Tag Archive | writing wednesday

Writing Wednesday: New Year, New Series

So, I was shopping in Target just before Christmas when I received an email from my agent, Melissa Jeglinski. Love Inspired had accepted my proposal for a new series, and would I please call her back?

Um, is a frog’s bum waterproof? Of course I’d call her back.

And I did, right in the middle of Christmas shopping chaos at Target.

What a way to end 2012 and start the new year–a new series for a new year.

This new series is centered on the Siddons sisters. (Try saying that line 3 times fast!) Susannah, the eldest, is the heroine of my first novel in the series. Her sisters, Becky and Nan, make an appearance but then the second novel is devoted to Becky. Both books are set in the Regency period and both are set in the same village that played such a large role in my first books–Tansley, in Derbyshire.

Tansley is a real place, although I’ve never visited it. When I originally planned out my first book, Captain of Her Heart, I picked Tansley off of a map because of its close proximity to Matlock Bath, which also played a role in the book. But over time, Tansley has come to mean much more to me and to my characters. I think of it as a place for new beginnings. Perhaps 2013 can be the year I visit Tansley in person, and soak up the atmosphere to add a little extra dash of authenticity to my writing.

For most of 2013 my time will be occupied with the Siddons of Tansley Village, and I hope you will join me on the journey. I’ll try to blog, as time permits, about how the writing process works and about how you can map out your own novel.

May 2013 bring you and yours many blessings! Happy New Year!

Writing Wednesday: Grace Livingston Hill and an Old Fashioned Christmas

Grace Livingston Hill is the grandmother of all of us inspirational romance authors. If you read or write inspirational fiction today, you owe Hill a tremendous debt. At the turn of the last century, when women were not always encouraged to work outside the home, a recently-widowed Hill was able to support herself and her child by writing stories that wove a message of faith together with delightful romance and dramatic suspense.

Her stories were like bread and butter to me growing up, and as I chronicled, led me to my path as an inspy romance writer. I have a few that will always be my favorites, but the one I want to talk about today is The Substitute Guest (1936). This is a Christmas story, and it was written in the middle of the Great Depression. We have a tendency nowadays to look back on this era and think, “Wow, they really knew how to celebrate Christmas back then,” but in Hill’s world, Christmas was a battle between crass materialism and meaning and faith even during the good old days.

Our hero, Alan Monteith, is headed to his girlfriend’s winter lodge to celebrate. But this celebration rings hollow:

There would be excitement and hilarity, there would be amusement and a wealth of unique variety. There would be luxury of eating and drinking and apparel, but it would not be Christmas, not real Christmas. (page 8)

Alan is waylaid on the way to his party when he attempts to do a good deed for a friend, and ends up snowbound with the Devereaux family, a mother and father and their two grown children. One of these children is Daryl, our heroine. She is fighting feelings of resentment and loss when her fiance blows her off for a drunken hotel party with his boss and coworkers. Alan is able to complete his errand with the help of the family, and ends up staying with them during the worst part of a blizzard.

During this blizzard, the Devereaux clan welcomes Alan as one of their own, and he gets the joy of celebrating a real, old-fashioned Christmas in the country.

There was a quiet sense of being shut in that gave security and a new kind of peace. He wasn’t going to feel badly if he had to stay the day out here among these delightful sincere people. He had a feeling as he woke that he was a little boy again waking on Christmas morning, with the thrill of anticipation that he used to feel as a child. It was great. He lay still for a little just to keep that delightful sense of expectancy. (page 141)

Sparks fly between Daryl and Alan as they realize how much they long for security and peace along with love. In order to embrace each other, they must cast aside all the worldly materialism that their respective lovers represent. And, as in any good inspirational story, the development of their faith is just as profound as the deepening of their love.

And no discussion of Hill’s books would be complete without mentioning the domestic coziness she weaves into every story. When I finish reading one of her books, I want to bake cookies, sew new curtains for the living room, and make a pretty flower arrangement in a pickle jar–all at the same time. Here’s a sweet passage from The Substitute Guest:

Simple breakfast, Mrs. Devereaux had said.

There was wonderful oatmeal, steamed all night until each grain stood out softly and separately, with Chrystobel’s cream to eat on it, cream almost as thick as the oatmeal. Eaten in old Haviland china saucers with springs of forget-me-not on them, and a silver spoon so old it was almost paper thin. Then there were hot rolls and doughnuts and coffee! Simple breakfast indeed! (page 153)

I always crave oatmeal after reading that passage. With cream, of course!

I have a battered old first edition of this book that I save every year to read throughout the season. It’s a warm and loving tale and if you haven’t read any of Hill’s books, first I must say shame on you, and then I must say “read this one!” It’s one of my favorite holiday traditions; in fact, I pack it away so I am not tempted to read it throughout the year.

What are your favorite Christmas stories? Tell me what stories you save up to read during the Christmas season, and I will enter you in a drawing to win one vintage copy of The Substitute Guest. Contest is open to US residents only; please include a valid email address when you comment. Contest ends December 1, 2012. I look forward to hearing about your favorite reads!

Writing Wednesday: In Which Lily Got Hacked and Talks Money

OK, so you may not have noticed, but I have been gone for a few weeks. Why? I didn’t
actually go anywhere, and my online presence has been as ubiquitous as ever, but I
haven’t been blogging. Why? It’s simple. My website got hacked.

Why anyone would want to hack me is a mystery, but they did it well and good. I mean,
I am a sweet Christian writer, right? So boring! So bland! Why hack me? Well, whatever
the reason they did it so well, in fact, that parts of my website needed a significant rebuild.
So I gave up and switched to a straight-up blog. Easy. Free. Moving on!

It’s November, and that’s royalty time for many authors. So let’s talk money.

Big Question #3: How Much Do Authors Get Paid?

Not much. At all. And very infrequently. Don’t let that discourage you, but you should
remember this quote from Mickey Spillane, “Authors don’t get paid. Writers get paid.”
When I was writing non-fiction, I was definitely an author. I wrote one book that took 6
years of research. When I got accepted by a publisher, I received no advance. And my
first royalty check was for $50.00. I am not joking when I say I sat down and cried after
that. For days. After all the work I did, I really expected to make—I don’t know what, but
certainly more than $50.

The royalties trickled in slowly after that, but at least on a quarterly basis. However, the
most I’ve ever received in a quarter is $200. With that publisher, I make 20% royalties.
With other publishers, you might make less.

When I moved to fiction writing, I did have the joy of an advance, but your advance
comes in pieces too. I am also realizing that royalties take forever to come in. My
publisher, Love Inspired, pays out royalties twice a year. There is some talk of moving
to a quarterly system, but it has not yet happened. My first book, Captain of Her Heart,
was released this past January, and I just got my royalty statement for that book. I
haven’t received a statement for The Temporary Betrothal, since royalty periods run from
January through June, and July through December.

As of yet, I haven’t earned out my advance, but nearly half of my sales were kept “in
reserve,” in case people returned my book in droves. (As if!) Those reserves should
be “released” the next time they do royalties, but I don’t know how many of the reserves
were actual returns. So I still don’t know if there will be any money in my next check.

There is no set answer to this question, because it varies so greatly depending on your
genre, your publisher, and how many books you have out at any given time. I will say
that doing a little research can help you know what to expect. I guess my biggest stress
has been earning enough to justify the continuation of my writing career. As you know, I
got a day job at a law firm to help alleviate that stress. If I am earning a little steadily in the form of a paycheck, then it’s OK if my books take over a year to pay out.

The life of a writer is feast or famine. Some day you might get a check for thousands
of dollars. Six months later, you haven’t made a dime. It’s feast or famine with your
emotions, too. You might be thrilled one day because you got THE CALL or a fan wrote
an email to you. And then you’ll be devastated because someone wrote a negative review
on Amazon, or a new book proposal got rejected.

All I can say is that if you are meant to be a writer, you will be. None of these issues
will dissuade you from writing, if that’s what you’re meant to do. But this is a question I
am asked often, and I feel it’s one that merits a response. You should get paid for doing
what you love. And if you are writer, you will. But you won’t be able to give up your day
job…unless you are J.K. Rowling and hit the jackpot.

Writing Wednesday: I Got Something to Say

I try to keep my author status under wraps. I do very few book signings and I promote mostly through social media. But even within social media, I try to keep my personal stuff separate from my professional. I don’t really like to talk about being a writer, mostly because I don’t feel I do the writing thing all that well. I don’t feel like a writer, if that makes sense. But sometimes, when people find out I am an author, they want to know how they, too, can become writers. Which leads me to…

Big Writer Question #2: How Can I Become a Writer?

Here’s the deal. It’s the simplest thing in the world to do, but the hardest to accomplish. To become a writer, you must write. Every day. Even when you don’t know what you’re writing, or if you are doing well. I’m not being facetious when I say this, because it’s true. Writing is hard work, and it’s labor that you must go through if you’re going to write anything of value. Truman Capote once mentioned how the French writer/genius Colette’s hands looked, because, as he put it, true writing is manual labor.

Capote was right. Be prepared to have ugly hands once you take up writing. Mine look awful, even when manicured.

Now, you must write by writing. I think a lot of the fear people face is they don’t know how to get started. Every person who’s come to me with this question says the same thing: “I have this story in my mind.” Or “I have a million stories up here.” And they tap their heads. Well, that’s all well and good. But to write, you must write. You cannot leave the story locked in your head. As my good friend and writing partner Catherine Gayle once told me, “You cannot edit an empty page. Now get to work.”

So get to work. If you truly want to become a writer, you have to do the work of it. The only difference between you and me is that I did the heavy lifting of becoming an author. I had to learn just like you learn anything of value. I joined a critique group. I bought the Book in a Month book and followed all the exercises for both my first and second novels. I researched the market and agencies. I received rejections from agents and publishers alike until my manuscript found a home.

Oh yeah, and I wrote. A little a day, every day.

If you need a kick in the bum to get started, you could consider joining NaNoWriMo in November. Sometimes it helps to have a support system and a finite goal, and NaNoWriMo supplies both. You’ve got two weeks to prepare and a month starting November 1st. Just give it a try! If it doesn’t work, then at least you gave it a go.

Write to me and let me know how it’s going. I want to hear from everyone about how you fared!

 

Writing Wednesday: How I Chose Inspirational Fiction…Or How It Chose Me

I don’t like to write a lot about CRAFT, because it makes me feel self-conscious and like I’m taking myself way too seriously. But a lot of people have written to me or asked me questions about writing, and I realize that there are a lot of questions about the industry that maybe I can answer. Or at least contribute to the conversation. I’ll try to address some of these questions by posting on Writing Wednesdays. Monday is now my weight loss blogging day, and Friday is still my frugal day. Are we good with the change-up? Great. Away we go…

Big Question #1: What is Inspirational Romance and Why Do You Write It?

Inspirational romance is a subgenre of romance fiction, in which the spiritual journey of the hero and heroine is as important to the development of the story as their romantic attraction. Inspirational romance can be contemporary, historical, suspenseful, or any combination of the above. Inspirational romance does not have overt sexual scenes, drinking, gambling, or anything else that might be considered offensive. Think of it as PG-rated, but also remember that there are some truly awesome films that are rated PG.

I started trying to write romantic fiction when I was at my local library and I saw just how much room was devoted to the romance novels. I always loved reading historical romance but never thought I could write it. I started researching he industry on a lark and thought I’d give it a whirl. I joined a critique group and they were amazing at helping me to improve my writing skills, which were woefully underdone at that point.

I realized that I simply wasn’t comfortable writing secular romance and felt stuck on what to do with my career. At the time, we were living in eastern North Carolina, and to clear my mind, I went for a drive. I stopped at a Salvation Army thrift store in Bayboro. If you read this blog, you know I cannot resist a thrift store, and this one always yielded treasures.

As I strolled around, I felt something calling out to me. I wandered around, and the feeling of being pulled grew ever stronger. I finally whirled around and spied what had been calling out to me–a shelf full of Grace Livingston Hill and Janette Oke books. The Hill books were beautifully bound in hardcover; the Oke books were the same trade paperbacks I had read so carefully as a girl in my mother’s bookstore. They were only 10 cents each, so I bought 2 shelves’ full. And that’s when I had my career epiphany–to write inspirational historical fiction.

These books and these authors brought me so much joy as a young girl–I wanted to perpetuate that joy and share that feeling with others.

And that’s why Lily George writes inspy romance–it all stems from a chance encounter with some dusty books at a Salvation Army thrift store.