Christmas Letter

 

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On my “To-Do” list this week, is writing my yearly Christmas letter to friends and family. I am making a list of trips, health updates, and accomplishments I’d like to include.

That got me to thinking about YOU and what I’d like to share as the Christmas season fast approaches.

First of all, I’d like you to know how much I appreciate your encouragement and support by reading/commenting on my blogs each week. I hope they have been both helpful and encouraging to you as we walk this “writing road” together.

To catch you up on what I am doing, currently, I can say that my Beta Readers are doing their work right now, critiquing Simon Says. I look forward to hearing from them over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, I am busy writing back cover copy, revising my “About the Author” page, looking at a myriad possibilities for the front cover, and jotting down ideas for the second book in the series.

Finally, I am finishing up the manuscript for my second interactive Alzheimer’s book, I Remember Bible Stories,” as well as interviewing illustrators.

On a more personal level, I continue to be more involved in my parents’ lives at their care center and am taking on some of my mother’s previous roles, such as the big family gathering on Christmas Day. I am fortunate to live near a Honey Baked Ham store, as I am planning the meal around a nice spiral-cut ham.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years as you move ahead toward both your personal and writing goals.

Brenda

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Fiction Writers, Do Your Research

 

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I struck up a conversation with a gentleman in a hospital waiting room last week. I shared a little about my writing and he responded with a comment that made me think.

He made an observation that, to him, writing fiction was quicker and easier than writing non-fiction because it did not require research.

At first thought, I agreed with him. But, later that evening, I put pen to paper and contemplated whether or not that was actually as true as it appeared on the surface.

Here is a list of just some of the research necessary for every fiction writer to complete in order to write an authentic book:

a) Learn about the setting of your book, such as the state/country, the type of weather, the topography, terrain, type of government, and so on.

b)  What type of people live there? Is their speech distinctive?  In what type of industries might they be employed?

c)  In what year/time period does your story take place? What is going on in the world at that time? What hair and dress styles are prevalent? What music is popular?

d) Do any of your characters experience an illness or disability?  If so, you will need to know how it affects his life, treatments he might experience, etc. How will he interact with others?

e) Do your characters meet with a disaster? You may have to learn about floods, earthquakes, fires, and so on.

f) How old are your characters? What kind of music, games, activities are appropriate?

A good editor will catch some of these things, such as when mine caught it when I wrote  about something that would not have even been invented yet!!

But, don’t count on someone else to do it. You’ve got to do your homework and make your book as authentic as possible.

Some say a book is successful when it is so real that the reader actually feels he/she is experiencing the action right along with the characters.

Part of making this happen is doing the hard work ahead of time.

It’s called: research.

The Value of Persistence

 

 

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I recently read that Jerry Jenkin’s LEFT BEHIND was his 125th book. I can’t imagine writing that many books in the first place, but beyond that, it is astounding to me that he was able to keep at it until he hit

the big time,

pay dirt,

his big break.

Wow.

Then, I ask myself if I have what it takes to keep going in the face of

adversity,

competition,

sheer exhaustion.

Have you wondered the same thing?

Or, do you just get up every day and say good morning to God and your computer (in that order) and then fill your day with what you long to do more than anything else?

If so, you may be doing what I do. Taking it day by day. Moving ahead step by step until one day you realize that you’ve actually written a book!!!

Because you are

dedicated,

addicted,

and totally devoted.

Because you can’t imagine

not writing,

not creating,

not doing anything else with your life.

 

Protagonist vs. Antagonist

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In a writing workshop I recently attended, the presenter took us “back to the basics.”

If you’ve been writing for awhile, periodically it’s a good thing to revisit the essential elements of story.

The terms “protagonist” and “antagonist” are about as basic as it gets.

Let’s look at their definitions and what those two elements have to do with a well-written story.

The protagonist is the hero of the story—the central character whose journey we follow throughout the book. He’s the “good guy”. The one we cheer on. The one who experiences set-back after set-back, but emerges victorious at the end.

The antagonist, is the villain. His role is to block the hero’s progress toward his goal at every turn.

The cruel step-mother.

The demanding boss.

The rival for the hand of the princess.

Whoever they are, it’s essential that they do their part by providing those set-backs or road blocks to the hero on his journey.

It is this struggle to overcome that moves your story along to a satisfying ending.

 

 

Note: The inciting incident, another basic, was discussed in a previous post, entitled “Creatures of Habit.” You can read it under ARCHIVED POSTS.

I’ve Changed My Mind

 

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After a meeting, yesterday, the topic of how often one should write (every day? how many hours per day?) came up.

I listened as inexperienced writers eagerly listened to more seasoned authors on the topic that is as dear—and as often-debated—as toilet training is to young parents.

In one of my previous posts, I said that if you are researching for your book or article, or attending a conference, or viewing a webinar, that “counts” as your writing for the day.

Well, like I told the others after the meeting, I now know a bit more about the craft of writing and have changed my mind about what I advised a year ago.

There is no substitute for WRITING.

Here’s why:

You cannot learn to dance by reading a book or studying diagrams of nimble feet doing the Cha Cha.

You cannot learn to fish without baiting your hook and casting the line into the water.

There is no substitute for actually DOING.

We need to practice writing. All the reading and conference going—although worthwhile—cannot take the place of good, old-fashioned application.

Some people find themselves in such an endless cycle of “learning how to write” that they never actually sit down in front of the computer and try their hand at it.

They think that if they will just read one more book or watch one more webinar, then they will be ready…qualified…fully prepared.

All of that is well and good, but as my neighbor’s son studies his driving manual, I am reminded that he must also get behind the wheel and gain the experience of actually driving.

As a child, I heard my mother say, “Wishing doesn’t make it so,” many times. (Mostly this was in reference to having a clean room.) But, apply it to writing an article or book and you can make the connection, can’t you?

So, my conclusion is this: you must learn the skill of writing by writing, writing, and writing some more.

Every day?

Yes.

An hour a day?

At least.

Grab a partner and dance.

Bait your hook and cast your line.

Back out of the garage and get out on the highway.

Turn on the computer and let your fingers fly across the keyboard!

Platform Building, Part 2

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Your writer’s platform is basically the group of activities you engage in that get your name and work noticed by the public. It’s marketing, not of a specific work, but of you as the author. It’s everything you do to build your brand.

Nowadays, publishers require that their authors are willing to get out there and market themselves. And, if you’re an indie author, as I am, all the more important for you to learn all you can about marketing.

  1. Aside from making publishers happy, there are a other side benefits to platform building:
  2. You may be able to generate some side-income from teaching and speaking.

You can also build your brand as an expert in your writing niche.

No matter what your goals, fans want to connect with a real person. That means we need to be ourselves, both as writers and individuals. We must show our true faces to the world.

The good news is that the technology of today (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) can play a major role in building our platforms, and are based on genuine, personal interactions.

*So, with an online presence on Facebook and Twitter being ESSENTIAL, I will also suggest that you start a website/blog and or weekly newsletter. Weebly and WordPress basic websites are FREE. I got mine (www.brendapoulos.org and www.spiritualsnippets.com and runawaysthelongjourneyhome.wordpress.com) started in practically no time at all. I am not techie, so if I can do it, you can, too! (There are others, such as communit.com, but these are the easiest to get started with and to keep going on a consistent basis.)

You’ll have to be diligent about blogging at least once weekly, adding your bio, announcing new book launches, sharing information on writing and about your life in as specific details as you are comfortable.

*Speaking at writer’s groups, libraries, book clubs, etc. can get you in front of the public. You’ll meet new people (potential followers) and meet other writers.

Although public speaking isn’t for everyone, it’s never a bad idea to get out there and let people see the face of the author behind the words. Take a guest book along with you, asking interested attendees to give you their email address so you can keep in touch with news, offers, etc.

*Teaching the craft of writing is another great avenue to help brand you as an expert. It will also give you something to blog about. Although this is often done as a freebie on an author’s part, you can make some decent side money by teaching either in person or online via podcasts or webinars.

So, decide what your specialty will be. Some websites I’ve seen involve cooking, crafting, scrapbooking, animals, travel—almost anything that is of interest to you will also be of interest to that certain group of others with similar likes, goals, and beliefs.

*Don’t overlook doing book give-a-ways on Goodreads and Amazon and Book Bub. You can also create products, such as pens, mugs, bookmarks, etc. Then, used these to market your brand by using them as give-a-ways at fairs, conventions, etc.

Get creative! I leave my business cards on bulletin boards and in restaurants when I pay my bill. A friend of mine leaves them in the pockets of the clothing she tries on when shopping!

*Support other authors. Join a professional writers groups/organizations. These are great ways to make contacts, lasting friendships, and get in on some great teaching. May I recommend American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the local chapter in your state.

It is important to remember that platform building will be different for every author because it will depend on your target readership, your unique expertise, and the message you want to present to the world.

Platform building is a creative process, just as is your own writing…

Use your imagination.

Begin small and build in increments.

Be persistent.

Don’t give up!

Neglecting your platform in today’s world can be a big mistake. You may have written a best-seller, but no one will know that if you don’t make your presence known!

SUPER-SIZE IT!

 

Things used to be so simple. Now, everything must be bigger and better to draw our attention.

 

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For example:

Superman

Supermodel

Super Mario

Super Chunk

Super Hero

Super foods

Supercuts

Super soft

Super cool

Super star

This “Super” mentality makes it difficult for a lot of people, including writers.

Our audience demands more.

And, so we must demand more of ourselves.

The pace must be faster.

The characters must be larger than life.

Quirkier…

more colorful…

smarter…

more interesting.

So we dig deeper…widen our appeal to a broader audience.

We meet the challenge…

up the ante…

we super-size it!