How Do Authors Work a Blog Chain?

I’ve been asked to participate in the Author’s Blog Chain. Sally Jadlow tagged me. Visit her blog at  www.sallyjadlow.com.

Sally writes poetry and devotions. Her book “The Late Sooner” chronicles the land run in Oklahoma while her “God’s Little Miracle Books I and II” describe the many miracles Sally has observed as a corporate chaplain. Her latest book, “Family Favorites from the Heartland” shares recipes and stories from Sally’s family gatherings. 

The Author’s Blog Chain asks four questions. Here are my answers:

What are you currently working on?writing4502.jpg

I just finished the first draft of my memoir, so in a couple of months I’ll go back and start those edits. I’m also doing the final edits on the third book in the Reverend G series. The first book, “The Unraveling of Reverend G” was released by CrossRiver Media in 2012. The second book, “Intermission for Reverend G” will be released in April, 2014. This series follows the fictional story of a woman minister who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Then I’m beginning to do some character sketches and plots for the next novel that I have in my heart. No name for that one yet, so I’m keeping it a secret.

How does your work differ from others’ in the same genre?

Because my family is dealing with Alzheimer’s personally, through my mother’s struggle with the disease, I wanted to explore what the Alzheimer’s patient might be thinking and experiencing inside her soul. So I wrote the Reverend G series from the deep viewpoint. I wanted my readers to feel what Reverend G feels and think as she thinks, to understand how devastating this disease is but at the same time, find some nuggets of hope.

I’ve also included lots of funny stories with the other characters Reverend G meets. Because laughter is healing, I wanted my readers to understand that even in the midst of Alzheimer’s, it’s important to look for the humor.

Most books about Alzheimer’s are nonfiction, telling about the latest research. Rarely do any of them deal with the disease from the spiritual viewpoint.

Why do you write what you write?

Sometimes I write because the words just come pouring out of me, but other times – I have a definite purpose.

I wrote my memoir because I wanted my son to understand his roots and why his family does what they do. I wanted him to experience the security of our cozy Oklahoma roots in the 1950’s, the turbulence of the 1960’s and the insecurities of my world in the early 21st century. Although he can study these decades in history books, I wanted him to see them through my eyes.

I wrote the Reverend G series because of my mother’s Alzheimer’s and my father’s dementia. Whenever I visited them, I tried to communicate and wondered what they were thinking about, what they were trying to communicate to me yet couldn’t make any sense of the words. I also wanted to encourage caregivers who work so hard during those 36-hour days to take care of their loved ones.

I write mostly about hope, on my blog and in my books, because we all need to experience hope – especially when times are tough.

How does your writing process work?

As a bivocational writer, I work another job. So my writing begins after I come home. Although I feel as if I’m always writing, getting new ideas, forming characters in my mind, jotting down notes – the real grist of the work comes when I sit down and type out the words.

I follow a weekly writing plan of working on shorter pieces and my blog during the week. Then on the weekends, I work on the books because I have a longer period of time to devote to them. Each weekend, I try to finish a chapter and then go back the next day and work on some edits.

I write a bimonthly column for the Johnson County Gazette, and a monthly blog post for Trochia online. My own blog posts are scheduled for Tuesdays of every week and then I answer all the comments that come from those posts.

My editorial calendar keeps me on track, and that’s the first document I open every night. Once I get in the zone of writing, it’s difficult to stop and that’s when it’s really fun – until the next day when I realize I’ve missed several hours of sleep because I was spending time with my characters.

I’m tagging Author Nancy Kay Grace who has been published in four anthologies and speaks on the topics of grace and faith. She also writes regular devotions on line and in print, titled “Grace Notes.” Nancy Kay’s book, “Grace Notes: 30 Days of Grace” is scheduled for publication in September, 2014 by CrossRiver Media.

Her contact info follows:

Website http://www.nancykaygrace.com/

Facebook Author Page: Nancy Kay Grace/ GraceNotes
Twitter:  @nancykaygrace
LinkedIn: Nancy Kay Grace profile on Linked In

 

 

Journey of a Novel – Part 3

It takes guts to participate in a critique group. The first group I joined – many years ago – was connected with a writers’ retreat. As the facilitator of the group, I helped other writers polish their manuscripts and encouraged them to keep writing. It was a grand experience until my manuscript emerged from the pile. I received one scathing critique from another writer. My face turned red with embarrassment even though the other writers disagreed. But for many years, because of that experience, I refused to attend critique groups.

However, as a newby to the fiction genre and desperate to escape the house during that long year of unemployment, I decided to uncork my courage and try again. So I chose a group that included several fiction writers and seasoned authors from the Heart of America Christian Writers Network.

I love Panera’s. The smell of the pastries and the roasted coffee beans always provide a welcoming atmosphere. The same could be said of my critique group – welcoming, encouraging, honest.  I passed the pages of my manuscript to the group and tried not to let them see my shaking hands.

To my amazement, they laughed at the funny parts and said, “Ah,” in the sad parts. They also gave me valuable feedback and  on sections that didn’t make sense or needed stronger words. I left that critique session  energized about my project and encouraged that maybe I could indeed – possibly (really, Lord?) be a novelist.

Two weeks later, I brought another chapter. Again – the same reaction. Honest feedback with great ideas, encouragement and genuine enjoyment of my story. So the first meeting wasn’t a fluke. I might actually be a fiction writer and God was right all along. Surprise. Surprise.

For the next several months, I met with the critique group and brought pieces of my soul to the table. As every writer knows, when we type our words into the computer and then spit them out on the printer – those words are not just a story. They represent the heart of our existence and the reason we call ourselves writers. When the words come fresh to us, inspired by the God who holds the entire idea in his marvelous mind and we obey by transcribing what He has given us – we hold a precious piece of literature. Then when we rewrite and improve it to the point that it’s ready to publish, we send it out and hope our souls’ fragments will influence someone else.

So I brought my tremulous soul to the table and trusted the other writers with my words. Throughout those months, they helped me hone the story so that it spoke the message it was meant to speak. They encouraged my writing and prayed for me. They never, ever condemned my attempts, but held me up so that I could breathe the fresh air of creativity.

Critique groups help writers stay focused and give us the accountability we need to write with excellence. Then those same writers rejoice with us when we publish our words or grieve when we’re rejected. But most of all – they help us stay in hope as we reach for the next step.

The Journey of a Novel – Step 2

In many ways, 2010 proved to be a difficult year for me. I was unemployed, downsized out of my job right in the middle of the recession. In fact, this blog began as a plea for all of us to stay in hope – no matter what the circumstances. My unemployment taught me several things about trusting in God’s provision, about the miracles that still happen in the 21st century, about giving when there’s nothing available to give. But right smack in the middle of that scary time, God interrupted my life with Step 2 of the novel journey.

For 40+ years, I wrote and published in the nonfiction genre. Tell the facts. Teach the reader. And even though God had whispered a different direction in my ear and provided me with a textbook (see the blog post about Step 1), I was not ready to change my entire focus for a mere fiction mindset.

But one morning, still without a job and wondering how in the world to buy groceries that week, I woke up with an idea. Floating in the middle of my forehead was a character, then several ideas about that character, then more ideas and a setting, then some conversation and a story line.

Not quite sure what to do, I sat down and started writing. This action, in itself, was completely out of character for me. As an organized, Type A personality, I never start writing without an outline or research or some idea of the topic I wanted to pursue. But I could not escape from this fascinating character in my head. It was almost as if I needed to move my fingers over the keyboard in order to discover more about her – like reading a book via my hands.

After a few hours, I stood up and stretched. “What am I supposed to do with this, God?”

“Save it,” he said. “Keep going.”

So I did. The next day I woke up with more ideas, more conversation and more of a story line. I kept going, sometimes laughing at my character and what she did – sometimes grabbing a Kleenex because I was so moved by what had just happened on the computer screen. The next day and the next and the next. No outlines. No research. No idea about what was going to happen until I woke up, turned on the laptop and started moving my fingers.

When an interview or a job fair interrupted the writing, I missed my characters. I wondered what they were doing that day and longed to get back to them, to peek into their lives, to hear their conversations. Definitely hooked by the process, writing fiction totally surprised me yet delighted the heck out of me.

I had no idea fiction could be so much fun. Writing fiction just wasn’t me. Yet, it seemed that writing fiction indeed was me. I was so engrossed in the story, I couldn’t imagine going back to the same old nonfiction facts. I wanted to find out more about Reverend G and Chris, about Jacob and Jessie, about life at Cove Creek.

After six months, I read my 53,000 words with no idea what to do next. Was this just something that God gave me to do, to survive the emotional trauma of long-term unemployment? Or did God have a more expansive plan? What did he want me to do with this novel idea?

The answer began to take shape in Step 3.