Writer’s Conference

     …and then, after praying about it, I made the wise decision to go to a Christian writer’s conference. I noticed an ad in Writer’s Digest (wonderful magazine for writers—I highly recommend it) and because it was within driving distance, I decided to go. Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference is located near Asheville, NC. That’s a trek from the Maryland Piedmont area and close to eight hours away, but doable. I read the daily online posts, had business cards printed as well as a one-sheet, (a sheet with a bio of you as well as a short blurb on the book—all in fancy colors!) and bought a color-coordinated notebook with tabs and plenty of paper.

     Then I did something else really bright. BRMCWC has the wonderful advantage of offering critique services to their attendees. I chose a person on the list, sent in my money, and emailed it off. Was I proud of myself? Oh, yeah. She was going to love it! I expected a few comments, and was even prepared for a revision here and there. What did I get back from this illustrious author? A chapter full of RED marks. Red EVERYWHERE. The word crestfallen does not even begin to reveal how I felt. I put the offensive response away for a day and then went back to it with fresh eyes.

     The dear woman who evaluated my work didn’t pull any punches, but she also managed to be imminently encouraging. At the very end of the chapter, she’d written that despite all the corrections, she didn’t want me to become disheartened because she saw a real writer in me. I simply had to learn the craft and there were many ways to do that. Then she suggested I make the changes she’d indicated and offered to read it again! What a gift. We emailed back and forth several times before the conference even started, and I received a great deal more instruction than $25’s worth.

     At the same time, I was also supremely blessed to find a critique partner who was going to the same conference. She proved to be an invaluable friend, resource, and sounding board (she still is—thanks Elizabeth!) I had a built-in buddy and knowing I wouldn’t be alone buoyed my spirits.

     Now I was ready for the conference. I made a few copies of my newly revised first five chapters, a couple of copies of the entire book along with various length synopsis’ (synopses???), packed up Casey the Corolla and drove the hundreds of miles to my destination. The conference turned out to be another turning point in my writing adventure. I came home realizing that…I knew next to nothing about how to write.

    Back to the drawing board.

     I took that book I was so tickled with, reworked several chapters, changed the order of the story to quicken the pace and get the hero and heroine together sooner. (Can you believe I had them finally meeting in chapter SIX???). I revised the heck out of it. NOW it surely was ready, right?

     Not so much. I queried a few agents—most of whom didn’t respond—but one agent was kind enough to give me suggestions on what to change. I tweaked and modified but, as nice as she was, she still wasn’t interested. Sigh.

     Despondent, I put the book away both literally and figuratively.

     Now what, God?


Why Do I Write?

Why do I write?

“You don’t write because you want to say something. You write because you have something to say.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald

I’ve heard many writers say there was a pivotal moment in their lives that marked the beginning of their writing career. I know that was the case for me. That joyful (not to mention traumatic) moment occurred on my 50th birthday. My ever-loving husband, Steve, surprised me with a weekend at the Ritz Carlton (yes, I can hear some of you sigh, he is a wonderful husband and I am very blessed!) After the glow from the spa facial wore off, (a facial “created for those on the go, a refreshing treatment including cleansing, mild exfoliation, a facial massage, and moisture infusion”) real life began again, but the desire had grown and taken hold deep down in my psyche.

Three months later, I heard about the National Novel Writing Month (http://nanowrimo.org), an annual internet-based creative writing project that takes place every November. NaNoWriMo challenges its participants to write 50,000 words with the goal of stimulating those creative juices and keeping writers motivated throughout the process. A group of fledgling writers were meeting at a café fifteen miles from my house, and I decided to give it a try. I only made it to 30,000 words, (okay, okay, it was actually 29,000 something, but thirty thousand sounds so much more impressive) but I was hooked.

And thus began my humble writing career.

Did I have any idea what I was doing? Not much, but I could learn. There was one thing I did know. Whatever I write had to be worth reading. It had to have a Christian message of some kind, subtle or broad, whatever the book required. It’s who I am, it’s what I know, but more importantly, there really is a reason I write. Psalm 9 has always meant a great deal to me, and now the first two verses held a brand new meaning.

I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart,
I’m writing the book on your wonders.
I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy;
I’m singing your song, High God.

So, I kept on and told a friend of mine about my desire to write a novel. She had been part of a critique group for many years and she invited me to join. Gracious, did I feel special (and blessed.) We met every two weeks and through lots of listening and offering up a few chapters of my own, I learned so much. My new friends were invaluable in helping me to understand POV, pacing, and characterization. Meeting every two weeks taught me to write at least one chapter in that amount of time so I would have something to read. Plus it was fun, and we often had snacks. Loved those snacks…

Two years later, in 2012, I was done, and goodness, I was proud. I had 110,000 words, all of which I was convinced were “novel of the century” wonderful (not really, but I did think it was darn good.) How many of those original almost 30,000 words were still in the finished product two years later? Not many, but I was on my way. For the rest of the story, go to the next post…