Archive for the ‘Let’s Talk About Writing blog’ Category

It’s a new year and many of us are trying on fresh ideas for the future. What will we offer the world in terms of our writing this year?

Here are five tips on getting the ball rolling:

  1. Review

Review the past year. Take a look at your mission statement / goals for 2016. Did you follow through?

  1. Consider

What worked and what flopped? What did you most enjoy? What garnered the most response? Be completely honest.

  1. Renew

Tweak last year’s mission statement / goals / life purpose.

What are your Personal & Family Goals? Your Business & Career Goals? Make sure to break these goals down into manageable and measureable parts.

  1. Commit

When you organize, prioritize and specify, you commit yourself to achieving your goals in a manageable and measureable manner. If you are a believer in Christ, commit your ways to Him and know He will help you stay on course. You may also wish to be held accountable by another writer or close friend who will be honest with you and keep you on track.

  1. Commence

Begin today. Write that post. Edit that manuscript. Enter that contest. There’s no time like NOW.

God bless you as you kick off a new year of writing.

Note: and keep checking back to make sure your work is lining up with your plan. (Speaking to myself here too.)

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You can’t please everyone.

That’s a basic truth if I ever heard one (says this die-hard people-pleaser).

The point is, not everything we write will strike a chord with all our readers. Some will hate it, some will remain untouched, but there will be a few with whom our writing resonates.

Some of the different reactions are due to genre and style and other elemental choices, but often, people relate to our words because of some past experience or inner need or common ground. They relate on some level.Book One

For example, one of the readers of my first book was deeply touched by the fact that my female lead had lost her mother and missed her greatly. She could identify. I had not considered that part of my story to be that influential because I didn’t relate to it personally.

The takeaway is that if we keep writing, every once in a while our words will impact a life or two.

1609_TW_Cover_LR-130x169For years I have subscribed to The Writer, which I would recommend to any and all writers. This monthly magazine features a vast array of topics and tips for all levels of writing. That means many writers can relate to it on some level. I would venture to say that in my twenty-some years of subscribing, there are only a couple of issues where I’ve not been able to gather usable information or encouragement from one or more articles. Usually, I read through the entire publication, and often find pieces that offer more than I thought they would.

Again to the moral of this story: the more writing we send out to the world, the more people it will influence, entertain, inform, and encourage.

Just as some of us need to let go of the crazy idea of trying to please everyone, so we as writers need to realize that while we might not reach a crowd, we will reach a few, and our influence in their lives may go farther then we ever dared to imagine.

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chocolateYou’ve heard the saying, “You are what you eat.”

Here’s another one for you: “You are what you read.”my library photo

I read all the time. I have a shelf of books by my bed that I read from before I go to sleep (a good book will often induce sleep by pulling my scattered thoughts together into the story…unless the storyline is so suspenseful that I can’t stop reading), and sometimes I allow myself a half hour or so of reading while I eat my lunch. And Sunday afternoons, and…

I also have a story going at all times on my iPhone (I don’t have an iPad yet), for those times when I’m stuck waiting for an appointment or having my hair done.

thAnd then there’s the audio book on my little old iPod Nano that I listen to while I’m doing mundane things around the house or in the garden. It makes a job speed by quickly.

Some writers say they stop reading while they’re working on a book, because they don’t want outside influences. However, in my opinion, we are never immune to outside influences. As long as I’m in control of what I feed myself through reading, the effects are positive.

Over the years, I’ve taught myself to read more analytically. I note what works and what doesn’t as I read. That is reflected, I hope, in my own writing. I’ve also done a fair bit of contest judging, mostly fiction because that’s what I write, and that experience always teaches me more about writing.

Reading and writing are intertwined for the writer, impossible to separate. So keep reading, read good books, read the kind you write and the kind you wish you could write! Experiment with new authors and genres. You never know when you’ll come up with something that opens up a whole new avenue of thought and writing for you.14068091_10154440806782389_4960450202972542588_n

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Accountability is an important aspect of growth in any area of life.



When I joined Weight Watchers eight years ago, I paid them good money to keep me accountable. I had a goal, but I needed the prompting of weekly weigh-ins and tips to help me attain that goal. (My husband said he would be glad to keep me accountable if I paid him that money, but he didn’t offer any little booklets or badges to mark progress.



I know of a group of young men who meet weekly before work to pray and study God’s word, and to share their challenges and victories. They hold one another accountable for the choices they make, and I strongly believe they and their families and their communities are better off for it.

Accountability in the writing life is often difficult to nail down. We writers usually work alone. There are programs and apps to keep us on course, to track our daily word count. We have actual and virtual groups that are willing to provide feedback regarding our journey.

In spite of all these options, we are still ultimately responsible for our own growth, for our choices, our use of time, our approach to goal-setting. What works well for one does not always make the difference to another.

For me, a promise is a strong stimulus to keep going. In January of this year, I set a goal to write a specifically categorized blogpost for every week. With God’s help, a couple of reposts from writer friends, and a lot of time, I am now putting the finishing touches on my posts for this calendar year. The satisfaction of keeping a promise is high reward for me. Next to satisfaction is the response of a friend or two to a particular post. Thank you to all of you who have commented.

If I can touch a life now and then with these posts, they are well worth the effort. I hope you have received some encouragement from my blogs, as I have from the blogs of others.

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What’s different about writing in summer as opposed to any other time of the year?

In my world, the difference lies in the host of other activities and jobs calling to me. Not only must I maintain my house and feed my family, but I have a small garden and a huge yard to manage. And a family reunion at our place. And visits from neighbors and friends. And one must take time for hot dogs and BBQs and ice cream cones. IMG_1196

Yesterday, for example (August 24), I planned to continue working the latest edits into my manuscript. But first, I wanted to pull the invasive weeds overwhelming my garden plot. It shouldn’t take more than an hour or so, I thought. Three hours later, I returned to the house, amazed at how much time had passed but glad to have the job done. I had so enjoyed the morning outside that I decided to cut the grass after lunch. It’s a 2.5-hour job, but since rain was predicted, I thought it prudent. The grass looks lovely today in the rain. IMG_0270

Today I’m back at the computer, but writing-life housekeeping chores take much of my morning. And this afternoon I need to attend my writing group meeting, since we are discussing my latest manuscript.


And that’s how summer goes. But there’s also Christmas, preparing for the family to come home en masse. And Easter, when they do the same…we are so blessed. There are many interruptions in life, but maybe I’m looking at it from a completely skewed perspective. Maybe life IS the interruptions. Maybe my writing is the commentary I fit in as often as I can. I call it my vocation, my career, my job. But it will always be a balancing act with what happens off the page.

Me with my mom and one of my daughters

Me with my mom and one of my daughters

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A Mission Statement for Writers

Do you ever feel like you’re spinning your wheels? Like you are writing randomly?

It’s not that we have nothing to write about. Most of us, as writers, have so many ideas, so many projects in the back of our minds, that there are times we just don’t know where to start. At least, that’s where I’ve been lately.

Writing is not easy, and sometimes we find ourselves asking, “Why do I do this?” And similar questions. This quandary led me to think of my purpose as a writer. I know deep down that I have a purpose and a passion for writing. But what happened to my plan?


So I googled “how to write a mission statement.” Here’s what I discovered (rediscovered):

One of the sites I found was Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn (excellent writing resource), featuring Shannon from Duolit: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2013/08/03/mission-statement/. Shannon suggests the following questions (with my comments following):

  1. What do I do?

Be specific here. Do you write fiction, non-fiction, poetry? What is your motivation and your purpose?

  1. Who do I do it for?

In other words, who is your audience? Again, be specific. What do my readers expect from me?

  1. Why am I different?

This refers to your writing! What makes your writing unique? What makes it stand out from other writing of similar style and genre?

I find this a tough question. Just start writing something and you may be surprised with what comes out.

  1. Where am I going?

I see this as a directional question. What projects do I have in mind? Make a list. Organize it by level of importance (if you can…this is also one of my tough spots right now).

  1. How am I going to get there?

Beside each project, write two or three ideas on how to make it happen. You may also want to include possible timelines for each. These are, of course, completely adjustable. To start myself off, I began with a few of the projects I have already completed. This gave me a bit of momentum to carry on.

Now refine your answers (suggests Shannon) to one simple sentence for each question (save your original musings for reference). Then put all five together into a paragraph. Use present tense.

A few other sites I stumbled upon are:

Allen Watson’s ideas on Indie Mission Statement: https://authorallenwatson.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/your-indie-author-mission-statement/

Then from Darla at http://www.darlawrites.com/create-writer-mission-statement/:

(This is not verbatim.)

    • Start with your thoughts, hopes, dreams
    • Focus on a single writing goal (perhaps quality, being read, etc.)
    • Choose two or three things that will help me meet my goal
    • Write, write and rewrite this mission statement until it’s perfect for me
    • Memorize it
    • Print it out and post it in a prominent place
    • Share it, claim it, live it

And here’s a sample mission statement from Joanne Phillips: https://joannegphillips.wordpress.com/2012/08/14/author-mission-statements/

        “I write stories to entertain and offer a temporary escape into another life. I create interesting characters who may linger with the reader long after she’s finished the story. I write about characters who learn to examine their lives – their motivations, their hopes and fears – and find the courage to change. I write about the important stuff, but with a light touch. I write about the four Ls: life, love, loss and lies – including the lies we tell ourselves. And yes, I want to change the world. A little tiny bit of it, anyway.”

I will also include my very unfinished mission statement that I created with the help of the above information. Lots of tweaking yet to be done:

    “I create quality writing that reflects life and offers hope and a future, because that’s what I’ve been given. My readers are people who grasp truth through story, whether historical or contemporary. I write quality fiction (and non-fiction) from a Christian worldview, offering hope in spite of life’s difficulties. My goals are to independently publish both historical and contemporary fiction, as well as blogs, book reviews and how-to mini-books, and to learn how to market these to readers. I love stories with welcoming settings, a steadily moving plot, fascinating and usually quirky characters, a bit of romance, quite a few secrets, and some mystery, all combined in a gentle but realistic read.”

So have a little fun with this. I have already felt more motivated by reviewing these questions and my tentative answers. Don’t edit yourself when you begin. You can trim later. Right now you need to unload your ideas as fully as possible. If you are willing to share your mission statement, include it in the comments section below. You never know who you might inspire.

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“…if you aim at nothing you will hit it every time.”

You’ve all heard this quote by Zig Ziglar, and I’ve used it in my blogs before.

Do we really want to leave ourselves open to whatever happens? Speaking for myself, I’d rather decide what I want to accomplish, figure out how to get it done, what I need for the journey, and when it will be completed.

Right now I have at least a dozen writing projects on my list of things to do. The problem is that I don’t have a measurable goal for accomplishing them. Random completion dates don’t quite cut it.

It’s good to have an idea, a list of things to do, but the how-to is the motivator. That’s what gets us moving toward actual accomplishment.

file0001564894818There are as many ways of organizing our writing and our time as there are people who care to consider the problem. The answer is to create a plan that works for you.

I love charts and graphs, but they can easily become a means of procrastination, a way of doodling instead of working. If we can keep our doodling to a minimum and use the charts and excel sheets to keep ourselves on track, then we will make progress.

My goal for today is to revisit my writing goals:

  • arrange the projects in order of importance
  • decide how to approach each project
  • figure out how long each step will take
  • come up with a completion date
  • remember that it’s okay, even advisable, to revisit these goals and adjust as I go

As long as we keep moving forward, toward our goals, we will be successful.

Karen Lamb said:

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.”

So true. Let’s get going.


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One of the best ways to grow as a writer is to attend writerly events. I’m thinking specifically of conferences, workshops and writing groups.

Conferences are places to network with people with the same passion for words that you possess. It’s invigorating to talk with other writers, to discuss writing and books and publishing.

Saskatoon InScribe Conference 2016

Saskatoon InScribe Conference 2016

Conferences are also great places to learn. You may not profit from every workshop you attend, but you may pick up a thing or three by being there, possibly by asking questions of the presenter.

I like to get to at least one conference a year. My preference at this time is the InScribe Christian Writer’s Conference in Edmonton, AB Canada at the end of September. It’s located within driving distance of my home, and I have a friend from nearby who also attends regularly, so we drive together.

I have also enjoyed and profited from The Word Guild’s Write! Canada Conference in June. However, I don’t currently have the budget for the conference and plane fare, so that’s not an option.

One year I was blessed to attend the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference when it was held in Minneapolis. What an experience that was to meet and rub shoulders with prolific Christian fiction writers such as Angela Hunt, James Scott Bell, Karen Ball, Terri Blackstock, Siri Mitchell, and many more. And then there was the Mall of America.

Choose an event that works for you and go! It’s a shot in the arm, a boot to the butt, an encouragement.

Books for sale at Saskatoon Conference 2016

Books for sale at Saskatoon Conference 2016

I’ve also discovered a lot of online courses that are either free or very affordable. As a member of ACFW, ICFW and TWG,  I see offers of free courses all the time. These focus on everything from point of view to social media for writers, from character creation to plot development and everything  in between.

I’ve even benefitted from free courses that end up being a hook to more expensive workshops. You don’t have to buy the costly stuff, just learn what you can from the freebies.

I also stumbled upon a website shortly after Christmas this past year that consisted of a large group of authors who promoted each others’ work with a huge giveaway of free e-books on writing. Some didn’t actually show up in my download file because of a glitch or mistake on my part, but I still downloaded a lot of good resources.

In my experience, a local writing group is also extremely helpful. Sometimes the best part is meeting with like-minded people, but often I come home with terrific suggestions for the work I’ve brought to the group for critique. It depends on the members, of course, but look around for a group that works for you. Share your areas of expertise with them as they share theirs with you. One important note: if you submit material for critique, make sure you really want it. Don’t ask for input and then pout or leave the group because it hurts your feelings. If you want to improve, listen. You don’t have to accept and use every suggestion, but consider them just the same, especially if you get similar comments from more than one person.

So whether you hop on a plane for a large international writing conference or drive to the next town for a workshop, take in what you can according to budget and time. Plan to bless and be blessed.

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Last month we talked about reading. That every writer should read…widely. And then we shared some of the books we love the most, or that have made an impact on our lives.

This month, let’s talk about what we write.

For years, all I wrote was fiction. Long fiction. I found it difficult to keep up a momentum, to create a goal, because it’s such a vast venture. The result was that I often felt bogged down, and the books took much longer to write than they should.

When I decided to create a website , I committed myself to communicating once each week. I devised a separate blog theme for each week and made lists of ideas and titles to keep me going. This was a challenge, to say the least. These words would be non-fiction, a direct connection with readers, instead of the indirectness of a novel. How would I manage it?

But there’s something to be said for commitment. I’d made a promise to myself and to my readers, and with God’s help, I maintained the once per week blog.

The surprise was that I enjoyed it. I was able to develop my writing voice to a greater degree, and had the responsibility to do it weekly. Remember the old adage, variety is the spice of life? That’s what I’m talking about!

The next opportunity for variation in my writing came from my publisher at the time. He requested that I write a short story for Christmas that year (I plan to re-release this story nearer to Christmas. I’ll let you know), and that it be contemporary instead of my usual historical. Another challenge, to be sure, but this story proved to be a ton of fun once I created my characters.

I’m still working mostly on historical fiction, but I have a number of other irons in the fire, and now I know there are many other avenues available to connect with readers. The variations have given a boost to my writing.


What do you write?


What led you to that genre or style?

Do you have any plans to try other genres?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

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Let’s talk about writing. Not just about the craft, but also about the life. This is a sharing blog, so I hope you’ll feel free to participate by commenting.

Whenever I teach basic writing workshops, one of my top suggestions is:



  1. What do you read?
  2. Why do you read what you do; what draws you to that genre / author?
  3. What’s the most recent book you’ve read and what made it good / bad / great?
  4. What’s your favorite book / author from the past year or two?
  5. What reading format(s) do you prefer and why?

I’ll answer from my perspective and you can chime in too. It’s always fun to compare, consider and learn…

my library photoI read all the time.


I’m what you might call a chain-reader, a story addict.



  1. I read mostly fiction because I’m a story person, but I also read non-fiction to learn more about my craft and especially, these days, about indie publishing. I especially like cozy mysteries and historical novels, but I’m also a sucker for the occasional romance read, as long as there’s more to it than the romance. I read genre fiction as opposed to literary fiction because it makes more sense to me. Some of my reasons for reading are:

– to be entertained

– to lose myself in another world

– to learn about people and places

Genre fiction does this for me.

  1. I think I read mysteries for the game: trying to figure out what will happen and why people do the things they do. The cozy part is because I don’t like to read much violence. I appreciate historical novels because that’s what I write, mostly, and I love to imagine and learn how people lived in various times and places.
  2. I am currently reading a book called The Woods at Barlow Bend, by Jodie Cain Smith. 511kJW203hL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX324_SY324_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA346_SH20_OU15_It’s quite good for the following reasons:

– the storyline is unpredictable

– the point of view character is a fourteen year old girl who doesn’t understand her world

– tension is heightened when her father is accused of murdering her mother

This is neither a historical nor cozy, but I downloaded it for free from Bookbub (there’s a great site for readers) and it has me hooked.
NOTE: If you decide to read this book, I’d love to talk to you about the ending.

  1. One of my favorite authors in the past few years is Kate Morton. UnknownI love her long stories that peel away secrets and meanings like the layers of an onion. They deal with many issues, about how people respond and react to life’s events, about bad decisions and redemption…or not. The stories are all-consuming, and the mood of the piece runs all the way through each book.

I also love the quiet stories of Botswana told by Alexander McCall Smith through the eyes of Mma Ramotswe, proprietor of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. 512Z4QefB4L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX324_SY324_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU15_
They are simple and calming.

  1. I prefer print books when I’m sitting comfortably on the couch with good lighting, but if I’m awake at night, or at the hairdressers’, I always have stories on my iPhone. I also listen to audiobooks while I’m doing housework or cooking, and these are often Anne Perry’s Victorian mysteries.

What about you? What do you like to read?





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