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The Writing Marathon

Writing a book is like running a half-marathon, or at least it was for me. It takes months of daily work, but once you complete either, you know you can do it again. Confidence comes with crossing the finish line. But you can’t finish if you never start. Since I made my writing career public, people tell me all the time that they want to write. I used to be one of those people, so how did I get to be the kind of person who has completed three books? A lot of work—a lot of prayer—some laughs—a few goosebumps—and more tears than you can imagine.

When I was in high school, college, and law school, I would start writing a book, complete about three pages, and then find something easier to do with my spare time, but I never stopped reading novels. Besides saving me from dreams about res ipsa loquitor, it helped me discover the kind of books I would want to write and learn from successful authors. I think that reading is essential to writing, so even if you don’t think you’re ready to write today, be sure you keep reading—maybe jot down your favorite plots or great lines. (See you’re writing already.)

My first story came to me on a run, it poured out of some place in the back of my brain. I dashed home, and stood, dripping sweat onto the first spiral notebook I could find as I wrote the outline. It took me another year to write my first draft because I was working two part-time jobs as a lawyer and a judge, raising three kids, and serving as PTA president. I only say that because most people say they can’t write because they are too busy.

Friends, you will always be too busy unless you decide to carve out the time. But give yourself grace, you don’t have to write the whole book in one month. I heard one author say, he wrote his first book, only writing on Saturdays for a year. Another author suggests writing one page a day, and by the end of the year, you will have written 365 pages. (By the way, that’s longer than any book I’ve written.) One of my favorite suggestions is from author Allie Pleiter in her book, The Chunky Method Handbook. She says to write one index card a day.

Here are some of my suggestions. Write an outline or a synopsis that you can work from but don’t be surprised when your characters take you on a different journey. Try to write one scene a day. I also like to keep a scene idea file on my computer if I know I’m going to write a story about something specific. Recently, I printed my scene file for a Christmas book and realized, all I needed to do was throw the scenes together into order to write the book. (Sounds easy, right? I’m still on the first chapter.)

Always, always, always have a notebook with you to jot down ideas. You never know when inspiration is going to hit, and if you’re like me, I’ll forget that brilliant line about five minutes later. Sometimes I have my children or husband write down lines, while I’m driving. (Don’t ask what I do when I’m driving alone.) On that note, put a recording app on your phone, so you can “write” and drive safely. Schedule a time to write—it could be fifteen minutes or two hours, but schedule it like you would an important meeting.

Remember you are merely writing a rough draft. You don’t have to show it to anyone, and I don’t really recommend that. (Remember my first book—well it is still on the shelf, waiting for a major edit, and this week I will be doing the fifth or sixth edit on my current novel.) You will need some major editing. It is all part of the process, but more about that next month. I plan to post writing tips once a month, so get your index cards, schedule some time, and come back for more tips. After two years of reading craft books, I am overflowing with knowledge I would love to share with you.

In the meantime, here are five of my favorite writing craft books:

  • The Emotion Thesaurus – Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
  • Writing the Breakout Novel – Donald Maass
  • Goal, Motivation, and Conflict – Debra Dixon
  • Deep Point of View – Marcy Kennedy
  • Write a Novel in a Month – Jeff Gerke

© Leslie DeVooght 2017

Flash Fiction: The Superhero of Short Stories

 As many of you know, my first Flash Fiction piece will be published this month in Spark magazine, an imprint of Splickety Publications. But you may have wondered: What’s Leslie up to? I thought she was writing a novel, and what’s this flash fiction business? I am currently editing my book, but flash fiction is a way to write something short and get published. I think you will enjoy reading these stories.

With my story coming out soon, I wanted to take a minute to explain what flash fiction is and why you should read it. (Later this month, I will be posting a blog by one of my friends about writing flash fiction, so this is for the readers.) Flash fiction is defined as a complete story written in between 700-1000 words, so no more excuses about not having time to read. It is quick and fulfilling—escape for a few minutes. If I know some of you, your favorite part of English class was studying short stories. Well, these are even shorter—saved by Flash Fiction! They can be in any genre from speculative to romance, so you can find something that interests you. Like my full-length books, my story is a romance set in the Golden Isles of Georgia, but it takes place on Jekyll Island and is historic so a slight departure for me.

There are websites and magazines filled with these very short stories. Splickety offers a free online subscription and a blog that posts more stories. Now, who doesn’t love getting something for free. For all you folks who like to hold it in your hands, you can order a hard copy of the magazine. Here’s the link: http://splickety.com/ . This month’s issue will be out soon, so hop on over and sign up. You won’t be disappointed. What do you have to lose? It’s free and easy.

I will be posting a new flash fiction story the first week of each month on this website, so I hope you’ll come back next month and check it out or sign up for my blog. (also, free! Yay!) Of course, this will require story ideas, and I would love some help. They will be romances because that’s what I do. What characters would you like to see tossed together? Interesting setting ideas or scenarios—leave a comment. I can’t wait to hear your ideas.

© 2017 LeslieDevooght