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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:

 

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Up to several years ago, I would easily have been able to outline the best method of submission for your manuscript. My suggestions would have looked something like this:

  1. Categorize your completed, edited manuscript
  2. Research markets, guidelines
  3. Acquire an agent (many traditional houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts)
  4. Query the publisher through the agent or on your own, depending on their guidelines
  5. A concise outline of submission format is available on The Editor’s Blog.
  6. Upon request, send a synopsis, the first three chapters of your manuscript, and a cover letter including a few things about yourself as a writer, your target audience, your qualifications for writing this story, marketing ideas and contact information.
  7. Wait, repeat if necessary.

But times have changed. Attitudes and actions have changed. Writers are no longer willing to wait endlessly at the whims or time constraints of editors and publishers. Readers are unwilling to wait, or to drive to brick and mortar stores to buy books. They want instant access. Everyone, including the writer, wants immediate turnaround of product.

Yes, there are still traditional publishers out there, but their bottom line is tighter because of the many options available to readers, and the publishers are less willing to take risks on new and unproven talent. It’s not impossible to be traditionally published, but it’s definitely more difficult than it used to be.

Besides the large traditional publishers, there are many small houses that have sprung up around the globe. Many of these are reputable, but you must research and discern. If you have to pay a fee, it’s not a royalty publisher. If it’s is a glorified book printer, you might do better on your own (see below).

If you are willing and able to pay, there are many publishing businesses with options for everything from editing to cover supply to printing and distribution, but count the cost first.

So what happens if you’ve tried the round of traditional royalty publishers to no effect? First consideration: why was the book rejected by trad publishers? Does it need editing? It may prove worthwhile to hire an editor. There are editors available everywhere, but know what you expect and how much you can pay for the service. Some writing organizations offer quality editing at very reasonable cost. Some groups swap editing for other writing skills. Ask around.

If you are confident your book is worthy of publication, consider publishing it yourself. In the past, self-publication carried a negative connotation, but with the increase of indie (independent) publishing and simplified templates, many authors who formerly published in the traditional method have branched out to take charge of their own publication. Technology has made the process easier, as long as we remember quality. With perseverance, most of us can learn to format our own digital or print books, choose (or hire out) a professional cover, and produce a quality finished product.

Then we’re stuck with marketing on our own, you say, but in most cases on the traditional route, we have to do most of our own marketing anyway.

If you decide to go indie, it’s important to become at least moderately comfortable with social media (I will be discussing this next month). This requires a fine balance. On one hand, if you want to sell your book, readers must be able to find you. On the other hand, you shouldn’t sacrifice all your writing time for social media time.

Back to the original intent of this post: submission and publication.

If you go trad, follow the instructions at the beginning of this post.

If you go indie, go to Google or to a friend or indie group and start learning.

  1. Edit your manuscript or have it professionally edited. This step is essential to a quality book.
  2. Compile a publication kit: author info – bio (short, medium, long), photo, writing credits, etc.; book info – summaries (back cover, short, long), synopsis (for agent or publisher only)
  3. Decide whether to find/buy a cover or to hire it out. Please don’t ask your friend’s sister’s niece to paint a cover. 99% of the time it will look unprofessional and hinder sales.
  4. Create or purchase a template to set up your book for digital / print format. I would suggest putting it up digitally first. They are different processes, and you will save yourself a lot of time and grief if you recognize this. A concise how-to book that I recomend is Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors by Carla King.Unknown

*Remember that if you go the indie route, you remove several layers of filters (agent, editor, publication group), so you need to be advised and professional in all areas of publication.

  1. Ask people who have traveled this road to give you pointers. Most of the time, writers are very willing to help each other. They’ve been helped along the way too. And make sure you help others who are following a few steps behind you.

P.S. I welcome feedback from other authors who are a step or three ahead of me. If you differ in opinion in some point, let me know. If you have additional tips to pass on, send your email and I’ll be glad to publish it here or direct writers to your site.

**Don’t forget to read the comments below for tips and experiences shared by other authors. One reply came from clfergusonblog.wordpress.com. Lots to see on her website. Also check out  the story gal at http://www.carolynwilker.ca.

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Some years ago I created a workshop titled What Every Beginning Writer Needs to Know. I’ve used a few of the main ideas for this blog and added/modified others.

 

  1. How do I become a writer?writer

I become a writer by writing

Some people write every day without fail. If you can do that, great. If not, do the best you can. Try your hand at various types of writing to see what interests you most.

I become a writer by reading

Read what others write. Study their use of language, of technique, of style. Read for fun but also train yourself to read analytically.

I become a writer by connecting with other writers

One of the best ways to connect, as a newbie writer, is to find a writing group near you. Ask questions about their purpose, their schedule, their skill levels. Most groups are open to new people and willing to share and help one another.

I become a writer by continuing to learn

Besides a local writing group, there are usually workshops and conferences you can attend where you can meet other writers and learn with and from them. Online courses are everywhere on the web, so check into those as well.

I become a writer by setting writing goals and establishing priorities

How badly do you want to write? Ask yourself the difficult questions and decide how much time and effort you are willing and able to set aside for this. Be committed.

I become a writer by listening to the Spirit of God within me

Perhaps you feel a call or at least a draw into the writing world. Listen to God’s Spirit within you and obey. God will lead you if you are willing to step out and follow.

 

  1. Begin with a Plan

I worked through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and thoroughly enjoyed and benefitted from this excellent resource. It’s a stretching experience that can help draw us out of our respective shells. If you’re looking for a strictly Christian workbook of similar purpose, try The Creative Call by Janice Elsheimer.

day planner

 

 

 

 

  1. What and how do I write?

What do you like to read? Research that particular genre and try it out.

Exercise: Write the Cinderella story in your genre of choice (romance, news story, mystery, fashion column, etc.)

 

  1. Organize your work

Some people need outlines, charts, timelines, maps and other methods to organize their writing. I do. Others keep a lot of things in their heads then forge ahead to see what happens. Experiment to see which category you fit into, or how you can combine the ideas to work best for you.

 

  1. Use Available Resources

There are countless writing books that can help a newbie writer. Browse through the Writer’s Digest Books for a sample. Some of my favorites are:

Plot & Structure

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham

Plot by Ansen Dibell

Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress

Conflict, Action & Suspense by William Noble

Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell

 

  1. Use Social Media

This point was not in my original workshop! I didn’t know anything about social media then, and I don’t know very much about it now, but I am learning. If I can do it, so can you. There’s no getting around the fact that social media is necessary for writers today. When you consider it, social media sites help you to write, to read, to connect, to learn, to set goals and priorities, and even to be encouraged spiritually. We can hide or we can use this resource for the glory of God through our writing.newer twitter

* Special tip: I’ve been learning how wonderful social media is for an introvert. I can meet new people and not have to go out, dress up or speak off the cuff. I can also promote and support other writers, which brings me immediate response and recognition. It’s a win-win situation.

 

  1. Keep a Balanced Perspective

We all start somewhere. There will always be those who write better than we do, and there will always be those who are not as advanced as we are. As long as we allow our Creator to teach us about creativity, we will remember that it is not of ourselves, it is a gift.

 

Happy Writing!

Want to connect on social media with me?
My website/bloghttps://janicedick.wordpress.com/
Twitter: @JaniceDick54
Amazon Author Pagehttp://www.amazon.com/Janice-L.-Dick/e/B001KIAKLK/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/janice.dick.56

 

author photoAbout Me: I began writing intentionally in 1989. My historical trilogy was released in 2002, 2003 and 2004, the first two books winning First Place in the Canadian Christian Writing Awards. Besides historical fiction, I also write inspirational pieces and book reviews, and put in many hours of editing, mentoring, and speaking. My first contemporary fiction manuscript awaits publication , and a new historical fiction series was just released (October 2013).

I was born and raised in southern Alberta, Canada into an ethnic Mennonite farm family, blessed with a loving and stable childhood, and lots of relatives who told stories of Russia, emigration and early life in Canada. After graduating from high school, I attended Bible college in Saskatchewan, where I met my future husband. We moved to a farm in central Saskatchewan after our marriage and raised three children, who have now blessed us with ten amazing grandkids. 

 

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old twitterAt my stage of life (swiftly approaching the sixth decade, she mutters through gritted teeth), I have seen a lot of changes in the writing life. Are those changes threatening or freeing?

When I began writing seriously in 1989, just mastering the use of a computer as a writing tool was looked upon with admiration. I started with a small Mac, then a “pizza box” variety, then the huge blue iMac and finally a laptop.old computer

Along with the progression of computers, I’ve learned much in the field of writing itself through on-line courses and websites at little or no cost and with easy accessibility.

Besides the actual writing, which used to be the main concern, there is the changeable nature of the publishing industry. Many longstanding publishing houses have been bought out or incorporated by others, or have folded. The self-publishing industry has evolved into an acceptable if unwieldy entity. What used to be the realm of specialists has become available to the individual writer.

There’s much to learn, and the information is at our fingertips. If we wish to self-publish an e-book, we need only search the internet for information and/or take a course on the subject, and our book is out there. One of the results of this freedom, which is being explored by royalty authors as well as unpubbed writers, is that of quality and standards. Are these standards changing too? How will these changes affect the written word?

One of the most challenging changes for me is social media. Although many people are currently and justifiably pleading with the general social-media-obsessed public to put away their devices in favor of eye-to-eye contact, there are good sides to social media. Like many other things in life (food, drink, entertainment, etc.), we must master them instead of allowing them to master us. Use the good; stamp out the bad.

I have “met” many interesting people through social media who I would not have met in any other way. For an introvert, the idea of connecting with a couple thousand people via my blog is much more acceptable and practical than trying to reach people in person.

A writing colleague is currently creating an e-book about Twitter. I’m excited to learn so I can make better use of that media connection. Let’s not be afraid of the possibilities.newer twitter

Will we ever learn all there is to learn? Of course not. Is it worth the effort? I believe it is, whether to improve our skills, promote our work and that of others, or to keep our brains busy. My hero is my mother, who at 91 years of age uses her iPad for internet searches, you tube, reading, listening to music, checking the weather and keeping up with family. More power to you, Mom, and thanks for the example. Life is a-Twitter with possibilities.

 

 

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Let’s begin our interview with Marcia’s photo and bio:

Unknown

I was raised on an island off the north shore of Lake Huron, ran away to Alaska and then the Yukon, had a “road to Mayo” conversion in 1982, leaped by faith into Briercrest Bible College with my husband in 1985 and landed in the “promised land” of central Alberta in 1988.

I’ve also had the privilege of living a few miles south of the Arctic Circle (Dawson City Yukon) and a couple of degrees south of the equator (Papua New Guinea).

I suppose that’s why my writing is steeped in the imagery of winter with the odd palm tree thrown in.

For the past thirty some years, I’ve been a pastor’s wife, mother of three girls, caretaker of two dogs, two cats and sundry fish, and oh, yes, a freelance writer.

The writing began in the attic of my parent’s house where I wrote stories for my dolls. None of them complained, so I kept it up. The Lord has abundantly blessed, challenged, rebuked, healed and restored me through the process of writing and being involved with writers. I now have two award-winning novels in print as well as three devotional books. My ebooks are available on www.smashwords.com and some on Amazon, Barnes and Noble etc.

I am honored to have served on the executive of Inscribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship, been a long-time member of The Word Guild and American Christian Fiction Writers, and been privileged to teach for some of these groups.

I am also a sought-after speaker for women’s retreats and one day events. I have spoken widely for Stonecroft Ministries.

Janice: Hi Marcia. Welcome to my blog. Glad you could stop by today. Marcia (pronounced Mar-SEE-ah), you are a multi-genre writer, as well as being very involved in Christian ministry. Tell us a little about your various involvements and how they came to be.

MARCIA: Well, it seems that the Lord often just drops things into my lap. I began writing for publication when we first moved to Alberta. My husband took over as the senior pastor of a good-sized church and one of the things he was told he had to do was write a faith column for the local newspaper. He was already overwhelmed with everything else on his “to do” list so asked if I would do it. I put together a short piece and took it to the editor. He was happy with it and that was the beginning of writing for local and provincial papers for more than 20 years. About that same time I sent off my first short story to a magazine and received a cheque in the mail. Then began writing short stories for Sunday school publications and my hobby became a career.

I have always been very involved in women’s ministries since becoming a believer at the age of 32, so when I heard about Stonecroft’s Christian Women’s Clubs it seemed a good fit. I took their speaker training and began travelling around Alberta and Saskatchewan, speaking to women. That has led to invitations to speak at retreats and other events. I’ve since had further training under Carol Kent. I love speaking and teaching and God has blessed me abundantly with this ministry.

Janice: How do you balance your writing and personal life?

MARCIA: It’s not always easy. When my kids were young I spent mornings doing housework etc and most afternoons at my keyboard at a small desk in our living room, until the girls came home from school. As they grew that time increased and now that they are grown I am able to spend as much time as I like writing. My husband has become very supportive over the years. I’m blessed to have family who understand and support my ministry. I am quite active in our small church as well, so there are days when there aren’t enough hours, but I love being busy. My challenge sometimes is learning when to say no, when to take time to just be with the Lord. In 2011 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and spent the next two years in treatment and recovery, a time that was a blessing in many ways as the Lord taught me to draw close to Him. That time changed my perspective on many things and helped me to see the importance of being still and focusing on Jesus.

Janice: When did you first take an interest in writing and what sparked that interest?

MARCIA: I don’t remember a time when I didn’t write. I was always scribbling something or other, leading my mom to say she thought I was born with a pencil in my hand. But at the age of eleven an aunt gave me a copy of Emily of New Moon, by Lucy Maude Montgomery. As I read it I was thrilled to discover that you could actually call yourself a writer and determined at that time that’s what I would be. I was blessed to have some wonderful teachers who encouraged me in that pursuit. When I became a believer it was another blessing to realize that I could write for the kingdom of God.

Janice: What prompted you to branch out from non-fiction to fiction?

MARCIA: I had always written fiction – mostly short stories and poetry when I was young, but I knew you couldn’t make a living doing that, especially in Canada, so I decided to go to Carleton University to study journalism. I discovered fairly quickly that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life, but I received some good training there that has come in handy over the years. I did a fair bit of journalistic writing for local newspapers when we first came out to Alberta, while still writing fiction on the side – mostly children’s short stories. Fiction really was my “first love” as far as writing was concerned, so it was a dream come true when I won the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award and One Smooth Stone was published.

Janice: You’ve had interesting experiences with regard to publication. What have you learned on the journey?

MARCIA: A great deal! Some of the highlights:

1 – the industry is always changing and you have to try to keep up by following blogs and staying in touch with other writers, editors and publishers.

2 – when you view publication as a ministry as well as a business, you begin to realize that it’s not all about selling books. It’s about relationships. I’ve been blessed to have developed some wonderful relationships that have made the journey a joy.

3 – you never know when a door may open so you need to be ready and willing to jump through it. For instance, when the Sunday devotional columnist at Novel Rocket.com had to quit, I emailed the woman who owned the blog and offered my services (with fear and trembling I might add!). I’ve been writing for them for several years now and that has opened doors for me with people in the industry. The blog has been on Writers’ Digest’s list of best 100 blogs for writers for some time.

4 – never “despise the day of small things.”(Zech. 4:10). A small thing in God’s hand is a mighty sword.

Janice: What social media do you use and which do you find most effective?

MARCIA: I love Facebook and have made some good connections there. I use twitter a bit, but probably not as much as I should and am now investigating Google + and Goodreads. I think as far as marketing goes it has really helped to do a lot of guest posts on other blogs besides my own. It’s been a thrill to see some of my posts picked up by people in the industry who have huge followings. I try to keep in touch with members of writers’ groups, comment in forums etc.

Janice: When you begin a novel project, what comes first: characters, theme, plot?

MARCIA: Usually the characters and often one or two single scenes will spark a project. The theme emerges as I write, as does the plot.

Janice: What prompted you to write One Smooth Stone and A Tumbled Stone? One Smooth Stone A Tumbled Stone

MARCIA: A woman from a local crisis pregnancy centre was speaking at our church. I chatted with her afterwards and she said something that stuck in my mind: “Can you imagine what it would be like for someone to discover his mother had tried to abort him?” I did imagine, and the character of Alex Donnelly in One Smooth Stone emerged.  When I came to the end of that book I wasn’t ready to let go of the characters so talked with my publisher about a second book and wrote an epilogue that led into it. The character of Andrea, Alex’s sister, formed quite quickly. A Tumbled Stone had a rather drawn out journey to publication and there were many times when I thought it would not happen, but the Lord had a plan and it was an exciting day when that book arrived on my doorstep.

Janice: I have to tell you, I loved your Christmas short story, An Unexpected Glory. It’s such a “Best Christmas Pageant Ever” kind of tale. How did you come up with the idea?

MARCIA: I’ve always had a soft spot for Christmas pageants (you can read a bit about that here) and I like playing with the idea that God’s “economy” is so very different from ours, so when Kathi Macias asked me to write the novella, I jumped at the chance, even though I had a few other things on the burner at the time. That story seemed to almost download itself into my brain. I had a lot of fun writing it and have been really thrilled that so many people have referred to it as a “Christmas classic.” Many have mentioned the Best Christmas Pageant Ever when they refer to An Unexpected Glory and I’m kind of ashamed to say I’ve never read that story – but I plan to! 🙂

Janice: What kinds of books do you most enjoy reading? What format do you read in most?

MARCIA: I love a good story, no matter the genre and I tend to read quite widely across genres. I tend to like books that are more ‘literary’ in style, with strong characterization and setting. If I had to pick, I might say the mystery and fantasy genres are my favourites.

I won a Kindle a few years ago and got to really like it, especially for travelling. I now own an ipad mini so use it for reading at times, using a Kindle app, but I love the feel of a real book in my hands and do most of my reading in a comfortable corner of our living room.

Janice: What hobbies or special interests do you have and how do they affect (or not affect) your writing?

MARCIA: I’m intrigued by technology and science, but that doesn’t seem to have affected what I write – though I love sci-fi and may write a novel in that genre someday. I also love horses but have never written much about them, other than a few children’s short stories for Scripture Press that were set in cowboy country. My main hobby is reading and I do enjoy watching some TV, which I think has made my writing more visual and fast-paced.

Janice: How important are writing conferences, in your opinion? Writers’ groups?

MARCIA: Essential. If you are serious about a writing career I think it’s vital to join a writers’ group, connect with other writers and attend conferences whenever you can to meet editors and publishers. I have been an active member in InScribe for many years and have gotten to know many writers across Canada through The Word Guild as well. I attend both of their conferences each year.

Janice: From your perspective, what is the most difficult aspect of writing? And the best?

MARCIA: The most difficult for me has been the isolation and facing the lack of understanding from some Christians in our churches who don’t realize that writing is my ministry. I have faced a frustrating lack of support from some churches who seem to look on a writing career as something frivolous that has no value.

The best part is hearing from people whose lives have been changed in some way by what I’ve written. I’ve had some amazing emails, letters and phone calls from all over the world that tell me that God has a purpose for what I write and He often uses it in powerful ways. That keeps me going.

Janice: How do you write? Are you an outline person? Do you work better alone or in a busy place?

MARCIA: I’m in the ‘seat-of-the-pants’ category – I jump right in and then outline a bit as I go. At some point I’ll stop and do a bit of a time-line but that’s about it.

I know writers who do their best work in Starbucks, but I need a quiet place with little distraction. That’s been a challenge since we planted the church we are in now, because my husband and I share an office in our home. We are literally back to back so it can be interesting. 🙂

Janice: How do you research your books? What is the importance of research, in your opinion?

MARCIA: My two novels did not take a lot of research since they were set in places and dealt with things with which I was very familiar. But I do try to be careful to get the details right. I think it’s vital to the credibility of a story. For instance, when I was writing One Smooth Stone I woke in the middle of the night in a panic because I realized I had to check some details about the use of radio phones and cell phones in the Yukon. We had used a radio phone a lot when we lived there but I had to find out if they were still used and if it were possible to connect from that to a cell phone. I had no idea where to find that information so I simply called a telephone operator and asked to be connected to a Yukon operator. She was very helpful and gave me all the information I needed to know. I’ve read stories where those kinds of details are wrong and they really throw me off the story. I edited a romance once that was set in the north. The writer had the heroine walking along a sandy beach in the Yukon, staring at the stars with her romantic interest. The problem was that there are very few, if any, sandy beaches in the Yukon and it’s impossible to see the stars in the middle of the summer due to the twenty-four hour daylight. Those kinds of mistakes are deadly. Research is important.

Janice: If you were to give three writing tips, what would they be?

MARCIA:

1. Write every day, even if it’s just for a few moments squeezed into a busy schedule.

2. Read widely and read good writing.

3. Never quit, even in the face of discouragement. God has a purpose for your work.

Janice: Thanks so much, Marcia. I enjoyed visiting with you today, and I’m sure my readers will also. All the best in your future writing career.

MARCIA: Thanks for having me, Jan. It was fun. 🙂

Connect with Marcia at the following links:

Website & Blog – www.marcialeelaycock.com

Facebook – www.facebook.com/marcialeelaycock

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/MarciaLeeLaycock

Blog for Reviews – www.writer-lee.blogspot.ca

Twitter – @marcialaycock

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blog-hop-for-writers imageSome years ago I created a workshop titled What Every Beginning Writer Needs to Know. I’ve used a few of the main ideas for this blog and added/modified others.

1. How do I become a writer?

I become a writer by writingstk19948boj

Some people write every day without fail. If you can do that, great. If not, do the best you can. Try your hand at various types of writing to see what interests you most.

photo-1I become a writer by reading

Read what others write. Study their use of language, of technique, of style. Read for fun but also train yourself to read analytically.

I become a writer by connecting with other writers

One of the best ways to connect, as a newbie writer, is to find a writing group near you. Ask questions about their purpose, their schedule, their skill levels. Most groups are open to new people and willing to share and help one another.

I become a writer by continuing to learn

Besides a local writing group, there are usually workshops and conferences you can attend where you can meet other writers and learn with and from them. Online courses are everywhere on the web, so check into those as well.

I become a writer by setting writing goals and establishing priorities

How badly do you want to write? Ask yourself the difficult questions and decide how much time and effort you are willing and able to set aside for this. Be committed.

I become a writer by listening to the Spirit of God within me

Perhaps you feel a call or at least a draw into the writing world. Listen to God’s Spirit within you and obey. God will lead you if you are willing to step out and follow.

2.  Begin with a Plan

I worked through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and thoroughly enjoyed and benefitted from this excellent resource. It’s a stretching experience that can help draw us out of our respective shells. If you’re looking for a strictly Christian workbook of similar purpose, try The Creative Call by Janice Elsheimer.

3.  What and how do I write?

What do you like to read? Research that particular genre and try it out.

Here’s a fun exercise:  Write the Cinderella story in your genre of choice (romance, news story, mystery, fashion column, etc.)

4.  Organize your work

Some people need outlines, charts, timelines, maps and other methods to organize their writing. I do. Others keep a lot of things in their heads then forge ahead to see what happens. Experiment to see which category you fit into, or how you can combine the ideas to work best for you.

5. Use Available Resources

There are countless writing books that can help a newbie writer. Browse through the Writer’s Digest Books for a sample. Some of my favorites are:

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bellphoto

Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham

Plot by Ansen Dibell

Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress

Conflict, Action & Suspense by William Noble

Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell

6.  Use Social Medialinkedin link

This point was not in my original workshop! I didn’t know anything about social media then, and I don’t know very much about it now, but I am learning. If I can do it, so can you. There’s no getting around the fact that social media is necessary for writers today. When you consider it, social media sites help you to write, to read, to connect, to learn, to set goals and priorities, and even to be encouraged spiritually. We can hide or we can use this resource for the glory of God through our writing.

facebook_link

* Special tip: I’ve been learning how wonderful social media is for an introvert. I can meet new people and not have to go out, dress up or speak off the cuff. I can also promote and support other writers, which brings me immediate response and recognition. It’s a win-win situation.

7.  Keep a Balanced Perspective

We all start somewhere. There will always be those who write better than we do, and there will always be those who are not as advanced as we are. As long as we allow our Creator to teach us about creativity, we will remember that it is not of ourselves, it is a gift.

Happy Writing!

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blog-hop-for-writers imageThe writing tools I use can be divided into several categories:  those that are essential, those that are convenient or beneficial to efficiency, and the extra things that are nice to have.

Essential Tools:

  • My MacBook Pro – my first introduction to computers was to Apple, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
  • Paper and Pen/Pencil – of course a writer needs a scratch pad nearby.
  • The World Wide Webhttp – my connection to the internet is always on (thanks to changing technology that took me from one phone-line and dial-up to designated line and wi-fi).
  • Resource books – my Webster’s Dictionary and Roget’s Thesaurus.
  • Words – my love of words is why I write; without them I could not communicate what’s on my mind and heart. I discovered a cool website while researching for this blog which reinforces the importance of our basic word-tools: http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsgathering-storytelling/writing-tools/76067/fifty-writing-tools-quick-list/
  • My Day Planner – I found a lovely, thin, coil bound planner this year with each month day plannerdisplayed on a two-page layout. It’s not for the detailed hour-by-hour details (which I don’t do) but for the daily and weekly and monthly reminders and commitments in my writing world. I’m a visual person, so it helps to see my calendar in larger format than on my iPhone.
  • Quiet – I’ve tried the coffee shop thing but it doesn’t work for me. Maybe I don’t get out enough, but I end up staring and get no work done. My small balcony office at home is best for this introvert.
  • Social Media – Not that long ago I would have consigned these to the extras list, but with forced introductions to some of these I have begun to see the important and even essential nature of social media. If we want our writing to be read, we must make it accessible. In this area, I include:

My Website / Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Pinterest

Amazon Author Page

Convenient Tools:

– series of writing books from Writer’s Digest Books:  Plot & Structure by James Scott     Bell, Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham, Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott   Card, and many more.

  • Scrivener Scrivener Logo– my favourite writing software (there are inexpensive courses online—see Gwen Hernandez—as well as Gwen’s book, Scrivener for Dummies). Scrivener is a reasonably simple and effective way of keeping all elements of a project in one virtual unit that includes scenes, summaries, organizational tools, research files, picture/internet files, conversion tools, etc.
  • Online photo sites like iStockphoto and Shutterstock where I can look for character images.
  • I came upon a site that includes a lot more software for writing and publishing at http://cooltoolsforschools.wikispaces.com/Writing+Tools
  • Index cards – Once my first (or second) draft is completed, I like to write a very brief summary of the scenes, one scene per card, arrange them on my dining room table (with the extra leaves in) and work with them. Again, it’s a visual thing. Can’t trust my brain anymore so I have to resort to more physical methods.

Extras:  (or maybe these are convenient…or even essential?)

  • Tea – I’d love to drink coffee but it plays havoc with my body, so I opt for tea. I have a handy cup-warmer at the far side of my desk (never keep beverages close to your computer, she said from experience).
  • A comfortable, ergonomic chair and footrest –  it’s hard to stay in the chair if it’s uncomfortable and bad for your back.
  • A moderately sized blanket for times when you get chilly. Mine’s one of those velvety soft things that never moves from my writing chair.
  • Charts and tables – As a visual person, I need to organize my writing so I can see the whole project. Scrivener is good for this, and the index cards are another step, but I still branch out to charts, especially when I’m stymied and need a diversion.

I’m sure these lists will adapt to changes in my world, but these are currently my most cherished writing tools.

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