Category: Writing

The Real Deal of Indie Publishing

Ever since I started on this “author journey” I’ve considered what I was doing to be more the “indie author” path than the traditional publishing path. But this year taught me the truth.

I wasn’t.

Taking manuscripts from idea to published book BY MYSELF, as I’ve done with the three books in the REFLECTIONS series was indie publishing.
And I didn’t like it.

The Process

These days, people write a story, use a free program to create a “cover” and throw it up on Amazon.

That is NOT publishing. These people might say they’ve published a book, but the process of publishing a “readable” book is lengthy. The indie and small press methods are generally NOT a long as New York publishing, but the good ones follow the same process.

What the Author does:

1. Comes up with a story idea
2. Drafts the story (some do an extensive outline first)
3. Rewrites the story
4. Asks test readers for input
5. Revises the story using the input
6. Edits the story
7. Sends the manuscript to the publisher
8. Signs a contract
9. Gives input into cover design
10. Markets the story using every possible outlet
11. Begins the process again with a new idea


What the Publisher does:

1. Vets manuscripts to find stories that will sell (or at least connect with readers)
2. Assigns an editor to work with authors on content (or developmental) edits
3. Hires a cover artist
4. Writes blurbs and marketing copy
5. Performs line edits once author and editor agree story is ready
6. Purchases ISBNs and applies for copyright
7. Sets up publicity (including Amazon advertising or book signings)
8. Formats the book for digital and print
9. Contracts producer to make audio book
10. Uploads the manuscript and graphics to book distributor websites
11. Sends press releases to appropriate newspapers/magazines
12. Distributes galley copies and does final proofing (netting some reviews)

The exception here is that my current small press does NOT do the developmental or line editing. They expect authors to pay for an independent editor to vet their manuscripts.

If you’re an indie author? Both of those lists become your responsibility.

Why Some People Like It

In a word: control.

For those of you who thought I was a person who liked being in control, I can assure you that in the case of book publishing, I don’t. I want to write the story and send it off for someone else to magically transform into a book.

If an author has a substantial following and can get traction on Amazon, they can earn more money as an indie author. Most small presses offer larger royalty percentages than New York. Without an agent, all the royalties go to the author.

For the author who is both writer and publisher, they get all the proceeds. But they also bear all the costs of hiring and paying contractors to handle everything they can do.

For me that includes cover design, editing and formatting. For the first book in the REFLECTIONS series, I’m into it for close to $1000. That means I have to sell a LOT of copies to even break even.

Why I Don’t Want to Do It

Writing used to light me up.

Notice the past tense here?

This year, I wrote solely in a different genre, and it was hard work. I couldn’t let my characters tell their story. I had an “outline” to follow and it wasn’t flexible.

I knew this. But it’s the Bible, and I felt compelled to tell these stories as a way to invite women to see the Bible in a new way. To see the people in the Bible as “real people” and hopefully gain hope in the process.

I’d like to think all my fiction offers hope to readers. After all, my characters face big problems but find a happy ending (guaranteed).

I don’t like having to find contractors. I don’t like making every decision about my book’s format and cover. Most of the joy and excitement I felt in the past when the publisher sent me my cover to reveal didn’t exist when I was working with the designer on the projects this year.

Every part of it feels like work, and writing the story can be hard enough. By the time I uploaded A Pondering Heart, I didn’t want to think about it or talk about it anymore.

Except then I needed to start marketing and promoting it so it would sell. Because I’m in the hole financially!

Looking Forward

If you’re a reader of my books, maybe you’re wondering what this means for the future.

What it could mean is that you won’t see as many new stories from me published next year (or the year after that). In the midst of having the indie author experience this year, I also have been querying other small presses looking for a home for A VIRTUAL LOVE STORY and AFTER THE APOCALYPSE: UNKNOWN.

In 2020, I’ll be querying Sweet Promise Press about having my own series. I’ll apply to write in one of their existing series, and if the paranormal romance series they introduce isn’t vampires, werewolves or ghosts, I’ll apply to write for it, too.

I plan to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference with some sort of completed manuscript to query. That will be my new thing: querying agents and publishers because that’s how authors get traditionally published.

What sort of stories would you like to read?

A Preview of A Laboring Hand

November is halfway over. My Reflections series has been introduced, and I’m thankful for those of you who have purchased, read and reviewed the book. But it is only the first in a series, and I’m going to give you a peek inside the second book in the series today.

Today’s excerpt comes from A Laboring Hand, Reflections Book Two, which releases to the public in January 2020.

If you’re familiar with Mary and Martha of Bethany, you’ll recognize this scene. It’s based on Luke 10:38-42. I’m intentionally starting in the middle of the scene so you can’t see what leads up to Martha’s frustration.

I hope you glimpse the overwhelmed, responsible big sister whose trying to make sure her guests are content and satisfied. Not only is she serious about being the “hostess with the mostest,” Martha wants her siblings to help.

How often have you been frustrated with the lack of help from your family during a hosted event? Or maybe I’m the only person who can imagine this actually happening.

Excerpted from A Laboring Hand, chapter four:

Soon enough, the laughter and banter of a crowd of dusty men filled the room. I welcomed them with a small bowl of water and a clean linen cloth. Well, it was clean for the first man or two who dried their hands.

Yeshua reclined at the head of the table on the largest cushion which my parents had often shared. John bar Zebedee, one of the Boanerges, sat on it with the Master. He was only a couple years older than Mary and the youngest of all the Master’s followers.

The crowd of dirty disciples filled the room, folded onto other cushions. Some chose to lean against the wall on rugs Laz had pulled from his room and ours. The dirt floor could hardly be seen with so many men sprawled around the room.

Mary and I circulated with pitchers, filling every cup we owned and still two men shared each one of the battered pottery pieces. Once we finished, I began to distribute bowls of spiced beans and cloth-wrapped packages of bread, still warm from their place on the hearth. I turned to ask Mary to assist me, but she’d seated herself cross-legged at Yeshua’s feet, staring up as he started to teach.

I blinked hard. What on earth was she thinking? Was this her rebellion since I hadn’t let her get water for foot washing? She was certainly positioned in a way that she could wash his feet if she had the supplies.

I continued bustling around taking care of our guests, but my frustration grew. Yeshua’s authoritative voice, usually so soothing, fueled the ire inside me. He could make her help me. I glanced at Laz, but my brother was watching the Master and scribbling on a piece of parchment. Mary never once looked my way, even when I nudged her with my ankle as I passed to refill the cup John shared with Yeshua.

They had promised to help. When I’d first mentioned inviting the group to stay over for more than a day, both Laz and Mary agreed to help with the work. Now they sat there, enjoying Yeshua’s teaching while I served everyone.

With a careful eye, I glanced at every cup and bowl. Levi raised his cup in my direction, and I sidled through the sprawled bodies to fill it, nearly tripping on another man’s filthy feet.

The mud-caked toes never even flinched, and my bubble of anger swelled. I swallowed it, and turned to top off his cup. He stared through me, as if I were invisible, but I was used to that from working in the Pharisee’s home. In the past, Yeshua’s friends were more gracious.

Unrest stirred inside me as I shuffled around, refilling cups and then fetching more bread to replenish the diminishing stacks. After refilling my pitcher from the jar stored beneath the eaves, I counted the loaves in the linen clothes on the counter. Only three dozen were left. Soon, I would need to bake more.

And that’s when it became too much. I strode toward Yeshua holding the jug of watered wine aloft and jabbed my sister with a meaningful kick. She blinked, staring at me for a moment as if I’d woken her from a deep sleep.

As I filled the Lord’s cup, I said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”

A hush descended in the room. I heard the wine trickle against what was in his cup. Our eyes met.

“Bid her to help me.” Couldn’t he see how much work needed to be done? And Mary was just sitting there like a useless lump.

“Martha.” His voice was quieter than it had been, almost gentle.

At the sound of my name from his lips, the turmoil loosened inside me. Why had I waited so long to ask for his assistance? His dark eyes filled with understanding and concern. I knew he would help me because he cared about me.

“Martha, you’re anxious and worried about many things.”

The comfort oozing through me turned sharp and became a prickle of conviction. Worry was sin. My father had told me so.

“But one thing is needful.”

One thing? I wanted to jerk my hand around at the crowd of hungry men who needed food, drink, and places to sleep. There were many things that needed to be taken care of. I knew he could see that.

Yeshua sighed. His fingers rested on the handle of the pitcher beside mine. They were square and scuffed—working man’s hands.

“And Mary hath chosen that good part.” His voice rose slightly, but not with anger or impatience, and his hand dropped to his lap. “And that won’t be taken away from her.”

Everything warred within me as I struggled to comprehend his words. Mary was sitting there while our guests needed food and drink. How was that better than helping me meet their needs?

With one long glance, he turned to scan the room. “A certain man…”

I recognized the beginning of a parable. Usually I loved his stories—they always carried so much spiritual significance. Tonight, I couldn’t listen because the words he’d spoken to me stung my heart.

Mary hath chosen that good part.

I filled cups with lowered eyes. Tears burned at the back of my eyelids whenever I blinked, but I widened my eyes and jerked my shawl up to cover most of my face.

Mary sat at his feet doing nothing, but Yeshua said she’d chosen the good part. Mary hath chosen that good part. The words kept echoing all evening, drowning out the Master’s stories and the disciples’ questions.

Even now, as I’m writing about it, his gentle admonition stings somewhere deep in my soul. Was there something wrong with my desire to make the men comfortable? Did Yeshua not want a meal and refreshment while he was talking?

One thing is needful. What one thing?

Mary stirred on our shared bed. Her forehead wrinkled and then smoothed. As I’d helped her prepare for bed, I’d wanted to ask about the lessons, but I felt foolish. If I asked, she would know that I hadn’t paid attention while Yeshua taught.

Why did that make me feel guilty? Yeshua wasn’t angry with me. He even thanked me for the food and drink as I passed him to go to bed.

Yahweh help me understand what this means. What is the one needful thing for me to do? Sit and listen like my sister?

I sighed and my heart weighed more heavily in my chest. But if I do that, who will do the work?

**This is copyrighted material.

Are you ready to read MORE of Martha’s story? If you will commit to posting a review of the book on Amazon (and perhaps Goodreads and Book Bub), you can sign up for an advance copy. They will be going out to my Advance Review Team in December. Sign up here.

I Don’t Know What to Write

I am a published author. It’s my job to write all the things…and when I finish writing them, to write something else. For the first time in five years, I don’t know what to write next.

That doesn’t sound too bad, right?

But it is. Because I don’t know if I even WANT to figure out what to write next.

Where is this Coming From?

This year, I stepped outside of my comfort zone to write a series. No, it’s not a series that is out of the zone for me. It’s the genre of this series and the method of publishing it.

I don’t want to be an independently published author. Crazy, right?

In this day when indies make as much money as many traditionally published mid-list authors (if they have a backlist and a decent following), you’d think I would embrace this new paradigm. Ah, the freedom! The income!

The stress. The multiple hat-wearing. The crazy schedule. The headaches of finding affordable cover designers, editors and formatters.

But I didn’t consider all this. After all, I had the second story half written. The third book was the same story from a different character’s perspective (how hard could that be?) And the fourth story…yeah, it might never exist.

I wrote two stories. I’m revising and editing book three (while book two is with my line editor), but the plan to write book four during November? It’s out. Because there is NO story. Not enough to write 30,000 words for sure.

I tell myself it is the burnout of writing this difficult genre (historical fiction based on biblical characters). Or it’s the fact I’ve been doing so very little “creative” work during this process. After all, I’m following the Bible’s outline.

Too much revising and editing make this writer a very cranky girl. Could I sell that along with a little “redrum” to the horror crowd?

Where could this Lead?

What’s scary to me is that in the five years I’ve been “doing this author thing” for real, I’ve never ONCE run out of passion, drive or stories.

Truthfully, I haven’t run short on story ideas now, either. But not a single one of them calls to me. Nothing says, “Tell my story or I will keep you awake.”

And since I don’t want to be an indie author, I’m looking mostly to my small publisher for ideas. Of course, SPP is all about series. The publisher is offering two “solo series” each year to authors who have published in any of her shared series. I have some ideas to pitch.

But none of them are siren songs to my creative soul.

I applied to write a story in one of the existing series. (The one that I wrote for originally is NOT going to be opened for any new stories.) The “open worlds” are going to be released in batches and only one time per calendar year. I have several ideas for that series, but I don’t know if I want to write them or not.

This lack of passion could lead to a total derailment of my “author career.” And just when I’m starting to get a “regular” paycheck that can buy more than a cup of coffee, too.

What if I have to take more sub jobs? Or write a ton of $5 emails on Fiverr? Is that what I want to do for the rest of my life?

No. I’ve said it before. My sub license expires in 2021, and I’m praying I’ll be making enough from other sources (especially my back list of novellas) that I won’t “need” to renew it. And I raised my prices on Fiverr which has led to a marked decrease of orders because I didn’t have time to deal with those piddly emails.

Where I’m NOT Going with This

Earlier this year, I mentioned taking a dive into the nonfiction world. I’d outlined and drafted a book called THROUGH THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS that chronicled my “grief” journey.

I’ve invested time on this idea this year, too. You can hear about my attempt at writing a proposal that would sell it to agents here.

I attended some online conferences especially to drop into sessions about writing nonfiction and memoir. During one of these, I signed up for a free 15-minute consultation with an author coach. She graciously agreed to look over my proposal and give me an idea of what she thought I’d need to write this book.

Needless to say, the book needs an overhaul. Mostly because I wrote it for me without a clue about structuring a nonfiction book.

Do I want to spend a $1000 and several months turning it into a finished product?

I know I won’t be able to sell it to an agent. I learned that from the Book Proposal Workshop I took this spring, and I don’t foresee anything changing that reality.

The answer here is pretty obvious.

Which brings me back to the original question: What do I want to write next?

What Do You Want to Read?

Thanks for stopping in to read my blog. Not many people do. That’s why I’ve trimmed back to posting once per week and often recycling older posts or content from some of my published works.

If you read my books, this is where I need your input.

I’ve been kicking around the idea of pursuing my “dream” of writing fantasy (possibly young adult fantasy). Would you buy and read it?

I’m also considering delving into women’s fiction since many of my romances are more about issues than finding love. Would you buy and read those?

Better yet, what do you LOVE to read? What do you WISH someone would write because you can’t find it anywhere?

What To Do With This Blog

Time for some honest reflection about this blog.

I started it for a college class. I moved it to my website to help my ranking in search engines.  But it has never gotten the following or engagement I hoped to find.

I won’t remove it because…there’s a TON of content here.

But, I’ve gone to posting once each week (and scheduling these posts as much as two months in advance), and I’m still not getting engagement. There’s not a niche this fits.

So, I’m going to change what I do with this blog. I’m also going to remove it from the “main page” of my website. It will return to a “blog” page (that is currently blank).

This Month

This month, I’ve re-purposed content from a Bible study book I published a couple of years ago into a “class” of sorts.
What do you think about that for the future of this blog?

I would start the month with a video (this month’s was first featured in my Facebook group). Then I’d follow that up with other sections from the book (possibly including comments from “real” students who participated in my online class).

Even though I’ve pretty much decided that I won’t do an online course again (because it’s taking a lot of time I don’t have away from writing), I’d still like the experience.

After all, teaching is one of my gifts from God, and I’ve learned to enjoy doing it via video (and I think I’m finally getting better at that).

After That

Do you remember me talking about a nonfiction book on grief? I did it here.

Well, I’m considering posting some of the content from the book in my blog and sharing it widely in circles where people who might want to read it could find it.

Mostly, this is another test. I want to know if people are interested in my content. If they think it’s valuable.

Also, the class I took on writing nonfiction book proposals discouraged me for completing this project. According to that agent, if I can’t prove to a publisher that I have a “ready made” audience, they won’t publish my book.

Would you be interested in reading that content here?

My Dilemma

The real problem is I don’t have enough hours in a day to do all the things I’ve undertaken. In October, my first collection of Christian romances will be available in print. This is a self-published project even though my publisher owns the digital rights to the stories.

In November, I begin the push to get REFLECTIONS noticed and purchased. This series is one hundred percent self-published, and every time I work on it I’m reminded why I want a publishing contract.

In fact, I’m generating so many reasons, come back later for a post on that.

Even when I don’t go online at Fiverr, I’m getting new orders. I’ve had to mark myself “out of the office” the last two weekends because I’d been getting two to four new orders every Sunday. I don’t even WORK on Sunday!

What am I doing on Fiverr? Mostly writing, but I also go to critique my first fiction chapter in August. It was GREAT! The author left a nice review and said my critique helped her focus on what needed changing. I hope it spurs more such orders.
I also recently ghost-wrote a short ebook on cannabis. Yeah, not really a subject I know much about (or wanted to) but during the research I realized my ignorance wasn’t very attractive.

Who knew hemp was among the oldest cultivated crops? Not me. I was vaguely aware that hemp rope was the best for seaworthy tasks, but I didn’t really think much about how it was made. Or why it was so amazing.

If you’re wondering about my Fiverr business, I wrote more about it in earlier posts.

The bottom line is that I don’t have time to take a day off. I don’t know why I’ve given myself busy mornings when that can be my most productive writing time.

And most of all, I wonder “What am I doing writing blogs? No one reads them anyway.”

But here YOU are. You’re reading this post.

What would you like to see on this blog?

More Straight Talk from Editor Kristen Hamilton

Last week, we started this interview with Kristen, owner of Kristen Corrects, Inc. in Idaho.

I asked Kristen if she had any especially disagreeable authors (other than me) and what she would do when an author argued with her about her suggested changes.

KRISTEN: I’ve had authors disagree with edits I’ve made to avoid a blatant error (usually with capitalization or grammar). In most cases, I’ll explain why the edit is necessary, and the author will agree. But sometimes, the author disagrees. These instances are harder to let go, because it reflects poorly on the author and on me, the editor. Still, the author’s in charge, and I’ll leave the error in if they request it.

Wow! I want to insert that this MIGHT not be true if your editor is with a periodical or publishing house. Most of the time, those editors have the final say on small things like this.

Kristen’s been an editor for many years. Nosy authors want to know: What’s the most difficult part of being a book editor?

KRISTEN: It’s tough to deliver bad news to authors, especially when I know they’ve already been through several rounds of self-editing and revisions. This usually occurs in the manuscript critique process, where I’m reading their manuscript and pointing out any big-picture issues in pacing, character development, or plot and story structure. There’s no secret formula to create a good book, but if the book simply isn’t engaging, something’s off. It’s not always easy for an author to see this, as they’re so close to their work. I always focus on the manuscript’s strengths and offer constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement in the areas that aren’t working, but it can still be difficult to deliver that news.

I’m always a little scared to open a manuscript from my editor. In my experience, you do a great job of offering balanced feedback. We’ll see if I feel the same way once you get a look at A LABORING HAND in September.

Now that the negative is out of the way, what do you find to be the most satisfying part of your job?

KRISTEN: Books have always just done it for me, you know what I mean?  (I’m nodding here because I DO know.) I’ve had a lifelong love affair with books. And to know that I’m personally improving every book I edit…well, that’s a powerful feeling. These books will exist forever, in some capacity. That’s a pretty big job. And that’s pretty satisfying.

Ah, books. It’s so satisfying to have a conversation with a person who loves them nearly as much as I do.

The publishing industry has undergone a huge transformation in the past few years, and it’s still changing. How has your experience as a freelance editor changed your view about self-publishing and traditional publishing?

KRISTEN: I’ve had the pleasure of reading, editing, and critiquing hundreds of books by unknown and unpublished authors. There are some incredible stories out there! Since self-publishing is a relatively new thing, it’s opening up an entirely new platform to give a voice to everyone—what an incredible thing. And trust me, as I mostly work with fiction novels and memoirs, both forms of creative writing, I can say with certainty that everyone has a story. So when some traditionalists scoff at the idea of self-publishing, saying it’s “not real publishing,” I just smile and move on. Traditional publishing is great for the masses, but if you want to hear real stories, self-publishing is where it’s at.

I’m a little floored by that answer. In fact, I’m going to use that last line in a quote graphic that I’ll be sharing on social media.

Real stories: find them at the indie bookstore not on shelves stocked by big presses.

Now that we’ve come to the end of our “chat,” I can’t say “thank you” loud enough and long enough to express my appreciation for Kristen. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer questions for a bunch of authors who sometimes wonder if they’re writing in the dark.

I’m looking forward to watching Kristen’s expertise make my indie published series REFLECTIONS shine like a diamond among the millions of books available in this new publishing paradigm.

If you have a question about editing, comment below. I’ll make sure Kristen sees your questions so she can respond.

Straight Talk from Editor to Author

Editors do important work. In fact, my choice to pursue traditional publishing has as much to do with getting quality editing for my work as it does to the whole avoiding marketing ideal. (Sadly, there is NO way to avoid that irksome task regardless of an author’s path.)

I’ve worked with half a dozen editors. Three of them I chose myself and paid out of my pocket. The others were assigned to me by the publishing house. In my experience, some editors are fantastic and as relentless in their pursuit of a perfect manuscript as I am.

Others? They’re breezing through the manuscript and finding the obvious errors, but they aren’t passionate about polishing the story to the next level.

Recently, I hired Kristen Corrects, Inc for a three-manuscript independent project. She was one of the first editors I interviewed when the first manuscript in this series was an unborn dream. And although I didn’t hire her then, I have experienced her critique skills with a more recent project, MOMMY’S LITTLE MATCHMAKERS.

Welcome, Kristen. You’re an independent editor with a pretty full schedule and a broad range of editing projects, so I know you’ll have insight my fellow authors will want to hear.

What is something authors commonly forget to do before handing over their manuscript to the editor?

KRISTEN: Self-edit their work.

I cannot stress the importance and the difference in quality authors will see if they invest some time in improving their manuscript before sending it off to a professional editor. Unless authors have unlimited money to pay a freelance editor for many, many editing passes (spoiler alert: most don’t!), authors can really improve the quality of their final book simply by self-editing their work.

Me: That’s great advice, but I’m sure some readers are wondering what that entails. What does self-editing mean to you?

KRISTEN: This means recruiting beta readers and implementing their suggestions, and reading your manuscript several times to catch as many errors (continuity, grammar, spelling) as possible. I’ve been a freelance editor since 2012, and one thing I know to be true: the most successful self-publishing authors are those who self-edit their work. Simply handing your raw first draft manuscript to your editor and hoping they’ll make it into gold after one or two editing passes just isn’t realistic.

Me: I can’t even imagine sending my raw first draft to anyone. I even revise and give it a quick edit before I send it to my beta readers.

Let’s face it, there are a TON of editors out there. Not only that, there are several types of editing. How is an author supposed to find a reputable editor?

KRISTEN: Do your homework. Make sure the editor has a contract. Check out their portfolio and look up those books on Amazon (if there are a lot of negative reviews mentioning a story that doesn’t make sense or typos, move on). Read testimonials of the editor’s previous clients.

Most editors will offer a sample edit free of charge, so take advantage of this to see if you like how the edited passage of your book. There are a lot of editors out there, so do your research!

Me: I know that when I first interviewed you, I was hoping to find someone who had experience editing in my genre (historical fiction). In fact (along with price), this is the reason I went with someone else for that first project. Do editors prefer to work in certain genres?

KRISTEN: I’m a fiction book editor, but I haven’t “niched down” yet to a specialty (romance, fantasy, etc.). There’s a robust world in fiction writing, and I enjoy all of it—the variety makes my job so interesting. There’s a big difference between fiction and nonfiction writing, though, which is why I rarely accept the nonfiction project.

Me: At the end of the day, authors don’t have to take your recommendations. Every editor I’ve worked with has reiterated this to me (yes, even the ones with publishing houses). How do you manage issues when the author disagrees with your advice/recommendations?

KRISTEN: The majority of my clients are self-publishing authors, which means after I’m done editing their manuscript, they upload the books to Amazon Kindle or other self-publishing platforms. The book is their baby—it has their name on it, their ideas, and their story. And as such, I always tell my author clients: “You’re the author, so you’re in the driver’s seat!” (It’s kind of become a mantra.)

I’m here as their editor to make the book the best it can be—but if the author disagrees with my recommendations, I’m totally fine with that. That’s the beauty of self-publishing—it’s the author’s story, nobody else’s.

Me: Come back next week and find out if Kristen deals with a client who disagrees with changes she suggested.

For my part, I’ve worked with several editors, and I’ve never had any arguments. There were times I disagreed with my editor and cited the Chicago Manual of Style to them as to WHY I didn’t accept their changes. Amazingly, they thanked me for pointing those errors out to them.

Next week, I’ll open up the comments at the bottom of the post and ask Kristen to check in and answer any questions you have for her. In the meantime, why not check out her blog and see if she answers them there.

From the Archives: “I’m Not a Playwright”

Republishing a post from the early days of my blog…back when I was earning my college degree and had to write a “Ten-Minute Script.”

This was first published on my middleagedcoed WordPress blog on February 9, 2013.

What do you think?

Words well within me, an unquenchable passion, until my fingers transfer them to the page. Writing, flying for my soul and spirit, frees me like nothing else.

Penning a play – especially one that must be performed within ten minutes – just doesn’t offer the same joyful release.

Two Problems

Story line: Really, what sort of story that has any plot development or character arc can be told in ten minutes? Solely with dialogue. In a single setting and make it a simple one. It can only be a snippet of a story and yet, the instructor expects it to have the richness of a full-length work.

Stage directions: I am bogging my script down with stage directions. Even as I know this, I feel the only way to develop my characters is to show their facial expressions and body language. So much can be said in narrative. My story seems empty if I don’t insert these specific emotions and actions for the characters.

I’d Rather Write a Story

I keep telling myself that the only difference between what I’m writing for this workshop and what I love to produce is the format. Instead of using paragraphs and quotation marks and endless lines of prose, I’m typing stage directions and parentheticals and character names.

I’m not fooling myself. I’ll be surprised if I pull the wool over the eyes of my professor and classmates.

The story is shallow and the characters don’t have time to be fully developed. They will appear onstage as completely formed, speak their lines and exit.

In the end, I’m hoping for a few chuckles over my preposterous premise. If I could change the world in ten minutes I would have some sort of dedicated following, wouldn’t I?

Have you ever written in a form that felt uncomfortable and unworkable? I’d like to hear your story.

Join the Discussion

Discussion holds the power to enlighten and inform. Of course, it needs to be a two-way conversation where listening happens as often as talking…and from both sides.

In our crazy “You Can Do it All” world, it can be difficult to maintain the focus needed to accomplish any task well. That’s one of the things I mention in my study guide Finding Focus through the Lens of God’s Word.

Eight Bible lessons to help you discover your focus

For the rest of this year, I’ll be offering the content of that book FREE to members of my Friends of Author Facebook group.

This is the table of contents from the book.

Session One:  Your Life in Pictures

Session Two: Where’s the Auto Focus?

Session Three: Choosing what to Focus on

Session Four: Focus-Helping

Session Five: Focus-Mentoring

Session Six: Focus-Teaching

Session Seven: Focus-Mothering

Session Eight: When Life’s out of Focus

To kick things off, we’ll start at the beginning, but I won’t go through every chapter. If you’re interested in joining with this study and discussion, go here to join the group. Then follow this link to fill out the poll where you select the top three topics from the book that you’re interested in reading and discussing. The four topics that receive the most votes will be discussed beginning in September.

Why Am I Doing This?

First of all, I’m trying to see if there is a market for this information.

Secondly, I need to build a platform of active followers if I want to convince an agent to take on the proposal I’ve been working on. More about that later once I decide if I can make a “course” out of the information that people might be interested in paying to obtain.

And finally, I don’t get a lot of traction here on my blog. A few people comment. If Google Analytics are painting the best picture, a few more are reading the blog without leaving any feedback.

But mostly, my writing here goes into the Virtual Ether and that’s the end of it. So why do I keep posting here?

A New Focus

Speaking of focus, I promised earlier this year that the blog articles would take on a new focus. But I haven’t really delivered on that.

Now is the time for that delivery.

Next year, all the content on this blog will be either research related to the REFLECTIONS series, book reviews or opinions that relate to either the genre of Biblical fiction or Christian living. At least once each month, I’ll share an article that relates directly to the topic  of grief and grief recovery.

If you’re a regular reader, I’d love to hear your input on these changes.

As always, thanks for reading.

A Glimpse Inside What I’m Writing Now

The cover for the second book in the REFLECTIONS series will be unveiled soon.

A Laboring Hand is the story of Jesus told by Martha of Bethany. And it’s a story that’s had a profound effect on the author writing it.

I’ve always teased my sister about being bossy, but Martha has taken flak from preachers for a couple thousand years about her tendency to be bossy. We’re familiar with this scripture from Luke 10, right?

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

But what did it look like in Martha’s life?

Here’s a glimpse from A LABORING HAND, chapter four.

I washed my hands and began to chop the handfuls of pungent herbs I would add to the beans. The pestle in my hand smashed the beans with rhythmic efficiency. Mary pressed together more flour, salt and olive oil, intent on baking more bread.

“The stone was hot.” The words had barely left my mouth when Lazarus limped in followed by a boy carrying a jug on his head.

“Leave it in the shade outside,” I waved a hand to the boy. “We’ll draw out into my pitchers half-filled with water. That will make it last.”

Laz nodded to the boy, gesturing to a place further along the house, away from the cooking fire and the chimney. I heard the jingle of coins.

“It’s already watered.”

“What proportion?” My brain estimated the amount of drink a dozen thirsty men would need.

“Fifty percent.” Lazarus slouched against the wall. Weariness etched his features, but I knew he wouldn’t rest. He was more eager for the visitors than any of us.

“We can safely add another twenty percent. Will you see to it?”

“I’ll need to draw more water.” Mary’s hands hesitated over the dough. “They’ll need what I drew for washing.”

“They aren’t zealots.” I returned to my chopping. “They won’t care about washing before they eat. Could you reach me the bowl of olives?” I gestured to the line of pottery on the wall overhead.

Mary shoved Abba’s weaving stool into place and stepped up to grasp the bowl. “I intend to wash their feet.”

I froze. Why would she insist on doing that? It was a servant’s job, and since we didn’t have servants, none of our guests ever expected this service.

“They’ll just get dirty again when he leaves on Sunday.”

“But they’ll be clean for Sabbath.”

Like that really mattered in a small synagogue like ours.

“There isn’t enough water.” That would solve it.

“I’ll draw more.”

“The bread needs baking. And the floor should be swept and the cushions beaten. Plus, we’ll need to get out all the extra rugs.”

Lazarus sighed and pushed away from the wall. “I’ll get started on the cushions.”

I shook my head. With only one arm, it took him much longer to clean them. “I’ll do it. Draw out the wine.”

Laz blinked at me, sharing a look with Mary. It was an apologetic look. He’d tried to aid her plan, but the bossy big sister nixed it. Something gnawed at my heart, but I ignored it. There was work to be done.

Soon enough, the laughter and banter of a crowd of dusty men filled the room. I welcomed them with a small bowl of water and a clean linen cloth. Well, it was clean for the first man or two.

Yeshua reclined at the head of the table on the largest cushion. My parents had often shared it. John bar Zebedee, one of the Boanerges, sat on it with the master while the others filed onto other cushions, some choosing to lean against the wall on the rugs Lazarus had pulled from his room and ours. The dirt floor could hardly be seen once all of them sprawled around the room.

Mary and I circulated with pitchers of wine. Once we finished, I began to distribute the bowls of spiced beans and packets of bread, still warm from their place on the hearth. I turned to ask Mary to assist me, but she’d folded herself cross-legged at Yeshua’s feet, staring up as he started to talk.

I blinked hard. What on earth was she thinking? Was this her rebellion since I hadn’t let her get water for foot washing? She was certainly positioned in a way she could wash his feet if she had the supplies.

I continued to serve. His authoritative voice, usually so soothing, fueled the ire inside me. He could make her help me. I glanced at Laz, but my brother was watching the master and scribbling on a piece of parchment. Mary never once looked my way, even when I nudged her with my ankle as I passed to refill John’s cup.

With a careful eye, I glanced at every cup and bowl. They would need continual watching. Matthew raised his cup in my direction, and I sidled through the sprawled bodies to fill it, nearly tripping on another man’s filthy feet.

They weren’t drawn out of the way, so I turned and topped off his cup. He stared through me, as if I were invisible. I was used to that from working in the Pharisee’s home, but usually Yeshua’s friends were more gracious.

The unrest stirred inside me as I shuffled around, refilling cups and then fetching more bread to replenish the diminishing stacks. Soon, I would need to bake some more.

And that’s when it was too much. I strode toward Yeshua with my pitcher and jabbed my sister with a meaningful kick. She blinked.

As I filled his cup, I said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”

A hush descended in the room. I heard the wine trickle against what was in his cup. Our eyes met.

“Bid her to help me.” Couldn’t he see how much work I was doing? Why should she just be sitting there?

“Martha.” His voice was quieter than it had been, almost gentle.

At the sound of my name from his lips, the turmoil loosened inside me. Why had I waited so long to ask for his assistance? His dark eyes filled with understanding and concern. He would help me because he cared about me.
“Martha, you’re anxious and worried about many things.”

The comfort turned to a prickle of conviction. Worry was sin. My father had told me so.

“But one thing is needful.”

One thing? I wanted to jerk my hand around at the crowd of hungry men who needed food, drink and places to sleep. There were many things that needed to be taken care of. I knew he could see that.

Yeshua sighed. His fingers rested on the handle of the pitcher beside mine. They were square and scuffed. Working man’s hands.

“And Mary hath chosen that good part.” His voice rose slightly, but not with anger or impatience, and his hand dropped to his cup. “And that won’t be taken away from her.”

Everything warred within me as I struggled to comprehend his words. Mary was sitting there while our guests needed things. How was that better than helping me meet their needs?

“A certain man,” his gaze scanned the rest of the room.

I recognized the beginning of a parable. Usually I loved his stories, they always carried so much spiritual significance. I couldn’t listen though because his words stung my heart.

I filled cups, my eyes lowered. Tears burned at the back of my eyelids whenever I blinked, but I widened my eyes, pulling my shawl which had dropped to my shoulders, up to cover most of my face.

Mary sat at his feet doing nothing, but Yeshua said she’d chosen the good part. The words kept echoing all evening.

Even now, as I’m writing all this, they sting me somewhere deep in my soul. Was there something wrong with my desire to make the men comfortable? Did Yeshua not want a meal and refreshment while he was talking?

What do you think? How had you imagined Martha in this moment that gets so much negative attention? Should women be more like Mary?

If you’re excited to learn more about the REFLECTIONS series, make sure you’re a member of my newsletter. I’ll be running special (including FREE audiobooks of A PONDERING HEART) to my subscribers FIRST!
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The Power of Three

With a title like that, this article could be about Charmed or the Trinity or any number of things. Instead, it’s about the way many things are segmented into “just do these three things” and you’ll find success.

In the Book Proposal workshop I wrote about last week, the agent/instructor told us a major way we could build our platform was to write three articles.

Yes, the power of three strikes again. (Not the power of three strikes. All that gets you is OUT.)

Why Three?

It could be an arbitrary number. But there is some method to choosing three.

Three articles on one topic (but not the same elements of that topic) offer enough diversity that it can make your knowledge appear broad. In some cases, maybe broader than it is. Don’t get me started on that “pretending things” avenue.

These articles need to represent the “best” of my topic. They should showcase my hook and also what’s different about my approach to a common and well-covered topic.

They need to be well-written in the style of my book. And they need to be edited to perfection

Then What?

Now that I have three well-crafted articles showcasing my expertise on this subject, I’m set.

For what exactly?

To get the content out there.

I should pitch these articles to sites with large followings that would be interested in the topic. Maybe send the articles out to a magazine.

Yes, I have to be careful about reprint and copyright infringement, but that’s the main reason I have three articles. I can use some of them in forums that don’t require first or exclusive rights, and save one of them to sell to an exclusive market.

Also, I should reformat the information into live videos or coaching sessions. Anything that can get the information out into the world.

What’s the Point?

Other than getting my information out there, this exposure establishes me as an expert.

Which I’m not. However, every agent and editor will do an online search of me. These articles on so many different channels will show up as hits. And that looks like I have a large reach.

This is part of platform building that we often overlook. Especially since my experience is mostly with fiction platform building. That doesn’t lend itself in the same way.

As I mentioned last week, I’m not thrilled to spend all my energy talking about working through grief. It isn’t my primary gifting or calling.

But if I want to get a traditional contract for this book, I should do everything in my power to “follow the rules.”

That’s the main reason you’ll see my blog and my Facebook group focused on nonfiction topics for the rest of the year. It’s not because I’m not writing fiction, because you know I have five projects in the works.

My goal is to build a platform that appeals to a publisher. In reality, I’d rather talk about fictionalizing Bible stories and how that can further spiritual growth. Yes, everyone grieves, and I would be willing to speak on that topic too, but my passion is for the other.

Apparently, if you write a book, it’s because you’re an expert in that field. And from then on, you’ll only be seen as someone who can address that subject.

That’s so limiting. Especially for someone like me who can’t even decide on a single fiction genre to write in forever.

What is a topic you wish someone would write a book on?