Humility vs Perfection and the sweet space in between

Shackles Cover 3 full.jpg

Humble is a good place to live, right?

I’ve had an interesting week. Shackles, the first novel that I wrote (over a decade over *cough*) never found an official publishing home. It did get my foot in the door with my current publishing house though, so I’m grateful for that.

A few years back, I read Shackles again and I still loved the characters and the plot. At that point I decided to put it out as a ‘warts-and-all’ freebie to give readers the opportunity of checking out my writing. Bait, if you will. I even wrote a ‘warts-and-all’ disclaimer in the preface because I just wasn’t going to re-edit the whole thing again. (Besides, I’d checked it twenty-trillion-times and had some others look over it for errors too and we were all happy that it was fine.) I knew I’d have to re-edit at some point, but with new books to be written, that never really loomed large on my horizon.

Fast forward a few years to this week.

Out of the blue, four new reviews arrived. Check them out here. All of them positive – some so lovely that I wanted to cry and hug my dog. Considering my allergies, that is quite something.

BUT…

A significant number of these reviews commented on a few grammar and typo issues.

*DIES* but (even bigger BUT…)

Here’s the weird thing, they loved the book anyway.

My immediate reaction was to start re-editing. Sorry kids, make your own supper. But I’m also currently writing to deadline. So what is a girl to do? I feel like I’m parading Amazon in my ancient bikini, the one with the elastic that has given up on life.

It is humbling.

But it’s also beautiful because I know that what they are falling in love with is not my broken ability but they are seeing Jesus through the cracks of what I can produce and are loving Him in the midst of typos and dodgy grammar.

It just doesn’t get better than that.

So I do have a chapter-a-day-only-after-I’ve-met-my-word-count editing plan. But it will take time and in the meantime, I’ll be out there warts and all for the world to read. And strangely, I’m okay with that.

I’d love to hear from you. Perfectionist? Any humbling happening in your life right now? Please tell me I’m not alone in my ancient bikini.

(This blog first appeared on the International Christian Fiction Writers blog.)

 

Being a Prolific Writer

 

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The word ‘prolific‘ is one I’d love to be labelled with… Oh look, she’s turned out another bestseller book! What a prolific writer she is…


I’ve aimed at ridiculous wordcounts per day, I’ve pantsed and plotted and settled into a happy combination of both. I’ve changed my sleeping habits, tried NaNoWriMo, read a ton of blogs from writers I love and respect and so on and so on.

The sad, dismal truth fact I’m currently facing, is that if you give me an hour in a day, or a few uninterrupted hours in a day, my output will probably be about the same.

Are you kidding me?
Are you kidding me?

Sadly no kidding here. Maybe that will change, I live in hope.

In the meantime, I’m borrowing a lesson from my middle child’s induction ceremony into High School from the beginning of this year. They start the event with a single torch burning on stage. All the new Grade 8’s lead in in the dark. As you can see from the gallery above, the prefects start by lighting their candles and passing on the flame. The transition from a deeply dark hall to one lit by many individual lights was moving to say the least. The message was clear – your individual contribution counts.

How does that make me a more prolific writer? It doesn’t. But what it does do, is make me value each word that willingly joins the ranks of the little army of words that make up my story. I only need 65 000 of them to show up at the the right time, and I’m done. (Young adult, in case you’re wondering at the low count.) Do I cringe at 500 word days? Nope. Do I cringe at the 23 words I manage to string together before I’m called to go see Barbie perform a death-defying dive from the top of the tap into my 6yo’s bubble bath – AGAIN? Not any more.

All that matters is that I’m adding words. I will not waste energy on beating myself up for not being prolific. Maybe, just maybe… prolificacy (yes, I did just make that up) will creep up on me as I quietly grow my wordcount. Till then, I’ll soldier on, adding each precious word as it shows up.

If you have found any magic formula for upping your daily count, I’d love to hear about it. It probably won’t work on me, but go ahead and share anyway!

I’m grateful to…

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In the big scheme of things, getting one book accepted by a publisher does not mean that I’ve arrived as an author. I’m fully aware of that. But it is a milestone worth celebrating and as part of that, I’d love to acknowledge some of the people who have helped me along the way. One of those key people, is a lovely writer that I met online. She beta-read the first chapter of Finding Mia way back when I was still floundering through the early stages and hauled out two big no-no’s that I wasn’t even aware of in my writing – adverbs and passive voice. (How did I not see them before?) I am super grateful to her for the time she took and am delighted that she agreed to be with us on Doodles today. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen… Meet my friend, Jennifer Owenby!

Jennifer Owenby

When you write fiction, is there a strong message in your gut that you want your reader to come away with? Or does this vary with each story?

Each story is different, but I tend to bring attention to difficult real life issues, the one’s that stay behind closed doors and no one talks about. “Tears in the Sun” is about mental illness, I have one traditionally published story concerning a woman running and hiding from an abusive husband and my story in progress deals with physical abuse in high school.

I love hearing about life defining moments, especially to do with understanding that you are a writer. Did you always know, or did it dawn on you? Tell us about one of your life defining moments.

I’ve “written” since I was able to hold a pencil in my hand. When I was 6 my family moved from St. Louis Missouri to the country in Arkansas. We had no neighbour’s only cows in the back yard. I was lonely. The days that we would have thunderstorms I’d pull my little rocking chair up to the window, listen to the rain and make up stories.  To this day, I write when it rains. That’s why I love living in Oregon. So, I don’t think there was a defining moment, I think moments defined me and nurtured what was already there.

Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

My inspiration comes from life and people that have crossed my path.

Are you comfortable weaving portions of your own life & experience into your work, or are there some things that you keep to yourself?Tears in the Sun

Yes, I am. I read somewhere that in every piece of fiction there are nuggets of truth. I’ve had many questions concerning “Tears in the Sun”, and regardless of where that nugget is, people suffer from mental illness everyday and loved ones have to make horribly difficult and painful decisions.

If you look back over your writing career, is there anything that you would change or do differently if you could go back?

Yes, I would have worked with an editor/teacher sooner. I wrote my first full length novel and gave it to and editor. I thought it was great, my writing group had helped me and I just knew it would have record sales. She gave it back to me and said “You’re not ready. I can tell you didn’t outline…” that feedback hurt, but what she did was offer me another route where she could teach me in intense bursts before I tackled a novel again. I took her short story class and wrote “Tears In the Sun”. By the time I completed the class the story was written and fully edited by an editor at Writer’s Digest. “Tears in the Sun” was also the last story I worked on with my editor. She passed away a little over year ago. So the story is special to me on several levels.

Give us the one piece of advice that you would want every newbie writer to know…

Ah shucks, I can’t give just one.

As a writer I see each scene in my head. I’m there, living and breathing every moment of it. In fact, I’m so deep in it I can’t see what needs to be fixed. So, here are a few things I highly recommend whether you are self publishing or traditional publishing:

  • Writing can be learned so study the craft. It’s not all about talent. Get your hands on books, articles and attend any conference you can.
  • Don’t publish any work unless you’ve worked with an editor. Don’t short sell yourself by not putting your best work out there. There’s many forms of editing not just grammer, it’s also voice, character arc, plot points, turning points and more.
  • And, here’s the hardest part, when an editor gives you changes and feedback, LISTEN. So many people disregard an editor’s advice even when the editor has been in the industry for years. Even Stephen King has an editor.  The beautiful thing about writing, you never stop learning. Be true to yourself and even though the feedback might hurt, embrace it and grow!

 There are two distinctly different sides to you as a writer. Tell us more about your resume service?

Dianne, you’re the best. Thanks for allowing me to share about this as well.

I, as most writers do, need income. Our dream is to write stories full time and strike it big like J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer. We all see our stories showing on the movie screen. But, then hard reality sits in.

I have a background in writing, I’ve been traditionally published and “Tears in the Sun” was my first go around at self publishing, but I needed income. I also have a background in staffing and recruiting. My second love is helping people find jobs. So, I combined the two. Resumes are a form of writing and creativity. I talk and work with people for a few hours, and then I create and form them on paper. It’s not easy. In fact the ongoing education and certifications are extensive. I have found that it’s truly helping me write tighter with fewer words in my fiction as well. It’s a great character development tool as well.  As a professional resume writer, I combine both passions.

Thank you Jen, for letting us into your head and heart, and for the nuggets of valuable info.

Jennifer Owenby can also be found on Twitter and WordPress.

 

 

Cover Reveal … Finding Mia

I clearly remember meeting my Hayley for the first time. Labor took 4,5 hours (short compared to most), a few pushes and some tugging. Then they handed me this squishy bundle of wrinkled skin – pale, blueish and not too charmed at facing the big world. I was smitten. To me, there’d never been anything more beautiful than this shivery miniature person in my arms and I couldn’t wait to show her off to anyone who cared to spare a moment. The other two arrived slightly differently, but the feeling was the same. An overwhelming love unlike anything I’d felt before. Fast forward 16 years and look how they’ve grown… From the left Carmen (my niece – well done Barbs!) and my Bronwyn (6), Hayley (nearly 16) and Nikita (13).

My girls

Many writers use the whole pregnancy/baby/birth analogy to describe the process of getting a book out. I don’t think of my books as my babies, but I do love them and opening the Final Cover Art email from my publisher was nothing short of terrifying. What if it misrepresented my story? Or the designer picked all the colors I detest? Don’t forget, I’m a writer. I live in a world of worst case scenarios.

I took a deep breath, double-clicked and found this:

FindingMia_h11584_680

 

Wow, what a moment. I love it! From the slip-slops (they put in the slip-slops!) to the way the beach sand trails off into the distance, the color of the water offset against the sky and most of all the little girl in her too-big shades – just like my girls used to.

I am smitten and I can’t wait to show it off. Thank you for having a moment with me!