Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My Version of the A-Z Challenge

In the world of writers there is always a pen to paper challenge. For the month of April, bloggers were charged with the task of “Blogging A-Z.” The premise is simple. Write a blog post for each letter of the alphabet.

I didn’t take part in the challenge. It is very time consuming and I’m in the middle of writing a novel. The second reason was more compelling. I was heading for India to work with girls who had been rescued from sex trafficking. I needed time to prepare.

However, for years I have prayed what I call the Alphabet Prayer. It is a list of praises – at least one for each letter of the alphabet. Sometimes I pray it when I have trouble going to sleep. Sometimes I pray it when I’ve had a difficult day. Mostly I pray it because I am grateful to God for all He does for me.

This practice of praising God through good times and bad has become all the more important to me these last few months. You see, six months ago today, my life…my life as I knew it…changed forever.

Today I offer you a version of my A-Z Prayer.

A- Thank you, God for ALWAYS being AVAILABLE to me. You are with me, caring for me, looking out for my every need.

B- Thank you, God for the BIBLE, your words spoken to me. Incredible. I read the words and realize that if you were standing in front of me, these would be the very words you would say.

C- Thank you, Lord Jesus for your sacrifice for me on the CROSS. Unimaginable.

D- Thank you, Lord for my DAUGHTERS. Each is a special gift and treasure in my life. Where would I be right now if you had not sent them to me? You knew how much I would need them now.

E- Thank you, God for ENERGY and strength each day to do your will. I want to do what you intend for me to do.

F- Thank you, God for your FORGIVENESS… and for my FAMILY and dear FRIENDS –for their love and care.

G- Thank you, Lord for giving me GODLY GRANDPARENTS. I know my relationship with you is between you and me, but I appreciate the heritage of faith. And thank you for my GRANDCHILDREN. I pray I will be that same kind of light for them.

H-Thank you, God for giving me a HOUSE, a HOME…and for HEAVEN, home now to my precious HUSBAND.

I- Thank you, Lord for the opportunity to go to INDIA and serve you by serving the young women in the aftercare home. I continue to praise you for rescuing them from the unthinkable and continuing to heal them in every way.

J- Thank you God, for Your Son, JESUS. I put my trust in Him.

K- Thank you God for putting so many KIND people in my life. People have helped me with everything from learning to do my taxes to mowing my lawn and everything in between.

L- Thank you, Lord for Your unconditional LOVE. Loving me in spite of all I’ve been and done that I know was against everything you intended for me. I don’t deserve it which makes it all the more special.

M- Thank you, Lord, for my MOM. She is a model of the woman I strive to become: A woman who cares and loves and serves others because of her relationship with you.

N- Thank you, God for my NEIGHBORS. They’ve kept a watchful eye out for me, shoveled snow from my driveway, and continually served me in small but powerful ways.

O- Thank you, God for teaching me the power and freedom I have through OBEDIENCE to you. Help me to always follow your direction for my life.

P- Thank you, Lord, for PRAYER. That I can come directly to you, and talk to you, and know that you care, that is beyond human understanding.

Q- Thank you, Lord for QUIET times. Those moments when I can shut out the world and remember that you are my center, my core strength.

R- Thank you, God for REST. Sometimes my sleep has been difficult since Tom died, but I trust you and know you give me the rest I need.

S- Thank you, Lord for my SONS-IN-LAW. I couldn’t have picked them better myself. They are strong, caring men who not only care for my daughters and grandchildren, but look out for me as well.

T- Thank you, Lord for TOM. I doubt that I will ever be as cherished by anyone else in my lifetime as I was by Tom. I treasure the time I had with that man. Thank you.

U-Thank you, God for UNDERSTANDING me and putting up with my childish and stubborn ways.

V- Thank you, God for allowing me to see my own VULNERABILTY. Without it I doubt I would see the need for you. I know I am weak. I need your continued strength.

W- Thank you, Lord for your good and perfect WILL. I know it was Tom’s time. I know it was your will. He lived the days you intended for him. I find comfort in recognizing that. I miss him like crazy, but want desperately to live within your will until that day comes for me as well.

X- Thank you, Lord for this verse “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” You’ve given me a map to find that treasure. X MARKS THE SPOT hmmm…looks more like a cross.

Y- Thank you, God for YOUR mercy, YOUR grace, YOUR forgiveness. Thank you for being who YOU are. And thank you for people who care deeply for others so much they share YOU with everyone they know.

Z- ZEAL. Yes, Lord I thank you for creating in me that burning desire to share who you are with my family and friends… and neighbors… and acquaintances….and strangers…and young women half way around the world.

Thank you, God.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Amy Blake:Whitewashed

I met Amy Blake at a meeting of the Ohio Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. She is interesting and fun. I asked her if she would agree to chat a bit on A Novel Creation. 

So…Meet Amy Blake…First, a brief bio:
Amy C. Blake is a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother of four. She has a B.A. and an M.A. in English from Mississippi College. She contributed to Barbour's Heavenly XOXO’s for Women, Book Lover’s Devotional, and Every Good and Perfect Gift. Amy wrote short stories and articles for Focus on the Family,Mature Years, Significant Living, Vista, Encounter, and other publications. She won awards at St. Davids Christian Writers Conference and West Branch Christian Writers Conference. The Trojan Horse Traitor quarter finaled in the 2011 ABNA contest. Her juvenile fantasy novel The Trojan Horse Traitor, releases in November, 2015, and her new adult suspense novel, Whitewashed, released February 15.

Amy, I know my readers love to know about writers, so tell us a little about yourself, your family, dogs, cats etc.

I’m a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother of four from Columbus, Ohio, and we have a spoiled, 11-year-old English Springer Spaniel named Chrisgo. I earned my BA and MA in English from Mississippi College, the place on which Verity College in Whitewashed is loosely based. My husband and I met at Mississippi College and argued against each other in Argumentation class. We still debate about who won the argument because the teacher voted for him while the class voted for me (which, of course, means I won).

You get my vote for the win! Let me ask, what made you want to be a writer?

I’ve always loved to read, though for years I never had enough self-confidence to believe I could become a published author myself. Eventually, I took a couple of writing courses, attended writers’ conferences, and decided to give writing a try. I started with short stories, articles, and devotionals and was encouraged when some were published. Then I moved on to books. My first novels were pretty bad, but they helped me learn how to write. Now I’m glad I stuck with it through the discouraging seasons.

Good advice. I think we all experience those times and it’s good to recognize our early efforts as a time to grow and learn. What do you do in those times when the “muse” is uncooperative or when you do feel discouraged?

I write anyway. If I can't create anything new, I edit my old stuff. Sometimes I shift gears and work on blogs or articles for magazines instead of fiction for a while. Other times, though not often enough, I go clean the house instead.

I’m laughing at that only because I, too, have to switch gears and wash dishes or something to get the creative juices flowing again. Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Yes, actually Isaiah 6 reminds me of how very massive and majestic God is. When I get overwhelmed with all the little details in my life or feel tempted to throw myself a pity party, I need the reminder of who God is and why I was created--to glorify God in all I think, say, and do.

Tell us a little about your newest book, Whitewashed. By the way, I love the title. What age range is it for? And with female protagonists, I'm guessing it's mainly for girls, or is it for both genders?

Whitewashed is primarily for girls, especially those in the older teen/younger twenties range who are transitioning into adulthood. However, I've had a few male readers tell me they enjoyed the book, and many women all the way into their senior adult years tell me they couldn't put it down.

What’s the novel’s theme? Or what do you want readers to take away when they’re done?

Whitewashed has several themes interwoven into the plot, but I'll just tell you about one. Patience is a real stickler for truth, so much so she sometimes can't see people. She's even been known to scream truth in the faces of people she loves, and in so doing has caused much more harm than good. I want the reader to learn, along with Patience, that truth and mercy go hand-in-hand. Just as God is a God of truth who is merciful to His children, we should be people of truth who also show mercy to others.

Whitewashed is book 1 in the On the Brink series. The other stories feature Patience's sisters, correct?

Actually, the other two On the Brink books feature Patience's two best friends, Nat and Christy, who are also homeschooled. Christy's story is set in Buckeye Lake, Ohio, and ties into the 1920s when Buckeye Lake--with its amusement parks and nationally-known ballrooms--drew huge crowds. Nat's story is still in the works, though I'm pretty sure it'll be set in Washington DC.

Super. I’ll look forward to those. Tell, me, what do you like best about writing?

I love creating on paper (or computer screen) the people, places, and plots living in my brain. I also love it when, after several months, I reread a draft for revision and find myself laughing or tearing up at a scene or line I forgot I’d written.

Thank you so much for joining us today. Friends, if you are interested in purchasing Amy’s book check out these links:

And you can connect with Amy using these social media links:

Whitewashed by Amy Blake
Eighteen-year-old Patience McDonough has a plan. Despite her parents’ objections, she will attend Verity College in Hades, Mississippi, and live with her grandparents. She’ll complete her degree in record time and go on to become a doctor. But things at the college are strangely neglected, her class work is unexpectedly hard, Grand gets called out-of-town, and Poppa starts acting weird—so weird she suspects he has Alzheimer’s. On top of that, she has to work extra hours at her student job inputting financial data for the college—boring! But soon her job gets more interesting than she’d like: she finds that millions of dollars are unaccounted for and that something creepy is going on in the Big House basement. She discovers secrets tying her family into the dark beginnings of Verity, founded on a slave plantation, and she is forced to question the characters of people she has always trusted. Finally, confronted with a psychotic killer, Patience has to face facts—her plans are not necessarily God’s plans. Will the truth set her free?

Want to talk with Amy? Leave your comment or question below.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Make Every Word Count

Cut 22,000 words? …You’ve got to be kidding!
True. (See Two Truths and a Lie)

I pitched Breathing on Her Own as an 80,000 word book.

When I finished writing it –the day I turned it over to my publisher, it was 82,000 words.

After some serious editing, where the story was “tightened,” I was feeling pretty good about the 79,000 word finished product.

Then my editor sent me a text…the publisher wanted to cut it to 60,000 words.
Credit: AlisonWilliams

Why? I emailed the publisher and posed that very question. After all, he offered me a contract for the 80,000 word novel, right?

The publishing business is ever changing. +Eddie Jones at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas stays well informed of trends in the industry. That’s one of the reasons I like him.

I understood from the beginning, the book would be released as an eBook. An eBook can be as long as you like, but the trend for purchasing a print version leaned toward a smaller book for a first time author. Anything over 60,000 words would put the print version out of the price point for most customers. They would pay $15-$20 for someone well known and popular, but not for a new author.

It was important to me to have a print copy. Mostly because it was my first book… and I wanted a copy for my mother and my children.

When I first heard I needed to cut my word count, I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t mention it to my husband or any other member of the family. I needed time to mull it over. This was, after all, a learning process. I wanted to learn all I could about writing and publishing. I decided my publisher knew more about this business than I do, so I made the cuts. I made the cuts and I realized the story was stronger in many ways for it. I had to eliminate some of the details I had about a couple of the minor characters, but decided I could always tell their stories in another book.

I learned. My words are… just words. There is nothing particularly special about them. Some authors want to hold onto every word they’ve written as if they are sacred. The same is true for me. And you. Writing a book is like being a parent. You want to believe your child is perfect, but if you love him (or her), you will discipline and teach and weed out the stuff that won’t help in the long run. Your manuscript is your baby. If you want to publish, get over it.

The process reminded me of when I was a professor. I would give an assignment. Inevitably one of my students would ask, “How long does it have to be, Dr. Waters?”

 I usually answered with “Until you have answered the question” or “Until you think you’ve addressed all of the issues. Then revise it. I don’t want to read a bunch of fluff, just to meet a certain word count or a certain number of pages.”

Whatever the length, make every word count. Eliminate weak verbs, useless adverbs, and words that tell instead of show. Say what you need to say in the simplest form possible. Flowery language is passé.

That said, I think it’s important for writers to have a word count goal –a sense of direction. Most full-length novels are 80,000 or more. Short novels area in the 60K to 75K range. You have something shorter? Think novella, short story, or even flash fiction, which is usually no more than 1000 words.

I’m interested in what you’re writing. What is your current work in progress? What word count [range] do you expect from the finished product? Finally, do you find posts such as this one, helpful?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Plodding on Wins the Race

How long does it take to write a novel?

A couple of weeks ago I shared two truths and a lie about writing Breathing on Her OwnLast week I shared the lie –that the book was based on a true story. Today I want to talk about how long it takes to write a novel.

This past January I received a call from a woman who wants to leave her present job and become a full-time writer. Now understand, she has never written anything, never tried to publish anything, but has a “best seller idea.” Her first question to me was “How long does it take to write a novel?” She then proceeded to tell me she wanted to write it and get it published by June so she could work the marketing side of it to get it making enough money by September to be able to quit her present job.

I kid you not.

Is it possible to start a novel in January and have it published by June? Absolutely. Yes, you could get the words on paper and there are some very successful, experienced authors who could weave a story together, edit as they go, make needed revisions and get a book ready for publication in that span of time. They could self-publish in June without even going through a publishing house. They can do it because it is their full time job.

Possible? Yes. Probable? No.

Months to Years
But what about those folks who write a book every November? Ah, yes. NaNoWriMo or something akin to it. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Thirty days equals one book. Yes, it can be done. But to complete the NaNoWriMo task, you need 60,000 words on paper –a first draft. Not a finished product.

Are there authors who write a book in a month? Of course. And there are writers who take years to complete a novel. Most authors take whatever time they need to produce the book they have rolling around in their head, be it months or years.

I’m not talking about the first draft. I’m referring to the most final version of the story –the one you send to the publisher with every expectation it is finished.

It took me eight months to get Breathing on Her Own to that stage.

Understand that if you are working with a publishing house, from the point you submit your final manuscript until it’s actually published is about a year. That includes editing, formatting, cover design, and so forth.

Most writers are time crunched anyway.
Most new writers on the scene have other time sucking commitments. My friend and colleague, Katharine Grubb recently came out with a book called Write a Novel in Ten Minutes a Day: Because Your Dreams are Worth 10 Minutes. She is the founder of a Facebook writing group called 10 Minute Novelists and has a website by the same name. I’ve invited Katharine to be a guest on A Novel Creation….so keep watch.  in the meantime, check out her book and take a look at her website:

But even Katharine is not going to suggest you can start a novel in January, write ten minutes a day, and have a best seller by September. No, she’s smarter than that. She does recognize, however, that an important tool for any writer’s toolbox is time management.

So how long does it take to write a novel? The truth? From the time you start until you finish. Write a little each day. Remember: Plodding along wins the race.