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Why I am publishing MAIDEN!

It took me roughly four years (on and off) to write the first draft of MAIDEN. Another year later, and I had a final draft I was confident enough with to send to agents. A lot has happened in the last two years:

  • 6 writers conferences
  • 4 face to face agent story pitches
  • 57 queries to agents
  • 6 queries to independent publishing houses
  • 8 requested manuscripts
  • 8 rejections

Each meeting, each conference, every rejection and every re-write has been a learning experience. I truly hoped to get a publisher for this story, but it didn’t happen…and I’m okay with that. My story, my way. A story for my daughters told just the way I want it told. And thanks to advancements in technology, I am also able to share the story with others. I am very, very excited!

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Why I wrote MAIDEN…

Three words:

  1. Alex
  2. Jordan
  3. Andi

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In December of 2008 I was working on a middle-school adventure novel (which I might still finish one day), but I wasn’t happy with my writing. It was a chore. I was working on the story because I wanted to be a guy who sold lots of books, not a guy who wanted to share a good story. The conversation in my head went a little like this.

Me: I am not happy writing.

My Brain: Why?

Me: I don’t know. The story is just not coming together.

My Brain: Well who are you writing it for?

Me: [long pause] Middle school kids…I think!? They’ll buy it write!? Hopefully!?

My Brain: That’s not a good reason to write a story.

Me: Umm…I don’t know then.

My Brain: What if you wrote a story without worrying about who was going to buy it?

Me: Umm…but then who will buy it?

My Brain: Doesn’t matter.

Me: [scratching my head] So I just write a story that sounds fun and then figure out what to do with it after I write it?

My Brain: That sounds like a good idea.

Me: What if…what if I write a story just for my girls? A story they would like? That might be fun!

My Heart: BINGO!

This story is for my girls. I hope when they read the books they understand the royalty inside them and it urges them forward with faith and confidence. It is a planned trilogy, with the first book dedicated to my first fair maiden, Alex. It has been the most fun I have ever had writing.

James River Writer’s Conference 2014

I am a very proud member of James River Writer’s organization and if you’re not, you should be too! Go here to learn more about membership.

But I’m especially proud this weekend because of the greatest writing conference on Earth (alright, the greatest writer’s conference in Virginia at least;-) Very much looking forward to seeing all of my writing peers, attending the workshops and programs, pitching MAIDEN to Katie Grimm of Don Congdon Associates, and just having a fun weekend!

Hope to see you there!

What’s My Writing Process?

I have been extremely blessed over the past few years to have fellow writers help me become more involved in the writing community. I have learned so much by interacting and networking with other writers. Most importantly, I have grown and it has given the me the opportunity to share my experiences so hopefully others can grow as well.

One of the most interesting things I’ve learned over time is that no two writers have the same process for how/when/what they write. That’s where today’s post comes in to play. I am carrying on the chain from fellow writer and my personal mentor Lana Krumwiede, who wrote about her writing process here. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to share my writing process and I hope you come away with something that helps you.

What am I working on?

DAMSEL – The sequel to my debut YA novel, MAIDEN, (which I am actively querying, if you have an in, let me know;-). Inspired by the life of Joan of Arc, the story follows 17-year-old Jeanette as she struggles to accept her mission to help save her war-torn kingdom. I am just finishing up the outline and my goal is to have the first draft done by the end of the year.

SEARCHING FOR MALCOLM MILLER – My first foray into MG fiction, a contemporary story about a 13 year old girl, Nadia, who on the same day she is sentenced to detention for 30 days finds out her brother who died 10 years ago left her a letter. We follow her as she deals with the realization that she cares about her brother more than she thought.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I wrote MAIDEN for my daughters, wanting them to have a story with a strong female protagonist that what she thought was important in life, is really not. As a novel that is clean and meant to be uplifting, I hope it is different enough for those looking for more than just an entertaining read.

For MALCOLM MILLER, I hope that my experience working with teens for 15+ years helps give a unique voice to a story with very real emotions. It’s a coming of age story in every sense of the word.

Why do I write what I do?

I used to write because I wanted to be a famous, published author. Wrong way to do it! I have grown over recent past to realize I need to write what’s in my heart, and what is in my heart are my children. I, as a father and a writer, more than anything, want to leave a legacy. If no other person on the planet reads my work, I hope my children find joy and insight from it. But having said that, it is my dream to become a full-time writer,and I hope that as I write what is in my heart and stay true to the story and characters, my writing will find the readers that need it.

How does my writing process work?barton-fink-at-his-typewriter

Before saying anything else, if you have not read Stephen King’s On Writing, do it…now! It is, by far, the best, most inspirational advice I have read on the craft of writing. When I read it 4-5 years ago, it changed my life as a writer. Go get it…now!

This isn’t set in stone, but if I had to sum up my writing process, it is this:

1) Storyboard – I have to have an outline. That’s just me. Otherwise, I’ll work on a story for months/years and then get halfway through and go, ‘Oooh, I thought of a cool new twist!’ Yeah, I don’t have that sort of time. So I call it my Storyboard phase. No movie EVER gets made without having a plan in advance of scenes and outline. I like to think of my outline as a storyboard. I don’t start working on a project until I have a storyboard.

2) 500 words a day – It is my goal to write 500 words every weekday…period. It took me a long time as a writer to get to this point, but writing so many words a day is what sets a ‘person who wants to write’ and a ‘writer’ apart. Half of what I write is crap and won’t ever get used, but it’s part of the process. The more you write the gooder better your writing becomes. Practice, it’s that simple. So figure out how much you can write each day. It might only be 200 words or maybe 2000. The key is to be realistic and then do it. If you miss a day, start fresh the next day. Writing 500 words a day every weekday gives me 10,000 words a month. The typical fiction is anywhere between 60,000-80,000 words, so that gives me at least one first draft every year. Figure out your goal and put your butt in the chair and write!

3) Revise – I am at the point where I can only write on one story at a time, but I can write on one story and revise another. So during my revising phrase of a manuscript, I use that as the opportunity to start a new project. Revising is kind of writing, but not really. But it’s just as important

4) Beta-readers – Writer’s don’t (or shouldn’t) live in a bubble. After so much time on a project, the lines start to blur and the writing becomes hazy. Finding a few (key term…few) people you can trust to give you honest and sincere feedback is crucial. While the manuscript is out to beta-readers let your brain rest for a month or two on that story and work on something else, something new, refreshing.

5) Final edit – With feedback from beta-readers, and a fresh pair of personal eyes, you are ready for the final edit. Consider everything your beta-readers come back with, but remember that you control the story and you don’t have to make all the requested changes. Make the changes that help the story the most in your eyes, tighten it up grammatically, get rid of words/sentences/paragraphs/storylines that are not needed, and…tada!

Are you a writer? What’s your process like?

End of Summer…GIVEAWAY!!!

Did you spend all your money this summer (more than you should have)? Are you in need of a little end of summer bling?

Thank you for stopping by because to help cure your end of summer blues, enter below to win a $20 gift card to B&N or Amazon (winner choice). I thought that would brighten your day:-)

I, personally, have had a fantastic summer and am sorry to see it end. Things I did this summer:

  • Went to Emerald Isle, NC for the first time and LOVED it!
  • Actually trimmed the hedges (you can ask my wife, that’s a big deal)
  • Finished the final draft of my debut YA novel – MAIDEN. In the very near future will start querying agents (yikes)!!!
I hope you have had a wonderful summer and can’t wait to hear what fun things you did in the comments below. Feel free to share the giveaway with anyone and everyone and stop by often to keep entering.  
The giveaway will run until September 2nd!

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Happy 4th of July – Help Give Independence to Someone in Need!

Good friend Don Bridges just recently had his 51st birthday.  A grand event seeing that he is one of the longest living ventilated quadriplegics…ever (27 years and counting)!  Each and every year is a blessing for him.

Don is an avid Virginia Tech alum and fan, an adorable cat lover, and one of the greatest people I know. While he strives to stay independent and live his life to the fullest, it takes the kind donations of others to help him do it.  This week marks the 5th annual ‘Drive for Independence’ and the opportunity for each of us to give a little (or alot) to help Don and others like him.

Please WATCH the video below, SHARE with others, and then visit Help Don Succeed to DONATE and help give independence this 4th of July!