Hmmm . . . after my blog on agents, many of you had questions.
Tracy asked, “This is helpful! As a newbie to all this, are there resources to help me identify which agents are taking new writers/if they prefer fiction or non-fiction, etc.?”
Living God’s Word One Step at a Time
Hmmm . . . after my blog on agents, many of you had questions.
by Tricia Goyer Leave a Comment
On my desk are reference books for my work in progress, a couple of my Shaker boxes, photos of Ron and me arriving in Hawaii for our honeymoon, sweetgrass basket from South Carolina, a small sample of my seashell collection taken from beaches all over the world, a wooden travel box from out trip to New Zealand. My current manuscript, my favorite Gel 2 pens, and my favorite brown coffee mug, a gift from my publisher. This is where I hang out every day.
Be sure you stop by my Facebook page for the next few days! I’m hosting a Home for the Holidays 12 Days of Gifts giveaway, and each day will have a new prize. You can also RSVP for my author chat party by clicking here!
An award-winning author of novels for preteens, young adults and adults, Dorothy Love is currently at work on her 17th novel. She is the author of the Hickory Ridge series, historical novels set in the beautiful Smoky Mountains region of her native Tennessee. Her well-researched, heartwarming stories of small town Southern life, faith, friends, and family reflect the emotions, concerns, and values of women everywhere.
1. Choose your friends wisely. Surround yourself with encouraging and inspiring people who believe in your dream.
2. Consider what you read and what you watch. Is it uplifting, inspiring? (Catching the theme?) Do you feel energized after reading/watching or depressed and drain. (I don’t watch the news for the very reason it fills me with worry and fear.)
3. Read the Psalms and praise God. Fix your thoughts on Him!
4. Spend time alone with your spouse. Keep that relationship strong.
5. Get up and MOVE! I wake up before everyone else and ride my exercise bike for one hour. Just sitting without movement in my day drains me and makes me overwhelmed and tired.
6. Be present with the people you are with. Take a break from your smart phone. When my family is around me, my phone is tucked away.
7. Clean out your emotions. Are you worried about something? Are you sad? Let the emotions out. Sometimes I have a good cry because I miss my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson who live 2,000 miles away. If I try to keep these emotions inside they come out in other ways. I’m gray for weeks and weeks . . . and unproductive.
8. Get a life coach. I’ve worked with two amazing women: Judy Baer and Alice Crider. I HIGHLY recommend them both. I’m able to talk through my life with some who knows how to direct me with questions (and are familiar with the writing business). Without fail there is sometime within each session that I have a “light bulb” moment.
9. Ask for help. It’s crazy how often I struggle without even thinking to ask for help. When I ask my husband or kids to make dinner, watch the toddler, or let me run to Panera for a few hours, they are usually happy to oblige. I just need to ask.
10. Focus on ONE THING. Pray and ask God for the “one thing” that you need need do at that moment. Sometimes it’s writing. Sometimes it’s something completely different, but whatever it is, do it with ALL your heart, serving God as you work!
Many people I know are participating in the National Novel Writing Month. Never heard of it? You can find out more info here: http://www.nanowrimo.org/
If you have heard of it and indeed are writing a novel, you might be wondering, What’s next? What do I do after I get my novel done?! I have a few recommendations:
1. First of all, congrats!!! That’s awesome that you finished a 65,000-word manuscript! It’s time to CELEBRATE!
2. Join ACFW (www.acfw.com), connect with a community of authors, and join a critique group. You’ll be able to connect with other writers and help them fine-tune your manuscript while they help to fine-tune yours.
3. Check out My Book Therapy. Susie and Rachel do an awesome job helping you make sure your manuscript is in tip-top shape! Many, many, many of the authors they work with get publishing contracts. (They have a great blog, too!)
4. Revise. Remember that all of us have to revise our first drafts. Don’t feel bad if your novel needs editing and reworking. I don’t know of one writer who writes a perfect novel the first time around. NOT ONE.
5. Don’t let fear grip you. When you know your manuscript is ready, you HAVE TO send it in. If your critique group or writing mentors say it’s ready to start sending out, it’s ready!!
6. Build your team. Before you query a publisher, get connected with a great agent. A great agent will know where your manuscript will fit in the publishing world. [< -- Click to tweet!] An agent already has contacts and relationships. Your agent gives your manuscript klout and attention. Your agent becomes your cheerleader and salesperson.
Here is information from my agent, Janet Grant, on choosing an agent: http://www.booksandsuch.biz/
7. Have faith. Everyone gets rejected. I had many, many novels rejected. Rejection doesn’t mean your manuscript isn’t great. It means your manuscript doesn’t fit that publisher at that time. [< -- Click to tweet!] Your agent will also help you plan your career. Remember, it's not about just getting a novel published, it's about allowing God to use your gift of story to display His goodness to readers!
by Tricia Goyer Leave a Comment
Another challenge for me was my discovery of myself as a writer. When writers first start writing, it’s about them and what’s inside—it’s a very emotional experience—and then along the way it becomes about producing what publishers want. The balance has been writing what’s inside in a way publishers want—and in a way that will impact and inspire readers.
Flashbacks weren’t something I planned on including or using a lot of in The Memory Jar, but I love the way it turned out. I won’t give the end of the novel away, but the storyline from the past plays a special part in the end of the novel.
For more about Tricia’s novel and to see some Memory Jar-inspired DIY projects, click here!
1. Give each student each three slips of paper. On the first they have to write a person/character. On the second they have to write a setting. On the third they have to write a conflict. I had a basket for each (characters, setting, conflict), and they tossed them all in. Then they had to draw one slip of paper out of each basket . . . and they had five minutes to write a story about their character, conflict, and setting. I told them they had to 1) Open with dialogue in paragraph #1, 2) Describe the action in paragraph #2, and 3) then they could describe the setting in paragraph #3. After that they could continue with the story as they saw fit. They then read the stories out loud, and they were HILARIOUS! I still remember one was about a nun who had to bail from a plane that was crashing in Paris.
2. To teach dialogue I used plays (such as mixed-up fairy tales). Here are some free ones: http://freeschoolplays.com/. We assigned parts, and we read sections of them out loud. Then I had them write the dialogue of the same characters in a different situation. For example, what if Baby Bear in the three bears showed up at the first day of school and his seat mate was Goldilocks?
3. We colored books. I photocopied the first pages of a novel—such as Kingdom’s Dawn by Chuck Black—and gave everyone a copy and crayons. Red for action. Green for dialogue. Yellow for internal thoughts. Orange for description. Pink for emotion. This really helped them see how novels are not just narrative (this happened, then that happened, etc.). Sometimes I had them write their own story following the same “color pattern.” The results were impressive. Sometimes we colored the openings to two different novels and then compared the authors’ writing style.
4. We used Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method and “plotted” a novel. http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/snowflake.php
5. We assigned people to bring short stories or parts of their book to class every week. They had a limit of 1,000 words, and they had to make enough photocopies for everyone in class. We passed around the story and gave eight to ten minutes for them to read the story. Then everyone had to go around and share three things they liked and one thing they didn’t like. I was the last to comment after everyone was done, and I did the same (but I usually gave two or three suggestions about ways they could improve their story). I was amazed how insightful the students were. The majority of the time they discovered all the “issues” by the time it got to me
6. I had a collection of objects—steel wool, sponge, a plant, coins, etc.—that they could handle, and they had to write descriptions of them. Then they had to use that same description and describe something else—for example the description for steel wool became the description for a night’s armor.
When I first started writing, the last thing I wanted to write was historical fiction. I thought it would be tooooo much research. The truth is . . . it is!
But I also discovered I LOVE research, and writing historical fiction has become a love of mine. A few things I’ve done while researching for my historical novels:
1. I’ve interviewed a Holocaust survivor in a village in Austria just a few minutes from where he was liberated.
2. I’ve taking a tour of an Alaskan bay and saw the swish of a whale’s tale.
3. I walked the cobblestone streets of Prague—the very streets Nazis once marched down.
4. I wandered through a Jewish museum in Frankfurt, Germany, and learned of the horrors done to Jews over generations.
5. I’ve interviewed a ninety-three-year-old rancher in Montana whose parents were homesteaders.
6. I’ve chatted with a woman who was a riveter for B-17 Bombers in Seattle during World War II.
History is fascinating! The people are fascinating. The hard part is making sure my historical novels aren’t entirely about the history. Historical fiction should not be boring!
Yes, the piles of shoes and clothes found upon liberation of the concentration camp amazes me, but I always have to ask myself, “Is this information vital to my story?”
Facts can weigh down your novel, no matter how interesting the facts are.
When I first started writing historical fiction I researched way too much. When I wrote my first historical novel From Dust and Ashes,
I learned about the places the prisoners came from, their lives before the war, their lives after the war, how they got to the death camps, and what happened afterward.
One of the fascinating things I read about was Displaced Person Camps. Those who survived the concentration camps went to these camps until they were able to find their way home. At these camps families were reunited or people discovered the deaths of their loved ones.
When writing From Dust and Ashes I wanted to include this information; after all, I’d spent so much time learning about the camps. So in the middle of my story my characters left their location, went to one of these camps, looked for someone (who wasn’t there), and then returned. The scenes were powerful and emotional, but they had no place in the story . . . and my editor pointed that out.
In the end those chapters were cut. I was sad (because now I’d spent time writing those scenes, too), but it was worth it. The book was better for it.
So while researching for historical novels is important, don’t let the research take you on a rabbit trail. It’s a waste of time, and it’ll most likely need to be cut.
Today, when I sit down to write my historical fiction, I figure out what’s going to be in the novel and what information I’ll need; I’ll research only that. Of course, sometimes my research will uncover a gem I have to add, but for the most part I focus only what I’ve already determined my story needs.
So write history! Write it well! Don’t be afraid to write historical fiction. But don’t let too many facts get in the way of writing a beautiful story. You do need the facts—just not as many as you think.
Once the kids got older they had to learn that “Mom had work, too.” I wasn’t always there to entertain them. This actually turned out to be a good thing. As the kids got older, they knew how to entertain themselves. They read books, played games, created art. And because all three of them were home together every day, they were always busy creating forts or producing skits. They became best pals!
Having kids who knew how to keep themselves occupied was huge. I have a lot of friends whose kids need to be entertained. They have to have Mom there, providing them with things to do or shuffling them from one activity to another. That’s benefit number one.
I also feel seeing Mom do big things is beneficial for my kids. It gives them confidence in their own interests. If mom can think of an idea, work hard, and produce a book . . . why can’t they follow their dreams?
My writing also expands my kids’ vision. For instance, my kids hear me talk about my travels and/or the people I interview. They’ve traveled with me and met amazing people, too. Expanding our horizons and connecting with others has become commonplace.
Then again, another person is affect by my writing. My husband, John, has always been my biggest cheerleader. He believed in me long before anyone else. Even today he listens to my ideas and gives me great feedback. He’s put up with my trips (to writing conferences, speaking events, book conventions), and he understands when I sometimes get too carried away at the bookstore ($$$!). Also, as I grow as a writer, I grow in all areas of my life. I honestly feel I’m a better wife due to the lessons I’ve learned on this writing path.
And personally, I feel I’m also a stronger person because of my path to publication. Writing has opened new doors for me, and it has helped me become more confident. Writing makes me happy . . . and a happy wife is a good wife and mom.
Also, I feel this career is in line with the Proverbs 31 woman. (Who can forget her?) Whether she was reality or a mere symbol, who this woman was in Christ made the difference in all areas of her life. The Proverbs 31 woman not only focused on her family, she also used her creative talents for God’s glory . . . and her husband and children rose to call her blessed!
Also, as children of God, we need to feel like what we do fulfills our God-given dreams. These dreams matter. In my opinion, too many women pour so much into their families that they no longer feel any of “them” is left. Even taking one small step, followed by another, helps us to feel like we’re making progress in following God’s dreams.
Of course, balance is everything. I’ve really had to learn when to stop for the day. I usually keep my writing to afternoons. My kids get my mornings, and my husband and family get my evenings. Once my husband’s home for the day, I’m around. I cook dinner and spend time in the evenings with him. I’m sure I could get a lot more accomplished (writing-wise) if I turned everything over to him and ran upstairs for free writing time, but my marriage is too important for that.
I’ve also had to come up with “management tips” for life.
Balancing family and writing is never easy, but I try to keep my priorities straight. The old saying goes, “You’ll never get to the end of your life and say, ‘I wish I would have worked more.’”
Finally, my writing benefits from these priorities, too. When it comes to putting words on the page, I just do it. Because I have kids, I have to sit down and produce. There’s no letting my mind wander, no playing around on the computer. And I actually think that because of this, I get a lot more done than others I know who have all day to write.
My family is also my inspiration. They have shown me how to love, how to cry, how to rejoice. My writing would be flat and lifeless without those I love most.