Finding Your Writing Process

I was fortunate to be able to attend the Novelist Retreat that Yvonne Lehman puts on

Ridgecrest conference Center
Ridgecrest Center

at Ridgecrest near Ashville, NC. It was a time of getting to meet other authors and offer workshops for writers to learn more of the craft of writing.



One of the most important lessons to learn is that there is no one way to write. You have to learn, by experience, what works best for you,.

This was evidenced by the writers selected to be our faculty. In this corner (read in the voice of the WWE announcer) was Steven James. Steven is an organic writer, which means he writes without an outline. He lets the story guide him. Sometimes into a corner, without a way out. But, he says, that is often when we have to be our most creative. (His book, Story Trumps Structure is a great resource and teacher of this method.)

And in this corner. . . Torry Martin and Diann Mills showed how structure gives you a start and format for your book or story. A simple way to look at this is the three-act structure with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

So, who’s right? Continue reading “Finding Your Writing Process”

Becoming An Overnight Success

I recently spoke to several friends about what we are getting out of our writing. It’s easy to look back on our blogs, or our unpublished writings, and wonder is it worth it?

Especially when it’s the week the mortgage arrives in the mailbox. Writing is work, so why do we do it? And are all the hours at the keyboard getting me any where?

We are all eager to find a quick route to success. You can tell this by all the schemes, nonfiction books, and online courses to show you how you can become successful.

One author who seems to have succeeded quickly was recently written about in the paper. (Yes, I still read the local paper.) Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, whose debut novel, The Nest, was purchased for what the paper called seven figures. It came out on March 22, after two years of working with the publisher. Already, there are talks of it becoming a movie.

Did you notice it was her first novel? Don’t you wish you could have success so quickly?

But it wasn’t quick. She had been writing advertising copies for twenty years and has non-fiction articles published in The New York Times. Six years ago she decided to make writing fiction a priority.

And for you who think you are too old to start. She is 55. (Just happens to be my age also.)

For most writers, seeing any success takes time. You have to learn the craft and meet people. And then it will depend on your definition of success. Is it a dollar amount, being able to maintain a certain size and type of house, or reaching people?

Jesus has a parable about this, The Rich Young Farmer (Luke 12: 16-21). I don’t think it was ever on the NY Times Best Sellers List. He was so rich he wanted to build extra barns to keep all his crops. But God was going to call him later that day for a different accounting.

Does that change your view of success? Our pastor this week gave an illustration using an extension cord to represent eternity and the plug was our lifespan. We worry so much about the plug, the now, we don’t see the much larger picture.

Maybe for us it’s too soon to quit. Maybe you’re still just getting started. Even if, like Ms Sweeney, it’s been twenty years.

(Here is a good interview with Ms Sweeney. It’s amazing how close she was to not writing her big seller.)

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Hats Off to Greenville County’s 2015-2016 Teacher of the Year, Shiree Turner Fowler

I hope you’ve heard about the Greenville County’s 2015-2016 Teacher of the Year, Shiree Turner Fowler. When I read her story in the Greenville News, I thought, now, she gets it.

She teaches kindergarten at Hollis Elementary Academy. She has a classroom with 25 boys, 98 percent under the poverty level, 86 percent minority, and over a third Hispanic. Makes you want to run for the door, doesn’t it?

But, in the article, we see she wanted such a situation, she didn’t settle for the worse. Because she sees that her job is to help young boys overcome challenges, not just punch a clock and cash a check. Hallelujah! That’s it.

When I read the story, I loved what she calls her little 5 year old students. Not brats, hoods, hooligans, etc. I remember some of the names I was called, sometimes deservedly so. She calls them scholars. Probably, for some, the first positive name they’ve been called. I just hope it isn’t the last. Because why should we expect somebody not become what we constantly call them.

Oh. I made a mistake. I know. You’re not surprised. She doesn’t teach kindergarten, she teaches Kinderversity. She lets them know the year they are expected to graduate from college.

She is working with some of the saddest and hardest cases. And it’s not their fault, or their parents. Let’s not try to find blame. You can’t act better if you don’t know better. Or you don’t see a better option.

She says that by the time they get four years of age, they will have heard, on average, 30 million fewer words than their peers. And that’s not considering what types of words. Or those from homes with non-native speakers. But that doesn’t frighten her, it just makes her realize the urgency in what she does.

Shiree Turner Fowler is trying to make a difference in these boys’ and their families’lives. And she will.

She’s entering her 13th year of teaching. I hope she doesn’t get jaded. It is so easy to look at this year as just another year. It may be her 13th, but it will be their first. They’ve never heard that old story. It will be new to them. Please remember to keep that joy for them.

For isn’t school supposed to be about the student? Yes, teacher, you sacrifice and you don’t get the credit due you. But that child may not have ever completed anything; you have because you have your degree(s). They may have never been applauded, you have numerous times. Help them become what they can so we can see God’s work in what they will accomplish.

Shiree Turner Fowler has chosen to make and be a difference. When God is in it, as He will be, there is no higher calling.

For more on the story, see this post.

Shiree Turner Fowler, one of my new heroes.