When the Honeymoon is Over

When I firJuly 17, 1982 001st started writing…

I was living the dream. I spent an hour every morning adding words to my Work in Progress before our homeschooling day started. There were no deadlines; no one demanded anything of me. I dwelled happily in my writer’s cave, isolated from the world, reveling in the company of my characters.

Yes, it was a honeymoon, and everything was perfect.

But as we all know, the honeymoon has to end sometime, right? For me it came to a screeching halt when I signed that first contract.

 

Just like a honeymoon gives way to the reality of married life, my writing honeymoon quickly turned into the reality of being a published author. But that was all right. I didn’t want to live in a perpetual newbie-honeymoon state in my writing career. I wanted substance. I wanted long-term. I wanted a lifelong commitment.

Thanks to my hard-working agent (hi, Sarah!), I’m on the threshold of that long-term writing life. And that means multiple projects. I’m marketing one book, editing another, writing a third, and proposing a fourth. This is the challenge I thought I wanted back in the writer’s cave days.

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So how does a writer handle a challenge like that?

Here’s some advice I’ve received from writing friends:

  • Keep writing. Write 1000 words a day. Do the math: 1K per day (without Sundays) becomes 320,000 words per year. Piece of cake!
  • Keep on target. There is no magic potion. Get in a groove. Make that 1K per day a habit. Every day, same time, same place.
  • Keep learning. My 1K per day takes about an hour of “bottom in the chair, hands on the keyboard.” I spend part of the rest of my time reading writing craft books or taking on-line classes. Even after publishing four books, with two more in the pipeline, I still have a lot to learn!
  • Keep planning. I also spend part of my writing day planning the next project. After I turn in the last book for my current trilogy from Revell, I’d really like for them to publish another one. So I’m starting to lay the ground work for that series. I’m also in the middle of planning a new series for Love Inspired Historical. These new projects keep my creative juices flowing!
  • Keep dreaming. Kariss Lynch wrote a great post about the difference dreaming makes in our creative life. You can read that post here: The Importance of Dreaming
  • Keep living. The honeymoon really IS over if your writing becomes an all-consuming passion. Spend time with your family and friends. Give yourself time off.

Every once in a while, I ask myself if my current life is meeting 046my expectations.

Is the challenge I thought I wanted during my writing honeymoon satisfying enough? Is it worth the work? Does it have substance enough for a long-term, lifetime commitment?

Yes. Oh, yes.

What about your writing life? Are you still in the honeymoon stage, or on your way, navigating through deadlines and contracts? Is it worth it?

WordServe News: January 2016

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary in the first month of 2016!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books released this month along with a recap of WordServe client news.

New Releases

037628Julie Cantrell released The Feathered Bone with Thomas Nelson.

While chaperoning her daughter’s trip to New Orleans, Amanda Salassi’s worst fears come true: her daughter’s best friend, Sarah, disappears without a trace. As Amanda’s daughter sinks in depression and her husband turns destructive as he watches his family succumb to grief, Amanda knows she has to save herself before it’s too late. As she continues to search for Sarah, she embarks on a personal journey, seeking hope and purpose in the wake of so much tragedy and loss.

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Jan Drexler
released Hannah’s Choice with Revell.

The first book in a brand-new Amish historical series, Hannah’s Choice follows the story of a young woman in Lancaster County as she struggles between the choice of two men–and the choice of whether to remain near her family or follow God’s call West.

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Michael Fechner Jr. released Lessons on the Way to Heaven: What My Father Taught Mewith Zondervan.

This poweful book tells the story of Mike’s father, who co-founded an urban renewal ministry and sold all he owned to fund it and serve the poor full time. When Mike was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a year to live, he discovered what it meant to truly lose his life for the sake of finding it.

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Ken Gire released The Centurion with River North Fiction.

This gripping work of historical fiction follows Lucius, a Roman centurion who witnesses the crucifixion of Jesus and is changed forever. When he is called away to lead military campaigns and returns to find that Rome has lost its allure, he must decide who he is, what is real, and what is worth dying for.


31EYnNNE9PL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Jan David Hettinga 
released Still Restless with Kregel Publications.

A pastor at Cascade Community Church in Monroe, Washington, Hettinga relates good news in his newest book: God has always had time for honest seekers, even when they have hard questions or objections. Walking readers through the gospels, Hettinga uses the life of Jesus to demonstrate the necessity of frank conversations with God–and their potential for spiritual transformation.

51OfAMN99UL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Melissa K. Norris released The Made from Scratch Life with Harvest House.

Operating under the belief that when you surround yourself with things made from the hand of God, you can’t help but see Him, Norris inspires readers with practical and easy methods to help you cook from scratch, garden, preserve your own food, and see God’s fingerprints in your everyday busy life.

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Tina and Dave Samples released Messed Up Men of the Bible with Kregel Publications.

Reminding us that even the most flawed among us can be used by God to accomplish His purposes, Tina and Dave’s book traces the stories of some of the Bible’s most messed up men to show how God’s power is perfected in our weakness.

 

FH_PublishersFaithHappenings Publishers released a new series of devotional books called “Day Starters.” The initial release includes five titles: Day Starters for Men by Steve Farrar; Day Starters for Women by Cheri Fuller; Day Starters for Couples by David and Claudia Arp; Day Starters for Students by Greg Johnson; and Day Starters for Moms, edited by Shelley Hendrix. Each book includes daily devotionals and Scripture to encourage readers to renew their focus on their walk with the Lord in the midst of daily life.

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New Contracts

Jim Burns and Doug Fields signed with InterVarsity Press for their new book, Teenology, planned for early 2017.

Angela Ruth Strong signed with Harlequin’s Love Inspired Books for her next book, Twice Removed, due out in early 2017.

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What We’re Celebrating!

Julie Cantrell’s The Feathered Bone was named a 2016 Winter Okra pick, an honor given by SIBA for “Great Southern Books, Fresh Off the Vine.”

Conflict: The Heart of Your Story

One consistent problem most writers – new or seasoned – have when they’re developing their stories (present company included!) is to bring enough conflict into the story.

It’s normal to want to protect our characters from conflict. We like these people. We want them to have happy lives.

But do you know what you get when you give your characters happy lives that are free from any conflict? That’s right.

Boring fiction.

You need to bring conflict into their lives!

But how?

The first thing to remember is that conflict can be defined as goals that are blocked or defeated. So before you can have conflict, your character needs to have goals.

I hope you’ve all heard of Debra Dixon’s book, Goals, Motivation and Conflict. That’s a great place to start learning to develop your character’s GMC.

Conflict in the back story

As I develop my characters’ GMCs, I begin to discover their back story. What happened in their past that is affecting them now?

For example, in the proposal I’m working on now, Samuel and Mary’s story, Mary and her sister move from Holmes County, Ohio to Shipshewana, Indiana to live with their elderly great aunt. But why would they move away from home? What is at home that they want to get away from?

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It has to be a conflict strong enough to force them to take this life-changing step. For Mary, it’s a tragic event that happened to her two years earlier.

A Conflict within the story for each character

So the next step is to find Mary’s story conflict. I had to ask myself: What is the worst, the absolute worst thing that could happen to my character?

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In my proposal, Mary’s past tragic event is that she had been attacked by a man two years earlier, and since then the attacker has been threatening her and intimidating her–blackmailing her into keeping his secret.

So what is the absolute worst thing that could happen to Mary? That’s right. Her attacker finds her in Indiana and starts the intimidation and threats all over again.

The story conflict is more powerful if it has ties to a past conflict in your character’s life.

Of course, both characters need to have a conflict, so you need to do this exercise for both your hero and your heroine.

Let the Conflict in your story increase toward the crescendo of the Final Battle

In my proposal, the hero, Samuel, is an alcoholic. He’s fighting his addiction throughout the entire story. That’s his first level of conflict.

His battle becomes much worse when he feels inadequate, threatened or guilty. When he sees Mary with her attacker, he assumes that they have a romantic relationship. That’s the next level of conflict for him.

But when he finds out he’s wrong and Mary is in danger from this man, he faces the “dark night of the soul,” the Black Moment, and is on the verge of taking that drink he’s been fighting throughout the story…and the conflict tension ramps up.

Your characters’ individual Conflicts work against each other, driving your hero and heroine apart

Ramping up the tension raises the stakes; the characters’ relationship is in danger.

Samuel’s alcoholism and feelings of inadequacy make him pull away from Mary just when she needs him most.

Mary’s fear of revealing her secret–and of being close to any man–makes her pull away from him just when he needs her most.

Levi Zook's farm, Eden Township, Lagrange County

I want my readers to question how these two can ever overcome their conflicts and have a happily-ever-after ending!

So the most important part of the story comes when the characters need to fight against this force that is driving them away from each other. The satisfying ending to the story comes when they triumphantly stand firm, fighting this final battle together.

Share with us!

Are you guilty of letting your characters get off easy? What can you do to help ramp up the conflict in your story?

Jan’s newest book is “Hannah’s Choice,” the first in the series Journey to Pleasant Prairie from Revell Books.285198_HannahsChoiceDrexler_FBHeader

 

Just Beyond the Manger….

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Busyness and noise…presents yet to be wrapped…Christmas dinner – has the turkey thawed yet?…the table covered with cookies, frosting smears, and stray sprinkles…and someone – we won’t name names – is singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” at the top of her voice.

On top of everything else, if we don’t get a move on, we’ll be late for Christmas Eve service!

Is that cat climbing the Christmas tree again?

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                      But…wait…

                                                      …look…

                                                                                                 …listen.

As silent as snowflakes dusting the ground, Christmas comes in pristine whiteness. The babe in the manger, the choirs of angel voices, the shadow of the cross.

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With painful glory, the promise is repeated. Do you hear it?

Hope is born.

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Life takes on new meaning.

God enters our lives.

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A turn of the head and the glimmer of light is captured at the edge of our vision.

God enters our lives in peace, hope, promise, life.

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Joyful anticipation.

God enters our lives to bring us to Himself.

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And a baby is born.

 

WordServe News: September 2015

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books released this month along with a recap of WordServe client news.

New Releases

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Sandra D. Bricker released Be My Valentino with Abingdon Press Fiction.

Book 2 of the Jessie Stanton series, Be My Valentino follows Jessie after the truth about her husband’s double life has been exposed. Struggling to grow her business and manage her feelings for a new love interest, Jessie finds herself in the middle of an intriguing mystery and a relationship that could end in disaster.

 

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Jim Burns & Jeremy Lee released their new book, Pass It On: Building A Legacy of Faith for Your Children through Practical and Memorable Experienceswith David C. Cook.

Parents often experience a “freak out” moment when they realize their children’s view of God will primarily come from what they learn at home. But while the idea of strategically passing down our faith can seem intimidating, the annual “Rites of Passage Experiences” contained in Pass It On make it easy for your family to celebrate milestones from kindergarten through high school graduation.

 

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Debora Coty  released her companion journal for her popular book Too Loved to Be Lost: Too Loved…a Journal for Women.

Created for women needing the loving assurance of a heavenly Father who forgives and accepts–“quirks, meltdowns, zits, and all”– the journal includes the complete text of Too Loved to Be Lost and offers simple, practical steps to help you revitalize your spirit and your faith.

 

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Sara Davison released The End Begins (Book 1 of The Seven Trilogy) with Ashberry Lane.

After a series of terrorist attacks in 2053, martial law has been declared in Canada and the military has taken over. When a radical Christian group claims responsibility, Christians find their freedoms severely restricted. As a romance blooms between a young Christian woman and an army captain, their uncertain future is threatened by forces far beyond their control.

 

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Jan Drexler released her third Love Inspired Historical, A Home for His Family

Set in the Dakota Territory, the book follows Sarah, a pretty schoolteacher, as she helps a newcomer struggling to raise his orphaned nieces and nephew. Sarah’s. Her childhood as an orphan taught her that opening her heart to love only ends in hurt. Yet helping this ready-made family set up their ranch only makes her long to be a part of it—whatever the risk.

 

9781634091152_p0_v3_s192x300Cheri Fuller released Dangerous Prayer with Barbour Publishing.

Dangerous prayers happen when you turn your all over to God and offer yourself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). They don’t take you to a comfortable, easy place; they test you, stretch you, and take you where you wouldn’t have chosen. They change not only your life but the lives of other people. In her new book, Cheri illustrates—from Bible times to today—what happens when God’s people pray dangerous prayers.

 

9780825442285_p0_v1_s192x300Kelli Gotthardt released her first book, Unlikely Rebel, with Kregel Publications.

Between the desire to please God, the need to feel valued, and the compulsion to make everyone around them happy, women often find themselves denying their desires. It’s safer to stay in the life of “shoulds,” even if it means being spiritually and emotionally disconnected. But that’s not the abundant life God intends for us! Unlikely Rebel is the story of how Kelly, a pastor’s wife and “good girl,” slowly shed shoulds and shame, learning to love God and love who He created her to be.

 

9780800722357_p0_v2_s192x300Rick Johnson released his latest parenting book with Revell Publishers, 10 Things Great Dads Do.

Every father can be a great dad, and this clear and to-the-point book gives them the tools they need to do it well. Rick Johnson offers helpful strategies to enable dads to help their kids find the humor in life; surround their family with healthy friends and role models; communicate clearly with their children; help their kids develop self-esteem and respect for others; and much more.

 

 

9780764211362_p0_v2_s192x300Peter & Heather Larson along with David & Claudia Arp have released their parenting
book She’s Almost a Teenager with Bethany House.

A guide to meaningful parent-daughter conversations, this book equips parents to connect with their daughters as they move into the teenage years. Offering practical ways to encourage daughters in their faith and talk about the challenges they face in school and with friends, She’s Almost a Teenager is an invaluable tool for moms and dads everywhere.

 

 

9781941720172_p0_v1_s192x300Angela Ruth Strong released her fourth title in the Fun4Hire series, The Pillow Fight Professional with Ashberry Lane.

A middle-grade novel pack with humor, The Pillow Fight Professional follows Joey Michaels as he trains his sister’s friends to hold their own against older siblings. Encouraging values of faith, forgiveness, and friendship, this latest installment from Angela Ruth is one you can’t miss.

 

 

9781400206742_p0_v1_s192x300Bob Welch released 52 Little Lessons from A Christmas Carol with Thomas Nelson
Publishers.

Award-winning author Bob Welch takes readers deeper into the nuances of this classic by Charles Dickens. From the miserliness of Scrooge to the innocence of Tiny Tim, 52 Little Lessons from A Christmas Carol will inspire readers to live for what really matters, not only at Christmas, but all year long.

 

 

New Contracts

Debora Coty signed a contract with Barbour Publishing for the Too Blessed to be Stressed Daily Devotional, due out in 2017.

Jordyn Redwood received a contract offer through Love Inspired’s Blurb to Book contest for her novella The Hangman’s Noose.

Dr. David Stoop and Dr. Jan Stoop have signed a contract with Revell Publishers for their book, Smart Love, due out in Spring, 2017.

Tracie Miles signed a contract with David C. Cook for her next book, I Give Up (2017), and a forthcoming title (2018).

Sarah Varland signed a 3-book deal with Love Inspired for her Treasure Point series, for publication in 2016 and 2017.

 

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What We’re Celebrating!

Sara Davison’s The End Begins received a Top Pick 4 1/2 star review from Romantic Times.

Leslie Haskin’s Between Heaven and Ground Zero made the New York Times bestseller list, at #4 in e-book nonfiction.

Angela Ruth Strong’s The Snowball Fight Professional received recognition for excellent craftsmanship at the OCW Cascade Awards in the Young Adult/Middle Grade category. Congratulations!

The Anatomy of a Scene

Learning to craft good scenes for your novel is a foundational tool in your writing tool kit. Think of the scenes as the building blocks you use to construct your masterpiece. If they’re faulty or incomplete, what will the building look like?

SceneBut there are as many blog posts about writing a scene for your novel as there are varieties of ice cream sundaes at your favorite summer hang out.

So why am I writing one more?

Because when it comes right down to it, writing a scene isn’t as hard as it seems. You only need to break it down into four major parts:

Beginning: When the scene begins, does the reader know when and where this is taking place, and whose point of view it’s in? If not, you’re in danger of leaving your reader stranded in the land of floating heads. YOU may know exactly what your characters are seeing, feeling, etc., but does your reader?

Middle: The midsection of the scene should take up the most time. A sentence or two into the scene, after you’ve given your reader the information they need, start increasing the tension and continue to the turning point.

The turning point is the main purpose for the scene. It’s where the reader learns something new about the character, or the character learns something new about himself or someone else, or a decision is made.

There are a lot of different ways this can be played out, but the main thing is to make sure the scene contributes to the flow of the story and moves things forward.

End: Does the scene resolve itself? The character(s) involved should make a decision or take an action as a result of the turning point.

And finally: Is there a hook at the end of the scene that will make the reader continue on to the next scene? Without a hook leading your reader further into the story, there is no reason for them to turn the page.

And here’s a homework assignment: Look at a scene in your favorite book. Does it have all four of these elements in it? What exceptions did the author make, if any? Now do the same with one of your own scenes.

What did you learn?

 

Firmly Established

When I mention the book of Ecclesiastes, what goes through your mind?

 The folk-pop song hit from The Byrds in 1965?

 “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!”?

 Hopeless despair of anything one does “under the sun”?

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 Look closer…there’s more to this book than the Preacher’s laments.

 At the very end of Ecclesiastes, the writer switches his voice from the Preacher to the narrator, and writes these words:

“The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd.” Ecclesastes 12:11 ESV

 The goads mentioned in this verse are sticks used for poking and prodding sheep. Sheep are notorious for being slow-witted and stubborn. Even faced with danger, they will not obey the shepherd or sheep dogs if they think doing so would be more dangerous. At these times, the shepherd can resort to using his staff as a goad, poking the sheep to the point of pain, if necessary, to get it going to a safe place.

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 I don’t know about you, but I’m often like the slow-witted sheep, going blindly down the path toward danger. My Shepherd knows there are times when I would fall off a cliff rather than listen to His word, so He will resort to the goad. I know some of the most painful episodes in my life were used by my Shepherd to move me back to the center of His will.

 The other term used in this verse is “nails.” This same word is also used in Ezra 9:8 and Isaiah 22:23. It gives the picture of a peg or nail fixed firmly and securely into place, as in Ezra, when the Lord established the remnant of the nation of Israel in Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity. “But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery.” Ezra 9:8 ESV

 What does this mean for us as writers?

 God’s Word is the goad that keeps us in line with His direction and will. He is the Shepherd who establishes us firmly in our place.

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 The next verse, Ecclesiastes 12:12, is also appropriate for us: “My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.”

 Did you see the instruction? “…beware of anything beyond these…” Beyond what? The “words of the wise,” given by “one Shepherd.”

 As Christian writers, our place is putting words on paper – words that point our readers to the One Good Shepherd who seeks the lost and redeems sinners.