - and collisions.

Small Goals

When I have a new idea, it’s a merry jaunt as I write those first chapters. The time comes, though, when I stall. Maybe I’ve come to the end of my ideas, maybe my day job has upped its demands, maybe there are familial issues to deal with. Days go by as I mull things over, but I can’t seem to get back in the driver’s seat. The last time this happened, a writer-friend  suggested writing just fifty words that day. “Start with writing about why you can’t write.” I learned that writing about what’s keeping me from writing, is naturally followed by solutions. If it’s the job or family, can I find 15 minutes to read what I last wrote? (Of course!) If it’s a dearth of ideas, could this silly thing happen? What if this other thing happens? Soon, I’ve written my fifty words, but nearly always it’s many more. And some of them are keepers.

A Writing Journal

The mystery author, Sue Grafton, has spoken about keeping a Writing Journal for each novel. When I learned this I zipped on over to her website and found several examples. In those journals I found validation for several of the behaviors I had already begun to discover, but I also learned more about discovering plot. Take a look at this little blurb from her “G is for Gumshoe” journal.

“Just checking in to have a little chat. I'm in Chapter 3 and feeling pretty good, but I'm wondering if I don't need some tension or suspense. We know there may be a hit man after her. She's currently on her way to the desert and everything seems really normal..nay, even dull. Do I need to pep it up a bit? She's almost at the Slabs. I've been doing a lot of description but maybe I need to weave it into the narrative better. Flipping back and forth from the external to the internal.”

A Hitchhikers Guide

Finally, in real life, I would never recommend picking up a hitchhiker. But on your writer’s journey, I recommend offering to proofread a friend’s manuscript, write a helpful review, or share your favorite writing tips. In fact, now it’s your turn.

Now its your turn, share your favorite writing tip!


Dana McNeely
2014 Semi-Finalist, ACFW Genesis Contest
2013 & 2014 Finalist, OCW Cascade Contest
https://www.facebook.com/dana.mcneely.5 
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A longtime desert dweller, Dana McNeely dreams of rain. She lives in an oasis with her husband, Mike, two good dogs, and migrating butterflies.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Enough . . . a journey in writing


                                 By Barbara Bras

Thank you for inviting me to be the featured CWOW member this month. It’s an honor. In thinking about what may be interesting, I thought I would answer a question I often receive:  what inspired me to write and publish two books within a year?

It’s a bit of a story. Unlike many authors, I didn’t always write, nor did I yearn to write. In fact, the opposite was true for me; fear of judgment discouraged me from writing. Judgment from my mother, an English teacher and a strict perfectionist who demanded excellence in everything, especially writing.

In spite of the circumstances, my love of reading led to my first profession, teaching English at the high school level. Teaching laid the foundation for my career, which ultimately resulted in twenty-five plus years in various corporate environments as a Human Resources leader. Naturally, during my career I wrote a great deal, including proposals, papers, and communications of all kinds. But never anything creative, I never even journaled.

Almost two years ago, our Pastor handed out little pieces of paper during his sermon that said, “ENOUGH.” He questioned our inane desire to accumulate things when we already have the one thing that is needful. Just as Mary choose to worship at the feet of Jesus rather than be distracted by the world, so must we choose what is most important. (Luke 10:42) It struck a nerve.

Shortly thereafter, I made the decision to leave my position of ten years. Unsure of my next move, I focused my energy on a burning desire. Ever since the Lord provided a son for us through a miraculous adoption, I believed He wanted me to share it as an encouragement to others. I had tried to write the story many times without success. I signed up for retreat that promised, “Write your book in a weekend!”

The three-day retreat required nonstop writing, first in long hand, then on the pc. Amazingly, at the end of the third day I had not only finally written the story of the miraculous adoption, I had shared the incredible disappointment and heartache of the years that followed, all captured within the context of my life and the life of my ancestors. Wrapped in God’s Grace, a Life Rediscovered had materialized. I felt a great release and I thought that would be the end of my writing.

Over the next few months as I edited the book, I followed the system of editing for 45 minutes, and writing new material for 15. What emerged during those 15 minute segments became Cassandra’s story, or She Who Knows, a Tale of the Heart. The story unfolded in front of me, inspired by the woman who supervised my student teaching in Honolulu back in 1977.

Barbara Robinson was an inspiration to me both as a teacher and as a person. As we worked together that semester, she shared many stories and took me under her wing. She told me the story of how her grandmother, a musician, had come to islands and married her seafaring grandfather. She spent a great deal of her childhood isolated in the mountains on Maui, presumably to recover from an illness. When finally allowed to return to school years later, her years of isolation and her archaic English made for a lonely life. She also believed she that she had an usual gift, which she decided was better left unused.

So what began as an effort to share my story and encourage others has developed into a love of writing and a desire to serve the Lord through my new passion.

Soli Deo Gloria. To God Alone Be the Glory!
Barbara Bras
 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Things Take Time

                               By Gail Kittleson

Some people seem to read their destiny from childhood—others receive glimpses, but their vocation evolves and blossoms over decades. The latter rings true for me. From adolescence, I loved reading all kinds of novels, history, and poetry. I wrote some—mostly poems, and knew writing was more than casual for me, yet that understanding remained nebulous until my fifties.

In the meantime, I plunged into life as a pastor’s/Army chaplain’s spouse, parenthood, created a sympathy card line for the bereaved and caregivers, taught college expository writing and ESL, and became a grandparent.

A nomination to a state writing retreat led me to memoir. Oh my . . . and that led to delving deeper into essays, which led to writing women’s historical fiction.

Writing and writing and writing . . . oh my!

I’ve probably never felt so much in my God-intended niche before. Connecting with individuals in workshops I facilitate gives me such a high. But writing, day in and day out, sustains me and allows a channel for my gift of story to flow. I’m so grateful my true vocation has found me, even though it took some time.

Characterization Takes Time

Right now, a heroine holds me enchanted. She’s with me all the time—every day I learn something new about her. This World War II character fascinates me, because in several ways, she’s not like me. Her predecessor, Addie, hung out with me four and a half years, and I thought I’d never be closer to a character.

But then, along came Twila Fae Brunner. She reveals the spunk I squelched in early adulthood, and pursues her dream even before she knows its specifics. How I wish I’d been more like her, unafraid of life and willing to take risks! No hiding her light under a bushel for Twila!

Anyway, it’s such a delight to consider what makes this young woman tick, especially in light of the chaos the war forced upon her generation. But they made do, and Twila’s way of making do includes working at a POW camp about an hour and a half from our home in Iowa. Doing research has led me to such interesting connections, which led to doing a workshop in that town—Algona, Iowa—in September.

“You can’t hurry love...” The Supremes had it right back in 1966, but I’ve imposed a deadline on Twila Fae. She must divulge all her secrets by September first, plus whisper a title for her story.

And then I need to get going on the edits for another sequel that’ll take me back into Addie’s life. This book, A Purpose True, releases in February 2017 (when I’ll be in Arizona).

Listening and listening and listening . . . oh my!

Gail Kittleson
DARE TO BLOOM!
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