The Biggest Anchor Weighing Down A Writer’s Dreams

Today I am posting a blog I wrote as a guest blogger a few years ago over at Write It Sideways. Recent events in my writing life caused me to revisit the sentiment in the post. I know I am not alone and thought I’d share it here.

Large Anchor in front of Conderate White House in Richmond Virginia.

Large Anchor in front of Conderate White House in Richmond Virginia.

Have you ever heard a writer say “I don’t care if I ever get published.”
My answer to them (in my head anyway) would be, “You are such a liar.”
I know, because I have wanted to wash my mouth out with Whiteout fluid when I heard that very statement slip out between my lips
Writers who are serious about their craft want to be published. Writers who have a passion to share with others crave to be published. Authors don’t slave for years over their book to never have it see the light of day.
Let’s call it what it really is F-E-A-R.
We are afraid of being rejected. Who wants to spend hours working on something to get rejection letters? Be honest. How long did it take to get comfortable with any kind of criticism of our precious creation? My husband is a grammarian, and it used to aggravate me that he was so nit-picky. Really, he is a wonderful help with the editing process. But until I developed a thick-skin toward my work, he and I went head to head, point for point. Sending pages from my novel to critique services, editors and fellow writers for evaluation can be unnerving. All the red marks stung at first. Needless to say, without that editing my stuff did not get published.
Don’t Criticize my Baby
Our created masterpieces are our babies. Rejections stir our maternal instincts to protect our young. When we protect it, we suffocate the creative process and any growth our writing can have.
A line in the sand
Drawing the proverbial low expectation line in the sand—I don’t care if I get published—creates excuses for not pursuing publication. That low expectation in turn produces negativity. Mention an author you like, their opinion of them won’t be favorable. If you share a lead regarding a publisher or magazine, they have a horror story about the publication. Why? Fear encourages defending the line; out come the weapons of authoritative sneers. The line forces the fearful to take other would-be writers with them.
Fear of New Technology
Writers can be afraid of learning new things to improve their ability and expand their platform. I remember learning to use a computer. Once I mastered the word processing program, I was in heaven. No more carbon paper and retyping whole pages. As the word processing got more refined, I had to battle with the newest edition. Discovering how to use the editing application in word was freeing–although I still do print off a copy and red ink it. I find the editing program much more efficient especially when I turn it over to my husband for his comments, which can be eradicated with a simple mouse click. Obviously, I still have a few issues with his input.

Writers cling to Mantra
There’s also the declaration by some—whether I am published or not, I will keep writing. Really! Seeing your name in the byline and your article in print is such a rush that anyone who is serious about their writing will pursue publication again and again. Those who say they don’t care will quit writing. It is too discouraging to have no affirmation. I find that I have to switch from my novel to writing other things. I need that affirmation. While I wait to find a home for it and see my name on a book cover, I will write other things to keep my creative juices fueled.
Getting published is hard work
People continue to say that getting published is not their goal because it is time consuming hard work. All the research and contact making, query letters, book proposals, networking. Whew! Makes me tired just writing the words. That, too, is a fearful thing.
Publishers don’t get my unique style
I love to hear I have a unique style that traditional publishers don’t understand. My question to them (again in my head) is if traditional publishers don’t understand it, what makes you think traditional readers will? Again, I see fear as the main culprit. That uniquely gifted writer may be afraid it is too late to learn proper grammar and correct spelling. He fears if he hired an editor to do that, his voice would be lost.
Fear is the biggest anchor weighing down the awesome potential in many writers.
To lose that anchor that still tries to weigh me down, I read blogs like this. I am involved in Word Weavers, a critique group that helps me hone my craft. That group gives off an encouraging vibe that fuels me on. When I write something every day, fear can’t whisper the words that make me feel worthless. Entering contests is my way of telling fear–nothing ventured, nothing gained. I take classes and attend webinars. Attending conferences boldly slaps fear in the face. There I discover my story idea has merit and my articles have value. Most importantly, I say I am a writer. The more I say it–print it right on a business card—the more I can sense the fear diminishing and the confidence coming forth. Like you, I battle with fear; but it is getting weaker, and the desire to continue to be published is getting stronger.
What excuses have you made because you were afraid of rejection? How do you stamp out that fear?

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You Might Be A Writer If…

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It’s 2014 and you’ve decided this is the year you will pursue your dream of being a writer. But how do you know if you are cut out to be one. Here is my take on it.

You might be a writer if you have to turn everyday experiences into a story.

You might be writer if you find yourself rewriting famous quotes for clarity.

You might be writer if you stay up nights replotting the script of your favorite TV show.

You might be writer if you can find devotional material in the dog vomiting on the rug.

You might be writer if you can’t stop writing and resort to jotting story ideas on your arm when you run out of paper.

You might be writer if you notice typos and misspellings in best sellers

You might be writer if you forget to eat because the words are flowing on to the page faster than you can think them.

You might be writer if you gain ten pounds from the chocolate you use to sustain you while rewriting that one sentence over and over for days on end.

You might be writer if you trip over the stacks of writing tomes surrounding your desk.

And lastly you might be a writer because the love of words on a page keeps you from cleaning your house, mowing your lawn and bathing your children.

Of course, you’ll never know if you are really a writer if you don’t ever write!

How do you decide you might be a writer?

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Emotional Thesaurus : A Great Writer’s Tool

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I have found a wonderful resource book that I want to recommend to all my fiction writing friends.

The Emotional Thesaurus, A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is a great tool to help writers find the right gesture, description or inner feeling for any character. The book is divided into 75 emotions starting with adoration and ending with worry. Each emotion is broken down into definition, physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, cues of acute or long term, cues of suppressed and a Writer’s tip added for good measure.

This book could be read from start to finish but is better used as a resource. As I am rewriting and editing my novel I ran across a section where I used the word nervous. I need to show that nervousness to the reader. Turning to the Nervousness section I found lots of helpful clues.

The list of physical signals was quite long. I found rubbing hand’s down ones pants, a lack of eye contact and scraping hands through hair as great suggestions. But one needs to go deeper so I looked at the list of internal sensations discovering nausea and an empty feeling in the pit of the stomach set my imagination in motion. The mental response that best fit my character was a desire to flee. I found panic attack in the cues of acute or long term nervousness and a pasted on smile under cues of suppressed nervousness.

The Writer Tip on the nervousness page was a helpful reminder. “Body movement and external reactions alone will not create an emotional connection for the reader. Pairing action with a light use of internal sensations and or thoughts creates a deeper emotional pull.”

I found reading thorough the list caused me to reexamine my whole scene adding the components that were missing. It stretched my imagination as I created a new more powerful scene. The lists are not designed for you to copy the words into your manuscript but rather expand your thinking regarding your characters. As I read the list I could see which qualities fit my heroine and which made more sense for my hero or a minor character.

The Emotional Thesaurus is a must have for your writer’s bookshelf. Keep it close at hand for easy reference.

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Spooky Architectural Prompt—Can You Guess?

Halloween puts me in mind of an interesting architectural structure. Its very name paints a scene without further description. One that authors and movie makers have used to represent the darker side of life and promote fear. When describing a large old mansion or a castle, we see them. To add a creepy feel to a dark and stormy night lightening might cause their eyes to glow. In the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast a fight between the beast and his archrival takes place on their steep precipices. In the Sorcerer’s Apprentice Balthazar brings the stone creation to life and flies off on it.

Many a scene in literature has the damsel in distress hopelessly trapped on one. Or the hero hanging on by his fingernails as the villain crawls along its cold stony back to finish the hero off. Only to tumble to his own death on the slippery thing. Carole Brown’s debut novel The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman has a heart pounding scene like that.

In the comedy Murder By Death these stone creations fall each time the doorbell rings.

Have you guessed of what I speak?

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That’s right, gargoyles. Many medieval structures such as churches have them keeping watch on the walls. Architects of the period used the gargoyles as part of their drainage system to keep rain water from eroding the stone structures. Because the stone had to be carved to accommodate the water artistic figures; often misshapen animals and mythical creatures became the purveyors of rainwater.

Although they take on many shapes, most people picture gargoyles as ghoulish and otherworldly. Therefore, they are the perfect backdrop to a sinister act or a ghost story. I have not read a book that placed gargoyles as beacons of hope. However, the Disney Movie the Hunchback of Notre Dame had three animated gargoyles as Quasimodo’s friends and confidants. Only Disney could make a gargoyle friendly.

Can you name any other movies or books that contain gargoyle references?

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Interview With Carole Brown Author of The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman

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I took my preview copy of The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman as we traveled out of town. My hubby got little conversation from me. When I did talk it was to exclaim over the progress of the plot in the novel. Carole Brown has taken on the dark subject of religious cults and delivered an  important message for believers. Today, I am privileged to have Carole visit my blog.

Carole, it is a delight to have you share with my readers today. My first question is one every writer wants to know. What compelled you to write such a work?

Thank you so much for inviting me!

My husband came up with the idea! We take an interest in many news items especially unusual events happening in the United States. When the cult in Texas, a few years ago, caught our attention, we began a “what if” session.

Ÿ  What if a woman turned on the cult? You read of incidents of people escaping or leaving a cult and sometimes even the reason. I wanted to give her a huge reason to stay but rebellious enough to work against them.

Ÿ  Why would she do this? There had to be something so catastrophic, so horrid, she would risk everything.

Ÿ  What would give her enough initiative to do that?  What could that exact “something” be?

After answering those questions, the plot exploded from there.

I remember meeting a woman who had left the Children of God cult. Her story was similar to your novel. What research did you do to create the world of The Children of the Righteous Cain?

I, too, have known of a few cults and that knowledge lent itself well in this story. Even with that, I still wanted more information so was able to speak to several people who had more knowledge about cults; what were some of their actions and how did they think?

Ÿ  Some have weird rituals.

Ÿ  Most are manipulative and loyalty plays a huge part.

Ÿ  Many require monetary sacrifices.

Ÿ  Usually the leader is the ultimate speaking and commander.

I didn’t want to use an actual cult so went with creating one. I wanted something with some ancestry history, one big identifying emblem, and some very demeaning and controlling factors.  An action that would turn a normally quiet and cult-law-abiding woman into a vengeful person.

A tattoo seemed a good answer to the emblem problem. I did quite a bit of research on tattoos, trying to discover the right one for the story. Eventually I realized nothing would succeed any better than an eye. Chapter one gives the reader a hint.

I needed to decide on a setting and at first considered Ohio, but it didn’t feel right.  My second choice was West Virginia (I didn’t want to set it out west). With it’s beautiful mountains and the many back roads, it’s Appalachian history, and the possible seclusion ability it afforded, I knew I’d found the perfect place.

I found Dayne MacFarland and Cara Hayman believable characters. Some of their reactions reminded me of people I know. How did you craft these characters?

Caralynne was perhaps the hardest. I needed to make her vengeful, yet show her as a loving person capable of so many positive things if given the chance. Writing her as a devoted mother–bringing in all the sweet things she thought and did for her daughters and for her friends in spite of all her misguided planning against the men of the cult gave her a balance that very well could (and does!) take place in real life.

Dayne’s character: When my husband and I plotted the story, we knew Caralynne would need a decent and good influence in her life; someone who understood the cult ways, yet be convinced that change for them would also be better. What better way to establish a history than to have a young man who grew up at the same time as Caralynne. Then have them separated for a time and reunited; both changed from different circumstances and events of life. Though Dayne was a basically good man, he still was human: a bit prone to being stubborn as evidenced in his arguments with Professor Moore in college; a bit prone to anger at injustice (which is really a good thing, yet it must be focused in the right way). I wanted a man who showed sympathy and love toward Caralynne’s daughters and strong enough to stand for what was right and not frightened when threatened with ruin.

He was easy to write and I believe easy to sympathize with and love.

I love gentleness, strength, and deepness in a character even when they’re flawed in many other areas. It was easy to create Dayne’s personality as such because I kept visualizing the good influences he had in his life (in spite of being surrounded by such evil men): his parents and Professor Moore.

Is there anything you would love to add that I may have overlooked?

Here is the description of the plot.

Caralynne Hayman is angry and bitter over the abuse and death of her eleven-year-old daughter at the hands of a radical religious cult – The Children of Righteous Cain. So when her husband, a founding member of the cult, suffers a massive heart attack, Caralynne allows her husband to die.

Caralynne’s secret seems safe until Dayne MacFarland returns determined to learn the truth about the cult. His investigation and his rekindled love for Caralynne leads the pair toward a confrontation with the group’s leaders.

Can Dayne’s love for Caralynne bridge the gulf of anger and bitterness that divide the community? Or will Caralynne’s deadly secret prove too high a price for her redemption?

I hope readers will take away a greater sense of sympathy for those caught up in abuse or unusual situations. And for those who may read the book and hurting from any kind of abuse, please don’t give up. There is always hope.

You mentioned you are writing the next book in the series. I loved finding closure at the end of this novel.  Yet, it left me with many questions that still needed to be answered. Can you share a few teasers regarding what the next installment holds?

Here’s a brief and rough blurb:

It begins with a baby kidnapping. Elder Simmons, the antagonist, will not let go. He is determined to wreck vengence upon the MacFarlands, even if he has to do it from prison.

Cara and Dayne, now happily married, go through trials that will shatter their self-complacency and test their love. Dayne will be lied about and like Joseph in the Bible must hold steady for God’s timing. Cara has suffered hurts and abuse from her former marriage. With Dayne she thought everything would be smooth sailing. But when the lies surface, can she trust him, does she love him enough to stay strong for his sake? Will her mustard seed faith grow or be uprooted?

When is your book available and how can my readers get their own copy?

October 21st. The link is http://www.amazon.com/dp/1938499948/

Carole’s Bio and links

Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

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Connect with her here:

Personal blog: http://sunnebnkwrtr.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CaroleBrown.author

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/browncarole212

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/sunnywrtr/boards/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5237997-carole-brown

She is also part of several other blogs:

Geezers Guys and Gals:  http://geezerguysandgals.blogspot.com/

Stitches in Time:  http://stitchesthrutime.blogspot.com/

Barn Door Book Loft: http://www.barndoorbookloft.net/

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Using Pictures Can Spark a Writer’s Imagination

What story does this picture evoke in your imagination?

What story does this picture evoke in your imagination?

What does this picture say to you? Does a story begin to form in your mind? The teens in my writing workshop this past summer were given a selection of pictures of random things. After looking through the pile of pics each choose the one that spoke to them. I was thrilled with the creativity and depth of their rough draft story ideas.

The stories reflected their background and experiences. Some were humorous and others dramatic. The starting point wasn’t always the picture. One student after looking at the picture above started with a car accident that killed the husband and wove the picture into a flashback of the day he had proposed. Clever and troubling don’t you think. Her young life had already dealt with death and it was reflected in her story choice.

What kind of personality would this bike have?

What kind of personality would this bike have?

Pictures speak to different people in different ways. This bicycle picture evoked a humorous story from another student. The bike’s point of view of a misspent life was creative.  While this same bike was the final scene in a Sam Spade type detective’s investigation into a murder. That particular student love of mysteries was apparent.

Because there was no specific storyline that had to be followed each one was free to tell the story that sparked from their imagination.  An imagination laced with the students own life experiences and interests. Pictures are great tools to get your writing mojo started. Character descriptions can begin with a picture. Settings can be captured in words from those vacation photos and travel magazines. Those thousand words a picture paints can find their way on the page with the right photo.

What story do you see when you look at the following picture?

I will not identify this photo but only say I was in another country when it was taken. Use your imagination and post a short intro to your story.

I will not identify this photo but only say I was in another country when it was taken. Use your imagination and post a short intro to your story.

Can’t wait to read what stories this photo draws from your imagination.

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Repercussions *sigh*

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Don’t let small repercussions turn into an emotional fire.

 

“There are always repercussions,” as the old saying goes. Couple it with another saying “no good deed goes unpunished,” and they capture exactly what always happens to me.  Whenever I write a blog or article that’s instructional, I find myself stumbling over my own words. 

Recently I wrote about procrastination for a guest blog. For two days after it came out, I struggled to get motivated. Procrastination hit hard.  The interview questions I answered for a friend’s blog explaining how I organized my time created disorganization once it appeared on the web. My magazine article on researching a novel came back to haunt me. The critique from the judge in a writer’s contest told me the fictitious towns in my novel were located in the wrong area of Texas. Further research revealed my contrived names actually existed and needed to be changed.

I think God always tests me. He wants to keep me humble.  Pride doesn’t stay too long in my character when I trip over the very things I encourage other writers to avoid. Humility reigns when others asked for my advice or encouragement. God’s willingness to show me what I do that helps others is such a blessing. Otherwise these faux-pas would push me off the writing path altogether. Flaming sparks of embarrassment into an inferno of discouragement.

These repercussions often give me new insights into myself. The emotional rollercoaster of a writing career seems never to have an end. Each new challenge brings me once again to the feet of Jesus. My conversations with him empty my heart of so much trash. His encouragement and peace help me step out once again. My mind refocuses on the next writing project, piece of research or writing blog. Every word I write may bring me one step closer to making an impact for the kingdom.

What repercussions have you faced on your writing journey? How do you handle them?

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