The Writing Life

The writing life - conferences, groups, chats, etc.

I went to my first writer’s conference a little over a year ago. It was local and for only one day, so it felt doable.  I was so incredibly intimidated, but I was determined to see if I could learn anything about this new thing I wanted to start doing. It was a great experience.  From there I launched into a much larger writer’s conference, that required travel and several days away from home. To say I was intimidated for this conference is a major understatement.  I was overwhelmed with all I didn’t know.  The thing is I usually try to put myself in situations where I have an understanding or knowledge of what I’m doing.  It’s a blessing and a curse really.  I will kill myself with research before I will actually go try to do something.  I’m working on it.

All that to say this – the writer’s conference experience has so far been encouraging.  While I didn’t meet my goals at the large conference and actually returned home feeling discouraged, several things happened after conference that have become so important for my journey.

  • I got my first Work for Hire job because I was at the conference and heard an announcement. 
  • I met new friends, also writers, who continue to encourage and assist me with their expertise.
  • I've had opportunity to review books, write blog posts for others, and pray for new friends who needed me to hold them up.

Without these contacts and networking I would have likely given up long ago and gone back to where I was safe, and had already put in many years of work building my expertise. I’m thankful that I haven’t allowed myself to let go yet.  The camaraderie of the writing community has been wonderful as well. 

Not only are there individuals that I rely on now, but also the groups.  We have a great group of friends who meet weekly to talk about all the different facets of writing – it’s called Writer’s Chat and technology is great because we use zoom from many different states to meet each week. (If you are a writer and would like to join us - just join the Facebook group here - https://www.facebook.com/groups/writerschat/   

I also joined the Word Weavers Community (check it out here) While there are many local community groups that meet, there wasn't a group close by so I joined an online one. ur online group meets once a month and we review each other’s work reading aloud - a 1000 word chunk of something we are writing, and then giving honest feedback to each other.  I value the input I receive in these meetings.  Both groups give me encouragement and help me learn while I am doing.  Not sure what I would do without either group – they both give me the push I need to work on these things that are difficult but enjoyable as well!  The really great thing is that they have both encouraged me that my writing is worthwhile and interesting.  That makes all the work worth it.

Lastly, I have learned that I need to align myself with people who are farther into the journey than I am. This means signing up for online classes and webinars about marketing and writing.  Or learning more about social media and email lists or in my case all of the above – I signed up for 12 online courses in January – I am a bit ambitious.  This also means submitting my work for critique or sitting in brainstorming sessions with those folks as well.  A lot of these things are not free, but it is a wise investment in my future work. Paying for expertise, even from my friends, lets them know I value their expertise, and helps me to take what we do seriously.  The accountability is motivating among these friendships.  Paying for services that friends offer also benefits their businesses - which in the writing life is huge.  I believe that the Bible teaches us that the worker is worthy of his wages I Tim. 5:18. If you are trying to find tools and resources to help you organize, plan, or move forward with queries and proposals etc. you can't go wrong with my friend Bethany Jett's services at Jettsetter Ink. Start with her blog - here and then be sure to check out resources, and planners, and training she offers.

Surround yourself with an encouraging community and see what you will accomplish.  The tips and experience is so beneficial.  Before long, you will that you can provide some of your own tips and experience to someone new that's just starting the journey you've already been on.  You'll be able to give back to someone else very soon.

5 Things I've learned from a Year of Writing

1.     As a writer, I have to look at the big picture.

I need long range goals that overarch the multiple short term ones I also have to focus on – it’s a marathon not a sprint.  I’m learning that patience is not my strong suit.  I want to do it all and I want to do it right now.

2.     As a writer, I assumed that I just needed to write something of quality. 

As an avid long time reader my thought was that if I wrote something intriguing, interesting or truthful and insightful, someone would one day love it and ask to publish it for me.  Um…wrong… lol!  I literally had no idea how publishing worked and just assumed that a good quality product was all it would take.  I was incredibly naïve.

3.     Serious authors are spending time not just writing books but training themselves in a variety of activities!

Marketing, growing social media platforms, engaging themselves in speaking opportunities and a myriad of other activities to get their books in people’s hands.  It’s not just a write it and they will come world we live in.

4.     Writers who have a career in writing spend years to be successful.

This has been a tough lesson. I was hoping to be the exception, because I am exceptional and all. –little joke! The reality is that there is a lot of different things that go into what makes a successful writer and if I want to be at it long term I need to build a broad foundation.

5.     I’ve learned during this year of writing that I really enjoy writing a wide variety of things. Let me write all the genres - Non Fiction, Devotionals, Short stories, Blogging and even copywriting.   But the thing that I absolutely love and could lost in doing is by far Fiction.  I love turning a story around in my mind and getting the parts in place to keep it interesting.  SO.MUCH.FUN!

BONUS: One more bonus thing I’ve learned.  I thought I knew all the rules for grammar, but it turns out sometimes they change things. Like double spacing after a period is out…but that’s stuck in my mind for days.  Thank goodness there’s a Word hack for fixing that!

My favorite books to re-read - they're that good!

This may end up being a much longer list than top 5 - so I've decided not to put a number on it!  

(As a matter of fact it ended up with 15 titles - mostly non-fiction/biography so I'll have to do another post of my re-reads of fiction - cause there's a bunch of those!)

So many books that I love to read and my very favorites I read more than once so that I can squeeze every nugget from them.  Also if I really loved the story, and it's been a little while, I will read it again.  So here goes - it is not a definitive or exhaustive list - but I'm going to get it started.

  • In His Steps - Charles Sheldon

  • A Praying Life -Paul E Miller

  • Boundaries with Teens - John Townsend

  • Same Kind of Different as Me - Ron Hall

  • Kisses from Katie -Katie J Davis

  • Safely Home-Randy Alcorn

  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People-Stephen R Covey

  • God's Double Agent - Bob Fu

  • The Insanity of God - Nik Ripken

  • Quiet Talks on Prayer - S.D. Gordon

  • The 5 Love Languages - Gary Chapman

  • The Autobiography of George Muller - George Muller

  • A chance to Die - Elisabeth Elliot

  • Partners in Prayer - John Maxwell

  • No Longer a Slumdog - K.P. Yohannan

How about you - do you have books that you like to re-read more than once?  I'm sure I've forgotten some - I'll have to do a part 2 later!  Let me know in the comments what your favorite re-reads are!

Novel Analysis

If you have been a reader for any length of time, you know that the analysis of the story leads a reader to search for deeper meaning within the written words.  Most novels are driven by either the characters that drive them, or by the plot itself.   I am intrigued by the process and the analysis for Fractured has brought some really important concepts to the forefront of my mind.

1. Choices have consequences.  Life is chock full of choices.

Consequences can be escaped for a short while, but not forever. Beware your sins will always find you out.

We reap what we sow. Not just a tenet of Scripture, a real life proverb.  If you plant a tomato seed, you will reap a tomato plant, likewise kernels of corn reap corn stalks with new ears of corn.  Laws of Nature.

 

2.     Surround yourself with good friends.  They influence you more than you realize, and you make choices you might not otherwise have faced if not for your friend’s influence.  I would dare to say that most people who end up in prison can trace their path to the people they hung out with.

"Lay down with dogs you get up with fleas." An old quote, with such truth.

Evil communications corrupt good manners.

While my novel, Fractured, is not what I would consider Christian Fiction, it does track with certain undeniable principles of life lessons based in Scripture.  The characters themselves are not believers, and don’t find God.  They do experience real life trials, based solely on their own decision making and that is something that everyone universally can relate to.  

A fresh start can also be gained, but can never be fully achieved without facing head-on the consequences of prior acts.  Restoration can never be completed without an eye on the future free of guilt and shame.  So while moving on may look appealing and seem possible, our past always has a way of returning in ways we can never anticipate.

These underlying themes of my novel were not intentional.  I wrote the story based on a particular way I thought the story should go, but the outcome is definitely one that has these undercurrents running through it.  I am fascinated by what I find as I go back and dig into the story as I continue to improve it and to be able to best explain to those I pitch the book to. 

What about you?  

If you are a writer, do you purposely write with a meaning in mind? or does it seem to occur because of your worldview?  

If you are a reader, do you read purely for entertainment value without thinking deeply on meaning? or do you search for what could be hidden among the written word?