Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Keeping On: Persevering Toward Publication - Guest Post by Jodie Wolf

Jodie Wolfe creates novels where hope and quirky meet. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA) and has been a semi-finalist and finalist in various writing contests. A former columnist for Home School Enrichment magazine, her articles can be found online at: Crosswalk, Christian Devotions, and Live the Adventure Letter. She's a contributor for Putting on the New and Stitches Thru Time blogs. When not writing she enjoys spending time with her husband in Pennsylvania, reading, walking, and being a Grammie. Learn more at

God called me to write at a really early age in my life. I started writing poetry and short stories as young as second grade. I still remember my first poem and the little stories I wrote. I typed those on a typewriter and stapled them together, drawing my own cover. :) I knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.

In my early teen years, God gave me an idea to create my first full-length novel. It took me several years to finish writing it, but I kept at it. I persevered even though I had family members that doubted whether or not I'd ever be a writer. I had high school teachers that believed in me. One even encouraged me to submit my novel to a writing contest. I didn't win or place.

College years were filled with writing papers for classes, but nothing fun like I enjoyed writing. Immediately following college, I married my sweetheart and we started our life together. Again, I started writing novels and sent them off to a couple places. The rejections continued to pour in. So when I became pregnant with our first son, it didn't take much for me to put my writing in a drawer and forget about it for a season.

The next eighteen years were filled raising our sons and homeschooling them all the way to their high school graduations. But toward the end of those years, I distinctly felt God calling me back to writing novels. I remember it like it happened yesterday.

I had gone through a particularly rough season in my life and had flown to visit a friend. The day before I left, she took me touring and we went to see a local lighthouse. I am very scared of heights, but still climbed the winding steps to the top and stepped out onto the catwalk. I clung to the wall, too afraid to go to the railing. As I looked out at the ocean, it was there that God gave me three separate story ideas about lighthouse keepers.

I went home and started researching and eventually writing one of those stories. The words flowed and I was back in my element again. Over the next seven years, I went on to write several more full-length books, a few novellas, and a multiple of story ideas to pitch. God dropped an agent in my lap. Many times I was so close to getting a 'yes' answer from publishers, but I didn't sign my first contract until last year at the age of 51. Since then, I've signed two more contracts.

What would have happened if I had given up at my first rejection letter? I would have never stepped into the roll that God has called me to do - to spread His hope and encouragement through the words of my novels.

Don't give up. Keep pressing on. Trust that He will bring things about in His timing. You won't be disappointed.

Thanks for stopping by, Jodie!

Readers: Have you ever been tempted to give up in pursuit of your publication dreams? How do you remind yourself to persevere in spite of doubts and struggles?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How To Research Like a Rock Star - Guest Post by Micaiah Saldaña

Micaiah Saldaña is, first and foremost, a daughter of the one true King. When she isn’t lost in the stories she writes, you can find her reading just about anything YA Christian fiction, listening to her favorite music artists, and drinking lots and lots of salted caramel hot chocolate. You might be able to catch her rambling on her blog, Notebooks and Novels, if she hasn’t made her way to Narnia. Yet.

Recently, I embarked upon the journey of writing a novel. A YA historical fiction novel, that is. And with the first word of that genre comes a lot of research. May I repeat: A LOT of research. Books, websites, diaries, photographs…. It all seems very daunting, doesn’t it?

No matter what genre you’re writing in, be it contemporary, historical, fantasy, or even romance, you’re probably going to have to do some form of research. Fantasy writers may need to research sword fighting techniques, contemporary writers will need to research their settings…. It’s a hard truth that may have you groaning a bit (especially all you pansters out there ;)), but it can be way less painless and easier than you think. Here are three tips that have helped me research like a rock star for my latest writing escapades.

1. Find Some Good Sources.

The first step in researching like a rock star is finding some reliable sources. No, this doesn’t mean heading straight to Wikipedia, although that would be nice. But Wikipedia isn’t always very reliable. Instead, check your local library for some good books and find reliable websites dealing with your topic(s). One of my favorite places to go when I’m looking for a good, reliable source is a museum website.

For example, I had to do a lot of research on the Wild West for my Camp Nanowrimo novel. I was able to visit the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s website and read some articles and watch videos about cowboy life on their “Explore The West” page. If the museum you’re looking into doesn’t have a page like that (which can happen), be sure to check out their online store if they have one. You’ll be sure to find some great research books you can purchase or hunt down at the library. I’m telling you, if you aren’t on a first name basis with your librarian, you will be soon. ;)

2. Take LOTS of Notes.

You’re going to need a large notebook and/or a blank Word document for this one… A nice mug of salted caramel hot chocolate would be nice too. :) Now’s the time to copy down everything you’ve learned, from the little details about that quirky little bridge to the proper way to shoot a bow. It’s best to also take a few mental notes so that during your first draft you’re not constantly flipping through notebooks or scrolling through Word documents. Every bit counts so that your story will leap off the page and be as real as possible. Be sure to keep a list of all the resources you’re getting information from. It’ll be so helpful in the long run when you’re trying to validate a fact or two in the future.

3. Organize It All.

I’m going to be honest, I’m not the most organized human being on earth. But organizing my notes makes has made it so much easier to look back on certain facts when I’m writing. For example, if you’re researching cowboys, separate your notes on chuck wagons from the ones on the many uses of a bandana. And if you’re may more organized than me, you can even jot down where you found that fact so you can remember where you learned all of this cool stuff!

Whew, research still sounds like a boatload of work, doesn’t it? It’s true, researching for your novel can be hard. It can be time consuming. It can have your head swimming and your brain ready to burst at the seams. But the benefits reaped by all of your hard work will be so worth it. Because of your research, your story will not only be factually accurate but even more enjoyable and professional. And, when you do it right, you’ll actually end up finding it to be quite fascinating.

And who knows? You may learn a thing or two. ;)

Have you done any research in the past for your novel? What is the hardest part about this process for you? Which of these tips will help you the most?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

How to Craft Fabulous First Pages - Guest Post by Barbara M. Britton

About Barbara:

Barbara M. Britton was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, but currently lives in Wisconsin and loves the snow—when it accumulates under three inches. She writes Christian Fiction for teens and adults. Barb has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate. Barb kicked off her Tribes of Israel series in October with the release of “Providence: Hannah’s Journey.” Her second book “Building Benjamin: Naomi’s Journey” released In April. The Journeys will continue this fall with “Jerusalem Rising: Adah’s Journey.” Barb is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Romance Writers of America and Wisconsin Romance Writers of America.

When do you stop reading a book?

Better yet, do you even begin reading a book if the first page is dull, lackluster, or confusing? I’ve heard it said that literary agents know if they will represent a book after reading the first page. At a pitch appointment, I had an agent request just one page of my story. One page? I was insulted, but it showed me how important openings are to readers—and agents.

The past several years, I have judged a contest where writers submit the first five pages of their novel. Mistakes can pop up in those important pages. Here are a few issues that will sink your contest score, and/or cause an agent to pass on your manuscript.

Crowding too many people into the opening.

Readers need to get to know your main character. After all, we are going to follow them through the entire story. Keep your narrative centered around the MC (main character). Readers don’t need to be introduced to an extended family, circle of friends, or a myriad of co-workers in the first pages. My brain hurt as I was introduced to a five-piece band, a department store full of employees, and an entire Bible Study, all in the first five pages of novels. How could I keep these people straight? And did I need to? Were these people going to disappear after the first chapter? Should they? Try to focus on who matters most. And don’t have your MC knocked unconscious in the first pages. I’ve seen this too. Comatose characters can’t interact with anyone.

Focus on the here and now. Post a sign “No Info Dumping.”

Start a story with what is currently happening in your main character’s life. Please don’t take the reader on a stroll down memory lane, or feel that you have to inform us of the past few years of a character’s life. Information on a character’s history can be slipped in by what they’re wearing, what they say, how skilled they are at a task, or who shows up at their door. We have a whole novel to get acquainted with your characters, don’t start page one with backstory.

Where am I?

Characters are important, but the setting matters as well. Hint at where the story takes place. If the MC is at a balmy beach in January, he/she isn’t in Wisconsin. If a character is rushing to take the ACT and a bell rings, I bet they’re at a high school. You can name an airport, stadium, or street and set the scene immediately.

What’s in a name?

I had to change a character’s name in my debut novel because it started with the same letter as my hero. This secondary character showed up throughout the book. My editor got confused when the two men were in a scene together. Confusion isn’t good, so I changed the name of my secondary character. Use the whole alphabet when naming your characters and avoid too many similar names (Cathy, Cassie, Carrie).

Know your genre.

What type of story are you writing? Readers have expectations of what should happen in the opening pages of a particular genre. If you’re writing romance, the hero and heroine meet very soon. This is sometimes called the “meet cute.” In mysteries and thrillers, something is wrong and needs to be set right. Young Adult novels have characters who are teenagers (usually 14-18). If your characters are over 18 then you’re writing in the New Adult or Literary Fiction genres. Know the parameters of the genre you are writing. Word counts differ. Language matters. Read widely in the genre you are writing, so you know what’s expected by the reader. You can even read reviews of similar books on Goodreads and Amazon to see common themes readers enjoyed.

Openings may seem difficult, but as I tell my sons when they are writing papers for school, “You can’t fix a blank page.” I’ve been told that quote comes from Nora Roberts. Remember, writing something is better than writing nothing at all. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make things permanent. The more you write, the better you will become. So, go forth and ace that opening.

What do struggles do you face while crafting the opening to a novel?