Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘novel writing’

JAN: Today I’m interviewing Canadian author, Sara Davison.

Sara, how long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

Sara Davison

SARA: I have been seriously writing for about 14 years, but it is something I have done informally all of my life. In grade 4 my class took a trip, and my write-up was chosen to go in the school newsletter. I can still remember the feeling of seeing my words in print and knowing others were reading them. I believe I knew from that moment on that that’s what I wanted to do with my life.

JAN: The power of affirmation. Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

SARA: Definitely my grade 9 English teacher who read several of my pieces of writing to the class and was a huge encouragement to me. My husband and family have also been a tremendous source of support – without them I never would have had the courage or tenacity to persevere in what can be a difficult and discouraging business. I’ve been a huge bookworm all my life too, so many, many authors have influenced me to want to imitate them and their incredible ability to take me away to another world. Writers like C.S. Lewis, Roald Dahl, Madeleine L’Engle, Louisa May Alcott, and Lucy Maud Montgomery, to name a very few.

JAN: What’s your preferred genre?

SARA: I never made a conscious decision to write inspirational romantic suspense, but every time I sat down to write, those are the stories that came out. I guess because it is my favourite genre to read. I definitely prefer contemporary to historical, and am always looking for a story that keeps me on the edge of my seat with my heart pounding, so romantic suspense is my preferred genre both for reading and writing.

JAN: Why do you write?

SARA: It’s a bit of a cliché, but true nonetheless—I write because I can’t not write. God gives me stories and story ideas and I feel as though I have to get them down on paper or I will burst. I completely understand Eric Liddell’s assertion that God created him fast, and when he runs, he feels God’s pleasure. I feel exactly the same when I am writing, as though it is exactly what I was created to do and the way that God wants to use me to bring glory to him, which I pray all of my writing does.

JAN: What a great feeling to know that God wants you doing exactly what you’re doing. How and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

SARA: I love to write in coffee shops, but I do most of my writing in my office at home. I can’t write longhand as I am so out of practice that my hand quickly gets tired, and I can’t write nearly as fast as the ideas come to me, so I always use a computer. As for being a plotter or pantser, I’m actually more of a plotser or a pantter – somewhere in the middle of the two. I like to have a fairly good idea of where I am going with the story before I begin. I like to know the beginning and the end and to have a sense of how I am going to get there, but I don’t outline so tightly that the story and the characters aren’t free to take me where they will, because for me, that’s the fun of writing. I often sit down at the computer, as interested as any of my readers will be in seeing what is going to happen next. I also consider myself a reasonably lazy writer, so I only do enough research to ensure that what is included in the story is credible and accurate, but then I basically just like to make stuff up.

The Seven Trilogy by Sara Davison

JAN: Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

SARA: In the introduction to Stephen King’s book, On Writing, he says he enjoys getting together with other author friends because none of them ever asks where the ideas come from – they all know that none of them know. I was very relieved to read that, as I find this an extremely difficult question to answer. I have a lot of author friends who are inspired by what is going on around them. They get excited when we’re out when something happens or they see an interesting person and they immediately start scribbling notes down to use in their stories. I don’t see the world that way. Pretty much everything I write comes from inside somewhere, not outside me. I know that God gives me the ideas because I feel closer to him when I am writing than just about any other time – writing is a deeply spiritual experience for me in that way.

JAN: I guess I don’t agree with Stephen King on that! I’ve asked this question in countless interviews and received some fascinating answers, including yours! We’re all unique.

How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

SARA: I’m not sure I understand the question – if it’s on the Internet, it has to be true, right? Ha ha. Okay, the thing is, as I mentioned above, I really don’t enjoy research and only do what I need to do in order to make sure that what I am putting in the book is accurate. I check more than one source (other than Wikipedia) online, but my preference is to have someone who knows more about a certain field or occupation than I do read it over. For example, since one of my main characters in The Seven Trilogy is in the military, I not only did research online, but one of my editors had been in the military herself, which was incredibly helpful. For Vigilant, since one of the heroes is a cop, I had a friend, a former police officer, read over the manuscript to ensure accuracy. For me it is easiest to just write the story and then have someone with more expertise check over it for me which, so far, has worked out quite well.

JAN: What do you like most / least about writing?

SARA: What I like most about writing is putting a book out there and then having readers respond with positive comments. The absolute best are the readers that tell me the book really got them thinking about God or examining their relationship with him. If I hear that anything in my books got people thinking or discussing anything, particularly spiritual matters, that is the greatest thrill of all. The downside of writing, of course, is that it can be an incredibly discouraging business that constantly undermines self-confidence. Over and over I have to remind myself that I am not writing for sales numbers, awards, accolades, or positive reviews. I am writing in obedience to God – to his calling on my life. I believe that because he gives me the stories, he has a purpose for them. If that purpose is for five people or five thousand or five million to read them, that’s up to him. I have to trust that if I write the books to the best of my ability and market them as much as time and resources allow, God will take care of ensuring that the purpose he has for them will be fulfilled. And at that point, whatever the response from others has been, I have to consider them a success.

JAN: Well said. What are your favorite / most effective social media?

SARA: Facebook is actually my favourite method of interacting with readers and promoting my work. Like most writers, marketing and promotion are the least appealing aspects of the writing business, but I do find an Author page on Facebook, or a closed launch team group, or writing or reading-themes groups are excellent ways to interact with other writers and readers, not only about my work but about the work of other authors I enjoy.

JAN: How do you balance professional time with personal time?

SARA: Not very well, to be honest. I love what I do – I write and I also have an editing business, both of which I do from home. The positives of that are that I don’t have to get up and go out in the morning, so it doesn’t matter to me what the weather or traffic is like. I love being home and being available to my three teenagers, and I am comfortable working in my office. The downside is that there is no way to punch out of work. Even when I do take a break to spend time with family or to watch something on television (usually sports), it’s in the back of my mind that I should be working. I have to be really intentional about taking breaks and about trying to let go of thinking about what I could be doing if I was back on my computer.

JAN: What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

SARA: I am just about finished Lindsay Harrel’s The Secrets of Paper and Inkwhich is really good. Next on my TBR is Wooing Cadie McCaffrey by Bethany Turner. Actually not the genre I typically read, but I met both of them at the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat this year so I was interested in reading their books. I definitely prefer paper, but I am also slowly warming up to reading on my Kindle. It’s handy when I am out somewhere and waiting for my kids to come out of school or appointments, or sitting in a waiting room. And if the power ever goes out or I don’t want to disturb my husband when he’s sleeping, it’s great to be able to read without turning on a light. So I do enjoy it, but will always prefer the feel, smell etc. of holding an actual book in my hands.

JAN: Same. I’m getting more into Kindle because it’s so handy. What are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

SARA: Some of my favourite things are: live theatre; watching sports (especially hockey and baseball); chocolate; reading and writing, of course; going out for coffee with friends; movies, especially old black and white ones and most especially anything with Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant; relaxing on the shore of a lake, road trips, spending time with my family, especially weekends away with my husband. I’m not really sure what makes me unique – I lead a fairly quiet life, by choice, so maybe what makes me unique is that I am never bored and, for the most part, I am deeply content.

JAN: I get that. What keeps you going in your writing career?

SARA: Three things keep me going—the deeply-held belief that it is what God has called me to do and it is how he uses me to bring him glory and to do ministry; the support and encouragement of family, friends, and other authors; and positive feedback from readers.

JAN: How is your faith reflected in your writing?

SARA: While I have a dread fear of writing anything that sounds preachy, I do hope and pray that clear spiritual messages emerge from my writing as readers read my books. Different books have different themes, but the one constant truth I pray all my readers take away with them is that they are never alone. God hasn’t promised us that we won’t have trouble or even suffer greatly in life, but he has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us, and that is underlying theme of all my books.

JAN: I’ve certainly “heard” that theme in your books. What are some things you learned from your own writing?

SARA: I strongly believe that Christian fiction needs to be rooted in solid theology, so I am very careful about what I include in my books. I check my own theology against the Bible and against the teaching of hundreds of years of church history and against solid contemporary theologians. If I can’t prove what my characters are saying or experiencing on a spiritual level from the Bible, I won’t include it in my books, so I have learned a lot of theology and doctrine since I have started writing, which actually could be included in my list of favourite things to do.

JAN: What is your ultimate writing goal?

SARA: My ultimate writing goal is to produce works of excellence that glorify God, draw others closer to him, and fulfil whatever purpose he has for them.

Sara Davison’s latest book

JAN: Any advice for beginning writers?

SARA: A writer I admire once said that we have no idea what we don’t know when we are starting out as writers. Personally, I have found that to be true, so the two biggest pieces of advice I like to offer beginning writers are 1) be teachable. Take every opportunity to learn and grow. Accept constructive criticism and try to learn something from negative feedback. Be humble and always, always strive to go deeper and achieve greater excellence with every piece of writing you produce. And 2) if you believe in your work, never ever give up. Perseverance is the key to making it in this crazy business, so take every rejection as an opportunity to learn and grow and to improve your writing and then submit it somewhere else until you find someone who believes in it as much as you do.

JAN: Great advice. Thank you so much, Sara, for taking the time to answer these questions so we can get to know you and your work better. I wish you all the best as you continue on in your writing career, as God has called you.

To learn more about Sara, check out her website. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter

 

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

My walk this morning reminded me of the indie publishing journey I’ve been on for the past few years, as I saw tansy and thistle growing along the fence line.

After much research and many trials, I created Tansy & Thistle Press…faith, fiction, forum. I already had a website, but I wanted to use create my own logo, describing the content of the site and the blog.

The creation of the independent business was a steep learning curve for sure, but I expected the choice of a name to be fairly simple, to think of something that portrayed what I write, and to polish it.

It turned out to be an exercise in frustration, as every name I tried was already used by at least one of the millions of people who have websites. I like the thistle idea, because we have thistles here, but it needed something more. It must have been my husband who suggested tansy, another type of invasive weed that grows heartily in our area. The tansy is yellow, the thistle purple, and I liked the sound of them together: Tansy & Thistle Press.

For the subtitle, I wanted to include fiction, because that is mostly what I write, and my faith always seems to come out in it, whether I plan it or not, which is also what I want to offer. But I also have a blog, and how does that fit in? Again, it was my brilliant husband who suggested the word forum, as a place to discuss faith and fiction and other topics.

I registered the business name and logo January 6, 2016, using the image above that a business on Fiverr created, and have enjoyed using it since. I continue to write, working on the third book in my In Search of Freedom series, and hope to have it available either for Christmas or shortly afterward. If life would stop interrupting, it would be easier, but I am enjoying this summer with family and friends, so at times, the writing is pushed back. But I will pursue it in order to tie up this series with Far Side of the Sea, as soon as possible.

Read Full Post »

JAN: Today, I have the pleasure of introducing a writer from Australia, Narelle Atkins, who I met (virtually) through International Christian Fiction Writers. Thank you, Narelle, for taking time to share about your writing life with me and my readers.

How long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

NARELLE: I’ve always been an avid reader and dreamed about writing and publishing a book. Twenty years ago, I started writing romance fiction. After a long writing apprenticeship, my debut book was published by Harlequin Heartsong Presents in 2014 as part of a six-book contract.

JAN: I suppose that could be exciting and frightening at the same time, to be offered such a deal, but you’ve obviously followed through and done well. What is your preferred genre?

NARELLE: Contemporary Christian Romance.

JAN: Why do you write?

NARELLE: Because I can’t not write, lol. I have characters in my head who won’t go away or shut up until their stories are written!

JAN: An active imagination is a great motivator. How and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

NARELLE: I can write a first draft anywhere. I wrote a large portion of Solo Tu, my latest release, using the Notes app on my phone. For the editing stage, I prefer to work at home where I can be left alone to focus on the story. I’m a plotter and I typically start my stories with a robust outline in place. The outline is fluid and I make minor adjustments as I write and learn more about the characters and the story.

JAN: Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

NARELLE: Life inspires me. I feed my creativity by being out and about and meeting people.

JAN: What are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

NARELLE: An author newsletter has become an essential way to connect with readers. I also enjoy blogging on my group blogs and connecting with readers there and in the Facebook reader groups.

JAN: What are your favorite / most effective social media?

NARELLE: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the social media platforms where I spend the most time.

JAN: How do you balance professional time with personal time?

NARELLE: It’s not easy. I have work-a-holic tendencies, and I find it’s always a struggle to balance family, day job, and writing responsibilities.

JAN: How is your faith reflected in your writing?

NARELLE: The faith element is an organic part of my stories. I like exploring the spiritual journey of my characters. This may be subtle or a bit more overt. I personally don’t like reading preachy Christian fiction books, but I do appreciate reading stories with a strong and compelling faith element.

JAN: Yes, it’s a fine line. What is your ultimate writing goal?

NARELLE: To keep learning and growing as a writer.

JAN: Good advice for any of us. What advice would you give a beginning writer?

NARELLE: Take the time to learn your craft and resist the temptation to publish too soon. Don’t give up. Enjoy the journey!

Narelle Atkins

A fun loving Aussie girl at heart, NARELLE ATKINS was born and raised on the beautiful northern beaches in Sydney, Australia. She has settled in Canberra with her husband and children. A lifelong romance reader, she found the perfect genre to write when she discovered inspirational romance. Narelle’s contemporary stories of faith and romance are set in Australia.

How to get in touch with Narelle:

 

Read Full Post »

Some time ago a guest attended our local writers’ group meeting. She hadn’t come seeking editing or opinion for her life-changing book, but a fast track to publication. However, she couldn’t seem to tell us what her book was actually about.

Later, I talked with her on the phone and suggested she write up a two-sentence summary for the next meeting. I told her, as gently as I could, that if she couldn’t tell us what it was about, how would she tell and editor. And if she couldn’t tell an editor, the book would not be published. She never returned to our group.

The point of my anecdote is that we need to be able to condense our stories to the bare bones in order to interest an editor, and, I would add, our potential readers.

There are several levels of summary required in marketing our stories.

  1. I discussed synopsis in a previous post. Quick review: a synopsis is a concise overview of the story from beginning to end, as a selling tool for an editor. (My book synopses are usually two pages single-spaced.)
  2. Another level is a summary of the main characters and story question for the back cover of the book. Length can vary, but it usually consists of a couple of brief paragraphs.
  3. A third level of summary is the pitch. Boil down the essence of the story into one or two strong sentences. Reduce it to its essential flavors. What does your book promise to deliver? What is the story question? What is at risk? Why should I care? These are all questions to ask ourselves as we craft our pitch.file000595720150

The pitch must first of all be brief and concise. It should also stir emotion, and it should throw out a question that begs to be answered in the course of the story.

I’m currently reading a book called Thorns of Rosewood by G.M. Barlean. I’m at about the halfway point in the story, and would say the essence is this: “Journalist Gloria Larsen interviews four elderly women in hopes of finding the truth about a 40-year old, unsolved murder. Could these octogenarians really be guilty of murder, and could one of them be her biological mother?”

I just now looked it up on amazon, and the one-liner is: “Gloria Larsen knows only three things about her birth mother: she was over forty, she lived in Rosewood, Nebraska, and she was accused of murder in 1974.”

Examples work well for me, so I’ll share a couple more with you:

The amazon product description for Angela Hunt’s biblical story, Esther, Royal Beauty, says, “When an ambitious tyrant threatens genocide against the Jews, an inexperienced young queen must take a stand for her people.”

Here’s the product description pitch for When Sparrows Fall by Meg Moseley: “Freedom. Safety. Love. Miranda vows to reclaim them—for herself and for her children.”

As you can see, amazon product descriptions offer some good pitches (remember you’re aiming at one or two sentences). A book catalogue is another great way to study pitches, since by necessity they must be brief.

So set aside some time to analyze your story and come up with a riveting pitch. I guarantee it will prove to be a great marketing tool.

 

Read Full Post »

When I wrote my first book, I didn’t have an agent. I didn’t even know if I could write enough of a story to warrant a book with actual covers. However, as time progressed, I realized I’d have not one book but two, and eventually three, in the series.

I was an absolute newbie when I submitted the manuscript for my first book, and the smaller press I contracted with didn’t always use the pattern I’d heard about from other royalty published authors. It was a learning experience, but we managed it.

Then, through a series of events that would sound like coincidence if I didn’t believe in the leading of God, I emailed an agent and he agreed to look over my second book contract, for a reasonable fee. I received some good advice, as well as his willingness to represent me to my publisher.shaking hands

One result of this alliance was a somewhat better contract for books two and three, but another was the fact that I can always contact him when I need advice, or an intermediary between my current publisher and me. The world of book publishing is changing so quickly I can’t keep up, but my agent is in the thick of it and gives me information as well as advice and support. Over the years, I’ve been most thankful that I have an agent, and that he is approachable and willing to share.

So back to the question: Do I need an agent?

I suggest the benefits are very good. Many of the existing publishing houses do not accept un-agented author submissions, so that cuts out quite a number of options. Also, having someone “in the know” offers protection and confidence. He or she may also know the reputation of smaller, newer publishers and be able to advise.

Even if you don’t need an agent, it’s helpful to have one, and very beneficial for most authors. Remember, although you will be sharing a percentage of the royalties from the book sales (usually about 15%), you don’t pay an agent until he or she sells your book. A bona fide agent will never require fees for services outside of your royalty agreement.

The acquisition of an agent is another matter. As I said earlier, it was a series of God-nudges that brought me to my agent. The usual process is to submit a request for representation, much like submitting a manuscript, and find out which agents are seeking/accepting clients, and if you would be a good fit. I can’t say too much on this because I haven’t experienced it, but check the world wide web, make a list of agencies that appeal to you, and write up your agent-query email. Then send it out and see what comes up. Nothing will happen unless you step out and make the first move. Here are a few suggestions…

All the best in your search.

Read Full Post »

Evaluation. Assessment, appraisal, judgment. In literary work it is known as critique. “A systematic determination of a subject’s merit, worth and significance, using criteria governed by a set of standards.” (Wikipedia)

During my nine years as an active member of Toastmasters, I had many opportunities to evaluate presentations given by my fellow Toastmasters, since evaluation is a regular part of the meeting agenda. I also attended workshops specifically designed to teach effective evaluation.

The method we used boiled down to noting both positives and negatives. The positives affirm the speaker. The negatives, limited to one or two, and not overpowering the positives, are communicated in the form of practical suggestions for improvement.

In my writing career, I have learned to appreciate constructive criticism. In fact, I have come to welcome it. Without feedback, I have no idea which direction to move. With thoughtful evaluation, every affirmation builds my confidence, and every suggestion motivates me to improve.file0001564894818

What standards do we use to critique someone’s writing? I would suggest that these standards develop and evolve as we learn more about writing, but I have a couple of simple suggestions for learning this highly effective tool.

Step One: Read. A lot. Then practice evaluating what you read. Since we’re talking fiction here, ask yourself why you liked or did not like the story. Trace your instinctive feelings, rather than shrugging and saying, “I liked it. I can’t really tell you why.”

Questions to ask yourself as you read:

* Do the characters come across as real people?

* Does the dialogue sound realistic; does it affect the characters or the storyline?

* Do the characters behave consistently?

* Has the author created a professional piece of writing? (grammar, punctuation, polish)

* Do you forget you are reading and get lost in the story?

* Does the plot offer enough tension to keep you turning pages?

* Can you “see” the world of the story?

* Does the story evoke strong emotions as you read?

Step Two: Ask yourself these same questions as you write and review your own writing.

When we evaluate someone else’s writing and give them an overview of our impressions, it reminds us to follow the same guidelines in our own writing.

Not only do we help others when we learn to effectively critique their work, we also pick up tips on what to emulate and what to avoid in our own work.

Evaluation, or the art of critique, is an invaluable tool for writers because it teaches us to look at our own work in new ways. It’s a win-win situation.

P.S. Someone asked me if mentally evaluating everything I read robs me of the joy of reading. Not at all. It takes time to form the habit of evaluation, but it also teaches me discernment, and saves me from wasting my time on unworthy books (and there are many out there in this age where anyone can publish a book). I’ve become more aware of what makes a story work or not work, so when I find a book that’s well-written, I thoroughly enjoy it. And there are also many of these great stories out there.

 

Read Full Post »

Why do you write what you write? Read what you read? How do you sort your ideas and decide what your focus will be?

Each of us has a set of filters through which we see the world. It depends where we come from, what our childhood was like, pleasant or traumatic experiences we may have lived through and what we have learned of life. This is called our worldview.

KNOW THYSELF

Our worldview also affects our voice, our style of writing, even the mood of our story. Our personality shows through our characters, through their responses to obstacles and challenges in their fictitious lives. Life-experiences color our composition.

Wikipedia says “A comprehensive worldview is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society’s knowledge and point of view.”

When we identify what we believe and why, our writing will reflect this understanding of the world around us. Who am I? What do I believe? What difference has my set of beliefs made in my life?

SONY DSC

As writers, we put ourselves out there for the world to see, in fact, we want as many people as possible to read our work. If we look at writers who have had a major impact on society, they are people who have /had strong beliefs (not necessarily positive or uplifting but personally affirmed).

For example, study this quote by Ernest Hemingway [1929 – A Farewell to Arms. New York: Scribner’s]: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” Hemingway’s words give us a good idea of what he believed based on his experiences as a war correspondent.

Mark Twain wrote humorous stories colored increasingly by sarcasm and satire. One of his famous quotes is: “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”

TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE

Besides having your own worldview set in your mind, you must also make sure your characters know what they stand for. This will strongly affect their development. I recently forced myself to read more than half a light romance before giving it up for lost. The problem: the characters’ actions and responses were inconsistent. Why? Because, in my opinion, the author didn’t know them well enough to guide them in consistent behavior in the world she had created for them.

Whatever your experiences in life, make sure you contemplate how they affect your worldview and that of your characters. It may make the difference between being read or being set aside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: