Category Archives: Author Updates

Writing Update: Preparing to Attend the ACFW Conference

I hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend! Mine was busy but fun. I got to spend some time shopping without children in tow (a rare occurrence for me) and found some great deals on professional attire and a gown for the conference I’m attending in a little over a week. Yay!

Did I mention I’m attending the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference this year? I am, and I’m excited about it!

(Technically I also mentioned that, among other things, in an interview over at the Books and Beverages blog last week. If you missed it, here’s the link where you can check out that interview.)

For anyone unfamiliar with writer’s conferences, you may be wondering why I’m so excited. This is an opportunity for me to:

  • learn more about the craft and business of writing from authors and publishing professionals.
  • network with others in the industry, and meet people face to face that I’ve only ever met online.
  • meet with literary agents to discuss my novel, and hopefully connect with an agent who loves the premise and writing enough to want to represent me.
  • shop for a lovely new evening gown to wear to the awards gala. Hey, I didn’t say all my reasons for excitement were equally compelling. 😉

This is my first writing conference, which I guess makes it extra exciting. Or maybe just extra nerve-wracking? Anyway, I’ve been busy preparing myself by reading up on what to expect, designing and printing business cards, creating a “one sheet” to introduce my novel and myself in… one sheet, and putting together a “proposal” with basically everything an agent or editor might want to know about my novel and me along with some sample chapters.

Whee! I’ve still got work to do before my flight departs, but I’m making good progress and looking forward to the conference. Here’s a preview of my new business cards to serve as proof that I really am making progress. 😉


So, how was your Labor Day weekend? And for my fellow writers out there, are you attending the ACFW Conference this year? Do you have any tips for first-timers like me?

Looking Back on Entering The Search for a Killer Voice

Regular readers of this blog may remember from past posts that I entered my first completed novel in the Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense contest called The Search for a Killer Voice.  If you missed those posts and you’re curious about the whole journey, here are some links (in sequential order) to catch you up.  Then again, if you’re busy, suffice it to say, my entry did very well, making it all the way to the final round of the competition and garnering a full manuscript request on the strength of my synopsis and first three chapters.

The contest wrapped up with final notifications and a big announcement this past Friday.  I learned that my manuscript was not accepted for publication.  Not the news I was hoping for, but not all bad either.  The editor who reviewed my novel gave me detailed feedback and encouraged me to submit more work to her in the future.  I greatly appreciate her encouragement and the time she put into offering constructive feedback.

All in all, the contest has been a great experience, and I’m glad I entered.  It afforded an opportunity to get to know the Love Inspired Suspense (LIS) editors and learn more about what they’re looking for, as well as a chance to get to know a number of authors and aspiring authors for LIS.  It also pushed me to finish my manuscript in time for the deadline, which was a great experience in and of itself.  And of course, the feedback I received should prove valuable as I continue to read, write, and hone my craft.

I would like to wish a hearty “Congratulations!” to the authors whose work was accepted for publication.  I’m looking forward to reading your books when they release and being able to say, “I knew her when….”  And for those, like me, who are still working towards publication?  Let’s keep at it, and we’ll get there one of these days.  :)

Writing Update: Celebrating My First Completed (and Submitted) Manuscript

I did it!

I accomplished that thing I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl.  That thing that had teenage Karen bicycling to the library on a regular basis to read Writer’s Digest magazine and every writing book she could get her hands on.  That thing that has grown-up Karen carving out time while the kids are sleeping or otherwise occupied to sit in front of a laptop and type, type, type.

I’ve written a novel.

All of it.  And edited it and sent it off to a publisher.  All in time to meet a very tight contest deadline.  As you might guess, I’m celebrating the accomplishment, whether this novel gets published or not (though of course, I hope it does).

A big thank you to all the friends and family who have been and continue to be a source of help and encouragement.  You know who you are, and you’re the best!

Now… if I get “the call” from an editor, saying she wants to publish my book… well, that would be the icing on the cake.  Since this book was entered in Harlequin’s Killer Voices contest for Inspirational Romantic Suspense novels, I should be hearing something, sometime between now and August 8th.  The suspense is killing me.  (Ha ha!)

I’m hoping it’ll be good news.

I’ve also started digging into my sorely neglected to-be-read pile, and brainstorming ideas for my next novel.  Oh, and blogging again.  😉

Writing Update: Killer Voices Finalist

As you may know from earlier posts, or if you’ve been following me on Twitter, I entered Harlequin’s Killer Voices competition a few months ago with the Inspirational Romantic Suspense novel I’ve been working on.  Last Thursday I was thrilled to learn that I’ve been selected to move on to the final round of the competition!

That means two things:

  1. The editor who read my synopsis and first three chapters liked them well enough to ask to read more.  (I’m doing a happy dance!)
  2. My full manuscript is due by 5 PM on Monday June 9th.  (That’s less than 2 weeks away!)

I’m making great progress and anticipate meeting that deadline.  Still, I do want every spare minute I can get for editing and polishing.  Soooo… it’s crunch time, and this blog may be a little quieter for a couple of weeks.  Thanks for understanding!

Some Thoughts on Writing My First Synopsis

Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about entering Harlequin’s Killer Voices competition with the first page of a novel I’m working on.  Today, I’m happy to report that not only did I get selected to advance to the next round of the competition (Yay!), but I was also able to get a 3-5 page synopsis describing my plot and characters in to my editor on time (Whew!).

As an aside, I love the fact that entrants have each been assigned to a given editor’s “team.”  That means, besides having teammates to cheer on, I can refer to “my editor” in posts like this.  Technically, I suppose I can’t claim to have an editor since I don’t have a contract, but I prefer to overlook that technicality for the moment.  😉

Anyway, writing a synopsis of my novel in progress has been quite a learning experience for me, and I hope my readers don’t mind if I talk a little about that in this post.  (Sorry if you do mind.  For anyone experiencing book review withdrawal, allow me to direct your attention to Megan Besing’s review of The Pelican Bride by Beth White; it sounds fantastic!)

Okay, I promise, no more asides… I think.

Since writing a good synopsis has the reputation for being particularly challenging, the prospect of writing my first synopsis was a little, um, daunting at first.  I had a week in which to write it, and I spent the first half of that week researching what was expected in a synopsis and hammering out kinks in my plot.  My early attempts at synopsizing were thwarted by some remarkably convoluted explanations as to why particular details had to occur in a particular sequence.  Which stopped me cold.  Yuck!

I wanted to focus on action and emotion, not the nitty gritty details.  I realized I had to back up and allow myself to tell, rather than show.  Ground breaking, right?  It was for me.  I think “Show; don’t tell,” has got to be the most commonly offered bit of writing advice out there, or close to it, so telling felt a little unnatural.  But I told myself to get over it.   And when I gave myself permission to tell, the process got a whole lot easier.

I also realized that Act Two of my plot as I originally envisioned it really was a little convoluted, and if I couldn’t explain it succinctly, then maybe I should rethink that part.  I got out some three by five cards, wrote plot points out on them, spread them across the dining room table, and started rearranging.

That and beating my head on the table, but we won’t talk about that part.  😉

I thought long and hard about which plot points were essential, pivotal moments for the characters and their relationship, and which ones were moveable or expendable.  In the end, I removed one plot point that didn’t really make sense and moved two other plot points to different locations within the narrative.  With those minor changes, everything else fell naturally into place.

After picking my jaw up off the floor, I ran to tell my husband that my plot wasn’t broken anymore, so he would no longer be asked to stare at a jumble of three by five cards with me.  (Have I mentioned he’s incredible?  He really is.  And back to the point….)

Once I had the sequence nailed down for my plot, I found to my delight that the synopsis flowed.  I wrote systematically from beginning to end, just telling the story, one step at a time, leaving out nonessential details.  And when I reached the end, and my synopsis was two pages too long, I went through again, looking at each sentence to see if it was really essential to understanding my story, or if it could be removed or shortened.  When I was done pruning, I set it aside for a day, read it through, and discovered that I liked it.  And breathed a big sigh of relief.

I’m glad to have that synopsis done, but I think I’m hooked.  Forcing myself to write a synopsis of my novel before writing it, really helped me distill the plot down to its bare essentials and get a better view of how the various pieces interact with each other.  As a result I think I have a much better understanding of my story, and it will be stronger in the end than it might have been otherwise.  Frustrating as the process was at times, I’m fairly certain I’ll be doing this again with future novels, whether I have to or not.

Does that mean I’m crazy?  😉

Writing Update: Devising Devious Deeds (or Plotting Romantic Suspense)

If you’ve been following my writing journey thus far, you know that I’m approaching the end of my first draft of my first novel.  (Yay!)

But I’ve put that on hold for a while to plot murder and mayhem (the fictional variety of course).


Which is to say, Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense (LIS) line is having a contest that they’re calling “The Search for a Killer Voice” (Twitter hashtag #KillerVoices).  The contest is designed to find talented new authors of inspirational romantic suspense, who just might wind up with publishing contracts with LIS.  At first, I was hesitant to enter because I didn’t want to set aside my first novel until it was complete.  But the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that my first novel will still be waiting for me when I get back to it.  And this opportunity was one I simply could not refuse.

See, the idea I’ve had for my second novel, that’s been percolating for a very long while now, is one I want to target for the Love Inspired Suspense line.  And this contest is just the nudge I need to get it written.

Best case scenario, it may catch an editor’s eye and garner a contract offer (which would be AWESOME!)  And if I don’t make it that far in the contest?  No harm done.  I may even get some helpful feedback from the editors along the way that could benefit my writing in the long run.

So yes, I entered the first page of my next novel, and now I’m waiting with bated breath for the editors to announce which entrants will be advancing to Stage 2 of the contest.  Supposedly the decision has already been made, but we’re being kept in suspense until March 28th.

Meanwhile, I’m reading, plotting, and writing at an intense pace, because the deadlines in this contest are no walk in the park.  Unless that walk in the park happens to take place while pursued by a serial killer….  😉

That, in and of itself, could make this contest worth entering, for the productivity boost that comes with a deadline!

As an aside, I’ve really enjoyed plotting the suspense in this book.  It feels kind of like playing both sides of a game of chess, where the stakes are life and death.  The mental exercise of considering what villain, hero, and heroine would do, and how each would respond to the other players’ moves, as well as how they would each expect the others to respond has been intense.  And a whole lot of fun!

So tell me, how do you feel about deadlines?  Appreciate or dread?  Or somewhere in between?

Writing Update: Finding a Balance Between Blogging and Writing My Novel

Book review blogging is great fun.  I love spreading the word about a book I really enjoyed reading.  It’s also nice to get free electronic copies of some great books, often before they’re officially published, in exchange for writing honest reviews.  But the best part is that in the process, I’m learning a lot about what does and doesn’t work in a variety of published novels.  And that’s something that I can apply to my own writing.

Balancing Blog and Novel

Balancing Blog and Novel

Trouble is, all this reading, blogging, Facebooking, and tweeting has seriously cut into the time I’ve been spending on actually writing my novel.  In fact, between you and me, there were six weeks straight during which I didn’t write a single word of my novel.

Not a good thing.

At first, I was trying to get ahead in my reading and blogging so I could be sure to post reviews and articles on a consistent weekly basis.  Then, as time passed without writing, the details on where I was in my novel and where it was headed began to fade, making it harder to get back into it.  And before I knew it, six weeks had passed without writing a single word of my novel.  Gasp!

This week, I decided it’s time to change that.  I re-read a half dozen chapters of my novel in progress to bring myself back up to speed on where my story is going.  And I’ve been making a point of devoting time to my own writing each day, regardless of what books are waiting to be read or blog posts are waiting to be written.  Best of all, the excitement for writing my novel is back.

Don’t worry.  This blog isn’t going anywhere.  I’m still here, still reading and reviewing, still writing articles.  But my novel is moving along again too.  A little bit at a time.  Yay!  I’m still trying to find the right balance, but I think I’m on the right track.

Anyone have any tips to share on balancing competing priorities or finding more hours in the day?  If so, I’m all ears.  😉

Author Update: Coming in for a Landing, Brainstorming, etc.

When I sat down to write my weekly blog post and looked over the notes I’d been making to myself, I realized I’d spent the preceding week brainstorming and accumulating LOTS of ideas for blog posts, rather than focusing on any one idea. My first thought was to scramble to pick an idea and run with it. But my second thought is the one that won out. Why not do something a little different this week?

Trees in Snowstorm

Today’s Snowstorm, Representing Brainstorming. Get it? ;)

So here goes. A glimpse into the current stage of my writer’s journey, along with a preview of some of what’s to come in this blog.

First off, my work in progress (Stateside Mission, my first novel) has recently reached 73,000 words. Listen carefully. Can you hear me cheering? I am. I’m also currently working on bringing the book in for a landing, allowing my characters to work out their problems, and tying up loose ends. Since it’s a romance, you know it’s going to end happily ever after, right? Well right now, I’m trying to plan the perfect proposal to fit my characters, and I’m acquiring new appreciation for what guys go through! I suppose I’m lucky to be writing a fictional proposal in the sense that I can not only change the proposal to fit the girl, but I also have the option of changing the girl to fit the proposal. Anyway, it’s looking right now like this draft may clock in around 80-85,000 words when all is said and done. We shall see.

I’m looking forward to reaching THE END so I can officially say I’ve done it and celebrate the achievement. Then I’ll be setting this novel aside and starting to work on some other projects for a while, maybe writing a short story or two and beginning to research for my next novel. That way I can come back to this novel fresh and ready to see it with clear eyes. I’ll get to see exactly what I’ve been spending all this time on, and just how much more time it’ll take to make it shine.

Besides working on my current novel, I’ve also been doing a lot of brainstorming, planning, and preparing. Specifically:

  • Reading blogs and books about writing, editing, publishing, and the like.
  • Brainstorming possible short stories and articles to write.
  • Researching magazines in which I may want to publish those stories and articles.
  • Experimenting with using Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads in conjunction with this blog to connect with other fans of Christian fiction.
  • Applying for review copies of books for my blog from publishers of Christian fiction.
  • Reading. Currently, reading Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, but check my Goodreads profile for updates.
  • And of course, planning the kinds of things, in addition to book reviews, to write about in future blog posts.

Speaking of which, I promised a preview of some of the topics I may address in future blog posts, didn’t I?  I’ve been brainstorming and researching lots of ideas.  I have a whole series planned on finding, starting, running, and participating in a book discussion group. I’d like to do posts spotlighting each of a variety of subgenres within Christian fiction, with examples of popular authors and titles representing each. I’m also considering interviewing other bloggers who write about Christian fiction, and featuring their blogs in posts here. Then there’s the idea of posting a few short stories here as samples of my writing.  Not to mention the growing list of random post ideas tangentially related to the main focus of this blog.  And of course, I’m going to continue to review Christian fiction as fast as I can read it.

What would you most like to see me write about in future blog posts?  Please share in the comments.