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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Blog Hop - How I Write

by Dana McNeely, President
Christian Writers of the West
I’ve been asked to participate in a “blog hop”. The assignment is to answer four specific questions about my writing and tag three other writers who will answer the same questions on their blogs. (Because I got so excited, I got four writers!) Be sure to see the links at the end to their blogs – each of them has had some exciting things happening in their lives lately. Thanks to my friend, Laura McClellan, for challenging me to dip my toe into the blogosphere! Laura writes wonderful women’s fiction and is a practicing lawyer. You can find her answers to these questions at her blog, Where Life and Grace Collide .

What are you working on?
I’m working on a couple things. First, I’m editing a historical fiction based on the Old Testament prophet Elijah and the boy he raised from the dead. The biblical account is intriguing but brief, forcing a curious person like me to ask questions. What would it have been like to die, go to the other world, and come back? What happened in his life before Elijah came to stay with him and his mother? What was his mother like? What was the “great sin” she spoke of when she railed against the prophet “Why have you come? To remind me of my great sin and slay my son?” Lots of ideas came to me and I wrote a book to answer my own questions.

Second, I’m planning my next book, which will feature a character with whom I fell in love while writing the ‘Elijah’ story:  While staying with her uncle, Miriam, a strong and independent young girl, spends her time roaming the countryside around Jezreel trapping birds to sell.  One day, when checking her traps, she witnesses the stoning death of her uncle, Naboth.  So, I have a character, a setting, and an inciting incident. I also have a love interest – Dov, a big bear of a soldier, also from the previous book.  And I’m asking myself those questions again!

How does your work differ from others in its genre?
The tone of my writing may be different from some biblical fiction. I loved ‘The Red Tent’ by Anita Diamante and ‘The Dovekeepers’ by Alice Hoffman. I also read a lot of fantasy, dystopian, and magical realism. That has to bleed into my work.

How does your writing process work?
I struggle to overcome confusion and chaos! I’m not naturally organized, so I superimpose process on myself, similar to the way I do my day job. But in writing, I start with a character and a question. I write lists of questions and possible answers, make timelines and charts, draw maps. I read and collect tons of research books (ask my husband!) I love Scrivener, and use it to write from 5:30 to 7:30 a.m. and, after my day job, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. two or three evenings a week.

I’ve developed rules to keep myself on track. For example, my morning time is strictly for writing – not planning, plotting, or Facebook. I do those in the evenings. I’m trying to teach myself to be a better planner – I wrote the first draft of the book I’m editing by the seat-of-my-pants, and the rework has been a painful learning experience I’d rather not repeat. So I’m doing up-front planning for my next book.

All these rules to keep me focused are especially important lately.  This month I was pleased and humbled to learn I’m a semifinalist in ACFW’s Genesis contest in the Historical Fiction category. You’ll see below that Christian Writers of the West is well represented in the Genesis and other writing contests.

Tag, You’re It! 

Tanara McCauley is a semifinalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Contest in the Contemporary category. She’s active in CWOW and volunteered for the second time to help coordinate our Arizona Rattler Contest.  She’s currently finishing up her second novel. In a few days, you’ll find her answers posted at  Tanara's Blog, where you’ll want to explore some of other her heartfelt writing.

LeAnne Bristow is a kindergarten teacher who also writes contemporary romance. She loves stories about the “bad boy” who finds his way to God...usually through a Godly woman. LeAnne is finalist in the Fab Five Writing contest (Wisconsin RWA) and is also a semifinalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Contest in the Romance category.  In a few days you’ll find her answers at LeAnne's Blog, where you may also want to look around for “bad boys”.

Rebecca Bruner is a passionate Bible teacher, author, and speaker. Her favorite author is C.S. Lewis. She writes in several genres including nonfiction, Biblical fiction, science fiction, and fantasy. She recently won a scholarship to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference through Kathy Ide's Promising Beginnings Contest. Her husband and two nearly grown kids keep her very busy, but she loves every minute of it. In a few days, check out her responses at Rebecca's Website .

Tina Pinson was a winner on Seekerville’s Perfect Pitch Contest.  She has also completed the following novels. Winds Across the Rockies, To Carry her Cross, When Shadows Fall, Shadowed Dreams, To Catch a Shadow, A Shadowed Trail, This Shadowed Land, and The Shadow of Her Smile are serial about the civil war and the Oregon trail. Then Came Grace, a contemporary story about a future Sept 11 type tragedy. Trail of the Sandpiper-Betrayed, Trail of the Sandpiper-Rescued and Trail of the Sandpiper-Avenged,  a WWII series about a missionary and spy. Learn more about the prolific Tina at Tina's Website and read her answers in a few days at Tina's blog.


  1. Dana, I am glad I'm not alone when handling chaos and confusion. These last two years have been a struggle because of that.

    Blessings on your writing.

  2. Dana, thanks for sharing your writing process. I'm envious of the schedule you've been able to hammer down. Makes me tempted to skip that question :-). I am super eager to read your writing and pray for your every success!