What is the hardest thing about writing a part of a collection?

renew-book-912724_1920I was asked this question by the author Lena Nelson Dooley in a blog interview yesterday for her site. Here’s what I said:

“Truthfully, finding the time to write is the hardest thing. My job is very demanding, and I have other commitments that are important to me. But when God personally invites you into “a new season of writing” it’s hard to say no.”

Read more of that interview. Enter to win a copy of the book there, too.

 

The Sabbath Life for a Writer

This may seem counter-intuitive, but here it is: You can improve your writing by taking time off to not write.

Those of you who are jumping up and down right now because you think you’ve just found a new excuse for your lack of writing this week, this month, this year—“Hey! I’m on a writing Sabbath!”—calm down. You’re misunderstanding.

First, let’s define the term: Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word that means “to cease, to stop working.” As Peter Scazzero writes in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, it refers to “doing nothing related to work for a 24-hour period each week.”

Sabbath, as Scazzero is referring to it, “provides for us … an additional rhythm for an entire reorientation of our lives around the living God. On Sabbaths, we imitate God by stopping our work and resting.”

Reorientation

For many years, I saw the Sabbath as a day to rest after working, working, working for the previous six days. I have used it as an excuse to work more and more throughout the week—if I worked hard enough I could enjoy the Sabbath without feeling guilty. But that’s backward.

A biblical Sabbath isn’t a reward for hard work; it’s not a time to unplug. Rather, it’s an opportunity to plug into God and recharge in anticipation of the coming week. It’s a retreat, yes, but not to inactivity. It’s a retreat into relationship with
God.

So should a writing Sabbath be. Don’t retreat into inactivity, but retreat into activities that build your relationship with your creative self. Some writing Sabbath possibilities:

  • Instead of writing five chapters of your current manuscript, pick up one of those long-neglected books on your To Be Read pile and submerge yourself in it. Suspend your inner editor and your inner learner. You’re not looking for typos or trying to analyze how the writer created that unique feature. Your goal is simply to be carried away.
  • Instead of spending time “marketing” on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, turn off the computer, call a real friend, and take in a local walking or bicycling path. “Pin” the memories of the beauty you see and experience in your Emotions Bank—you can withdraw them later for use in your WIP.
  • Instead of printing your latest chapters and grabbing your red pen for corrections, visit a local nursing home, homeless shelter, or school and volunteer with the aged, the invisible, or the young. Your investment could “edit” the course that person’s story takes forever.

Re-Engage

Best of all, when you do return to your desk and computer, you’ll return energized—and may even have a couple great plot points to flesh out as you move your story forward.

The important thing when taking a writing Sabbath is to remember Scazzero’s four principles of a biblical Sabbath and apply them to your writing Sabbath:

  1. Stop: Stop writing. Stop social media. Stop editing. Lay it all down, knowing that it’s temporary and will still be there when you return. (Deadline exemptions available.)
  2. Rest: Step completely away from writing and writing-related activities. Your creativity needs it.
  3. Delight: Experience “joy, completion, wonder, and play,” as Scazzero puts it.
  4. Contemplate: Before returning to your keyboard, think about the experiences you had and what they might mean when you begin writing again. Seed your brain with the “what if” possibilities and allow them to germinate.

Consider the writing Sabbath—not as an excuse to not write, but as an opportunity to enrich and deepen your well. See if it doesn’t help you recharge for the next session of writing.

One last thought from Scazzero: “Sabbath is like receiving the gift of a snow day every week. Stores are closed. Roads are impassable. Suddenly you have the gift of a day to do whatever you want. You don’t have any obligations, pressures, or responsibilities. You have permission to play.”

Writer image courtesy of Phaitoon/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friends in water image courtesy of adamr/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mike-9Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as the editor of CHEFS Mix Blog for CHEFS Catalog he is enjoying his playground. Previous playgrounds include being the Managing Editor of the magazine ACFW Journal and the ezine Afictionado for seven years. He also plays with words as a freelance editor and has edited several nonfiction books, proofedited for Abingdon Press, worked in corporate communications, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.

Originally posted on Novel Rocket

Invisibility is good

shocked“The story in this book is fantastic!” Rowlf exploded. “I can’t put it down.”

“Oh really?” Cyndy interrogated. “I found it annoying to read because of all of the oddball speaker attributions.”

“That’s because you have no vision,” Rowlf interjected. “This writer is being experimental.”

I’m proofediting a book right now for a publisher that is full of attributions just like these. It also has no discernible POV, switching within scenes to whatever character is most convenient at the time (head hopping)—or even to omniscient.

So why do I like the book? And what lessons can you learn from it? See my post today at Seriously Write, one of my favorite writer’s blogs.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Mike-9Michael loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying his playground. He also plays with words as a freelance editor here at WritingOnTheFineLine.com, where he often takes a writer Into The Edit, pulling back the veil on the editing process. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.

What next, you winner?

Winner1It’s an unfortunate truth—if there are writing contests, there will be people who do not win them and most of the time those people will be you and me.

So know going into it that, when it comes to writing contests, the odds are against you winning. Does that mean you shouldn’t enter? Not at all! But what it does mean is you need to enter contests for the right reason—getting that invaluable feedback. If you win, great! In fact, stupendous! But if you don’t, what can you learn from your contest scores?

Read more about contests and writing today in my post over on Novel Rocket!

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Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Mike-9Michael loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying his playground. He also plays with words as a freelance editor here at WritingOnTheFineLine.com, where he often takes a writer Into The Edit, pulling back the veil on the editing process. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.

Writers on Editing: Ronie Kendig

Ronie_KendigTo launch this new occasional feature of Writing On The Fine Line, my guest, Ronie Kendig, has donated a fantastic prize: The four-DVD set of the entire “Firefly” television show. It includes all 14 episodes, plus three unaired episodes—and more. If you haven’t seen this, it will … Change. Your. Life. Or, at least entertain you.

But, let’s make it even better: I’ll throw in the best self-editing book on the market, Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King, as well as How To Write A Book Proposal, by Michael Larsen.

The winner gets it all! To enter, leave a short comment about an unforgettable editing experience you had. If it was a good experience, you can mention the editor’s name. But, if it was a bad experience, discretion is advised.

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Each writer has self-editing checks they always make with their manuscripts. What are yours?

Beyond normal plot checks, I watch for echoes of words. I also watch for “was” “–ing” pairings. I’m not a “was” Nazi, but I do pay attention to them. If I can find a better and natural way of rewriting that sentence, then I change it. If the change draws attention to the sentence, then I leave it. I also make sure each sentence ends strong, especially the last sentence of paragraphs.

When you receive edits back from an editor, whether freelance or with your publisher, what is your first reaction?

I gotta admit—I’m a jellyfish (no rhino skin on this gal), so it’s hard for me to open a document and see the editor has bled all over my baby. I’m aware of how hard this is on me, so I take my time. I read through the changes and the requested revisions, leave it for a day or two (if I can), then come back to it. I get it done and pray myself through it.

How much editing do you get back? How much do you have to “fix”?

TalonThe best example is probably to compare the two books I’ve turned in most recently: Talon: Combat Tracking Team and Beowulf: Explosives Detection Dog. In Talon, I was blessed to have only minor content/macro changes. That story poured out of me as if I’d had an IV attached. Beowulf, on the other hand, had quite a few threads to straighten or fix, and I even went in and wrote an entirely new thread to answer some questions my amazing editor had about the story.

BeowulfI admit I was discouraged that I hadn’t turned in a perfect manuscript (can you say unrealistic expectations?), but I attribute the state of that manuscript to having only 2.5 months to write because of other writing commitments, a major move across the U.S. with my family, and a conference. That edit was a bit rough.

Do the edits make you feel like you’ve failed or that you’ve been empowered? Or, do you just sigh and make them?

Initially, they always make me feel like a failure. In fact, the very first edit on my debut novel was a bloodbath—because the editor ran out of time and had to combine her macro edit with her line edit. I totally crashed and burned when I saw that.

Edits are still rough on me because I am very sensitive. But being sensitive does not equate to not succeeding. You’ve heard the phrase, “If you’re going to make it in this business, you must have a rhino skin,” right? Well, I don’t believe that. What you do need to succeed is determination. And I’m a thick-headed Irish girl, so I have that by the boatloads. For the most part, I just get the edits done. Then go eat a dozen glazed donuts.

What have you learned, as a writer, from having your books edited?

That each editor has his or her own quirks, just as writers do—and I think it’s imperative a writer is paired with the right editor. The most empowering thing that has ever been said to me is, “it’s your story,” meaning when an editor and I disagree, that’s okay. It is perfectly fine to ask the editor to leave something as you wrote it. So, when I feel strongly about things, then I do push back. But I’ve also learned that it’s important not to “waste capital” on piddly things. The relationship with your editor is so important. She or he is not against you. They want your book to be the best. You want the same thing.

When you write a series of books, do you have the same editor throughout the whole series? What’s your normal editorial process?

For my first three books, I had three different editors (and was published at two different houses). Halfway through the Discarded Heroes series, a highly respected editor and I agreed we wanted to work together. So, I put in the request to work with this amazing woman—and she has edited all my books since. She gets me. She gets what I’m writing. I’ve now done five books with this editor and it’s my prayer that I never write a book without her again.

Since I write for a smaller publisher, my books sometimes do not get a massive content edit separate from the rest of the book. The process for a single book begins with me turning in the manuscript. From there, it goes to my editor who will read for content and continuity of the characters, the main plot, the subplots, etc., and then she sends it back to me so I can address her questions and concerns. But, contained within that edit is a line edit as well.

Once I’ve made all the changes I feel are necessary, I return it to the editor. She cleans up the document and processes what I’ve changed. She might have a question or two more, and then she returns it to my publisher. The next time I see my book it’s in galley form. This is where I do a read-thru of the manuscript to catch any last-minute typos and other changes that have affected the manuscript.

What would you say to unpublished writers about freelance editing of their manuscripts?

The most critical thing is to be sure you’re getting what you’re looking for. If an editor is only going to hunt down passives or the like, make sure that’s what you want. If you’re looking for story content and flow, make sure the editor is doing that. Paired with that, make sure this editor is someone who finds the kind of stuff you’re looking for.

I’ve hired an editor before that I thought was perfect. I was wrong—but it was also partly my fault. Not until I got the edit back did I realize my mistake. Slapping a couple hundred bucks on the table for an edit does not a perfect manuscript guarantee.

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RonieKendigAn Army brat, Ronie Kendig grew up in the classic military family, with her father often TDY and her mother holding down the proverbial fort. Their family moved often, which left Ronie attending six schools by the time she’d entered fourth grade. Her only respite and “friends” during this time were the characters she created.

It was no surprise when she married a military veteran—Brian, her real-life hero—in June 1990. They have four children and live with three dogs in Dallas TX.

Since her first publication in 2010, Ronie and her books have been gained critical acclaim and national attention, including a Christy Award for contemporary romance in 2012 for Wolfsbane. Visit her online.

Read more about Ronie in this article by Diana Prusik in the ACFW Journal. Share your unforgettable editing experience to enter!

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Quote It! Brian Tracy

brian_tracy-standing
“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” 

–Brian Tracy, Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations.

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Writers, we know what Tracy says is true. But sometimes the fear of feeling awkward–or of having someone read what we’ve written–keeps us firmly in our comfort zone of “me and my writing friends.”

But God did not save you for a life of comfort, but rather for a life of risk. What are you willing to risk to allow God to use you?

RonieKendigSpeaking of something new: Come back on Tuesday for the debut of a new feature here at Writing On The Fine Line. We’ve talked a lot about what editors (primarily me) think about editing, but on Tuesday my friend, and author, Ronie Kendig, shares her experience with editing and editors.

It’s very interesting–and there will be a great giveaway you won’t want to miss!

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying his playground. He also plays with words as a freelance editor here at WritingOnTheFineLine.com, where he often takes a writer Into The Edit, pulling back the veil on the editing process. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.

Spring Cleaning? 10 Tips for Writers

I know it’s only February, but in my office that’s when I start thinking about Spring Cleaning. Why so early? Because I hate the process, even though it is vital to the smooth operation of my freelance editing business. If I don’t start early to think and plan for it, procrastination will win the day. So, maybe you’re like me? Here are 10 tips to clean out the cobwebs in your writing:

10. Keep it Simple You have many ongoing writing projects. Prioritize and be realistic.

9. Break it Down Do you need to brainstorm a new story? Have you left a protagonist dangling? Do you have a percolating editing project? Break your tasks into chunks. One week, brainstorm. The next week, rescue your protag. Then edit.

See the other eight tips at Novel Rocket!

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying his playground. He also plays with words as a freelance editor here at WritingOnTheFineLine.com, where he often takes a writer Into The Edit, pulling back the veil on the editing process. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.