I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, June 29, 2012

I'm Blogging, but Who Cares?

Many bloggers get started and never seem to garner a following.  There are several reasons for this.

Here are a few questions to help you decide the “why” for your blog:

1.     Do you post a link on your Facebook page with a tantalizing hook, or on your Twitter feed and in your email correspondence with other like-minded people?

2.     Are you focused and “on topic” or are you just rambling all over the place? There is nothing wrong with rambling if you are a famous person and the blog is all about you. However, staying focused on what you’ve decided your blog is about helps your readers decide if this is the blog for them. Remember, you have to always be thinking: There are millions of blogs out there, why should they choose mine? What makes mine so special?

3.     Is there anyone else in your interested area who has been out there blogging longer than you have? Could you have them as a guest blogger from time to time, or even once?

4.     Are you paying it forward? Do you frequent other people’s blogs that are like-minded, or relevant, and post comments on their blogs too? (Usually there is a Link option you can fill out that when a reader clicks on it, it leads back to your site or blog. Google helps you set that up automatically when you sign up for a Google account.)

Still not getting traffic?
When you frequent other blogger’s sites, ask yourself what draws you to that particular site? Ask a friend to check out your latest post and be brutally honest with you about whether they would return to the blog if they didn’t know you and why or why not? Friends can tell us things no one else can.

Remember, it takes a couple of years to get a faithful following, so don’t give up just because your numbers are low. Consistency is key. Stay with it. Talk to others around the blogosphere and get their advice.

My friend Michelle Lim has a wonderful blog and she has chosen to remain very focused. Check her out, as well as the rest of the Ponderers. Most have their own blogs as well.

Are you blogging? What are some of your best advice for new bloggers? And what advice did I miss (I’m sure there’s lots)?

ginger takamiya

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Blogging: Where to Start

So you’ve decided to blog. Good for you. But where do you start?
Of course you need to know that this is not an exhaustive post. This is simply to help you get the ball rolling.

The first thing you need to do is choose a host. There are a whole group of hosting sights such as Blogger (where MBT Ponderers blog), WordPress, Weebly etc. where you can go to begin. All of the blogging hosts are similar in many ways, it just takes fiddling with them to get the hang of it. Or, here’s a novel idea, how about going to the Help section and watching the How-to videos they have :)

The second step after choosing a host is to decide whether you will be a website with a blog or just a blog. Okay, I can hear some of you asking, “What’s the difference?”
A website where you would "host" your own blog is a little more difficult to start. First you have to find a unique domain name that has not been taken by somebody already. That's where Google AdWords tool comes in to play.

Your name not only must be unique, but it must be made up of words that people are searching for. Such as Christian novels. If you choose a name that no one is looking for, no one will find you, paying to advertise aside, and I never do that. The right domain name will make a big difference and should help you avoid the advertisement pitfall. 

A website is also set up to have what’s known as static pages. These are pages that your visitors return to again and again. For instance. At Christian Romance Magazine, we have several pages that are dedicated solely to basic information on writing Christian romance. Those pages never change. They are static. One click of the button and you can find it any time you want. Where as a blog has only one real page called Home or the Posts page. This changes or “rolls down” every time you post. Scroll down to the bottom of this page and you’ll see what I mean.

For today's post, we assume you do not want to own a website and take the time to register your unique domain name, work up hundreds of pages, garner advertisement etc.
You, want to blog. And your blog needs to have a personality.

Using Blogger as an example, you might Google “Blogger Templates” to begin. Choose a “look and feel” that suits you and your blog's personality. Download and follow the directions.

Now you have your site host chosen, your look and feel installed and you’re ready to post your first post.

Check list:
1.       Do I have 350 word count or less?
2.       Picture displayed for every post (did I make sure to check the “no robot follow” box to make sure I do not bleed off my page rank?  Trust me on this, it’s important)
3.       Have I posted only those links that I would want Google to associate with my blog or did I manually place in that link and use the “no robot follow” attribute?

Questions 2 and 3 are far more important when you own a website than a blog. Many would debate that it’s just as important. For now, learn the ropes and add to your knowledge as you go.

For more info, check out this post: How to star a blog.

BTW, if you decide to go with a website, stay away from SEO (Search Engine Optimization) stuff. Most try to be helpful, but Google changes its rules all the time and SEO cannot keep up with it. Take my advice. Write good content and they will come :)

ginger takamiya

Monday, June 25, 2012

Blogging, Should I?

Among writers, there is one question that is probably batted around more often than others, especially when it comes to the marketing aspect of what we do.

No, I'm not talking about networking--yet.

I'm talking about blogging.

Is it really necessary to your writing career.

To blog or not to blog, that is the question.

MBT Ponderers was born because of this question.

 Not all writers agree, but here are some questions to consider while you make your decision:

  • Have you ever read a book that so impacted you that you wanted to know more about the author?
  • Have you ever bought another writer’s book just because you knew them?
  • Have you ever stumbled onto a blog that so captivated you, that you submitted your email address to the feed?
  • Have you ever shared a blog link that you found, with a friend?

These are just a few questions that you may want to consider before you pass over a blog-a-sphere presence. Especially if you answered, "Yes" to any of the above.

Okay, so I’ll get a blog. Now what?
  • Do you feel like you can come up with an idea at least once a week? (3 times is optimum)
  • If not, can you discipline yourself to try? 
  • Can you go in with at least one other person and form a small blogging group around your passion? 

NOTE: it is not a good idea to cross passions. For instance if your friend wants to do a blog on boating and you want to do one on science fiction, unless your stories are about aliens sailing space in boats, you should think twice.

I have seen people who have two passions that use the same blog for both.

Example a woman who has a blog about dogs and the latest Christian romance she just read. She has the author come on and talk about their dogs and their latest book. Seems to be working for her.

MBT Ponderers all have personal blogs as well. On the practical side this gives each Ponderer an opportunity to write more and reach people that may not know about their other blogs. It is also a wonderful form of discipline to “Not let your fellow blogger’s down”.
After all, every writer could use a little more discipline.

So, have I convinced you yet to give it a try?

Already blogging?

What advice would you give to writer's thinking about starting a blog?

Next time: 

Wednesday we’ll talk about the HOW-TO of getting started. You don’t want to miss this and you don’t want to just jump in too quickly before you read my next two posts this week.

Until Wednesday,

ginger takamiya
(EIC ChristianRomanceMagazine.com)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fun Friday Fiction

By Pat Trainum aka P. T. Bradley

I was going to do a completely different blog today, one on Scrivener(will do it next month)…but on Monday, Melissa Tagg challenged writers in her blog, Tag(g)Lines to take their current work-in-project, go to page 77, scroll down 7 lines and post the next 7 sentences (or paragraphs). Since I haven’t gotten to page 77 on my new book, I used another book, Twenty Shades of Murder.

Here it is:

“Rachel, are you there?”

“I’m here, Sheriff.” What kind of person kidnaps two people and kills their partner to send a message?  A very sick person. The same one who wanted to kill her. Who knew where she was.

If she didn’t stop him, someone else would die, and it would be her fault. Rachel sank on her bed and concentrated on breathing. “I just received another package with photos that included the Williams’ crime scene.”

That up to this moment she truly believed Chance had sent…except, his profile didn’t support the type of planning it would take to pull off such an elaborate scheme. And it didn’t support such cold-blooded tactics.

 “I want a copy of everything in the package.”

“Yes, sir.”

Now she knew why the Williams’ case nagged her. “It was a set-up, Sheriff…”

Lots of trouble for my main character. Like Melissa, I hope this makes you want to read Twenty Shades of Murder. Or maybe that same dude Melissa is looking for from Harper Collins will come calling.

I’m passing on the challenge. If you’re a writer, consider yourself tagged—77th page, 7th line, next 7 sentences or paragraphs--leave a comment where to find your 7s. If you’re a reader, I hope you'll leave a comment and let me know if you enjoyed my little excerpt...

Pat Trainum writing as P. T. Bradley
2012 Romantic Suspense Genesis Finalist

I asked God to teach me patience and He gave me a book to write

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pondering Julia...Epilogue

by Heidi Larson Geis

Back in April, I wrote a post about the unexpected loss of my sweet friend Julia. The post was my own personal memorial.  I did my best to share Julia-- her amazing wit and tender heart --and then encouraged all of our readers to reconnect with friends. 

Because life is unpredictable.

Seven weeks later, I received an amazing email from Lisa Jordan, who oversees our blog. You see, when someone posts a comment more than a couple weeks after the original date of the post, it requires approval. Lisa forwarded the comment directly to me.

The comment was from Julia’s husband, Rich. 

What I didn’t share in April was that I didn’t know how to get a hold of her family. I’d never met her husband. I had no phone numbers or addresses.  I felt helpless to get answers about her death, or offer comfort to her family. I prayed for her family, especially her husband, and I prayed that God would someday bring us together.

And then, just before the six month anniversary of her death, Rich typed her name into a search engine, and up popped my blog post. After he read it, he sent this message: 

I'm so sorry that you had to find out about Julia that way; you were a wonderful friend to her, and she had a smile a mile wide when she talked about growing up with you. With everything that happened, I was remiss in contacting her friends and I am very sorry for that.

She was a wonderful wife, and I feel truly blessed that we had such a great 9 1/2 years together. She was the funniest, warmest, and most loving person that I ever met, and I was proud to be her husband.

Heidi, I'm sorry we did not have a chance to meet when she was still here with us. If you can let me know how to contact you, I'd love to talk to you. 

He included his email address, and I promptly emailed him. After a flurry of email messages full of memories and apologies, we talked on the phone for four hours. Rich was looking for someone who understood how special and wonderful she was, and he told me later that as he read my post, he could  “envision Julia's smile, her warm brown eyes, her laugh, and the way she would animatedly use her hands when she was talking.”

Over the course of our “little” phone chat, Rich realized that my family loved her for all the same reasons he loved her. He was hoping to find someone who would share stories and pictures and memories; all he had to do was Google her! Now he’s planning to visit my family (including my parents) at the end of July.

Here’s the thing: sometimes writing is hard. Sometimes what God leads us to write is painful. If you’ve ever wondered if it’s worth it, let me assure you, it is. Writing that post back in April made my heart ache, but I knew I was supposed to write it. It never occurred to me that Rich would find it.

But God is faithful when we’re obedient.

Back in April, I was supposed to give away a coffee card, and I totally spaced it! I had a winner, I just completely forgot to come back and post it. So if you are Jessica Patch, or you know her, I just need an email address so I can find out where to send it!

Monday, June 18, 2012

I Stand in Awe of Him!

By Jennie Atkins

Have you ever had a song that stayed with you forever?

I have several that I pull from the well of my soul, depending on my circumstances. This one, a love song to Jesus, is one of my favorites:

You are beautiful beyond description
Too marvelous for words
Too wonderful for comprehension
Like nothing ever seen or heard
Who can grasp Your infinite wisdom
Who can fathom the depths of Your love
You are beautiful beyond description
Majesty, enthroned above

If you close your eyes and picture the most beautiful thing you've ever seen. What do you see? Is it a tropical oasis where the sand is white and the water is bluish-green? Or a newborn babe sleeping, its eyelashes like miniature feathers lying against rosy cheeks? Or the smile of the one you love?

If you can, try to describe the awesomeness of it. Or the feelings it invokes. Can you?

Now, close your eyes and try to picture God. The chorus above says He is beautiful beyond description. There are no words that can describe his majesty. At this point, on this side of the mirror, we can only dimly picture what God looks like. He is like nothing we've ever seen or heard.

Beautiful. Wonderful. Indescribable.

Now try to measure your love for your spouse, your children, your family or friends. Can you? Can you describe what that love feels like? Then imagine it thousands maybe even a million times greater.

That's God's love for us.

Now think of the most precious gift you've ever been given. Can you put a price on what it meant to you? Can you put a price on a child's love? Or the tender prayers of a friend on your behalf? Or the tears shed when a loved one dies?

God has given freely of his love. His gift to you is his most beautiful son, who loved us enough to give up his life, and pay a debt he didn't owe.

Oh, my awesome God—I stand in awe of You.

My Holy God to whom all my praise is due—I stand in awe of You!

As writers we may struggle to write a scene, describe the emotions our characters feel, or find the proper word to replace the forbidden “was”. But may you never be left speechless when it comes to the love our God has for you.

I pray you forever stand in awe of Him.

Now it’s your turn. What song(s) do you sing in your hour of need?

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Word Lovers

Buried deep in the Bible, I found a man’s name that intrigues me. You’ll find it mentioned, in passing only, in a long list of people the apostle Paul greets in Romans 16. If you have the patience to read through the names there, you’ll find a curious one in verse 15: Philologus.

I do have a hard time imagining someone saying, “Hey, what’s up, Philologus?” It doesn’t have the same ring as Timmy or Johnny. (Probably wasn’t long before someone just called him Gus.)

But a search for his name in a Greek Lexicon captivated me. 

It says the name comes from two Greek words: Philo and logus. Basically it means Lover of the word.

Here at The Ponderers, we’re all Lovers of the word—in more ways than one. Yes, we love the Word of God and often find ourselves deep in its pages for instruction, comfort, and inspiration.

But we are Lovers of the word in another sense too. We write. Rewrite. Ponder over every paragraph, every sentence, and, yes, every word. We study Word Painting at conferences with Susie May Warren. We purchase the best Thesaurus money can buy and use it discriminately. 

When we find the perfect word for our sentence, it can actually make us giddy. Or make us teary-eyed. (Okay, I admit it. I’ve cried over some of my scenes.)

We chose the name The Ponderers for our group in a bit of fun rebellion when Susie told us not to have our characters pondering all the time.

But we could have called ourselves The Word Lovers. Or The Philologus Ladies—except that sounds weird, and we’re really not that strange.

Most of the time.

Tell us if you identify with Philologus. Or would your momma ever call you such a name?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Best Friends

Photo by Kara Sherwood of her cats, Midnight Jane and Albus

Names of these duos roll off your tongue in clich├ęs like salt and pepper. Peanut butter and jelly. Popcorn and M&M’s. (Okay, maybe the last one’s just a pair in the Sherwood-Gray home. But you should try it!)
Jonathan and David. Thelma and Louise. Laverne and Shirley. Lucy and Ethel. Harry and Sally. Kirk and Spock. The Lone Ranger and Tonto. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Anne Shirley and Diana Barry. Turner and Hooch. (Come on. Hooch, really? Well, some say dogs are a man’s best friend.)
The list of best friends in movies, books, history, and your life could go on and on. We need people. Even castaway Chuck Nolan needed Wilson.
My first best friends.
I started school in a magical place called Camp Lejeune, N.C. in the late 1960’s. I don’t think our cul-de-sac of eight houses on the Marine Corps Base was special to anyone but my friends and me. In fact, I think our parents hated the neighborhood parking lot far from our individual houses, but it gave us a safe field in the center to play baseball, "Red Rover," "Mother, May I?," and any other game of our imagination. Back then bigger families meant more children were your age in the neighborhood. So, out of those eight houses, four little girls started first grade with me. My first four best friends. After three years, we moved to Florida, where I made a new best friend. As my sister grew older, she became a best friend too.
Even when I married Jack, I still had girl friends in my life, who showed me how to become a better wife, a better mother, who laughed with me or cried with me, whichever I needed at the moment. I've had friends celebrate victories. And I’ve had friends talk me down from the ledge. I’ve had precious friends who’ve prayed for me and with me when I lost my husband and felt so alone. I’ve had writer friends who embraced me and helped keep my dream alive when I couldn’t on my own.
Face it. We all need friends. I am so thankful for mine. (You know who you are!)
Our heroes and heroines need friends too. 
A book without characters just isn’t much of a story. Beyond being a side kick or providing comic relief, secondary characters can play important roles as the voice of truth or the voice of passion. They can be mentors. They can be a sounding board. Their journeys can mirror the hero’s journey in some way. Don’t waste your secondary characters. Make them as rich, as well-developed, as possible.
If you’re a writer, are you making full use of the secondary characters in your story?
If you’re a reader, who's your best friend? How does that person enrich your life? 
Roxanne and Steve Gray

Today, I want to wish a happy anniversary to my best friend and husband, Steve. I love you and appreciate you more than I can say. You still make me laugh every day. You give the best hugs and kisses on the planet. And no matter what jam I’m in, you’ve always got my back. I savor the romantic words you whisper, yet want to give them to my heroes. Thank you for a wonderful year. I’m counting on many, many more to come.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Lions and Lambs and Talking Donkeys, Oh My!

by Jenness Walker

In my last local writers’ group meeting, we critiqued an article by the esteemed Ava Pennington (author of One Year Alone With God, more Chicken Soup stories than you can count, and a whole lot more). She was writing about summer Bible study ideas, and she had some great ones. (By the way, you can pick up her devotional book on the names of God here. It’s endorsed by Kay Arthur!)
As I was considering what to blog about on this faith-themed day, I got to thinking about another way to study the Bible. Through fiction! J Hey, I’ll create any excuse I can to read a good book. Have you read Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee? After I finished it, a pastor preached out of Genesis, and I felt like standing up and telling him he didn’t have a clue. Had he read Eve’s diary? J Tosca did an incredible job of picturing what bliss in the Garden might have looked like…and then the horror of leaving it. She brought up things I’d never thought about—like the fact that Eve had to live for so long, watching the world change from utter perfection she’d first known. What must that have been like?

Then there’s the Christy-Award-winning Madman by Tracy Groot. (Which is on sale right now!)This may be my all-time favorite biblical fiction book. Tracy really dug into the culture and the history around the time of the demoniac at the tombs, even helping me make sense of the significance of casting the demons into swine. Though the actual Bible story it’s built around takes up only a small amount of time on the page, wow, is it ever powerful.

Yes, I know these are works of fiction. But, like The Action Bible does for kids/teens, biblical fiction helps God’s Word come alive. And while I’m not advocating substituting novels for time spent in the Word, I think it might not be a bad idea to use it as collateral reading. J

My husband taught a high school Bible class for years. His favorite section covered the Temple. The attention God gave to each detail and the importance of them that we see in hind sight—everything comes together to make the coming of Jesus as the final sacrifice even more significant. Understanding the people and the times can lead to a richer understanding of God’s grace and His overarching plan.

There’s a lot of biblical fiction out there. Anything from the new wives series by Jill Eileen Smith, to stories given a twist by being set in different time periods a la Liz Curtis Higgs’ Scottish series, Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love, and even Tosca Lee’s Demon: A Memoir, to Angela Hunt’s older series about Joseph—Legacies of the Ancient River.
So here’s my little summer Bible study idea.

For readers—choose a biblical fiction book that appeals to you. Read it and answer the discussion questions at the back of the book, if there are any. If not, create your own. See if you can find any of the author’s sources and do a little research, maybe finding other sources of your own. Read the passages of Scripture that pertain to the novel’s plot. Look at the maps at the back of your Bible and trace the journey of the Bible character. Where is that today? What affect did that character have on biblical history? On world history? Why was their story important enough to be referenced in the Bible? What can you learn from their lives? From their relationship with God and others? Etc.
For writers—This week in your devotions, see if there’s anything that gives you a story idea. Even the rules in Deuteronomy can spark some “what ifs.” Or maybe you already have a story nugget you haven’t gotten around to researching. Check out a book on the customs of the time period, find a timeline comparing historical and biblical happenings in that era, see if anyone else has written a novel on the same character or one who lived in the same time period. Do you agree with their interpretation of the character’s motives? How would you write it differently? What does God have to say to us today through this character/situation/custom/whatever?

Oh, and just for fun: What’s your favorite biblical fiction book so far?

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Writer's Imagination

by Lisa Jordan

Imagination is more important than knowledge. 
For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, 
imagination points to all we might yet discover and create. 
~Albert Einstein

Photo Source

A writer's imagination can be a scary place. Good thing only God can read my thoughts.

I took out the trash late one evening. Shrouded in darkness, shadows loomed in my backyard--the patio furniture and playhouse suddenly becoming sanctuaries for new shapes and lifeforms. Of course, my imagination ran wild. I stared into the blackness for about thirty seconds before rushing inside and locking the door.

Then my imagination shifted into overdrive.

What if a woman went about her daily routine, took the trash outside, and disappeared while her family watched TV inside the house?

I'm not a suspense writer and hate to be spooked, but I figured that one question could ripple into many different directions. When would her family notice she was missing? What happened to the woman? Did she leave on her own accord? Was she forced to flee? Did someone take her? If so, who? Why? What clues would be left behind? How would they begin to search for her?

My imagination went rampant another time while cleaning a mess in the kitchen that involved my Little Darlings and frosting. What if someone tampered with bakery goods and a classroom of children were poisoned? Who would do such a vile thing? What would motivate this person to act this way?

My son recently finished a series by a well-known Christian suspense writer. He was blown away by some of the things in the book and commented to me, "Man, these writers must be pretty messed up to come up with some of this stuff."

I laughed and disagreed with him because I know how a writer's imagination works. One of my favorite writers told of strange looks received while on an airplane--she and her crit partner plotted how to kill someone. She quickly reassured those who overheard that she was a novelist. This woman is one of the sweetest people I've ever met. Not a murderous bone in her body. Her imagination, on the other hand...

So take those musings and twist them into what if story questions. You may be surprised by a new story idea.

Your Turn: What basic musing or real life situation sparked a new story idea? How has your imagination run rampent in the past? Have your own thoughts ever scared you into locking the doors?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Finding Security: What Does Love Equal?

by Delores Topliff

Until age six, love equaled the tattered lavender blanket people cuddled me in as they read me stories. I adored stories and my blanket.

Next, love equaled the security felt when unpleasant things happened if I clutched the spotted cowrie shell Dad brought home from WWII Navy duty in the South Seas. But having Dad home didn’t guarantee secure love. Instead dissension grew and our home divided.

I found lasting love through the young church planted by Bible college students in the community center across the street from my home. They introduced me to divine love by placing my hand in God’s. The public library in that same community center nurtured my love for books and writing, sparking creativity in me.

Is love a feeling? A tangible gift? Expressed acts?

How do we convey love? Gentle words and touch? Kind actions? Meeting children’s needs with patience, delighting in their questions and discoveries? My grandkids love the children’s books I’ve written, asking what I’ll write next. I turn that question around: “What stories will you write? Tell them to me.” And they do.

God is love. After long cold winters, He sends spring flowers—fresh words and insights to delight our hearts, creating new responses in us. His love rescues us when we land in situations over our heads, teaching us to ask and receive His help, while building precious memorials along the way. He gifts us with similar committed friends like the Ponderers. He opens writing doors that we can’t budge ourselves.

Love is something to receive and appreciate, like spring gardens drinking rain and creating fragrance—not something to clutch greedily. Hanging on produces something sterile and evil-smelling like Israel’s Dead Sea.

God’s love to us, received and returned to Him, multiplies and produces enough extra for everyone around us, never running out. One day it will transform creation, bringing to reality what John declared on Patmos, “Behold, I make all things new,” (Revelation 21:5) and what Paul spoke in Corinthians, “... now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

How have you experienced love -- both receiving it from and giving it to others?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Anchor Verses: How Do You Avoid Drifting From What You Believe?

by Beth K. Vogt 

The first time my friend, Becky, walked into my house, she looked around and said, "Wow. You have a lot of words on your walls."

Yeah, I do.

I'm a writer. I'm all about words. My blog, In Others' Words, is dedicated to quotes, which is another word for, well ... words.

As I sit in my office typing this blog, I can look around me and read words -- sayings -- I've posted all over the room:

  • "Does my writing change people?" (This was a question posed by literary agent Chip MacGregor on his blog several years ago.)
  • "Pain is inevitable; Misery is optional. We cannot avoid pain, but we can avoid joy." (Quoted by author Tim Hassel)
  • "The first 50 years of marriage are always the hardest." (My husband and I saw this plaque and laughed out loud. And then we bought it for ourselves.)
  • "Instead of being a victim of evil, you see God's hand in it all and name yourself a victim of grace." (From Robin Jones Gunn's novel Coming Attractions)
  • "May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us -- yes, establish the work of our hands." (Psalm 90:17 NIV)
That last quote? It's my writer's prayer. I pray that for myself -- and for other writers whenever I get a chance. It's what I call an "anchor verse."

What is an anchor verse?

A boat's anchor keeps a boat from drifting.

That's what "anchor verses" do for me: They keep me from drifting from what I believe.
Whenever I begin a new book, I hold it up to God and ask him to establish --or give permanence to --  the work of my hands.

When I'm stuck staring at a blank Word document or desperately trying to unravel a muddled middle, I ask God to establish the work of my hands.

I have other verses that anchor me to God as I walk along the writing road. A favorite is:

"Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name be the glory because of your love and faithfulness." (Psalm 115:1 NIV)

If I'm ever asked to sign a copy of a book I've written, I always inscribe Psalm 115:1 underneath my name.

Because really ... the praise and glory goes to his name, not mine.

What verses or sayings keep you from drifting from what you believe as you walk the writing road?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Confessions from a Left-Brainer

Copyright 2006 by Sam Morrison blogspot.com/2007/12/free-cartoon-usage-great-for-blog.html
by Paula Boire, writing as Sara L. Jameson

We all want to write compelling stories and wish-I-could-meet you characters. Maybe even ones we’d like to take home with us. But how to create them. . . .

After recently taking Margie Lawson’s month-long, online writing course, Writing Body Language Like a Psychologist, I discovered several things about my WIP. Disturbing things. Like eighty pages of emotions and body language and dialogue cues that often suffered from wimpy writing and repeated effects. Sometimes two or three times on the same page. Yikes!

This outstanding course teaches writers how to use a psychologist’s perspective to enhance characters’ emotional layers in ways that reveal inner psychology, ratchet the tension, and hook the reader viscerally. Thirty days of focusing solely on those factors in my manuscript was extremely revealing. Revealing in what wasn’t on the page (but I thought was there) and . . . ahem . . . those three emotional hits using lips in some way. All on the same page.

As a devoted left-brainer, (I know, I know, the right-brainers among us are probably freaking out by now) I decided to make a table of all body language, dialogue cue, emotional hits and my “favorite” power words (BL/DC/EH/FW table). The course and the table made me realize my search-and-find approach was not forcing me to dig super deep into my characters. And when analyzing and editing a chapter, weak writing wasn’t always apparent when viewed in context.

Seeing those sentences isolated in table format quickly reveals repetitions, their frequency, and equally critical: whether or not they are carrying their weight in the word count. He shrugged. He cocked a brow. She smiled. She grinned. Anticipation laced her words.

Yes, simplicity is essential at times. But do many of the hits illuminate character psychology, motivations, and subtext? Are multiple characters expressing emotions identically? Is that really the way that person would behave or have I gotten into a rut? Are sentences simply being used as beats?

With the hope of becoming a more efficient writer, I've decided to start the BL/DC/EH/FW table at the onset of a new manuscript, to eliminate the daunting task of compiling it afterwards.

As a devoted fan of writing a fast first draft, doing this may slow it down somewhat, but if it enables knowing my characters far more intimately before the editing process, and ultimately deepen readers’ involvement in the protagonist’s black moment, greatest dream, fear, and the big lie, etc., then it will be worth the effort. 

With each manuscript I try to incorporate at least one new technique to push me to write a more polished first draft. Once an author is working under deadline, growing one’s craft and topping the quality of one’s last release becomes even more challenging. So a writer must become more efficient. More proficient. One way or another.

How do you deal with these issues? I’d love to learn new ideas from you.