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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

 

 

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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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