Spring into Action, Part Five: Hoe Your Row

This has been a great month of planting seeds. Hopefully, you’ve taken the time to do that and you have some momentum going. It’s easier for a moving object to continue moving than for a stationary object to try to start moving. So, don’t stop. Keep moving forward. Hoe your row.

You want to care for your emotional garden so that you will have healthy emotions, and plenty of them. In this extra Saturday in March, let’s wrap this lesson up by me giving you a few tips on things you can do to keep your emotions healthy, particularly as you write.

  • Remember that writers can be very sensitive and that may cause you to feel things more deeply than others would.
  • When you feel those negative emotions, you must tend to them right away. Pluck those weeds out of your garden immediately and replace them with healthy seeds.
  • Water your emotions frequently by reading great books (I highly recommend the Bible), getting encouragement from your friends and fellow writers. Tell yourself that you are a good writer and reinforce that with practice and development of your craft.
  • When nothing seems to be happening outwardly, know there is a miracle taking place inside you. Let it happen.
  • Do NOT listen to the voice that comes as a thief in the night when it tells you you’ll be emotionally barren. Know that the seeds are there and will produce fruit!
  • Let the fruit ripen on the vine. Don’t try to pluck it too soon. Artificial ripening never leaves a good taste in your mouth.

I’m confident you have inside you the ingredients to produce success in your life and in your writing career. It’s not easy being the farmer of your garden but you can do it. Keep hoeing your row. I promise you, the harvest will be well worth the effort.

If you haven’t planted those emotional seeds of success, don’t worry. There’s still time. Plant them now. You owe it to yourself to take the time to do this. You’ll be glad you did.

I’d be thrilled for you to share your experience with me. How did the planting go? Did your feet get wet when you watered the seeds? Did you have to pull a lot of weeds? Email me at reba@mybooktherapy.com. I’d love to hear.


Links to Other Posts: Spring Into Action Part One: Plant Seeds of Success


Dr. Reba J. Hoffman, Member Care CoachReba J. Hoffman is the MBT Member Care Coach. She has a PhD in clinical counseling and is the founder and president of New Hope Institute of Counseling. Reba uses her gift of encouragement to help writers overcome negative emotions so they can live their dream of being a writer. Her works appear in publications such as Running for the Woman’s Soul by Road Runner Sports and The Good Fight by Donna Hicken. She is the author of My Book Therapy’s Dare to Dream, a Writer’s Journal. Contact her at reba@mybooktherapy.com.

Frasier deadline is Saturday!

Tomorrow’s the big day, peeps…the deadline for the MBT Frasier Contest!

The Frasier Contest is MBT’s annual contest for unpublished writers. Entry is simple – the first 1,500 words of your novel and a 500-word synopsis. Just click here to submit your piece.

Okay, so maybe you’ve heard us talking about the Frasier Contest for the past couple months. Maybe you’re waffling, not sure whether or not you should enter. Would you like my advice? (I’m going to give it regardless, sooo…)

Do it! Enter!

Here’s the deal: Whether you’re a complete newbie or you’ve already got a couple stories under your belt or even if you’ve had a manuscript request from agents and editors and just haven’t nabbed that contract yet…this contest is for you. The whole goal of the Frasier is to move you closer to publication.

The perks are plenty:

  • The opportunity to put to test what you’ve learned through MBT? Check.
  • Feedback from trained book therapists and industry experts? Check.
  • The prize possibility – a free MBT retreat! Check.

This year’s final round judging panel is superb: Karen Ball, literary agent with the Steve Laube Agency; Stephanie Broene, acquisitions editor with Tyndale House Publishing; and of course, award-winning author Susan May Warren. Finalists will be announced in June and the winner recognized at the 2012 MBT Pizza Party/Frasier Awards during the annual ACFW Conference in September.

So what are you waiting for? You’ve got ‘til 11:50 PST on Saturday, March 31, to enter. Polish that scene. Submit your entry.

And then give yourself a hearty pat on the back.

That is, if you’re, um, flexible that way.

Let Your Characters Tell the Story

A few years ago Susie and I were writing books with very high concept premises. Or is it premii?

She was writing RITA finalist My Foolish Heart. I was writing Dining with Joy. The former was about a radio host for the lovelorn who’d never been on a date. The latter about a cooking show host who couldn’t cook.

Great ideas. Great pitch lines. Easy to see and understand. But when we were writing, the premise itself became paralyzing. We dubbed those books the ones with the paralyzing premise. High concept is great. Almost necessary in today’s publishing world. But writing them can be a challenge because you’ll always wonder, “Am I capturing the premise well?”

In Dining with Joy, not only did I have to explain how and why she was a cooking show host who didn’t cook, but I had to capture the elements of “dining with joy” and the impact of food on the human body, heart and mind. Most people laughed when I gave them my premise. So, it had to be funny.

I found myself bending the characters and the concept every which way in order to “get” what I was trying to do. And it was… trying!

Same with Susie in My Foolish Heart. She had to fit the characters into her premise. This can also happen if an author is retelling a fairytale or a great play. Maybe a movie or Biblical story like Francine Rivers in Redeeming Love. Though you have a great premise, the characters HAVE to be the story tellers.

In my current WIP about a prince who falls for an American girl, I’m more or less telling the Cinderella story. But without the ugly and evil step mother and sisters. Without my heroine being oppressed and put upon.

I realized I can’t write that kind of heroine well. So if Cinderella had been my premise, I’d be all kinds of twisted and stretched to retell that story.

Instead, I let my hero and heroine tell the story and weave in fairytale aspects as I can. I keep with the very high concept of Cinderella – a working girl captures the heart of the prince. But the rest of the story is all  mine.

If you’re writing with a high or classic premise, you still have to do ALL the character and back story work to create “living and breathing” characters that pop on the page and TELL the story. In other words, your premise cannot do the work for you. Premise don’t tell stories. Characters do.

So, here are a few tips.

  1. Do all your character back story work. I highly recommend the Book Buddy for this exercise.
  2. Keep the premise as a guiding light but let the characters tell the story. Let them change the story even.
  3. If you’re retelling a classic, keep the main concepts but let the rest be fluid. For example, if I’m retelling Cinderella, I keep working girl, nothing going right for her, invited to “meet the prince,” some supernatural provision and a happily ever after. The rest is mine to change and create, make unique.
  4. There might be legitimate premise points you need the character to make. Good! Make sure the motivation is there. If you’re retelling Romeo and Juliet, Juliet must proclaim WHY she loves Romeo. We must see them fall in love.
  5. Understand the reader may not perceive your awesome high concept or understand your fab retelling of a classic story. So make your book about your characters. Let them tell the reader the classic or high concept inspiration. Let it come from their own lips.

Rachel Hauck is the best-selling, award winning author of over 15 novels. Her latest, The Wedding Dress appears in bookstores in April. Rachel serves My Book Therapy as the lead MBT Therapist and excels in assisting aspiring authors to find their story and voice via her one-on-one book coaching.

The Next Step: Putting your Phone to Work!

Hi Everyone!  My name is Alena Tauriainen and I’m a newbie writer. It’s true, I’m addicted.

I’ve started this amazing journey to write.  Do you find this journey fun yet difficult?  That’s my experience so far. With four children, a spouse, school and a family business to keep up, time is of the essence. Once I discovered this desire to write, I had to get creative in finding time to learn the craft and actually write.

We all have the same twenty-four hours in a day, but some days I blink and the day is over.  I’ve had to be inventive to find the time, ANY time to learn and to write.

I was so very excited with my latest discovery.

Smart Phones!!! I have an HTC Android and I figured out how to listen to the Pep Talk while driving.  Most of us can listen while driving to complete errands or while your commuting to and from work.

Do you have a smart phone?   An unlimited data plan with internet?

Great!  You can do this too!

Pull up www.mybooktherapy.com and sign in with your log in name and password. Once there, click into Chat & Pep Talk section (bottom right hand side of page) and select Pep Talk you want.

Now, word of caution! First, please don’t attempt to watch and drive.   Umm, we want you to finish the novel alive. Secondly, set this all up before you pull out and start driving.  It will take a few moments before starting.  Oh, and if you have too much background noise.  Plug in the smart phone via an auxiliary cord (which can be purchased for about ten bucks), to your car stereo system.

Give it a try and tell me what you think!


Alena Tauriainen


A romance novel addict, Alena juggles life in the family business while mothering four zany kids. She ponders the beginning aspects of a writer’s life while enjoying real life with her family.