Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Characters Have Come to Life!

I recently finished the first draft of my novel, but I felt like I didn't even know my main characters!  They really hadn't come alive for me.  How was that possible since I just wrote over a 122,000 words specifically about them?!?!  So I found some books and started to study the craft of creating fictional characters...

I am reading "The Art of War for Writers" by James Scott Bell and one of the things he recommends is to start up dialogues with your main characters and let them tell you who they are.  He said its fun and a bit spooky at times - and I found out he was right!

I started to let my main female character, Elizabeth, tell me about herself.  I started by writing in the first person and said: My name is Elizabeth Chatfield, but my family and friends call me Ellie..." and from there she said 4,139 words about herself.  It was amazing.  I had a general idea of who she was and what her back story looked like, written up on a fill-in-the-blank form, but her spirit didn't come alive to me until she told me about herself, in her own voice. 

It does seem kind of like a creepy idea, doesn't it?  But it is so much fun to be creative in this way - to let your character "come alive" in their own voice.

I did the same thing with one of my male characters and his turned out to be just over 4,200 words long.  I am in the process of letting my second male character "talk" to me, and I have been simply amazed at how quickly my fingers fly across the keys.  Each 4,000+ word biography has been done in a little over two hours - that is incredible to me.

All three characters have such different back stories and such different "voices," and I have been so encouraged to finally know who they are.  As I go back though and re-write my story, I already know a lot has to change, now that I have a better handle on how they see the world, how they were raised, what their dreams are and how they struggle.  It has brought wind to my sails!  My characters have come to life!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Giving it Up to God

Recently, I've been reading a lot of "how to" books on writing.  I am gleaning great information and useful techniques about character development, plot, dialogue, etc., but something I read last night has really shown me how I can be the best writer possible: Give my writing back to God and let Him do with it what He will.  This thought isn't new to me, but it was a very timely reminder and an excellent opportunity to make a commitment to Him as I set out on this journey

I remember a time, almost fifteen years ago, when I had fallen head over heels in love with a certain young man (my Hubby).  We were "friends," but I wanted to be so much more.  I remember the nine months I spent agonizing over the silliest things, hoping and praying with all my heart that he would return my feelings and that we could start moving towards our future together.

One night as I prayed, I specifically remember telling God I was tired of doing things on my own.  I was tired of striving to make myself perfect, I was tired of the ups and downs of my fickle emotions, and I was tired of worrying about the unknown future.  I made a promise to God that night that I would lay Hubby in His hands and whatever He chose to do with him, I would trust God to do it.  I finally had peace as I let it all go.

A funny and amazing thing happened.  About a week later Hubby started showing up at my front door, seeking me out, instead of the other way around.  I remember being calm and peaceful, amazed at how God had been working.  I remember spending hours just talking and listening.  The next day Hubby came back again, and the next day, and the next day.  It has been fifteen years since I put Hubby (and my future) into God's hands.  We will celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary this year and I couldn't have planned a better marriage or future, had I continued to do it on my own.  God was faithful when I submitted to Him and has blessed me in abundance for it.

This is just one of countless examples of God's abiding faithfulness to me when I have submitted to Him.  And I know, as I give my writing back to Him, He will be faithful to do with it what He deems best, the reason for which He created it to begin with.  Ultimately, in my writing and in my marriage, I pray that my submission brings about glory and honor to Him.  Dear, Jesus, this is my utmost prayer.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Whole New World

I've discovered a whole new world!  The writing world.  I've always loved to read and write, but it was a solitary pursuit.  I am a people person - I love being surrounded by people, people who understand me, people who appreciate the things I appreciate, so it was hard being alone as a writer. 

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across a great blog by author Jody Hedlund and it has opened up a new world to me, a world of authors (both published and aspiring), agents, teachers and readers.  People who love what I love and who understand where I am coming from.  It's been a breath of fresh air. 

Before, as I sat alone at my computer, I felt like I was the only person in the world with a dream, now I am surrounded by a sea of dreamers, who are willing to offer their time, knowledge and talents with others who have the same dream.  Not only do they challenge me to push myself and go deeper, they have also offered me hope.  Hope that I can gain the skills I need to take my talent and passion and weave an unforgettable story that will leave my readers begging for more (pause to imagine...).  *Sigh*

I have also found these people to be helpful in finding resources.  One book that was recommended was "A Novel Idea."  It was written by many well-known, successful authors and I have been devouring it!  The book is full of advice and tips on how to craft a novel.  I've already put some of it into practice with editing my manuscript.

The introduction to the book spoke right to me and grabbed me by the heart, tugging at the dreams I've kept there for so many years, pulling them and urging me to keep going on this journey.  The intro talks about the importance of telling a good story, of using metaphors and examples, drawing from our faith and our experiences, of weaving the Truth into the very fabric of our tales.  God uses stories to relate the Truth throughout the Bible.  Jesus was a master at telling Truth through parables and stories.  It is an honor to be given that gift, but it is also a great responsibility.  These words, by Amy Wallace, say it all: "When we as writers take our fears, beliefs, imaginations and research and offer them up for the Lord to use, we are changed, and our fiction carries the power of truth and the fingerprints of our God on every page."

I am so thankful I have found other people who I can relate to.  A journey is always more fun to take with a friend.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Starting the Journey

Zech. 4:10 "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin..." (NLT)

I've begun the journey to publication.  It's a journey I have been dreaming about for over twenty years.  I used to think I could write a story, submit it to a publisher and be on my way, but I've found there is so much more to publishing a book than meets the eye. I am just starting to scratch the surface of all that there is to know.  It's daunting and exhilarating, all at the same time. 

This blog is home to my journey.  I want to be realistic, as well as wildly hopeful.  I want to dream, learn and grow on this journey.  I fully intend to look back at the beginning of my blog someday and laugh at my ignorance and my lack of knowledge, knowing how far I have come.  I will be able to see how much I have accomplished and where my dreams have brought me.  But I have to start at the beginning, as all of us do.  An old Chinese Proverb says that a journey of a thousand miles must start with the first step. 

How long will this journey to publication take?  I don't know, but I do know that God has placed this desire in my heart and in His good timing all things will work together.  My prayer is that He will bring to me what I need to know at the right time; His time.  Who knows what will happen then? 

So here's to the journey of a lifetime.  My journey to publication.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What Makes a Blog Worth Reading?

In our busy lives, what catches our eye and makes us stop for a few minutes to read and savor something that's been written? 

I am in the very beginning stages of researching what it will take to become a published author.  I have my first story almost completed and I am working on my plot and ideas for my second, but there is so much more that goes into publishing a book than just writing it. 

Reading about the craft of writing, attending writer's conferences, networking with other authors, finding an agent, and so on, are just a few things I am beginning to learn about.  But one thing that keeps reoccurring, as I research, is the importance of having a blog - a good blog with dedicated followers.

How do I create a good blog with followers who are genuinely interested in what I have to say?  Because someday, when my first book is hot off the presses, I will rely heavily on my blog followers to be my marketing agents around the world, not to mention a sounding board for me to bounce ideas off of.

So what makes a blog worth reading to you?  Do you like short blog posts or longer ones?  Do you like reading blogs that focus on specific topics like cooking, writing, decorating, family, etc. or do you enjoy reading blogs that are random and surprise you?  Simply put, what kind of a blog is worth your time and effort?  I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chicken & Spinach Tortellini Bake - yum!

Tonight I put together a dish with ingredients I had in the house and it turned out amazing, so I thought I would share!  Super yummy - I should have taken a picture, but it got devoured by our kids before I had a chance.  Enjoy.

Chicken & Spinach Tortellini Bake

1 T olive oil
1 c chopped onion
2 – 19 oz. bags of frozen cheese filled Tortellini
3 cups chopped spinach
3 c cubed, cooked chicken breasts (seasoned with garlic salt)
2 (14 oz) cans Italian-style diced tomatoes
1 (8 oz) block cream cheese
1 T dried onion flakes
½ T salt, ½ T pepper
Parmesan cheese, sprinkled over the top

Spread oil on bottom of 11×17 in baking dish; add onion in a single layer.  Bake at 375 for 15 minutes or just until tender.  Transfer onion to large bowl, set aside.

Prepare frozen Tortellini according to pkg directions. 

Stir together cream cheese and onion flakes. 

In the bowl with the cooked onions add cooked pasta, spinach, chicken, diced tomatoes, cream cheese mixture, salt and pepper.  Spoon mixture into baking dish & sprinkle evenly with parmesan cheese.  Bake covered at 375 for 30 minutes; uncover & bake 15 more minutes or until bubbly.