Monday, March 31, 2008


Word of advice: Don't sprain your back when you have a 2-year-old to care for. It's not fun. All I can say is thank goodness for grandmas. She's a lifesaver, since I can't pick the kid up today. About the only good thing is that I have a good excuse to lie around and catch up on that reading I've been wanting to do.

I finished a Mary Daheim novel last night. The Alpine Recluse is my new favorite novel by her. In the midst of trying to figure out who the real killer is, town newspaper publisher Emma Lord is also trying to solve the mystery of Old Nick, one of the hermits living in the woods. My only complaint about the book is that Daheim didn't give a satisfactory conclusion to a situation in Emma's life. No, I'm not going to tell you what it is. You'll have to read the book to find out. I suppose it's all right, though, since The Alpine Recluse is part of a series. The situation probably comes into play in the next book.

This morning, I started The Dream by Gilbert Morris. I must say, I was a little surprised to discover that the main character is only seventeen. I'm not used to a seventeen-year-old MC in an adult novel, but I like it. So far, the story has grabbed my attention and kept me turning the pages. I probably wouldn't have put the book down until I finished it, except I had to go fix some lunch. I'm not particularly surprised that I got drawn into The Dream so easily. Gilbert Morris is an awesome author, and I almost always lose myself in his novels.

Now, before you think I'm taking a complete vacation from anything resembling work (a tempting thought, I admit), I'm in the process of figuring out how to add a character to the historical piece I started last week. I realized yesterday that I needed her many pages back from where I left off. How I didn't realize I needed her, I'll never know, but now I have to figure out exactly where to add her in. I've got her personality figured out pretty well, but I'm just not sure how she's going to interact with a couple of other characters.

Sigh. Such is the life of a writer. I love it!

I wish all of you well in your own writing/submitting adventures. Happy writing!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Keeping Busy and Other Stuff

Busy, busy, busy. That's life right now. The editing has picked up the pace (yay!), my writing seems to have taken on a life of its own (double yay!), and my niece is having a happy hyper day that's keeping me hopping. Life is good.

Now for the other stuff. I've been thinking a lot about the military lately, and I keep coming back to one question: With all the novels involving military service members, how many of them show what it's like for those who serve their enlistment, then return to civilian life? And of those, how many give an accurate portrayal?

This has my overactive idea-producing brain tossing out ideas for stories that I may or may not write. I have no idea what life is like for veterans from the current war as they reintegrate into their lives here at home after a long deployment. Those who have suffered severe injuries that leave permanent damage are even more complex to me. Then there's the high occurrence of PTSD among those who have served in Iraq, the difficulty of multiple tours, and dozens of other things that make up today's veterans.

What I'd need to do to write any of the ideas I have is find veterans willing to tell me what their time in the military (and since) was like in mind-numbing detail and answer dumb, possibly stereotyped questions so I can make sure I get it right. I'd also need to talk to doctors, psychiatrists, etc. for some of the ideas I have so I get the facts straight. The last thing I want to do is perpetuate any of the myths and stereotypes so rampant today. I'd much rather give an accurate picture and show people that veterans are just people who served in the military, not some alien species outside our realm of understanding to be looked at with pity.

The other thing I've been thinking about lately is politics. Whether on TV, radio, the Internet, and even conversations, politics is the popular topic. About all I've decided is that the most persuasive candidate is the one who wins in any given election. This isn't to say it's the best candidate, just the one with the most people skills. Of course, the candidates for the major national offices also have good copywriters who take care of making their candidate sound like the most wonderful person on earth. All that campaign literature is written by someone, and I have to give props to the people who like politics enough to do the job.

Here's a bit of advice for anyone struggling to come up with a new plot: watch the news. Read the newspaper. Get into a conversation on current events. There are myriad ideas in the world around you just waiting for you to find them. Just remember that when you find that perfect idea and begin your story, keep your facts straight. Readers will appreciate accurate fiction much more than fiction filled with stereotypes and false information that's easily debunked. Of course, false information and stereotypes could form the basis for a character or even a plot... But that's an idea for another day.

Happy writing!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Expanding Your Writing Horizons

Ever feel like you're stuck in a writing rut? Have you been writing the same type of story for the last ten years? Maybe it's time to try something new. A little change can give new life to your writing and bring the excitement back.

I'm currently attempting a new type of writing myself. Yes, I'm having to do some research to keep the facts straight, but it's a topic that's fascinated me for a long time. The research is almost as enjoyable as writing the story. Some of what I've learned has given me ideas to help the story along. It's also made me have to go back and rewrite a little. That's one of the hazards of writing the story and doing the research for it at the same time.

For those who are more organized than me, this won't be a problem. You'll get an idea for your story, then do the research, and THEN start writing. As a seat-of-the-pants writer, I'm used to doing research as needed during the writing process. It works great most of the time, because I usually stick to one genre. With this new story, however, I have to learn a ton of stuff so the seat-of-the-pants method isn't the most efficient way for me to do things. Ah, well. I'm getting used to rewrites.

So, if you're bored with writing the same old thing in yet another way, try something new. If you usually write historical romance, maybe you could try your hand at a contemporary mystery. Or if you write contemporary mysteries, attempt a fantasy. Expand your horizons and see where you're writing takes you. You just might discover a new favorite genre.

Happy writing!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Professional Writers Organizations

We've all heard of professional organizations for writers. But what's the point of paying the fee to join one? There are many benefits to membership, including conference and workshop discounts, members-only contests, and networking. Some agents and editors put a lot of stock in letters such as RWA, SCBWI, MWA, etc. Many more pay attention to the story instead of your memberships, so don't lose hope if you don't belong to any organizations.

Here's the question that may baffle you when you start looking for a professional organization: Which one do I join?

There is no one answer. Look at each organization you're considering. Which ones are for your area of writing? Do they offer what you're looking for? Is what they offer worth the membership fee? Once you answer all of these questions, you'll have some idea of which organization (or organizations) to join.

This brings us to the sometimes difficult-to-navigate sea of letters that confront a writer. What do all those letters mean? You know they're abbreviated versions of the names of professional organizations, but how do you know which one is right for you? Here's a list of some of the major organizations to help you get started in your search:

ACFW - American Christian Fiction Writers
AG - The Authors Guild
ASA - American Screenwriters Association
ASJA - American Society of Journalists and Authors
MWA - Mystery Writers of America
NWU - National Writers Union
PSA - Poetry Society of America
RWA - Romance Writers of America
SCBWI - Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
SFWA - Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America
WGAE - Writers Guild of America, East (for professional writers in film, television, and radio)
WGAW - Writers Guild of America, West (for professional writers for screen, television, or new media)

There are many other organizations, both large and small. The well-known, national organizations will offer the most opportunities and impress editors and agents the most, but the small local organizations might offer what you need as a writer.

Do your research and choose wisely. Writing isn't a great way to get rich, so you'll want to save your membership fees for the organization that will do the most to help you in your career. Good luck with your search for the perfect organization for you; it's out there just waiting for you to find it.

Happy writing!

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Due to a niece who's very definitely two, today's post has been postponed until tomorrow.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Here's my exciting news of the day: I finally finished the latest round of revisions on my manuscript this morning. Plus, I took yesterday off from revising and wrote a little over thirty pages of a new story! I so love this new story and can't wait to finish it. I've added another five pages already today, but I need to do a little research before I write any more.

Ahh... I love being a writer. Now I just need to send out a query on my recently revised MS and hope the recipient loves the story as much as I do.

Enjoy St. Patrick's Day and watch out for ornery leprechauns. Happy writing!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Feeling Outnumbered

Yes, I admit it. I belong to an online Christian critique group for YA writers. That's because I'm a Christian who writes YA fiction. However, what I write generally doesn't fall under the category of Christian fiction. In case you're wondering, this can be a very odd situation sometimes. Such as when discussing markets in my online critique group.

Very few people in the group are looking to sell there work outside of the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association). In fact, I can only think of one other writer who isn't interested in selling to the CBA. It's not that I have anything against the CBA; I don't. I just feel my work would fit better in the ABA (American Booksellers Association).

In my online group, we share markets we come across. Frequently, I don't know what to share with the group since I'm looking in an entirely different direction. Sometimes I'll come across an agent or a publisher I think the other writers would be interested in, but most of the time I'm pretty sure no one would be interested since it's not part of the CBA. I look at the markets other group members mention, but my writing falls outside of the guidelines since I'm not writing for the CBA.

I spent the other day feeling like a minority because of this.

It's hard sometimes to do what you feel is right. It would be so easy for me to switch over and write for CBA markets, but then I wouldn't be writing my style. It would be someone else's, and that more than anything would keep me from ever finding a home for my work. I'm learning that being a writer who is Christian is very different than being a Christian writer. Markets that would take my work probably won't accept the work of a Christian writer (someone who writes Christian fiction) any more than the CBA markets would accept my work.


The publishing world is a complex, sometimes confusing place, and this is just another example of why. One important thing to remember that I have to remind myself of occasionally, is that there's an agent/publisher out there who will love my manuscript. Just as soon as I finish this current round of revisions, I'll be looking for that agent again.

Remember: Never give up. Keep learning and revise accordingly. Most importantly, keep writing. Even if it feels like you'll never find a home for your story, keep on keeping on. If your story is meant to be published, you'll find the right place eventually. It may take a hundred submissions or so, but someone will love it as much as you do.

Happy writing!

Monday, March 10, 2008

New Agent

I've been hearing rumors about a new agent at Firebrand Literary. Now it's official. Elana Roth, formerly of Parachute Publishing, is an agent at Firebrand Literary. She's looking for fiction for young adult, middle grade, chapter books, and picture books. She also accepts a few books for adults.

If you have a YA or MG novel with a believable male voice, I'd suggest sending a query to Ms. Roth. Same goes for Jewish fiction. Here's a quote from her introductory post on the blue boards at Verla Kay's website: "I'm forever on the lookout for good, modern, honest, not-watered-down Jewish fiction (think Shalom Auslander or Nathan Englander)."

For more information on Firebrand Literary, visit their website. You can also visit their page at Publisher's Marketplace. Submission guidelines are on their website.

Happy writing and querying!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Postage, Critiques, and More

Sigh. I'm sure all you writers out there have heard by now, but I just received another reminder that postage is increasing in May. A first class stamp will cost 42 cents and postcard stamps are also going up one cent. If you're in the process of sending out submissions with SASEs, be sure to put 42 cents worth of stamps on your SASEs so you'll get your reply.

On another note, critiques are awesome. Not only receiving them so you can make your work the best it can be, but giving them as well. I've learned more about writing through giving and receiving critiques than any other method. Yes, books and articles are great and I wouldn't do without them, but the critiques offer a practical application of the things discussed in those books and articles. Plus, it just plain feels good to help another writer with their work. The encouraging comments from a critiquing buddy have helped me get past more than one what-makes-me-think-I-can-be-a-writer moment. Yes, I'd get past it on my own eventually, but knowing someone else likes what I write helps so much! I'm sure many of you have wondered if anyone else would like your story or if you're the only one who thinks it's any good. That feeling is one reason I love critique groups. They can tell me if I'm way off on where the story should be, if the plot needs a bit of tweaking, if I need to just completely shelve the project until I do more research, or if it's a good story capable of being sold somewhere.

Now, for the completely unrelated topic of autism. Of course, autism is related to everything in my world, but that's another post. Check out this article in the March issue of Wired. Finally, people are catching on that autism means different, not diseased. Plus, (just to make this a little writing-related) the way this article is written gives a ton of information in a conversational tone. That's the way I want to write articles when I grow up (as a writer).

So, visit your post office to stock up on Forever stamps (they're worth whatever the rate is when you use them), find a good critique group or partner, and learn a little about the truth of autism. Oh, and happy writing!

Monday, March 3, 2008


I hate writing them, I hate receiving them. Rejections are the bane of a writer's existence, but they can provide helpful clues to why your manuscript was rejected. Of course, if the rejection is a form letter, it just means no. Don't try to read anything into it, because there's nothing there. It's just a quick way for an editor or agent to reject the story. If there are personal notes added to the form, definitely pay attention to them.

One thing to keep in mind personal rejections: it's all subjective. Now, if you're getting rejected because your grammar is atrocious, take it to heart and learn to use proper grammar. If it's something about your plot or your characters, give it serious consideration. If two, three, or more people point out the same thing and say "Fix this" take their advice and work on it.

Dealing with rejections can be hard, but it's something we all learn to live with. When you get the rejection, it's okay cry, get angry, etc. Just don't send a nasty note to the person who sent the rejection. You'll regret it later. Remember, the editor or agent isn't rejecting you. He/she is rejecting your writing, and it could be for something as simple as they just accepted a similar project. A rejection doesn't necessarily mean your story is bad. It could be the whole "It's not you, it's me" thing.

Let the rejection sit for a while, then come back and try to look at it with an objective eye. Of course, there's no point in looking at a form rejection again. Just accept it and move on. Personal rejections, however, merit a second (third, fourth) look. They may help you improve your story to the point the next submission is accepted. At the very least, they'll give you an idea of why it was rejected and maybe offer you the encouragement to revise again.

The most important thing about receiving a rejection is to not give up. Keep writing, keep polishing your writing to make it as perfect as possible, and keep submitting. Every rejection and subsequent revision brings you closer to acceptance.

Don't let those rejections get you down. I have a pile of them, too, but that's not going to stop me. Happy writing!