Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Writing, Like Life, is a Process

It’s New Years Day. The first day of 2014. I’ll keep this brief.

I retired from the teacher education program at Cincinnati Christian University at the end of 2013. The time seemed right to begin a new career in writing.

One year ago I launched this blog, A Novel Creation.

My goals were simple:

I wanted to be a writer.

I wanted to help other people who want to write. That’s the “teacher” in me.

When I started today’s post, I thought I would share the statistics for the year: How many people have visited, which post was the most popular, which was the least appealing, and so forth. That’s the “researcher” in me.

I looked everything up, analyzed the data, and chucked it all. The data was good, but interesting only to me. And not all that helpful to anyone else. So I took another avenue. I sat down and read through every post I’ve written.

I liked some of them. Some of them actually made me laugh. But this is what I find most interesting: I wrote them. I wrote something every week and I held myself accountable to my writing goals through this blog. For me, it is evidence I can do this. I am a writer.

I’ve tried to be transparent in the process of writing, including my readers in the drafting, revising, editing, and problem solving of writing.

I’ve shared what I’ve learned at conferences, through editors, and from fellow writers.

The results? Of the eighty+ visitors to my blog each week, I’ve been able to encourage three to submit their own writing for publication. Two readers are working on a book of their own and one of my regular followers is at this time mapping out her own blog.

It’s a process. Writing, blogging,…life.

So as we begin this new year, I’m starting work on my third book.

It’s the story of Karen who finds herself in the middle –middle age, middle child, and now in the middle of dealing with her aging mother. Dementia? Couldn’t be. But Mimi, as she’s known to her family, is not herself lately. She makes Karen promise to never let anyone put her in a nursing home. Can Karen keep that promise as Mimi becomes more and more disoriented? 

I hope you’ll continue to join me on this writing journey.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


It was a BB gun. I was sure. It was in a long slender package wrapped in red paper with my name on it. If I tilted it on end, I could actually hear the BB’s roll from one end to the other.

My grandparent’s house was in a hollow nestled between the mountains in rural Kentucky. We lived in Ohio. It took us hours to drive down Old 25 and through the southern Kentucky town of Barbourville. Several miles outside of town we turned onto a narrow, rutted dirt road that hugged the side of the mountains as it wound its way through the hollow to their house.

We didn’t often travel in the winter to see them. That is part of what made this Christmas so special. That and the fact that a box in the trunk of our car held an assortment of brightly wrapped presents, including the one I had already concluded was my very own BB gun.

The hour was late by the time we turned on the dark, snow covered dirt road. My dad drove carefully, his way lit only by the lights on our car. We reached the midpoint of the Stony Fork road at a place my aunt called “the deep holler.” Suddenly we came to a complete stop, stuck in the heavy snow. We had passed a few houses, lit only by the kerosene lamps within. There was no telephone service in the area at the time, so how help arrived, how anyone knew of our plight, I still don’t know. All I know is that soon one neighbor and then another came to help my dad get the car out of the snow. And more important to me, my uncle, ten years my senior, arrived on my grandfather’s mule.
Uncle Noah reached down from his perch on the animal and lifted me up to sit in front of him. He turned the mule around and we started plodding through the deep snow toward the safety and warmth of my grandparent’s farmhouse. Along the way, Uncle Noah talked with me as if I were a grown-up. He taught me how to guide the mule. “Gee for turning right and haw to turn left,” he instructed. I told him about my secret desire for a BB gun. He didn’t laugh at me. He acted as though a five-year-old girl wanting a BB gun for Christmas was the most natural thing in the world. The journey on the mule was long, but the animal was warm and Uncle Noah’s stories and conversation made the time pass quickly.
Grandma and Grandpa welcomed me with hugs and kisses. I was happy to see my parents arrive later, the car and its cargo intact.  Soon I was snuggled under the colorful quilt my grandmother had made, sinking deep in the warmth of the twin-size feather bed.
The smell of the wood burning in the stove, warm biscuits, hot coffee, and bacon sizzling in the pan ushered in my Christmas morning.

“Presents can wait until after breakfast,” my mother said. Soon though, I was  excited to help in the handing out of gifts to each member of the family. Happy to open the packages with my name on them. There was a coloring book, a Cinderella doll, and finally, the mysterious long slender package with the rattling sound when turned on its end.
I opened the package with great care so as not to shoot anyone. I don’t think my parents recognized the initial disappointment on my face when I pulled out the blue baton. Only Uncle Noah knew I harbored the wish for a BB gun. He didn’t laugh or make me regret taking him into my confidence.

The day turned out fine as I played with my doll and colored several pictures. I managed to not break anything in the house as I attempted to twirl the shiny blue baton.
That was over fifty Christmases ago and the only one I ever spent with my grandparents in Kentucky. I realize now that on that ride through the snow, my uncle gave me gifts greater than my much hoped for BB gun.

He taught me to be available to help people in need,
     share with others what you have learned, and
            treat people with respect no matter their age.

Merry Christmas!

P.S.  I never did get a BB gun but I still have the doll....


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

December 18

December 18. A special day. Today she would marry her high school sweetheart. Today. One week before Christmas. Exactly one week. The Florida sun warmed the day. The azaleas bloomed. Oranges dotted the trees like small sun kissed ornaments on a southern Christmas offering.
He worked hard to clean the car and help set up the church reception hall. He didn’t eat all day. It was a special day. Today he would marry his high school sweetheart. Together they would finish college. Together they would build a life. Eventually, they would raise a family. Today was the first day of fulfilling their dreams.

They said their vows. Friends and family stood beside them and bore witness to their commitment. Yes, they were young. They only thought they knew what love was –or could be. Later, they would admit that. Later they would say they grew to understand what true love is –not the romantic notion they held as high school sweethearts.

They would finish college and graduate school and along the way have three beautiful daughters. They would work hard for their money and work harder for their Lord. They would play and laugh as a family and together face every trial thrown their way.  

They would watch their daughters make lifelong commitments to men God had planned for them to marry. They would welcome seven grandchildren into this world –four boys followed by three girls –and delight in the love and energy of their little ones.

Then they would retire. He to fish and golf –her to write this blog.

December 18. A special day. Today. Today we celebrate forty-two years of friendship and love and a life worth living. Thank you, God for Tom.

Now, a special invitation. We all have s story to tell. If you would like to be a guest on my blog next year, send me your story, article, experiences with writing, poem, whatever you like. I will select three to be featured on my blog next year. Send your 500-600 word submission to rwaters.author@gmail.com   I will be happy to work with you to "polish" your work before publishing (edit, add pictures, etc.) Feel free to use this opportunity to advertise your own website, blog, or publication or to simply see your words in print.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Drafting the "Acknowledgements" Page

Following weeks of editing and revision, I received the best ever email from my editor. She told me my book was ready. All I needed now was to write the acknowledgement page and the dedication.

All? This could be the toughest part of the book to craft. Where should I begin? Asking a new author to acknowledge those who helped in bringing a project to fruition is a bit like asking a first time academy award winner to offer a “brief speech.”

I had a rough idea of some of those I should include. My dynamite editor, Bethany Kaczmarek, would of course be included. And there’s Eddie Jones from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas who gave me my first contract for my very first book. No brainers.

I would acknowledge members of my family. For example, my husband, Tom who refers to me as a writer. That’s powerful. He supports me beyond belief. He has cooked dinners for me when I was in the throes of revision and read my story from page one. Over and over… 1A, 1B….you get the idea.

Of course I would mention my daughters, Allison, Danielle, and Kendall. They tease each other, suggesting I have taken one or more attributes from my own children to develop the adult daughters in my book. They’re only half right. I did use some of the good parts. I’m sure their husbands agree.

And each of my girls encourage this new career I have launched. Allison is already marketing my book and handing out copies of articles I’ve written to everyone she knows. Danielle designed and produced my business cards and actually helped me with the title, and Kendall not only retweets my blog, but is working on a book trailer for me.

Tom and the girls were first readers for my work. I’ve counted on them to give me feedback. They didn’t hesitate. I like that about my family. Even my oldest grandson, Joshua, has read most of the text and offered editing comments.

I mustn’t leave out Nora, one of my biggest cheerleaders. She always likes what I write. Then again, she’s my mom.

And I can’t forget God. God gave me the desire to write, the story to tell, the words to use, the people to contact. Yep, God is another no brainer in the list of those I need to include.

But shouldn’t I thank those who unintentionally contributed to my story? People like David Hargrave, who will find nuggets of his sermons embedded in the pages of this book? Or, my good friends Charlie and Susan who serve as role models for facing tough issues with strength and faith?
I want to acknowledge everyone. I may never get another book published. This may be my one chance!

I want to acknowledge the friends and colleagues who have prayed me through the process and agreed to help me get the word out as soon as the book is published. The people who read my blog and offer words of encouragement or share something I’ve written which is an incredible support. People like Nancy and Marty, and Tammie, Evelyn, and Beth. People like Susan and Kevin and Lorie. Others, like Sharon, Leah and Brenda. Jon, Mark, Kelly, and Joyce. The list goes on. How about former students like Louisa and Sara who asked me how the book was coming along in its early stages.

But shouldn’t I also mention Mrs. Salyers, my second grade teacher who started me on the path of writing by publishing one of my stories in our school newspaper?

You see what I mean? There may be one name on the front cover, but an army behind each and every writer. I’ll draft my acknowledgment page. In fact, maybe I just did. And I’ll pray I don’t leave anyone out –even though I probably will. I just hope I can find a way to repay the kindness of my team.

I may watch the Academy Awards with a new appreciation this year.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Five Surefire Ways to Fail at Writing a Novel

Friends often ask me what it takes to successfully write a novel. That's a tough question. I decided it's easier to tell you how to  NOT  be successful. Here are my tips on how to fail as an author.

Do not turn on your computer.
This also means you should not pick up any kind of writing instrument or tablet of paper. Picking up a pen or turning on your computer is the first step to making sure you get words down on paper. If you want to bomb as an author, you must never do this.

If you accidently turn on your computer, you can make sure you will not write your novel by engaging in social media or online games. I have found online Sudoku helpful in wasting time on the computer and put off actual writing.

Do not write every day.
Talk about writing. Tell people how you want to write. You can even go so far as to talk about your novel. But do not write.

Do not set writing goals such as word counts or a set time of day to write.

Be aware, if you write every day you will become a better writer. This is a pitfall.

If you write every day you are likely to publish something.  Soon you will have to start talking about working with editors and publishers. The best way to avoid publishing is to make sure you do not write every day.

Do not take time to learn your craft. 
This is important. If you want to fail as a writer, you must not go to writing conferences, join critique groups, read books about writing, or read the works of other authors you admire.

Do not take the advice of your editor. Do not revise your work. Consider every word you write to be golden and untouchable.

Do not write about people and places with which you are familiar.
That’s the easy way out. That’s what all those successful authors do. You know the type. John Grisham was a lawyer so he writes lawyer books. Where’s the challenge in that? No. If you want your novel to flop, you must write about people and places and experiences you have never had.

Let your imagination run free. Don’t make your characters believable. Don’t set them up with habits and flaws. Do not do it. Readers of your work might identify with the characters and blow your attempt at failure.

Do not have a clue how the book will develop or end. 
Do not create a story map with markers along the way to describe what happens. Do not think about where your characters are going. That will only move your story along at an interesting pace.

You should be as surprised as everyone else as to the direction the story takes. That will show your creative and spontaneous side.

Another benefit of not knowing how it ends is that, with a little luck, it will never end and you can continue to go to dinner parties and talk about writing, but never do it.

The good news? To fail as a writer does not take hard work. As a matter of fact, it takes no work at all.

Work? That’s what successful writers do.