The Layering Psalmist

By Gail Johnson

This month’s theme was a hard one! I really had to work to pin it down to just one. After a long process of elimination, I realized Psalms is my favorite. I believe it has to do with the musician and the writer in me. From the first to the last chapter you find characterization, plot, setting, description, conflict, goal, and motivation. Sounds like a writing series! Let’s take a quick look at David’s writing.

Characterization

I love characterization! It is one of my favorite things about writing. Like any relationship, characterization takes work. We learn a person by becoming familiar with them. The more we know about a person, the more we like or dislike them. And we definitely want our readers to like or dislike our characters. Right? When we offer a description of our character’s emotions, the reader is more likely to empathize with him.

desert-279862_1280In Psalm 63, David declares. “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.”

Can you feel David’s anguish? I can.

But what if he’d said, “I’m thirsty.” Or what if he’d declared, “I long for you, Lord.”

Not much to see, is there? That’s the difference between showing and telling.

Now imagine your character is on the lam, thirsty, and unable to find water. How are you going to describe the scene to make me want to help him find a stream of clear running water? Think about that for a moment while we talk about the next technique.

Setting

Another way we get to know our characters is through their surroundings. The setting is just as important as characterization. Setting anchors the reader. Nothing jolts a reader from a story faster than trying to figure out where the characters are.

nature-2396309_1280In Psalm 23, David compares himself to a sheep and the Lord to a Shepherd. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”

One word can make all the difference in the world! The word green thrusts me into a meadow. I can visualize the green fields with rolling hills and a beautiful lake. How about you?

Again, David could’ve said, “He makes me lie down?” Or “He makes me rest.”

The first thought that comes to mind is where. Lie down where? Rest where? As a reader, I’ve no place to put the sheep. It could be in a field, in the middle of a road, a pen, or even a barn. That poor sheep needs a place to rest!

Now that you’ve had time to think, where did your character find his sip of water? Where will he stay the night? Abandoned farmhouse? A ritzy hotel? Or a cave in the side of a mountain? Each setting will tell a different story.

How does he know that?

Have you ever asked that question while reading a story? I have.

David was a shepherd, a warrior, and a king. He drew from that well of experience when penning his psalms. One of the ways our characters come to life is through their understanding. Who are they? What is their profession? When does their story take place? Where do they live? How are they connected to those around them?

nature-1626479_1280These are simple questions that must be answered if our characters are to be believable. David’s knowledge of sheep and shepherds, warriors and battlefields, and kings and castles, give him credibility with his reader.

As a writer, David’s writing helps me to see the different ways I can layer a story to make my characters come to life.

Now it’s your turn.

Click to tweet: Characterization takes work but, for a writer, is necessary. #Psalms #amwriting

Writing Prompt

Imagine your character is a little boy trying to convince his mother of his thirst. What could he say to convince his mom to buy a coke?

 

 

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Trekking the Indie Route

By Gail Johnson

Are you thinking about becoming an indie author?

For those new to the term, indie is short for independent. But that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. In fact, I suggest you don’t.

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Choosing the indie route can be scary when faced with all the decisions that must be made between the initial idea of the book and the final product. But there are a few things you can do to make the journey a lot easier.

 

Writing Groups

I suggest joining a writer’s organization. If you’re a Christian fiction writer, that would be the ACFW. For a small yearly fee, American Christian Fiction offers classes, conferences, and critique groups. A critique group will provide invaluable feedback during the writing process.

Friends

Writing is a lonely profession. We need friends, offline and online, to keep us balanced. Friends help make the journey an exciting adventure. They are irreplaceable treasures and wells of encouragement.

Editors

correcting-1870721_1280Love’em or dislike’em, editors have a purpose. A good editor can make a book better. You will not catch all your mistakes, but another pair of eyes will uncover the elusive typo. Guaranteed!

Ask for references. Talk to your friends or other authors. Working with someone can be a dream or a nightmare. Success depends on a good working relationship.

Media

Social media is a slippery slope. Too much of that and you lose writing time. Not enough and there’s no point. The point of media is interaction with others. Doing for others as you would have them do for you is good advice when thinking of media.

I want to share a few pointers I’ve learned in seven years of social media.  Don’t follow someone to get them to follow you, and then unfollow them. Not cool! And if you ask a question and someone answers it, respond. If you don’t, they won’t stay a follower.

Share their successes. There’s no reason to be jealous of another if their book comes out before yours. There are enough readers to go around. Be generous to promote them, and when your time comes, someone will do the same for you.

If you’re overwhelmed by your Twitter feed, may I suggest lists? Lists help separate your followers and those you like to interact with every day.

Readers

You gain readers by writing a good book. Hence all the above suggestions. Readers, like friends, are treasures. Treat them as such. You won’t regret it.

Blogging

Some people don’t like blogging. I do! My website gives me a chance to connect with friends and meet new ones every week. Blogging also helps with weekly word count. Whether you blog once a week or five times a week, make a schedule and stick with it.

My Journey

book-2224934_1280So, you see indie doesn’t necessarily mean independent. 🙂 It takes a tribe. I knew I couldn’t do everything. In the end, I hired editors, a back cover copywriter, and a cover designer. I did the formatting myself using a template which I purchased from a template designer. My book will be coming out later this year. Woohoo!

So, if you’ve been thinking about trekking the indie path but you’re afraid you can’t do it, take heart. There is a steep learning curve, but you CAN succeed as an indie author when you have friends to help you along the way.

Indie authors, what are your suggestions for newbies?

Click to Tweet: You can succeed as an #indie author when you have friends to help you along the way.

Writing Prompt

You have your manuscript, back cover copy, and your cover. Make a list of the things you need to do to make your book a success.

 

 

Saving Money With Lists

By Gail Johnson

Do you like finding new ways to save money? I do. I also like sharing ways to save money. So I’m enjoying this month’s theme!

For this post, I decided to list ways to save on several items rather than one. Let’s begin with school supplies.

School and Writing

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Whether you have kids in school or not, writers need school supplies. Or at least, this one does! I begin everything with pen and paper! I learned how to save money on used books when my children entered college. My son refused to buy new books when he could purchase used ones from Amazon. Moneycrashers.com offers great advice.

Clothes

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Who doesn’t like to find a bargain on a new outfit? ThePennyHoarder.com offers her advice on how to save when shopping for your next bargain. My favorite tips are one and seven.

Groceries

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Most of these ideas weren’t new to me. Others would take some discipline. Isn’t that what saving money is all about? See how many ideas you can keep from CashCowCouple.com

Vehicles

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My truck isn’t that old, but it isn’t new, either. I usually tend to my truck and make the appointment for hubby’s car. I use local shops to help local businesses and to have a friend when I’m in need! I thought this article might come in handy.  Debtroundup.com offers suggestions when looking for a tune-up.

Books

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I added this last bit of information because I read one article on how to save money and his suggestion was to eliminate books! What?! Uh, no. I would suggest taking advantage of the offers on your device’s plan. With Kindle, you can get many books for free. Another way to save money on books is not to press the 1-click button too often! 😉 Check out TheHappyHouseWife.com for more ideas.

Do you have any ideas to add? If so, I’d love to hear them. Please leave your tip in the comment section to help others in their quest to save money.

Click to tweet: I’ve listed ways to save on several items rather than one.

Writing Prompts

Sally eyed the purple dress in the window. With her digital coupon and the 10% off sale, she could afford the…

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Memorable Families

By Gail Johnson

Good morning, fellow-writers and readers! This month’s theme is family and children.

And why not? For years, we have enjoyed stories about families. Some of my favorites are Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, The Waltons, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and The Fighting Sullivans.

Do you have a family in your story? If not, you should think about adding one. Relatives make such interesting additions to a tale. Parents and siblings can be comical, irritating, sacrificial, or even murderous. As supporting characters, they usually stand in the shadows, far from the limelight until a remark or reaction catches our eye. At that moment, we are captivated and they are forever etched in our minds. Memorable.

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Rex Whistler [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

For instance, ask anyone about Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and they can tell you something about each character although the story is about Elizabeth and Darcy. Who doesn’t remember the sisters–Jane, Mary, Lydia, and Kitty? Or poor Mr. Collins? And how could anyone forget Mrs. Bennet?

 

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By Hugh Thomson (1860-1920) (Lilly Library, Indiana University) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.” Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

 

Love her or hate her, you can’t ignore Mrs. Bennet! Every time I read the book or watch the movie, she reminds me of a clucking hen gathering her uncooperative, strong-willed chicks. She doesn’t care about “the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.” She’s content with being a mother. She has one objective: getting her daughters married and saving them from poverty. Period. Is she a rude woman? Certainly. Nosey? Definitely. Loving? Unquestionably, in her own way. Is she perfect? Hardly. And that’s the beauty of it. All her faults are what makes her memorable.

Jane Austen’s family isn’t perfect. Her characters make good and bad choices. They laugh, cry, and argue.  But eventually, they come together to help each other and in the end, all is well just like a family should be. Nothing like a happy ending!

Now it’s your turn. Think about one of your favorite families. What stands out in your mind? Were they good all the time? Were they bad all the time? I would suggest they were a mixture of the two. Think about how you can take those memorable traits and add them to your story? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Click to tweet: Do you have a family in your story?

Writing Prompt: Take one supporting character from your favorite family and build a story around them.

 

 

 

I Can’t Work With Clean

By Gail Johnson

Are you a planner or a free-spirit? Organized or messy? Plotter or pantser?

Now, you may be wondering what my questions have to do with organizing your writing. Well, for starters, one man’s idea of organization is another man’s idea of a mess. And the more you know about yourself, the more productive your life will be.

For example, in the movie, Yours, Mine & Ours, Rene Russo plays Helen North, a free-spirited artist. Dennis Quaid plays Naval officer, Frank Beardsley, who runs a tight ship. When they decide to marry, worlds collide as Quaid tries to change his wife’s messy ways.

I can't work with clean. I have a deadline

I’m a mixture of both characters. When it comes to my house and yard, I’m a militaristic planner with a to-do list longer than my arm. I get a tick when something is out of place. And when I’m unable to clean or rake… Mama ain’t happy!

On the other hand, when it comes to writing, I’m one of the worst organizers around. I’ve written on restaurant napkins, oil filter box tops—it was all hubby had in the truck, at the time—and the bottom of my shoe. Yep, with my favorite pen.

A Pilot G-2 05 gel pen and a composition book are my choice instruments for the first chapters. Using longhand puts the writing side of me in control. While at the computer, the mouthy critic and finicky editor take over.

Also, writing longhand allows me to write all over the house and the yard.  Personally, when my body is in motion, my brain is in motion. Writing is easy. My characters talk a mile a minute and their words fill the empty pages.

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Eventually, I have a good idea where the story is going. Then and only then, do I sit down at a computer. And even then, I don’t hide my notes in documents. Yes, I know about Evernote, Onenote, Who note and all those other notes. But if “I” put my notes in a document, I tend to forget about them. I “need” to see them, at all times. And that makes for a messy desk!

The same goes for my office. I have papers scattered from one end of the room to the other. I have a write-on board for lyrics and a plotting board for scenes. At first glance, one would think it is a mess, but I tell you there is a method to my madness.

Steve MartinThe point I’m trying to make is this: we will drive ourselves nuts trying to be something we’re not. Furthermore, we will waste more time trying to conform to an idea rather than spending time writing. We need to understand what works best for us, and then do it.

Show up. Set longer times to write, shorter times for social media. Set a word count. Spend quiet time listening to characters. But most of all, write!

When we create a personalized plan, our stories will come together. And before long, we’ll be looking at a completed manuscript.

Click to tweet: I can’t work with clean. I have a deadline.

Writing Prompt

Now, for all you mystery lovers. This one’s for you. See if you can finish the writing prompt with three words. Can’t wait to read your comments!

Bakery closed today.

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