30 November 2009

A Mind of Their Own

Hey, Friends! How was your Thanksgiving? I hope it was great! Mine definitely was. Now I need a break from the break! Isn't that always how it goes?

This week we're going to talk about characters, but with a twist. You see, the week before Thanksgiving I puppysat for some friends. I love their sweet little boy. He looks a lot like the ottoman on Beauty and the Beast, with a swirl of long black and white fur and thick, snowy paws. His tail curls over his backside like a DQ ice cream cone, his eyes are slightly unfocused in that sweet "puppy" look, and his precious underbite is more adorable than pirahna-like. At five months old, his puppy belly still jiggles, he still goes limp when tired, and the puppy breath is beginning to fade. He's also highly active, doesn't need as much sleep, and tries to chew/bite everything. With a particular penchant for leaves, going outside is less to do business than it is to play, something that drove me crazy because I couldn't get anything done.

Sometime in all the running about, declaring things like: "Good boys don't bite" and trying to coax him into cuddling (he seems to think that my favorite activity in the world is playing--same as my poodle--which, for the record is just not so), I realized that he was teaching me a lot about characters, even though he just thought he was making me crazy.

The first thing he taught me was that he had a mind of his own. You see, I had a grand plan for the week I stayed at my friends' house. I planned to edit to my heart's content, work on my other projects, and even start writing my WIP again. I mean, I had a week of nothing to do but write. Paradise, right?

Well, the first four days went by with no writing. Why? Because Roi (pronounced like "Roy") had his own plans for the day involving his girlfriend (a stuffed dog), tennis balls, his squeaky monkey, chewing the furniture, hiding under the furniture, and of course, the aforementioned leaves outside. None of those plans included a nap, my favorite activity of the day. Roi wouldn't let me work. He wanted to play and even when he didn't want to play, he wanted to wreak havoc. He had to be with me everywhere I went--and I mean everywhere--and didn't want me on the computer at all.

At first, I was really frustrated. But you know what? He was letting me into his life, into his own world--a world full of adventure, fierce conflict (or you'd think it by his growls), and simple pleasures--like froclicking in the leaves outside. He had his own ideas, his own instincts, and separate desires. He wasn't like any other dog I've ever known. He was his own "person".

The same is true with our characters. Sometimes it's hard to remember that they are their own people with completely separate desires, ideas, needs, and personalities. Often I forget, and it's only after being stuck in a scene with no idea what's going to happen--and being bored myself-- that I realize the character might have something important--and entirely different-- to say. It's when we reliquish control of the reins, given them their "head", and allow them to freedom to move, to breathe, to speak that their stories come to life. After all, we aren't telling our stories. We're telling theirs'. And while our stories might be bound up with theirs', it's not our turn to speak. Our turn will come. But when it's their time, we need to be willing to completely enter their world--and see where this completely different person will take us.

It wasn't fair for me to expect Roi to be like me, my poodle, or anyone else (dog or person) I've ever known. I had to let him be who he is--a precious, very energetic shih tzu.

What about you? Do you need to let your characters loose?

25 November 2009

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Hey, Friends! I so enjoyed your Thanksgiving stories on Monday! Thank you so much for sharing your memories with me! And can I just say, I am SO LOOKING FORWARD to deep fried turkey tomorrow! (For those of you nonSoutherners, I guess I should explain that this is just how we do it in the South. Down here, anything fried is Biblical). WOOHHOO!!! And mashed potatoes. Oh my goodness... I'm making myself hungry again.

This is the last post for the week. I think between the turkey, the watching of football (which bores me--I'd rather play than watch any sport), and the shopping (I'm not a shopper), I'm gonna need a really loooonnnnnggg nap and therefore will be unable to leave y'all an fascinating post on Friday.

I just wanted to say that I'm really thankful for this blogging community. When I stumbled on "blogdom" earlier this year, I wasn't sure I was going to go for it. It's such a commitment, I thought. What if I can't think of anything to write? I feared. And then the age-old, what if no one likes me? I never expected to find such rich friendships with like minded writers! This "underground"... er... cyber, I guess... world is a lot of fun! Thank you all for your friendship, your comments, encouragement, prayers, and laughter! I look forward to seeing all of y'all online!

On another note, I saw a movie on Saturday I wanted to promote. I know that there's a different "hot" movie of the week, but seriously, go check out Sandra Bullock's new movie, "The Blind Side". It's a football movie with a twist--full of great dialogue, awesome characters, and a truly gripping Southern story. I hope you'll like it as much as I did. Then again, Sandra Bullock is one of my favorite actresses. And I love sports movies.

I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving, that your time with family and friends is more wonderful than stressful and that the moments hover somewhere between eternity and perfection here on earth. May you eat a lot of great food, find the best Black Friday sales, be safe, and discover awesome stories for future bestsellers. Have a great weekend and a Happy Thanksgiving!

See y'all Monday!

23 November 2009

Revision, Thanksgiving, and Memories

Happy Thanksgiving Week, Everyone!

I have happy news on my revision efforts--this round is complete! Wooohhoo!! I'm excited because this round involved a lot of rewriting. In a way I feel like I have a whole new story! Actually, most of the elements are the same. What's changed is how those elements are depicted. There's more conflict, backstory is woven throughout the novel instead of dumped at the beginning, there's more dialogue, and less telling. I'm pretty excited! I also just finished re-reading and doing heavy line edits, lamenting over all my beautiful adverbs, (trying to) correct my little comma problem, and looking to see if everything works. I think the story is a lot stronger than it was, which makes me REALLY excited! Now I just need to type all the edits in.

It's kind of appropriate that I'm doing all of that right now, because my novel is set in the months of November and December. Thanksgiving and Christmas are pretty major events in the story, and not because they are holidays. They just aren't a part of the setting as far as "time", they are catalysts for major plot points.

So many things go into holidays, ya know? There are traditions, familial cultural habits, our national habits, and then the individual events in our lives. For our characters, it gives us a lot of room to play. There's more than just a gathering and a meal going on; relationships can grow, change, and fracture, characters can develop, and plots can take off. They can be scenes of warmth, conflict, celebration, grief--or some combination thereof. Holidays are so rich for stories simply because their options are unlimited. One side comment, one slip on a wet floor, one missed place setting and Armageddon can erupt.

I love chaos--just not in my real life. It's fun to write though! ::laughs maniacally:: Ha!

Have you ever written a holiday in your story? Did you play with it? What was your favorite Thanksgiving? I'd love to hear your stories!

My favorite Thanksgiving was in 2007. I was in Swaziland, Africa and dreading the day because I knew I'd miss my family and America a lot. Before that, I'd only been overseas on July 4th, so it was my first major holiday away. But we had a huge surprise planned for our team. It's a long story, but we ended up spending the weekend in South Africa. A generous--and wealthy--family of one of my students flew in and threw a feast for my team--and sixty other people!! Most were Americans, but there were South Africans and Swazis in attendance as well. This, of course, was their first Thanksgiving, since it's not an African holiday. I was clean, actually straightened my hair and wore makeup for the first time in months (I don't wear it normally, so it felt really weird wearing it on the field!), wearing a brand new dress purchased just for the occasion.

No one on my team knew until we pulled up at the restaurant. The daughter got the surprise of her life when her father walked out! I remember sitting at the table with my rock star team, eating traditional Thanksgiving food African style, catching the eyes of my best friends across the tent, and signing, "I love you". That night we even went to a mall for a few hours, so the experience was complete!

Below are some pictures of that event!

This is the best picture I have of our feast. I was too busy eating to want to take pictures. :0) We're trying to figure out how to carve the turkey at the moment. These turkeys actually had to be flown in and the restaurant staff had to learn how to make them because this isn't a typical meal there.

We were just happy to have meat--especially the guys!

Here I am with two friends. I think I was most excited about the mashed potatoes. I LOVE potatoes!

My Swazi brother, Musa, in traditional Swazi dress. It was a huge honor for him to wear that--this is not what Swazis wear in everyday life. They dress just like us normally.

See y'all Wednesday!

20 November 2009

The Authentic Voice

The best part about authenticity is its reward.

This week we've been using Jen and Kristen's Great Indian Adventure (Part III) as an analogy for authenticity. So far we've--barely--made it to the restaurant and ordered our food. The mood is set, save for the fact that the restaurant is WAY too quiet. If it were India, everyone would be yelling.

The first taste of our appetizer calmed any fears I had. It was so hot I downed an entire glass of water. And when my heavenly chicken curry finally came, I drank another gallon. It was so good! Instantly, I was on the other side of the world, eating with my fingers and sitting on the cold marble floor, asking myself how I could live without spice. The garlic naan was exactly what I'd dreamed of since August.

We found our portal to India.

After our meal, I order chai, which is the Hindi word for "tea". Chai is tricky because I haven't found a place in America that does it right. Most places call it "Chai tea" on their menus, which is a clear sign that it's not authentic--because they are calling it "tea tea". I figured this place was safe. So I placed my order.

This is not what I received. I did receive chai, just not the kind in the picture above.

I just had to laugh, though. The truth is that I've never been to a restaurant in India where everyone at the table got exactly what they ordered (food and drink). Something was always mixed up. If you ordered Coca-Cola, they'd bring an off brand that tasted nothing like it. If you sent it back and asked for Coca-Cola again, you might get "lucky" and score some Pepsi (if you prefer Coke over Pepsi like I do, it's still a sacrifice). Sometimes you don't get your meal at all. That's just India. So ordering something and receiving something different was the most "Indian" thing that could happen to me. It was most definitely authentic.

So far, we've talked about research and committment to Story as key ingredients for authenticity in our writing. Today we're going to look at something we discussed a few weeks ago--voice.

We need to know our characters, our setting, details, and plots. We need to do the research or else someone will know something is missing. We need to be fully committed to telling our stories, no matter the pain and fear we might experience. Most of all, we need to be true to ourselves. We need to know who we are, how we write, and where we shine. I'll never write horror. Mysteries would even be a stretch for me, as much as I enjoy reading them. And while my stories have romance, I don't know if I'll ever write a novel in that genre--even though I read them. I know where I fit now. Changing genres wouldn't feel authentic to me or to anyone else.

If the chicken curry hadn't been full of spicy fun or if the garlic naan had fallen flat, I would have been so disappointed. It would have been a while before I looked for another Indian restaurant, because I wouldn't want to risk it again. Our spice is our syntax, our rhythm, our subtle art--the inflections that are completely our own. It's what keep readers coming back, what hooks the agent from the first page of our sample pages. It's what makes us unforgettable.

When we write fully researched, fully committed, and fully like ourselves, we find authenticity. It's hard fought and takes a lot of time, but it will make all the difference!

Below is a picture of Jen and I, taken by her husband, photographer Jon Chandler of Jon Chandler Photography. Authentic Indian Adventure: Check! We'll definitely come back!

See y'all Monday!

***Images found at Google Images***

18 November 2009

Danger During the Great Indian Adventure

We were almost killed on the way to the restaurant.

Okay, I'm only exaggerating a little. You see, there's this interstate that goes around Atlanta. It's one big circle, full of potholes and semis. The speed limit is 55mph, but if you drive under 70mph you feel like you're going to be run over. I like to call this highway "Satan". I avoid it at all costs. In fact, I'd rather drive through Atlanta than around it.

But alas, we had to go around. And ten miles out, a group of motorcyclists going 90mph almost took out the entire section of highway. It was too loud for us to talk and too astounding not to comment on. Ironically, it just set the mood. After all, Indian traffic is like nothing I've ever seen in the States. To read a description of it, go here. It seemed appropriate to almost die on the way to dinner. Very... Indian.

As I mentioned on Monday, India is very capricious. Just because we were in America meant that it would be even more unnerving if she changed her mind. But on this evening, India smiled on us. She dropped us off politely--still alive might I add--and even pointed out the Indian grocery store at the end of the shopping mall. We were excited!

When we walked inside, we were in a different world. Hindi music floated from hidden speakers; red was the dominant color of the restaurant. Though none of the patrons were Indian (a possible sign for alarm), the staff was. Instantly my accent came back. I said "thank you" and "water" with flair. We found our favorite dishes on the menu and ordered.

Then we sat back to enjoy the night.

The thing about writing is that it's all a risk. It's dangerous. We're putting our hearts out there, transcribing the stories on our souls onto the printed page. And then we're offering it to people who will slash what doesn't work, honor what does, and tell us the truth about what's left.

If we're not committed, it won't work.

Have you ever read a book where the author didn't commit to the story? Has that ever been said about something you wrote? It's hard to put all of us in our stories. It would be so much easier if we could just walk right up to that vulnerable place and leave it there, without stepping over the line, exposing ourselves, and risking the possibility of getting hurt. Writing would be so much easier if we did that.

But then we'd never find authenticity.

Whenever I read a story where the author fully committed to be real--not pretty, perfect, or exactly what we want, but authentic--I'm left breathless. Authentic pain will not only find but will minister true healing. Authentic joy will encourage us. Authentic tension will keep the reader awake long into the night, unable to put the book down. Authentic friendship will remind us of one of the greatest gifts from God. And to depict those things, we have to be committed. We have to be willing to go to that place that isn't safe and risk everything. We have to trust the One who gave us the story in the first place. And we have to be completely honest.

Finding the restaurant wasn't enough for Jen and I. We had to go. We needed the full experience to satisfy our craving for an Indian adventure. We had to commit. It was the only way we'd find to satisfy that desire--even if it meant driving to the other side of a major city, risking our lives on the roads, and finally, entering a completely different world.

Committment is always worth it. Are you committed to your story?

See y'all Friday for the rest of the story!

16 November 2009

An Authentic Adventure

Saturday night held a highly anticipated event. I was so excited! Dressed in my purple penjabi, I felt like royalty. The chilly November air floated throughout my car and it felt just a little like India. My first few trips there were actually at Christmas, so I still associate "cold" with India. For a night, I could pretend. And the best part was I didn't have to suffer through the flight or risk being stranded in that airport again!

The beautiful and talented Jen Chandler of Woolgatherings and I have been friends many years. We met at a youth group a million years ago (okay... maybe 13?) and became great friends, neither of us knowing the other wrote. That revelation didn't come for many years. What excitement that was! In honor of our heroes, Tolkien and Lewis, we meet often at an undisclosed location for hours of writerly talk and great food. Last spring, we upped the ante and Jen joined me in India for a few weeks. So it just seemed natural that we have an "Indian" night. We spent days researching Indian restaurants in the greater Atlanta area, because unfortunately, there aren't any on our side of "town". We ended up driving clear to the other side.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Jack... I mean, Jen, arrived, looking beauiful in her penjabi, the color of an autumn sunset. Her husband joined us for this illustrious event. We dubbed him Charles and welcomed him to our group. Then we set out.

Our hopes were high. You see, after spending quite some time in India, I can tell from a glance whether something is authentic or not. Picking a random restaurant off the internet was intimidating simply because we wouldn't know until we arrived if the food was that intoxicating mix of delicious and so spicy your tongue is on fire. And since the prices certainly weren't authentic, it was a bit of a risk. We settled on a restaurant named for the Himalayas, more out of whimsy than anything else. The rest was up to... well, India. Experience with her (India) has taught me that's she's as capricious as a hurricane, so it was quite a gamble.

I've been thinking a lot recently about authenticity. How it's important in every part of our lives. I think the quality I admire most in people is authenticity. I want to see who they really are, not some facade they put on. I want to see authentic Christianity as well. If I don't--and if I'm not trying to live it either--it's so disappointing. I want the same things in what I read. I know from the first page if the author is really committed to the whole story. It's something I really strive for in writing as well.

As I edit and revise my novel this month, I ask myself a lot: "Is this authentic? Is it real?" I keep pushing myself, keep trying to find ways to reveal the true shades of the story in any way possible. I want this book to resonate. I want it to continue in the readers' minds long after the covers are closed and it's placed in a personal library.

How do we do that?

One HUGE way we create authentic stories is by knowing them inside and out. In other words, research. If at all possible, visiting the setting if it's not where you've been before. Have you ever read a book set somewhere you've lived and were let down by the depiction of the place you know so well? I have. Have you ever read a story where the plot didn't ring true? Yeah, I have to. It felt incomplete to me. It was missing something, that "it" factor that makes a story come alive. For me, those stories stayed on the page.

Jen and I committed to some major research for our Indian adventure. We read menus, compared prices, estimated gas mileage, etc. After quite some time, we narrowed our choices down to three. Our final pick came from instinct. When you've done the research, the gut kicks in and makes it work. The combination of our knowledge of India and the information we found on restaurants in the Atlanta area gave us what we needed to make a decision.

And when we finally arrived, we knew we'd made the right one.

Please join us for the rest of our Indian adventure and discussion on authenticity! See y'all Wednesday!

13 November 2009

It's Feature Friday!

In honor of this week's focus of the reconstruction and repair, I'd love to feature my novel--not because it's a work in progress but because it deals with restoration. Unfortunately, since no brilliant agent or editor has managed to snatch me up and publish my literary masterpiece, this is impossible. And since I'm currently editing/re-writing bits of said sacred text, it might be a bit premature.

In honor of Feature Friday, I am going to feature my favorite book of all time. This is also exciting because it's the first place my name and my favorite writer's name have ever appeared in the same spot. Hopefully it won't be the last. Please cheer with me, even if it is self contrived! It keeps me dreaming of the day still to come!

This week's feature is Charles Martin's When Crickets Cry.

BOOKPAGE has said that Charles Martin is the author of "God-haunted southern literature" and I couldn't agree more. He is so talented. Reading his books is more than just a few hours of entertainment; it's an experience. Martin averages a new book every 1.5-2 years, so when I get the chance to crack the spine for the first time on a new release, I know it's something I won't enjoy again for a while. I savor every word every time.

The back cover reads:
"It begins on the shaded town square in a sleepy southern town. A spirited seven-year-old has a brisk business at her lemonade stand. Her latest customer, a bearded stranger, drains his cup and heads for his car, his mind on a boat he's restoring at a nearby lake. But the little girl's pretty yellow dress can't quite hide the ugly scar on her chest. The stranger understands more about it than he wants to admit. And the beat-up break truck careening around the corner with its radio blaring is about to change the trajectory of both their lives.

Before it's over, they'll both know there are painful reasons why crickets cry. . . and that miracles lurk around unexpected corners

Martin's characters are rich beyond description. They are memorable. His setting is so real it replaces the world the reader is actually in. His storylines are breathtaking, his backstory expertly woven, and his prose, lyrical. Of all of his books, this one is my favorite. Wrapped in Rain and Chasing Fireflies, and Where the River Ends are tied for a close second. I love his depiction of nature, his perfect word choice, and his rhythm.

Hopefully one day I'll be compared to him--in a good way! Until then, I'll keep reading his books and dreaming of that day. Seriously, check him out! You won't regret it!

See y'all Monday!

***Image found on Google Images***

11 November 2009

Watch Out for those Weak Spots!

This week we're talking about the editing process, using the loose analogy of roof repair. I'm using this as my cathartic release from all the noise and the strangers who stared at me whenever I walked outside last week.

The thing about roof repair is that it's dangerous! One wrong move and we could fall off the house. Or if the roof is bad enough, we could fall right in.

One huge part to the editing process is going through and finding the weak spots, asking the hard questions and seeing if the stories will hold up the scrutiny. The truth is, if we don't do it someone else will. And that will hurt a whole lot more. But if we add reinforcement and re-structure those soft spots, the manuscript will be solid.

I think we all cringe to think of possible weak places in our stories. Whether it's probability factor (can I really stand on a California beach and watch the sun rise over the ocean?--JUST KIDDING!) to the parts of writing that aren't our strengths. I definitely have areas I really have to keep working on. My biggest weakness is dialogue. I really struggle with it. It's not fun for me to write. As a reader, I prefer non-dialogue. One of my novels back in the day was nothing but commentary. It was fun to write but didn't make for a very strong manuscript. Needless to say, it's gathering dust under my bed for many reasons, that being one of them. I struggle writing dialogue. With every book it gets better--and the more time I spend editing, the stronger those scenes get--but any success in those areas is hardfought, more so than the parts where my fingers fly over the keyboard and nail it on the first draft.

Does your manuscript have weak places? How do you try to fix them?

For me, it comes with re-writing. It's very tedious, but the more I sit and re-hash a scene, the deeper into it I get. And while I still want to improve my dialogue writing skills, I'm already seeing stronger conversations between my characters.

See y'all Friday!

By the way, to those of who you commented last week saying that dialogue is your strength, will you consider posting about it in the future? We'll all thank you a million times over. We need your help! Or at least, I do. :0)

***Image found on Google Images***

09 November 2009

The View from Up Here

Last Wednesday I walked outside to see a truck parked by my neighbor's house, which sits behind ours. There were pallets of shingles in the driveway and men walking all over her roof. My poodle looked at them like they were crazy and at me to see what was going on. It was a beautiful day. The wind flowed through the leaves, bringing with it the sound of hammers and the pleasant feeling of being watched from above.

The process of a new roof is a lot like editing a book. The foundation is built. The structure is place. The building itself is in good condition and has a lot of promise. But there are weak places that need to be fixed, sections of "telling" that have to be removed, word choice needs to be examined. If not fixed, the interior will be exposed to the elements and possibly ruined--or in our case, leave too many weak spots and possibly prevent us from landing that agent.

Okay, so the analogy doesn't fit perfectly. :0)

If my neighbor hadn't been proactive, the next big storm could have done some major damage. She probably didn't have any real warning. After all, the roof's held for many years now. It's not like she gets up there regularly and inspects it. From the ground, the house looks like it's in great shape. But from way up there the view is entirely different.

Sometimes we need to pull ourselves away from our stories. I have to force myself to leave mine alone for extended gaps of time so that I will be able to come back with fresh eyes. It's when we pull away and gain a different perspective that we can see what needs to be done--where our problem areas are, what needs to be tweaked, and of course, what absolutely rocks.

The great thing about going up to the roof is the perspective it brings. All of the sudden we're outside the story again, able to see all the characters as our readers do. Like the picture above, these characters and subplots extend as far as the eye can see. It's our choice to decide what to use, what to ignore, and what to enhance. We can keep the birds' eye view or we can go deeper, strengthening our characters and increasing tension. We get to decide how the story unfolds--until that muse takes over and drops a massive surprise in the middle of our carefully constructed (or not-so-carefully if you're a panster) plots.

Sometimes all we really need is a change in perspective.

See Y'all Wednesday!

06 November 2009

You Just Do It So Well...

The great thing about when we've found that sweet spot--our signature will be remembered, even awarded. Ergo... We're going to have another Awards Day!

Mucho thanks to Tabitha Bird at Through My Eyes, for the One Lovely Blog Award!

I accept it with honor and shall in turn award it to:

Janna Qualman of Something She Wrote
Jen Chandler of Woolgatherings
Dream Dancer of Diamond and Dreams

Thank you to Katie Salidas at Step 1: Write, Edit, and Revise for the Honest Scrap Award!

This award is to be given to five people at a time. So I shall give it to:

Jan Cline of freelance writer...author
Terri Tiffany of Terri Tiffany Inspirational Writer
Bina of Bina's Pad
Caroline Starr Rose at Caroline By Line
Jennifer Shirk at Me, My Muse, and I

Thank you, Tamika, at The Write Worship, who nominated me for the Humane Award!

I would like to give this award to:

Jeannette Levellie of Audience of One
Jeannie Campbell of Where Romance Meets Therapy
Maria Morgen of Life Lessons
Susan Mills of A Walk In My Shoes

Also, thanks to Julie Dao at Silver Lining for the Kreative Blogger Award!

Have a great weekend! Thank y'all for all the awards! See y'all Monday!

04 November 2009

How Do You Make Your Mark?

Sometimes I close my eyes and hear the voices of my favorite writers.

Each one has a signature I can't forget. Whether its the contemplative, haunting turn of a phrase or a lightning fast witty quip, they've grabbed me. What's more, these authors keep me captive and I have to come back for more. They have done their work so well that I hear them even after the novel is put away. I re-read their books whenever possible. I race to the store when a new one comes out. I tell everyone I know about them.

I believe that it's different for each of us. Definitely, it varies according to genre. And then there's us as the writers, with as many different experiences as there are leaves in a great forest. We all have something to say. And we all have a way to say it that is just our own.

What's your signature?

This is something we discover the more we write. It takes a while to find our place and learn our rhythm. It takes time to learn to dance. Perhaps there are a lot of false starts and missed steps. That's okay. When we find our beat and let loose--when we trust the creative spirit God has placed inside of us and allow it to move in freedom--that's when we find that sweet spot, the place only we can touch in that way. It's then that we soar.

My journey came slowly. It took a kick in the pants from a dear friend who read my second novel and didn't like it. Her reason: the story was fine, but she lost me. So I wrote another book, this time in a different voice. It was chick lit. The sassy, sarcastic voice was definitely me. My friend loved it. But still I felt like something was missing. Then came novel number four, it was a dark story, very southern--women's fiction. And there, I found my voice. One and a half novels later, it's just getting stronger. For me, it comes out in word choice and rhythm. It's reminiscent of my favorite writer but completely my own, a beat that only I can hear in my head. It sounds like me.

If you haven't found yours yet, I encourage you to keep writing--and reading what you write. For those of you who have, what helped you? And what do you believe is your signature?

Remember--you're unique. Just like everyone else! Ha! And just because there are millions of other leaves in that forest, doesn't mean that you aren't just as brilliant as all the others.

***Image found at Google Images***

02 November 2009

A Signature Start

First of all, I have GREAT news! I just found out that a magazine will publish one of my short stories! I'm so excited! This is also very ironic because I rarely write short stories. I'll let you know when it happens. It'll be sometime next spring. For now, WOOHHOOOO!!! Please celebrate with me! It's been so long since I last saw my name in print. Now I have three pieces "in waiting" for the first time in years (a nonfiction article and two short stories--I know, the irony). Now if only I could get someone to fall in love with my novel...

While searching through hundreds of blog layouts for one with just the right amount of bright colors, I noticed something interesting. As I googled random sites and scrolled through pages of possibilities, I recognized certain layouts. "I can't use that one," I shook my head, "It's so-and-so's blog." Instantly, mental images of your blogs and your posts came to mind. I could hear your voices--amongst all the others I usually hear! Many of you have become so "signature" in my mind that a simple template makes me remember what you've written. Good for you!

Does anyone else find this blogging thing hard? Besides the time element, there's the need to be creative and be ourselves at the same time. Sometimes I think through a list of topics before arriving at the right one, because the others have been covered recently--and discussed so well that I don't want to repeat the topic so soon. It's hard to be consistently unique.

But each week, we do it. We look at our world and use examples from our lives. We write and use that in our posts. We contemplate current events and discuss them--and their impact on our writing as well. It's fun. It takes a lot of time. Sometimes we're able to write ahead of schedule and sometimes it's a last minute post. Either way, our marks are all over them.

It's the same with our books. Just as our individual blogs can be recognized by a single color or phrase, so our stories can as well. Our voices are so unique that we can tackle similar issues in different ways and come out with completely creative manuscripts. Just as there is room for us in Blogdom, so there's room for us in the industry. Despite discouraging rumors of agencies and publishers being closed to unknowns, pre-published authors are still getting those phone calls, signing those contracts, and starting that huge process. Even the economy can't completely block us out.

The trick is to be ourselves. To write what we love and feel the most passionate about, the stories we are charged to share. And then stepping out on courage by offering them to the world. We need to believe that there is space for us too.

On Wednesday we'll talk more about our unique signatures!

As you can see, there have been some big changes on this blog! A new layout, a new posting schedule, and the official "I'm very cool because I'm a member of ACFW" box. That's right--I'm a member now! Woohoo! I'm very excited.

The biggest change for y'all is that I'm adding an extra day. Starting this week, I'm going to post on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Every other Friday will still be a book feature, the other days will be something else fun. I hope you like it!

***Image found on Google Images***