Hey, Maybe It’s Time To Move On…

Rachel HauckWhile everyone is in the throws of NaNoWriMo, some times we have to pause and take stock of where we are in our current WIP. Some of you… it’s time to move on.

“How do I know when it’s time to move on from a story I’ve been working on for so long?”

Great question! I worked on my first book for two years. I tell you, it discouraged me because I wondered how I could ever make any kind of living if writing took so long!

But it was my learning book and at least half of those two years were spent with me editing the book from a complicated, multi-plot story to a straight up romance.

I sent it out and received rejections. It was in the late ‘90s and there weren’t many options, but the doors I knocked on replied, “No thank you.”

By then, I was tired of the book. I didn’t know what else to do with it. It was time to move on.

Another idea came to me while sitting at a high school football game and I got to work on that right away. It was fresh, fun, alive in my heart.

I also changed my strategy. I decided to write a Heartsong Presents. With the first book, I tried for a Bethany House WWII saga. Rightfully, they turned me down.

So for my skill level, maybe a smaller, more focused story – romance – was the answer.

That story became my first published novel! In e-format. Yep, I sold it to an e-publisher.

By now, the Lord had connected me with a published Heartsong author and we collaborated together to create the Lambert series.

So, I was on my way.

The first book slept peacefully in my closet. Later, when I needed parts of a novel for Love Starts With Elle hero, Heath McCord, I pulled from that book.

So, where are you with your novel? Is it your first? Your fifth? Tenth? Are you struggling to keep going? Do you have vision or a passion for the story?

Is it time to move on?

Here’s some guidelines for sticking with a story:

  1. Good feedback from editors, agents or other knowledgeable writers?
  2. Your vision and passion remains high for the story.
  3. You can see clearly how to improve the manuscript.
  4. You’ve not rewritten it so many times – based on feedback – you can see the original heart of the story.
  5. You final in contests or get manuscript requests from editors or agents.

 

Here’s when you need to move on from a story:

  1. You’ve changed it so many times – based on feedback – you don’t recognize the original vision.
  2. You’re heart and passion for the story couldn’t fill a thimble.
  3. You have no idea how to improve the manuscript. If you have an idea, you’re not sure you want to do it.
  4. It’s been rejected by everyone you’ve submitted to and your mentors are suggesting a new, fresh idea.
  5. Your contest scores indicate you have a long way to go.
  6. You’ve learned much more about the business and know your book will not readily fit into the current market. That’s cool! Move on.

There are stories all over the map about the publication journey. Author Tamera Alexander worked on her first book for four years before it got published. On the other hand, author Jill Eileen Smith had ten or more closet manuscripts gathered up over twenty years.

Charles Martin had 120+ rejections before he sold The Dead Don’t Dance. Susan Warren wrote four or five novels before she sold a novella to Tyndale. When they asked her, “What else do you have?” She pulled out and polished those closet manuscripts.

There’s no end to possibilities. To closed and opened doors.

What is God saying about the book that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere? It’s okay to put it away and start over.

Here’s what I find on a rewrite – when I try to edit what I’ve already written, I tend to stick with that story and accept the weaknesses. But when I start over from scratch, I craft the story with stronger elements. I work through the weaknesses. The story isn’t as fun or flowing as the first draft because I’m actually thinking through and working out the problems.

So often, when trying to rewrite or improve a first novel, or a well-rejected novel, we can’t see what really needs to be changed to make the manuscript sellable.

If that’s where you are, start over. Sometimes we don’t want to start over because we don’t want to wait for publication. But it could be on the first or rewritten-rejected manuscript, we could find ourselves waiting forever.

Only you can determine if it’s time to set a manuscript aside, but if you do, do so with confidence and give your whole heart to your next work!

Happy Writing.

 

 

Letting Your Protagonist Be Super and Human

Did you see the movie, Avengers? Did you like it? I love the movies even though I wonder how many blow-up New York City movies there can be.

I think Hollywood needs to get more creative, but hey, that’s me. Poor NYC if anything ever happens to them as depicted in movies!

Back to The Avengers. Besides Ironman, Thor, Hulk and Captain America, there are new-to-me super heroes in the movie¾Hawkeye and Agent Natasha Romanoff.

Natasha was one bad mamajama! She had “super power” out the wazoo. Meaning, she could do anything and everything. Like defeat her Russian torturers/interrogators.

Jump onto a flying machine and take out a bad guy.

All the while having neat hair and gorgeous make up!

Unfortunately, Natasha had no real flaw, no Achilles heel. Nothing that made her weak and need others. So wasn’t warm, likeable, or vulnerable.

In her opening scene, she’s being interrogated by Russians (so 1970s but whatever) tied to a chair. She appears vulnerable, weak, at the mercy of evil men, but we soon see she’s toying with them. When she gets a phone call (yea, I know, who answers a phone during an interrogation?) and learns she’s needed for a special assignment, she breaks into action, defeats the two bad Russians, all while tied to the chair.

Throughout the movie, she has no fear. No hesitation. No doubts.

And I didn’t like her.

Yeah, great she could take out a dozen of the enemy before drawing a deep inhale, but what made her like me? Nothing

Nathasha Romanoff needed a real, human side, a flaw, a weakness, a man she loved who was captured by the bad guys. Or who didn’t love her in return.

On the contrary, some Christian heroines are weak, flawed, mealy mouth protagonist that seem to barely lift their heads off the ground.

Some of the heroes too.

If they are not too sweet and always apologizing, they are too boisterous with bravado and sarcasm.

What these protagonists need is a super power. A strength that keeps them going. A talent, gift, ability that gets them through a hard time.

A super power makes the protagonist “cool,” likeable and competent, allowing the reader to think that even though she may have just lost the love of her life to war, she’s going to make it through to the other side.

She has a “super power” too.

In Siri Mitchell’s “A Heart Most Worthy,” the protagonists are poor immigrant Italians in the early 20th Century America. They are living in a brand new country, can’t speak English, are at the mercy of their families, their customs and cultures, societal prejudice, yet they have a super power!

It gives the reader hope. “They are going to make it.”

What was the heroines’ super power? They could sew. It’s their avenue to confidence and freedom.

In The Wedding Dress, Charlotte Malone lived a lonely existence since being orphaned at the age of twelve, but she was good a running a bridal shop and has the amazing ability to dress any bride from the inside out.

This ability was what made her competent to the reader. It gave us confidence Charlotte was going to be all right.

The “super power” did double duty, letting the reader believe it was why the antique wedding gown was given to Charlotte.

The super power actually ties the story together in a small way.

What is the super power?

The thing your protagonist can do that no one else in the story can do. The thing that makes them unique and competent. A feature that is stabilizing to the protagonist or to others.

In Dining with Joy, Joy couldn’t cook but her super power was her charm, charisma, and the fact she was so good in front of the camera. It endeared her to people. It was why she did the show in the first place.

So, what’s your protagonist super power?

What can he or she do that shows competence?

What talent or ability do they have that gives them confidence?

What can super power will have the reader cheering for them?

How to create a super power

  1. Think of your protagonist. What are her unique skills and talents? What can he do that no one else can do. How does it relate to your story?

Go deeper than “she can love the unlovable.” That’s swell but will probably get her into trouble more than show her competence.

How about if she can detect lies and truth in the midst of the hurting? She is hard to bamboozle.

  1. What kind of story are you trying to tell? Develop a super power that resonates with the theme or goal of the story.

In the Avengers, Natasha Romanoff needed to be super human at some level, about to defeat her enemies while tied to a chair. But she also needed to be vulnerable in an area.

Charlotte needed to be good at dressing brides or she’d not be fascinated with the wedding gown when she discovered it.

Joy had to be fab at entertaining viewers or she’d not be a TV host.

See?

So, spend some time musing over your characters and assign him or her a super power. You’ll find it adds a layer of insight into your character and creates a multi-dimensional protagonist.

Go write something brilliant!

 

Note: This is a repost from an early MBT post because Rachel is on two deadlines. 😉 Pray for her.

 

Da, da, da, da, but, da, da, da, da, da, da until…

Rachel Hauck, How To Catch A PrinceStories have a rhythm. A melody. And once you figure that out, the whole picture becomes clear.

I’m working on a new story and I have all these ideas, what I want to do and where I want to go, working with characters I kind of know, but after a week and a half of fuzting with it, something was still missing.

This morning, at 3 a.m. I woke up and heard the song…

Da, da, da, da, but, da, da, da, da, da, da until da, da, da, da, da. Can he da, da, da, da, da?

It’s that hook, the one or two sentences that defines your story.

I thought I had my hero and heroine all worked out. He was a dutiful son following his dad into the family business.

She was a new college graduate helping her mom run the family restaurant after the sudden death of her father.

And oh, he’s a prince living 4000 miles away.

This will be my fourth royal story so I was trying to stay fresh, not go to the same well of troubles, so I didn’t want to over focus on my heroine being a foreigner.

My mind was twisting and turning with ideas.

I did the story equation.

Dark wound, lie, fear. What did they want. What could they do in the end they couldn’t do in the beginning.

What was the secret desire.

Since this is a shorter romance, I don’t have a lot of room to create layers, and I wanted to focus on the romance but still, I was somehow shorting myself on the story.

That’s when I heard the rhythm of the pitch/hook/summary.

He’s always wanted to do WHAT but his father convinced him otherwise until She came back into his life and love awakened his dreams. Can he be honest with his father and be his own man?

I was missing the “what.”

Until my heroine comes on the scene, what does my hero want?

I had to go back to work but suddenly the story opened up and I could see farther down the line.

It didn’t feel so awkward, like something was missing.

Remember the movie The Holiday?

Amanda makes movie trailers and she hears her life in movie sound bites.

“Amanda Woods is proud to present, her life. She had it all. The job. The house. The love. Until…”

When you’re working up your stories, find the rhythm. Find the magic.

For my upcoming The Wedding Chapel, it went like this…

“For sixty years a wedding chapel sat silent, waiting for love. BUT times have changed and he hour has come when it might just be too late.”

Until….

Photographer Taylor Branson comes along.

“Can she find the truth hidden in the stone walls?”

Am I making sense here?

If you’re stuck in your story. do the beats.

Da, da, da, da, da, but, da, da, da, da, da until…

What’s the irony. What’s the want? What’s tugging internally at your characters?

Now, go write something brilliant.

Social Media Cleverness and Fun

I was perusing She Reads–a great book blog, by the way–and came across the humorous tweets of general market author, Deanna Raybourn.

Man!

I wish I could tweet funny stuff.

I mostly fill my feed with Scripture — which I love — and Buckeye football. Along with writerly tweets. Informational stuff. You know, borrring.

Here’s a Deanna tweet.  Funny right?

Rachel Hauck

 

 

 

 

So how do I get to write funny tweets? Or pithy author bios?

Like this one, from the author of The Royal We.

Heather Cocks is a die-hard sports fan; a dual citizen of the U.S. and U.K.; a Notre Dame grad; a Diet Coke addict; possibly the reincarnated soul of Elvis Presley, who died the exact day she was born; a sandwich advocate; and a former producer of several seasons of America’s Next Top Model.

I mean, I’m a sports fan. I like Diet Coke. And sandwiches? Totally my thing! Come on, it’s like we were separate at birth minus the Elvis part.

Yet I feel dull and boring when I read tweets and bios like these.

Then there’s the wise and wonderful set who fill the cyber world with life changing wisdom in 140 characters or less. I’ve come up with a few good ones now and then. But usually don’t know it and therefore can’t tweet it. Ha!

On my Facebook Page, my trusty and very amazing media assistant, Renee Smith, has created some great memes. She asked for favorite scripture verses from my Likers.

We posted those for six weeks. Those worked really well.

She does quotes from C.S. Lewis and Cory Ten Boom. One uncredited quote about watching our words reached 14,000,000. Yea, wild.

A quote from Michael Jordan reached 8,000,000.

And it started to build a brand on my Facebook.

In the mix, we post book news and memes with books quotes. My goal is to make the Page a place where people stop to get a word of encouragement. To read truth. Get a laugh.

I’m not pithy. Maybe I’m semi-witty. But I can’t woo with my tweets. Yet I can be a source of help and information. A source of Inspiration.

There’s my sweet spot.

Social media can be a tricky river to navigate. It’s a fast moving rapid in which  you have to paddle fast.

Author Jennifer Weiner made a mark in Twitterland with her quirky and rabid tweets about The Bachelor.

I try to follow along with The Voice, tweeting, building relationships but it’s such a quick tweeting process I feel lost in the shuffle.

The point is, social media is vast. Try to find what you think works best for you. Follow the tips provided by the experts but look to add your personality to your posts.

That’s how the world gets to know you.

I like this Deanna Raybourn just based on her tweets. I think we could hang if we ever met up at an author event.

Don’t get frustrated. Be patient. Stay with it.

Here’s a parting Deanna tweet.

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