Saturday, September 29, 2012

Blog Updates Worth Reading (9/23-9/29)

Jim Denney writes about writing badly, on purpose.

Rachelle Gardner on not overlooking who you know .

Mary Keeley tackles writing goals for 2013 and how to achieve them.

Aimee Salter talks about dropping the Us vs. Them mentality.

Friday, September 28, 2012

On Writing Retreats

Since I’m enjoying one myself this weekend, I thought this was the ideal time to discuss the subject of writing retreats.

WHY Writers Need a Retreat
Every writer reaches the point where they require refreshment. A retreat offers the perfect opportunity to recharge our batteries and uninterrupted writing time. You can set your own schedule (generally) and decide when & where to write. This weekend I’ll be staying in a beautiful home with an ample indoor and outdoor variety of locations to focus on writing---and relaxing.

WHEN Writers Need a Retreat
This can vary for every writer. Maybe you’re reaching the end of a project and need to hyper-focus for a brief time. Perhaps you’ve just finished one project and are preparing to begin another. A retreat can offer you some downtime and the opportunity to brainstorm your new ideas. Or, you may have hit a roadblock and the distractions at home (or work) are so great a retreat is the escape you need. Each writer will decide their reasons and timing for a retreat. 

HOW to Make It Happen
Schedule out your writing year and choose a date; the sooner, the better. Personally, the earlier I mark something on the calendar the more committed I come to living out that schedule. Whatever works for you, just insure you block the time now. Then you have something to looking forward to at the appointed time.

Don’t underestimate the fruit that can spring from a retreat. You might be surprised by the outcome.

Have you ever taken a writing retreat? If so, did it have the desired outcome? If not, what is preventing you from taking one?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

WIP Wednesday: When is A Manuscript Really "Finished?"

You’ve worked countless hours writing, rewriting and revising your book. You’ve run the manuscript through your critique group multiple times, and now you’re certain the manuscript is finished. But is it?

As writers, we can be the greatest procrastinators in the world. It’s not that we don’t want our work out for the entire world to see, because we do. No, it’s that we are unable to release our baby until it’s just perfect. Completely perfect. Without blemish. Ready for human consumption. 

More realistically we want to feel like there’s nothing more to be done to the manuscript---at least not until an agent offers their input (and representation). There’s nothing wrong with this and I’m a firm believer in never sending out work until it’s reached that point of completeness.

A first draft is not a finished manuscript; it’s merely a first step. One rewrite doesn’t meet the “finished” criteria, either. No questions or concerns from your critique group or beta readers? Perhaps you’ve really finished the book. Take all of this with a grain of salt. Each of us has our own definitions for “finished” and “complete”. Consider what those words mean for your manuscript and then bravely wave goodbye and send it off to an agent or editor. And then get started on your next project, looking forward to when you’ll finish that one.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Your Turn: Query Tips?

I'm starting a new feature today on the blog called Your Turn. This is where you can share yoru best practices and lessons learned from your own writing journey. After all, this blog isn't about me, it's about community.

First up, what are your query tips? What have you learned about querying that might help others? What did you do best? How much research did you do before querying? How many query rewrites have you made? Imagine any question possible and if you like, ask your own.

I look forward to reading your responses. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Writing Sample Chapters

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Query Time!

Yes, you read that right. It's FINALLY query time for Sarah's story. Book proposals are a lot of work, as any writer whose drafted one knows full well. Time consuming, infuriating, challenging and perhaps, in the end (especially if you land a book deal), satisfying. I'll let you know if the sense of satisfaction ever lands here.

I'm putting the finishing touches on the proposal, then sending it and my sample chapters off to my first list of agents and editors. While I won't be reporting on the results, I will be writing about the process, how much I learned, what I can take ahead into other projects, and how it's really made me think about the writing process. 

Once I press SEND on those emails, it's on to the next project. But what will that be? Another nonfiction book? The next novel? I should note here that I plan on querying MDK not far behind. It should provide some entertainment for my fall season.

Are you querying or sending proposals out right now? Have you already done so? Are you receiving helpful feedback, if not a book deal? I'd love to hear your news.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Monday Mashup

Here are some helpful posts I've discovered in the past week. Hope you find them useful.

Writing Book Proposals - two posts from the agents at Books & Such here & here

Agent Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary is offering an incredible opportunity for feedback on your queries, through this Friday. Check it out here.

The incomparable Janet Reid has a valuable post about comp titles that I stumbled across, ironically enough, as I'm preparing my own proposal.

What online finds have you discovered this week worth sharing?


Today is a very special day for my family. Four years ago we were blessed with the birth of our fourth child, Sarah. Two months later, she was diagnosed with biliary atresia. Thus began our rollercoaster journey that eventually resulted in a liver transplant when Sarah was seven months old. Our lives would have been so very different without her smiles, laughter, kisses and all-around silliness. We're forever indebted to the donor family for making a difficult decision. We may never have the chance to thank them personally but we are eternally grateful that they chose to have their own precious child's organs given to those who otherwise would have not survived.

Words are so inadequate in times like these and "thank you" can't possibly encompass what we feel.

Happy Birthday, Sarah!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

WIP Wednesday

Summer is on its way out the door and that means it’s time to get back to work, writing that is. I didn’t maintain the writing schedule I would have liked during the summer but I’m okay with that. Time with my kids trumps writing. But NOW…time to get down to business.

This week I’m working on the novel, “Big Joe.” Rewriting, revising, revising some more – the story of my life, and this novel. Query time is fast approaching and though I’m a bit behind schedule on that, I believe I have it where I want it. Showing vs. telling is still my greatest struggle but great input from writing friends has greatly improved the story and the flow.

Next up is completing the book proposal for my nonfiction book. My plan is to begin querying on this book soon. This is really my first full-fledged foray into sending manuscripts out and I’m looking forward to the experience. No, really, I am. I understand rejection will come and I’m prepared for it. You can’t grow and succeed without first failing.

I also know I have stories to tell and believe in both of them. So I guess I’m equal parts confident and realistic. Just this week I’ve received a couple of opportunities to have my work reviewed/critiqued. I don’t have expectations beyond receiving some feedback I can use to improve my writing. That’s what this journey’s all about, after all - learning and growing.

What are you working on this week? Has it reached the point where you can begin querying? Are you already querying and just waiting for a “yes”?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Interview with...Nicole Petrino-Salter

Welcome back to Interview Tuesday! It’s been a great summer and I’m ready to resume my weekly blog schedule. I hope all of you have enjoyed a fantastic summer.

To kick off the fall interview series is Nicole Petrino-Salter. She may not be a household name yet but she is a great talent and has some fabulous stories to share. I had the pleasure of meeting Nicole several years ago at the Northwest Christian Writers’ Renewal and she’s become one of my best friends. I’ll let Nicole tell some of her own story through the answers to my questions. Nicole blogs at and you can find her books, like “The Famous One” through Amazon.

When did you discover your love of writing for the first time?

So long ago I don't remember. I loved writing letters when I was a child, and I graduated to stories once in school. Two things that seem to have always been with me are the love of horses and writing.

You spent many years in the horse racing industry. How has that colored your writing life, if at all?

As you know, Kirk, my first novel was a result of the Lord's direction to write a "Christian novel about horse racing". I wondered over the 8 and 1/2 years it took to write the monster saga if I would finish it in obedience to Him. With his encouragement I did it! The world of horse racing comprised over 30 years of my life. You could say I grew up there, but really it wasn't until I met the Lord while working on the track shortly after my second marriage that my life began to make sense and change for the better. It can be a tough life, and it's a challenge on every level - physically with working 7-days-a-week, emotionally with loving the horses, and spiritually with sin always available and taunting you. Since I'm a student of people, the diverse personalities of people in that concentrated environment gave me rich character studies.
I know you’ve completed a number of novels. What has been your biggest joy in writing?

Honestly, feeling the inspiration to create new characters and experience their lives and circumstances as the story takes place. Receiving those words which give affirmation to that story from readers. I'm a person who requires a fair amount of affirmation.

Your novels are sometimes termed “realistic” and “raw.” You deal uncompromisingly with issues of sin, regret and redemption. How do you deal with these issues in a convincing manner?

If we can't tell the truth about these issues without "purifying" them first, then we fail to truly address the intense effects of sin. I think it's important to portray people who fail, people who have no moral compass, people who desire to do the right thing and succeed, and people who are confused about what's right and what's wrong within and without the Christian community and do it without judgment. "Realistic" can be very "raw" but doesn't have to be graphic. "Realistic" touches hearts and souls and can both repel and resurrect. None of us can claim to be without sin. I think it can be important to give an accurate depiction of it and its results. And in my case I often tackle the beauty and harm of sexual attraction, viewing and contrasting relationships from the world's ideas and God's heart. I write for adult readers who don't gravitate toward fluff.  

How important do you believe blogging is for a fiction writer today?

I think blogging can be very important provided the author who's doing the blogging is committed to it. Author websites are notorious for not being kept up to date. Some authors who begin blogs wind up abandoning them or posting so infrequently, people quit visiting. If they're a bestselling author, they can get away with it. However, many readers now engage social networking and enjoy learning about the authors they enjoy. Blogs provide a connection to readers.

You’ve met countless writers by writing book reviews on your blog. I imagine you’ve made many friends that way. What do you think of the writing community as a whole?

That's an interesting question, Kirk. Let's say the author's with whom I've formed a real friendship are just great people. Period. The writing community as a whole? Hmm. Some of the professionals in the industry seem inflexible and slightly out of touch with current readers, insisting on sticking to their tried and true demographic of women, style of literature, and formulaic structures. I think that demographic could be much wider and many of my writing/reading friends agree. Oh well.

Do you mind sharing what you’re currently working on? I believe it’s a story a bit out of the norm for you.

Yes, right now I'm attempting to write a police procedural in primarily first person POV from the lead detective's perspective on a murder case at a local racetrack. I decided to go back to the track with this one since I haven't written anything related to horse racing since my first novel. I've completed seven novels and actually have three WIPs but have been devoting most of my time to this one of late. A definite switch from my trademark love stories although there's a thread of romance in this one too. I'm really hoping I can pull it off because it definitely hasn't been easy. And since most of my work centers on character studies, it's difficult for me to get the appropriate suspense in there.

Kirk, I'm nobody in the industry, usually kind of a rebel about it all, but I do love writing novels that mean something - no matter how seemingly insignificant. I truly appreciate your interest in my work and most of all your friendship. Thank you for including me.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Dragons Are People, Too

After a lengthy summer hiatus, I’m eager to begin blogging again. I’m hoping to engage with you more regularly for the remainder of the year and into 2013 as I explore different writing topics, share writer, editor & agent interviews, and possibly host a contest or two. As always, I sincerely appreciate you taking time to read & interact with me. Writing can be a lonely world and it’s comforting to know so many of us are on this same road – perhaps at different stages – and moving forward together.

As I contemplated what to start the blogging season with, I thought about my WIP, as I often do. Dragons have taken center stage in my current project. Dragons aren’t new to fiction and the task of bringing something fresh to their history can be challenging.

It all starts with characterization. If dragons (or people) are going to populate your fantasy world, they need to be believable, living, breathing creatures. They can’t just breathe fire, destroy villages and hoard gold. They must be much more than that. They must have hopes, dreams, imaginations and families. They must hold grudges, offer forgiveness and overcome obstacles.

Creating believable characters is an essential part of a great story. You may have created the most fantastic world this side of Middle-earth but if you’re characters are flat, you’re wasting a tremendous opportunity. Some writers can sidestep weak characters with incredible world-building but those success stories are few and far between. As a fantasy writer, you’d like both a vivid world and characters the reader will care about.

How do you bring life to your characters, especially non-human characters? Do you look at them as more than just humans in dragon clothing? How much time do you spend creating your characters as part of your writing process?