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August 2018

Transition ... Not to Be Confused with Big ol Leap of Faith

Wanting to quitHey, writerly women. This post could also be called, "Don't Quit Your Day Job ... Yet." 

But don't you have those days when you WANT to? When you're having such a BLAST writing and it's flowing through your mind and fingers like a silk scarf and you're more sure than you've ever been of anything in your life that this is what you're meant to do.

     I'm sure our ANDREA feels that way fight now. She just finished her FIRST DRAFT. Go girl!!!

    And LILY, who just polished off her FINAL DRAFT. Yeah, baby!!

And then the alarm on your phone dings and you have to get ready for your shift at Starbucks or TJ Maxx or Home Depot -- or go to bed because you have to get up tomorrow and be a first responder or an administrative assistant or a lawyer. 

Yeah, the urge to stop transitioning and just give your two weeks notice or your two hours notice or just call in "never" can be pretty overwhelming, In fact, it's easy to mistake it for God saying, "Just do it. Take the leap of faith. I will take care of you."

Heck, you might be able to find a Scripture verse to support that if you look hard enough. What about the whole "lilies of the field thing?" Or God keeping his eye on the sparrow. Those work, right?

I'm not going there, this not being a post on miracles ... but I do know that God gave us two sides to our brains -- the right side for the creative, emotional, word crafting activities that make us fabulous writers, which we are Two sides of brain
--- the left side for analyzing, planning, and keeping us from getting run over by cars. It's difficult to pay attention to said left side when the silk is running through our hands and we're envisioning ourselves spending our days in our characters' worlds.

But if we're going to eat, we kind of have to. 

So how do we know when it's time to quit that day job, or at the very least go part time, especially in this very tight publishing climate? I can speak to this because I did it. Twice. The first time not terribly successfully, though I learned tons, the second successfully enough to launch me into a full-time career. I'm not going to go into a narcissistic telling of my experiences. I'll just share what I know from them, and from what I see going on now. Before you take the leap (even part time):

    * Have a publishing resume.

        That can mean a hefty list of short stories and/or articles, either print or on/line, paid blog gigs, or books that are bringing in income, again, either traditionally published, self-published, print, or e-books. We are talking INCOME PRODUCING publications that promise to continue, now that you'll have more time to devote to them.

    * Have enough money in the bank to cover your expenses for six months.

    Not just the basic bills and food but your writing-related items as well. You're going to use more supplies like journals, drink more coffee at the shop where you write, that kind of thing.

    * Be prepared to cut corners.

    Lattes at home, anyone? Meatless dinners? Last year's shoes from Payless? Friends doing your manis and pedis? 

    * Be willing to take side writing jobs that may not be fascinating for a while.

    I was writing YA when I first went full time, andI  did articles for those high school health class magazines on everything from sweat to circadian rhythms. Did you know that gustatory hypohydrosis means you sweat when you eat spicy food? You never know what info you'll pick up to impress people at cocktail parties. 

    *Be ready to work long -- and we are talking LOOOOONG hours.

    Working for yourself is not a glamor gig where you get to sleep in, write a couple of hours, go out for lunch, take a nap, watch Netflix for inspiration ... There's no sick leave, paid vacays --  and weekends are pretty much like all other days. 

    * Make sure you are already self-disciplined, have a routine and are highly motivated

           Anxiety BPHP Scotia You may have written your supervisor into your novel as your antagonist and given him everything but fangs, (okay, maybe you've given him fangs) but your boss when you go full time free lance is you, so you may have to grow some. Better grow them BEFORE you give notice.

    * Be in the publishing world

        This is the hardest part for our beloved introverts, and most writers, especially fiction authors, ARE introverts. This means you've gone to writer's conferences, made contacts with editors, publishers, agents, others writers, magazine people.  When you write for a publication, be personable in your emails to the staff. Join writers' Facebook groups. If you have an agent, get on the agency's client Facebook group (most of them have same). Writing is going to be your job so you'll want to know the people involved in it. They'll be able to give you the skinny on new opportunities -- especially sites like Linked In

Basically, you need to have it going on before you take that leap. You might be thinking, "Doesn't that kind of do away with the 'faith' part?"  Not really. You're still giving up the security of a paycheck, insurance and other bennies, and there are no guarantees the writing work is always going to be there. Publishing is as fickle as the music industry, Hollywood and guys between the ages of 14 and 30. Okay, maybe 35. Where the faith really comes in is here:

        If you truly believe -- because the writing does flow like the aforementioned silk scarf -- that God has given you a gift and God wants you to use it to enrich lives -- God will use it in some way. If it's meant to be in a full-time writing life, and you're willing to make the slow transition and eventually the final leap, it will happen. If it's to be a part of your total career and you're willing to do the same thing, yes. It will be. 

    I think we're saying it's about the timing. We need to rest in that, right? Write into it. Transition into it. Not rush into it before we're ready and end up living on Top Ramen. That's a sure way to stop believing in the gift and start believing you're a failure.

 So yeah, the big ol leaps are exciting and dramatic and call for champagne. By the case. The transitions, though -- they're the day to day steps that slowly take you there. Just keep that scarf in your hands.

 

If you want to comment, tell us how the writing feels in your hands right now. Give us an image. Silk scarf? GLORIA's famous potato masher stuck in the drawer? A handful of confetti? Me? I just had a breakthrough, so it's like that big paper thing football players run through when they're going out onto the field.  Show us what you're workin' with. Footbball banner

 

Blessings

Nancy   

                   


Investing In Transition ... Like Shannyn (and there's an offer tucked in here)

Shannyn solo head shotHey, Writerly Women. About six years ago, my friend Shannyn Caldwell told me she wanted me to help her write a book. I'd just started my mentorship program (she was my second client), and Shannyn was the co-anchor of the morning show on a Christian station in Detroit where she'd had me on a bunch of times so of course I told her absolutely I would.

Um ... what she sent me was actually a collection of journal entries, and to be fair, she did exactly what you're supposed to do when you write in a journal: ignore punctuation and grammar and sentence structure. The writing was very creative ... especially when it came to spelling, if you take my meaning. But, the story. Oh, my gosh, ladies, the story. The STORY of her healing from losing both of her parents in a tornado, after only recently going through a devastating divorce, was so compelling it had to be told. Shannyn and her husband scraped together the funds and Shannyn, determined to do what she so clearly felt called to do, wrote and rewrote, revised and re-revised until Healing Season was self-published. 

Self-publishing was the logical choice for Shannyn because she had an active speaking ministry and shortly thereafter became the morning co-anchor for the nationally syndicated Family Life Radio. And now, these half dozen years later? Shannyn just reported to me this morning that the Healing Season is becoming a Holistic Wellness Community. Shannyn's book table  Shannnyn is a certified holistic nutritionist, she will be a Traditional Naturopathic Doctor by the new year, and a PhD in the philosophy of Natropathic Meedicine  by age 50 is the final educational goal.

So is it any wonder she was invited onto Holy Spirit Broadcast Network? 

Shannyn on tv

And asked to speak at the Grand Hotel in ... I assume Detroit (I neglected to ask her that part)

 

Why am I telling you Shannyn on stageall this? Because when Shannyn knew she had to make a transition, when the call to write that first book wouldn't leave her alone, she made an investment. If I recall, there were some financial sacrifices involved, as well as some time squeezes. She had two active kids at home. A husband. A full-time job. The fact that Shannyn was and continues to bear a strong resemblance to the Energizer Bunny notwithstanding, that's impressive. It all started with a willingness to invest. 

Let me be clear: this is not a call-out for you to sign up for my mentorship program! YOUR investment doesn't have to be that. There are other ways to mark the fact that your writing, your ministry has significance. It's sort of like buying a good pair of cross trainers to show that you're committed to your fitness program. Or purchasing the best paint brushes you can afford to make the statement that you consider yourself a serious artist. Or knitting your boyfriend a sweater ... okay, maybe not that. You get the idea, though, right?

So let's think ... what investment can you make, however small, to move yourself one step through this transition from wherever you are to Writer? To Author of a Completed Book. To Creator of a Series. To Founder of a Movement. To Quiet Leader of an Important Thing. It might look like one of these:

  •     * a new laptop or tablet
  •    * a decent Word program
  •     * a good on-line course in something specific about writing you're struggling with
  •  * a creative filing system to keep all your stuff in  
  • a Donald Maass book (I recommend Writing 21st Century Fiction or The Emotional Craft of Fiction or, if you've completed a first draft, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook)
  • a journal for your protagonist
  • a babysitter two hours a week just so you can write (and NOT so you can take a nap or get a pedicure)
  • a package of colored index cards for plot points
  • a fund for take-out on the nights you want to write instead of cook dinner
  • a one-time 90-minute session with me for $35 to include a reading of 10 pages of your work; for non-client blog subscribers only. Make a comment and I'll message you with info. 

I make investments in my writing on a regular basis, so I don't fall into, "I'm investing in my clients' work. I don't have time for my own." That would be cheating not only myself, but those same clients. I can't expect them to do what I'm not doing. My latest investment is this: my work-in-progress takes place in Concord, Massachusetts. I just booked a research trip there for early October -- 5 days wandering that awesome place, taking notes and pictures and pretending I am my characters. That's a lot of time and a chunk of cash I've been saving up since January. How can I not finish the book, then? See how that works? (I'll have a lot more to add to my Pinterest Board when I come back. )

Will you tell us how you're investing? Or how you plan to? It becomes so much more real when you say it out loud. say it out loud to us.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue


Transitions: They Don't Just Happen

WorkhouseHey, Writerly Women. I have to say again how impressed I am with AMANDA'S work. Not to mention her courage in putting it out there for us to examine. We should all be so brave, yes? So let's take a look at her transitioning prowess.

The first paragraph is pretty dang perfect as a narrative bridge:

 The workhouse was eerily quiet, completely abandoned except for the three of us. We followed him down the three levels, the iron stairs intact but precariously unstable as we stepped over debris. Everything was shattered, broken beyond hopes of repair, plaster and stone crumbling little by little. Whatever the Mountain did next would surely be the end of this building forever. This place had been my home for almost my entire life, but I wouldn’t miss an inch of it. It would be better off in ruins.

It leads us from where we were before to where the action is going to pick up again. I know where we are and what we're up against.

The next paragraph is NOT a transition and while it also is well-written -- I can totally see it, and as I read I'm cringing because I don't want to step on anything sharp -- if I were Mandy I would break it down into more active pieces with some dialogue. We're not on a bridge here, we're on the other side, ready for action.

So instead of:

    My feet stepped into water as we reached the final level, the unrecognizable room flooded, water and dust mixing into mud. We waded through it, our bare feet stinging as we stepped on broken things that we couldn’t see to avoid beneath the murky water. 

Mandy, you might want to go with something like:

    When we  reached the final level, the room was flooded. Unrecognizable. I stepped right into the water and dust that mixed into mud.

    "Do we go in?" SOMEBODY whispered.

    "I don't think we have a choice," I said.

    As soon as I took the first step, though, I wished we did have one. My bare feet stung as I stepped on broken things I couldn't see to avoid under the murky water.  From the way SOMEBODY yelped, I knew she was experiencing the same thing.

See what I mean, Amanda? Amanda

Now, getting back to the whole narrative bridge thing ... this is a paragraph (or more if they're short) that takes us from the action of one scene to the action of the next. We don’t always want to (nor should we!) account for every move our protagonist makes, but at the same time we don’t want the reader to wonder where the Sam Hill he/she is when suddenly there’s a whole new setting and group of characters.

Here's an example of an effective narrative bridge:

    The next three days were an exercise in trying not to chew someone’s face off. Everything Todd said turned her nerves to barbed wire. The kids clearly sensed her tension and ramped up their own, the bickering between Caroline and Buddy reaching Trump/Clinton proportions. And her mother was, well, her mother. Ellie was actually considering calling Rock Doc for some Valium when the email finally came.

You don't ALWAYS need one. Sometimes it's obvious that you've moved from one thing to the next.  A narrative bridge DOES work well when you’re moving from one scene to another AND (1) some considerable time has passed, (2) the place has changed, and/or (3) something has occurred that needs to be mentioned but doesn’t need an actual scene of its own.

When you do write a narrative bridge, here's what to include:

  • An indication of where we are
  • An indication of how much time has passed
  • An indication of who’s there and what they’re doing
  • A mention of anything that’s happened in the gap that’s not just the usual teeth-brushing, dinner-cooking, treadmill-running kind of thing

It should sound:

  • like the  same voice you use in the rest of the novel
  • which is  the voice of the protagonist even if you’re using the third person
  • and NOT like you the author.

For instance --

    NO: Michael had a hard time waiting for Cheryl to call him. Two weeks passed before she did. “Hello?” he said anxiously into his cell phone.

    YES:   Two weeks passed before Michael heard from Cheryl again. Two long. Tortuous. Weeks. He didn’t pass them sitting with his cell phone in his hand, waiting for the special ring tone he’d set up for her. That would have been really pathetic. It just so happened that when the call came through, his mobile was on his lap. Pure coincidence.

Just remember that you’re telling a story, and you want the telling to be clear and delicious and smooth. One way to check your narrative bridges is to have someone read them who hasn’t read the previous scene and ask your reader to tell you where and when the new scene is happening.

This came to me when I was vacuuming this morning (the only reason I do mindless household tasks is because that's when ideas come to me; it has nothing to do with a penchant for cleanliness) ... where was I? Oh, yeah, I was vacuuming and I realized that when we write, transitions don't just happen. We really have to shape them carefully or nobody knows what's happening. It's the same when we're in life transitions like the ones we talked about Friday, and like the one LILY wrote about in her comment. Lily and me    We can't just wait for the change to happen, because it probably won't and then we end up with what Thoreau called "lives of quiet desperation." We have to shape them too -- and that's what this month of August is about for us as a writerly community.

So will you do any or all of these things?

  • If you want us to look at a narrative bridge, just email it to me and we'll give it a go.
  • If you're in a life transition, tell us about it. HANNAH definitely is. Babies will take you there whether you're ready or not!  Hannah and baby

 * If you need help getting THROUGH said life transition, let us know. 

We won't try to fix anything. I'll just take what you give us and hopefully provide some ideas and inspiration. As always, I'll go first so you know it's safe. Can't wait for Wednesday to share a new step I'm taking. See you then.

 

Blessings, Nancy

  


Transitions: From Here to Where?

Bridge 1Hey, Writerly Women. I'm loving your feedback on AMANDA's excerpt, posted Wednesday, August 1. If you'd like to support Mandy with a comment, go for it. Monday I'll put in my two cents and offer some guidance on transitions in our writing.

 Since the topic of said transitions is our theme for August, I'd like to get some input from you on the whole life changes thing. Here's what I mean.

  •    It's easy to recognize when you're going through a big ol' sea change. Graduating from college or grad school. Getting married. Having a baby. (Like HANNAH, MEGAN and SCOTIA all recently did. I was beginning to think it had something to do with being in my mentoring program!) Changing careers. Moving. Breaking up. Those are definitely transitions, and if you're going through one and you want to share, we'd love to hear.  Bridge 2  

But there are also the more subtle shifts. Going from unquestioning faith to having some doubts. Moving from a smooth relationship with your family of origin to one more fraught with conflict. Finding yourself less satisfied with old hang-out friends, craving deeper relationships. Being increasingly restless, uncomfortable, uneasy or just plain bored with things as they are, without really knowing why.  Care to tell us about that?  

This being a writing community, why am I asking you to basically bare your soul?

Two reasons, actually.

One: When your life changes, the kind of writing you do may change -- and that's worth looking at. Maybe as a teen and twenty-something you were all about writing fantasy, but some recent alterations in your circumstances might have you wanting to write in a more head-on way. Or as a just-turned-40 in the midst of a career you were all about contemporary women's fiction, but now, with grandkids in the picture, the tender whimsy of children's literature is more attractive to you.

Mysti at retreatTwo: That's not just a matter of genre. When stuff happens, you discover new strengths as well as new vulnerabilities. You stumble on emotions you didn't know were lurking in your soul. You recognize a different way of thinking. A fresh team of demons appears on the scene to be battled with. All of that changes your writing because you are changed.

 All that to say, I think that as we're crossing the bridges we can:

    * write deeper

    *  write "realer"

    *  write in ways that can better serve other people who will have to make those same transitions, whether the shifts are interior or exterior

 That's why I'm asking you to look at your bridges, your changes, your transitions and possibly share them with us. We'll use those stories this month to talk about career moves in this writerly life, turning points in our own and our characters' lives, and more and more ways we can shape our writing ministries to serve a world that is always, always in transition.

I'll go first. I'm transitioning in a couple of ways. I'm doing far more mentoring than writing now, and that has been a huge change after 30-some years of back-to-back contracts. I'm shifting back to finding better balance, because if I don't create, I'll shrivel. I'm also accepting some health issues that are temporarily limiting but in the long term are making me more aware and more intentional about the way I take care of this body. Fragility and vulnerability and surrender are new themes I'm going to be writing about, and maybe in some new ways. I like "maybe" ...

Will you share? That might be a shift for you. Please know this is a safe place for it.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue   

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Transitions: In Writing, In Life

Madisons camera october 9 037 (2) m and boys sepiaHey, my fellow writerly women. It's been a while, hasn't it? My absence has definitely not been not due to lack of thought of all of you, believe me. I guess the best way to explain it is to say I've been in "transition". Does that resonate with anyone? I'm sure you've had them:

    * from the dreamy idealism of the late teens to the stinging slap of the early twenties that wakes you up to adulthood

  •     * from the lull of a relationship to the sharp state of singleness, or vice versa
  •     * from the rote following of religion to the bright walk of real faith 

I could go on, but you get the idea, right? Me? I've been in transition from energetic, I-got-this health to a state of mindfulness of my physical fragility. I'm on a healing journey and it's worth it and I'm learning tons -- seriously, TONS -- but it's taken time and energy that I would have ordinarily used to be here with you, sharing and developing the writing life. Now that I have a direction, I think I can be present more. Are you up for a re-start?

An idea for us came to me in one of those times when I was lying still with my eyes closed but not sleeping (who DOES that? apparently I do now!). We'll have a monthly theme, one that touches not only our writing, which is what brings us together, but our creativity as a whole and our very lives. We can't really separate those things out from each other anyway, so why not go with it?

For August, that theme is the aforementioned TRANSITIONS. We'll start with those places in our writing when we've left a pretty intense or significant or active or downright hilarious scene and we need to move to the next one -- but we don't know how to get there without accounting for every mundane moment of the protagonist's life in between. AMANDA -- who is probably the youngest among us but certainly not the least talented, as you'll see -- has asked us to look at a bridge scene she's written. Her questions:

    1. How do I not lose my momentum during these scenes?

    2. How long should they be?

So let's do this. If you'd like to support Amanda, read her excerpt below and in a comment (a) tell what you like about the scene and (b) give her feedback of 1 to 5, 5 being the clearest and 1 beinAmandag the foggiest in terms of getting us from one scene to the next without bogging. 

I give you Amanda King, Author of the Future:     

      The workhouse was eerily quiet, completely abandoned except for the three of us. We followed him down the three levels, the iron stairs intact but precariously unstable as we stepped over debris. Everything was shattered, broken beyond hopes of repair, plaster and stone crumbling little by little. Whatever the Mountain did next would surely be the end of this building forever. This place had been my home for almost my entire life, but I wouldn’t miss an inch of it. It would be better off in ruins.

    My feet stepped into water as we reached the final level, the unrecognizable room flooded, water and dust mixing into mud. We waded through it, our bare feet stinging as we stepped on broken things that we couldn’t see to avoid beneath the murky water. The main door had been thrown aside, and dim light shone through. The Knight exited, and we followed him out into the open. We stood in a ravine, the rows of workhouses rising up on either side of us, built into the mountain. The other buildings were in similar disarray, and as the dust was beginning to settle, I could faintly see a group of the other slaves, all silently huddled together as they traveled down the road away from the mountain. They were escaping this place, those who had survived; they were free now. I could have been with them, I realized as I stared after them wistfully. We had been so close to being free, but we had missed our chance. 

Here's our plan:

    * I'll give you a few days to respond to Amanda. Even if you just give her a number I know she'll appreciate that.

    * Meanwhile, I'll do another post this week asking for your input on transitions in our lives, which will provide fuel for future posts

    * Early next week, I'll post my response to Amanda's excerpt and offer some guidelines for writing narrative bridges.

Sully's bridge

If you have a transition excerpt or a how-do-I get-from-here-to-there issue you'd like for us to take a look at, with subsequent feedback from me, please email it to me.  

Before I go, a couple of victories to celebrate:

    MEGAN GONZALEZ has had her third YA novel, Salty Crisps, accepted by Clean Reads, which will be out as early as December 2018. This completes the trilogy of Sketchy Tacos and Bubbly Schnitzel.

   
    LILY and SUSAN have both completed final drafts of their first novels. MARGIE has finished her first draft.   JENNIFER and CAYLENE have completed the first draft of a project they've been working on together since last year's Young Women Writers Retreat. 

    DEB HAYES has launched I Can Do Stuff . Check it out: (there's a funky video of me if you scroll down ...) Just click here. You are going to want to be part of this. 

    GLORIA  now has a writing gig with long time author Bill Myers, which I'll have her tell you about in a comment. She was also a star at the recent Glen Eyrie Writers Conference ...  (word to the wise: never volunteer to participate in a Tim Shoemaker keynote) Gloria and tim

    DARLO GEMEINHARDT has signed a three-book contract for her At the Crossroads Series with Little Lamb Publishers, the first of which is entitled Abra-Cadaver Dog. How fun does that sound? 

If I've missed a milestone you've shared with me, let me know and I'll put it out there so we can all go, "Yay, rah!" If you have one you haven't told me about, what the heck's been stoppin' ya? Let's hear it, girl! 

It is good to be back with you. Thanks for being here to come back TO. Together, let's transition from writers alone to a community of creators. Yes. Let's do that. 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue