Close the Book on 2013

As the Member Care Coach at MBT, I have the privilege of ministering to you during times of need. I know many of you have faced adversity during 2013. And, I’m sure there are untold others of you who have suffered through your tragedy in silence.

I know of deaths, illnesses, disappointments, financial hardships, emotional pain and life that has gone south. We’ve prayed for so many this year, I dare say more than any other year since the MBT prayer ministry began.

The good news is that this year is rapidly growing to a close. In just a few short hours you can put the period at the end of the year and start a brand new year with a blank sheet of paper in the typewriter of life.

No matter what has happened to you in 2013, you can declare it over and start again on Wednesday. Regardless of how disappointing the events of the year turned out to be, it is now history and you can begin again with a brand new year.

I believe that 2014 will be a year of:

 Restoration: many of you have suffered loss and the climb back out seems insurmountable. But you have God on your side. And He is a God of restoration.

 Celebration: I am convinced that you who have been faithful to God and His calling on your life will have abundant reason to celebrate in the upcoming year. Seeds can only stay in the ground so long before they sprout forth a harvest.

 Dedication: Going through what you have this year, it’s challenging to muster the dedication to keep stringing words together. But God will renew your strength and you will find the will to commit to your prose in a new way.

Put the past–yes, even a very tough 2013—behind you, square your shoulders and look a brand new year right in the eye. Declare it a year of success and jubilee. Determine in your heart you will be successful.

You’re tougher than you think. There lies within you a strength you are unaware of. You will be successful. You will be triumphant. Close the book of 2013 and put it in the back corner shelf. Don’t pick it back up. Look ahead to the new year and move forward.

Old things have passed away. All things have become new. Let go of the past and embrace the new. You’re a talented writer. Embrace that and go forward into 2014 with gusto.

I believe in you. Happy New Year!

The Cost Of Writing

Rachel Hauck

(Merry Christmas, Happy New Year! You Are Reading A Throwback blog from 2011)

We spend a lot of time here at My Book Therapy and in the writing industry talking about craft, networking, marketing, promoting, and the general way to write a book. Panster, plotter, planster (plotter and panster combination.)

But what we don’t discuss much is the cost of giving your life to writing. Especially to writing fiction.

There’s a price tag, and while I love what I do, there are days I “feel” the price I’ve paid.

I have no co-workers. I sit in my lovely tower, which I adore, alone every single day. Sometimes the phone never rings for me. I may not get a personal email or friendly phone call for days.

My family lives out of my state. I don’t have children. My life is carved out perfectly to crank out two, maybe three books a year. But I gotta tell ya, it can get lonely.

I’m so grateful for the friends the Lord has given me. Susie Warren, Beth Vogt, Lisa Jordan and others here in the My Book Therapy community.

I can’t write a book without calling Susie several times a week. Nearer to my deadline, I might call her several times a day. I value her friendship and input! What a gift.

But practically speaking, she lives in Minnesota. I live in Florida.

One of my favorite things from days-gone-by was my corporate job relationships. We had some sure laughs and some grand lunches, and great success on the job. I loved solving a problem and celebrating with my co-workers. The day-job provided immediate feedback.

Sure, there were the tough days, the drag-my-butt-into-the-office days. And I had a very interesting boss. But overall, I enjoyed my office job.

I read about writing being a solitary life. I’m good with solitary. But friends, it is a really solitary life.

Writers have to say, “No,” to extra curricular activities. We can’t be running around town shopping, or lunching, or sadly, volunteering.

We have to shut off the TV, the radio, the internet and just “be” with our stories and characters. We must face the pain of making people that only live in our heads and hearts come to life on the page.

Good writing days are followed by hard writing days. We wrestle with our insecurities and doubt. There might be days or weeks where we hear from no one in our profession: not a reader, an editor or agent.

The only way we go forward with any confidence is by sheer discipline and will. And it’s a fight!

The other day I was driving to morning prayer at church, wrestling with my lack of close, local friendships. No don’t go feeling sorry for me, I do have friends. I do! I’m not a hermit or miser. But, the friendships I used to have at work, or when in college, are gone. At my age, many of my friends are busy with children or even grandchildren!

As I mused over this, I finally thought, “Maybe it’s not that I lack friends but I lack the right perspective.”

I’ve chosen the writer life and with it comes certain handicaps. It’s not 9-5. I’m not surrounded by people all day. To do the job, I have to retreat sometimes.

The challenge for us is to be content exactly where God has us. As I mused over my situation, I heard Jesus say, “I’m Your friend.”

I teared up. “Will you come to my house for Christmas dinner?”

“I will.”

See, it’s about perspective. What a true and dear friend we have in Jesus. And the friends I do have in my town, are lovely and always ready for a lunch when I can break free!

But, back to the writer’s life. Are you ready to pay the cost? I’m not the only writer who struggles with friendship time and heart-connections within the local community.

I’ve heard other writers share similar things. It’s why we’ve created the My Book Therapy Community. It’s why there are writing organizations like American Christian Fiction Writers.

Take stock of yourself. Are you too busy being a friend and doing other things to write? Even for writing moms, at some point, you have to close out the hubbub and noise of the family and write. I’m awed by my mom writing friends like Susan Warren, Cara Putman, Kristin Billerbeck and Tracey Bateman.

Are there things in your life cluttering out writing?

Count. The. Cost.

The life of a novelist will cost you precious things. But it is worth it. So very worth it.

1. Get with the Lord. Spend time with Him, praying over your schedule, asking Him to release your heart as an author.

2. Counsel with your spouse or close friends, parents or other family. Is this the time to devote to writing and say no to other things? Or will that season come later. It is RIGHT and PERFECT to wait until the “write” season.

3. Find a place that’s yours to write. Make sure no one else invades. It’s yours. Even if it’s a table at Panera or Starbucks, make it your writing spot.

4. Schedule time to be with friends and family. Be purposeful. If you do ministry at your church or volunteer in the community, keep to a schedule. Don’t pick up extra jobs just because you feel bad for someone. Do ONLY what the Lord has called YOU to do.

5. Write on the hard days. Sometimes those words are better than the ones who come on the good days. If you only have an hour to write on busy days, take it!

Writing is purposeful. So is the writer’s life. Be purposeful. Tune out the noise. Still your heart and mind.

Write, counting the cost.

What Happens When You Receive A Critique You Don’t Like?

Merry Christmas!

I don’t know if you’ve had time to work on your bestseller during this busy season, but I’m back with my two favorite editors with tips on navigating the sometime murky waters of critique/craft partners.

(AAT) What do you do when you receive a critique and it’s not what you want to see, read or hear?

(EM) Well, as far as you putting your feelings aside and you’re no longer sensitive? Twenty-three years into this and that has not happened yet. I’m still sensitive when it comes to my writing, no matter how hard I try. Anytime I receive suggestions, it has a sharp edge to it. Even though it’s not true, in my own mind, it feels like I’ve failed. One thing I‘ve learned for me, is I need to process. I’ve learned to tell my critique partners, I accept that, I think that’s a valuable comment. I’m going to have to go home and play with it and see how I feel about it. I can’t just immediately jump up and down and say “Oh goodie, you’ve made it better.” I have to say “thank you for the work you’ve done” and I have to go home and process. That’s the way it works for me personally because it always feels like I’ve failed.

(AAT) Beth, what about you?

(BKV) Becoming valuable, reliable, trustworthy critique/craft partners, takes time. I found in the beginning of the critique groups I was in, we were too nice to each other.  We weren’t giving each other valuable feedback. We were saying, “Oh love this, like that.” We were really wasting each other’s time. It actually takes a couple of months before you get comfortable enough to give each other valuable feedback. Once you’ve become established and comfortable and are able to say this is really what’s working and this is really what’s not working. Then you actually start growing as critique partners. Now you trust each other to say both what is working and what’s not working. It takes time to build trust between writers. Really the first couple of months of a new critique group, they don’t count. You are just developing a relationship with each other. When we brought a new member into our group, we let them know, we were an established writing group and we were going to treat them as a member who had been with us for a while. We were going to bring them right up to speed and give them a trial period, but were not going to necessarily be “polite” with them. This was a professional writer’s group and we were going to treat them as a professional and give constructive criticism. It wasn’t about being “polite.” That was something we developed over time. Edie, do you agree?

(EM) I definitely agree. It depends on the dynamic of the group. I have been in critique groups where the initial getting to know each other phase is more brutal than polite. I have also been in groups that have been established and done really well and suddenly it begins to go toxic. You either take steps to correct that or you need to get out while you still can. A toxic critique group can do a great deal of damage to your career and also to your own confidence level.

Thanks Beth and Edie. As always your insight is invaluable!

What steps have you taken upon receiving less than great critiques?



The Greatest Storyteller Ever Sold

Long, long ago in a land far away, a child was born. No ordinary baby, the Christ child had come to save the world from sin.

The prophecies had been fulfilled. What hadn’t been mentioned in those prophecies was what a great storyteller Jesus would be. The Bible is full of the amazing stories He told. And all were spoken in a natural, easy-to-understand format.

Jesus came that we might have life. No doubt about it, but for writers, He also came that we might have stories… lots of them and a marvelous template of how we should reach the masses with our prose.

Jesus didn’t try to impress others with his complex vocabulary. He told stories with simplicity but they were—and still remain—powerful and life changing. Those who heard his stories were forever changed.

Untold numbers of people would flock to Jesus and sit hungry for hours on the hard ground just to listen to his stories. When Jesus spoke, they were captivated and drawn in by the characters that played out in their imaginations as the story unfolded before them.

Like any great storyteller, Jesus knew his audience, understood how to reach them and was willing to build the storyworld word by word. He chose those words carefully, weighing each one, making sure it was the right fit. I’m sure it was taxing but Jesus knew His words would impact those who heard, and He wanted to make sure they were the right ones.

You are a story teller. The fiction you’re crafting right now is going to touch others. It will change their lives for better—or for worse. The choice is up to you. Your readers will pay a higher price and endure hardship for your stories, if you write them with your readers in mind.

This Bible said Jesus—the Master storyteller—was sold out for thirty pieces of silver. What that really means is that Judas put his own desires, goals and career above that of others.

Don’t sell out.

Keep your readers as the reason for your stories. Craft the scenes with your fans in mind. Speak in their language directly to their hearts. In the end, they will be changed by the stories you tell.

It’s worth it. Trust me on this one!

To you and your loved ones, I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas. May you experience all the splendor of the season that Jesus—the Master story teller—is the reason for.

God bless!