Story Excerpts

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

2014 Review: Blogging/Writing Lessons Learned

I don't have a great book to share with you this week, so I'm sharing lessons I've learned this year, pertaining both to blogging and writing.


Blogging

Blog as a service to others. I've lapsed into using my blog as a way of sorting myself out (it's been a crazy, wild year), and while that is something you want to do in journal form, your intentional blog readers are looking for something valuable to take away from their time with you. Offer them knowledge, entertainment...something that only you can give them.

Planning makes for better blogging. It's true. If you plan out your posts, even writing them in advance, you're more inclined to focus and stay consistent. Whimsical does not attract readers, because they want to know what to expect.

Writing

Charge every scene with conflict. Not necessarily big conflict, but conflict on some level. Scenes full of butterflies and rainbows, and characters enjoying their life--unless it's the end and they've earned it--boring. And even in the last chapter, there's room for a degree of conflict to drive the story right up until the last page.

Edit in stages. Get it out of your head that you can write a first draft, comb over it in editing mode one time, and voilĂ . A manuscript requires a series of edits, all on different levels. I'm learning that its best to focus on one issue at a time--structural issues from start to finish, then clunky sentences and overused words, etc.--instead of trying to fix everything at once. An elephant is eaten one bite at a time.

A good idea needs the right characters/plot. I've read so many stories that presented a fascinating idea, but the story itself fell flat. I'm sure you have too. Why do stories fall flat? Simply put, because the characters and plot weren't right for that idea. Don't be lazy in the plotting stage--take the time to explore what kind of characters would be impacted most, and what set of circumstances/events would best challenge those characters and showcase your idea. If you're a panster allergic to plotting, go ahead and run with your idea, then go back to examine the characters and plot for areas of improvement.

What lessons have you learned this year?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

News Update & A Book Review

I am so excited about typing this post up on a computer, a laptop no less! Okay, its a borrowed laptop, but yes, very soon, I will have a laptop, and will be whole and complete once again, lol. Yes, I am stoked. :-D From here on out, no more wacky posts via temperamental phone. So to those of you who have waded through my inconsistent and sorry posting all year and are still with me, thank you, THANK YOU, really, and God bless you all! I appreciate you!

I've moved back to Kentucky. Though I was very upset and scared about it at first, I can see the hand of God in it. He's blessed us, provided for us, and all those fears I carried here proved groundless. It's still a big adjustment--I'm used to being in full control of where my son is, and being back on the farm has thrust me into a world I'm not sure I'm ready for. I'm having to let go a little. My little man is spending a lot of time with his cousins, and its so good for him. He is already thriving, and I am understanding God's wisdom more everyday.

So. Now that I'm getting back on my feet, I really need get this blog together. My posts on 18th century facts have brought me the most traffic, but honestly, I'm not ready to brand myself with that particular time period, as my manuscripts are still diverse in setting. I'm going to continue with book reviews for now, but eventually, I want to head toward a subject thread that connects the stories I write, something that might give me room to pretend expertise ;-) Right now, that common thread looks like "adventure", so I may blog about all things adventure-related, and narrow my reviews to uplifting adventure novels.

Lisa Bergren is well-known in the "adventure story" realms of Christian Fiction, and it just so happened that I had one of her earlier books in my TBR stack.

The Captain's Bride kicks off with a wonderfully unique setting, Bergen Norway. The main characters are preparing to immigrate to America, and two get married. I love books that begin with weddings, and Elsa's wedding was rich with Norwegian tradition and family togetherness. I also love ship/high seas settings, and while a good portion of this book is spent in transit to America, it took me through the characters' start in Maine and Montana.

There were a lot of point-of-view characters. A lot. Elsa, Peder, Karl, Tora, Kaatje, and I think even Soren and Trent were POV characters for a few scenes. I'm not bothered by two or three POVs, but more than three, and I start skimming the non-favorites. Another thing that bothered me--important scenes/decisions the story had built toward seemed cut out near the Third Act, and I was left catching up with the characters' lives months afterward.  (I'm not a huge fan of time gaps via "Part One", "Part Two", etc.)

Karl and Kaatje were my favorite characters. Karl is in love with his best friend's new bride. Being a new Christian, he wants to do the right thing and remove himself from temptation, but can't bring himself to walk away from his captain and their dream of building ships together in Maine. His struggle made him real to me, and I quickly found myself looking forward to his "stage time". Kaatje is pregnant and longs for her handsome husband to be faithful to her. She believes America's Montana frontier will give them a fresh new start and plenty of space from other females. My heart broke for Kaatje. She struggles to keep hope alive as disappointment and heartache knock her down again and again, and clings to her faith to carry her through.

Though there is plenty of adventure throughout The Captain's Bride, I hesitate to label this story as fast-paced. During the long voyage to America, the scene conflict took on a "soaps" flavor, and for me, that slowed the story in different parts, making the good action and tension seem sporadic. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy historical-set stories focused on relational drama, and readers interested in fiction that will give them a taste of Norwegian culture.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When Giving Thanks Is Hard

This is the first Thanksgiving I'll be spending with just Hubby and son, and I'll be cooking dinner myself. First attempt at roasting a turkey. :) So I've been stalking Pinterest for new recipes, trying my hand at homemade biscuits, approaching this holiday with a "can do" attitude. And counting my blessings, of course.

 Then, Monday served us a bitter helping of life, and my carefully planned Thanksgiving unravelled. Work on my NaNo project ground to a halt.

We're moving. This weekend. It will be our second move this year. I wanted to curl up into a ball and cry when hit with the reality of my world crashing down around me yet again, but God challenged me to lift up my head and trust. Even thank Him and praise Him.

 After all, this isn't a place I wanted to bring baby #2 home to, and had I not felt that it was a temporary arrangement? Was He not answering my prayers, never mind His rug-yanking, ill-timed method? (Well, ill-timed according to me.)

I've found a doctor I like. A church that feels like it could be home for us. Do I have to give them up? Can we stay in Texas this time?

 A lot of questions swirl around my brain, fears with them. It feels like we've been wandering around in Sinai for two years. Will this be the move that lands us back into the center of God's will? What if it's another temporary situation? I'm five months pregnant and ready to start preparing for the baby's arrival. Lord, really? Another move?

Trust Me. Give thanks. Offer up praise for My provision before you see it. This is what I keep hearing in my spirit, this what I keep reading when I open His Word.

 "No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." 1Thessalonians 5:18

 So we'll have our Thanksgiving dinner in the midst of moving boxes. Instead of seeing the situation as a bad thing, I'm going to believe God is in this, and that He'll guide us to a place that He has hand-picked, wherever that may be. Prayers, please? I'm ready for a more restful year, lol.

 Happy Thanksgiving!