Best of Breathe

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

As promised from my last post, I am sharing my Breathe Christian Writers’ Conference experience with you.

Instead of me telling you all about every detail, I’m going to give you the best sound bites that came out of the weekend.

I made every attempt to capture statements verbatim and will use quotation marks. With that said, please be forgiving if you later find I misquoted a speaker …

Take what works for you and leave the rest. Enjoy:

Treat your writing like a business because agents, editors, publishers, bookstores, and consumers do.” ~Peter DeHaan 

Writers shouldn’t settle for mere escapism.” ~Patti Hill 

No one is more qualified to give your message than you are.” ~Twila Belk 

If I took my character to a psychiatrist, what would I learn about them?” ~David Beach

Be faithful to the task of writing and God will do something with it. He probably won’t publish your thoughts though.” ~Latayne C. Scott 

If you get hung up on a form of writing, you won’t be able to write. Or, you get addicted to that form and you don’t move forward.” ~Tracy Groot 

Social media isn’t your platform, but it does direct people to your platform.” ~Peter DeHaan

I have a love-hate relationship with the writing life. I wouldn’t wish to have any other kind of life . . . and on the other hand, I wish it were easier. And it never is. The reward comes sentence by sentence. The reward comes in the unexpected inspiration. The reward comes from creating a character who lives and breathes and is perfectly real. But such effort it takes to attain the reward! I would have never believed it would take such effort.’ From Elizabeth George’s: Write Away: One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life 

 “All dialogue should have tension.” ~Patti Hill

Don’t die with the story still in you … Let it out!” ~Twila Belk

Read your dialogue out loud in a monotone to see if the words move you anyway.” ~Patti Hill

We live most of our lives in contradiction … Quality writing requires friction.” ~Latayne C. Scott

Give the muse something to work with.” ~Tracy Groot on Preparation

An author’s job is to leave breadcrumbs.” ~Patti Hill

Our writing must link the reader from the seen to the unseen …” ~Latayne C. Scott

I needed to hear all these things and much more. My “to do” list has pretty much doubled, but I can’t focus on its length or I will be paralyzed by it. But it’s there in list form (in the margins of my writing notebook with g* as a signifier that I need to take action).

My “to read” list has grown by leaps and bounds. I’ve added titles written by the presenters and writing resources they recommend. Some of the writing resources I wanted to avoid but my desire to do so is futile.

Resources:

  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • Elements of Style by William Strunk
  • Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
  • Writer to Writer by Cecil Murphey

I’ll be back soon with a few more things to share from Breathe!

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Being Selfish

Have desk, will write

Have desk, will write (Photo credit: Bright Meadow)

I wish I could say that my two months absence was due to writing furiously; especially sense my last post was titled “Back-To-Writing”. 

Alas, it’s just because life is life. We’ve been busy. Too busy to think creatively elsewhere thanks to:

  • Work volume that’s unseasonably high.
  • Dudes going back-to-school and the realization that I am not smarter than a 3rd grader (seriously, 3rd grade homework will be the death of me).
  • Catching up with friends I haven’t seen or heard from in a while.
  • Volunteer commitments which are important.

At the end of most days, I don’t have much to give. Right now, no one is getting the best me. My employer gets first dibs on my energy just because it’s first in my day. My dudes get marginally less than my job. My hubby never gets the best me (which is sad). And me … I don’t get any of me (which is pathetic).

I know, I’ve told you this before. You’re wondering, what’s new? Nothing’s changed. If anything, the pace of busy keeps increasing.

Back-to-writing didn’t go the way I planned.

What I learned in the process is I am not effective at writing every day. Every other works better. It allows me time to refill the creative bucket. Then brain dump the next day and keep moving.

I am thankful to have this writerly knowledge of myself.

Now, I’ll stop whining and tell you what I going to do about.

I am attending a two day writing conference this coming weekend. Hello, Breathe Christian Writers’ ConferenceHere I come!

The countdown is on. This year’s theme: Let It Out!

I’ve already registered for the workshops I’m interested in. Purchased new pens so I can fill as many blank pages as I can, with advice, thoughts, and maybe even new novel words.

Yep. It’s a big deal.

I am ready. I am going to be totally selfish and not worry about anything else for two days.

Our youngest dude is in a play that I will miss. His disappointment almost had me caving in; almost compromised my selfish ways. But it would have meant missing the keynote address on the first night of the conference. A topic I need to hear about: The Rule of Three

Thankfully, my husband reminded me that it’s okay to give myself this time. As a matter of fact, he’s excited because there’s a school event on a night he doesn’t have to work. Bonus. They will video it for me and we’ll watch it back as a family.

I’m going. No guilt trips.

Both of my writing partners were planning on attending with me. We’d all saved the date and talked about how great it would be when we could all gather together under one roof. Except, life happened. Babies, family, worthy things happened. Now they’re not coming.

I’m going anyway.

I turned my attention to two acquaintances who I met at the same event last year. I figured I’d still see some faces I knew. But one has a schedule conflict and the other decided not to go.

I’m going friendless … but I’m going. Wait … I’ll make new friends.

I don’t have any new story ideas; not starting a new project. I’m working on the same novel as last year this time (and the year before and the year before). Of course, I’ve made progress. Maybe not as much as I would like but …

I’m still going … hoping to be inspired.

Speaking of selfishness, I splurged and purchased new frocks to wear. I can always use more clothes and shoes but what a wonderful excuse to do so.

I’m going in style.

This is my gift to me. A writerly respite. A vacation from day to day. A writer’s retreat. A reboot if you will.

And, when it’s all over, I will share with all of you. Whatever I learn or think or feel … I will share with you. Community is a beautiful thing.

You’ll be hearing from me soon.

~Gail

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Breathe Christian Writers’ Conference 2012: Goals & Advice

It was an awesome event. There was so much wonderful advice – actionable advice. (You’ll probably see quotes show up in other posts on writing in the near future.)

The question becomes:  Where do I start?

More than one speaker recommended that you set clear goals. It’s a theme of advice that I’ve taken to heart.
I’ve set three realistic and attainable goals coming out of this event. Goals that will stretch and grow me to reach them. Will you agree to hold me accountable along with my writing partners?

Goal 1:  Write My Elevator Speech …

Every position I’ve ever held, I’ve been told to have my elevator speech ready. I should be able to sum up my job function in the time it takes to ride an elevator a few floors; when asked:    What do you do?

I think the same is true for the question:  What are you writing? Only I don’t have that snappy response for my work in progress. I will start practicing now so that I can perfect my sound bite and not feel awkward.

Till this point I haven’t shared much about my WIP … but that will change with this goal … besides elevator speeches aren’t just for corporate types.

I’m writing a novel about life after Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Have you ever wondered what happens next? I’m telling the story.

Intrigued? Okay, it’s a start. I’ll keep working at it.

Goal 2:  Do My Research

I’ve mentioned before that I hate research. It may be my downfall as a writer.

I’ve been living on the hope that I could get by with a simple read through of Lewis Carroll’s books. HA! I Sad, I know.

Dear Research, I’ve been avoiding you but I won’t be any longer.

I won’t be cutting any corners. Not after hearing presenter and author, Jocelyn Green state she spent nine months researching her first novel and three months writing it. My hopes were quickly dashed that I could some how “get by”.

  • Step One:  Finish the initial read through of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
  • Step Two:  Complete a second read through of each book.
  • Step Three:  Interview a grief counselor to determine how children cope with death of loved ones; specifically in cases of suicide.

Jocelyn Green also recommended getting to really know your characters by interviewing them. Click here to see the questions. This will be Step Four. By the time Breathe arrives next year – October 18 & 19, 2013 – I will have completed these “research” steps (and maybe a first draft of the manuscript). Sigh. No way around it.

Goal 3:  Post Consistently

This goal is blog related rather than novel related.

I started blogging in April with the goal that I would post every two to four days; which I did for the first four months. Then life got busy and hectic. I started slacking off, claiming that creativity doesn’t strike every day.

The inconsistency is disruptive to you as readers I’m sure; despite my belief that creativity doesn’t like cages. So, I will pick a day of each week that I will post. Sometimes you’ll get a surprise day added. But ultimately there will be one day a week that you can count on the Jotter’s Joint to give you a read. Hopefully, a good read.

Let me know if there is a day that you would prefer. If the requests are similar it makes my decision easier.

Hold me accountable.

Ask me how I’m doing toward my goals. Don’t let me off the hook. And if you have suggestions that would help me in any of these goals, I’d love to hear them.

Hold Yourself Accountable

“One day” is today or it never comes. What ventures have you been putting off? Don’t wait for New Year’s resolutions. Do it now. Write some goals today. Share with me in the comments the goals you’ve set and I’ll remember to ask you how it’s going.

Recommended resources that came out of Breathe 2012 for you writer types …

  • Platform:  Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt
  • The Art of Fiction:  Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner
  • Craft of Writing by William Sloane
  • The Art and Craft of Novel Writing by Oakley M. Hall
  • Wrecked:  When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life by Jeff Goins
  • Getting Into Character:  Seven Secrets Novelists Can Learn from Actors  by Brandilyn Collins
  • From the Inside … Out:  Discover, Create and Publish the Novel in You by Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck

Breathe Christian Writers’ Conference 2012: 5 Unexpected Lessons

I attended my first writers’ conference ever at the invitation of my writing accountability partner. She’d been in previous years and wanted to share it with me.

I counted down the days till Breathe 2012 for a whole month. Sending her Facebook messages or note cards in the mail reminding her the date was getting closer.

My excitement stemmed from the fact that we would be immersed in all aspects of writing for two whole days. Surrounded by a community of writers all learning from one another the disciplines and practices of writing. I experienced exactly what I expected.

But to my surprise I learned some lessons I hadn’t counted on. Five key takeaways that will liberate me on my writing journey. Some of these may not be new to you but they were refreshing for me to hear.

Lesson 1:  There are NO Rules in Writing

In the session titled:  Finding Your Voice – And Your Story’s presenter, Dave Lambert said, “There are no rules, just tools in a writer’s toolbox.”

You can write whatever you want whether it conforms to accepted standards or not. The challenge is doing it well. So if you choose to step outside of the norm, do so with quality and excellence.

For me this means, at least in the early stages I can do whatever I want and then figure out if it works. I can let myself off the hook of following the rules (for now).

Lesson 2:  Self-Publishing Isn’t Bad

A panel of publishing professionals shared that self-publishing has merit. It depends on the author’s goals. If your desire is speed to market, self-publishing may be for you.

They were partial to the traditional publishing route for strength in the editorial process, marketing power, distribution, and capitalization. They acknowledge the limits and challenges e.g. fewer authors published through the traditional paths.

But don’t stress if you choose self-publishing, just ensure you do your due diligence, make wise choices, and focus on quality.

Lesson 3:  Writing Isn’t All About Me

Really? I want it to be. At least right now I do. Please don’t hold this against me. I am working on it.

Here’s what writers need to remember … It’s ALL about the reader. When we sit down to write we should keep in mind what the reader is looking for and deliver it.

As a fiction writer, I liked how Dave Lambert said it, “We put the reader in a fictional-dream.” Whatever we write should keep the reader inside that fictional dream; inside a state of suspended disbelief.

Be careful of mistakes that will waken readers from the dream.

Lesson 4:  Always be Ready to Pitch or Say Yes

Author and keynote speaker, Terry Whalen touched on this thought during his address.

As you build relationships and networks on the writing journey, you never know when an opportunity will present itself.

Be ready to say yes if asked to share your ideas or write a guest blog post or article. Being able to think fast on your feet helps. Exercise your creativity so that you can easily come up with ideas that will solve problems for writers, publishing professionals, editors, etc.

Personally, I keep my writing notebook with me and write down the random. One day it may pay off.

Lesson 5:  Creating a Platform is Important

Okay, so this really isn’t new to me but I had an epiphany.

I’m not in a hurry. I don’t need to stress out about this important thing. Instead I have the opportunity to let my platform evolve as my writing evolves.

As I find focus for my blog beyond practicing writing and once I figure out how I want my writing to serve others, than I can work diligently on building my platform. It doesn’t have to make me grey (greyer).

Don’t misunderstand me. It’s important and every writer should do it. But it takes time to build so go at the pace that works with your writing goals.

Hopefully, the lessons I didn’t expect to learn are helpful to you.

A writing conference is a great place to meet and connect with other writers. It’s also a wonderful way to learn tips and tricks that can immediately enhance your writing.

If you’re open to suggestions, I would recommend you find a conference to attend. Trust me the experience it worth it. If you’re unsure about where to go then conduct a Google search. And there’s always the option of attending Breathe next year. Save the dates:  October 18 & 19, 2013. You can make the trek to Michigan and see some burning bushes for yourself.

Tell me your writing conference experiences or events you think every writer should attend. I would love to hear them.

Also, stay tuned for a second post on my Breathe experience.