Category Archives: Writing

Heart Treasures

Heart Treasures

“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” ~ Luke 2:19

I tried writing down everything that happened at the writers conference last month. The good, the bad, the exciting and the boring. I wrote about the first two days, but stopped half-way through the third.

I couldn’t go any further. Like Mary, I needed to treasure it as well as ponder.

During the conference, I signed up for a fifteen minute appointment with a literary agent. I practiced my pitch in one of my elective courses just prior to my appointment, and I continued to mentally recite it as I walked through the hotel.

The moment I sat down with the agent, I started my pitch. I didn’t get but a few words in when he said, “Show me what you have.”

Okay. Fine by me, because I was stumbling over it, anyway. I gave him my “one sheet” which contains a back-cover blurb, the genre, word count, and my bio which includes my writing credits.

He read the first page of my fantasy (and latest novel), stopped less than a page in and said, “I have a question for you. Why aren’t you published, yet? This is really good.”

“Honestly,” I said, “I haven’t tried that hard. I’ve been concentrating on writing and improving my craft.”

He nodded and continued to read. He spent over half of appointment reading it. I spent that time staring at his two massive football rings, and ached to ask him who he played for, and if they were Super Bowl or division championship rings.

He finally had to force himself to put it down, and asked if I had anything else.

“I do.”

“Did you bring them?”

I did, and took them out of my folder. His expression indicated that he was pleased that I did. I pulled out the first chapter of one and said, “This one is a lot shorter, so it won’t take you as long.”

He skimmed through that one and asked more about the books’ genres, what genre I preferred to write and if the books were YA or adult.

In the end, he not only asked me to send him the full manuscript and synopsis of my fantasy, but the other two as well. He even bragged me up a bit to an editor for Tor sitting next to him, and recommended I sign up to meet with her as well. She was full up, however, and I never got a chance to accost her during meals or elsewhere.

I sent him everything about two weeks ago. I expect to get a response in the next six weeks or so. Hopefully.

I don’t expect him to take me as a client, though (or at least tell myself not to). My books have received interest like this before, and ended up being passed over.

Even so, that the agent literally couldn’t put my story down says — and means — a lot. It also shows that all my hard work has yielded good results after all.

Offending Jesus

I wrote six devotionals for my church dedicated to the minor prophets such as Hosea, Amos and Obadiah.

They were a bit difficult, because most prophets describe where the people (in this case the Israelites) are convicted of their wrong-doing. As such my devotionals are more convicting than usual.

Last Sunday I helped teach the kindergartners for Sunday school. A lady approached me and said, “I’ve really enjoyed your writing this month.” I had to think about it for a second. I thought, “You read my blog?” I don’t remember even inviting her to my author page on Facebook, so how did she find it. And then I remembered. She meant my devotionals.

“They’re convicting,” she said, “but in a very good way.”

“Oh, good,” I said. “I knew how convicting they were, and was a little fearful they would be offensive.”

“Sometimes that’s what we need.”

“That’s true,” I said. “Jesus himself was very offensive, and is part of why he was killed.”

“That should be the title of your next book,” someone else said. “The Offensive Jesus.”

An interesting idea, but I don’t know if I could write an entire book on the subject. My first thought is that it would contain little else but existing scriptural passages where Jesus offended people (usually the Israeli leadership such as the Pharisees). Still, as with all ideas, it’s worth thinking about.

To add a little brainstorming: I would have to start with why the Pharisees found Jesus so offensive, and perhaps seek to answer why so many today still do.

In Tears

Maybe because I had a difficult week dealing with a bad tooth, and now with it fixed, I have succumbed to exhaustion. As such, I’m feeling a bit more emotional than usual (or maybe it’s a hormonal thing).

Regardless, I just finished writing another devotional for my church, and more than once I had to fight back tears. Something about it struck me. It’s about God’s love and mercy, that no matter how egregious our sins, he will always pursue us to get us to accept his convictions, his mercy, and his love.

Perhaps there are a few sins of my own that I need to lay at God’s feet. Perhaps, although my head is well aware of who God is, and how much he loves me, my heart needs a bit more coaxing. I don’t always feel God’s presence even when I know he’s there.

Such as when my husband is sitting next to me. I know he’s there, loving me, however quietly. Yet sometimes I need him to hold my hand, so I can feel his love just as poignantly.

The Worst Part of An Interview

It isn’t the anxiety beforehand.

Nor is it during the interview itself.

It’s the aftermath.

I just ended an interview for a magazine associate editor’s position. This was especially nerve-wracking because I haven’t done an interview in twenty years.

It took place over Google Hangouts which was interesting and kinda cool (I’ll describe why in a second) with two ladies involved with the magazine. They asked me about my writing, my editing strengths and weaknesses, and my expectations with the position. They will be interviewing several others, and will let me know either way within a few weeks whether or not I obtain the position.

Now for why the aftermath is the worst part of the interview.

For the next two hours I will mentally scrutinize every word I spoke, and every action of my face and rest of my body.

Did I stutter too much? Did I blink too much? Did I pick my nose? Did I yawn? Did I talk with my hands too much? Too little?

I could have answered that question better!

I should have said something else!

Why, oh why did I say that?!

The upside of it taking place over Hangouts was they couldn’t smell my bad breath due to nervous dry-mouth, or that my deodorant gave out three hours ago.

Eureka?

I like that word mostly because of its history. It comes from ancient Greek meaning “I found it.”

From Wikipedia: “The exclamation ‘Eureka!’ is attributed to the ancient Greek scholar Archimedes. He reportedly proclaimed “Eureka! Eureka!” after he had stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose, whereupon he suddenly understood that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged. “

I had a bit of a Eureka moment whilst taking a shower this morning. I think I figured out a better prologue for my novel (the one that failed so miserably in the contest).

I rewrote the first chapter already from a different point of view, but I’m not sure I like how it turned out. The first iteration contained a lot of information necessary to the rest of the book, but I couldn’t include it in the rewrite, because the new point of view character doesn’t have that information. Yet it won’t fit anywhere else. At least not yet. I did ask a few people to read the prologue and first three chapters to see what they think, so we’ll see how that goes. Maybe it does work, and I’m being overly critical.

Perhaps I’ll have another Eureka moment whilst in the shower tomorrow, or at least by the end of June. I intend to present this novel to an agent at a writers conference in July.

Also, I signed up to write more devotionals for my church. The focus is on the minor Old Testament prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah and Nahum. Each day is a separate chapter of each book (except Obadiah since it’s only one chapter), so the series will encompass a month.

So far I signed up to write six devotionals. I wanted to sign up for more, but I thought that might be too greedy.

I look forward to writing them, especially the ones in Hosea. It’s about how God not only punishes his people (Israel), but about his relentless pursuit of drawing Israel back to him in spite of her sins. It’s a love story in many ways. Plus, as a writer, I can appreciate the beauty of the prose, and the parallels it draws between God and Israel, and Hosea and his wife and children.

Hmm. Maybe I should study Hosea as a writer, and see how I can apply those techniques to my own writing. Something to think about anyway.

Self-Deceit?

I received the score sheets and suggested edits to my contest submission three days ago, and I have yet to download or even open the attachments.

I’m still too uncertain as to whether or not I’m emotionally capable of handling more criticism — even though intellectually I know many of the comments will only help to improve my craft.

As writers we get so close to our stories that we can’t see what readers see. What seems obvious to us can be confusing to the reader.

As I continue to struggle with feelings of rejection and inadequacy, I am nonetheless thinking and simmering over the scoresheets themselves.

I believe I have come up with a way to “speed up” the first chapter, and give the reader a sense — at least at the beginning — of who the main character is. As a reader, I do like to pick one character — at least to start — to latch onto, relate to, and root for. By giving the reader three equally important characters, the reader has more difficulty making that choice.

All it will take for me is to switch the point of view to a different character. Everything else that happens won’t change, so it won’t adversely effect the rest of the story.

Still, by avoiding the judges comments, am I engaging in a bit of self-deceit?

Adam Savage of “Mythbusters” once said: “I reject your reality, and substitute my own.”

Perhaps that’s what I’m doing, both with my previous entry about my manuscript not being the best fit for the contest (and hence the low scores), and by rewriting the first chapter entirely without looking at and thereby digesting the other comments.

I won’t know for sure until I read the comments . . .

Nope, still not ready to face them. I prefer to swim in my chosen “reality” for a while longer.

Maybe tomorrow.

Well That Was Rough

I just received the score sheets from my contest entry, and boy were they critical. Out of a score of 100, it received an average of 50.

What’s interesting is the average scoring for the previous contest was 84 for the first round and 88 for the final round.

For the same book.

What’s even more interesting about the results is how consistent the judges comments are in each contest.

Perhaps the difference lies in that the first contest (where my novel received the highest scores) the judges judged the first five pages, and for the second contest, the judges judged the first fifteen pages.

A few consistent comments:

1. A Christian worldview not evident (which I was aware of; I wondered if it may be more appropriate for a more mainstream audience. Now I know).

2. Who’s the main character? This I thought might be iffy, because there isn’t one main character. There’s three.

3. It starts out slow with too much narration, not enough action, while at the same time not enough world-building details. Sigh. As one who has little confidence in writing intriguing, and story-moving detail as it is, I feel like someone just told me to climb Mount Everest with my stubby legs and arthritic knees.

4. First line (hook) needs work. Ugh.

I just had a thought. While I like entering these kinds of contests, I wonder if the questions asked of the judges are a bit too constraining.

For instance, the questions emphasize the importance of the first line. A lot of readers (at least the one’s I’ve asked about it) don’t seem to care as long as the first few pages are intriguing. Then there are the questions about whether or not the main character (singular) is obvious at the start. At least in my novel, I have three, and I’ll state with some confidence that most books have at least two, especially those with romantic plots and subplots. Add to the mix the questions about an obvious “Christian worldview”. Some novels will always be more subtle in that area than others.

Those questions almost guarantee a lower score for books that don’t necessarily fit into that mold — such as lacking an attention-grabbing first line (but the subsequent writing is), has more than one main character, and the “message” is subtle (or becomes more evident later in the book).

I can’t help but wonder if my novel wasn’t the best fit for this particular contest. Something to think about anyway. I don’t regret it though, because the remaining comments and suggestions are worth considering, and may result in a better book in the end.

Nor do I fault the contest, or the judges. I fact, they have earned from me a greater respect for having to muddle through my entry. I will forever appreciate them taking the time to read it, and give me their honest assessments.

In the final analysis, it’s my fault for not studying my own novel more such as its genre, sub-genre and target audience, and comparing it to the overall purpose of the contest.

I just saw this quote, and think it’s rather appropriate:

“Let your thoughts lift you into creativity that is not hampered by opinion.” – Red Haircrow