March 30, 2012

On Blogging - Susan Barclay

Recently, a member of my church's Creative Writing Team said to me, "Some days I wondered if anyone actually uses [our Family Faith Book], but I have since realized that it doesn’t matter because I learned and grew from writing the [installments]." That's exactly how I feel about blogging.

I've had a blog for almost five years now, and until this year the highest number of posts I wrote was 46, back in 2009. Last summer I heard about the Writers' Platform-Building Campaign and decided to participate in order to increase my web presence and network with other writers. Although I didn't participate as fully as some of the writers did - really, I don't know how people keep up with all the reading, commenting, following! - but I did what I could, and I learned and grew from the experience. I gained a larger readership (though I still don't get many comments) and some new online friends.

This year I've decided to stretch even further. I try to write five blog posts a week (weekdays only) according to a rotation of themes (i.e. Mondays are all about happiness, Tuesdays about health and fitness, Wednesdays about writing, Thursdays about faith; and Fridays I put up a quotation, with or without commentary). I'm an official 12x12x12 participant (with a goal to write 12 picture book drafts over the next 12 months), signed on to ROW80 (though I flopped at it - better luck next time?) and the A-Z Blogging Challenge (there's still time to sign on, though the list closes Monday night April 2nd), and I plan to do the platform-building campaign again later this fall. Even if no one really pays attention to these efforts, I am honing my craft through the process, learning more about publication, and finding a sense of community.

I still participate in two face-to-face writing groups, so my 'real' writing - my works in progress - don't get completely neglected. Still, it's all a huge balancing game, and at the end of the day what matters is how I used my words, how I spent my time, and, most importantly, whether or not I connected with the Lord. Yes, I can talk to him in snatches through my day, but I find everything works better when I make that effort to truly connect in the mornings. How about you?

[For more of my writing, check out my website and blog]

March 29, 2012

Taking a Novel Challenge - Ruth L. Snyder

I have always looked forward to sorting through the daily mail. This sense of anticipation probably started in my childhood when mail delivery to our isolated African mission station was unpredictable at best. This January when I sorted the mail one day I found a new treasure hiding among the bills. It was an invitation from the Long Ridge Writers' Group to participate in a novel writing course.

As I read the details, I knew I wanted to take the course. However, several arguments against saying yes filled my mind:
  • I write mostly non-fiction
  • I have five young children and limited time to write
  • I'm not your typical novel writer - I haven't had a story twirling around in my brain just waiting for the right opportunity to be put onto paper
  • Most of the pieces I write are between 500-2000 words
After praying about the opportunity and waiting for several weeks, I finally took the plunge and sent in my application. The instructor I was assigned seemed to be a perfect match for me - she described her struggles of finding writing time while raising her family. However, a few days after I received my writing package in the mail, I received an email informing me a new instructor had been assigned to me because my previous instructor was not able to fulfill her contract. At first I was discouraged, but then I read my new instructor's welcome letter. She too has experienced the challenge of balancing family responsibilities with writing time and in addition, she has experience in areas I need to grow in.

For assignment one I was required to come up with two different ideas for novels. To my surprise, two ideas were right there in my imagination waiting. I was excited about exploring both ideas, but was partial to one. After I sent off my assignment the doubts started coming. Who am I trying to fool? I just don't have it in me to write a novel. Where am I going to find the time? An idea is great, but how am I ever going to flesh it out? And even if I do, what valuable takeaway can I give my reader? One day I was filled with anticipation; the next day I wondered what I was getting myself into.

My instructor liked both of my ideas, but she preferred the same idea I did - a mystery set in Ottawa in the late 1950's. Assignment two focused on character development - especially figuring out what motivates your main character. My online critique partners were very helpful as I thought through how my main character would respond to a situation I chose. After several revisions I hit the "send" button.

Currently I'm working on the plot. I'm enjoying the process for the most part, but I still have those niggling doubts as well.

Is anyone else working on their first novel? I'd be interested in hearing about your challenges and successes.