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Writing in Baby Bits

 

Writing in Baby Bits

Have you ever had one of those days weeks months?

Here we are on the third Monday of January. In November I had my new year planned with plenty of time for writing along with my usual volunteer activities. Throw in a doctor’s appointment or two and some expected minor surgery, and my winter plans were complete.

But NOTHING has gone the way I planned so far!

It all started with my summons for jury duty…and I was selected to serve on a jury for a criminal case that is expected to last four weeks or more. So every day I show up at the courthouse, listen to testimonies and cross-examinations, and then go home exhausted and heart-sore from the tough testimony I’ve heard. Then I try to keep the details straight until we do it all over again the next day.

I realized before the second day of the trial was over that I needed to be super focused on my writing during my available time – somewhere between 6:00 and 6:30 in the morning. And I can only squeeze out about ten minutes during that half-hour.

What is an author to do???

Since I know this situation isn’t permanent (it isn’t, right?) I only needed to come up with a solution to last for those four weeks or so. I wanted to make some progress on my WIP, but mostly I didn’t want to lose the story.

What do I mean by losing the story? It’s when you take such a long break that you’ve lost the heartbeat of your story and have to spend time reading through all your notes and what you’ve written so far to bring it back again.

Writing in Baby Bits
Photo courtesy ShutterStock
 

Enter Baby Bits. I got this concept from homemaking. One YouTuber I listen to calls it “Tiny Tidies.” That’s where instead of dedicating hours to cleaning your house, you take care of tiny messes whenever you see them.

How long does it take to put a magazine back in the magazine rack? Less than a minute. Stick a few dirty dishes in the dishwasher? Maybe two minutes. In fifteen minutes or less your living room and kitchen can look presentable.

Do you get the idea?

How long does it take to write two hundred words? Would you believe about ten minutes?

And two hundred words are enough to breathe life into my story each morning.

Of course, these two hundred words aren’t going to show up if I go into my story cold. It takes preparation.

Writing in Baby Bits

 
When I decided to approach my story this way, I needed to read through it again, have an idea of what was going to happen in this scene, and since I was introducing a new POV character, I needed to understand who she was and how I wanted to portray her.

By Wednesday morning when I sat down for ten minutes between my first cup of tea and my shower, I knew what I was going to write. That afternoon during a break from the court room, I jotted down some notes that covered the rest of the scene. The next morning, I was able to make more progress.

Is this a permanent solution? No. If I was working full time outside my home, I would need to come up with a different kind of writing schedule.

But the “Baby Bits” of writing each morning will help keep my story alive until I can return to my regular routine - hopefully by the middle of February!

What secrets do have of coping with unexpected breaks in your routine?


 

 

A Child's Christmas in the Midwest

 


Welcome to the last week before Christmas!!!

As a child, I counted down the days until Christmas...how could there be so many??? Could we survive the wait?

And then suddenly it arrived. Somewhere between visiting Santa at Rike's Department Store downtown, baking cookies with my mom, an evening of decorating those cookies with my brother (and maybe a few cousins,) and wrapping presents, Christmas came!

Christmas 1961

The Christmas Eve service, candles glowing, Silver Bells playing on the radio, the excitement of finally hanging our stockings, and reluctantly heading to bed...it was magic.

Do you remember that same magic? That same Christmas feeling?

Christmas sometime around 1965

But things changed when I became an adult. I realized that Christmas isn't just ribbons and bows and toys and Christmas cookies...Christmas came to mean A LOT MORE. 

That Christmas giddiness of my childhood was as sweet as sugar, and just as fragile. But as an adult, that sugary sweetness was slowly replaced by lasting, pure AWE.

This Jesus whose birth we celebrate at Christmas was born to glorify the Father, and born to wear the thorns for me...


Another thing that has changed in these grown-up Christmases is that I'm eating a LOT less sugar these days, and I've slowly been adjusting my favorite Christmas treats to sugar-free treats.

It isn't as horrible as it sounds!

My go-to fudge recipes these days come from a website called "My Montana Kitchen," and they are no-guilt delicious!

They all start with a basic recipe - Sugar-Free Sweetened Condensed Milk.

Yes, sugar-free condensed milk. The recipe uses cream, butter, and a stevia/erythritol sweetener blend (aka "Gentle Sweet" from Trim Healthy Mama, or you can use the recipe found on the My Montana Kitchen website.) The recipe takes time, but it's worth it. I have to keep myself from making it too often...it's that delicious!

Here's the link to that recipe: Sugar-Free Keto Sweetened Condensed Milk

Once you have that basic recipe, you can use the sweetened condensed milk in all sort of recipes, and my favorite is chocolate fudge. Here's the link to the fudge recipes: 5 Sugar-Free Fudge Recipes

Eating mostly sugar-free has been an easy transition with recipes like these. I still make the regular fudge for family and friends...but that's okay. I get the sugar-free version all to myself!


Wishing you a blessed Christmas from our family to yours!

May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.



The Secret to Thanksgiving is Joy

by Jan Drexler 

The Secret to Thanksgiving is Joy

 

Of all the holidays we celebrate, Thanksgiving is one of my top three! I love everything about the day - food, fellowship, PIE! - but most of all,                                                           I love the REASON for this SEASON. 

We might think that the celebration of Thanksgiving started with the Pilgrims, but actually, believers have been setting aside days of Thanksgiving since Old Testament times.

The Pilgrims carried this tradition with them to the Plymouth colony in 1620, celebrating the first Thanksgiving in America in 1621 or 1622.
(For those of you with a calendar, that was 400 years ago!)

Here's one participant's description of that first Thanksgiving feast:
The Secret to Thanksgiving is Joy

Far from being the joyless, dour folks that some people often portray the Puritans, their lives were full of joy and thanksgiving. Not only one day a year, but every day was filled with thanksgiving. 

The tradition continued with George Washington in 1789:

The Secret to Thanksgiving is Joy


And with Abraham Lincoln in 1863:

The Secret to Thanksgiving is Joy

One thing that I noticed about all three of these times of Thanksgiving is that they took place during or just after times of great hardship - the horribly difficult time of starvation and death during the first year after the Pilgrims landed, the war for independence that Americans fought against the British, and the American Civil War. Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamation was given during the third wearying year of that bloody war.

How could they even think to give thanks during times like those? 

How can we even think to give thanks during times like these?

The secret is joy.

Several years ago I read Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts. I was thinking about it recently and was reminded of the year I spent following her advice to find joy.

The exercise was simple. Every day, I was to write down three things that brought me joy. I started in 2014. I created a little diary and I was faithful - through January, February, March...

...and then March 30th came. The day my mother passed away.

This was a challenge - how could I find joy in this circumstance of my life?

The habit to find joy had been ingrained through the previous three months of that year, and I found joy in my thankfulness for the mother God had given me. Day after day I poured out my grief in counting the endless moments of joy I had known with her.

Moments I captured in Thanksgiving and Praise.

The Secret to Thanksgiving is Joy


This Thanksgiving, my challenge to you is to find Joy in your circumstances, 
and give Thanks to God above!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving Day!



Autumn Musings: What Will Spill Onto Your Page?

Hi, everyone!

We call today a "Blue Moon Monday" - the fifth Monday, when none of the Seekers are scheduled to post! Ruthy often hosts on these "Blue Moon" days, but she's been super busy with her other job.

You DO know Ruthy's family has a pumpkin farm, right? She's been super busy with that for the past couple months!

So today I'm sharing a post I wrote a year ago...and it's just as appropriate this year as it was last year.

Enjoy!

What Will Spill Onto Your Page?

 

Autumn Musings: What Will Spill Onto Your Page?

Hey, y'all. Jan here with a thinking-type post.

(Yes, I can talk Southern. My years in West Texas and in Kentucky taught me how!)

I've been convicted of something lately, and I'd like to share my thoughts with you.

Let's start here - 

Autumn Musings: What Will Spill Onto Your Page?

I'm teaching school-age children at Bible Study Fellowship this year, and we're studying Matthew. The immersion into this study (not only my own study, but in preparing to teach) reminds me that what we put into our hearts is what is going to come out.

In this section of Matthew, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees. You know, those religious leaders who were all about religion...but not so much about God. Like many of us, they thought they knew God. They thought they were obeying God with all their laws to "help" people follow God's Law.

But Jesus had a special name for them: brood of vipers. He uses that term more than once! Like I told the students in my BSF class, that means that He considered them to be a nest of venomous snakes.

I don't know about you, but I don't want the Lord of the Universe to consider me to be no better than a venomous snake.

I don't want my heart to spew out poison - untruths, slander, and even "mistakes" when I'm trying communicate to my readers about Jesus and His world...which covers 100% of what I write about.

But as writers, we are constantly filling our heads and hearts with knowledge - research for our latest novel. Sales statistics. The best price points. Reading blogs and listening to podcasts about writing and marketing.

As we watch the news or read the newspapers, we fill our minds and hearts with the noise of the World.

As we go about our non-writerly lives, we deal with family issues, church issues, and what in the world to fix for dinner.

When our heads and hearts become filled with the things of this world, what will overflow into our writing? 

"For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."

What's the answer?

We must balance all of that - over-balance all of that - with God's Word.

Not just reading scripture, but delving deep into it.

Not just reading someone else's teaching on scripture, but studying it for ourselves.

Even if my daily word count suffers...

The time spent in God's Word - just me, my Bible, and the Holy Spirit - is never wasted. That's treasure to fill our hearts.

Autumn Musings: What Will Spill Onto Your Page?

My prayer for all of us is that our heads and our hearts will overflow with Jesus, and that is who our readers will encounter in our books.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Seasons of the Writing Life

 

Seasons of the Writing Life

Last week, Hallmark Publishing announced that it was closing its doors.

That news rocked the worlds of many of our fellow writers - maybe even you! Authors were left with questions, everything from what would happen to the proposal they had just submitted to what would happen to the book they had under contract. 

While that kind of news is never welcome, it's one of the seasons of the writing life.

I remember back in 2018 (or was it 2017?) when Love Inspired announced that they were discontinuing their historical line. I had published five books with Love Inspired Historical and had a sixth one under contract. 

Seasons of the Writing Life

And yes, the news rocked my world. But I knew that as writers, our careers come with no guarantees. 

There's no guarantee that your publisher won't close its doors. No guarantee that they'll buy your next proposal. No guarantee that your editor won't take a job at another publishing house. No guarantee that they'll even publish the book you have finished and delivered...which is what happened to one author a few years ago.

The only guarantee we have is that things will change.

Just like the seasons of the year change from spring to summer to fall, our writing lives will change. And when winter comes with the start of the new year, the cycle will continue...but it will look different.

Have you felt the change of seasons in your writing life?

Not too long ago, I was in a fruitful summer season of contracts, book deadlines, editing deadlines, and blog tours.

Seasons of the Writing Life

A bison's favorite place to be - knee deep in rich summer grass!

When 2020 hit, so did an autumn season which slid into a winter of reflection, reorganization, and rejuvenation.

Seasons of the Writing Life


These days, my career seems to be in an early spring. My new indie publishing venture has been a time of growth for me - much like a flower bulb pushing up a tentative shoot after a long winter. The early spring of indie releases and writing for a different breed of deadline has been like the beginning of a new year and new adventures.

Seasons of the Writing Life


As I'm sliding into late spring, though, I'm exploring different possibilities to turn this spring of beginnings into a fruitful summer.

Seasons of the Writing Life


Of course, it won't look anything like the summer of the past, but I'm excited to see what God will do.

Think of the seasons of the year for a gardener. 

Spring is a time of growth that leads to the fruitfulness of summer. Summer fruitfulness turns into the tasks of harvesting and preserving the produce for the future. The waning days of autumn means it's time to put the garden to bed - work that will lead to a productive garden in the spring. Then winter comes. Not a time of death, but of rest.

Seasons of the Writing Life
This year's crop of potatoes - the result of a summer of work.

What season are you in right now?

One thing I've learned is that the season we're in now won't stay forever. Time moves on. 

But each season has its own purpose. 

When our careers - or our lives - seem to be waning, it's easy to think that we're at the end. 

But each season is a time of preparation for the next one, isn't it?

What preparation are you doing now for the next season in your writing career?

I'm working on a proposal to send to an agent sometime soon - possibly, if it's God's plan, a step back into traditional publishing.

But it's still early spring. Cozy mysteries are still taking up the bulk of my time, and I'm enjoying them immensely!

There are no guarantees except one: Things always change, but God is always in control.

I'm content to see what He will do in the next season of my writing career.

Share your thoughts! Ask for advice! 

One commenter today will win an ebook copy of my newest release, The Case of the Artist's Mistake!

Seasons of the Writing Life
The new art gallery in town is causing quite a stir, and Emma is in the middle of it!
The Sweetbrier Inn is filled with guests, and the town is teeming with tourists who have come to celebrate Paragon Days, the official kickoff to the summer tourist season. But even before the festivities start, amateur sleuth Emma Blackwood stumbles upon a dead body. With no visible signs of violence, Deputy Cal determines the death is from natural causes, but Emma isn’t so sure. Why would a seemingly healthy woman drop dead? And what does the picture she was holding have to do with it? If Emma doesn’t solve this puzzle soon, a killer may get away with committing the perfect crime.

You can order this book HERE!










A Foray into Hybrid Publishing

 

A Foray into Hybrid Publishing


For the first ten years of my writing career I happily and blissfully wrote the books of my dreams and was thrilled when publishers actually paid me an advance for the privilege of publishing them!
But when 2020 arrived, along with the events-that-shall-not-be-named, everything went topsy-turvy, including the publishing industry.

I don't intend to rehash recent history - it's enough to say I know I wasn't alone in experiencing an upheaval in my professional and personal worlds.

A Foray into Hybrid Publishing


I wanted to do something different. In the spring of 2020, I decided to pursue a new genre. I wanted something fun. Something lighter. Something that gave me the opportunity to purse-whomp a bad guy or two (didn't we all want to purse-whomp someone at that time?) 

I turned to cozy mysteries with the thought that I would try them out. I had a target publisher, spent a year or so learning the genre, and wrote the first book in my Sweetbrier Inn Mysteries series.

But the world had gotten darker during that year to eighteen months and I quickly realized that traditional publishing wasn't an option for me at that time.*

*I want to emphasize that it wasn't an option for me. And it wasn't for me at that time.

A Foray into Hybrid Publishing

I started exploring independent publishing. I asked for advice from our own Ruth Logan Herne and Pam Hillman and reached out to a few other friends whose indie work I admired, and started learning.

After all, Ruthy and Pam made the process look so easy! And every blog post I read said it was easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy! 

I knew what I DIDN'T want to do:

1. I didn't want a cover that looked like my aunt had painted it.
2. I didn't want to ask my husband to be my editor.
3. I didn't want the font/paper/margins/etc. to look like I had cut and pasted my story to fit on a Word document.

In short, I wanted my books to have the same professional appearance that my traditionally published books had.

Was it as easy as the various blog posts claimed? No.
Was it doable? Yes.

A Foray into Hybrid Publishing

I spent as much time learning how to indie publish my book as I had spent learning how to write in this new genre. I made a LOT of errors. I wasted a LOT of time.

At the same time, I "repackaged" myself. Instead of writing only historical romances, I wanted to expand my products. Cozy mysteries were already in the pipeline, plus I wanted to leave my options open to contemporary stories, historical stories, and even historical mysteries. I also wanted to edge into the general market - a market that wasn't really open to my Christian-focused Amish stories.

My new tag line reflected all of that.

A Foray into Hybrid Publishing

After a new logo, a new website. and many, many hours of watching tutorials on everything related to indie publishing, I released my first indie book in May of this year.

A Foray into Hybrid Publishing

With that bit of experience under my belt, I'm ready to publish my next book. The release date is September 28th!

A Foray into Hybrid Publishing

Do you remember the three things I didn't want to do with my independent publishing?

1. I hired a fabulous cover artist - Hannah Linder. She's a familiar face around here, and she designs the best covers. She caught the vision of what I wanted after only a few emails, and I couldn't be happier with her designs. You'll need to stop by her website: Hannah Linder Designs

2. I hired a great editor - another name familiar to Seekerville - Beth Jamison of Jamison Editing. A great editor finds the hidden errors and inconsistencies in the manuscript, and Beth catches them all.

3. I purchased a program to give my books the professional formatting look I wanted: Atticus. Another option is Vellum, but only if your computer is a Mac.

All of these things cost money. If you're traditionally published, your publisher spends that money instead of you. There are other costs that you also pick up if you are your own publisher, but that comes with the territory. 

Eventually, the income column in my spread sheet should overtake the expenses column, but like any start-up business, that takes time. And work. A lot of work.

Which reminds me. Another little thing I did to enhance the professional appearance of my books (and my small business) was to form my own publishing company. Nothing fancy. But it took my name out of the "publisher" field on Amazon and gave me the opportunity to create my own logo and name. I call it Swift Wings Press, and I love this logo. I use it on bookmarks, my new business cards, and on the spine of my print copies.

A Foray into Hybrid Publishing

What's next?

I'll keep writing stories for the Sweetbrier Mysteries series - I'm working on a Christmas novella right now. 
There's an historical romance waiting for my attention on my computer.
And I would love to explore all the other ideas swirling in my head...

...but the great thing about independent publishing is that I can go ahead and explore those ideas, because I have the freedom to follow my own path, not the path of a traditional publishing company.

That's why I used Swift Wings Press for my imprint - I'm free to follow the wind, wherever it blows. (John 3:8)

Will I ever traditionally publish again? Of course, given the right opportunity. 

But until then, I'm enjoying what the Lord has placed before me at this time.


Have you ever considered independent publishing, either now or in the future? Or are you already in the midst of the adventure?

One commenter will win an ebook copy of "The Case of the Artist's Mistake!"


A Foray into Hybrid Publishing

The new art gallery in town is causing quite a stir, and Emma is in the middle of it!

The Sweetbrier Inn is filled with guests and the town is teeming with tourists who have come to celebrate Paragon Days, the official kickoff to the summer tourist season. But even before the festivities start, amateur sleuth Emma Blackwood stumbles upon a dead body. With no visible signs of violence, Deputy Cal determines the death is from natural causes, but Emma isn’t so sure. Why would a seemingly healthy woman drop dead? And what does the picture she was holding have to do with it? If Emma doesn’t solve this puzzle soon, a killer may get away with committing the perfect crime.

Coming September 28th! Preorders will be available soon!








More Hidden Treasures

More Hidden Treasures

Jaime Jo's post last week was so sweet, wasn't it? She shared some hidden treasures she found after her mother passed away. You can read that post HERE.

When I told her my dad had recently given me my own hidden treasure, she urged me insisted that I share it on my Seekerville post this month. "Sure!" I said. "That would be fun." (That may not be an exact quote.)

More Hidden Treasures

More Hidden Treasures


Unlike Jaime Jo's stellar works of fiction, my first book was non-fiction, done as a school assignment when I was in first grade. But the illustrations are priceless.

More Hidden Treasures

My name is Janet Tomlinson. I have four in my Family. 
I have a brother and a cat.

Other than spelling my last name wrong (it should be Tomlonson - I blame my teacher for the editing error) the story so far is pretty accurate. I wish I had included a picture of my cat.

In fact, this particular teacher stands out in my memory because of incidents like this one. I remember her insistence that my name should be spelled with an "I" rather than an "O." I don't like being corrected, especially when I know the person trying to correct me is wrong!
(And yes, that's still one of my more irritating personality traits - but I've learned to go with the flow unless it's something important.)

Which brings me to the topic for this post. Reading this early story of mine reminded me of the people along the way who stand out in my memory. Some for being encouragers and some for being discouragers.

My first grade teacher, Mrs. Taylor, was a discourager. I never did anything creative in her class. My third grade teacher, Miss Shields, was also a discourager. 

So why did I continue to write stories? Because of the encouragers.

I still remember them vividly, even though it has been more than fifty years since I've seen them: My second grade teacher, Mrs. Griffith; fourth grade, Mrs. VanVorhees; fifth grade, Mrs. Harrington.

Mrs. Harrington stands out because she saw potential in me and let me read. And read. And read. While the other students had reading groups, I had all the books I wanted to read. And tons of book reports.
*sigh* The cost of reading at my own pace. :-)

And to this day, whenever I see a Chickadee, I think of Mrs. Harrington - they were her favorite bird.

More Hidden Treasures

More Hidden Treasures

But my mom was my best encourager. I don't remember anything specific that she said or did, but I knew she had my back, as busy as she was with her day job.

More Hidden Treasures

My mother teaches. She teaches fourth grade. 
Her children are bad sometimes.
 

My mom instilled a love of reading in me. She also taught me the value of being a homemaker, even though as a pastor's wife in a small church, her full-time homemaking only happened during the summer months.

More Hidden Treasures

More Hidden Treasures


When my mother started feeling the effects of Alzheimer's, she still cheered me on as I taught my children in our homeschool. We talked often about how I was using my college education - my degree is in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis - and I knew she hoped that someday I would turn back to writing.

And God's timing is perfect - several years before she passed away, and just before she finally slipped into the enclosed dream world of advanced Alzheimer's, I sold my first story. She understood and celebrated with me as I told her that my story would be published in Woman's World Magazine.

More Hidden Treasures


Mom never got to read any of my published works other than my first book, written when I was six. But she kept those pages - as unwieldy as they are - and moved them from Michigan to Kansas to Indiana. They were among the treasures she kept.

These days, my dad is my biggest cheerleader.

More Hidden Treasures

More Hidden Treasures


He has been known to hang out in the Christian Fiction section of his local library and waylay browsers. "If you like Amish fiction, you should try my daughter's books."

More Hidden Treasures


Like Jaime Jo said, my first book is a Hidden Treasure. A testament of a mother's love and encouragement and a father's continued belief in his daughter.

Who are the encouragers in your life? How have they influenced your writing?

PS - I didn't leave my husband and children off this list to slight them. On the contrary - their encouragement (especially my dear husband's) is off the charts. :-)


Leave a comment to be in the drawing for an e-book copy of my next release, "The Case of the Artist's Mistake!" Due to be released September 14, 2022!

In this second Sweetbrier Inn Mystery, Emma discovers a local artist dead in her art gallery. Deputy Cal is convinced she died from natural causes, but he hasn't convinced Emma.

More details to follow in coming weeks!


Handling a Full Plate

Handling a Full Plate

A full plate is better than an empty one, right?


Today’s post is about time management (thanks to Audra for kicking this topic off!) but I’m going to stick to the food analogy for a few minutes, first.

At our church we have carry-in meals once a month. (Fellowship time is important!) When I go through the line, I’m always dazzled by the many choices! Casseroles, salads, breads, sometimes a pot of soup on a cold day, sometimes a delicious brisket (we live in ranching country.) Occasionally a main-dish salad, too. And then there are the desserts…

Handling a Full Plate

 
Do I hear any “Amens!?”

We all know that there is no way even a small spoonful of each one of those dishes is going to fit on our plates, but we fill them up anyway.

After all, a full plate is better than an empty one.

Except when the plate starts tipping and a bit of the jello fluff slides onto the floor…or the dinner roll perched on top takes a nosedive for someone else’s plate…or the tuna noodle casserole’s sauce insists on mingling with the oil and vinegar dressing on your lettuce….

Maybe there can be too much of a good thing!

My life is a bit like that. I know I’ve said “yes” to too many responsibilities, and when fall comes I’ll be adding another huge one back onto my plate. And then there is the possibility of a grandchild (or two) arriving in the next year or so. Each of those important things needs a spot on my plate.

How do I give all those responsibilities the attention they need? How do I keep any of them from falling off the plate? How do I make sure I accomplish what needs to be done WHEN it needs to be done?

Time management.

My favorite tool for time management is a planner. And my favorite planner is my Bullet Journal.

Why a planner?

Because our lives are full of details that need our full attention.

I used to just list the things I needed to do on my planner page in no particular order and without a lot of thought, but that could be so disheartening. My list was just too long, and what about the things I didn’t really want to do? Well, it’s easy to just move them to the next day’s list, and the next one, and the next one…

Then I discovered a new strategy: Divide and conquer!

Here’s a picture of my Bullet Journal page for last Friday. It takes me less than five minutes to put this page together in the evening and finish it up the next morning.

Handling a Full Plate

 
Do you see how I listed my priorities at the top? There are three of them. Keeping that list to three items is my #1 rule.

Then I divide my tasks into three areas: personal, home, and writing.

I try to list no more than three things in each of those areas, but sometimes the day is extra busy.

The colorful column on the right is where I divide my day into blocks. (I use color-coding to make everything easy to keep in order.) The numbers in that column correspond to the time of day.

If you look at the column, you can see that I’ve scheduled my writing tasks in three separate time blocks. 6:00 am to 7:30 am, 9:00 am to 11:30 am, and 12:30 pm to 3:00 pm. That’s a total of 6 ½ hours spent on writing and writing related tasks.

Now look at the items I’ve listed under “writing” on the left. I usually spend my first writing block putting words down in my WIP. My goal is 1000-1500 words during that block.

The second block is for more writing or tackling a sticky technical problem with my website or publishing.

The third block is for a variety of things. Sometimes I use that time for research. Sometimes for listening to podcasts or reading craft books. Sometimes for writing my newsletter content. Sometimes for writing a blog post.

The key? I know I’m more creative in the morning after my first cup of tea, so I use that to my advantage and do the most important thing first. I also know I tend to be a bit draggy in the afternoons – so that’s when I take care of tasks that require less concentration.

I do the same for the “personal” category and “home” category. I do those planned tasks during the times with the matching colors in my schedule.

Is this method perfect?

No, but it’s as close to perfect as I can get for me. You might find that a different kind of planner suits you better, or that a bunch of sticky notes on your computer screen’s frame is the perfect solution. The idea is to plan our time so that it doesn’t get frittered away.

Handling a Full Plate

 
Do I schedule every day this way?

Nope. I schedule my working days like this, but never Sunday, and I usually take another day off during the week for our “Saturday” chores and time off. This is a tool I use to make my work days go more smoothly.

Does this method work?

Yes, it does. When I have my day planned out like this, I tend to get most of the tasks accomplished, just like when I have a reasonable amount of food on my plate!

Handling a Full Plate


How about you? Are you a planner?

And here’s an interesting question: if you’re a planner, are you also a plotter in your writing? And if you aren’t a planner, are you a panster in your writing?

Let us know in the comments!  

And by the way, yesterday was a VERY SPECIAL DAY!!! My dear husband and I marked our 40th wedding anniversary. We're spending today enjoying some touristy things and enjoying time with each other. I'll be in and out to respond to comments, though!

Here's a picture of my mom and I on our special day:


Handling a Full Plate

I'm so glad the photographer took this picture, although I thought it was a little silly at the time. I had more important things on my mind, right? And I thought my mom would always be there...

Those Wascally Weasel Words


Those Wascally Weasel Words

 by Jan Drexler


Weasel words are the worst, aren’t they? The hardest part about them is that they sneak into our writing, and we don’t even see them when we read!

One culprit I struggle with in my writing are “thought” verbs. You know, “knew,” “wondered,” “realized,” “remembered,” “felt,” etc.

In preparing to write this post, I did a search for some of those verbs on my most recent book, The Sign of the Calico Quartz. I found a LOT of them!

Those Wascally Weasel Words

 
The word “knew” was in that manuscript thirty-four times. Some of those occurrences were in dialogue and I accept no responsibility for those – blame the characters! But the others? They could be changed to something stronger.


Let’s look at these sentences: 
By morning I was beginning to feel normal again and ready for a cup of Wil’s coffee. But as soon as I started down the stairs, I knew I was out of luck. No delicious rich coffee smell wafted from the kitchen.

How can I change that to get rid of those weasel words, “feel” and “knew?”

First, I need to change my mindset. I recently read in an essay that “Thinking is abstract. Knowing and believing are intangible. Your story will always be stronger if you just show the physical actions and details of your characters and allow your reader to do the thinking and knowing.” (Nuts and Bolts: “Thought” Verbs by Chuck Palahniuk)

Did you catch that? “…allow your reader…” When I use a verb like “knew,” I’m spoon-feeding my reader. And when I do that, what happens to that person’s experience? Where is the give and take between the reader and the author when the writing fails to demand that the reader take part in the conversation?

Those Wascally Weasel Words


Let’s take those sentences apart and rework them.

“By morning I was beginning to feel normal again and ready for a cup of Wil’s coffee.”

Emma is heading down the stairs on her way to the kitchen. She craves a cup of coffee. Not just any coffee, but the dark, rich, slightly bitter brew the chef makes every morning. Can I capture those thoughts of Emma’s and paint a picture for my readers?

I caught a glance of myself in the mirror as I left the room. My hair: combed. My clothes: not wrinkled or backwards. My smile: bright and chipper. As normal as could be. Except for one thing. Coffee.

Okay, I’m happy with that. I exchanged the word “feel” for narrative that invites the reader to use their imagination. What about the rest of the paragraph?

“But as soon as I started down the stairs, I knew I was out of luck. No delicious rich coffee smell wafted from the kitchen.”

On the top step I took a deep breath, anticipating the sweet aroma of Wil’s coffee. By the third step I could taste the rich notes of the slightly bitter brew. I pushed open the kitchen door, licking my lips as the dark liquid spilled into my cup, releasing its fragrance. I took a deep breath. And stopped. The kitchen was in shadows. No Wil. No breakfast cooking. I flicked my gaze to coffee maker in the corner. Unplugged. Cold. Empty.

Changing my writing in this way isn’t easy. In fact, it probably took me ten times as long to rewrite these sentences as it did to write them in the first place.

Because of that, this exercise isn’t for the first draft. This is the kind of rewriting to tackle during revisions. The first draft is to get the story down. The revision process is where you make your story sing.


Are you up for a challenge? Find a sentence in your own writing that needs to be revised. Then examine it word by word. Rewrite it as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Rewrite it as if you’re in your character’s head. Rewrite the action step by step. Then put it together in a way that induces your readers to see the actions or thoughts of your characters as if they’re experiencing it themselves.

That is the ultimate “show, don’t tell.”


Share your challenge with us! Did you rewrite a sentence from your own story? Post the before and after in the comments to be entered in the drawing for an e-book copy of The Sign of the Calico Quartz!

Those Wascally Weasel Words

Emma Blackwood’s favorite pastime is solving literary murder mysteries…until the body in her living room makes everything a little too real.
When Emma comes to the Black Hills to work at her Aunt Rose’s B&B, the Sweetbrier Inn, she is hoping for a quiet break from the corporate treadmill. But she hadn’t expected murder and intrigue to mar this peaceful setting.
As she wades through too many clues to identify the murderer, she soon finds that the culprit isn’t stopping at only one homicide and may even have placed Emma herself on the list of targets. With the help of her friend Becky, and a deputy sheriff who grudgingly lets them join in on the investigation, Emma tracks down the killer. But will it be in time to save the next victim?

Writing: Art or Business?

 

Writing: Art or Business?
Hello, Seekerville!

My husband and I (along with our youngest son) just returned yesterday afternoon from a trip east to visit family. From South Dakota to Iowa, to Indiana, to Michigan, to Minnesota, and then home. Nine days, 3000 miles. We're glad to be home again!

But in spite of all my planning, I had no internet access for the entire trip. The wi-fi card in my little traveling computer didn't work and my phone isn't set up to be my #1 computer. So my vacation was a true vacation, right? Except for the work I had been planning to do while we traveled, including writing today's Seekerville post. 

No worries! Welcome to Jan Drexler's blog from March 2015! I hope you enjoy it!

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Last year I joined our local writers group. It’s a secular group with a broad range of writing experiences and goals among the members. And like any group of writers, there are a lot of aspiring authors who come to learn and grow. Several of the members have had some success in the indie publishing field, but I’m the only regular attender who is traditionally published.

Writing: Art or Business?

The Prodigal Son Returns
Published by Love Inspired, May 2013
order HERE

That, plus the fact that I’m new means that they really aren’t sure about me yet. (That’s okay. Sometimes I’m not sure about them, either!)


One of the other members and I walked out to our cars together last month. She hadn’t realized before that meeting that I’m a published author with multiple contracts waiting to be fulfilled (i.e. I should spend all of my time writing!).

“How did you do it?” She thought she really wanted to know.

I hesitated for a half-minute. She wasn’t going to be happy with what I wanted to say, so I started with my standby answer for that question:

“I entered contests that put my name and my story in front of publishers and agents.”

Her eyes narrowed.

“You’re published by Harlequin, right?”

“Yes, by Love Inspired, Harlequin’s Inspirational line.”

She looked past my shoulder and unlocked her car door. “Don’t they have pretty strict guidelines? Don’t they make you change your story?”

“They expect you to make revisions to improve your story and so that it will fit their style. Every publisher does.”

She tossed her bag into her car. She said goodbye. She drove away. No, she didn’t really want to hear what I had to say.

If she had stayed around, ready to chat under the street lights on that unusually balmy February evening, I would have told her a secret.

Writing: Art or Business?

A Mother for His Children
Published by Love Inspired, August 2014
order HERE


Writing is an art. But once you hit the send button, it becomes a business.

When you’re in your writing cave, your story is all your own. It’s a wonderful thing to spend an hour or two every day in a world peopled by characters you’ve created. At this point, writing is all about imagination, craft, and answering the “What if?” questions.

I love this part of the process. It’s a little like giving birth, with all the pain, agony, and delight that accompanies bringing a new life into the world. It’s exhilarating! And it’s all yours!

But if you want to become a published author, once you’ve finished your story you need to switch modes. This story needs to have a life of its own.

Let’s take the birth analogy a little bit further. If you’ve raised children, you know that it is unhealthy (and impossible!) to force them to remain babies forever. They need to walk, to explore, to become separate people from their parents. As much as we delight in babies, we don’t want them to turn into some twisted copy of ourselves. We want them to become the people God intended them to be. To become adults.

The same goes for your story. If you have any desire to publish your work, you must put it out there for others to see. You have to listen to and evaluate comments from critique groups, contest judges, and eventually, potential agents and publishers. Why? Because these are the people who are helping your baby grow into a self-sufficient adult.

Writing: Art or Business?

A Home for His Family
Published by Love Inspired, September 2015
order HERE


Some authors hold on to their stories too tightly. They keep their writing snagged within their prideful grasp, thinking no one else understands their story like they do. They refuse to accept help to make it better, and they refuse to change anything to make it fit someone else’s standards.


If you want to be published, you won’t be that kind of author.
You’ll be the kind of author who understands that once you hit “send,” your story is now a business. Rather than keeping it close to your heart, you humbly open your hands and let it grow.

If an agent suggests that your story will sell better told in third person rather than first person, you start planning how to make that change and still keep the meat of your story intact.

When an editor sends you a list of revisions that need to be made and invites you to resubmit your story, you put everything else aside and make those changes.

When you get a request for a partial or full manuscript, you comply in a timely manner because that’s good business practice.

Soon you’ll find that those changes and revisions make your story stronger. More complete. Saleable.

Writing: Art or Business?

Hannah's Choice
Published by Revell 2016
order HERE


And when you see your book for the first time, you’ll cry. You really will. Because that’s what parents do when they see their babies all grown up.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *
Welcome back to 2022!

I'm still treating my writing as a business. Next week, on May 25, my first indie published book will be released! You can preorder it NOW!!! 

Writing: Art or Business?

Ebook is available for preorder now!

Emma Blackwood’s favorite pastime is solving literary murder mysteries…until the body in her living room makes everything a little too real.
When Emma comes to the Black Hills to work at her Aunt Rose’s B&B, the Sweetbrier Inn, she is hoping for a quiet break from the corporate treadmill. But she hadn’t expected murder and intrigue to mar this peaceful setting.
As she wades through too many clues to identify the murderer, she soon finds that the culprit isn’t stopping at only one homicide and may even have placed Emma herself on the list of targets. With the help of her friend Becky, and a deputy sheriff who grudgingly lets them join in on the investigation, Emma tracks down the killer. But will it be in time to save the next victim?


Which kind of author will you be? What do you need to do to move your writing from art to business? #NoLimits!

One commenter will win an ebook copy of "The Sign of the Calico Quartz!" 

Writing in Baby BitsA Child's Christmas in the MidwestThe Secret to Thanksgiving is JoyAutumn Musings: What Will Spill Onto Your Page?Seasons of the Writing LifeA Foray into Hybrid PublishingMore Hidden TreasuresHandling a Full PlateThose Wascally Weasel WordsWriting: Art or Business?

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