november goals

Wow. I can’t believe October is already over! My favorite month has been a whirlwind in every aspect of life. Here’s a little writing update and the airing of my November goals.

At the end of September, I sent off my requested materials to agents and editors I met at conference. I’m still in the thick of the waiting game and don’t have any expectations as to when–or if–I’ll hear back either way. But it doesn’t really feel like waiting when I’m having so much fun!

I’m taking a little break from my first manuscript before one final(ish) round of edits. Unless someone or something expedites that process, I think approaching it with a fresh eye will be the best thing in this situation.

In the meantime, manuscript two is ready for some much-needed TLC. While I’d love to do the traditional NaNoWriMo, I’m excited about finishing this project and will try to fast draft the remaining 40K-ish words as much as I can during November. My friend Carol says she’s sending her internal editor on a month-long trip to Bermuda for November, but mine apparently has attachment issues. I’ll report back on how this little experiment goes 🙂 Anyway, I’ve decided to change the first chapter to third person and see how I like it. First person has always been my thing, but I think my handsome hero’s POV would add a lot to this story.

In a surprising turn of events, I now have a third work-in-progress, a prequel to Take Heart. It came to me when I was reading my critique partner Anne Love’s manuscript and one of her minor characters really jumped off the page. So now, at the wise recommendation of my dear Kathleen, one of my side characters has her first three chapters written, the makings of a plot scribbled into a rough one-page summary. I kind of love it! But I’m going to be a good girl and finish at least the first draft of book two before I dig in to this. For now, this will be a work-in-waiting.

That’s all for November on the writing front! It’s going to be a busy one, but I’ll be back with plenty of updates.

What’s on your horizon for November? Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

{friday favs} NaNo prep, plotting for pantsers, and more

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Welcome to the (semi-)weekly version of Friday Favorites, a round-up of web goodies that have grabbed my attention recently. This blog is all about sharing the wealth, so enjoy!

11 Everyday Phrases You Might Be Saying Incorrectly :: Christina Sterbenz for Business Insider :: It never hurts to brush up on terminology, especially with all of the internet’s inconsistencies. One I might add: “alright is never all right.” In fact, “alright” isn’t an actual word! (Thanks, Carol!)

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing :: Maria Popova from Brain Pickings :: The legendary writer’s tips for writing. Perhaps the most valuable thing about this article is the round-up of famous writing advice and best books on writing.

Will My Agent Help Me Market My Book? :: Amanda Luedeke of Chip MacGregor Literary :: Best quote in the article: “No one will market your book as passionately or aggressively as you. The less you need to rely on others for marketing and promotions, the better off you’ll be.” As a former book publicist, this is a huge soapbox of mine. You cannot rely on your publisher, marketing/PR professionals, and certainly not your agent to market your book while you sit back and watch. It’s in your best interest to take ownership and start learning now. Amanda has great tips!

Google’s New Hummingbird Algorithm Update: Good News or Bad? :: Edie Melson of The Write Conversation :: I’m still learning about the technicalities of the Hummingbird update, but Edie has a great overview for people with a basic knowledge of the ever-evolving SEO machine.

25 Ways to Plot, Plan and Prep Your Story :: Chuck Wendig of Terrible Minds :: Warning: this is a very colorful, direct, and somewhat profanity-laden article, but has great stuff on fiction plotting methods. So very helpful for a pantser who may or may not need a little help getting back into a 50,000-word WIP that was neglected for a conference. Hypothetically.

A Pantser Turned Plotter Learns to Love Revising :: Missy Tippens for Seekerville :: If you saw the word “Pantser” above and have no idea what it means, look in the dictionary and find my picture. Just kidding. It’s someone who sits down with little-to-basic information about the story in his or her head and just starts writing. Minimal to planning and prepping. Missy shares her experience on biting the bullet and planning for her revisions. This may or may not be helpful to the nameless individual above with his/her current predicament. Maybe.

NaNo Prep :: Kaye Dacus :: Kaye Dacus For The Win! She has come up big! “NaNo” is short for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which kicks off in November. Hundreds of thousands of authors are preparing to sacrifice life and limb to put 50,000 words to the page next month. Kaye has been publishing articles that will help both pantsers and plotters devise a plan.

Planning for NaNoWriMo :: Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary :: Strategies to keep in mind during NaNoWriMo prep from a literary agent’s perspective. These might help authors avoid heavy rewrites in the future, particularly where it comes to word count and pacing a story.

Last, but not least:

18 Weird Things That Authors Do :: Lydia Kang for BuzzFeed :: I laughed so hard at this list! I’m sure authors can relate to many of these. I tried to go through them and pick my favorites, but I couldn’t 🙂

What about you? Have you read anything helpful or interesting this week?

 

dragons, commandments, goldfish: what I learned from karen ball

This past weekend, the Oklahoma City chapter of the ACFW hosted a mini-conference featuring author/editor/agent extraordinaire Karen Ball. With the years she’s poured into the industry, she had so much valuable insight to impart on writers of all stages and genres in attendance.

Okay, people. We’re talking about the same Karen Ball who discovered authors among the likes of Francine Rivers and Karen Kingsbury. So basically, Redeeming Love never would have been a thing if it weren’t for her. That might be a bit of a stretch, but clearly, the woman knows her stuff.

She talked about everything from “dragons” out to destroy fiction to the passion behind writing to a little story about a goldfish that’s apparently pretty well-known in the ACFW circles 🙂 If you have the chance to hear Karen Ball speak, RUN (to not from). She’s a compelling speaker, a gifted teacher, and even a talented singer, we learned.

There’s one thing she said that resonated with me the most, though. I could write a month’s worth of posts about the pages of notes I took with her industry and craft advice. But if you asked me what was most important, I wouldn’t even flinch to tell you this is it.

“What’s the most important commandment?” Karen asked us.

And like diligent Sunday school children, we recited, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Actually, we never could figure out which order they went in, but it worked.

“And what’s the second greatest command?”

“Love your neighbor.”

“…As?”

As yourself.”

It’s easy when you’re working hard in any profession to lose sight of taking care yourself–especially if you’re pulling off a precarious balancing act with other things. But if I took care of my neighbor the way that I took care of myself right now, it wouldn’t be pretty. I wouldn’t feel good about myself if I let someone skimp on sleep, neglect healthy living habits, and allow his/her life to fall out of balance under my care.

So why would I do that to myself?

I think a lot of us writers become absorbed in deadlines, writing, revising, building platform, critiquing, and especially researching that we forget to love ourselves and take care of ourselves. No matter what stage of life I’ve been in, from student to working 40+ hours a week to balancing a full-time job with taking care of a baby that doesn’t sleep and writing a novel, I’ve learned two things. 1) It’s all about balance. 2) Even a little bit of effort goes a LONG way.

It’s Oct. 22, and I have yet to post my writing goals for this month. (Though there are many.) So I’m going to post a different kind of list. My personal list–my manifesto of sorts–of decisions I can make that have proven to help me be my healthiest and happiest self. Achieving the balance in life that makes things run more smoothly.

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prayer + running outside +  mindful eating + treating + {enough} sleeping + internet rationing + journaling + dressing immediately + pampering {this happens never} + planning + water drinking + being present + serving + singing + creating + maintaining my house = Happy Laurie

I am constantly adding to this list, constantly failing at keeping it, and would never expect to follow it perfectly. But if this is something I can strive for, if just even one of these habits will stick, then I think loving myself will help me love my neighbor.

Isn’t that sort of what this whole writing thing is all about?

What’s on your personal manifesto of self-care? If you’ve had the opportunity to meet Karen or hear her speak, what’s your favorite memory?

what hart of dixie taught me about romance writing

Alternately titled: “Some semblance of productivity I took away from [binge watching] Hart of Dixie” or “What I’ve been doing instead of blogging”

At conference, when I talked about what I write and what I love in fiction, a few people asked me if I liked the CW show Hart of Dixie. But I’d never seen it. So over the past few weeks after finishing my rewrites for Take Heart, I tried the pilot episode and wanted more, watching it while I worked and during naptime. Though it’s different than what I write, medical drama + quirky humor + small-town dynamics = pretty much a winning combination in my book.

I don’t watch very many shows anymore since the fall premieres coincided with conference and I’ve been busy writing and editing in my free time. But now that I’m learning more about the craft of writing fiction, I can’t help but pick apart the shows I watch, the books I read, and the movies I see for character motivations, plot points, foils, and all of that fun stuff. Sure, it makes it a little more predictable sometimes, but to me, it’s fascinating.

While it would be really stretching it to say I’m “on the clock” while watching TV, there’s still a lot to be learned from fiction that sells well. Here’s what I took away from Hart of Dixie:

If you have multiple love interests in your story, you have to play it just right.

According to the logic I’ve applied in real life, if you can’t decide between two people, then neither of them are right for you. I’m never, ever for stringing along two characters until the main character make his or her decision. But like reality, love is complicated in fiction. Characters can’t help who they’re attracted to, when they’re going to have a *moment* with someone, and how much their backstory will intertwine with their present–especially with mad-scientist authors pulling their strings. And they certainly can’t help it if two people are fighting for their affection. (Ohhhh the tension that love triangles create!)

So, as the author, you’d better pick the right one for your character and set it up accordingly! If you choose the wrong one or even write in a scene with too much power between two characters and end up picking the other suitor, you risk losing your readers’ emotional investment and sympathy if it doesn’t work out their way.

Moral of the story: Don’t overcommit your character to one love interest too soon. And commit him or her to the right one. The one that will make readers swoon and close the book with a smile and immediately email you asking for a sequel. Not that I’ve ever done that before or anything…

Sex might sell, but it doesn’t sell me.

Okay, I’m just going to come out and say it. There’s a lot of sex on TV and in the media in general. Unless you cut cable, never watch movies, carefully select what books you read, and never pay attention to advertisements of any kind, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And if you do shield yourself from it, then I have so much respect for you. I should be more like you, but I’m not. I thought I’d been desensitized from it all, not paying attention when the ritualistic clothes-shedding dance begins on the screen. But I’m not.

Writing inspirational novels has shown me that romance in fiction can be executed so much more powerfully without the element of sex. Authors have to dig deep to create energy and attraction between the characters, drawing on techniques to paint a believable picture and earn readers’ investment in the story. And when the characters finally give in to the tension and share that first kiss, it’s so much more electrifying (assuming it’s done right) since it has a foundation.

Moral of the story: TV romance doesn’t do it as much for me as inspirational fiction does. I don’t buy in to the friendship + attraction = “in the moment” flings + confusion —-> a lasting relationship equation, not because it can’t happen that way in real life, but because I think it’s better when love comes first. And fiction definitely, definitely doesn’t need sex to make a story sizzling 🙂

Call me a hopeless romantic or a close-minded conservative, but why settle for a hero/heroine relationship built on rice and beans when you can have a steak and lobster dinner?

Call it romantic comedy or contemporary romance or dramedy or whatever…

but Hart of Dixie shows that fresh, quirky, funny romance is definitely in demand.

I hope the inspirational market continues to dish up its own pure and powerful brand.

what acfw conference taught me {about literary agents}

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Lit. agent panel featuring Karen Ball, Dan Balow, Tamela Hancock Murray, Chip MacGregor, and Nicole Resciniti (Photo by Betsy St. Amant)

I have yet to write a conference recap because I simply don’t know how to describe such a magical weekend. It gave me the chance to be around 600-plus people who *get* me.

Only, it’s a lot less fifteen-year-old-girl than that sounds.

So this is where I’m going to start, because I had really great experiences with the agents I met. Here’s what I learned about them and from them.

Agents are really, really informative. 

Many literary agents maintain blogs with helpful posts for pre-published authors and seasoned industry professionals alike. They range from author-agent etiquette, pitching pointers, industry trends, marketing tips, and more. You can learn a lot about the industry by keeping up with these blog posts and also get a sense about an agent’s strengths based on their content–all without ever stepping foot at a writers’ conference. I would have been a goner and looked (even more) like a total newb if I wouldn’t have had these valuable resources when prepping my pitching materials for conference.

Moral of the story: Read up!

But agents are real people.

With real feelings, real preferences, and real schedules. I went into conference like a sponge. My mind was filled with said blog posts, the kinds of authors these agents represent, and lists of work they were looking for. But it was strange seeing the proverbial men (and women) behind the curtain. The first night, they did a big agent panel with blind questions from the audience, and I loved seeing their different personalities. I made it a point to introduce myself to the agents I’d be pitching to in a no-pitch-zone manner to take the edge off. (It helped me SO much.)

Then after the panel, some of my friends and I ran into the founder of one of the biggest agencies in the business at the bottom of an escalator. I thanked him for giving his time, planning to move along, but he ended up asking us about our books. It turned into a substantial, thirty-minute conversation about his experiences from other conferences, the craziest pitches he’s ever heard, and various tidbits about the book industry in general. That he would take the time to chat meant the world to us and made us feel so much better going into our pitches.

So, what did I learn? Agents deserve genuine conversation and respect for their time. Even though agent appointments at conferences are essentially like speed dating and these professionals have the potential to hold so much of your future in their hands, they are real people who don’t deserve to be blindly accosted or info-dumped. I witnessed this happen to agents on multiple occasions–and I felt violated for them!

Moral of the story: Don’t go into an appointment or meeting without doing your research. Don’t be pushy. And don’t be a robot. Breathe.

Agents value boldness. And solid writing. 

Based on my personal experience and my friends’ experiences, the general consensus is that agents like you to stand out from others. They want you to be intelligent about your story and where it belongs in the industry. They want to see your passion and confidence in your work.

But they want that to translate to the page, too. Even if you nail your pitch and earn an agent’s invested conversation, they are ultimately concerned with the writing. That’s what will be most memorable for them. But on the bright side, if you somewhat flub your pitch but have a brilliant manuscript, there’s hope for you!

Moral of the story: Be bold, but professional. And definitely don’t be creepy. Make sure your writing is strong enough that it speaks for itself. 

An agent can look great on paper, but has to have passion for your project. 

Even if an agent has so much to offer, a great track record of sales, and a personality that really clicks with you, he or she has to be right for your project. The benefits and statistics may look great on paper, but unless that agent takes ownership and resonates with you and your work, it won’t be the ideal match.

Sometimes it’s really true that your work is fantastic, but just not the right fit for a particular agent. If you’re currently in that stage of your career and this happens to you, don’t let it get you down. Just continue looking for the right one because trying to force it or settle for the wrong one won’t do you any favors. And that goes the same for the other side of the coin, too. Don’t settle on the first agent who offers you a contract if you have an inkling of hesitation for some reason. 

Moral of the story: Sometimes you might not have “chemistry” with an agent. But settling doesn’t help anyone.

Agents are game-changers for your writing. 

And not just because they can help you land a contract. They know what works and doesn’t work in the industry. What readers want, what editors want. What sells. They have the spidey sense for those kinds of things. During one of my appointments, an agent asked me a single question that ended up changing a significant backstory thread in my book. I’d hesitated going that direction, but after hearing her reasoning and feeling it out for myself, I’ve fallen completely head over heels for this storyline and feel my characters have more dimension with a few simple tweaks.

Though you have to use discernment and go with your gut in every decision about your work, a teachable spirit goes a long way when working with an agent. It can really take your stories to the next level.

Moral of the story: You won’t get far if you’re not willing to accept a little direction or constructive criticism. And trust your agent. He or she wants to make your book the absolute best it can be.

So this is where I am right now, priming my manuscript for agent requests. Hopefully I will return some time in the near future with more insight from the other side. But until then, happy writing and pitching!

Agents and agented authors, since you are more knowledgeable on this subject, what are some other pieces of advice you can offer yet-to-be-agented authors?

an extended (but never really complete) thank you

How do you possibly say “thank you” after a Genesis award? An extended speech, that’s how!

On Sunday night, I gave the glory to God for making me and everyone in that room about writing. That storytelling is just who we are!

I thanked Jef and Allie and our families because I couldn’t have done it without them. They took care of Allie and often picked up the slack for me, extending grace when I needed it the most. And Jef…wow. I don’t think there are words enough to express how grateful I am to have you as a teammate!

My critique partners Jaime Wright, Anne Love, and Kara Isaac for all of their input (and, as they know, for talking me off the ledge sometimes).

Kathleen Y’Barbo for convincing me to enter Genesis and for correcting me when I called myself an aspiring writer. “You’re a pre-published author,” she told me.

I thanked everyone in the ACFW for welcoming me with open arms. And that was very literal. They friended me on Facebook, answered my (many) questions (looking at you, Amy Leigh Simpson), became my critique partners, and even let me stand with them and exchange business cards with me in the Dallas airport before we ever even arrived in Indy.

If I hadn’t been having an out-of-body experience, I would have thanked the Genesis judges, who sacrificed their time and energy to provide meaningful feedback for us and make our writing stronger. I’m so going to pay this forward if I ever get the opportunity!

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I should have thanked my brilliant and beautiful co-finalists Lindsay Harrell and Sally Bradley for becoming my friends and sisters in the complex category that is contemporary fiction. We are so going to be celebrating debut novels together sometime soon.

Even my Tulsa coffee shops deserve huge thanks for fueling my late-night writing marathons and allowing me to close them down at least once a week so I can get my work done!

My best friends JT, Sarah Beals, Lindsey Reddick, and Amanda Morad for being beta readers, idea nurturers, and the first ones I ever allowed to read my story. And Meseidy Rivera for taking my headshot days before the competition closed and figuratively holding my hand as I hit Send sitting at her dining room table.

There are so many people I could thank. Someone I’m sure I’ll remember right after I click Publish. I’m still in awe that they called my name. Thrilled and so, so honored by each and every bit of the love and encouragement that’s come my way.

If I can do anything to give back, it’s to emphasize over and over again that whether you win Genesis or not, there’s so much beauty and fulfillment in squashing the lies and going after your dreams. In doing what God made you to do. All it takes is surrender, a little bravery, and lots of hard work that, most of the time, doesn’t even feel like work. 

—–

I’d planned on recapping the ACFW conference in this post, but it’s already getting long. So I’ll share more of what my first manuscript is about instead since we were under wraps before conference! Here’s the bit I used to pitch Take Heart:

Being jobless and single can seem like the end of the world. But sometimes it’s just the beginning.

Spencer Brooks has always dreamed of how her storybook ending will unfold. Rewarding career. Picket fence. Husband who makes Prince Charming seem like a waste of perfectly good paper and ink.

But when life after college doesn’t turn out as planned, Spencer returns to the small Oklahoma town she promised she’d never call home again to draft a better blueprint for her future. So far, her best attempts have landed her back under her parents’ roof with an inbox empty of job leads, and her only relationship is with the mop and broom of the local coffee shop.

As Spencer attempts to stay out of her flawless cousin’s shadow and dodge her newly engaged ex-boyfriend, she must learn to surrender control and discover God’s plan for her life. Even if it looks nothing like her own.

Can Spencer learn to trust that only God can lead her to the life—and love—she’s always dreamed about?

—–

You guys are the best!

 

conference prep, book two, and other september bits

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People have been saying “See you at conference next week.” Ahhhhh! So exciting!

Among other adjectives.

Though things have been quiet on this front, there’s lots going on. So for those of you who aren’t in the middle of conference prep and finalizing last-minute details–or realizing you leave in one week and just beginning–here’s an update on what’s going on in my writing world.

For my finished manuscript, I’ve written a one-sheet, a page of vital details about my book for editors’ and agents’ quick reference. It’s currently in the hands of my graphic designer best friend, waiting to be whipped into a visually-stunning masterpiece {No pressure, LJ :)} Along with it, I still have to piece together my proposal, of which I essentially have all of the components written. My synopsis and first chapters have already been edited and subjected to the blood, sweat, and tears of my critique partners. Now it’s time for the final sweep!

So, what’s this conference all about anyway?

It’s the convergence of the American Christian Fiction Writers and friends in the industry. For family and friends who have been praying, here’s what I’ll be doing at conference:

  • Finally seeing my wonderful writing friends and critique partners in person. This is what I’m most excited about! PS: More and more people are participating in our pre-conference Mix and Mingle if you want to “meet” the lovelies who are going. I’m excited to see what happens when this bunch gets together. The stories I’ve heard are legendary!
  • Meeting some of my favorite authors…or standing in the corner trying to muster the nerve to talk to them. But most likely geeking out, speaking way too fast, and posting lots and lots of pictures on Facebook. In the words of the infamous Smalls, “Don’t be a goofus. Don’t be a goofus.” I’m trying to prepare myself now.
  • Discovering new favorite authors. There’s no hope whatsoever for my To-Be-Read pile.
  • Presenting my first manuscript to at least one editor and one agent, with whom I have scheduled appointments. Somehow I know God has other unscheduled, less scripted opportunities planned. People I know have met their agents at dinner, in the hallways, at the bar after conference activities are finished for the evening, etc. I’m told to expect the unexpected, which is a conundrum for my predisposition. But I’m working on it.
  • Attending classes led by published authors and industry pros. There are classes on writing, editing, marketing, working with agents. I’m excited to bust out my inner Hermione Granger where she’s actually useful 🙂
  • Finding out the results of the Genesis competition. There’s a gala next Sunday night where we will all be dressed to the nines and the Genesis finalists will be announced. To be honest, I already feel like a winner just for hitting send on that competition. It’s already brought me so many opportunities and connected me with wonderful new writing friends.
  • Praying for peace and God’s will over my friends’ work and my work. That God would press the override button on my goals and expectations and guide me in the right direction that will accomplish His will and give Him the glory.

Yes, this conference has the ability to shape the direction of my writing career. But first and foremost, it’s an opportunity to have fun and learn a lot about the craft and industry that I love!

And what of my second manuscript?

I can’t end this post without talking about my second manuscript. Though I never know how much detail to divulge about a story in this avenue, all I can say is that I’m really excited about it. I’ve had to pull myself away from it to make sure I’m preparing my pitches for my first manuscript.

The important details: the main character is a blogger suffering from PTSD, OCD, and a general desire to control everything because of a tragic accident that happened when she was in high school. Her life, work, church, etc. is all online where she can control everything, project a much more put-together version of herself–and hide behind her keyboard. That changes when her employer forces her to become a brand ambassador for a prominent restaurant family in town, specifically, to promote their party boy son’s new restaurant. The theme of the story is healing and that many aspects of growth involve a daily process or battle or decision. I love it!

Oh, one more thing? This is the actor I’d pick to play my main character’s love interest:

Happy September, friends! It’s going to be a good one!

What are your goals for this month? Any fun (or potentially bucket-list-fulfilling) plans?

a reminder about love and truth from Stasi Eldredge

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While my insanely curious nature leads me to devour fiction, I prefer to savor a good nonfiction work. Right now, I’m slowly going through Stasi Eldredge’s newest book, Becoming Myself: Embracing God’s Dream of You. This book is speaking to me in a way that really lines up with my heart, if that makes sense.

Somehow I don’t think Stasi would mind if I shared some quotes from this morning’s reading. They’re good.

“We all have something that brings us to our knees. It isn’t something we would ever choose for ourselves or wish on anyone else, but we all have an area or ten in our lives that drives us to need God. We can’t free ourselves. We are weak, aware that something inside is broken and starving. It is a wonderful grace when we finally give up and fall down before the One who is strong…We were created to desperately need Jesus” (38).

The nature within us bends us in the direction of sin to satisfy this starvation. It’s a natural inclination. Then the world around us grabs us by the arms and enables us to give in. But have you noticed that, when we give in, the fix is only temporary? It’s only a matter of time before we’re back for more, covered with a relief that eventually washes away and makes us feel worse about ourselves.

Stasi encourages us to listen for the voice of God, for the whisper or shout of love and truth that fills us ’til we’re overflowing. To replace the pain and failures of the past and the lies about ourselves we’ve been conditioned to believe. She lists these verses as reminders of exactly what God thinks about us:

Romans 8:38-39 – You are deeply and completely loved.
I John 2:12 You are totally and completely forgiven.
II Cor. 5:21 When God sees you, he sees the righteousness of Jesus.
John 3:16 You mean the whole world to Him.
Song of Songs 4:1 He thinks you’re beautiful. Right now.
Romans 8:29 He is committed to your restoration.
Hebrews 13:5 You are not now, nor have you ever been alone.

Okay, so I could just type up the entire book–I love it and want you to love it that much. But I will leave you with this last thought.

“Though our pasts have shaped us, we are not our past. Though our failures and sin have had an effect on who we are, we are not defined by our failures or our sin. Though thought patterns and addictions have overwhelmed us, we are not overcome by them and we will never be overcome by them. Jesus has won our victory. Jesus is our victory” (43).

(Okay, two. But they’re related.)

“The holy work of God deep in our hearts as we have suffered and struggled and wept and longed to overcome is stunning beyond measure. You may not see the goodness yet, but you will. It comes when we see our lives through God’s eyes” (43).

I’m going to make it a goal to reflect on the truths in the Scriptures above and reflect on them often.

Even though there are real, raw, painful things in this world, even rooted deeply in our lives, it does wonders to remember that we are loved, covered, and victorious.

{book review} what writers can learn from Becky Wade

Welcome to my first book review! Well, my first since my college newspaper days when I injected these big literary words in some farfetched attempt to sound intellectual. All I can do when I look back on that period of my life is shake my head. Just no.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Becky Wade and her latest release, Undeniably Yours.

“Oh, you’re looking for a fun summer read? BECKY WADE!”

“Please allow me to interrupt your conversation to tell you that I loved that book, too!”

Yes, I’ve been that girl.

So, what can we learn from Becky Wade? Is it her engaging voice, page-turning action, and lovable characters? Yes, but that’s not what this is about.

This is about writing a stellar debut novel with glowing reviews. And then following it up with another that blows your debut out of the water. 

In my research and talking to other authors, today’s editors really like new writers to have at least two completed manuscripts because some authors will show so much promise and then turn out to be “one-hit wonders.” If you didn’t catch my drift earlier, Becky Wade is not a one-hit wonder.

I loved her debut, My Stubborn Heart. In fact, I accidentally bought it twice during a long reading hiatus because it jumped out to me on the bookstore shelf on two separate occasions. But when I won a copy of Undeniably Yours, I read it in an entire sitting–I couldn’t stand the suspense.

The book tells the story of Meg Cole, who inherits an oil empire after her father’s unexpected death, and the manager of her father’s racehorse farm, Bo Porter. Because it makes sense on paper, Meg wants to shut down Bo’s operations and extinguish his dreams. But she doesn’t count on him being smolderingly dreamy (hunky cowboy, anyone?) and he doesn’t count on developing a fierce protective instinct for her.

I’ll spare you the back flap copy rendition of the plot and just tell you that it’s the deeply layered characters that will keep you turning the pages, the perfectly-timed development of their romance that doesn’t seem predictable, and conflict and even suspense around every corner.

So, the moral of the story (I’m learning) is to follow your debut novel with an electrifying second. If you’re writing a series, don’t exhaust your bag of tricks with the first. Continue learning the craft, playing to your strengths and working hard on your weaknesses. Ask yourself how you can up the ante in your follow-up manuscripts and deliver unforgettable characters and page-turning conflict.

Because someday, it will be important that you reward the readership you built during your first book release so they’ll keep coming back for more!