Reflections In Hindsight

Grace in the Rearview Mirror…it's closer than it appears

  • Ephesians 4:29

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    • Celebrating the Church Year
      by guest author, Jessica SnellThe Lord is always with us. We are never out of His presence, never hidden from His eyes.But it’s hard for us to remember that.Where He is omniscient, and never sleeps, never slumbers, we are distracted and busy and fallible. Though He is always mindful of us, it is hard for us to keep our thoughts constantly turned towards Him. […]
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      Welcome to the Barn Door Book Loft, Virginia. We are glad to have you here with us today.Question: Is there a story behind your book Works of Darkness?I wanted this story to show the consequences of not taking responsibility for ones actions, and the consequence of failing to do so. Question: What started you on your writing journey? I’ve always been an avid […]
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  • BLOG NEWS

    Thank you for your encouragement and support for the past three years. We've had fun connecting with you and hope you've found useful material here on Reflections. And here's the but... Reflections In Hindsight is closing on December 21, 2012. Elaine and Sophie and I can be found over at http://authorculture.blogspot.com; April can be found at Clash of the Titles, http://www.clashofthetitles, http://www.aprilgardner.com and watch for news for more novels from her!; Janet is ever-present on the Internet with her very special words of wisdom and grace at http://www.janetperezeckles.com, and Luther--who knows where he'll show up next, but I'd watch my back if I were you... Book Reviews are always important, so I, Lisa, will continue to offer them through my blog, as well as those promotions for your new books or book launches, or your news.
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Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

Why the Label?

Posted by Luther D. Powell on May 17, 2012

So I was brainstorming in my chamber of deep thought earlier this afternoon (the shower), and today’s bloppick came to mind. Why do we label Christian fiction? Not, what separates Christian fiction from everything else, but literally, why do we need the label?

I’m not hugely bothered by the label. I understand that plenty of Christian readers want to know they’re reading books that agree with their beliefs. They like to know that what they’re reading is safe for their hearts. I personally enjoy being able to enter a bookstore and head straight to the ‘inspirational’ section to browse shelves filled with some of my favorite authors. It’s like a family reunion!

Seriously though, why use the term ‘inspirational’ strictly for Christian/religious/spiritual fiction? Are no other books meant to inspire? I find that a little odd.

Anyway, my issue with labeling Christian fiction as such is that I have a lot of non-Christian friends (and a few Christian friends who don’t read much) who don’t even realize there is such a thing. Honestly, I rarely see a section in bookstores for Christian fiction; rather, I see sections marked off as ‘Christian,’ or ‘religious’ or ‘inspirational,’ period. That said, what non-Christian is going to read This Present Darkness if it’s sold on the same shelf as I Kissed Dating Goodbye? Nothing against the latter, you know what I mean. I understand the shelving logic: these books are belief-friendly, mix them together. But fiction and nonfiction have very different purposes, and I feel like those differences should be recognized.

I need a haircut.

Again, I do see the logic behind the Christian fiction label. It’s all about the marketing process, and the folks behind Christian fiction marketing are probably Christians who want other Christians to read the Christian books they Christian publish. Christian. However, I’ve read plenty of books on the…other market…which had messages of hope and spiritual growth in the plots, but simply because they were published by a different company, they didn’t get to sit at the table of Christian-labeldom. Dean Koontz, for example, is an author with a pretty hefty word count who definitely doesn’t ignore the spiritual realm in his writings. His books make me think on deep, important stuff just as much as Ted Dekker’s books do, but you’ll find no Dean Koontz on a Bible shelf.

Another thing, if Christian fiction gets its own corner in the bookstore, then why do I never see any Atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, New Age, et cetera, fiction? Sure there are nonfiction books that are by this religious group for this religious group, Richard Dawkins’s, The God Delusion comes to mind, but fiction? I haven’t seen it, and now that I think about it, wouldn’t it seem kind of weird to walk into a bookstore and see signs all over the place separating Christian fiction from Muslim fiction and so on and so forth? Right now, there seems to be Christian fiction and…everything else. Not all ‘secular fiction’ authors are unbelievers, so a Christian fiction label might even be a little off-putting to everyone else in the spectrum.

The way I see it, Christian stories are meant to aid in spiritual growth and plant seeds, so to speak. When the first thing people will see is “Hey! A Christian wrote this so you might consider accepting Jesus,” what firmly-rooted non-Christian will keep reading? Some will. Some get curious, but I can tell you from personal experience that most will glance at the bookshelf and keep walking. It’s not the label that bothers me, it’s how people react to it.

I can’t say I have an immediate solution to this. Maybe I’m the only one who sees a problem with it, but if what is currently considered Christian fiction were to simply be called ‘fiction,’ would we Christian authors not get more readers? How many more seeds could we plant if people didn’t have the obvious label to walk away from? It’s not denying our faith if we take the label away; denying our faith would be to rewrite everything without a message. What I think matters most is that we as Christians know Who and what we’re writing about, and that readers are encouraged to think on the world beyond themselves after reading what we write. They don’t need to know what we know as soon as they see the shelf the books are on, you know? :)

Obviously, a lot would have to be done in order for this change to be made. I’m not saying, “Let’s start a revolution with secretly-Christian-fiction,” per se, but I’d like to know if I’m not the only person who feels this way.

In closing, here’s a doodle I drew shortly after getting my first two short stories published by Splickety and OtherSheep magazines. Thanks for reading, cheers, God bless!

In Christ,

Luther D. Powell

Posted in Author Marketing, Publishing, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

End of the Line

Posted by Ben Erlichman on March 1, 2012

As I sit here in the hallway just outside my condo (I locked myself out—my house and car keys are inside so I’m stranded), I can’t help but reflect on how far I’ve come since I first started blogging for Reflections in Hindsight. I began awhile ago upon seeing an admonition from our very own Lisa Lickel via the ACFW Midwest loop for anyone interested in contributing to this blog. I answered her call and offered to contribute, and soon I was posting once every other week.

Not long after that, I began posting every week when the gentleman I was co-posting with had to step back from the blog, so Thursdays became “my day” at Reflections. It worked well for a long time. I could probably go back and tell you exactly how long it’s been, but I haven’t any desire to try to figure out how to do that on my iPad via the WordPress App and risk losing an entire post (it’s happened before) in the process.

I’ve shared on a great many subjects during my time here, some of which still attract readers even though the posts have been live for months. Some of my top posts include my thoughts on witchcraft in YA books (above and beyond the level of Harry Potter, which I think is mostly harmless), a fun post entitled “WWJBD? What Would James Bond Do?“, and my personal favorite, An Obituary for Harold, a squirrel to whom I paid tribute a few days after I ran him over with my car.

All in all, it’s been a great run, but as I said in a previous post about how much I hate blogging, I just don’t have the time, energy, or the drive to continue to write anymore. Part of it stems from the fact that I don’t enjoy reading blogs very much, and I hate the idea that I have to blog in order to be a “successful” author as far as my books go. If I hate blogging, why am I doing it?

I apologize for my negative outlook on this subject. As this is my last post at Reflections, I want to leave on a positive note, something I have done for basically everything I’ve posted. I’m that type of person: the optimist who sees the glass as half full—usually.

So here’s my positive spin on all of this: in not blogging at Reflections, I will have more time to write books, work on Splickety Magazine (which you can buy here), and be a good father to my son (or possibly daughter), who we’re expecting to be born within the next few weeks. Posting at Reflections has been an obligation that I worried about fulfilling every week, and now I won’t have to worry anymore.

Thank you all for reading my posts throughout the last year or so. You’ve walked along with me on this journey, through the good times and the bad, through the well-planned posts and the not so well-planned posts. I am forever indebted to you for your support.

As I sign off for the last time as a regular contributor (that’s right, you may see me again at some point, it’s just that I won’t be the one driving the carriage) I have to make three final requests of you.

1. Please continue to read Reflections authors’ posts. As you well know, I’m not the only one here at this site. Never was. Please continue to support this site, and tell your friends about it. I owe so much to Lisa and the other contributors for what they’ve taught me, so please check them out often, if not every day.

2. Keep reading on Thursdays. My replacement is the very able, intelligent, creative Luther D. Powell, a young man with a bright future ahead of him. You can check him out on our author page soon. He will continue to bring the heat through his posts, a heat that has cooled in my recent posts. Give him more than a fair shot—I think you’ll be impressed.

3. Finally, keep your eyes open. I’ll be around. I’m at conferences, I’m not leaving Splickety Magazine any time soon (just started it—duh), and I’ll eventually have a book or 19 published that you all can and should read, and then buy more copies for your friends and family. When that day comes, I’ll appear on Reflections again, probably for an interview. Until then, support Splickety, and if you see me wandering the halls at some conference you happen to be attending, come up and say hello. I’m okay with faces but horrible with names, so please pardon me if you have to remind me who you are.

With that, thank-you again, and God bless you all.

-Ben

This is me preparing for my undoubtedly bright future.

Posted in Anxiety, Author Marketing, Author Spotlight, Authors, Encouragment, Friendship, Happiness, Heart and Home, Homemaking, Hospitality, Inspiration, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Music, Parenting, Publishing, Till death do we part, Uncategorized, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Road Trip Fury

Posted by Ben Erlichman on January 26, 2012

I am not a fan of road trips. Sorry to start this post with such a negative statement, but I really just don’t enjoy them at all. Of course, I’ve taken more road trips in the last few months than I have in a couple of years before that, and I’m due to go on a few more in the next several months.

The problem with road trips, as I see it, is twofold: there is a significant physical distance between me and the destination of the road trip; and I have to be in a small space for a long period of time, which is uncomfortable.

I prefer flying. It takes less time, the quarters aren’t quite as cramped (though they’re close) and it’s usually reasonable in cost if you plan far enough in advance or find a good deal through one of the airlines. Sure, there are hassles like going through security and not being able to bring fireworks with you, but those are things I’m willing to go along with if it means a shorter trip.

“But flights don’t fly everywhere,” you say.

True. I concede that. In some situations, I just have to bite the bullet and deal with the road trip. For example: we just went down to Beloit, WI to visit a client for an inventory on Monday and Tuesday this week. You can’t fly the hour and a half distance (driving) from Milwaukee unless you have a helicopter and/or a chartered plane, both of which would be waaaay more expensive. So, I had to suck it up and endure the road trip.

“That’s not a road trip!” you yell with fury. “It’s too short.”

Not as far as I’m concerned. Anything longer than an hour is a road trip in my book. At least it wasn’t an overnight thing.

Well, as I said, I’ve got more road trips coming up (more details on what those are in future posts) that are either writing-related, business-related, or both. I’m planning on driving at least one of them (a 2-hour trip to Illinois), but I might fly to another location in Indiana if it ends up being too far south (both writing-related). I have multiple business trips coming up as well, all of which I will be driving (or riding along as a passenger). All in all, I’m going to have to deal with them.

What’s your take on road trips? Does the destination or the reason for the trip matter as far as your attitude toward the trip is concerned?

-Ben

Posted in Anxiety, Authors, Encouragment, Friendship, Happiness, Hospitality, Inspiration, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Music, Publishing, Uncategorized, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by Ben Erlichman on January 5, 2012

Well, it’s that time of the year again–the beginning. By this time a lot of people have already made and forsaken their New Year’s Resolutions. As for me? I’m just getting started.

I learned this nifty trick from Randy Ingermanson, a titan of fiction writing and teaching, and an all-around nice guy, too. It’s not so much a trick as it is a strategy to make sure you’re on task with your New Year’s Resolutions, especially if you’re a writer: create a writing business plan.

Randy talked about this in one of his past e-zines and I decided it would be a helpful tool for me. You can visit his website (just click on his name above) to search for the actual article yourself if you want all the details he included, or you can just read my summarized version in this post.

My business plan includes some key elements that you may want to put into yours. What follows is a list of what those are and a short description for each one.

Introduction: I used this section to articulate my major career goals as a writer. I listed five of them, the last of which is “To fully financially sustain myself and my family through writing-related revenues.”

Section 1 — Significant Achievements of 2010: This one is self-explanatory. I have yet to update it to 2011, but you get the idea. In this section I detailed the novels I wrote, connections I made with agents,  publishers, and other authors, achievements for my writing (in 2010 I was an ACFW Genesis contest finalist), the conferences I attended, blogging, short story-writing, stuff I did to work on my brand, and other stuff too.

I also took the time to list out every book I plan to write in a table by title. I included details like genre, production status (where I was in the process of writing these books), and whether or not it’s part of an intended series.

Here's a list of everything I'm working on right now...some more than others, of course.

Section 2 — Business Details: I didn’t write much in this section as most of my business isn’t happening since there’s not a lot of money coming in or going out at this point. I anticipate that it will grow as time passes, as will the amount of money I bring in. In 2010, I made a few bucks from selling my first ever short story, and then I made a few more in 2011 from selling a couple more short stories.

You can also put the amount of money you spent on your writing career in this section, and perhaps some spending you anticipate for the upcoming year. It’s important to remember that the money you spend is an investment in your writing career (it should be helping you make progress in your writing–if it’s not, then don’t spend the money on it next year).

Section 3 — Major Projects to Complete: This is for the upcoming year, of course. These are practical, achievable steps you can take towards fulfilling the goals you might list in the introduction. For me, I said that by the end of 2011 I wanted to have three publishable novels ready to present to publishers (meaning they were written and edited). To date, I have three novels and one novella (it would have been four, but one of them ended up kind of short).

At the end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013 you can look back at these projects and assess  your progress on them and whether or not it’s a huge failure on your part that you didn’t accomplish or finish them. It’s also important to note that things like brand development and marketing projects can fall under this section too.

Section 4 — Continuing Education: In this spot I detailed the books on writing that I wanted to read and the ones that I read the previous year. I also mentioned critique groups/partners that I had and conferences I planned to attend in 2011. Then, of course, there were fiction books I wanted to read as well, so I started keeping track of those.

Section 5 — Conclusion: I wrapped the document up by making a statement of what I will look like by the end of 2011–it’s kind of another goal, if you think about it. I said I would be much closer to realizing my overall goal of becoming a published novelist in the action/adventure genre. I also promised to revisit it in 2012 and create an updated version.

I encourage all of my author friends to create something like this if they’re trying to make a career out of writing. It has really helped to focus my attention on what parts of my life and career I should be developing, and it provides a guide to follow for the course of the year. It provides self-accountability, which is huge when you’re a writer since it can be such a solitary endeavor. Will you be writing a business plan for your writing this year?

-Ben

Posted in Anxiety, Author Marketing, Authors, Encouragment, Friendship, Happiness, Inspiration, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Music, Publishing, Uncategorized, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Critiques: Friend or Foe?

Posted by Ben Erlichman on December 29, 2011

Writers fear rejection more than anything else (in my opinion). That rejection can come in lots of forms and will likely show up at multiple points in your career as a writer. You can’t avoid it.

Even best-selling authors get bad reviews on their work. Jim Rubart, best-selling author of Rooms, Book of Days, and The Chair, has a total of 305 reviews for Rooms on Amazon.com. Of those reviews, 89 are 1-star ratings (the worst), and 134 are 5-star ratings (the best). I know Jim fairly well (for only seeing him once a year at the annual ACFW Conference) and have had the privilege of listening to him speak at that conference a couple of times about marketing. One of the best things I gleaned from his talks was that it’s better to have people either really love your writing or really hate it because that means you’ve achieved the goal every writer is shooting for: you’ve inspired a strong emotional response in your reader.

Critiques can be helpful tools in getting you to that point, but frankly, they suck sometimes. As writers, we put ourselves out there. We empty our souls onto the page on a regular basis. That’s often a very messy process. Critiques help to clean up that mess so others can read it without cringing at our excessive use of adverbs or other goofs while creating our first draft.

Here’s my typical process for writing as far as critiques are concerned:

1. I do my pre-writing work (includes research, outlining, writing synopses, etc.)

2. I write the book

3. I edit the book at least once on my own (probably no more than twice, though)

4. I send it to someone I trust for a first peer critique

5. I implement the changes I like from the critique

6. I send it out for a second critique (either to the same person or to a different one, or sometimes both)

7. I implement the new changes from the second critiques

8. I write a book proposal and try to sell the thing.

More or less, that’s my plan. I’ve got a novella, Lions and Serpents, that I just got a line-by-line critique back from a good friend of mine. I haven’t looked at it yet, but we discussed it on Facebook chat for a bit and he gave me some overarching thoughts.

In short, he said that a big chunk of the story after a certain point really slowed down and wasn’t as enjoyable to read since not much was happening–the characters were all just plotting how to proceed next instead of just doing it. He also said my characterizations weren’t consistent in the two main characters, Paul and Marty. Also, my minor characters (mostly the evil henchmen) all seemed kind of bland and boring. On top of all of that, he thinks I may have invoked a form of Deus Ex Machina at the end (which I kind of disagree with, but I can see his point).

In other words, it stung to hear some of those things. Most of those things.

But that’s part of the process of making your work stronger, of making it more appealing to your target audience. It certainly is part of making your work more “publishable” through traditional mediums, as professional editors have responsibilities to their respective publishing houses, who need to make money off of your work. Sometimes you just have to do things their way, and a good critique can help you get closer to providing them with something that they not only can use, but also want.

As with all criticism in life, eat the lollipop but not the stick. In other words, apply the constructive criticism that you think will help your piece get better, and ignore the stuff you disagree with. I guarantee that I won’t implement every change my critique partner suggested, but I will use most of it because I trust his judgment and know that he’s trying to help. Ultimately it’s my story and I’ll do what I want to do with it.

Another thing to look out for is negative criticism. If you’re eating an apple and run across a big bruise, you don’t eat the bruised part, right? Eat around it. Get back to the stuff that tastes good and is nourishing you. Same with critiques or reviews: if someone says you’re a horrible writer because your characters are shallow and your plot has no structure so you should probably never write again, what good can you take out of something so negative? Well, ignore the insults and the meanness and get the actual critique content out of there: you need to work on plot structure and character development.

Don’t be afraid of critiques. They’re a good way to put your work out there just a little bit, and hopefully to receive some constructive feedback while you’re at it. Send it to someone you trust to be honest and give you a helpful review of your work. Doing this will help you develop a thick skin for when you finally do get published and someone writes a scathing review of your work that makes you want to crawl into a cave and hide forever. Go ahead, give it a shot.

-Ben

Posted in Anxiety, Author Marketing, Authors, Book Reviews, Encouragment, Friendship, Happiness, Inspiration, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Publishing, Uncategorized, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

My NaNoWriteMare

Posted by Ben Erlichman on December 1, 2011

Clever title, isn’t it? That’s about the only thing I accomplished this November as far as writing is concerned. Alright, I’m being too hard on myself–it’s not quite as bad as the title suggests. I actually logged 22,200 words on the nose in november, but that’s 28k shorter than the standard NaNo goal of 50k, and about 40-50k shorter than my personal goal of 60-75k. Ah well, life goes on, right?

The best thing I can do is try to figure out where I “went wrong” in my endeavor. If you caught my last post two weeks ago (sorry about the blank Liam Neeson post that showed up Thanksgiving Day–that’s courtesy of WordPress being devilish and deleting all of my content) where I sort of did a mid-course analysis and tried to make corrections, then you know some of my flaws already. I played too many video games, I focused more at work at my day job (that’s a good thing, though) and I didn’t do enough pre-research on my initial NaNo project, which I eventually abandoned in favor of returning to my previous work-in-progress (WIP) which is about a chapter away from hitting the book’s final act.

Yeah, I thought I’d be able to amp up my writing by switching to my old project, but my word counts actually didn’t improve–they decreased, then began to increase in the past few days. I wrote like a tyrant my first week, which was actually only five days, and in that time I put out 9,050 words. The next week (a full seven days) I put out 6,433, then a miserable 1,998 the week of that blog post. That was my rock bottom. I climbed up to 2,270, then reached 2,453 during the last four days of November. In short, I’m on an upswing, and that’s going to have to be good enough for now since I failed to complete NaNo.

In other words, my word count from October through November very closely resembles the stock market crash in 2008.

Here’s my new goal, and I think it’s manageable: finish my current WIP by the end of December. By my count I should have about 20-25k left to write. I have done over 50k words in a month before, so cranking out the end of the story (with the momentum of the entire cast of characters and the plot fueling my writing) should be a fun challenge. I’d like to have it done by mid-December so I can have an edited draft ready for my wife to read by January 1st, as I promised a few months ago.

Here are the things that will probably distract me: writing/preaching a sermon in mid-December for the main service in my church; running my church’s youth group; trying to acquire the biggest client for my dad’s company in its history (sooooo awesome, by the way); trying to acquire other clients at work; an old friend visiting my wife and me for a month or two; video games; getting the first issue of Splickety out and selling it to local stores; marketing Splickety nationwide; making time to spend with my pregnant wife; chaplain site visits to our client location three times a month; critique group stuff; potentially attending two funerals; meeting with a young couple about officiating their wedding; volleyball on Monday nights; workouts on Tuesday nights; Mayhem on Friday nights; and probably a bunch of other things I can’t remember right now.

In other words, it’s exactly how I like it: stressful, packed, and short on time.

I guess we’ll see how it turns out.

-Ben

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Halfway Through NaNo

Posted by Ben Erlichman on November 17, 2011

I’m failing miserably on my NaNo word count. I think I have a total of 16,300 words written for the entire month. I don’t know why I just can’t get going on this story–maybe it’s because I have a bunch of other things going on. Needless to say I haven’t been managing my time as well as I could be.

For those of you who have read this blog in the past, you know that I have struggled with addictions to video games. That said, that’s a part of what has taken me away from NaNo this year, but it’s not the entire reason. I’m also taking on a leadership role in my youth group, so every Wednesday I’m at my church all day working on youth group stuff. I reclaimed some closet space yesterday and started reclaiming a little nook towards the back of our multipurpose room where we had been storing a whole bunch of sound equipment stuff that we never really used since we don’t have a worship team at the moment. It was all just sitting there, and has been for years, but we never did anything about it. Well, yesterday I did, and it took me all day to sift through everything and figure out what went where and how I could get some space for the youth group.

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Some of our arsenal hanging in the "Merge Cave"

All in all, I’ve decided to go back and try to finish my 4th novel instead of continuing the one I’m working on right now. I should have just listened to my critique group and finished it instead of writing this new one. So that’s what I’m going to do. Maybe I can finish strong in both NaNo and my fourth novel by the end of the month.

-Ben

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NaNoWriMo Sound Off

Posted by Ben Erlichman on November 3, 2011

It’s that glorious time of year again for those of us who write novels: NaNoWriMo. That’s National Novel Writing Month, for those of you who don’t know. You know what that means for me as an author? Isolation, a third of my regular social life, long nights awake at the keyboard tapping away to reach that ever-elusive word count goal of 50,000 words in one month (I’m actually shooting for 60-65k this year because 50k isn’t actually a full novel…).

In other words: I’m really looking forward to it.

We writers often like isolation, we don’t mind sacrificing our social lives for our work (to an extent), and chasing that challenge is a thrill enhanced even beyond what we usually get from writing our books. We’re weird like that, so just accept it and love us anyway, or you run the risk of becoming a character in one of our books. And then we may kill that character. Bwahahaha!

All kidding aside, I’m off to a different start and I have a different approach to NaNo this year than I did last year, where I had computer problems and struggled with a lack of focus, yet still somehow managed to get my 50k written in that time. The primary differences this year are that I know what to expect this time through, and I have a detailed outline from which I can work. Last year I had neither of those things, and the result was a 54k book (novella?) jam-packed with action but not long enough to sell to any publishers. (Don’t worry–I can always use it as a free giveaway as an e-book as a marketing/promotional perk for my readers to build a platform.)

This year I’m writing the first book in a dystopian YA series of three books. I have outlined the entire book, almost all of it in scene-by-scene detail except for one section where I totally just wrote a paragraph that’s supposed to sum up three entire chapters (give or take) of writing. The rest is pretty clear-cut, though. In my experience, outlining has proven to be 100 times (that’s an estimate) more useful to me than writing by the seat of my pants. I did that with my NaNo project last year and, well, you know how that turned out. I also did that with my first novel, and it’s taken me about 8-9 years to get it to where it’s actually ready for a publisher to consider. Never again, my friends. I am an outliner all the way, every day.

I’m off to a decent start. I wrote 3,000 words the first day and 1,100 words the second day, which, when you average it out, I’m sill a bit ahead of where I should have been by now anyway, even though I dropped the ball yesterday by about 500 words. Today/tonight will be different. I fully expect another 2,000 words, possibly 3,000, and I plan to be up late writing into the night with some AC/DC playing in the background.

Another key difference is that I’m waaaay busier this year than I was last year. Tell me if this sounds like a lot to handle: a full-time job, a marriage, a very part time job (5 hours a month) as a chaplain, co-leading my church’s youth group, editing and putting out the first issue of a new flash fiction magazine, taking a refresher course on hermeneutics (Biblical interpretation) for a preaching mentoring class at my church, my wife is pregnant, running events for the youth group including a fundraiser coming up soon…

There’s more too, but I can’t remember it right now. Add NaNo on top of all of that and I have no life in November. But it’s all good. I usually don’t thrive unless I have a lot of things going on.

What about you? Are you doing NaNo this year? Do you know someone who is? Share with us in our comments section.

Also, give three cheers to Written World Communications, one of NaNoWriMo’s sponsors this year. :)

Posted in Anxiety, Authors, Encouragment, Happiness, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Music, Till death do we part, Uncategorized, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Distraction in Action

Posted by Ben Erlichman on October 27, 2011

You’re sitting in that ideal setting that we mentioned last week. You’ve got your elixir, your nepenthe, your ambrosia in a steaming mug next to you (or in a chilled glass). The sounds of nature, or silence, or rock and roll surround you as your fingers tap the keyboard or write longhand. The computer screen is alive with color, but mostly just white and black text. You type word after glorious word, and the story unfolds before your very eyes like a flower blossoming in the springtime (or, if you write action/adventure, like a swelling explosion from a rocket-propelled grenade).

Everything is perfect, just the way you like it.

Then the phone rings. The dog next door starts barking. Your kids charge into the room and shout at the top of their lungs. The over beeps because your frozen pizza is cooked. Your next-door neighbor shoots his dog because it was barking too much. A meteor strikes the Earth in Africa and knocks your juice/coffee/soda/water all over your keyboard.

All is lost.

What happened? You got distracted.

“But–that’s not what happened! It wasn’t my fault!” you cry, furious that I would hazard to suggest that the African meteor was somehow your fault. “I couldn’t help being distracted.”

Sometimes, that’s exactly how it is. You don’t really have much of a choice–stuff will happen and it will distract you.

Sorry for the pause. I had to go get a frozen pizza out of the oven. Seriously, I actually got up and did that while I was typing this post. But it’s 11:47 at night and I’ve only eaten once today, so I have to take care of that. For me, that was an example of a necessary distraction.

As I was saying, there are some things you just can’t help. The neighbor’s dog barking, for example. Unless that neighbor really does find some way to shut Fido up (or if you’re cavalier enough to do it for him), you’re stuck with it. That doesn’t mean, of course, that you have to let it distract you. Put on some headphones, or put in some earplugs, or both, and get back to writing.

It’s not always so simple. You have kids. They neeeeeeed you every second of every day. Can’t get rid of them, can you? Sure, if they’re older, you can ship them off to school for eight hours, but if they’re babies (like the one I’m expecting in March), what do you do then? Since I don’t have kids that age (yet), I really don’t have a good answer except to say what I would TRY to do.

James Scott Bell has a dandy book called The Art of War for Writers (which I highly recommend). In it, he explains that he often “snatches time” when he writes. He explains that he makes sure he is still productive in spite of distractions by snatching time to write whenever he can. He mentions that he writes in some weird places at some weird times, primarily on a portable typing thingy–not hi-tech like an iPad, but something simpler called an AlphaSmart Neo, which he says runs on two AA batteries. He stresses that no matter how you do it, make sure that you ARE doing it.

So, when the kids are screaming, attend to them, and then sneak back to snatch a few words here and there until you find time to dedicate to writing. That’s my theory, anyway.

It will also help if you rid yourself of the distractions you can control. How much time, would you say, you spend online? On Facebook? Checking emails? Playing games? Playing video games? Watching TV? The list could go on forever, I’m sure, but my point is simple: make writing a priority, and you’ll find that many of those other things won’t matter quite as much in relation to your writing. Find a way to box them out, to isolate your writing time as your writing time.

This is all easier said than done, but you can do it. It takes time, practice, and discipline, all dirty words in our modern age of instantaneous gratification.

I’m going to leave you with a few different action steps today. Use the ones you can, ignore the others.

1. Identify things that distract you on a regular basis. This could be anything from jumping on Facebook every seven seconds, reading articles online, that incessant beeping from your cell phone because you haven’t opened your last text message yet–anything that you know will distract you.

2. Rid yourself of these things if you can. Turn off/unplug your internet connection, and switch off your cell phone’s sound. Put those earplugs in and block out Fido’s incessant barking, etc.

3. Create a plan of action for dealing with unforeseen distraction (like public rhyming). This should include dealing with said distraction, but more importantly carving a path to getting back into your writing groove.

4. Snatch that time. Get an AlphaSmart Neo, or a notebook and paper, and write. Or, get an iPad, and write on that thing. How you do it isn’t so important–actually doing it is what’s important.

5. Celebrate your victories. Before you know it, you’ll have a thousand more words on the page than you had ever dared hope for. That calls for a bit of celebration, right? Treat yourself to a movie, a TV show, or a snack/beverage that you wouldn’t normally enjoy, and enjoy a period of rest.

I hope this helps.

-Ben

Posted in Anxiety, Authors, Encouragment, Friendship, Happiness, Homemaking, Hospitality, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Music, Parenting, Till death do we part, Uncategorized, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Game Fuel

Posted by Ben Erlichman on October 20, 2011

Today I want to ask a question: as a writer (or creative type), what spurs your creative process?

I’m talking about everything here. Environment, food, beverages, other people, music and other sounds, temperature. All sorts of things.

I’d like some comments on your ideal setting for doing your writerly duties. I’ll give mine as an example, but I definitely want to hear from you as well. In other words, what’s your game fuel?

When I write, I like things a certain way, as do most of us. My ideal setting is as follows:

I like writing on the computer via a keyboard. I’ve transitioned to writing on my iPad using a wireless bluetooth keyboard which works smashingly, and by the end of October I will have completed an entire novel for the first time on my iPad. I like that because it means that even when I’m not in my ideal setting, I can still whip the iPad out and write.

I also enjoy having music playing if possible, preferably music that I’ve heard before and am familiar with. My tastes in writing music are varied and diverse–I like everything from 80s hair metal to jazz to techno/electro to blues to instrumental classical and beyond. Different songs inspire me different ways.

I prefer (and this is a big one) to write alone. I really, really don’t like people looking over my shoulder, and I find that I’m less distracted with fewer people around. Sure, sometimes I get distracted anyway, but solitude helps. Writing in airports or public places is nebulous–usually I’m alone, but there are lots of people around for me to watch. That’s both good and bad when I’m writing, as I get some inspiration from them and their behavior, but they distract me sometimes too.

Sometimes I like to have a snack or a beverage nearby. I wrote a previous post extolling the wonders of Mountain Dew and its effect on my writing (it really, really helped me get going), but since I’ve gone caffeine-free, I can no longer rely on its magical powers to inspire me. Now I like to have some orange juice, some cold water, or some other tasty drink on-hand while I write–if I’m not too lazy or too involved to go to the fridge and get it. Snacks don’t matter quite as much, but I do enjoy my string cheese, so I munch on that from time to time as I eat.

Temperature isn’t a big deal either. If it’s a bit cool, I put on a sweatshirt. If it’s warm, I take the sweatshirt off, etc. That doesn’t bother me much.

I typically write at my desk at home. I set the iPad and the keyboard in front of my iMac (which I use to play the music) and type away. my back is to the window, which helps from distracting me. I need an upgrade in my chair, but it doesn’t bother me too much. I also enjoy writing late at night, as I’m something of a night owl.

So what about you? When do you write? What does the scene look like? Show me.

-Ben

Posted in Anxiety, Authors, Encouragment, Happiness, Hospitality, Life Experiences, Music, Uncategorized, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

 
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