Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Overcoming Writer's Block

A Twitter friend asked me how to overcome writer's block. So I thought I'd blog about reasons a writer might get blocked and ways to overcome this malady.

1. A lot of time I find writers get blocked because they haven't done the character and plot work required to know where the story is going. I find I stall or slow in writing when I'm not really sure where the story is going or if the characters are not acting consistent. If I don't know what the character wants in the story, if I don't know the story question, or enough of the details of the journey, if I don't know the lie the protagonist believes, or the dark moment of his past that shadows his present, then I'm not going to really know what drives the character through the mucky middle.

Resolution: If you're stuck, go back and do some character work. What does the character(s) want? What's the lie he believes about life, himself, God. What does he want? What's the story about? What will the protagonist be able to do at the end they can't do at the beginning? What's the epiphany? Dig around deeper in your character's heart. Once you do this, figure out where you are in the story, where the character is in the story, and figure out your next scene.

When I'm unsure where to go next, Susie Warren might ask, "Where are you with the lie? Have you confirmed the lie?" Or she might prompt me to make sure I've had enough reaction to a plot point. For example, if my protagonist just learned her husband had an affair, I need to make sure I've emotionally and physically played out the news well.

2. Inciting incident. Make sure you have the right inciting incident. Meaning, what's the right event that launches your story? In Dining with Joy, the event that launched the story was Joy learning her producer sold the show to another production company. And he didn't tell the new producer Joy couldn't cook. The inciting incident must launch the character on the story journey.

Resolution: If you're stuck, evaluate how you're starting the story. You might have "too much ramp." Meaning, you started the story too far back.

3. Too much backstory.

Resolution: You might be bogging down and block because you've written too much back story. Go back, review your work and delete back story. The pages will read quicker and you might see something new in the story.

4. Change the point of view. You might be telling the story from the wrong point of view.

Resolution: If you have more than one character telling the story, change from the heroine to the hero in the "stuck scene" and see how the story changes.

5. You're holding back the big reveal moment. In Dining with Joy, I always thought Joy's black moment would be when she was outed on national television. So, the middle of my book was bogging down because I was holding back. I wasn't at the right word count! So, I had to go back to my character work: the lie, the dark moment from the past, the thing Joy could do at the end she couldn't do at the beginning. The middle of the book was being outed on television. The black moment was losing everyone she loved.

Resolution: Go ahead, write your big reveal moment. Don't hold back. You can figure out what happens next after you do.

6. You too close to the story.

Resolution: Take a break. Think. Read. Relax. Pray!

7. You might not have enough emotional depth.

Resolution: Dive deep! Surface fast. Every novel is about characters. Even mysteries and thrillers. Make sure you're writing about a person. Not an issue or your own soap box, or your own story. Create characters! Tell a story!

Hope these help! Writer's don't need to be blocked. When all else fails, stick with it. Just start writing and see what words come! A lot of time writers over think and try to write the scene perfect from the start. Haha. Fergetaboutit. Write. Then rewrite.

What about you? Have any tips for writer's block?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Jesus Said, "Sell your possessions."

Jesus, the greatest man, prophet and teacher of all time, and also God in the flesh, said this in Luke 14:33 "So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions."

The word possessions caught me. While I believe Christ followers are to be generous, givers, humble with their means, I don't believe "give up all his own possessions" means living in poverty. There is often such a poverty spirit among Believers.

Whether we are rich or poor, we're not to have a spirit or mentality of poverty. Christ has give us all things to live righteous and Godly!

In the book of Acts, we see the Church selling possessions to give to the poor. The Bible says they had all things in common.

But I wanted to know a bit more about what Jesus was saying in this verse so I looked up the word possessions in the Greek, thanks to my handy-dandy BlueLetter Bible on my iPad. Then I checked with the King James version to make sure I was getting a clear picture.

Possessions means what you think -- stuff. What you have, own, started out with...

But it means more. Here's what I found in the Biblical Usage:
1) to be the first to do (anything), to begin
2) to be chief, leader, ruler
3) to begin, make a beginning

Jesus is telling us we have to give up the possession of ourselves to Him. See the second definition. "to be chief, leader, ruler."

To merely sell what we "have" like land or houses or cattle is not enough. Even the heathen and unredeemed have compassion and give their money to the poor.

Jesus is saying, "To be My disciple, you have to give up possession of yourself, to give Me rulership and leadership of your heart, mind, soul and strength. You're not in charge of yourself anymore if you follow Me."

I tell you, it's a bit daunting, no? But oh, He's such a kind, generous leader. Jesus said, "My burden is easy and My Yoke is light." He said He would give us life abundantly. He promises is joy and peace. He promised us a way to the Father. He promised us the Holy Spirit who comforts and teaches us!

There's a great Divine exchange. We give Him our sin, our weaknesses, and yes, the right to rule over our lives and do what we want when we want. But He gives us... Himself!

We die to ourselves and come alive in Christ. An infinitely better deal.

When I first moved to my city after college, I was restless. There was a lot in life I wanted to do but was quite sure I didn't know how or when or where or IF they were meant for me.

I said, "Lord, I won't be happy going my own way, so I choose you. I know that no matter what, if I follow you, I'll be satisfied with my life."

As a teen and twenty-something, my main goal in life was not to reach 40 and look back on my life with regret. I didn't want a litany of woulda-shoulda-coulda. I knew I'd mess up. Make mistakes. But I really wanted to avoid the big ones. Wrong career. Wrong husband. Wrong city or state.

So, in many ways, I sold my possession -- Me -- to Jesus.

I'm 50 now and when I look back over my life I can say with joy and confidence, I have no regrets. There are no woulda-shoulda-coulda's. I'm satisfied. Content.

Now, to dig deeper and find those areas of my life I've not sold out to my Lord and get logged on to Jesus-bay, sell off more stuff to Him and His Kingdom.

What about you? Is there an area of your life (heart or mind) you can surrender to Jesus?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Writing A New Blog From Blogsy

I saw this really cool app today and decided tom try it for writing blogs from my iPad. Believe it or not, this kind of tool would've saved me a few times!

It was easy to drag and drop the picture from Flickr. Now to get more pictures into Flickr! Oy.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Daddy in the Making by Lyn Cote

Please welcome author Lyn Cote. She's going to tell us about her new Love Inspired novel, Daddy in the Making, the installment in the New Friends Street series where love and dreams find a home.

Brought together by a Matchmaking Dog-- (Love this!)

Dr. Jake McClure’s basset hound has fallen in love with a single mom, her adorable twins and the orphaned kittens they rescued.

Man’s best friend suddenly won’t budge from Jeannie Broussard—and Jake can understand why. Jeannie is full of love, laughter and everything Jake has been missing in his life lately.

As Jake spends time with Jeannie and her girls helping to build her Habitat for Humanity house and rescuing stray animals, a bond forges between them, and soon Jake is wondering if he’s the perfect fit in this fatherless family....

To read more and buy the book, click here.

About Lyn:

When Lyn Cote became a mother, she gave up teaching to raise her son and daughter. While being a stay at home mom, she began working on her first novel.

Rejection followed. Finally, Lyn got "the call." Her first book, Never Alone, was chosen for the new Love Inspired romance line.

Since then, Lyn has had over thirty novels published. In 2006 Lyn's book, Chloe, was a finalist for the RITA, one of the highest awards in the romance genre.

And her Her Patchwork Family was a Carol finalist in the short historical category in 2010.

Lyn’s brand of “Strong Women, Brave Stories,” always includes three elements: a strong heroine who is a passionate participant in her times, authentic historical detail and a multicultural cast of characters.

Lyn also features stories of strong women both from real life and true to life fiction on her website homepage.

Lyn also can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. Now living her dream of writing books at her lake cottage in northern Wisconsin, Lyn hopes her books show the power of divine as well as human love.

Sharing a recipe:

One of the secondary characters in Daddy in the Making, Millie, is famous for her Baked Macaroni and Cheese. Here's my recipe. (YUM!)

Lyn Cote's Baked Macaroni

I adapted this recipe from my 1940 Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. I've cut the fat content from the original and changed to whole wheat or SMART TASTE macaroni to up the fiber. So you can indulge with this recipe, knowing that it's healthy!

1 lb. whole wheat macaroni or Ronzoni Brand Smart Taste pasta (fortified with Calcium, Vitamin d and Fiber)


White sauce:

6 Tb butter or margarine

¾ c. flour

5 c. skim milk

¾ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper


1 lb grated medium cheddar cheese (Or if you want to give this a Mexican flavor, substitute pepper jack cheese.)

1 c. bread crumbs (or crushed tortilla chips)

Cook macaroni, drain and put into greased, deep casserole dish or bowl. Make the white sauce and take pan off heat (to keep the cheese from becoming stringy). Add 2/3rd's of the grated cheese. Stir till melted. Pour over macaroni. Sprinkle remaining cheese and bread crumbs over top. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. May serve as side dish or main course.

Lyn has a free read on her blog, La Belle Christiane, an original manuscript never published, a new scene every Monday, Wedsnesday and Friday.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Three weeks ago, good friends of ours announced they were moving back to California. The husband was returning to his old job at Pixar.

I've always loved their house, especially the super-duper office and living space they'd added. I call it the turret tower. I'll post pictures later.

Yet we love our house and frankly we couldn't afford their house. Our friends had other options and plans anyway, but it didn't stop me from joking about buying to for a ridiculous sum of money.

Two weeks ago, I prayed, "Lord, if there's anyway we could get their house, I'd love to, but we are very happy here."

Four days later our friends called. "We think you all should have the house. Let's get together and talk."

Hubby and I were blown away by their offer and plan. It was extravagant. As a result, the Lord answered another prayer I'd been praying to pay off a small debt we had plus to forgive a debt owed to us.

I never imaged the Lord answering my prayer to get out of debt, to forgive a debt in such an amazing way.

Extravagance led to extravagance.

As a society, we live so close to the wire, pay check to pay check there's no room to be extravagant. We're concerned about our 401ks or amassing saving that we can only "tip" others.

Our friends lived debt free. They were blessed to buy their house with cash. And at the peek of the market!

But instead of wanting all their money back or even most of it, they decided to be givers, they decided to yield to God's tug on their heart.

Listen, the office alone is worth their selling price to us. And it's not befitting of my lowly author status. Hubby said, "Well, now you have room to grow!"

We sold our house in six days. We have to go through the final motions and I guess we can't completely exhale until the closing, but when we see God moving in the midst of something, there's just no room for doubt.

I'm convicted more than ever to choose a lifestyle that allows me to be extravagant! Because our God is extravagant and there's no way we can out give Him.

How about you? Are you willing to trust your finances, your career, your future to an Almighty who cares for you? Extravagance!

Monday, April 04, 2011

The Story Jar by Robin Lee Hatcher and Deborah Bedford

What a great honor to have these two prestigious authors on my blog today to tell us about a great Mother's Day gift!


A lovely novel of three women, their stories threaded together through the concept of

The Story Jar…

The jar itself is most unusual -- not utilized in the ordinary way for canning or storing food, but as a collection point for memories. Some mementos in the jar -- hair ribbons, a ring, a medallion--are sorrowful, others tender, some bittersweet. But all those memories eventually bring their owners to a place of hope and redemption in spite of circumstances that seemingly have no solution.

Fresh, insightful, yet courageous in the face of difficult life issues, this collaboration by two talented writers first profiles a pastor’s wife with two young daughters who faces cancer just as her own mother did before her; and then a remarried mother working through a difficult relationship with a rebelliousrunaway daughter.

The third woman, alone with two teenaged boys who no longer pay much attention to her and seem headed for trouble, discovers the long-lost “story jar” and its significance. She comes to realize she can bring her own sorrows and frustrations to the feet of the Good Shepherd, the Great Physician, the Healer of the brokenhearted. She too will have memories for her own story jar.

“…It captures with surprising sensitivity…communion with God, and some excruciatingly exquisite moments of parental love…” Publishers Weekly

Included in the book are heart-warming tributes on motherhood fro novelists such as Jerry Jenkins, Francine, Rivers, Karen Ball, and Debbie Macomber.


ABOUT THE Robin and Deborah:

Robin Lee Hatcher is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. She makes her home in Idaho where she enjoys spending time with her family, her high-maintenance Papillon, Poppet, and Princess Pinky,
the kitten who currently terrorizes the household.

When Deborah Bedford isn't writing, she spends her time fly-fishing, cheering at American Legion baseball games, shopping with her daughter, singing praise songs while she walks along the banks of Flat Creek, and taking her dachshund Annie for hikes in the Tetons where they live.

by Robin Lee Hatcher

In September 1998, I received a story jar as a thank you gift after speaking at a writers’ conference in Nebraska.

The small mason jar, the lid covered with a pretty handkerchief, was filled with many odds and ends – a Gerber baby spoon, an empty thread spindle, a colorful pen, several buttons, a tiny American flag, an earring, and more.

The idea behind this gift was a simple one. When a writer can’t think of anything to write, she stares at one of the objects in the jar and lets her imagination play. Who did that belong to? How hold was he? What sort of person was he? What does the object represent in his life?

Writers love to play the “what if” game. It’s how most stories come into being. Something piques their interest, they start asking questions, and a book is born.

A week after receiving my story jar, I attended a retreat with several writer friends of mine, Deborah Bedford included. On the flight home, I told Deborah about the jar.

The next thing you know (after all, what better thing is there for writers to do on a plane than play “what if”?), we began brainstorming what would ultimately become The Story Jar. We decided very quickly that we wanted this to be a book that celebrates motherhood, that encourages mothers, that recognizes how much they should be loved and honored.

The Story Jar was first published by Multnomah in 2000, but eventually went out of print. Thus Deborah and I are delighted that Hendrickson wanted to bring it out in a new, revised version because we believe these stories can inspire others, just as it did this reader back in 2001:

"I am an avid book reader and have read thousands of books––maybe more––since the age of 5. I can honestly say that [The Story Jar] has touched me more than any other I have read. I cried, I laughed, and I relearned things that I had forgotten long ago as well as realizing things I never knew. Thank you for sharing your stories with your readers. They are truly inspiring. I plan on giving it to all the ‘mothers’ in my life for Mother's Day."

You don’t have to be a writer to want a story jar. It can be a family’s way of preserving memories. Consider having a family get-together where everybody brings an item to go into the jar, and as it drops in, they tell what it means to them, what it symbolizes. We can learn something new about our loved ones when we hear their memories in their own words.

Or do what my church did a number of years ago to create a memory for a retiring pastor. Inspired by The Story Jar, members of the congregation brought items to the retirement dinner to put into a story jar or they simply wrote their memories on a piece of paper to go into the jar. It was our way of saying thanks to a man and wife for all of the years they’d given in God’s service.

A story jar can be a tool for remembering all the wonderful things God has done in our own lives. As Mrs. Halley said, not all of God’s miracles are in the Bible. He is still performing them today in countless ways today, changing lives, healing hearts.

In the grip of His grace,
Robin Lee Hatcher