Special Life Coach Blog Post: Your Declaration of Independence!

Two Hundred Thirty-six years ago, a group of individuals determined they wanted to live a life independently of the queen’s rule. They came up with a plan. Their resolve was so strong, they made bold statements such as, “give me liberty, or give me death!”

The so believed in their dream, they were not deterred. Roadblocks were obliterated. Enemies were crushed and they gallantly fought for what they knew was their destiny. Their cry was freedom. Nothing stopped them and, when the last musket fired and the last redcoat retreated, the United States of America was born.

I know you have a dream of being a published author… or at least a writer. You think of it often. That desire ignited a flame inside you. But something is holding you back. You want to be free to live your dream, but you remain under the rule of something or someone. It’s time for a revolution! It’s time to declare your independence!

Our forefathers were writers, too. In their first book, the Declaration of Independence, they wrote that YOU have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Being a writer makes you happy. I can’t believe you hate it and you’re torturing yourself. If our founding fathers wrote you the right to pursue what makes you happy, why wouldn’t you? I salute those who paved the way for you and me because they gave us a roadmap to follow in our own pursuit.

1) Believe in your dream purely and wholly. You will find all sorts of strength to fight for what you believe in.

2) Recruit those who believe in your dream. Yes, contrary to what you may have been led to believe, there are those out there who support your cause of being an author.

3) Write it down. If you believe in something so strongly knowing it will change your life forever, you better take the time to write it down. Declare it!

4) Fight for it. You must be willing to fight for what you believe in. Sometimes you’ll know the enemy at the end of your emotional musket who has taken up arms against your cause. Be willing to stand up for what you believe in.

I’m proud to be an American. I would take up arms this minute and fight for the freedom of the citizens of this great nation. I would lay down my life to ensure our country remains the land of free and home of the brake.

I’m also proud to be a writer and I will fight to my death for your right to string prose together in meaningful fashion. I believe in you, your dream, and your story. As a writer, you have the inalienable right to the pursuit of prose.

Write Your Declaration of Independence Today! Pursue it with all that’s in you and you will be free!

 ***

Dr. Reba J. Hoffman, Member Care CoachReba J. Hoffman is a natural encourager and Member Care Coach at My Book Therapy. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Counseling and is the founder of Magellan Life Coaching (www.magellanlifecoaching.com). She is the author of Dare to Dream, a Writer’s Journal published by My Book Therapy. She also publishes a motivational and encouraging blog, FindingTrue North. Contact Reba at reba@magellanlifecoaching.com.

So You Want to be A Writer? Well, What Should You Write?

I love writing. I love words. I started doodling in a little girl’s diary when I was six years old.

I read every night before bed all through elementary and junior high school. Biographies were my favorite.

But I never focused my writing. I wrote from my heart about my life. Writing a set story was harder. Because it required discipline.

As a journalism major, I had to learn to write within the rules or guidelines. I had to write factual and objective. Back in the ‘80s, journalist were taught to be objective. It was the pride of the profession.

The discipline combined with my natural bent toward writing gave me confidence. I once told a colleague I could write about a pile of dirt if required.

Yet when I started writing novels, I had to figure out what I wanted to write and how. I was reading a lot of WWII historicals so that was my first attempt at fiction.

As I read more and more of the budding CBA fiction titles, I felt drawn to romance. Maybe because I thought they would be easier to write? I don’t know but looking back, romance and love stories is really where my heart goes.

I’m not a romantic per say. My husband is not a romantic. But I just love a good love story. It inspires me to love more, love deeper, love well.

After writing three Heartsong Presents and a novella, I had to figure out where I was taking my career. I had a few less romantic stories in mind. Chick lit didn’t last long enough for me to make a splash but romantic suspense was a growing market in the mid 2000s.

But I didn’t want to write suspense. I liked reading it I just didn’t want to write it. So I had to sit down and figure out what kind of stories were me.

Same goes for you all. Whether you’re just starting out or close to publication, perhaps even published but looking for the next idea, you have to know who you are and write from your heart.

Novelist Maria Geraci said in a recent workshop I attended, “Write the novel only you can write.”

If we were all assigned the same story characters and plot, we’d all come away with a completely different story. There are no new ideas really, just new ways to tell them.

Here’s how you can find out what draws your heart to a story.

  1. List your favorite movies. Don’t be shy, list 5 – 10 titles.
  2. After you’ve listed your favorite movies, write down why they are your favorite. Why do you love the hero and the heroine? What theme or moral lesson is conveyed in the plot and characters?
  3. What moves your heart about the movie? What made you sigh at the end and gush, “That was so good.”
  4. Next, list your favorite books. List 5 – 10 titles.
  5. You know the drill from here. List why they are your favorites. What did you love about the hero, the heroine? What theme or moral premise impacted you?
  6. What movies or books inspired you to write when you finished watching or reading? Why?
  7. What moves your heart. As soon as you see an advertisement of X book, or X movie, YOU know you want to see/read it. List those here.
  8. Now, pair your heroes, heroines, themes, type of stories and see what you get. I always get Sandra Bullock kind of heroine with a Ryan Reynolds/Taylor Kitsch macho man with a tender heart kind of hero. My stories are always of hope, destiny and redemption. And some kind of supernatural encounter with Jesus.
  9. What are your passions? What gets you going? I’m all about destiny. I want people to fulfill the call of God on their life. I hate when people are limited or hampered. So many of my stories are about achieving dreams and destinies.
  10. What’s your best writing voice? I discovered my voice by writing chick lit. When I moved from first person back to third, I was able to take my “chick” voice with me. Over time, with the help of great editors, I was able to mature the voice. I merged a bit with a literary voice I’d come to love and well.. that’s where I am today. Next book, I’ll have more practice and tools to help my writing voice. So will you.

 

Take some time to figure out what you love. A good romantic comedy and I’m there! As long as it’s not too raunchy. A good drama with tension and snappy dialog, I’m there. A literary tale delving into the lives of the people and character, the culture, I’m there.

What gets you out of the house for a movie? What moves you to skip sleep to read a book? Find that in your inner core and you’ll find the kind of stories you were meant to tell.

For some writers, many kinds of stories fascinate them. But if you’re starting out or just building your brand, stay with the story tone and voice you love best. Don’t ask what you can write. Ask what you can NOT write. You have to write this kind of story? Yeah? Write that!

***

Rachel Hauck, My Book Therapy, The Craft and Coaching Community for NovelistsBest-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She excels in seeing the deeper layers of a story. With a love for teaching and mentoring, Rachel comes alongside writers to help them craft their novel. A worship leader, board member of ACFW and popular writing teacher, Rachel is the author of over 15 novels. She lives in Florida with her husband and her dog, Lola. Contact her at: Rachel@mybooktherapy.com.

 

Don’t Get Blogged Down

This may seem like a odd topic, but I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately about how some of you are following so many blogs you don’t have time to write. Of course I’m also hearing from some who haven’t committed to following any blogs because of a fear that there won’t be any time to write.

Either extreme will blog…er…bog down your career.

All kidding aside, as a writer it’s vitally important to continue your education. And blogs can be an extremely efficient way to do this. I can hear the chorus of complaints now.

There are millions of blogs out there—how do I find one that’s worthwhile?

How do I narrow down my choices—do I have to read hundreds to find one that fits what I need?

Where do I start looking—it’s gonna be like finding a needle in a haystack!

Enough already.

Finding high quality blogs that pertain to your situation are just not that hard to find. You find a good blog the same way you find a good book. Think about it, we’ve been shopping for books for years, choosing from millions of titles, and finding success.

  • First, look for recommendations from people you trust.
  • Second, most blogs have blog lists as a part of their layout. If you like blogger A and he likes blogger D, chances are you ought to give blogger D a try.
  • Third, look for blogs from familiar people. Now days, most bloggers have or are at least affiliated with more than one blog.

So how do you manage following blogs and keep from eating into valuable writing time?

I have a plan for that too. I like to use a three-tiered approach.

  • I start with three to five blogs that I follow regularly. These are blogs I almost always read.
  • Then I have a second level of six to eight blogs that I watch closely. I read these about one half of the time and I decide when by paying close attention to the subject lines and titles of the posts.
  • Finally I have a third level of about twelve to fifteen blogs that I watch the subject lines and titles and read when they sound interesting.

This is the method that works for me. I’d love to hear how you manage your blog life.

***

Edie Melson, My Book Therapy, The Craft and Coaching Community for NovelistsEdie Melson is a freelance writer and editor with over 16 years experience in the publishing industry, with her popular writing blog, The Write Conversation. Edie has become known as one of the go-to experts on Twitter, Facebook, and social media for writers wanting to learn how to plug in. Her bestselling e-book, Social Media Marketing for Writers, is available on Kindle and Nook. Edie is also the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and Southwest Christian Writers Studio, as well as a popular faculty member at numerous others. Edie is also the Assistant Acquisitions Editor for www.ChristianDevotions.us. Her devotional book, Fighting Fear, Winning the War at Home, debuts on Veterans Day, 2011. (www.winningthewarathome.com) Contact her at:socialmedia@mybooktherapy.com.

Quick Skills: Inserting the 5 Senses into your Storyworld

I am a “List and Schedule” girl – I like to have a checklist when I build a scene to make sure I’ve inserted everything into it that I can to give it the strongest emotional impact.

One of those checklists, and something commonly missed are the five senses.  To really draw your Storyworld, you need to use your five senses to engage the reader’s emotions. Sight. Smell. Sound. Touch.Taste. When you walk into a room, all your senses are a part of your understanding of that scene.

Before you sit down to write, make a sensory list of everything you perceive in that scene. You’ll use it as a “cheat sheet” as you build the scene.

Sight, of course, is what a scene is usually built on, but remember those specific, mood-enhancing details we talked about yesterday.

Smell: It’s a huge memory tool, and, just like you, your character will remember scents and/or odors.

How do you write about a smell?

  1. How it makes us feel:  nauseating, intoxicating, makes our stomach turn over, etc.
  2. You can describe in terms of other smells – like comparisons

(Think like a perfumer.   Minty.  Floral.  Earthy.   Or a wine taster.  Nutty, fruity, oaky.

  1. Confine the smell to a place or time:   The jovial freshness of the fourth of July, grilled hotdogs, cinnamon apple pie, and the tangy sweetness of a bomb pomp.

Familiarize yourself with scent words:  Musty, sweaty, sickly sweet, acrid, pungent…

And you can combine them all:

The prunes turned my stomach over even before I saw them, a dark, oily mass that stenched the room with the pungent odor of engine grease and hickory coals, and conjured up images of my uncle’s dirt-floored garage behind his house.

Sound: Rarely is there a place without some noise in it, yet we often don’t read about it or hear it in a scene. Imagine watching a movie with the sound off – this is what happens when you don’t put sound into a book.  Sound, probably more than anything, can bring a scene to life.

 

The wind from this black – sometime green sea – moaned in his ears, burned his throat.

Around him, the foreign syllables gnawed at his ears.

The whistle blew, a high shrill that never failed to make him wince. 

I’ve used a couple different techniques here:

  1.  State the sound directly:  The whistle blew.  We understand what that sounds like.
  2. Give it a surprising modifier:

The wind moaned in his ears.  (verb)

The voice raked over him like a storm wave, gritty, cold, even violent as it turned him.   (simile)

The buzzing turned into a hum, then a rumble as Dino found his feet, propped his hands over his eyes.  Two Stukas dropped from the clouds, set on a course for the hospital.  (adjectives)

  1. Give it context – tell how it is heard:

Markos would know the song anywhere, but especially the way it lifted above the rush of the waves, more like a feeling than a tune, seasoned with the tang of the sea, the jangle of goat’s bells in the far off hills.

  1. Use Onomatopoeia effect – help us to feel the sound by reproducing the sound on the page.  (not Ring ring goes the phone).

The sound of bedroom slippers moving on carpet might be the hush of slippers, or the whisper of slippers. 

A deep thrumming rumbled his bones…

The thunderous gulp of the cave…

Help us to hear it.

Touch: We touch people and things every day.  The sense of touch is about slowing the act down for us to feel it, to recognize it, and to give an emotional component.  Your character can rub her hand on the soft, worn leather of a desk chair or dig her fingers into the rough bark of an oak tree.

Shards of ice cut his skin even as he laid there, breathing in blades of air.

Markos speared the water.  The cool lick of it scooped his breath, slicked from his body the heat of the day.  

The kind of chill he couldn’t flee pressed into his bones, turned him brittle.

The touch should connect us emotionally to the scene, and to the description.

Taste: We taste things in our memory. Your heroine could taste her fear. She tasted her past, the memory of sitting in the kitchen with her mother, sneaking cookie dough out of the bowl.

This works in conjunction with Smell as a memory element.

You can use taste 2 ways:  Literally and Figuratively

Literally:

  1. Say what it is:  Sweet, sour, bitter, salty.
  2. Tell the effect of it…..the sweetly bitter chocolate dissolved into my mouth, flooding  every cranny until my eyes nearly rolled back into my head.
  3. Attach the taste to a memory:  The taste of my grandmother’s kitchen, her chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the freezer, better licked than crunched, the sweetness slicking off onto our eager tongues, dissolving into our mouths as we grinned chocolate.

Figuratively:  We can taste fear, joy, hope, love.

She could taste their tomorrows in his kiss.

You can slurp up the salty air of the ocean, or drink in a tangy summer evening.   The innocence of a baby’s skin, the hot fever of a concert hall.  Here’s an example from Sons of Thunder. 

“Is there a radio in here?”

            The voice roused him as he lay on his side, wedged into the short length of the spongy lounge davenport. His neck screamed when he pushed to a sitting position, the hot seams of the vinyl drawn into his face. His mouth tasted as if he’d chewed on cotton batting. 

A great scene has all five senses embedded in a way that adds emotional nuance.

Quick Skills: Write you scene, and then, in the rewrite, meticulous craft in the five senses, adding the subtle emotional layer.

Have a great writing week!

Susie May

P.S. As you might already know, MBT is now offering an advanced membership with access to our full library, advanced teaching through webinars and video talk shows and a monthly advanced class.  This week, in our Member Peptalk, we’re diving into storyworld to apply these techniques.  For more info, check out:  www.mybooktherapy.com/join-the-team/.