Write Despite

The write-20-minutes-a-day-for-365-days-come-hell-or-high-water challenge

Write your novel in 2021 with online course beginning in January

Is 2021 the year you’re finally going to buckle down and crank out that novel? If so, you’re in luck. Novelist and teacher Michelle Richmond has an online course designed to take you from inspiration to first draft, with help and guidance every step of the way.

Check out the details and get going! There’s a five-month and a nine-month option. Courses begin the first week of January.

Give yourself the gift of mentorship and invest in your writing this year.

–Karen

Welcome author D.V. Stone

Hello All,

Today we have a guest blogger. Please welcome novelist D.V. Stone. Her new novel, Jazz House, will be published in 2021.

D.V. has dabbled in many genres and published a slew of books. She’s got good advice including some seasonally appropriate editorial wisdom learned from a holly bush.

From D.V.:

I’m what is referred to as a ‘Hybrid’ author. This means my books are both traditionally and independently published. I’ve published work across multiple genres. But whatever story I’m telling, my goal is always the same: to bring hope to the reader. 

The authors and genres I’ve enjoyed over the years have, by turn, made me laugh or cry, or pushed me to the edge of my seat. In this spirit, I hope to do the same. I want my readers to sit and laugh, cry, scream, or just quietly contemplate.

So, what have I learned about writing and publishing over the years?

  1. Perseverance and patience are critical. People ask all the time, “When is your book coming out?” Writing is a long process for me. I still work full-time outside the home in a medical office. There is a countdown app in my phone ticking off the days until retirement. I have so many ideas and parts of manuscripts waiting—especially one, in particular, begging me to finish. 
  2. Disappointment and rejection happen. The submission process can be a blow to your ego. You start out with stars in your eyes because you think you have something great. Then the first rejection comes. Then the second. And so on. You’ve got to learn to roll with it. It’s all part of the process.
  3. Criticism and critique are important. Learn what you can from criticism and let the rest go. Don’t be a mule. If multiple people tell you the same thing about a sentence, structure, plot hole, or point of view issue, take a step back and really look at what you’ve got.
  4. Editing and change are often frustrating and tedious, but they either make or break your book. There is so much to learn/know. Sometimes painful decisions need to be made. Characters you love may need to change. Sometimes vastly. Whole sections may need to be eliminated.

I love sharing this story about my husband, Pete. It’s an apt metaphor for the editing and publishing process.

Pete has a love-hate relationship with a holly bush in front of our house. For years he’s tried trimming it to keep it under control, but the bush seems to have a will of its own. One day Pete had had enough. Grabbing a saw, he dropped to the ground and cut it down.

Funny thing, a couple of weeks later, green started sprouting from the stump. 

Editing a novel is like pruning a tree or a bush. In  that initial rush of emotion, words pour over the page. Cohesion and logic take a back seat to growth. But once you take a step back, the delete key becomes your surgical scalpel, and critique partners, your nurses. 

Sometimes my work is overwrought, and drastic steps need to be taken. Characters and scenes become casualties of the delete button. But the good thing is, if you have interesting characters, and are willing to listen and make the tough choices, your work can bloom beautifully.

Pete now carefully trims the bush to keep it from becoming the overpowering entity it once was. Not only is the holly healthier, so are the plants around it.

Karen’s new novel to be published in 2021

I have the most wonderful news. My new novel, Arborview, will be published next year.

Yes, you heard right. The contract has been signed. Final edits are underway, and so is the cover design. The Wild Rose Press, a well established and growing publisher, has purchased the rights, and I’m working with a super supportive and generous editor.

I’m still pinching myself. It’s a magical way to kick off the holiday season, and some good news to cap off a year that’s been so difficult for all of us.

I don’t have a release date yet, but it will be in 2021, and I’ll keep you all posted. While I’m on that theme, I want to thank the friends and colleagues who’ve helped me bring this book–which has been in the works for six years–to life. They know who they are, and I’ve got a hefty “Acknowledgements” section in the novel.

It goes without saying that Cathy has been on this ride from the beginning, through multiple revisions and moments of hair-tearing doubt. She is irreplaceable, and the best editor I’ll ever have. I’m not going to say I love her, because she already knows it.

Writing a novel is like running a marathon. You dig deep and push with all you have. Now we’re crossing the finish line.

It isn’t every day dreams come true. Thanks for being part of mine.

Here’s hoping the blessings of the holiday season–large and small–bring us all comfort this year.

–Karen

A good, good sound

Friends,

A belated sharing of my recent Collegeville essay. I hope everyone is staying smart and staying safe. As we move towards a holiday season that promises to be like no other, remember: different doesn’t have to be less than. Unexpected blessings may unfold….and soon…

–Karen

No friends like old friends (publishing together!)

Hi All,

Cathy and I have some great—and most unexpected—news! Next year we’ll have short stories published in the same issue of Gargoyle Magazine. Not only are we thrilled to be appearing in this esteemed literary journal, we are amused and deeply grateful to appear side-by-side in print.

gargoyle

We’ve been friends for—gulp—thirty years. We’re former roommates. We puzzled our way through an MFA program together. We entered the publishing trenches. All along, we’ve edited and listened and supported each other. Cathy has been instrumental in my growth as a writer, and I think I’ve come in pretty handy for her, too. There are no friends like old friends.

Cathy and I will be saving Gargoyle’s Issue #74, scheduled to be out around Labor Day, for our grandchildren. We hope you’ll enjoy it, too!

–Karen

 

How to START writing a novel

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Summertime. The days are long and lovely, and the grill is fired up.

But what’s that? You say the time has come, at last, to write your novel. You’ve got a story. You want to tell it. You just have one question:  how, in the name of all that’s sane and just, do you begin?

chapter 1

Good question. And you’re in luck. Best-selling novelist Michelle Richmond addresses this very thing in a recent blog post. I’m always happy to plug Michelle, because she runs the small press that published my debut a few years back, and because she’s a super helpful and compassionate human being. She’s also a true friend to writers, whatever their career stage.

A snippet from Michelle on diving into the novel waters:

“Get past thinking, ‘I’m writing a novel.’ Instead, tell yourself, ‘I’m writing a few words today’ or ‘I’m writing a piece of my novel today.’ Writing a novel is a daunting challenge and a major, time-consuming endeavor. Looking from the starting line to the finish line, miles away, can be mentally paralyzing. The only way to start your novel without psyching yourself out is to break it up into small, daily tasks. Approach each day as a mini-project, not a major project. The mini-project is your scene, your chapter, or your page for that day.” Read the rest.

Good luck, friends, and be gentle with yourself. You’re embarking on a courageous journey.

write your book

–Karen

 

Essay for a new day

I’ve been a journalist and a fiction writer. But essays? Not since school, and that was more, well, academic in nature.

I don’t know exactly what possessed me when I learned the Collegeville Institute was looking to build up its stable of freelance essay writers. I love the Collegeville Institute and its mission, and I think my heart just leapt at the prospect of being a part of it.

I’m thrilled to have published my latest this month. Take a look. I think the photo they chose way overshadows my essay, but in a good way.

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Essay writing has been such a gift. It’s an unexpected platform, one whose benefits and challenges I am just beginning to understand. I feel lucky, blessed, to have stumbled upon this opportunity to write—in a different way—about the things that move, and resonate with, me.

The “me” part is a big leap. Writing as yourself—for fiction writers—can be a bit unnerving. But it can also be liberating and empowering. One of the reasons we write in the first place, I think, is to have the sheer pleasure, to experience the power, of matching our thoughts with just the right words. The pleasure of saying what you mean.

Essays are challenging in different ways than fiction. But some of the benefits are similar. They help me think through issues and sharpen and organize my understanding. In a nutshell, they help me make sense of it all. Isn’t that what writing is for?

Anyone else out there dabbling in a new different genre? Let us know.

Write well, friends.
–Karen

Take heart and keep writing

I came across the loveliest quote today that I want to share with all my writer friends who are toiling away over manuscripts, many of them in some form of lock-down. Ironies abound there, but we’ll set them aside.

This quote comes courtesy of the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing. It’s a comment from the great storyteller Katherine Paterson. I love its humility and its profound truthfulness.

I know my gift is limited. I know I cannot stand toe-to-toe with philosophers or theologians and solve for myself or anyone else the problem of evil, either natural or moral. But we who are writers can tell a story or write a poem, and where rational argument will always fail, somehow, miraculously, in metaphor and simile and image and simple narrative, there is both healing and illumination.

Take heart, friends. Keep writing to and for each other. It’s a great thing we do, even if it doesn’t always seem so.

— Karen

 

Write (or Not) Despite

—From Cathy

So…how you holding up out there?

Karen and I did a check-in with each other yesterday. An honest-to-god phone call. Not email. And it was lovely hearing her voice – and having a full-on bitch session about all that’s happening right now. Believe me when I tell you: Karen and I perfected marathon bitch sessions. We practiced lots when we were roommates in college.

imageSailors would cover their ears. Just saying.

Anyway, are you doing the same? Taking care of yourselves physically and mentally, and do you have a support system to reach out to?

You do. If you’re reading this, you do.

Please let us know how you’re coping during this far-fetched alternate universe we find ourselves in now.

Are you writing?

Personally, when it comes to writing fiction, I can’t even. Maybe because:

  • Reality seems so fictionalized right now that I’m unable to dream up anything on my own, or
  • I can’t imagine the characters I’ve been developing so long living in the particular world we’re in right now, or
  • I don’t want to imagine them there, or
  • I can’t picture them in a normal world either.

So, I find myself stuck.

A1lUEn3EH3L._AC_UY218_ML3_Anne Tyler has a new book out. She’s my fave, so of course I’ve read it already. (Redhead By the Side of the Road—it’s a good one. Check it out.)

Tyler’s given numerous interviews about the book, and of course the COVID question pops up, and here’s what she had to say about writing at this time:

“For the first few days, I seemed to keep writing the same three pages over and over again. I just had a general feeling of distractedness. Eventually, though, I did sink back into my work. I happened to be writing about an Easter dinner with a lot of people attending, some of them behaving a bit snarkily with each other. I thought, Oh, now I remember why I write. I write because it makes me happy.”

I guess that’s the key. Write if you can, because it makes you happy. And, in a blessed stroke of luck, what you write will hopefully make others happy too when it makes its way into the world.

onward-cover3Speaking of which, since I’m unable to write, I’ve been focusing on submitting. And I’m happy to say my story “Gently Used” is now up on Wordrunner’s Onward anthology. Yay.

So, if you’re like me and you can’t write, read. Or submit. Or call a friend, zoom with your mom, walk the dog. Do what makes you happy.

Please know we’re pulling for you, and sending you all the positive vibes you need to write despite—all of it. We wish you good health and enough peace and comfort in your lives to keep writing, always.

In the beginning

The first 10 pages make or break your novel manuscript. Why? Well, as we’ve all been told (and in truth have probably experienced), no one reads beyond them if they’re not great.

And that goes double for agents and editors, who are wondering how they’re going to sell the thing.

In other words, your opening has to rock. I’m overhauling mine for the umpteenth time right now, and it’s moving along. Something is happening. It’s kicking and wiggling and strutting a bit. But rocking? I dunno.

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I come now seeking advice. What hooks you in a novel’s opening pages? What makes you keep reading? What turns you off? Please share in our “comments” section.

Cathy has already weighed in, of course, and her advice—as usual—was spot on. Cathy has a new publication of her own, just out this week. The opening of her novel-in-progress is featured in Embark: A Literary Journal for Novelists. This nifty journal is dedicated to novel openings, and it’s becoming a go-to for agents seeking new clients. Congrats, Cath! Check out her piece. It’s going to grow into one helluva book.

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Write Well, Friends and Happy New Year

–Karen

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