Day 35

F.I.N.I.S.H.E.D No, it’s not an acronym. I finished my first novella! This was an extremely challenging project as I still feel so new to the fiction world. Though I had completed an 85K word novel in February, this 25K word project was a huge challenge for someone who tends to be long winded. I wasn’t sure I could tell a good story in so few words so I surprised myself.

I would never have been interested in writing a novella had it not been for the novella writing contest that Avon Romance is holding. What clinched it for me was the fact that my favorite author Debbie Macomber would be choosing the grand prize winner. I found the contest mid August but being the journalist that I am, kept putting off starting the story.

Finally on September 1 I started writing, realizing I would have only a few weeks to write, edit and submit the whole story. Within 10 crazy days I hit the 25K mark and completed the story. And do you know what? It turned out better than I could have ever imagined!

I owe it all to my journalism background and the woman who taught me how to write tight and write fast – Carolyn James. Carolyn is the owner and publisher of the Babylon Beacon, a weekly local paper that I spent six years writing feature and education reports for. Those six years were better than any college degree program I could have entered. Those six years of writing and learning are the reason why I can write at break neck speed, often times getting the words perfect on the first shot. It’s how I won a first place award from the Society of Profesional Journalists back in 2006. And it’s how I managed to write a 25K word novella in exactly 10 days, writing 8+k on the tenth day.

What am I doing now? This morning I edited the first chapter leaving me seven more to go. I plan to edit two chapters a day and then submit the novella to the contest. Whether I win the grand prize or even final at all doesn’t even seem to matter anymore. I’ve already won. I’ve proven to myself that I can do it. I’ve always been great at meeting deadlines, usually submitting my work at least two days early. But with this novella I’ve convinced myself that I have what it takes to be a storyteller. And that’s what I needed more than anything else.

What mountains have you scaled that have convinced you that you have what it takes?

Chris

 

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Day 34

It’s been a rainy week and while I usually drag myself to my desk, the last four days have been very productive.  It’s been exactly one week since I posted about my intention to enter a novella writing contest being held by Avon Romance. Though there will be three finalists, the grand prize winner will be chosen by none other than Debbie Macomber. I know I gushed about her in my last post, but she truly is an inspiration to me. Debbie Macomber overcame Dyslexia to become one of the best selling authors in her genre. Her story can best be found in the pages of her first non-fiction title, Knit Together. Not only do I own the title but have read it three times because I enjoy Debbie’s writing so much.

Last post I had written 2K on the novella and my story was still finding its legs. Today I’m popping at the seams with happiness having clicked on ‘word count’ to find I am just shy of 13K. With the maximum being 25K, it looks like I am more than halfway to goal! What’s even more important than the numbers is the story. I’m thrilled with the twists and turns I’ve managed to come up with.  My first completed novel is an inspirational women’s fiction story. Garden Variety, the novel I’m currently working on, is a story about the relationships between mothers and daughters. Yes, there’s a bit of romance in there but nothing like the novella I am working on for this contest.

This morning I shared the details of my story with my daughter, an aspiring filmmaker who can relate to a creative mind. She loved it! Her reaction “That would make a great Hallmark movie mom!” I love the Hallmark channel. I think I’ve seen every movie they’ve aired and when they announce a new release I mark it on my calendar so as not to miss it. Yes, to some people they might be corny,but to me there’s nothing better than sitting down to watch two characters go through hoops to avoid one another only to end up as their best possible match. With all the bad news out there, who doesn’t need a little HEA(Happily Ever After)? I’ll take my Hallmark movies any day over the ten o’clock news!

Now that I’ve caught you up on what I’ve been doing all week I’m going to head back to my story and see if I can’t hit that 14K mark today. My goal is to have this novella written in full by Tuesday and ready to edit. And on September 30, if not a day or two earlier (I’m a journalist by trade and pride myself on coming in a day or two ahead of deadline) I will be uploading my story and hitting the ‘send’ button with a big smile!

Keep your fingers crossed for me, will you?

Chris

 

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Day 33

It’s been awhile. I’m hanging my head in shame and cringing just a bit. Seems I’ve been doing everything but writing since I last posted. And I have. I won’t even bore you with a laundry list of errands, road trips and family calamities. Let’s just say I’ve fallen off the writing wagon and I’m anxious to climb back on. What better way to mark this first day of September than to update you on my goings on?

I opened up Garden Variety, my second novel, and read it from the beginning to bring myself up to speed. I can honestly say I really do like this story and my absence has not dimmed my interest in it. I’ll be picking up from where I left off, but today I had another project that was front and center.

Avon Books is holding a novella writing contest to be judged by none other than one of my all time favorite writers (and people) Debbie Macomber. As soon as I read the announcement I knew I had to give it a shot. Barely versed in novel writing, I know this will be quite an undertaking for me.

As I was writing this morning I already found myself jotting down notes to ask my good friend Larissa Lyons, who has written many novellas. Larissa is every writer’s dream friend. Her Texas accent is endearing and she’s loads of fun to talk to on the phone. Best of all, she’s a fountain of knowledge who is willing to share her expertise and experience in this tough publishing business. To learn more about Larissa and her novels (Regency and Erotic Romance) you can pay her a visit at http://larissalyons.com/ and please do tell her I sent you.

Getting back to the contest, I came up with a fun idea that just seemed to sit right. After lots of starts and stops, I’m about 2k in on a story that cannot exceed 25K. Being a writer who is often ‘long winded’ this will be quite a challenge.

Now it’s time to get back to work and see if I can’t log in a couple hundred more words. But if you have any advice to share on how you tackle short writing projects like novellas, I would love to hear from you!

Happy September!

Chris

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 32

This Monday, instead of fighting procrastination and the lure of housework, I’m off and writing. There’s nothing like a good challenge to get you running to your keyboard, excited to write.

Today is the first day of the BIAW challenge through my RWA chapter, Faith, Hope and Love. Actually, it’s a sub chapter of the chapter, aptly named Finish the Book. This small, warm group of women provides an encouraging and welcoming atmosphere for both aspiring and published writers to complete their novel(s). I can’t even find the right words to express how fond I am of all of these amazing women.

 The BIAW, or Book in a Week, is a seven day writing challenge where each member establishes before day one what their daily or weekly goal for a word count will be. Narelle, who runs the challenge, keeps a spreadsheet with our totals and everyone cheers one another on throughout the challenge. You would be surprised how much one can write when they have a little cyber voice in their ear yelling “yay!” “go, girl!” and “keep on writing!”.  Many writers, like myself, wait for this challenge to either start a new project, work on lost momentum, or complete a project that is due.

So, today I am challenging myself to get my first one thousand words done for the BIAW. My goal is 1k daily and I have chosen a novella that I am writing to enter in a contest in September. Once I have met my daily word count, I’ll jump over to email and shoot off a quick note to let everyone know that I’ve got Monday under my belt.

And then I’ll treat myself by reading everyone else’s posts about what they’re working on and, best of all, I’ll wait for the replies from my chapter mates that shout out “Great job!” “Way to go!” and “Keep on writing!” And I will. Because there’s nothing like a little bit of encouragement to keep you on track!

Who or what  keeps your writing on track?

Chris

 

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Day 31

It’s been a productive day. Though I just missed my 1k mark, I did manage to complete chapter 7 and begin chapter 8. I also managed to get quite a bit of research done. With my second novel, Garden Variety, taking place on a flower farm, I’m finding myself surfing the net as I write, anxious to make sure my flower facts are accurate. Though it slows down the writing, I’m finding that I actually enjoy my excursions into the world of flowers and gardening.

Though my novel is about two sisters working through betrayal, all three Kohler sisters will have to come to terms with a shocking family secret. It’s a secret that will pull them close and change their lives forever. All of this takes place on a flower farm that’s been in the Kohler family for three generations. And you can’t write about a working flower farm without knowing what’s growing.

I’ve learned so much about common flowers like tulips, carnations and irises as well as Nigella, a flower found in English gardens. Though I do have a small wildflower garden (and I mean small – two containers LOL) and a rose garden (again small – two bushes LOL), I had no idea how much there is to know. Too much sun, too little sun, too much moisture, too little moisture and to top that off slugs – ugh! Now I can tell my hubby how to get rid of our slimy pests; just a little side benefit of research. Still I’m enjoying myself and seeing how these details sprinkled in the pages of my manuscript really make the setting come alive.  I have no problem setting up a scene with my main character putting together table centerpieces and displays for several affairs she will be providing the flowers for. And I think I’ve found a clever way to tie in flowers to the affairs of the heart. But I’ll save that for later!

For my fellow writers I ask this: Have you found it easier to research as you write or research before you beginning the writing of your story? Any pros and cons of either method that you’d like to share? In the meantime, all this flower talk makes me want to take a stroll out to my gardens…and maybe think about expanding a little bit next year!

Chris

 

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Day 30

This blog has gotten away from me. Or rather I have gotten away from it. Though it was my every intention to update daily, life just seems to get in the way. Lazy, hazy days of summer? Not in my house. It’s been one busy, on the go season with more frequent errands, day trips, chauffering someone somewhere and the siren’s lure of warm weather and a dip in the pool. Despite all that, I have been moving along with my work just at a slower speed than I had hoped for.

In just the last two days I have written a little more than 3400 words on Garden Variety, my second novel. On the flip side, Bethel Christmas Visitor, my first novel, is still waiting on massive edits. An author friend and writing consultant both agreed on one thing “If you  love the story and feel you have something there, don’t walk away from it. Fight for the story.” I love this story. Yes, it is the first novel I have ever written and completed but I still get excited just thinking about it. So I will. I’ll give it a good old college try and see what comes of it.

As for my second novel, Garden Variety, I have completed just a little over twenty-seven thousand words and things are heating up. How ironic since much of the novel takes place outside in the gardens of the Kohler flower farm during an exceptionally hot May. I have lots of twists and turns planned for this story and can’t wait until I can say I have novel 2 under my  belt!

I’m learning so much from Debra Dixon’s book, GMC – Goal, Motivation & Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction. I’ve been plotting my third novel, something that the pantser in me has never done before. Now I’ve also written up GMC charts for both my heroine and hero. I’m learning a few things about my hero that I didn’t know before. I’m especially excited about this novel because it will take place in a butterfly habitat, an idea that came to me after a day trip to a local butterfly habitat. My hero is a Lepidopterist. How’s that for a mouthful?!? My heroine is new in town. As a teen she was lured away by a trafficking ring while at the mall with a friend. Though she is rescued several years later, life in her small town can never be the same and so she leaves in search of a fresh start. That’s all I can say. Oh, wait, there is one small exciting plan I would like to share. It’s my hope that when (not if – positive thinking here) the book is published I will be able to donate a portion of the sale proceeds to a church group that has made stopping trafficking a part of their ministry. For now I can not reveal their name but someday soon…..

That’s about it in a nutshell. I’m pleased with my progress, excited about my newest story and hopeful that through this story I will be able to make some small contribution to a serious problem that gets very little attention in the media. Thanks to Lisa Bloom and her wonderful book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, for throwing light on this horrible epidemic. I highly recommend every woman to read this book. And it wouldn’t hurt a man to read it either 😀

If the sun is shining in your neck of the woods, get out and enjoy one of the last few weekends of summer. September will be here soon enough!

Chris

 

 

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Day 29

It sure is nice to be noticed! I stepped away from this blog for a few days, figuring no one would notice anyway. Yes, I do tweet when I’ve updated this blog. I even post a link to it on Facebook. And I’ve been so happy to see so many comments. But I just didn’t think anyone would notice my absence.

Today, after reading a message from Tonya, a friend and follower of my blog, saying that ‘there have been no new updates. Hope all is well”, I knew it was time to get back on track. It was the gentle prod I needed. 

I’d taken a few days away from my work, hoping to gain some perspective on where to go with both the editing on my completed novel and the middle of my other novel. I also took the opportunity to do something I have never attempted before. I outlined my third novel.

I’m a pantser but I recently mentioned how author Julie Jarnagin shared her plotting outline with me. It sat on my desk for several days before I gave it a good look over. So here I am trying out Julie’s plotting technique, hoping that when it’s time to write this new story I’ll be able to not only take off like a shot but sustain the momentum. Though only on this quest for just a short while, in that time I’ve learned that sustaining the momentum while writing is the most important thing of all. In the near future I’ll let you know how this new approach is going for me.

Aside from this new direction in my work, I am about to crack open a book I’ve been wanting to read for at least a year. No matter what writing website, blog or list I’ve read through, the one book that they all seem to rave about as a ‘must’ for every writer’s shelf is GMC by Debra Dixon. Today my copy came in the mail.

So for today this will be all as I get back to work. Once I’m happy with my day’s work, I’ll sit down with a bottle of water and get reading. I’m hoping this one little book will be another tool in my writer’s tool box. By the end of the week I hope to be able to share my thoughts about the book with you.

So to Tonya and anyone else that wondered where I’ve been, thank you for noticing and….I’m back!

Chris

 

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