Wednesday Writings

What I’ve learned lately … with Jennifer Hudson Taylor

I was added to an online critique group soon after joining American Christian Fiction Writers a few years ago. Jennifer Hudson Taylor was part of that group, and taught me so much by her comments! She’s now a published novelist with Abingdon Press; her debut novel, Highland Blessings, was released in 2010 and her follow-up, Highland Sanctuary, releases this month. We’ll finally meet in person when she joins the faculty at our local writers’ group conference in November. In the meantime, I’m she’s able to stop by to share with us here today.

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Micro Progress is Still Progress

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

 

How many times have you heard someone say, “I take two steps forward, and one step back.”

This cliché was born out of frustration. Most of the time we feel like we’re being pushed back. It isn’t a step we’re actually taking with purpose. It’s unplanned and it breeds discouragement.

The good news is even if you feel like you’re back where you started, most of the time you’ve learned something in the process or God may be protecting you from being in a place at the wrong time. There is a reason for everything—even when we can’t see it.

Recently, our family has been going through many things. My father-in-law passed away from cancer a month ago and at the same time my mom was battling a different kind of cancer. We knew he wouldn’t make it, but were assured hers was caught in time. Cancer is a kind of illness that takes a while to overcome or succumb. It not only wears out the ones battling it, but the loved ones trying to surround their loved one with strong support.

I was frustrated that I couldn’t take time off from work for every visit to be with my mom and help her make decisions. I had to rely on the info she relayed to me, hoping she had heard correctly and wasn’t forgetting something important in the midst of her distress. Yes, I may be a published author, but I still have a full-time job with a boss who owns my time during those 40 hours each week. My time is not my own, and I struggle with this concept—especially when I feel like I’m needed elsewhere.

During this time I had to let go of some things such as canceling a trip to a writer’s conference where I was scheduled to present three workshops, took a sabbatical from some blogs, stopped scheduling events and book signings for my new book release. These were temporary setbacks, but my family was much more important. The only thing that nagged me was falling behind on my word count each week because I had signed a contract that I would finish a book by a certain time, and I was already stretching myself to meet this contract obligation in my already limited schedule.

I’ve always been taught to meet my obligations no matter what it takes, so a bit of anxiety began to set in when my word count dropped until there were a few days with no word count. But I didn’t give up, and kept plugging away at what I COULD do. Guess what? By the end of September, I’d written 20,000 words—more than I’d planned by 8,000 words.

I can’t explain it, but what I learned is that if we are faithful in the small things, God will multiply our efforts. Pennies saved can become hundreds saved if we keep adding to it. We have to keep sowing seeds, and let God give the increase.

 

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-8)

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Jennifer Hudson Taylor is an award winning author of historical Christian fiction set in Europe and the Carolinas and a speaker on topics of faith, writing and publishing. Her work has appeared in national publications, such as Guideposts, Heritage Quest Magazine, Romantic Times Book Reviews, and The Military Trader. She serves as the in-house Publicist at Hartline Literary Agency and co-owns Upon the Rock Publishing, an e-publishing/publicist company. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with family, long walks, traveling, touring historical sites, hanging out at bookstores with coffee shops, genealogy, and reading.

 

Categories: Christian fiction, Wednesday Writings, What I've Learned Lately, Writing life | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Wednesday Writing: The Editor Scoop

When you’re at a writers’ conference, one of the best ways to learn what editors or literary agents want is to attend open forum-type sessions where they answer questions. We had a few opportunities at the Philadelphia Conference to sit in on panel discussions with literary agents, magazine editors, and book editors.

During one of the sessions, book editors were asked to share their greatest struggle in working with writers. Here’s a sampling of responses from the 10 editors present:

  • Working with unteachable writers. Every writer should always be willing to take constructive comments and learn how to become better.
  • Not being clear on communication. Don’t read too much into emails – approach the other person directly if you think there might be misunderstandings.
  • Finding the 40-45,000 word book desperately struggling to get out of an 80,000 word manuscript.
  • Ministering to a writer with a fragile ego. Criticism is meant to make you better at what you’re doing, but editors have to share comments delicately.
  • Receiving material from an author who isn’t as prepared as he or she should be. Really check your research and other information for factual errors before submitting to an editor.
  • Receiving a book proposal that says the project is aimed for “everybody.” Take the time to shift from writer to reader to know who the manuscript is really for.
  • Intellectual and spiritual arrogance – a writer who doesn’t allow for teachability or improvement. Recognize that you aren’t perfect … yet. 🙂
  • Being a dream slayer. An editor so wants you to be good – be the best you can before submitting.
  • Not following submission guidelines. The material might be good, but the editor will pass on it because it doesn’t fit their guidelines.
  • Seeing authors who want to be published so desperately that they follow the bandwagon instead of their passion.
  • Dealing with the “new mommy” mentality. Becoming published and spreading the word about a book is a lot more work than some authors expect. Some authors just want to see their name on the cover and aren’t committed for the long haul, so their “baby” never makes it past the crib.

So, what do you writers/authors think about these? Do any of the comments surprise you? Learning new things every day …

Categories: Conferences, Wednesday Writings, Writing life | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Word Touches

I haven’t posted a writing quote in a while, but read one a couple of days ago that’s absolutely perfect for many of us who keep plugging away on our articles, books, blog posts, and more.  It’s courtesy of a man named Lewis Greer who’s also a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. He included it as part of his response to a lesson in our online class this month – and I loved it so much I had to ask if I could steal it. He was nice enough to say yes. 🙂

Lewis wrote, “I have only a limited idea as to how God will use what I write, but I know He will not be able to use it if it is not written.”

 This is good for me any day, but especially on those days when I have the ideas in my head but don’t sit down and write because I have “real work” to do … or I need to buy groceries … or the kids have piano lessons … or I’m just too tired … or … or … or. You get the idea.

The thing I need to remember is that these ideas and stories and characters that clutter my mind didn’t come from me. The desire to write fiction didn’t come from me. And the reason I’m doing it – isn’t for me.

For whatever reason only He knows, God has called me to write. Sure, I spend my days writing things for work that help pay the bills. But He’s also called me to write other things that might help someone’s heart.

A little girl who feels overlooked and ignored.

A middle school girl who’s trying to figure out how Sunday school faith works in the real world.

I don’t know who I’m ultimately writing for, but God does – and that’s what counts. I think I’m going to add Lewis’s quote to the collection over my computer to help keep me going on those tired/crazy/overloaded days when it’s easy to shove my writing aside. Maybe it’ll help me remember Who I’m doing this for in the first place.

But how about you? Even if you’re not a writer, I think just changing a word or two in what Lewis said makes it apply to everyone. How about, “I only have a limited idea of how God will use what I [do/say/teach], but I know He will not be able to use it if it is not done.” What do you think?

Categories: Wednesday Writings, Writing quotes | Tags: , | 3 Comments

What I’ve Learned Lately … With Lisa Lickel

I’ve taken a couple of weeks off from the blogging world, thanks to work things and enjoying spring break with our kids. It’s nice to be back today, and especially nice to introduce you to author Lisa Lickel. Lisa and I met through American Christian Fiction Writers and are both posters over at the Favorite PASTimes historical blog. She’s also a regular contributor to other blogs that have great posts about writing and life in general. So, yes, she’s a busy lady!

Here’s the official short bio … Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and fifty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she writes inspiring fiction. Her novels include mystery and romance, all with a twist of grace. She has penned dozens of feature newspaper stories, short stories, magazine articles and radio theater. She is the editor in chief of Creative Wisconsin Magazine and loves to encourage new authors. Find her at LisaLickel.com.

And now here’s Lisa!

 

Learning Experiences in My Corner of Life

 

Thank you, Leigh, for having me.

 

A Matter of Perspective

 

I’m like a lot of you, I think — my mom calls fairly often. We live across the state from each other; in the winter, across the continent. I dread the question I know she’ll ask: “Anything new with your writing?”

Perspective, attitude, goals, discipline: these all change the same way we introduce ourselves to different people. When strangers ask me what I do, I sound glamorous; when my family asks, I can be more honest about the drearier side of being an author—the constant submission whether by me or my agent; the waiting and the hoping.

A recent message I wrote about attitude took a page from winning Super Bowl coach Mike McCarthy’s playbook: when do you get measured for your Super Bowl ring? The fact that the coach had his players measured the night before they played and won probably didn’t cause the players to win the game, but I’m sure it reminded them of the goal. Winning in this business means being read.

To reach that goal of establishing a readership, I employ discipline. And here’s where I tell you my other secret: I don’t put clean words on fresh paper every day. The act of writing takes a village of disciplines. The successful author knows that research in many forms, editing, reading and marketing actually take up the bulk of the process we call writing.

Being an author is always thrilling in one form or another: either we’re riding high or we’re on the down-swing of the bungee ride; the wind beneath our wings. The journey involves both trust and vulnerability. I write from my gut, spilling out my best words and phrases, sharing my dreams, my heart, in the hope of somebody (in the best Sally Field moment) will LIKE me! And tell all their friends.

What’s new with me? I’ve written two novellas and will start another batch soon. I’m so delighted by the direction my new group blogs are taking. Check out thebarndoor.net and reflectionsinhindsight.wordpress.com. I’ve sold some short stories to Harpstring Magazine (check out writtenworldcommunications.com). I became the editor-in-chief of a Wisconsin literary magazine, I’ll be leading two workshops in March and April; I’ll be teaching a course for ACFW online in May, and my sales are picking up.

Who else will bleed for you like an author? What’s new with your writing?

 

Great thoughts to leave us with, Lisa. Whether we’re writers, readers, or just trying to get through life, we need to work on perspective and discipline. Sounds like it’s definitely working for you, and it will be great to hear when some of your other projects find a publishing house. Thanks for stopping by today!

 

Categories: Christian fiction, Wednesday Writings, What I've Learned Lately, Writing life | Tags: , | 5 Comments
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