Thursday, July 30, 2009

Trash Or Treasure?

One of the great things about being a writer are those days when I sit at the computer and write, write, write for hours without even thinking twice. It's like the words just flow out, and then when I look back I can't even remember writing some of it... and the best part? Every word works perfectly!

And then there are days like Tuesday.

Days when I sit there and muddle my way through, thinking I'm maybe... sort of on the right track. And then I finish up, reread it and think, "Who am I kidding? This is all wrong."

But even if I'm unhappy with it, I have no plans on scrapping the whole thing without thinking it through first. Before I do anything, I need to filter through what I wrote and decide if it feels "all wrong" because the writing is bad, or because it's just not the right way to develop the story. Because unless that particular section is wrong on both counts, it's possible I can edit in such a way to make it work.

When this happens, I end up with different ideas running through my head. Maybe I keep the general idea of the scene but change the characters who experience it. Maybe I cut out some of the exposition and focus on action and character interaction. Or maybe I move the scene to a different section of the novel.

Or maybe I highlight the entire section and happily press delete.

The point is, if you're writing something and you have that moment where you want to be like the frazzled writer you see depicted on television who yanks the sheet of paper from his typewriter, crumples it angrily and sends it flying across the room into the wastebasket... don't! Give yourself time. Think it through. See what you can salvage. Because what you may initially think is all junk might just turn up a tidbit that could develop into a treasure.

If, after thinking it through and taking your time, you decide it's just not going to work anywhere, try cutting it and pasting it into a separate document for safekeeping. That's what I do whenever I cut a significant portion that I think might have any merit. For instance, right now I'm working on the third book in the Calloway Summers series. So I have a file named "Catching Moondrops cuts". That way, if I ever hit a part of the story where I think a former throwaway section might work, I can dig it up and use whatever is suitable. Anyway, anything that really does belong in the recycle bin will end up there eventually.

So take your time and think about editing before deleting. And save what you think may be mistakes. You never know when they might come in handy.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I Have Book Updates...

...and there's something for everybody!

If you're anything like my mother, always losing those reading glasses no matter how many pairs you buy, take heart - Fireflies In December is now available in large print!

Or if you're always on the go, preferring to let your CD player do your reading for you, keep an eye out for the audio version of Fireflies In December, releasing in November '09.

And if you're stewing over Jessilyn and Luke and can't wait to find out what happens in their lives next, reserve your copy of Cottonwood Whispers, the sequel to Fireflies In December. You may be able to get your hands on it as early as late-August if you order online, and it should be in stores near you by mid-September. Or, better yet, enter my latest contest where you'll be eligible to win a signed copy (as well as a signed copy of Fireflies In December) hot off the presses!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Book Review: Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent
A strong-minded thirteen-year-old knows her summer won't be good when the class bully arrives at her birthday party. When the kids visit the local swimming hole, minus any adult supervision, the bully holds her under the water. (Click above to read more)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

2009 Christy Awards Announced

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2009 Christy awards! Here are the winners in each category-

Contemporary Romance: Marlo Schalesky for Beyond The Night

Contemporary Series: Tracey Bateman for You Had Me At Good-bye

Contemporary Standalone: Chris Fabry for Dogwood

First Novel: Joy Jordan-Lake for Blue Hole Back Home

Historical: Lynn Austin for Until We Reach Home

Historical Romance: Tamera Alexander for From A Distance

Suspense: Steven James for The Rook

Visionary: Tom Pawlik for Vanish (2006 Operation First Novel winner)

Young Adult: Cathy Gohlke for I Have Seen Him In The Watchfires

Thanks to all of them for providing us with great Christian fiction!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Selective Hearing

"You're stupid, ugly, untalented, clumsy, annoying, and, frankly, you can't write a coherent sentence to save your life."

No, I'm not talking about you! I'm talking about me. I'm quoting some of the things that have floated through my brain any number of times on any matter of occasions. I can be going about my business on a very normal day, without a worry, and then, out of the blue, a little voice floats up out of hell and sneaks its way into my brain to rap on it like a woodpecker on steroids.

Like those times when I look back at a days' work on the computer and feel like every paragraph I wrote could have been composed by a drunken chimpanzee. When I am convinced that this whole writing career was a crazy fluke, and I am so far in over my head I'll never surface before running out of air.

Or other times when I feel as though I'm a social misfit, that every time I open my mouth another piece of my brain falls out. That I'm forever doomed to walk the earth as an outcast who does nothing but stick my strappy-sandaled foot in my mouth.

It's a great tool of Satan to make us feel helpless, hopeless and unpalatable to society. Sometimes it seems there's nothing but critical thoughts beating against my skull, and there's all too often that part of me that gives into them... the irrational part of me. Because, seriously, I know better. I'm well aware that the only voice I'm supposed to listen to is the Lord's, and His voice, without doubt, does not sound like a bitter, unhappy teacher disparaging a child in front of the whole class.

On the contrary, His is that still, small voice. The one that's colored with love and grace, even when admonishing and instructing. When He speaks, He blesses. He may discipline, but His words never leave us feeling worthless. They are always for our betterment. He's in the business of breaking the will not the spirit. Spirit-breaking is what Satan's all about.

So the next time I hear that voice in my ear telling me I can't do it, that I'm hopeless, I'll remember the truths of John 10:3-5... "The Gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize His voice and come to Him. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. After He has gathered His own flock, He walks ahead of them, and they follow Him because they know His voice. They won't follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don't know his voice."

I know the voice I need to listen to, the voice of my Father who only wants what's best for me. He may chastise, but He won't ever disparage, and it's my job to remember that. It's my job to recognize the voice of a stranger and run away.

Even if I'm in my strappy sandals.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Award-Winning Talent

I recently finished Valley Of The Shadow by Tom Pawlik, 2006 winner of the Operation First Novel contest, and I really enjoyed it! The novel is the sequel to his contest-winning Vanish, and it doesn't disappoint. So if you like suspense, take a look at Tom's novels.

And coming soon is Thicker Than Blood by C.J. Darlington, winner of the 2008 Operation First Novel contest. I just read her first chapter, and it has definitely whet my appetite. Can't wait till it releases in January!

So while I'm on the subject of these wonderfully talented authors, let me encourage you to consider entering your novel in the contest that won them (and me!) publication with Tyndale House Publishers. Just pop on over to the Christian Writers Guild's website to find all the rules and information. If you've got a manuscript ready, or mostly ready, why not give it a shot?

But don't drag your feet. The contest deadline is October 1st!