Category: Fiction Writing Process

One Stop for Writers Emotional Wounds Thesaurus – Sharing as I Create Deep Characters for my WIP – PART 1

While seeking ways to create different, yet deep character traits for three sisters in my current WIP, I started to explore One Stop for Writers Emotional Wound Thesaurus. I had just ordered the Emotion and Negative and Positive Trait Thesauruses for reference, but didn’t know how powerful using these three resources could be until I began to dive into the Emotional Wound Thesaurus online.

Now, I already had a general idea of the three sisters – adult women with habits, hangups, and baggage from their childhood and teen years. But how could I ensure I gave them different personalities and responses to their current challenges, despite being sisters and having had several of the same experiences?

Check out my debut video below, and stay tuned for Part 2, where I demonstrate how I’ve used all of these resources and more from One Stop for Writers to create a handy, color-coded binder for easy reference as I build backstory and sketch out scene summaries in preparation for completing my first draft.

Using One Stop for Writers Emotional Wound Thesaurus [VIDEO]

10 Take-Away Moments from Mount Hermon Writers Conference 2017

10 Take-Away Moments from Mount Hermon Writers Conference 2017

It’s been ten days since I left the 2017 Mount Hermon Writers Conference. Yesterday morning was the first time I’ve had a chance to write since I was on the airplane.  I could give you excuses, but excuse or not, I needed to allow myself time to decompress. So, before I venture into my world of women’s fiction, I thought I’d share ten take-away moments (I started calling them lessons, but didn’t want to deter anyone from reading).

  1. Preparation Paid Off. Since I’d spent forty days preparing my spirit, mind, and body for the conference, I was prepared for whatever Divine appointments God had in store. From the wild shuttle ride up the mountain on Day One, to the final push that confirmed a difficult, yet needed step I must take to move my writing goals forward on Day Six — I accepted each moment as a part of God’s guiding hand.
  2. MHWRiters2017 Prayer
    Friday Morning Prayer for #MHWriters2017

    Allow for Quiet Time with God. Though I didn’t realize it when I registered, I would have a room to myself until Friday when the main conference began. This led me to an awesome morning prayer time on Friday. I was well rested and ready to take on the following five days. But first, God laid a prayer on my heart for everyone else.

  3. Next-Level Clinic is worth it! At the beginning of the week, I thought that attending pre-conference was only beneficial for returners. But as the main conference came to a close, I realized how alone I felt last year as a first-timer attending and not knowing anyone else, though God did provide companions and encouragers eventually. With that said, I recommend first-timers go if they can! The smaller critique group setting will help you prepare for feedback on your pre-conference submissions, you will begin friendships with other writers that will help keep you connected through the duration, and you will never feel alone!
  4. Unexpected Expectations. Did I have high expectations going into the conference? Absolutely! Though growing relationships with other writers and writing mentors along with valuable feedback on my current writing projects far exceeded my goals – I suspected I’d get something I didn’t expect at all. And I did! When at least five different people sparked a conversation on a topic I hadn’t planned to discuss – and they all gave me the same feedback, I took that as advice I couldn’t ignore. A blessing in disguise for sure and something I had given back to God for his Divine timing, which makes it all the more exciting to see where it takes me!
  5. Nothing Compares to Nature. No matter how tired, I was determined to complete the hike up to the cross on Palm Sunday. On 4 1/2 hours sleep, I made the hike, and froze my fingers and toes to the point of pain, but wouldn’t take it back (or the fact I didn’t get the afternoon nap I’d counted on) for anything. As I hiked and talked with my newest writing friend, the lyrics from Chris Tomlin’s Captured ran through my mind. On the way down the hill, I played the song and am convinced he was inspired to write it on that very mountain. It was an awesome way to connect with our Creator and be in awe of how much he cares for each of us even amidst all the other glorious evidence of his artistic hand.
  6. Nerves are Normal. I confess that last year, I avoided sitting at some tables because I felt intimidated by certain staff, editors, or agents. This year, I decided I would sit at those tables if there was a seat available. For those of you who don’t know, during most meals at the conference, conferees have the opportunity to sit, chat, and eat with agents, editors, published authors and other staff members. It’s an opportunity not offered at most other (if any) writer’s conferences, so nerves aside, I would embrace it! Despite my body reacting in all the ways I hoped it wouldn’t, I mustered up the courage and did it. Regrets? None. And next year, I will make sure I sit at the tables I didn’t have the opportunity to sit at, as well as introduce myself again to those I met this year.
  7. The Key-Note Speakers Brought Confirmation. Mark Batterson reaffirmed the concept of writing to an audience of One. Stacy Hawkins Adams reminded me that giving my first book baby to the Lord also comes with a promise of many more book babies to come. Need I say more?
  8. A Writer Never Arrives. I’ve dedicated over thirteen years to learning the craft of writing, finding my unique author’s voice, and discovering the specific types of stories God has called me to write. Yet, I’m always learning more! I want to encourage all writers out there who aspire to attend Mount Hermon (or who did and perhaps walked away discouraged) — be teachable! There is a way to learn the ropes and the rules and NOT lose your unique writer’s voice. Be creative, write what’s on your heart, and then be willing to adjust it in order to reach your audience. Even if there doesn’t seem to be a place for your story today, that doesn’t mean there won’t be tomorrow. So keep writing, keep learning and keep praying God will guide you to the right agent, publisher, and most important – readers in His Divine and Perfect timing.  As we learn to critique and encourage each other, let’s not forget what it was like to be new at this. Though I’m still learning, I desire to help others tell their story in the best and most effective way possible. So don’t give up!
  9. Eternal Friends and Writing Buddies. I’m thrilled beyond measure to be a part of such an amazing community of writers, editors, agents, and others who have embraced the privilege to reach others through their words!
  10. One final thought.  I’d love to hear about your take-aways from this year or any other year you’ve attended Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference. If you haven’t had a chance to attend yet, would you like to? Why?

40 Days to Mount Hermon – Fasting and Prayer Week 2

DAY 8 – Friday

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12

Somehow, I woke out of a deep dream in time to get my son to school. Another full day ahead and a birthday on Saturday (my youngest turned 13) – I realized writing time would be minimal. Yet, I was feeling better than ever — really good actually! I was excited and felt confident about the changes our household was about to make for the good of us all.

DAY 9 – Saturday

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with him.” -John 14:23

My youngest 13th birthday so I started the morning off making birthday crepes. He had plans that evening so I knew the morning was my best chance to really dive into prayer and worship. I spent over an hour on my knees. Went through my prayer list from National topics to personal prayers for my children, my marriage, our finances, and finally for God to work through me in the stories that I am to tell.

As I went about my day, I felt the hint of a headache coming on, but I ignored it. I figured it had to do with my cleansing fast, so I just kept drinking my tea and water. Tried to nap but nothing helped. I figured it was a sign to just rest… body, mind, and spirit.

DAY 10 – Sunday

“Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.” Matthew 24:35

Headache had turned into body aches. I felt horrible and opted to stay in bed. Expecting to keep my normal pace while robbing my body of basic food was obviously unrealistic. If I did anything it would be reading in preparation for Mount Hermon Next Level clinic.

DAY 11 – DAY 15

Accepted the fact I was sick… having flu-like symptoms for the first time in a decade. Emphatic about continuing my sugar detox, I couldn’t take my normal remedies since they all contained some type of sugar or alcohol. But I did take some TheraFlu tablets on the 2 days I had to watch my grandson to keep from spreading my illness.

On the bright side, I had no appetite so avoiding taboo foods was easy!

Mount Hermon 2017 and My 40 Day Preparation Fast

In the time since my last post, God’s prompted me with things I need to let go of and change for my writing pursuits to reach their full potential. I’ve been excusing my lack of discipline and focus due to the constant change and chaos in my life.

As a result, I’ve begun efforts to change my normal default tendencies. I’ve eliminated gluten and other foods that increase my bouts of inflammation and irritability. I’ve also started the PiYo 60 day plan (a series of exercise routines that mix pilates and yoga and focus on correct alignment) and can say with 100% certainty, I haven’t felt better in body and mind in years!

All that back story to say that I’ve been mentally and physically preparing for this 40 day fasting and prayer long before I committed myself to the actual fast. It was in my prayer and journal time about 10 days ago that I realized yesterday (Feb 24, 2017) marked exactly 40 days before I boarded the plane for Mount Hermon. Could I really do this? What was God prompting me to fast and pray about?

Watch my Live Facebook Video on my Preparation and Reasons for my Mt Hermon 40 Day Preparation Prayer and Fasting


40-Day Mount Hermon Preparation Fasting and Prayer Goal List

Intercessory Prayer

I can’t be effective in praying for others if I’m struggling from the moment I wake to the minute I attempt to fall asleep. Although intercessory will be the focus of the second part of my 40 days, I will still be praying for others when prompted. I’ve written a list to include both National and Personal intercessory prayers. I’m sure the list will grow as I dive deeper into the routine of prayer, but these are my starting points:

NATIONAL

  • Our President, his cabinet, relations with other countries, and his family
  • That our Christian voice in America would become louder than any other
  • Justifications for sinful lifestyles would cease
  • Selfish Spirit would be quenched
  • Protection from Enemies (spiritual, foreign, and domestic)
  • Youth and Young Adults would see and seek Truth
  • Plagues of Abortion, Divorce, Drug Use, and Mental Illness Would end

FREEDOM comes from

  1. Confession
  2. Repentance
  3. Seeking God with all our Souls, Minds, and Hearts

PERSONAL

In my prayer journal, I have listed names. For the purpose of this post, I am only including the general focus. These are “personal” intercessory prayers because they involve people I know personally.

  • Authentic, life-changing Salvation for every family member and friend in my life who has not experienced the freedom and peace that comes from personally knowing Jesus Christ and seeking to know him through his Word, Holy Spirit, and God’s Divine differences that set him apart from human tendencies and other belief systems.
  • Physical and Mental healing for numerous church and biological family members.
  • For those who believe, but have not fully surrendered to all God has for them if they choose to turn 100% of their hearts and lives toward God.
  • A significant building up of faith among fellow believers. Our own understanding and perspectives are never enough to  experience the fullness of God’s plan. We must be willing to take risks, to step past our comfort zones, to get rid of distractions and hindrances, no matter how trivial or tremendous.

Immediate Family Prayers

These include my daily choices as I interact with and pray for each area. What I pray exactly will vary by day.

  • My marriage
  • My children
  • My grandchildren (present and future)
  • The current and future spouses of my adult children
  • My Christian friendships

40 Day Fasting Focus Areas

My personal fasting goals might be different than you think. Due to my specific dietary needs and fibromyalgia, I cannot go on the type of fast that would keep me from eating anything. For those of you who read this list, though, you can see how hunger will still likely be a part of the process! In addition to fasting certain foods, I will also be fasting things that interfere with my mental and spiritual health.

My new PiYo routine overlaps all areas here. I’ve already felt the benefits of how this form of exercise is purging toxins and increasing my emotional and mental health.

PHYSICAL FAST

Starting with a 21-Day Sugar Detox (based on the book by the same title), I’m eliminating all forms of sugar from food and beverages. This includes fruit (with the exception of 1 granny smith apple OR 1 green-tipped banana) per day. Other taboo foods include all grains, legumes, potatoes, and even high-carb root vegetables such as sweet potatoes. Again, an exception here is that I can have an extra serving of sweet potato or winter squash on the days that I exercise. Not even natural sugars or sugar substitutes are allowed. I’ve been meaning to do this for sometime to kill off any possible Candida overgrowth that could be contributing to my brain fog, pain flare-ups, PMS, IBS, or irritability. After 21 days, I will continue eating according to Paleo standards.

MENTAL FAST

Between evening television watching (which on my bad days can push 3 hours), and scrolling Facebook and Twitter without cause, I waste a lot of mental energy. Sometimes it does feel good to “not think”. And there is a time and place for that. But for me personally, it interferes with my ability to sleep. I stay up later than I should to finish watching a show. Or I get caught up reading some political or health food thread on my social media when all I really meant to do was clear out my notifications.

Meanwhile, I have this stack of novels I’d really love to finish before attending the Mt Hermon conference this year. Some are books I bought at the conference last year and I want to be able tell the authors I read their books this year. Others are for my pure reading enjoyment, but by the time I get to bed after (x)hours of TV time, I’m pressed to read a full chapter before I realize it’s midnight and I must sleep.

This could probably overlap into the category of SPIRITUAL FASTING since I know these things interfere with my spiritual well-being at times.

Essentially my mental fast means:

  • No evening TV show time (possible exception is a family movie night once a week). The point is to curb my daily routine and clear my mind.
  • No social media scrolling, interacting, or reading unless it’s directly related to a positive event of a close family member or friend, or engaging with other writers. Staying positive and not wasting time on senseless discussions or information is my goal.

SPIRITUAL FOCUS ON DAILY PRAYER GOALS

Depending on my other commitments (my life doesn’t stop just because I am fasting!)  —  I may complete these all at once, or in bits and pieces throughout the day.

  • Read the entire chapter associated with the YouVersion Bible Verse of the Day. You may see image quotes of these on my Instagram or Twitter.
  • Read a section of each of the books What Happens When Women Pray and The Daniel Prayer (these are part of the weekly women’s study at our church).
  • Confession. Pouring out is the first step to receiving from the Lord. This may include negative thoughts, straying from my fasting, or my list of worries (with three adult children (my oldest son turns 18 in March), two teenagers, and a grandson, this list is continuous). I firmly believe that worry is a form of sin. When we worry we’re saying we don’t trust God.

WORRY = LACK OF FAITH

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:25-27, NIV

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6, NIV

  • Pure Worship
  • Gratitude
  • Intercessory Prayer
  • Personal Prayer for focus, productivity, physical healing, and WIP breakthroughs

Sharing my 40 Day Fasting and Prayer Journey with You

My goal is to post at least once per week on my progress, answers to prayer, and topics related to the two book projects I will be working on during the conference. I know most of this doesn’t seem to have to do a lot with writing, but trust me — it has everything to do with writing to the Glory of God!

Follow my Live Video on Facebook to be notified whenever I go Live.

Share your own version of preparing for Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference 2017.

If you are not a writer, can you still relate? If you are wanting to make major changes to your life, perhaps my journey will inspire you to begin your own version of a 40 Day Fast. I’d love to hear about it!

When Failure is Part of God’s Plan

Failure according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

1a: omission of occurrence or performance; specifically: a failing to perform a duty or expected action

b (1) : a state of inability to perform a normal function

c: a fracturing or giving way under stress

2a: lack of success b: a failing in business

3a: a falling short (deterioration or decay)

4 : one that has failed

Is it just me, or is the concept of failure taboo these days? Why do we avoid failure like a contagious disease, afraid to admit it, quick to point fingers or blame, and often making excuses instead of acknowledging the obvious? Not even our president can admit failure and I think we are all selling ourselves short as a result.

Failure is not a bad thing! As quoted by Ben Gates in the movie National Treasure, “Thomas Edison said, ‘I didn’t fail, I found 2000 ways not to make a light bulb, and only one way to make it work.’”

Yet, even this quote carries with it a negative stigma regarding failure. But to me, Thomas Edison was pointing out the obvious: He needed to fail 2000 times in order to get it right! Now, what is wrong with that?

When I first started writing, something inside me said that I could not consider myself a “good writer” if I could not create an excellent work with my first draft. If you laughed out loud at this statement, share the Tweet below:

What if authors refused to publish anything except their first drafts? #Failure equals #Success. http://wp.me/p1nUAB-9n

Really, can a young writer be more naïve than I was?

During the past six months, I have tried and failed at many things. I am one to admit failure from the start and see it as a learning opportunity. In addition, I often see failure as a form of direction from God. If and when I fail, I have come to embrace it as God’s way of guiding me toward a success I may not see or understand at the present moment. I do not see failure as a negative thing, but if I confess I have failed, others rarely “fail” in trying to help me to turn around my perspective into a positive light.

In 2008, I failed at obtaining a publishing contract for a novel I wrote. Six rejections and one expensive “acceptance” by a vanity publishing company later, I set the book project in a box and turned to other things. I didn’t know at the time if I was ever meant to have that book published. But I had learned a lot about storytelling and writing in the process and believed that eventually God would reveal when it was time to pursue publication—if at all.

Then in 2012, after an amazing experience at a women’s retreat in the Northern California foothills, the women’s ministry leader told me that God said my book would be published one day. I was working on a non-fiction project at that time, but knew she was referring to my fiction novel. I remembering feeling a sense of peace and patience about all of it, and willing to let God guide me every step.

Several months later, the leader of a writer’s group that took place at our church was seated in the row in front of me. Something stirred in me and I made an effort to speak to him after service and asked him if the group was still meeting. My plan was to present my novel, one chapter a week, seeking feedback and gradually begin to work on a revised edition. My intentions were not to publish at that time, but to look at my manuscript with fresh eyes, improve it as much as I could, and increase the content so that it was at full-length (the original draft was only about 40k words and written as a young adult novel.)

After receiving feedback the first week, I was slightly discouraged. I had failed at creating an understandable introductory chapter—leaving the readers more confused than curious. A couple of the members of the group even thought my historical novel was science fiction until halfway through the chapter!

However, there were also many compliments. They enjoyed my characters and scene-setting descriptions. They commented on my “professional” style and could tell I had a formal education.

So, I decided to stay the course, take their comments, and re-write the first several chapters to create a clear context while still hooking the reader with the mystery surrounding the protagonist’s isolated upbringing.

A little over a year after that first meeting, I was signing a publishing contract that had turned into at least a two-book series!

I wish I could say I have arrived and will no longer fail as a writer or as any other role I play in this life—mother, wife, homemaker, employee, sister, friend, or daughter. I wish I could say that I have learned to avoid discouragement and pick myself up my own bootstraps whenever I miss the mark, but I can’t.

Actually, in recent months, I have felt more discouraged than ever. I have questioned God’s plan and my faith has faltered. I lost my day job back in September and have not managed to acquire adequate supplemental income.

I have failed at getting another job.

I have failed to follow through on numerous commitments due to limited resources of time, energy, and money.

I have failed to plan for my children’s birthdays, holiday celebrations, and even the meals for the day.

I have failed at recognizing all the blessings in my life as they are blurred by what I can’t do.

Failure can give us new perspectives on life. It has helped me see that what I think I want or need may not be the best for my family or me. It can also provide a stark contrast that makes us more aware of the places we have succeeded.

I may not have found another job, but I have written a draft of the entire second novel in my series, made amazing connections with online writer communities, and been able to examine my truest traits and skills.

I have learned to minimize commitments and realized that those depending on me are, for the most part, very understanding and forgiving people. They have lives and commitments as well, and I have put undue stress on myself thinking their expectations of me were more than I could achieve.

My children adjust in miraculous ways, and although it seems they demand a lot at times, they are also easily content with simple solutions. For Christmas, they hardly blinked when we said their wish list needed to be small and simple. My sixteen year old just wanted to have more than one friend spend the night on his birthday. My thirteen year old also just wanted a sleepover and to have the freedom to hang out with his friends all day. They all like hanging out with me and their dad, smiling and goofing off as a symbol of how content they are despite lacking certain luxuries of the suburban lifestyle.

Finally, it is a daily battle to focus on the things that I can control, and learn to give the rest to God and trust that He knows best despite my failures and shortcomings. He has accounted for those as well as my strengths! His mercies are new every morning, and I am more than grateful that He has allowed me to fail time and again in order to recognize the grace and miracles present in my life today.

What about you? How has failing opened your eyes to more important things? How can admitting failure help you to grow and understand your purpose in this life?