August 31, 2011


Greetings everyone! Just wanted to drop in and say I'm guest blogging today at Jackie Layton's Back Porch Reflections talking about research. All those things I wish I knew before I started.

August 29, 2011

When its not fun, and its just work.

One of my favorite lines in Gates of Fire is 'war is work.'

Sometimes writing is work. I've had a riled grizzly bear of a time getting the synopsis written for Chasing the Lion. Surprise, but its not so easy to pack a thirty three chapter, 112K word novel into two pages. Praise Jesus they're single spaced. It's funny because my husband used to tell me about certain things, 'Babe, try it and then quit when it stops being fun.' Now in context I promise you it was good advice. Right now though, in final polishing and proposal building, writing hasn't been much fun lately. Sometimes its just work.

Thankfully I read in a blog post the synopsis will be the worst writing you ever do. So I was prepared when my drafts came back from the critique partners with more red, blue, and inserted comments in those two pages than a few chapters of the novel normally get in Scribes, combined!

That's a big problem because the synopsis is the first date with an editor or agent, assuming your query letter was good enough to get a first date. I like to think of the query letter as your online dating profile. If the synopsis isn't good, there is no partial or full manuscript request (phone call and second date, respectively).

Like my hero Jonathan in Chasing the Lion, I struggled way too long trying to write this summary without asking for help.A fellow writer recommended author Camy Tang's Synopsis worksheet, available HERE and what an answer to prayer. It certainly helped and was worth the $5 many times over and I highly recommend it to anyone writing a fiction synopsis. So while this part of the road to publication may not be very fun, it's part of the gig so I'll just keep on keeping on and push through. Remember when you hit a log jam, the sagging middle, your characters revolt and you uncover a plot hole, that sometimes writing is work. Work we love, but sometimes we won't be feeling the love, just the work. I'm learning to be okay with that.

August 21, 2011

Dialogue (What's it's NOT supposed to be.)

One look at these pictures and the dialogue that's happening begins to fill in. For readers, the reverse is true. The dialogue helps create the pictures as part of the reader experience.

<Imagine a man and a woman alone in a kitchen.>
"It's late. Where have you been?"
"At the office. Sorry I didn't call. What's for dinner?"
"Spaghetti. Sorry it's cold. You didn't call so I didn't know when to expect you, other than hours ago."
"I said I'm sorry, alright?"
"Sure. You're always sorry. Your plate's in the microwave."

See how that works? It's kind of cool actually, and writers know this is the bare bones to which sensory detail, setting, and context must be added or you end up with the white background like the pictures above that could be anywhere. Dialogue serves the writer and the reader equally, and works very hard, but sometimes beginning writers ask too much of the dialogue. These common mistakes are brief excerpts from my favorite craft book HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL, 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman.

  1. Asseverated the Man (When the author thinks he's too good for the word "said")
  2. Said the Fascinating Man (Where the author tells you what you think of his dialogue)
  3. Said the Man Who Had Just Returned from Three Months on an Arctic Expedition (Where the author misplaces his exposition)
  4. "@#$% You!" He Said Profanely (Where the author uses adverbs to no purpose)
  5. Sock Puppetry (When all characters speak in the voice of the surrounding prose)
  6. The Convention of the Invisible Men (Where the author fails to identify his speakers)
  7. The Court Reporter (In which every single last solitary word of conversation is included)
  8. Don't Mind Us (When the author forgets that other characters are present)
  9. Doublespeak (When the author inadvertently makes characters seem dishonest)
  10. "Hello! I Am the Mommy!" (Where characters announce things they wouldn't)
  11. "But, Captain...!" (Where characters tell each other things they both already know)
  12. "And That's When the Rash Returned..." (When characters inappropriately share intimate information)
  13. El Foreigner (Where nonnative English speakers are rendered poorly) 
 Those are just the subheadings, and I took the liberty of editing #4 & #12 for the blog, just FYI. The explanations as to why and how on each item, especially #13,11,10, and 1 are fantastic. You'll need a little rhino hide and probably won't see this book for sale at the ACFW conference next month, but I highly recommend this book to any aspiring writer. If you can handle the cheeky-ness. ;-)

Go Look Inside "How NOT to Write a Novel" at Amazon

In author news... I went way out of my comfort zone this weekend and tried to learn East Coast Swing (yes, the dancing). Turns out, as I've suspected for many, many years, since sixth grade to be exact, dancing is not a talent or gift I possess. Thankfully no one was injured, though I'm very sore! I did meet a lot of very nice people and had a good time with my friends, with the added benefit of not being in front of a monitor for a while. We're in record breaking heat here in Houston... giving me new appreciation for the creature comforts of air conditioning and knowing I'm not going to hell, thanks to Jesus. The plot of the new novel is taking shape, and I'm feeling that itch to get back in the right hemisphere of my brain and do some creating. I do love editing, polishing, and continuing to work toward publication with CHASING THE LION but I'm also ready to do some writing again, with a fresh story and new characters.

Have some intentional dialogue this week, with the creator God, your friends and family, and a stranger who looks like they need a word of encouragement. So not just any words that would fit the list up there, but words that serve the Lord and actually SAY something. We're not islands, and sometimes you need to get out of your comfort zone. I know it's scary, but it feels pretty great afterward.  =)

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer." Psalm 19:14 (NKJV)

August 14, 2011

What Makes an Epic Novel...Epic?

I've really been trying to answer this question with research and it hasn't gone very well. I'm hindered by the fact that I often use "epic" as a slang adjective. I like my blog to inform, but this is a request for help. Any thoughts, articles, recommended reading, etc. would be appreciated.
Why does it matter?
I've been working on my "one sheet", also know as the "sell sheet" for my agent pitch. I think CHASING THE LION qualifies as epic, if nothing else on word count alone, haha, but I'd like to be sure before I slap "an epic novel" on my one sheet and look dumb if its not.  
Fortunately there are lots of good informative blog posts out there about one sheets, with examples.
Here are two I found the most helpful:
Rachelle Gardner's "What Should I Bring to a Conference?"
Suzanne Hartmann's "Creating A One Sheet"

I can't post my entire One Sheet here, but I can post its EPIC photo (See what I mean? hehe)

In author news, I celebrated a birthday this past week. Many thanks for all the birthday wishes and cards, flowers, and gifts. My friends and family sure know how to make a girl feel loved! 
I also had the privilege of purchasing a bible for a brand new sister in Christ that reminded me of the joy of my salvation and how God can use a testimony. In the rewrite of the final chapter of Chasing the Lion this week, a testimony thread wove itself in that I have to credit the Holy Spirit for. 
While we write our stories on the page, let's not forget we're living our own by God's design and whether we acknowledge it or not, people are "reading it" everyday. Live like Christ, first to honor Him and show Him our love, but also because the testimony we live is as powerful as the one we speak or write. 

This came to me as a Rhema scripture in my bible reading this week. I thought at first it was for the novel, and it certainly fits, but it turned out it wasn't for the novel, it was for me. A gentle reminder from a loving God that He is sovereign in all things. ALL THINGS.

"The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision 
is from the LORD." Proverbs 16:33 (NKJV)

August 7, 2011

The Response. My own.

This is what 30,000 people gathered in the name of Jesus looks like.

As a writer, defaulting to the cliche "you just had to be there" is difficult for me. What I can say is it's been fifteen years since I've felt the fire of God falling and physically exhausted myself in prayer and worship baring everything before the Lord individually and corporately. There was nothing like it, and I believe I and everyone there tasted of Heaven and the new Jerusalem for seven hours. Video archives should be up soon, here's the link

Highlights for me were many, and in no order of significance, as follows:
  1. Meeting in person a friend from Dallas, TX who drove down for the event and propelled me to attend without knowing it. I did have the thought 'you know, this would be a great time for radicals to bomb a bunch of believers all at once' but I covered it by CHASING THE LION and walking straight through my fear knowing Jehovah Nissi, The Lord My Banner would go before me.
  2. When Pastor Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship and The Urban Alternative ministry spoke. (I listen to him every morning on KSBJ!) 
    • How do we expect to be one nation under God, when we haven't learned how to be one church under God? - Whew, talk about O-K???, but we were doing it Sat. August 6th, 2011 believing for the Third Great Awakening.
    • This is the one that got me - Everyone else is coming out, it's time for believers to come out too. Yes, we need to vote, and elect leaders who will follow the bible, and legislation is important, VERY IMPORTANT, but at the end of the day....
    • God defined marriage in creation. One man, one woman, for life. End of story.
    • Yes, I've signed the Manhattan Declaration, available here if you haven't yet. But God called me to do more. 
    • So instead of just a link here in my blog under my fave places on the web, ABORT 73 now has it's own banner. 
    • 54 Million babies who never drew a breathe, their blood is crying out like Abel's and it's time to get serious. We've got Temples of Baal in cities all across America where children are sacrificed on alters of convenience and lies. Educate yourself, then educate the world. When we remain silent, evil still wins. 
Lord, I plead your blood over my sins and the sins of my nation. 
God, end abortion and bring revival to America. 
And number three... and believe me when I say this is the shortest, tightest version of this I can write. In the time of personal repentance and obedience, asking God to speak to idols, God called me to give up my novel. That's right, you read that correctly, and believe me, it's not without precedent, as God had called me to give up Twilight, which I'd made into a golden calf, several years ago. (That's another story for another time.) I fought so hard, as I'm sure Abraham did when God told him to sacrifice Isaac, the chosen son of promise. But with everything God has brought me through, and everything I learned the hard way while doing it, I knew it wasn't worth it. So I said "Ok God. Done. I'll lay it down for you. I'll do anything for you." Just like the Twilight purge, I was prepared to come home and do a CHASING THE LION purge. 

But the most amazing thing happened. God honored my obedience about a half hour later and I received  a sign from the Lord through the prayer of another and a stirring in my heart and God, like manna from Heaven, poured the end of the book into my heart and head. I freaked! I was like, God, was that you? What are you doing??? I knew it was, because I'd never think of anything that brilliant by myself, LOL but I obviously wanted to be very sure God was putting a ram in the bush. But He did. And just like I'd started the book in the wrong place, I'd ended it in the wrong place, but after surrendering it to the Lord in an obedient act of faith, the Lord gave it back, even better. Now I just pray I stay yielded and obedient to steward it well. 

I am a broken, scarred, sinful, willful mess... but my King, my Abba, through His perfectly holy and righteous blood, sees only his creation, his daughter, his bride. Jesus will always be the ultimate hero of my heart, a lion who became a lamb, who WAS who He said He was, did what He said He came to do, and WILL RETURN. Lord, let me serve you well until then or until your work for me is finished. I will proclaim your name, your truth, and speak for the weak. 
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