Thursday, 30 June 2016

Don't Give Up

A number of years ago, I attended Bible College. I was very aware of when our first assessment was due, but when the time came to submit it, I purposely made a quick beeline for the door.  I was literally terrified of the pastor reading my work. “I am not good enough.  My writing is not good enough.  I hate being vulnerable.  I am not spiritual enough.  I hate people seeing into my heart.” Just as I reached the door, however, I heard “Has everyone done their assignments?” Very reluctantly, I turned, and gave it to the pastor, my heart hammering in my chest, as the negative self talk pervaded. 

  Fast forward a couple of weeks, and it was time to receive our results. The lecturer began to talk about the assignments we had submitted.  He majored on one in particular, and mentioned how well written it was, etc.  I was sitting there, sick with nerves, and sure that I had not done a good enough job.  Our assessments were returned to us, and I could not believe my eyes! It was my work that he had been talking about! My work! The essay that I thought was not good enough! This boosted my confidence. However, it would be many years before I could happily let others see my work, without the awful nerves and feeling of dread. (I still experience this, but to a much lesser degree!)

A couple of years earlier, I had rather tentatively enrolled in a free mail order writing course.  For over a year, they sent me regular correspondence, and would you believe, I just filed all of it, unopened. It sat in my filing cabinet like that, for years! Eventually they stopped sending mail to me.  Not surprisingly! Why didn’t I open it? The same reasons that I used at Bible College.  I was too afraid.  Of what?  Failure. Inadequacy. Disappointment. Judgement.  Vulnerability. Despite all of these negative thoughts, a seed had been planted. Maybe God wanted me to write. Really? Me write? It was only a tiny seed, but it had none the less found a lodging place.  Just not a very fertile one!

I talked to a girl at Church, a number of years later.   Lo and behold she was a writer.  During the course of our conversation, we realised that we had a mutual friend, and the two of them were getting together regularly to share their love of, and to encourage each other in their writing. I was invited to join them.  And I did, very nervously and apprehensively.  They were both successful writers, who had work published. And they even studied writing! They graciously made me welcome and encouraged me. But who would be interested in anything I had to say? And what did I have to say any way? The same old fears resurfaced. However, with the encouragement of my very patient writing friends, I began to write a few short non-fiction stories and bravely submitted my work to different publications.  And it was accepted.  Wow! I was a published author. But still a very reluctant and fearful one.  As a number of years passed, my friends continued to nag (sorry, encourage) me. And I continued to write, albeit infrequently, and was very grateful to have more of my work published.

I am currently in the throes of writing a devotional book.  This has long been my desire.  One that has burned in my heart, intermittently, for the last 20 years.  It is exciting to see this dream coming to fruition at long last. My encouragement to you is to follow your dreams.  Persist.  Persevere. Don’t give up. Everyone has a story to tell. My journey has been very long and slow, and at times painful.  A number of times I gave up hope of ever achieving my dream but God had different ideas and kept pursuing me, and encouraging me through different people and situations. My desire was bought to life again, resurrected when I thought is was impossible. God has taught me a lot over the years and I am now more confident to open my heart and share things He has done.  I believe that we are blessed to be a blessing. And if someone can be blessed through reading something I have written, I am responsible to write what God has laid on my heart.   God is good and faithful.  Follow the dream He has placed in your heart.  He will use your writing for His glory, and it will be a blessing to others. Don’t give up!

Janelle Moore lives in Toowoomba, Queensland with her husband and their two teenagers.  She enjoys writing devotions and short non-fiction works, often using her children and their antics as her inspiration. 

Monday, 27 June 2016

Writing to Discover Truth … and Yourself

Photo courtesy of moggara12/
Golly gosh, I’ve struggled writing the sequel to Angelguard. The basic story of Angelguard fell out of me. I was a complete novice (well, I still am really) but the story just kept coming. I’d turn up to the blank page and out it would come.

Nine months later it was done. The first draft. Not to be read by any one, oh, except, Fiona my wife who egged me on and kept giving me new ideas and lots of names for my supernatural beings.

Many years later it was finally published. Even though there had been many many changes to that first draft the essence of the original story of that first draft remained.

Angelguard was a very plot-driven story with a relatively simple premise focused on how the supernatural interacts with the natural world and the significance of prayer in dealing with the darkness.

Second time around I’ve found to be a completely different experience. Where Angelguard was dealing with the supernatural at the “macro-level” I wanted to move to the micro for the sequel. What role do angels and demons play in the daily life of individuals in, for example, their thought life?

Plotter vs Pantser

As you will have gathered Angelguard was definitely written by the seat of my pants. I started with two words (which actually survived the many re-writes and edits) and a general idea about involving angels and demons in it.

But I figured plotting would help shorten the production process. Sure, there’s more work up front, but the actual writing should take less time if you do a reasonably detailed outline.

Well that's what all the books on plotting told me.

I started out with an outline for a story that I thought I loved. Tried a couple of “outlining” methods that seemed to work okay and then started to draft the story.

But the story just wouldn’t come out.

So I shifted gears and worked on another angle, and then another, still grappling with outlining while struggling to bring the essence of the story (what I mentioned above) into it.

I gave up outlining and went back to pantsing. I handed the story back to my characters to see what they’d come up with. Slowly but surely, the story began to get legs and eventually it came out.


Wrestling with Shadows

During the course of the last couple of years of struggling with the story I was also grappling within myself. Sorting through my own mess, my light and dark.

Having completed the first draft early in the year I was able to reflect a little on the process. What become apparent was I needed to go through my own season of discovery about myself to be able to write the story.

I recently read an article Francine Rivers wrote in a recent Christianity Today where she talked through how most of her novels came out of her “questions of faith.”

“But questions of faith kept rising up and with them, characters, to play out various points of view.”

Similarly, I’ve started doing a course Ted Dekker has created (”The Creative Way”). One of the opening comments he makes about his own journey is similar to Francine’s:

“All of my novels began with a question I was wrestling with. A doubt or struggle in my life that I wanted to explore in the context of story.”

I recall other authors sharing similar things and I believe that’s why the latest story is often the hardest one even if you’ve written fifty of them. Because you don’t know what you’re going to learn about yourself when you’re writing it.

We write stories to discover the truth. And in so doing we discover more about the Lord and ourselves.

Yes, the sequel has always had the title, Wrestling with Shadows. To write it, I’ve discovered I needed to do just that myself so I could take my characters through their own transformation.

Did I envisage it being such a struggle when I set out? Never. Sure, I knew getting the story would be challenging enough but I had no inkling the personal battle would be so strong.

If you’re presently struggling with your story be gentle with yourself. Spend more time with the Lord and His Word. Simply hang out and talk to Him not just about the novel but the stuff inside you. He’ll help you sift through it (and others may help as well) and in so doing free you to take your characters on an even better journey in the story.

Grace and peace.

Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is now available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Angelguard was recognised with the 2014 Selah Award for Best Speculative Fiction. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Thumbs Up from Reluctant Convert to Crowd Funding–by Ruth Bonetti

After a year of the submit–reject–tweak–resubmit wash cycle I felt wrung out. 

Main house publishers have the distribution channels sorted. I’m an indie publisher of six titles. But it's a stretch to fund and distribute two more books.

Son Paul crowdfunded his second album, with excellent success.
“Too hard!” I whimpered. “Lots of work...OK, I’ll do it.”

Already I had relevant YouTube videos. Paul scripted suggestions for voice over snippets that I recorded on Sound Studio. He edited it down to 2 minutes plus for upload. 

We brainstormed the “rewards” offered in return for support; books of course, and launch invitations, but also eye-catching gingerbread and heritage wreaths.

How long should the campaign last? 40 days, suggested a friend. Done.
Ready for lift off. Press “Launch.”
Paul tipped me off to have some people primed ready to pledge at the outset. This signals “Success! Back her.” I felt driven because with crowd funding there’s no income if one falls short of the target. 

Whirlwind pace. Presto.
Put out the word, staccato. Personalised is best.
  • Emails: write a basic spiel, cut and paste with various slants. Click resend, change address. To simplify the process, I went through the baby names book, starting with “Dear Anne”. That meant just a change of email address. Next to Annette, then Angela and on through my data base. Until I ran out of time.
  • Facebook: posts to existing groups; explore and join target groups.
  • Direct messenger. Again, cut and paste.
  • Twitter: “My next follower will take me to the 1000 and receives a free book.” Liberal use of any hashtags that might cast a wider net.
  • Blogs.
  • Email campaigns, targeted to my various groups. One to music educators brought pledges from unlikely directions like China. Though my next books are different genres of historical biography, people said they’d been helped by my earlier ones and wanted to support my initiative. 
Social media drove such a campaign. It attracted people around the world,  like Finland and Sweden, that I could not have reached through my existing networks. 

The 40 days were a blur. Apologies to those who received multiple invitations. Forgive me, I knew not what I’d done. 

Gnawed fingernails. Then pledges came in. At times the pace stalled, as I’d been warned. But, with wonderful help from friends and writing colleagues we reached the target at half time. Now what? Anti-climax?

Pozible, who hosted my campaign, offered 15-minute phone advice. My contact person suggested a “stretch-goal”. If people supported further, I could value add. As a musician, live music features at all my book launches. I posted that any further funds would go to pay the band Greshka the professional rates they warrant. As St Paul wrote, a worker is worthy of his hire.

From the other side of the room at Omega Writers retreat in Toowoomba, Jeanette O’Hagan pledged to tip me to the $4000 exact–a thousand above my target. She typified the ethos of OWI, that writers support each other. Thanks, Jenny.

Crowdfunding stretched me way out of my comfort zone, but this is the first time I have pre-publication orders pre-paid. My Book Whispers pre-press account can be settled at the time, not in instalments. I can afford the printing. (For even POD needs outlay.) Thanks to all who supported. If some were wary of online platforms or preferred the usual book buying means, fine. But the crowdfunding process blew PR trumpets.

For those prepared to work hard, crowdfunding is a viable path. 
Thumbs up. Like.

Burn My Letters will launch on 13 August in Brisbane and at Byron Bay Writers’ Festival the weekend before.

RUTH BONETTI is author of a dozen publications. Her coming releases are Burn My Letters in July and Midnight Sun to Southern Cross in October. More info at her website and crowdfunding campaign.

Facebook: Ruth Bonetti
Burn My Letters: Karl Johan Back