Tag Archives: rejections

I Hate Outlines! And Kudos & MoGo7000 Successes

Image courtesy of StuartMiles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of StuartMiles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Welcome to the 2nd Tuesday at the Christian Writer’s Den! Today we’re celebrating our friends’ successes, but first, let me tell you that I hate outlines!

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I Hate Outlines!

I do. I hate them with a passion. The dislike (And yes, I would click the thumb down button here if there was one!) begins with the very premise of an outline.

You want me to put things in order? Line them up correctly? Stick to a pattern? FOLLOW THE RULES?

What about creativity? What about the muse?

Arrgghhhhh! (Did I tell you I don’t like outlines?)

When I sat down to write my first novel, I tried to make an outline. I really did. After all, that’s what writers do, right? I gathered all my writerly stuff, including a dictionary, a thesaurus, and my college English textbook (this was before the development of online resources), put a sheet of paper into my electric typewriter, and pecked out a few words. Then I stared. A long time. Apparently it wasn’t a good outline.

I ripped out that paper, threw it in the trash and tried again with a fresh, clean sheet. I wrote a few words . . . and stared. A long time. Ripped out the paper and started again. Over and over the process repeated. Paper. Trash. Paper. Trash.

Finally I admitted defeat. Outlining just didn’t work for me. I must be a seat-of-the-pants writer, reasoned. I just needed freedom!

I rolled a new piece of paper into the typewriter and wrote a brilliant first line—14 times. I’d heard that getting published was really hard work, so I knew that first line had to be perfect. And after 14 tries, it was!

I hit the return, twice. (Remember this was before word processing.) After all, I had read an issue of Writer’s Digest Magazine from cover to cover. I knew the manuscript was supposed to be double-spaced. I stared at the brilliant first line, and then down to the blank one. And stared. A long time.

Three days later, I had one just-about-as-perfect-as-you-can-get-it double-spaced page of setting, dialogue, and plot.

But hard as I tried, I couldn’t move ahead. I had no idea what was happening next—and on top of that, it had to be perfect!

This was never going to work! Enter: the narrative outline. But not just any kind of narrative outline—the Vonda Skelton style of narrative outline.

I simply started writing plot points, stuff I knew about the characters, and what happened next—all single spaced with no dialogue, no setting, no paragraphs, no spell check, no grammar correction. On and on it went, page after page after page.  I realized that for me, the key was to trick myself into thinking I wasn’t writing a book at this point. I had to give myself permission to make it sloppy and ugly, and in order to do that, I had to single space, leave out dialogue, and forget any rules. Here’s a sample from the Bitsy and the Mystery at Hilton Head Island narrative outline:

Bitsy goes to Hilton Head Island w/her baseball team (she’s the only girl). I’m not sure why they’re going, maybe they’re in a baseball tournament. I’m not sure what kind of league they’re in, but it can’t be an official league because the rules won’t work. Since she’s the only girl, she can only go because the coach’s wife and daughter are going. But while they’re traveling something happens—car trouble? Sickness? Lost? but the mom and daughter have to go back home and B has to stay with another team at their house since there won’t be a woman with her team. She begs coach to let her stay with them but he won’t. their team is poor—no matching uniforms/in dilapidated van, but the team she has to stay with is rich. Her team is staying in an old dirty beach house but the team B’s with stays in a fancy house. Somewhere along the way—I don’t know what’ll happen to make it happen, but she’s gonna start telling lies in order to try to fit in and act like she’s rich. The Paris Mountain lie. Daddy in oilebusiness. She’s a good baseball player and they need her. There are 5 good players and 5 bad ones. The team has to be outside late at night—I don’t know what they’ll do, but they have to be out late at night so they can find a dead loggerhead turtle. Maybe she blames Ian or maybe somebody else does, but somebody thinks he did it.

And on and on it goes to the end. That’s my personal version of the Narrative Outline, and that outline has worked for me through all three of my published novels and my women’s non-fiction.

The key for is that I have to trick myself into seeing it as a long, fragmented note, NOT a book or an outline. That’s the only way I can be creative and I can turn off the internal editor at the same time!

So, are you having trouble moving ahead with your outline or your first draft? Then maybe you’ll want to consider a Skelton Narrative Outline for your book!

And the best part is, it’s FREE!

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Let’s Celebrate Kudos With Our Christian Writer’s Den Friends!

What a joy to see writers working hard and being successful. Here’s the good news for this month:

1.  Marilyn Nutter (SC): My article, “Rock Collecting,” was published on A Widow’s Might/A New Season on August 27, 2016.

2.  Amanda Everett (VA): I was able to have a blog post, What I Wish I Knew in College published on The Rising!

3.  Tracy Crump (MS): 1)Chicken Soup for the Soul chose two of my stories to publish in their Joy of Christmas book that comes out in October. 2)My story, “Holey Memories,” was a finalist in Southern Writers Magazine’s Short Story Contest and published in their Best Short Stories 2016 issue. 3)And I have a new writer’s website! (No more pitiful homemade site.)

4.  Sandy Kirby Quandt (TX): My entry, Not All Heroes Come Back, was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Children’s/Young Adult Fiction category of the 85th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. (Vonda here: For those who aren’t familiar with Writer’s Digest Competitions, they receive thousands of entries for every competition they hold. Honorable Mention is highly honorable!)

Aren’t these inspiring reports? And I have a feeling that if you asked each of these writers how long it took to begin seeing results, they’ll tell you it was a long, hard journey that required lots of perseverance. So don’t give up. Success or failure isn’t measured by acceptances and rejections. I received 63 rejections before I ever had anything published! I often wonder how different my life would be if I had never submitted that 64th query.

As the late Gary Provost personally told me, “The only way to fail is to not write.” In other words,

The only way to fail is to quit.

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Who MoGo’d in August and Earned Another Chance for $100?

These writers wrote at least 7000 new words on a book project in August:

#17:  Susan Baganz – 33,356 words
#18:  KathryneAnn – 13,357 words

Congratulations, Susan and KathryneAnn! So proud of your hard work and many words! I’m looking forward to Na-No-Wri-Mo in November. Hope to see lots of CWD writers there!

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Well, that does it for another 2nd Tuesday. Didn’t see your name in the list of successes? Don’t worry! Just be sure to return next week when I’ll be posting a list of writing opportunities, contests, and conferences just for you!

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

Image courtesy of StuartMiles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Susan Baganz & Please Pray For My Mom

Baganz 0524 Edited colorSweet friends, first of all, I need to ask for your prayers. My 83yo mother took a nasty fall on Sunday and is still in ICU. Praise God, nothing is life-threatening right now, but she had a deep gash to her forehead, which was repaired Sunday in the ER. But the bad part is she has broken multiple bones, including her arm, shoulder, multiple ribs, and her kneecap. She’s in a lot of pain and has surgery scheduled (again–this is the 4th date we’ve been given!) for Wednesday. Christian Communicators Conference begins tomorrow and I’m not going to be able to be there, at least not now. I’m praying I’ll be able to get up there later in the week.

Please pray for relief of pain, successful surgery, and that she’ll be able to get into a good rehab facility. She’s expected to be in rehab 3 months. Praise God, none of this has taken our Lord by surprise and He’s still in control! Now let’s get to this exciting interview with author and editor Susan Baganz!

Friends, if you’ve ever wondered how anyone can write a gazillion words a month and create multiple books a year, well, here’s your chance to find out. Prolific writer, Susan Baganz, is with us today to share her story about writing stories!

And if you’d like a chance to win a copy of Susan’s latest book, Feta & Freeways, simply leave a comment for Susan here and you’ll be in the drawing!

Let’s get started! Welcome to the Christian Writer’s Den, Susan. We’ve all seen you post significant word counts over the past few years on this blog for the MoGo7000 Challenge. So inquiring minds want to know, how much and how often do you really write?

I’m an author but I’m also an Acquisitions Editor with Prism Book Group so I juggle my writing with my editing for others. I can’t write every day but when I do, I do it quickly and obsessively. I’m a panster. I start with a concept and inciting incident and my characters take me on a journey. On a rare day I can pen 5,000-10,000 words (the next might be 161!). I write every year in November for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.org), and “won” seven years in a row.  I’ve written two to three novels/novellas a year for some time now, completing 16 manuscripts in six years. As of this date five have been published and eight more are contracted.

That’s unbelievable! Don’t you ever get writer’s block?

I don’t call it writer’s block. I call it a wall of fear. With every novel I hit a point in the story where I think the story is crap and I’ve written myself into a corner. I pray. I go to bed. The next morning, I force myself to write. I cannot remember where that spot was in any of my stories. Fear is a writer’s biggest enemy.

I totally agree! What’s been your biggest surprise in writing?

I love my stories and characters but when revisions come I’m always amazed at the mistakes I made. Editing is a humbling process. I write romances but what surprised me most is that men love my stories. I’m grateful for the unexpected audience.

You’ve written a series of contemporary romance novels of which Feta & Freeways is the third book. What ties these novels together?

I wrote the first book, Pesto & Potholes, to show not only the story but the importance of being involved in a church. The opportunity to worship, be taught, engage in fellowship with other believers along with encouragement and accountability—is a key part of our faith in Christ.

All stories are set against the backdrop of a fictional church, Orchard Hill.FetaandFreewaysCover copy-1 Renata and Tony were the subject of Pesto & Potholes and Stephanie was Renata’s roommate and became the subject of Salsa & Speed Bumps. At the end of that novel we meet Tia who becomes a friend of Stephanie’s. Tia appears in book 3, Feta & Freeways. Niko and Tia feature there along with Niko’s cousin Johnny who then becomes the feature of book 4, Root Beer & Road Blocks. There are several more fun titles and great characters in the series to come!

Those are fun titles, how did you come up with them?

I originally wanted to show, in Pesto & Potholes, the concept of potholes. The difficulty of overcoming challenges through perseverance. That even with faith, emotional growth is often a rocky trajectory. Pesto had Antonio, a single Italian chef, and it’s a favorite sauce in our family. A funny combo of food with a road-related theme became a fun way to set the stories apart.

When someone dared me to write book two and title it Salsa & Speed Bumps the challenge was on to continue to use road themes to illustrate growth through emotional challenges but in the context of a body of believers.

When I got my Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School I never dreamed I would be using my education and training to illustrate God’s love and the power evidenced in the Body of Christ, through fiction. The reality is that our faith is dynamic and thrives in community. We cannot grow spiritually without also growing emotionally. Personally I can’t imagine facing the trials of this life without God and the support of a community of believers. My characters live those truths.

Yes, I can attest to the fact that characters can help us and others face lies and live truth. What an honor to create evidence of the Lord and His Light! 

Thank you for being here with us today, Susan. And CWD friends, thank you for stopping by. If you’d like to have a chance to win a free copy of Feta & Freeways, simply leave a comment for Susan and you’ll be in the drawing. Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner!

BIO: Susan M. Baganz chases after three Hobbits, and is a native of Wisconsin. She is an Acquisitions Editor with Prism Book Group, specializing in bringing great romance novels and novellas to publication. Susan writes adventurous historical and contemporary romances with a biblical world-view.

Susan speaks, teaches, and encourages others to follow God in being all He has created them to be. With her seminary degree in counseling psychology, a background in the field of mental health, and years serving in church ministry, she understands the complexities and pain of life as well as its craziness. She serves behind-the-scenes in various capacities at her church and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and serves on the board of the southeast chapter. Her favorite pastimes are lazy…snuggling with her dog while reading a good book, or sitting with a friend chatting over a cup of spiced chai latte.

You can learn more by following her blog www.susanbaganz.com, her Twitter feed @susanbaganz or her fan page, www.facebook.com/susanmbaganz. Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/silygoos

 

 

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Felicia Bridges

Felicia Bridges headshotHello, CWD friends, I’m thrilled to have my long-time friend, author Felicia Bridges, with us today. As I tried to remember how we first met, I decided it was at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference years ago. We met and instantly connected as friends. And then, when I had the privilege of reading an early draft of this book, I knew I would one day ask her to be on my blog. And here we are!

Felicia has graciously offered to give away a free copy of her new book, CzechMate. Leave a comment for Felicia and you’ll be in the drawing. Just be sure to check back next week to see if you’re the winner!

Welcome to The Christian Writer’s Den, Felicia! Let’s start with an easy question that readers are often interested in. When did you first fall in love with writing?

I started writing as an angsty pre-teen half a world away from my friends in a culture that I didn’t understand. My dad was stationed in Taegu, South Korea and I was midway through sixth grade when we moved overseas. Having moved about every 18 months to two years, it took me about six months to settle into a new place, find some friends I could relate to and feel like I wasn’t an alien newly relocated from Mars. Writing became a way of escaping the loneliness of those long months and coping with the new culture and even learning about it.

Wow, it’s hard to move and change schools frequently when it’s simply across town. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be when you’re moving around the world! What made you decide to turn your talent back over to God?

For most of my adult years, writing was something I did for myself. It was a way of processing life, journaling about my life including following God, raising my kids, working through the challenges of married life. But after my oldest daughter and I returned from our first foreign mission trip, she wanted to learn about what it was like for kids her age (12) who live abroad. We searched the Christian bookstores and even the secular stores but there were simply no young adult stories about kids living on the mission field.

About the same time, the Young Indiana Jones series had come out on television and I thought, “What could make a greater adventure series than the stories of young people living all over the world, sharing their faith, facing danger and persecution, and witnessing God work in miraculous ways?” So I started writing my first novel, CzechMate, set in Prague where we had just been on a mission trip. We had learned so much about the culture and I wanted to incorporate history and culture, landmarks and politics – I wanted the story to be a virtual field trip to this country, but one that was wrapped up in an adventure that would make readers want to finish reading it! I worked on the book for years, writing little scenes and then setting it aside for months at a time. It took even more years to work up the courage to follow through on requests I’d received at writers’ conferences and actually send my “baby” out into the world to face the rejections I knew had to come as part of the process. But God, who had planted the idea so many years before, had gone before me. All those years of writing and re-writing, editing and scrapping whole plotlines to make the story as tight as possible, served as watering and tending, and God brought the increase in his time by allowing the first publisher to see the full proposal to offer a contract on it.

The first publisher bought it? What a blessing that you didn’t have to go through a bunch of rejections! But, as you pointed out, during those years, you were writing, editing, rewriting and editing, and going to conferences. You were doing the work of a writer! Now that your book is out, what do you hope readers will gain from it?

My vision for this series is to inspire future missionaries. That is a God-sized task, but if God is able to give voice to a donkey, as He did in Numbers 22, I believe He can provide the words for me, too. In order to capture the imagination of my readers, I hope the International Mission Force series is both entertaining and educational. I find learning about a new culture fascinating. The stories that are part of their heritage almost always include a touchpoint to God, whether it is a story that reveals mankind’s desperate need for a savior or our attempts to reach God on our own. These common threads of our humanity not only demonstrate God’s revelation of Himself to all people, but illustrate how we have much more in common than that which is different.

What plans do you have for this series in the future?

CzechMate is only the first in a series that I hope will one day include stories from every place that missionaries serve. I was thrilled that Vinspire Publishing offered a contract on the second novel in the series as well. BoliviaKnight’s protagonist is 17-year-old Peter Parkinson. Peter’s been a missionary in Bolivia since he was born, but when he uncovers a smuggling ring, will his secondhand faith be enough to defeat a cartel and free the girl who has hijacked his heart? The greatest enemy we face lurks in our own heart. BoliviaKnight is scheduled for release December 2016. I’m currently working on the third book in the series, which will be set in Kenya.CzechMate Cover Felicia Bridges

What an exciting and educational mystery/adventure series! I’m looking forward to reading the other books, too! Thanks for being my guest today and sharing your International Mission Force series with us, Felicia. I hope you’ll join us again!

And friends, if you’d like a chance to win a free book, simply leave a comment for Felicia and you’ll automatically be entered into the drawing. Be sure to check back next week to see if you’re the winner!

Bio: Felicia Bridges began writing as an Army BRAT learning to enjoy life overseas. Her nomadic childhood created a passion for missions and travel that permeates her writing. She is a contributing author for Then Along Came an Angel: Messengers of Deliverance and God’s Provision in Tough Times, a finalist for the 2014 Selah Awards. Serving in ministry for over twenty years alongside her husband and the mother of four children, Felicia’s vision is to inspire the next generation to carry the gospel to all nations. Her young adult series, International Mission Force, debuts in May 2016 with Book 1: CzechMate. Book 2: BoliviaKnight is expected later this year. Her blog, www.AdventuresThatInspireAction.wordpress.com, focuses on living on mission wherever life’s adventure leads.

Felicia graduated with highest honors from North Carolina State University with a B.A. in Psychology and a concentration in Human Resources Development. Her ten years’ experience as an HR Manager sharpened her understanding of people, while providing some very interesting stories. Having studied public speaking in college and as a graduate of the Dale Carnegie Course, she is equally comfortable speaking to the stranger in the checkout line or an auditorium full of people.

Catch up with Felicia’s adventures at:

www.AdventuresThatInspireAction.Wordpress.com
Facebook: Felicia Bowen Bridges – Writer
Twitter: @fbridges272
Pinterest: Felicia Bridges
Instagram: fbridges2
Email: feliciabowenbridges@gmail.com

 

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Portly Prose – Does Your Writing Need a Diet? by Lori Hatcher

Pig PixabayWhen you face a writing assignment with a word count of 250, do you clap or groan? For me, writing with a short word count is much more challenging than writing with a long one.

For several years the editor of a popular anthology invited me to submit 225-word devotions for her consideration. “Two hundred and twenty-five words?” I’d say. “I can’t even build a porch with fewer than 225 words, and you want me to build a whole house?” Crafting a devotion with a hook, scriptural insight, personal application, and conclusion in only a few hundred words seemed impossible.

But I took the challenge. My first attempt tipped the word count scales at an obese 350. I tossed out one of my favorite illustrations. That shaved off 50 words. I reworked the conclusion. Down 25 more. I briefly considered cutting the Scripture verse, but realized that would defeat the whole purpose. My moment of insanity, however, revealed to me how attached I had become to my well-turned phrases. Cut my words or God’s Word? Uh . . . why am I even asking this question?

As I examined my dumpy devotion looking for traces of literary cellulite, I was surprised at what I found. Muffin top metaphors. Saggy similies. Portly prose. Roly-poly rhetoric. Chubby conclusions. My devotion, I discovered, needed much more than a nip and tuck. It needed gastric bypass.

Here are five tips I applied to trim the fat from my writing:
  • Focus on one main idea. Think snapshot, not panorama. Throw out anything that doesn’t directly support your main point.
  • Choose one verse, the strongest one that supports your premise. Resist the urge to throw the whole Book at your readers.
  • Eliminate wordy, conversational phrases. (“In my opinion,” “It appears to me,” and “It’s come to my attention,” are common examples.) These add unnecessary inches to your writing waistline and make your work bulge.
  • Substitute strong verbs for adipose adverbs. If you carefully select your verbs, you won’t need most adverbs. (“Jean silently and slowly walked toward John,” becomes “Jean crept toward John,” saving you three precious words.)
  • Cut most uses of the word “that.” Read the sentence aloud. If it makes sense without “that,” you know the word is dead weight. “To” is also often extraneous. (“Lord, help me to pray more,” becomes, “Lord, help me pray more.”)

These tips will help you tone and tighten your prose, whether you’re squeezing your thoughts into a SizeHand holding scissors 2(00) devotion or donning a billowy 3XXX teaching piece. Just like wriggling into jeans two sizes too small, writing tightly will be painful at first. But unlike those too-tight jeans that hinder your movement, cut off your blood flow, and make you grumpy, changing saggy writing to svelte will force you to write better, think more creatively, and feel more confident about your writing.

Now, if you’re up to the challenge of writing a 200-400-word devotion, check out these fine publications:

Christian Devotions (300-400 words)

Light From the Word (200-400 words)

The Secret Place  (100-200 words)

The Upper Room Devotional (~250 words)

Lori Hatcher-1Lori Hatcher is the editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine and the author of two devotional books. Her second book is Hungry for God…Starving for Time, 5-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. A blogger, writing instructor, and women’s ministry speaker, her goal is to help women connect with God in the craziness of life. You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God…Starving for Time. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@LoriHatcher2), or Pinterest (Hungry for God).

Lori is a graduate of Christian Communicators speakers training conference and has taught at the Christian Communicators ADVANCED Conference.

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Will You Be One of the 30 at Christian Communicators? It’s Already Half-Full!ccclogosmall

Christian Communicators is a speaking conference unlike any you’ve ever attended. It’s not simply a conference…it’s a community of like-minded women who continue to encourage, help, and pray for each other long after the conference is over! 

It’s a full-package conference that includes so much more than simply speaker training. After all, speakers need headshots and videos, business and networking classes, and after-conference phone coaching…and that’s exactly what 30 ladies get at Christian Communicators!

And there’s no better place to connect with the Father than at The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in the beautiful mountains of Asheville, NC!

Check out the CCC details and then reserve your spot–before it’s too late!

Happy Writing!

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . Write It Down

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

The life of a writer can be discouraging. We can work for years on a book, writing and praying and editing and praying and rewriting and praying and editing and praying . . .

Some days the words just won’t come. Sometimes they come quickly, only to be found unworthy. If we’re wise, those words are thrown away.

But we keep going. We work hard until we finally think it’s ready. Yes, this can take years.

Then we pray and work even more until we generate the courage to hit SEND. We’ve reached our goal!

You’d think we’d be able to take a breath now and move on to the next thing. But no. There’s no relief, because life is now in limbo as we wait for an answer. For months. Sometimes years.

I pray that this week the words are coming for you. Good words. Engaging words. Compelling, inviting words.

I pray that the response you receive is a resounding “Yes!”

But what if it’s not? What if this is a time when the words won’t come and the rejections won’t go? What if this is a time when you’re crying out to God, asking Him why He doesn’t intervene?

Don’t give up. Instead, remember these words, spoken by the God of the universe, to the prophet Habakkuk, when he questioned God’s perceived inaction:

“Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it…” Habakkuk 2:2

It’s our responsibility to write it down. It’s our responsibility to make it plain.

And whether it’s published by a large traditional publisher or simply posted on our own blogs, others can read . . . and run with it.

Don’t give up. Write it down.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Publishing: Me & My Big Mouth,Call-Outs for Kudos & MoGo7000, & Book Winner

Ape with big mouth Pixabay

Today’s the 1st Tuesday, so it’s the day for writing instruction, call-outs, and a book give-away!

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Let’s start with some encouragement and instruction for writers with Me & My Big Mouth!

I’ve always had a big mouth. Even as a little girl, I realized that speaking up when others wouldn’t, talking louder than the crowd, and trying to persuade others to my side often resulted in getting what I wanted.

At least it did until I decided to be a writer.

During my first several years of writing, the critiques of my work–whether delivered by my unpublished critique group members, published authors, or professional agents and editors–were often met with my own push-backs. After all, pushing back had worked for most other things in my life.

But it didn’t work with writing.

The truth is, I wasted years on the road to publication by defending my work. I was determined to convince others of their inability to grasp the brilliance of my great American novel, now bleeding on every page. Couldn’t they recognize a good book when they saw one? That hardheaded, self-centered, know-it-all attitude cost me years in reaching my writing goals.

Now, as I teach at writing conferences around the country, my heart aches when I sit face-to-face with the headstrong version of my younger writing self. With only 15 minutes to glean the wisdom of those who’ve already traveled this road, the younger me–whether male or female, blonde or brunette, regardless of race or age or experience–wastes our time together by arguing every point.

“Don’t be like me!” I want to shout. “Don’t follow in my footsteps. The journey doesn’t have to be this long!” But in an effort to defend their work–often believed given word-for-word by God–the minutes have soon passed and very little, if any, words of wisdom have been transferred from teacher to student.

If you’ve been working at this writing goal for a while and have been to conferences to learn the craft, but still haven’t made progress, consider this:

FreeDigitalPhotos/Iosphere

FreeDigitalPhotos/Iosphere

*Could you and your big mouth be in the way? Mine certainly was for me.

*Friends, please know this is stated with all love and respect. 🙂

Thanks for Sharing!

Me & my big mouth stood in the way of my writing goals. What about you? (Click to Tweet)

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It’s Time to Share Kudos of YOUR Successes!

Hey there, writing friends. We want to know what you’ve been up to. Have you had something exciting happen recently in your writing or speaking life? Maybe you’ve had an article published, signed a book contract, released a new book, got an agent, or started a new blog. If so, we want to hear from you!

It’s really simple, but I do ask that you contact me with the info in this format and order ONLY:

**Your name
**Your state in two-letter abbreviation
**Link to your website or blog
**Your good news
**Link to your good news, if online (online bookstore, online article, etc)

I can’t wait for us to celebrate with you!

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mogoWho MoGo’d in February?

If you wrote at least 7000 new words on a book project in February, you can receive an entry in the drawing for the 2015 MoGo7000 $100 cash prize! It’s open to everyone who qualifies.

To report your February results, please leave a comment below with your total new words written on a book project in February. (Please do not send your totals by email or through the Contact page. Totals must be left as a comment here by next Sunday). 

If you missed out on last year’s money-winning writing challenge, don’t worry, the 2016 challenge has just begun. Here are the MoGo7000 Challenge rules. All you have to do is write at least 7000 NEW words on a book project in any month and you’ll receive an entry into the end-of-the-year drawing for $100.

Get started now and you could have and extra $100 next year. And it doesn’t cost you a cent. :-)

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Marilyn Turks Lighthouse Devotions cover

Who Won Marilyn Turk’s Book?

Drumroll, please. The winner is…

Nan Jones!

Congratulations, Nan! Please contact me with your snail mail address and Marilyn will get the book right out to you!

And friends, I know you want to get your own copy, so here’s a direct Amazon link to Lighthouse Devotions, by Marilyn Turk. Enjoy!

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Thank you for joining me today on our 1st Tuesday edition of Christian Writer’s Den. I hope you are encouraged by your visit. Love and blessings to each of you!

Vonda

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The Fastest Route to Publication–It’s as Easy as 1-2-3! Plus Let’s Celebrate These Writers!

Photo courtesy of BillLongshaw/FreeDigitalPhoto

Photo courtesy of BillLongshaw/FreeDigitalPhoto

Well, it’s the 2nd Tuesday, so that means we’ll start with some tips for writers!

Some of you have heard my story of writing a poem in first grade. You know that in high school I worked on the newspaper staff and was editor of the literary journal. Some have heard me say that by the time I was in college I knew that one day I would write a book…and the next thing I knew, I was forty.

At that point, I figured my life was half over. If I was going to write a book, I’d better get started!

But do you know the rest of the story?

I sat down and wrote a book. It only took me about three months to dash from start to finish, but I was confident it would be the next great American novel for kids. I remember the day I dropped the first batch of ten envelopes in the mailbox. “Oh my. What am I going to do when five publishers want my book at the same time? Oh, my!” (I’m dead serious. That’s exactly what I thought.)

But instead of a bidding war, the submissions received 10 rejections before the stamps were dry. (Yes, those were the days when you had to actually lick the stamps, too!)

The years came and went and I continued to recycle that book over and over and over, confident that I’d eventually find an editor who had sense enough to see what a gold mine my book would be for his or her publishing house. I did this for at least 5 years, never considering that perhaps, just maybe, I needed to learn something about writing.

In my rush to see my name in print, it took me 7 years, lots of conferences, and lots of rejections to dash across the publication finish line. And it took 10 years to have a published book!

I had a simple 1-2-3- plan for publication: 1)feel the urge, 2)write the book, and 3)collect a big fat advance.

Oh, if only it were that easy! For most of us, successful writing is a tortoise event, not a hare one. A cross-country event, not a sprint.

If you want to write a book and then spend 10 years trying to get it published, that’s fine. After all, it’s your book, you can do whatever you want. But if you really want to cross the finish line as a writer, here are the 1-2-3’s to help you get there faster.

1.  Take the time to learn the craft. If you don’t get anything from this post, I hope you get this: There are no shortcuts. I once heard bestselling author, T. Davis Bunn, say something like, “Would someone decide he wants to be a concert pianist, learn to bang out Chopsticks, and then expect to play Carnegie Hall? Would someone decide to be an artist, slap a little paint on a canvas, and then expect a buyer to pay her for it? Of course not! But that’s exactly what we do when we simply sit down, write a book, and think it’s going to be sold.”

So, instead of jumping straight into a book, start at the beginning. Find a local writer’s group, take a class at the community college, and attend writing conferences. Read instructional books and follow instructional writing blogs like this one. (You could sit and read the archives and have your own writer’s conference right in the comfort of your own home!) Learn the techniques of good writing, apply them to your work, and get valid feedback from others who know what to look for. This doesn’t mean you can’t be working on your book from the beginning, but you need to be learning the craft in the process.

2.  Start with short pieces. Many of us start out with a big dream to write and sell a book. And it could happen. Possibly. But your chances for publication may actually increase if you start out small by submitting articles and stories. And for some editors, agents, and publishing houses, the chances of publishing a book are greater if you’ve already proven you can write publishable short pieces. And the good news is, I post writing opportunities right here on The Christian Writer’s Den every third Tuesday of the month, listing places that are looking for writers.

3.  Write a blog. Yes, writing a blog can help you in your race to the writing finish line. Good blogging requires discipline, writing skills, and promotion. All this will help you build a platform while building your writing paper trail. A blog rarely leads to a book contract, although it could happen. But the better goal is to use that time to make connections while learning to write well. Visit Edie Melson’s blog, The Write Conversation, for great posts about blogging and social media.

So there you have it, the 1-2-3 of writing for publication. The steps are simple, but they certainly aren’t easy. The dash to the finish line not be a sprint, but follow these steps and you’re more likely to win your cross-country goal of publication.

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Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Let’s celebrate your kudos!

Congratulations to these Christian Writer’s Den friends who are working hard and reaching their goals!

1. Nancy Foss (NC): My first book, Lord, Change Him; He’s Such a Jerk: Finding Hope for an Unhappy Marriage, was just published. I’m looking forward to seeing where God will take me this year.

2. Ellen Andersen (SC): I had a devotion, Forgive Them? Why Should I?, published at the end of January by Christian Devotions.

3. Barbara Parentini (NC): It’s been a while since I’ve shared with you about my inspirational greeting cards, Soaring Hearts. In the last six months there have been wonderful developments. First: The desire of my heart was to see the cards perch in a hospital gift shop. There is now a large selection in my hometown, Springfield, Ohio, at The Gardenview Gift Shop in Springfield Regional Medical Center. My nursing school is rooted in the new hospital, so God answered my prayer in such a lovely way! Second: Soaring Hearts and the entire “Sea Glass Collection” is in Yoder’s Gift Shop. Yoder’s is the most well-known Amish restaurant in Sarasota, Florida. My family and I have been frequent customers for decades! They are known for their amazing pies, delicious food, and beautiful gift shop. Yoder’s now stocks a wide assortment of Soaring Hearts. Third: I was approached over a year ago about this, and I’ve been chosen as the card vendor for The Garden Club of North Carolina’s 91st Annual Event. Several vendors and I will have our booths set up at the Sheraton Imperial (Emperor Blvd by RDU Airport) in Durham, NC, for the statewide event, April 17-19, 2016. The ladies of the garden club have been welcoming and enthusiastic about the cards. I will feature my Garden Grace Collection which I intend to grow this year. And to note, I’m in the process of editing my long-awaited book, SEA GLASS, a journal/devotional for those who love the sea, filled with Scripture, devotions, poetry, and inspiring prose. I plan to paint pages with sea glass colors and design. I’ve been compiling this over several years, and am excited this will be finished in 2016. Thank you, Vonda, for always being so supportive about my writing and creative endeavors. Blessings!

4. Tracy Crump (MS): I am honored to announce that Chicken Soup for the Soul chose my story “A Glorious Ride,” previously published in their Inspiration for the Young at Heart, to be included in the upcoming For Mom, with Love, which will benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Way to go, writers! And friends, if you didn’t see your name on this list, be sure to check back next week where I’ll have a new list of writing opportunities just for you!

mogo~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Who MoGo’d in January?

These friends wrote at least 7000 words on a book project in January and earned an entry in the 2016 drawing for $100 at the end of the year!

#1: Diana Leagh Matthews – 32,765 words
#2: Susan Baganz – 14,703 words
#3: Tim Suddeth – 20,248 words
#4: Amanda Everett – 7,466 words

Woo-hoo! We’re off to a great start, gang! And readers, if you want to join in the fun and have a bunch of chances to win $100 at the end of the year, check out the MoGo7000 Challenge. It’s free!

Well that does it for the 2nd Tuesday of February. Be sure to check back next week when we’ll take a look at writing opportunities and conferences.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Writer’s Headlines: Call-Outs for Kudos & MoGo7000 and Who Won Cheri Cowell’s Book?

newspapersIt’s the 1st Tuesday, so it’s time to hear from you: Calling All Kudos!

Okay, friends, it’s time for us to celebrate YOU and celebrate EACH OTHER! After all, that’s the goal of The Christian Writer’s Den–to encourage and instruct writers.

In order to do that, I need to hear from you! It doesn’t matter how small the success may seem to you, every step forward is a step that leads to the next one.

So I want to know what you’ve been up to. Have you had something exciting happen recently in your writing or speaking life? Maybe you’ve had an article published, signed a book contract, released a new book, got an agent, or started a new blog. If so, we want to hear from you. Everybody’s welcome to share.

It’s really simple, but I do ask that you contact me with the info in this format and order ONLY:

**Your name
**Your state in two-letter abbreviation
**Link to your website or blog
**Your good news
**Link to your good news, if online (online bookstore, online article, etc)

I can’t wait for us to celebrate with you!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~mogo

Who Worked on Their Book MoGo7000 in January?

If you wrote at least 7000 new words on a book project in January, you can receive an entry in the drawing for the 2016 MoGo7000 $100 cash prize! It’s open to everyone who qualifies.

To report your January results, please leave a comment below with your total new words written on a book project in January. (Please do not send your totals by email or through the Contact page. Totals must be left as a comment here by next Sunday).

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Cheri Cowell cover PeaceAnd Who Won Cheri Cowell’s Book, 365 Devotions for Peace?

According to Random.org, the winner is…

Bonita Bandaries!

Congratulations, Bonita! All you need to do is contact me with your snail mail address and Cheri will get your book right out to you!

And for those who didn’t win…You KNOW you want this book! So here’s a direct Amazon link to 365 Devotions for Peace, by Cheri Cowell. Enjoy!

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Well, friends, that does it for our Writer’s Headlines this week. Be sure to check back next week when you can learn The Fastest Route to Publication–It’s as Easy as 1-2-3! We’ll also be celebrating you, so be sure to send me your good news!

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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How Many Rejections are Enough to Quit? And Kudos & MoGo7000 Call-Outs

Image courtesy of suphakit73/www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of suphakit73/www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Let’s start with a conversation about rejections. When is it okay for a writer quit trying?

The answer is simple: You can quit whenever you’re ready to fail.

I heard a statistic that the average writer will get 5-10 rejections and quit. I have one thing to say to that: Wimp.

Okay, I know that sounds tough, but hear my heart. The truth is, the only way to fail at this writing thing is to quit. The only way to be considered a failure is to walk away and say you’re done. As long as you’re learning, applying, writing, rewriting, learning, applying, writing, and rewriting, you’re doing the work of a writer. In other words, you ARE a writer.

Some of you have heard my story of getting 63–count ’em, 63!–rejections before I ever had anything published. Not one single, solitary thing published in 7 or 8 long years of No.

You better believe I got discouraged. Yes, I wanted to quit. Many times. But no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t leave a the journey a quitter. I just couldn’t walk away.

I knew I had something to say, something someone would benefit from. If only I could find someone to publish what I was writing. So I tried almost everything: magazine articles, novels, plays, songs, children’s picture books, and devotions, but everything I wrote received a rejection.

So I kept learning, kept attending conferences, kept going to critique group, kept applying what I’d learned, kept writing and rewriting . . . year after year after year.

And then one day, after years of No, the answer was Yes. I had a contract for an article.

But here’s what I want you to know: I didn’t become a writer with that first published article. I had been a writer through all those years of No. I had been a writer because I didn’t quit.

Now, after all these years of writing, I often wonder how different my life would be if I had quit at 63 rejections. What if I’d never sent the 64th submission? No one would have blamed me, that’s for sure. After all, anybody should have enough sense to quit after all that time.

But some things just don’t make sense from a human point of view. Success comes by perseverance and determination, not by avoiding rejection.

The only way to win is to persevere. And the only way to fail is to quit.

Happy writing!

Vonda

Thanks for Tweeting!

How many rejections are enough to quit writing? @VondaSkelton #amwriting #pubtips (Click to Tweet)

The only way to win is to persevere. The only way to fail is to quit. @VondaSkelton #amwriting #pubtips (Click to Tweet)

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FreeDigitalPhotos/Iosphere

FreeDigitalPhotos/Iosphere

It’s Time to Share Kudos of YOUR Successes!

Hey there, writing friends. We want to know what you’ve been up to. Have you had something exciting happen recently in your writing or speaking life? Maybe you’ve had an article published, signed a book contract, released a new book, got an agent, or started a new blog. If so, we want to hear from you!

It’s really simple, but I do ask that you contact me with the info in this format and order ONLY:

**Your name
**Your state in two-letter abbreviation
**Link to your website or blog
**Your good news
**Link to your good news, if online (online bookstore, online article, etc)

I can’t wait for us to celebrate with you!

mogo~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Who MoGo’d in November? And yes, NaNoWriMo numbers count!

If you wrote at least 7000 new words on a book project in November, you can receive an entry in the drawing for the 2015 MoGo7000 $100 cash prize! It’s open to everyone who qualifies.

To report your November results, please leave a comment below with your total new words written on a book project in November. (Please do not send your totals by email or through the Contact page. Totals must be left as a comment here by next Sunday). 

If you missed out on last year’s money-winning writing challenge, don’t worry, the 2015 challenge has one more month. Here are the MoGo7000 Challenge rules. All you have to do is write at least 7000 NEW words on a book project in any month and you’ll receive an entry into the end-of-the-year drawing for $100.

It’s not too late! Get started now and you could have and extra $100 next year. And it doesn’t cost you a cent. :-)

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How to Tell Your Amazing Life Story and Call-Outs for Kudos & MoGo7000

Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhoto.net

Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhoto.net

“I’ve had a hard life,” Eager New Writer says. “It’s an amazing story. All my friends say I need to write a book. I know it would be an encouragement to everybody who reads it.”

Just a few short years ago, I’d dread hearing those words because I knew the writer was most likely headed for a huge disappointment. Back then, publishers weren’t buying any personal stories or memoirs unless the author was a celebrity or already had a huge following.

Thankfully, that’s not the case these days. Please understand that doesn’t mean editors are rushing to buy every memoir and life story they can find, but at least now they may take a look at it.

It’s absolutely clear that personal stories can be powerful. They can touch hearts and make people think. They can even change lives. But they can still be a hard sell.

Does that mean Eager New Writer’s experiences don’t count or that Christian publishers don’t care about what she’s been through? No. It just means that even though Christian publishers want to point readers to Christ, they must make a profit in order to do so. And in many cases of personal stories, they just aren’t able to sell enough of those books to make a profit.

So what’s a writer to do? What if you do have an amazing story that would be an encouragement to others, but you’re unable to find a publisher who is willing to take a risk? The good news is, you have options.

But before we look at these other options, please, please, please make sure your book is professionally edited and truly ready for publication. Poorly-written books won’t sell, regardless of the route you go. So if your book has been repeatedly rejected by publishers, first make sure the rejection is because of a financial decision by the publisher, not because the book is poorly written.

Once you know the lack of publication isn’t based on the quality of the writing, then consider these other options.

1.  Self publish your book. If your primary goal is to document your story for your family and friends, self-publishing is definitely a viable option. Whether you choose print on demand (POD) or regular press technique, self publishing can create a lasting document of your story, allowing you to leave your message for those who come behind you.

Are you a speaker who frequently addresses large audiences? Self publishing might also be a good choice if you’re associated with a large organization that has a built-in audience and the means for delivering your message. And even if you don’t address large audiences, if you simply want to make your story available to those who hear you speak, self-publishing may be the way to go.Be creative computer Pixabay

But if you decide to go the self-publishing route, you must choose your publisher carefully. There are great publishers out there who produce high quality books that look as good–and sometimes better–than many traditionally published books. But there are also publishers who create sloppy products that label your book unprofessional. And in general, self-published books have a harder time getting distribution in brick-and-mortar bookstores.

So do your research! Don’t take anything at face value. A wise writer will search the internet for warnings or complaints, will have all contracts evaluated by someone knowledgeable about literary contracts, and will personally contact authors who’ve published with the house. Don’t go through the publisher or ask for references–that may not give you a true picture. Instead, find the names of authors, visit their websites, and contact them directly, preferably long after publication. There are many sites that report warnings about publishers. One is located here and has links to many more warnings.

Self-publishing can be a wonderful way to get your story out, but you have to choose wisely and be sure you know you’re dealing with a reputable company. Here’s a post by Eddie Jones, acquisitions editor of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, as he shares his Top Ten Mistakes Every Author Needs to Know Before Clicking “Self-Publish.

2.  Create an eBook. This is the route many self-publishers are going these days. For one reason, it’s much cheaper. For another, it’s much easier to do completely on your own. I’m not personally knowledgeable about e-Books and haven’t had any personal experience with it…yet. I do plan to use that route sometime in the future.

So here’s a post I found online that should be helpful for the steps of actually creating the eBook: How to Create an Ebook From Start to Finish (+18 Ebook Templates), by Anum Hussain.

bitsy3bookphoto3.  Fictionalize your story. Did you know you could create a novel drawing from the emotion, lessons, and scenes you experienced in your struggle? You can use fiction writing techniques to create compelling characters who travel your journey. Readers often connect with well-written fictional characters as easily as–and sometimes better than–they connect with real people. It’s all in the writing and delivery of the story. And a well-written novel that taps into your experiences and emotion has a much better chance of publication than the actual story of your life.

Although my Bitsy books aren’t based on horrible experiences of life, I do use a lot of real life events in my children’s mysteries. Many of the scenes, conflicts, and emotions Bitsy and her friends and family go through are taken directly from my own life. But please understand, if you translate your experiences for fiction, you don’t have to stick to the truth.

As I tell students when I teach writer’s workshops in schools, take your story or event and make it bigger, badder, meaner, and sadder. Make it funnier, happier, and scarier. Take clips from your entire life and compact them into a short time span. The lessons are still there, the testimony can still affect others, but rather than presented as truth, it’s delivered through the vehicle of fiction. And sometimes that’s the vehicle that increases your chance of publication and allows you to share your lessons of life with others.

So there’s the bad news and the good news about publishing the story of your life. Whether traditionally or self-published, Ebook or hard copy, written as real life or fiction, our stories can make a difference in the lives of others.

And if you’re writing, you need to be part of the MoGo7000 Challenge. You could win $100 just for writing your book! (See info below)

Thanks for Tweeting!

How to Tell Your Amazing Life Story @VondaSkelton via #ChristianWriters Den #amwriting #pubtips (Click to Tweet)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~celebration - Morguefile

It’s Time to Hear About YOUR Successes!

Hey there, writing friends. We want to know what you’ve been up to. Have you had something exciting happen recently in your writing or speaking life? Maybe you’ve had an article published, signed a book contract, released a new book, got an agent, or started a new blog. If so, we want to hear from you!

It’s really simple, but I do ask that you contact me with the info in this format and order ONLY:

**Your name
**Your state in two-letter abbreviation
**Link to your website or blog
**Your good news
**Link to your good news, if online (online bookstore, online article, etc)

I can’t wait for us to celebrate with you!

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mogoWho MoGo’d in August?

If you wrote at least 7000 new words on a book project in August, you can receive an entry in the drawing for the 2015 MoGo7000 $100 cash prize! It’s open to everyone who qualifies.

To report your August results, please leave a comment below with your total new words written on a book project in August. (Please do not send your totals by email or through the Contact page. Totals must be left as a comment here by next Sunday). 

If you missed out on last year’s money-winning writing challenge, don’t worry, the 2015 challenge continues! Here are the MoGo7000 Challenge rules. All you have to do is write at least 7000 NEW words on a book project in any month and you’ll receive an entry into the end-of-the-year drawing for $100.

Each month that you qualify with 7000 new words, your name goes in the “hat” for the drawing. Reach the goal one month and you’ll have one entry. Just starting out? Don’t worry! Meet it the next 4 months and you’ll have 4 entries!

So what are you waiting for? Get started now and you could have and extra $100 next year. And it doesn’t cost you a cent. :-)

Happy writing!

Vonda

(Woman and computer photo courtesy of DavidCastilloDominici/www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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