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Making the Move From Reader to Aspiring Author, part one



All of us here on Seekerville have at least one thing in common – we love Story. Whether we’re readers or writers (or both!) we have discovered that there is an enchanting world to be found between the covers of a book.

Authors are often asked questions from readers who would like to become authors themselves. No matter which questions they ask, what they really want to know is:

How do I get from being a reader to being a writer?

How do I prepare for a writing career?



I remember being the one asking these questions. I started asking when I was very young (I attempted to write a script for an episode of the television show, Bonanza, when I was nine years old…yes, that’s how long ago it was!) and I still had questions as I finished school, married, raised my family, and started on the downhill side of middle age.

Today, I’m going to try to answer your questions by giving you the first three of six steps to get from point A (reader) to point B (writer.) The first three steps are in today's post, the last three will be in next month's post (Lord willing.) These steps are meant to be a jumping off point. A place to start digging deeper. A place to start writing your own curriculum to teach yourself how to become an author.

It won’t be easy – to quote Ruthy, “writing is hard” – but it will be doable…IF you are willing to approach this task with a willing heart and a teachable spirit.



Step 1: Live your life.

When I was just a young thing graduating from college with my shiny new degree in English With A Creative Writing Emphasis, the last thing I felt ready to do was write a book. I had spent four years learning things that were supposed to make me a writer (most of which I’ve long since forgotten,) but I was woefully ill-equipped. Why? Because I had spent four years learning how to be a "writer"…not how to develop characters, construct a plot, or even plan a scene...in other words, to write a story.

As I prepared for graduation, I knew, deep down, that I knew nothing. I had no experiences, no knowledge, no wisdom.

What could I have done differently? I would have studied a different major, first of all.

History would have been a good major. Or philosophy. Or psychology.

Anything that would have taught me about people.

But even studying about people would not have given me the depth of knowledge I’ve gained by just living my life and trying to understand it.

You don’t have to live as long as I have to cultivate your “people knowledge.” You can use your own experiences, your family’s experiences, and your friends’ experiences, examining them with a writer’s eye. Understanding those experiences, how they have been affected by the past and how they will affect the future. And seeing them through God’s eyes…with a Christian world-view.

So, for your first assignment, LIVE! And as you live, observe, ponder, and ask “what if I had done it this way…”


Step 2: Read as if your career depends on it.

I’ve talked about reading for writers in another post. You can find Part One HERE and Part Two HERE, and I recommend that you take a few minutes to read them to refresh your memory. We’ll wait.

I can’t add much to the posts I wrote earlier, except that the top priority of every aspiring (and published) author should be to read.

So, your second assignment is to read - but not just any book. Choose one that you finished with a sigh, thinking, "oh, I wish I could write a book like that." Then re-read the book, applying the techniques that I outlined in "Reading as a Writer" part two.




Step 3: Study the concept of STORY.

I can’t emphasize this enough.

Story is the thread that makes our stories resonate with readers. I believe we all have an affinity for Story built into our DNA that goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.

How do you learn Story?

1. Read. I can’t say that often enough. From "The Story of Peter Rabbit" to "War and Peace," each book we read tells a story – A Hero. A Heroine. A Noble Quest. A Dragon. A Sword. A Victory. Knowing how those elements fit together is the beginning of understanding Story.

2. Study. There are some wonderful resources for writers that explain how to tap into that elusive thing we call story. Here are a few, but there are many others!


“The One Year Adventure Novel” curriculum by Dan Schwabauer. 
My boys and I used this curriculum when they were in high school, 
and I learned more about writing with this curriculum than I did in four years of college. 
Even though this is curriculum written for homeschoolers, it’s useful for anyone 
who is in the beginning stages of building a writing career.
You can learn more by visiting the website HERE.



Another resource I recommend is “The Moral Premise” by Stan Williams. 
Dr. Williams has been a guest on Seekerville more than once, 
and you can read about his book HERE.
Or you can read an introduction to The Moral Premise
in this post from the Seekerville archives.

The third resource, and one that will take you deep into this
subject, is "The Writer's Journey" by Chris Vogler. He delves 
into the maze of Story and breaks it down into
twelve steps. You can find his book HERE
or the companion video course with Chris Vogler
 and Michael Hauge, "The Hero's Two Journeys" HERE.

Your third assignment is to watch this fun introduction to The Writer's Journey story structure in a short video. Watch here!




Whew! Are you ready to get started on your course of self-education? Tune in next month when I’ll share the next three steps!

Meanwhile, share your aspirations with us! Are you at the bottom of that steep learning curve, feeling like EVERYONE knows more than you do? (You aren't alone!) Or are you somewhere in the middle, looking for more ways to make your writing shine?

One commenter will win your choice of a copy of my newest release, "The Roll of the Drums," book two in the Amish of Weaver's Creek series. (US only for paper copy, Kindle for international or if you prefer the digital version.)

My Story Process


My Story Process
By Debby Giusti

Our town holds a weekly Farmer’s Market and folks in the surrounding area bring their produce, farm fresh eggs, honey, baked goods and handmade items to sell. I snapped some photos last Saturday of the beautiful vegetables and wares all of which brought to mind the verse I chose for my writing soon after publication.

It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you
to go forth and bear fruit.
John 15:16

As a fiction author, my fruit is my writing--the stories I create. In Seekerville, we discuss various aspects of the writing craft and techniques that improve production and make our characters more engaging and our plot more compelling. Today, let’s look at the process of pulling a story together.

When writers mention their story process, I often think of whether they’re a plotter or pantser, use Schrivener or follow one of the how-to techniques, like James Scott Bell’s Write Your Novel From the Middle.

In this blog post, I’m veering away from those traditional processes and revealing the stages I use to produce fruit and go from initial concept to completed manuscript.

As with anything, a story begins with an idea…

The Lightbulb Moment

Eureka! I get an idea. Often it’s visual, a picture in my mind’s eye, such as a still shot of an opening scene.

The Introductions

A character—either the hero or heroine—has tapped into my subconscious and plants that opening glimpse of a story. I need to get to know her better and find out what she’s trying to tell me. Some characters are forthright. Others refuse to divulge information. I woo those elusive characters with chocolate and long walks or by staring into space until they start to reveal themselves to me. 

My Story Process


Bookends

The opening, inciting incident draws the reader and the editor or agent into the story so I start the action with a BANG! Similarly, I need some idea of how the story will end. Not the resolution as much as the climax, the battle between my heroine and her nemesis/villain/antagonist. 

Backstory

What has happened in the hero or heroine’s life to bring him or her to that inciting incident? Who is this heroine and why is she in this particular situation? Am I interested in the character?   

The Big Three

I start to dig, needing to uncover the character’s goal, motivation and external conflict. What does she want/need, why does she want it and what’s stopping her? Like a woman using a grocery scale, I weigh the GMC to determine if it’s worth the time and energy needed to write the story. 

My Story Process


The Pearl of Great Price

The special treasure that also needs to be unearthed is the internal conflict, which, in my opinion, will make or break a story. What’s the character’s wound? What’s holding her back from living life to the full? What keeps her from being the person God created her to be? 

Begin to Write

I start with the inciting incident and introduce the love interest as soon as possible in the first or second scene. (Note:  If the love interest doesn’t appear until the second scene, I mention his or her name or allude to it in the initial scene. The love interest also needs a worthy GMC.) 

Set the Ball in Motion

The action in the first chapter propels the hero and heroine into the story. Chapter Two moves that story to a no-turning-back point that hooks the reader at the end of Chapter Three. 

My Story Process

Build the Framework

Like a carpenter, I build a fast frame on which to hang the various story elements. That’s my synopsis. In my opinion, the synopsis is an invaluable tool for the writer that shows how the story will fit together. The synopsis leads me through a series of steps that go from point A—the inciting incident at the onset of the story—to point Z—the resolution and/or epilogue. No matter how rough, I need that basic frame before I start to write the remainder of my story. 

Hit SEND!

I pray before emailing the first three chapters and synopsis to my editor and then breathe a huge sigh of relief. The most difficult part is done…or so I think. I usually give myself a day or two away from the story as reward for my hard work thus far. 

False Euphoria

I feel optimistic about the proposal and falsely believe the story will practically write itself. 

Proposal Accepted

My editor gives me the go-ahead. I pull out my AlphaSmart and start to write the next chapter. My euphoria plummets. Writing is hard work. I review the synopsis that I thought was so brilliant. I slowly type one word after another and question how I can call myself a writer.

My Trusty Timer

I grab my kitchen timer and set it for 30 minutes. The tick-tock-tick spurs me on. When the timer dings, I stand and stretch, get a drink of water and grab something to eat. I set the time for 30 more minutes and type more words.

My Story Process

 The Challenge

My daily goal is to fill an AlphaSmart file that will download into my computer as 25 pages of text. I break the writing into 30 minute segments, which means I need six, 30-minute writing sessions to create roughly 5,000 words a day.

Ride the Roller Coaster

Sometimes I have bursts of creativity when my fingers fly over the keyboard. At other times, I struggle to pull a phrase together. The scroll of the AlphaSmart screen becomes hypnotic and lulls me to sleep. I eat to stay awake. I brew tea and drink cup after cup. I chew gum, sometimes a pack a day. I stare out my window and wish I was anywhere but sitting in my house with my AlphaSmart.

Push to The End

I keep writing without editing or rereading until I type THE END.
The rough draft is done. I’m happy, but despair follows all too soon as I realize how rough the draft really is.

Rewrites

I set a two-week deadline to work though the story in three or four editing sweeps, tackling 50 to 75 pages a day. I don’t want picture perfect at this stage. Instead, I tidy up the biggest problems first, then do a second sweep to clean up more debris. By the third review, I begin to see the pages come to life and am optimistic about the story.

My Story Process

The Worst Ever

Around this time, I invariably go through a “This is the worst story I’ve ever written” phase. My husband and children remind me that I always hate the story, hate the plot, hate the writing, and most of all, hate the author.

Deep Edits

I roll up my sleeves and tackle the remaining problem areas. This rewrite requires patience and stamina. More gum, more tea, less sleep. No outside distractions allowed.

Total Immersion

I enter totally into the story. Live it, breathe it, eat it, sleep it, then pray and repeat the process.

Final Read

I read the story in web format or change the font to pick out typos and errors. Make more changes.

Print Hard Copy

Give to Beta Reader. Make changes. Read hard copy. Make more changes.

Final Checks

Review chapter numbering. Add scripture and dedication. Write Dear Reader Letter. Type cover letter to editor.

Pray! Gulp! Hit SEND!


My Story Process


I mentioned a few places where I pray, but in reality, I pray almost constantly as I’m writing a story. I start the day with The Writer’s Prayer and often stop to call on inspiration from the Holy Spirit when I’m struggling to get words on the page.

Let’s discuss your fruit and your writing process. Can you “see” your story before you start to write? Do you understand story and how the parts fit together? Do you invariably have holes in your plot? Do you struggle with sagging middles? Are you too verbose or do you leave out major turning points? Do you build a framework before you start to write? Do you write a synopsis early on or after your story is written?

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for the first two books in my Amish Protectors series, AMISH REFUGE and UNDERCOVER AMISH, along with a 2018 calendar/planner.

My Story Process


I’ve brought scrambled eggs, hash brown potatoes, cheese grits, bacon and biscuits for breakfast. The coffee is hot, so is the tea. Get some food and pour a cup of your favorite beverage as we delve into your story process.

Happy writing!

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti


My Story Process
Amish Rescue
By Debby Giusti

Hiding with the Amish

Englischer Sarah Miller escapes her captor by hiding in the buggy of an Amish carpenter. Joachim Burkholder is her only hope—and donning Plain clothing is the only way to keep safe and find her missing sister. But for Joachim, who’s just returning to the Amish, the forbidden Englischer is trouble. Trapping her kidnapper risks his life, but losing Sarah risks his heart.

Order HERE!

Watch for AMISH CHRISTMAS SECRETS, book 4 in the
series, coming October 2018.
































           


Making the Move From Reader to Aspiring Author, part oneMy Story Process

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