It’s About the Journey, Not the Destination

Almost daily I speak to writers who pine for publication. They figure once they get there, they will have arrived. They’ll be where they always wanted to be. Sadly, I also know published authors who look back with an emptiness that haunts them. Why? They were so concerned about the destination of publication, they forgot to enjoy the trip.

It reminds me of a bicycling event in central Florida I rode once. The route took riders right by the space shuttle on launch pad 39-A at Cape Canaveral, as well as the largest known eagle’s nest in the United States. The roadway was cut right through coastal marsh land, providing a natural home for the alligators, snakes and countless water fowl.

At the end of the event, I listened as a group of riders standing close by recounted their trip.

“Wasn’t the view of the space shuttle marvelous?” A female rider exclaimed, hardly able to contain her exuberance.

“What space shuttle?” a fellow rider asked.

“You didn’t see it? We rode right by it.”

“The only thing I saw was the backside of the rider in front of me. I didn’t care anything about the sites. I was riding for the finish line.”

This was not the Tour de France. We were all amateur cyclists who paid money to ride in this event. It didn’t matter who got across the finish line first or last. Yet, this rider was so focused on getting the ride completed, he missed out on the greatest truth of the ride: It’s about the journey, not the destination.

Your author’s journey is as well. You may get to your desired destination. Perhaps not, but either way, if you enjoy the trip, you’ll get to wherever you wind up much happier and more fulfilled than if you focus solely on the destination of publication.

Look, we don’t have control over those things. Most of us don’t have any pull with publishers and we certainly don’t control market conditions. We can’t stand in Barnes and Noble forcing shoppers to buy books to boost the bottom line.

Nothing in life turns out exactly the way even your best ideas are planned. Don’t believe me? Think back to your last vacation or family reunion. I rest my case.

Your destination of any trip, journey, goal or event is one moment in time out of thousands of other precious moments that tick away faster than we can blink. It would be so sad for you to get to your destination—even your desired one—and realize that a huge chunk of precious time slipped under the bridge of life without you even noticing it. So, slow down, look around and take in the many splendors of this marvelous journey you’re taking down the writing road. Enjoy each moment while it’s there. You’ll be glad you did.

Ten Tips to Tightening Your Middle — Your Story Middle That Is!

DropTheBomb Lessons from Our P90X The Middle of Your Story. Taught at ACFW 2013.

1. Drop the Bomb! — Don’t hold out on the “big” reveal or what you think is the big story point if your story calls for it to be done now. Otherwise, you’ll write in circles. In Dining with Joy, I wanted the black moment to be when Joy was outed on public TV as a fraud. But by the middle of the book, I knew I had to drop the bomb THEN. So I did. Then I could develop a new black moment fitting the story.

2. Tell the Secret! — Find a juicy secret in your characters you didn’t know existed when you started. When writing Softly and Tenderly with Sara Evans, I discovered that our bad boy Rebel Benson not only knew of his wife’s affair, but doubted his paternity of their son. Wow! It was a game changer for me.

3. Add a bit! — Do something funny. Have a layer that creates humor, or even tension. In the movie, The Proposal, the little white puppy, Kevin, was “a bit.” The screenwriter used him three times to cause humorous tension for Margaret Tate.

4. Secondary characters. — Layer in those secondary characters. Your protagonist needs friends and/or family to talk to!

5. Bring in a new problem (Peripheral Plotting) (Story Layering!) — Add a problem for a secondary character that impacts the protagonist.

6. Do the unexpected! (Make up something or someone wild!) — Again in Softly and Tenderly, I sent my wounded and betrayed heroine, Jade, on a road trip with her dying mother, spurned mother-in-law in a ’65 pink Cadillac!

7. Cause and Effect. — Remember every cause has an effect. In other words, if you have a action, have a reaction. Don’t forget to weave those story and emotional layers.

8. Avoid circular writing. (See drop the bomb.) — The reader doesn’t need three chapters of the heroine deciding if she wants to go out with the hero. One or two scenes is enough. But the third scene, up the tension by raising the stakes if she goes out with him. Or, if she refuses!

9. Ramp up the dialog. (Tell the story between the quotes.) — I say “tell the story between the quotes.” This means, let the juicy tidbits and information come out of the mouths of the characters, not be “told” in prose. Why? Because then the other characters can react and this ramps up your tension.

10. Research. — You can find out all kinds of good things that will layer and add depth to your novels, especially in the middle as the plot thickens. Dig deep for those tidbits.

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RachelCloseUPBest-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 17 novels. She lives in Florida with her husband and  dog.

Contact her at: Rachel@mybooktherapy.com. Her latest release is Once Upon A Prince. Go forth and write!

Do you need help with your story idea, synopsis or proposal?How about some one-on-one craft coaching. Check out our menu of services designed to help you advance your writing dreams.

What’s Wrong with my manuscript?

There comes a time in every writer’s life when we face the question: What’s wrong with my manuscript?

 “What’s wrong?” is not a bad question. We strive to tell the best story we can. During rewrites, we need to know what’s working – dialogue or Storyworld maybe – but what’s not working can overshadow your moments of brilliance.

Today, MBT Retreats Coordinator Alena Tauriainen and MBT Skills Coach Beth Vogt wrestle with the question What’s wrong with my manuscript?

 Beth Vogt: Like anybody else, I love to hear what’s working with my stories. When someone says my dialogue is strong, I do a little mental dance and say, “Oh, yes!” But I also want to know what is falling flat – and the best way to find out is to get feedback from someone else. There are a variety of ways to get help – but you have to know what you’re asking for.

When I ask for feedback, I always delineate between “Big Picture” feedback and “Fine Line” feedback. Big Picture means I’m looking for things like flow, character development, areas where I’ve confused a reader, things like that. It also involves what My Book Therapy (MBT) defines as “craft”: key elements such as Storyworld and emotional layering. Fine Line means I’m looking for those final elements that make a manuscript shine: spelling and grammar, sentence structure and formatting. Always remember these are the mark of a professional writer too!

Alena Tauriainen: As a writer, I think I’ve conveyed the angst my characters are feeling and I think I’ve written the story in such a way so that I bring my readers on the emotional journey. What makes for character development? What kind of red flags do you look for? How can you truly know you’ve written a scene or manuscript well?

Beth Vogt: I’ll tackle your questions one at a time, Alena.

Character development means that you’re writing scenes that involve more than he-said-she-said characters. You know who your characters are and you know why they act the way they do. This involves doing work before you ever write a word of your manuscript. The Book Buddy is an excellent way to develop your hero and heroine. Using this work-text by MBT founder Susan May Warren helps you determine your characters’ Dark Moments, Wounds, Lies, Noble Causes, Noble Quests, Competencies, as well as their Spiritual Journeys.

Taking a reader on an emotional journey begins with something as simple as showing not telling: Don’t tell me your heroine is cold, show me how she feels cold by having her shiver or pull her coat closer around herself. But it’s so much more than that. Best-selling author Rachel Hauck taught me to watch for these red flags in my scenes: look(ed) and watched(ed). Why? These words keep our readers at a distance in a scene: Along with the point of view (POV) character, they’re watching what’s happening. We want our readers to experience what’s happening with our characters.

I also am blessed to have two prized Preferred Readers who read through my manuscripts. They know me, my writing style, my goals for writing. They let me know what’s working and what’s not working. If they cry or laugh – at the appropriate times – then I’m doing something right. (Although that doesn’t mean I don’t need to revise.)

Alena Tauriainen:  Ahhh! I get it  — you’ve given me several ideas to think about.  The light bulb just went off.  I’ve often heard show don’t tell but your explanation makes it much clearer.

What about you?  Do you have questions about showing vs. telling?  Send them to me at retreats@mybooktherapy.com.

 

 

Social Media Minute—How Much is Too Much When it Comes to Staying Safe Online?

by Edie Melson

As writers we know the importance of developing an online presence, but is there such a thing as too much information out there?

Absolutely!

The result of too much information online can range from the irritating to the dangerous. But it is possible to be smart and still have an online presence that will garner you the right kind of reader notice.

So how much is too much to stay safe online? Anything that lets your online presence collide with your physical presence without you managing the connections.

Here are some tips to help you stay out of trouble:

  • Have boundaries firmly established in your own mind—BEFORE something happens. That way, when someone get too familiar, you’ll be ready to do more than just feel vaguely uncomfortable. So often I talk to writers who have a cyber-stalker and they’re not even certain whether they should be concerned or not.
  • Trust your instincts. I cannot emphasize this one strongly enough. If someone makes you uncomfortable, act on your feelings.
  • Don’t friend/follow/or otherwise engage someone who isn’t willing to post a picture and/or give out reasonable information. 
  • Don’t use an social media networks and/or settings where you check in at places. There is no good reason or someone to know where you are generally. If you’re at a conference or a big event, you can let people know you’re there if you choose, but don’t leave your safety to a computer program.
  • Turn OFF your location settings for your phone, digital camera, ereader and tablet. Otherwise, any picture you take with those devices could have an imbedded code that gives the latitude and longitude of where the picture was taken. This is especially true if you post pictures of children (your own or even grandkids). Don’t make it easy for a predator to map out your location.

What should you do when something makes you uncomfortable?

The biggest thing is do NOT be tempted to be polite when you’re worried. This is similar to following your instincts in that we often push down our uncomfortable feelings for the sake of being polite. If someone is tweeting to you, sending you repeated Facebook messages, or contacting you in any way that makes you uncomfortable, don’t ignore your feelings.

  • First, confront the person making you uncomfortable and request they respect your boundaries.
  • If they don’t adhere to your guidelines, immediately block them from the social media networks where they are contacting you.
  • Finally, report them to the social media network(s) where the infraction occurred.

This isn’t something you should fool around with, but it’s also something you shouldn’t be worried about. Taking these steps will keep you safe and give you the boundaries you need to stay safe online.

What steps do you take to stay safe? Have you ever felt uncomfortable by a contact? If so what did you do?