Tuesday, May 25, 2021

By THE Book

 Writing Your Story…By THE Book  by Rebecca Waters


Last week I encouraged my readers to consider writing their own stories of hope and inspiration and submit them to Chicken Soup for the Soul. If you missed that post, click HERE. 


Some of you may have a different sort of story in mind. When I decided to take my writing seriously in 2012, I had an idea for a story. A novel. Because I knew little about the process of crafting a novel, I began by journaling my way through the first draft. I continue to use this practice now as I work on my fifth book. I am convinced journaling helps writers identify and resolve problems as they write.


But this post isn’t about journaling. It is about a discovery I made through the journaling activity.


Journaling is part of my morning routine. I read my Bible, eat my breakfast, and spend five minutes or so journaling about my novel. As I journal each morning, I note where I am in the manuscript and where I hope to take my characters, I can’t help but weave my own life experiences into the journal entry. The journal is an intersection of my life and writing.


I recently completed crafting my first suspense novel. I complained several times in my journal of my struggle with structure throughout the writing. I’ve studied books on structure. I’ve examined blogs and articles on plot points. Many writing coaches speak in terms of fractions or percentages. “The first third of your books should…” or “This will happen about 60% of your way through the story.” It all seemed complicated to me.


Then one morning I discovered story structure in the Bible. I was reading the NIV translation. It comes from the book of Romans. You’ll find the full text in chapter five, starting with verse three. Here’s what I wrote in the journal that morning:


“… ‘suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.’ That’s it. That’s story structure by THE book.”


            Let’s examine it more closely:

            Suffering: the problem. That’s where the story starts. A good book always starts with the problem. It may be an event or conflict that jars our protagonist to the core or a simple disruption to the life our protagonist knows that he or she must address.


            Perseverance- Perseverance is the act of pushing on, overcoming obstacles to solve the problem. The protagonist may want to throw it all in from time to time but presses forward. This is the largest portion of the book. And, as the Apostle Paul notes, perseverance produces character.


            Character-The protagonist in the story discovers strengths he/she never knew existed. Our character grows; rises to the occasion. This is when we see transformation. That is the natural character arc and character produces hope.


Hope- Hope is victory in the final battle. The protagonist may still have a bit of growth ahead, but he/she is an overcomer and we as readers can see the path ahead more clearly now. 


Hope Does Not Disappoint- This is the satisfying end. It’s where the loose ends are tied up or addressed. Good wins out over evil. 


Who knew the Apostle Paul would turn out to be my writing coach? 


Now it’s your turn. Time to grab a pen or open up your computer. Time to tell YOUR story.









Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Everyone Has a Story

What is Your Story? 


This past weekend I attended an online writing conference sponsored by Mt. Zion Ridge Press. The keynote speaker was award winning James Rubart. The other headliner was well known author Rachel Hauck. I’ve heard both speak before. They are inspiring as well as instructive. Conferences are a great way to connect with other writers and pick their brains. I always learn something new.


At this conference, one participant asked about the market for memoirs. 


The truth about memoirs is simple. If you are a celebrity or hero of some sort, your memoir will get published and sell. The rest of us? Not so much.


Yet, I am convinced we all…ALL…have a story to tell. 

A story of growing up and coming of age. 

A story of love lost or love found. 

A story of grief. 

A story of overcoming. 

A story of success despite all odds. 

A work story.

A school story.

A story of travel or adventure.


You get the idea. We all have something to share. We all have something to write down to inspire future generations or to help someone through a particular trial. 


A memoir? Maybe. Certainly, our own stories are worth preserving for our family. Our future. My grandmother didn’t write her stories down for us, but she shared them with every child and grandchild. Hers was a story of love, loss, survival, and forgiveness. Her story shaped our lives. It continues to influence my own thinking. 


We all have a story. What’s yours?


If you’re interested in seeing one of your true stories published, consider these upcoming topics for Chicken Soup for the Soul. Each is due at the end of August. You can check out their website for details. CLICK HERE


Here are a few topics they are considering:


Stories of Kindness.It could be something you did that was kind or something someone did for you.


Stories about Cats or Stories about Dogs These are true stories about our favorite four footed friends.


Humorous Stories. Those crazy things that made you laugh. 

Stories of Grieving, Loss, and Recovery The category speaks for itself.


They posted other topics on their site. These caught my eye. 


The point is this… you have a story worth sharing. This could be your chance to share it.


Feel free to leave your comments or questions here. I love to hear from my readers.



And if you’re serious about writing and publishing, check out my latest book, Writing to Publish. In it you will find the resources to get you started and keep you going. CLICK HERE 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

He Said, She Said...It's All About Perspective



At an earlier visit to the library, my ten-year-old granddaughter checked out The Dangerous Book for Girls. It is a fun book offering a range of how-to advice and information about growing up. There was a section in the book called “boys.” The author offered what boys think and why they act as they do. Interesting.


My granddaughter wanted to know what the authors told boys about girls. Smart.


On a recent visit to the library, she located The Dangerous Book for Boys and turned to the section labeled “girls.”

Doing Her Research


The authors of the book had little to say. They wrote an entire paragraph basically saying that girls like to talk. They also mentioned in a sentence or two that girls don’t find body noises as funny as boys do. Curious.


Remember the Mel Gibson/ Helen Hunt movie What Women Want? It’s an “oldie” from back in 2000. Through an electrical accident Mel Gibson’s character can hear what women are thinking. It’s a romantic comedy but certainly captures the notion that men and women indeed think about things differently. 


I have come to appreciate a male perspective. Since Tom died, I find myself asking what he would do in a particular situation and if I’m not sure, I ask a male friend. I didn’t always follow Tom’s train of thought and I don’t always do what my friends advise. But having that perspective allows me to make an informed decision.


And because I seek that different perspective, I’ve learned a lot through the years.


This brings me to my writing. I know how women think. Most women. I have no problem showcasing a female perspective. I feel fairly comfortable getting in the head of a male character as well. But like my granddaughter, I need to research a bit to figure out what goes on in the minds of men. I often ask a friend to read a section to make sure I am capturing the male point of view.


What I’ve decided is this:


Men and women both like to talk.

Men and women both like someone to listen to them talk.

Men may laugh at body noises while women may not. Both are embarrassed at those noises in the company of the other gender.


As for what really counts? We’re the same. We all want to be loved, accepted, and appreciated. We are all capable of problem solving and creativity. We all have gifts and talents. We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses. 


I’m pretty sure we are more alike than we are different. 


But just for fun, what would you include in a book for boys that tells them about girls? And if you were writing a book for girls telling them about boys, what would you write? I do hope you’ll share.  This could be interesting and fun. 






Tuesday, May 4, 2021

A Metaphor For Living

The Roller Coaster Metaphor


I am always surprised when experiences collide and shape my understanding of the world. I love being able to look at the past through a new lens, lending meaning to my current life circumstances while at the same time, helping others. This is the case of the roller coaster.


The first story I sold to Chicken Soup for the Soul was called “The Roller Coaster.” It was published a volume titled “The Power of Positive.” In that story I shared how resolving my fear of roller coasters helped me address other intimidating situations. It is a true story. 


But this past weekend, my roller coaster experiences emerged in two very separate conversations as a metaphor for grieving.  (I started to write the grieving “process” but I think it more a journey than a process. More like a roller coaster.)


Saturday, I talked with a new writer friend. She lost her husband suddenly two years ago. A logging accident. Then on Sunday, two of my friends from Kosovo called me for my birthday. One is a psychologist. He is returning to America to resume his therapy practice. We touched on the subject of dealing with grief.


I run into armchair psychologists all the time. Unlike my friend who is an honest-to-goodness trained and licensed practitioner, many well meaning people offer their limited understanding of grief as if it were written in stone. Dustin listens. Other people talk.


What do these well meaning people say to me? All sorts of things about how long grief should last, what I should do to “get over it,” and advice on remarrying.


And those who have had a college psychology course have ALL the answers. If I say something about missing Tom or something along the lines of, “Sometimes it seems like yesterday,” they tell me I’m in the denial stage. They are, of course, referring to the Kubler-Ross model of the five stages of grief. It is a flawed application of stellar qualitative research looking at how people who were diagnosed with terminal illness dealt with their own death sentence.


I am not in denial. I am not angry with Tom or God or anyone else. I am not set on bargaining with God to bring Tom back nor am I depressed. The only one that comes at all close in my journey is acceptance. But then I have read the Bible. I get it.


I digress. The thrust of this post is about the roller coaster. I think it to be the best description of the journey of grief I can find.


According to my quick Google based research, there are over 2400 roller coasters in the world. Nearly a third of those are in the US. A roller coaster can be found on every continent except Antarctica. 

Roller coasters, it would seem, are a shared experience. Yet each is different.


Just like grieving. We all land somehow in the front seat of grief at some point in our lives. We feel pretty okay climbing up the steep hill, but scream and dig our fingernails into the handle bar as we plummet toward the unknown. And about the time we think we have it figured out, the coaster makes an unexpected turn, jerking us in a totally different direction. 


Everybody grieving is on a different roller coaster. Every one has a front seat. Some of the coasters may be longer than others. Some leave the passenger hoarse, breathless, and shaken. But in the end, if we’re lucky, we walk away whole and ready to face the next life challenge. 


If you know someone who has lost a loved one, listen. Climb in the roller coaster car beside them. They don’t need your advice. They need someone to grab the bar with them and scream.