Tag: Writing (page 1 of 8)

Release the Memoir in You!

How to find your life’s theme and write your memoir
because you have a story that must be told!

You have a story inside of you dying to get out – a dream to impact the world with the lessons you’ve learned – but you’re not sure anyone would want to read it, and you don’t know how to put it all together or where to start? Perfect! This course will release the memoir in you, guaranteed.

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I Do My Best Writing in the Shower

The key to a more productive writing life, for me, may be an increase of distractions. I’m not kidding.

I can sit down in a quiet house, long hours stretched before me, all allocated beautifully (according to my DayTimer) for writing. Nothing happens. My fingers idly tap the desk. I take another sip of coffee hoping for a jolt of inspiration. Instead the blank white screen reflects my idea-vacant mind. The blinking cursor mocks me.

On the flipside, when my schedule is packed, I itch to write. It’s a physical battle not to. Blog posts, articles, book and chapter outlines dance around my head, scampering to my fingers, anxious to get out. They assault me while I wash dishes, pay bills, fold laundry and help kids with homework.

Sometimes I do my best writing in the shower. And I’m not the only one.

“My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.” ~ Anais Nin

“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” ~ Agatha Christie

“A notepad by the bedside accounts for half the earnings of my livelihood. If it weren’t for bedtime, half my novels would still be stuck at dock.” ~ Terri Guillemets

“Loafing is the most productive part of a writer’s life.” ~ James Norman Hall

So, what are we to do? When our hands are full (or wet), how can we capture our muse before she dissipates into another cloud of interruptions?

Here are a few ideas to try.

    • The ever-present notebook or journal : Theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703-1799) was known to go riding for relaxation only to return home with his coat covered in notes. His wife, Sarah, would then unpin him and organize all the scraps of paper to be ready for his next writing opportunity.
      You don’t need to litter your wardrobe with ideas, but being ready can make all the difference. I keep Post-It notes and flags in every room of my house. I also keep a small notebook in my purse and one in my car. We’ve painted an entire wall of my kitchen in chalkboard paint so that I can jot down whatever can’t wait a moment longer.


    • A Voice Recorder : These nifty handheld devices are perfect for brainstorming while driving. They’re not cheap, but they are terribly convenient and easy to use. For about $50, you could decrease a touch of your frustration over lost ideas and maybe even make the roads a little safer. (Check out this highly-rated one by Sony.) 
      If a dedicated recorder isn’t in your budget, you can still capture those thoughts with your phone. You can find dozens of voice recorder apps for your smart phone or just call yourself. I may be the only person in the civilized world who is under 60 and still does not have a smart phone. I’m okay with that … but occasionally have to call my home answering machine or my own voicemail to spew thoughts to be organized and recorded later.


  • Go Waterproof : We may not be writing while diving, but scuba gear may be just what your muse requires. Check out these great tools. Scuba Max makes a nifty under-water wrist slate. You could use it while swimming, jogging in the rain or taking your kids to a waterpark. Rite in the Rain offers several styles of waterproof journals, ideal for jotting thoughts while hiking or camping or visiting Niagra Falls. Aqua Notes (pictured above) are waterproof notepads with tear-away sheets. They even come with suction cups for easy hanging. And don’t underestimate bath crayons. They’re great for writers! They enable me to make all sorts of color-coded notes on the glass and tile walls while I shower.
Your Turn:  What are your favorite tips and tools for capturing ideas when they strike?


When Research Becomes a Little Too Real

Repost from Guest blog on http://brandyheineman.wordpress.com

“I grab some cookies to snack on while I read, & next thing I know, there’s an autopsy happening. Well played, Ms Conroy. Well played. ;)”

This Tweet from @brandyhei  while she was reading my autopsy scene in Digging Up Death got me thinking… do readers really know what authors go through to bring life their scenes? In my latest mystery, Digging Up Death, which by the way is more symbolic than actually digging up dead people, there is one autopsy scene, a sort of turning point for my character’s growth and self discovery. In writing the scene, I wanted to evoke several visceral responses, but the problem was I never attended an autopsy and didn’t ever plan on it since I’m quite squeamish at the sight of blood let alone scalpels piercing skin! {SHIVER}But I knew in order to create a visceral response in my readers, I would first have to experience it myself.

So where does an author go or research without attending a live (dead?) autopsy? Why Youtube, of course! And to my surprise there were several autopsy videos to choose from. Yeah, creeping me out just thinking about it. Did I actually want to view an autopsy on the YouTube, nope, but for the sake of art, I did. And let me tell you the TV autopsy we watch on CSI and every other crime drama, nope, doesn’t cut it! Pun intended.

Like Mari Duggins in Digging Up Death, I was already disconnected from the autopsy via a second hand experience, but I knew how squeamish I’d be and I more than taking notes on what I was seeing, I wanted to take notes on what I was feeling!

So I took a deep breath and pressed play. The naked body on the table was surreal at first as I took in the scene. So far so good… then the M.E. raised the scalpel and I raised my hand to my face peeking through my fingers like people do while watching a horror movie. As the knife pierced the skin, I noted the incision, then I noticed my emotions.

And they surprised me.

But I’m not going to reveal what I actually felt here. That would spoil YOUR visceral response when you read the autopsy scene in Digging Up Death. What I am going to do is offer one commenter a chance to win an ebook copy of the book so you can read and experience it yourself.

Writers strive to bring realism to our stories. Sometimes we can pull from our emotions, other times we have to step out of our comfort zone and pull from Youtube. But in the end, if readers are pulled into the story and the emotion of the moment comes through, then it was worth it, even watching an autopsy through spread fingers.

It Doesn’t Get Easier. Accept the Process.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. ~ Thomas A. Edison

A few weeks ago the company I work for had a motivational speaker at our monthly staff meeting. One thing he said really stood out to me.

He said, “It doesn’t get any easier. Accept the process.”

What a great lesson for our writing journeys! Writing is going to be hard work now, and it’s going to be hard work in five years.

It’s never going to be easy. It’s never going to be the right time. The book is never going to write itself.

It’s time we accept writing for what it is––a demanding, difficult, amazing process. Stop fighting the journey and embrace it. Get over the idea that the writers you admire sit down and write a masterpiece on the first try. The writing process can be ugly and grueling, but if you really love it, it’s worth it.

It’s never going to be easy, but you and your writing will be better for it.



From the Desert

DesertI always look forward to the new year. Everything is fresh and clean, and I usually feel the fullness of hope at a chance to start again. To get right all the things I got wrong last year, to accomplish more, to make a bigger difference in the world around me. And of course, to be a better writer.

But here we are, halfway through January, and I’m not feeling it. The new year just doesn’t feel new. Instead, it feels like I dragged all of last year’s gunk along with me into 2013, and I hit a wall of discouragement about writing. Most of the difficult life circumstances I faced last year haven’t changed just because the calendar did, and those blasted voices of doubt have been taunting. I’ve developed a bad tendency of thinking, “When things improve, I’ll write more. I’ll probably even write better.”

I have a list of excuses as long as Kevin Durant’s arm for not writing today. I’ll get back at it tomorrow. Always tomorrow. And the more time that lapses, the more I begin to wonder what in the world I think I’m doing with this writing thing. Have I improved since I started this quest three years ago? Did God really put this dream in my heart or was I in some sort of delirium? Will I ever progress beyond this point?

But as I began to pray about this load of discouragement, I was reminded of Moses.

It’s thought that he’s largely responsible for writing the first five books of the Bible, which is kind of a big deal. According to all the smart people who figure this stuff out, the most likely time for Moses to have written these inspired, enduring stories, would’ve been during the time of wandering in the desert.

He led the Israelites through the wilderness for all those forty years, and along the way grew tired of his circumstances, weary of the bleak surroundings. Even so, Moses was faithful to write. He penned the story God put in his heart while he was in the desert, not when he’d finally arrived at the place of promise, which would’ve been much more comfortable and inspiring, I’m sure.

But no, Moses left his legacy from the desert. He endured forty years of unending chaos—armies chasing, people griping and rebelling, hungry, thirsty, weary, climbing mountains to meet God, coming down to heartache overflowing. Still, he wrote.

Moses told his story. God’s story. My story and yours.

And I heard the whisper…

Tell your story.

Leave your legacy.


As always, a God-whisper overpowers the voices of doubt. And so, it’s time to write.


How about you? Are you weary and wandering through the wilderness, or resting at an oasis? How do you push past the walls of discouragement? Have you heard any God-whispers lately?

Balancing Fitness and Fiction

© Dana Bartekoske Heinemann Dreamstime.comI’m an author and an aerobics instructor. Two completely different worlds. One requires you to keep your butt in chair, the other requires you to move your butt. I’m still learning to balance the two, and I’d like to offer some New Year’s encouragement for you to do the same.

First of all, what works for one person might not work for another. When getting my personal training certification, the trainer asked if there were any aerobics instructors in the room. Lucky me, I was the only one to raise a hand. He gave me his full attention. “What’s the best kind of aerobic exercise?” I’d heard arguments for almost every exercise imaginable, so I had no idea what to say. I took a wild guess, “Whatever you enjoy the most?” I got it right.

That means the trick is to find an exercise that works for you. I know Robin Lee Hatcher likes to use her Wii Fit every morning. Peter Leavell jokes (I assume) about dancing the hula during breaks in his writing while Gina Conroy is very serious about her ballroom dancing. And then there’s my critique partner Christina Berry who makes time to run even if it means answering my phone calls while jogging down her driveway.

Second, you have to find the motivation. We all know that being fit is considered as a factor in success. Everyone from Dave Ramsey to Chip MacGregor recommends regular exercise. We also know that with the demands of work and parenting and church activities (not to mention writing) it can be hard to carve out the extra time. So what will it take to get you off your butt?

I’ve found that there are four different motivators: stability, enjoyment, status, and control.

If you are one who values stability, you will be motivated by routine and will appreciate the regular activity of taking the dog for a walk. If you value enjoyment, you will need to be part of a team or find an activity that is fun like laser tag with your kids. If you work out for status, then go ahead and tape that photo of the supermodel to your fridge and buy yourself some new workout clothes. And if you’re all about control, then sign up for a 10K and work towards achieving a goal.

Third, don’t see your workout as time taken away from your current manuscript. Once I facebooked, “Write or run, write or run?” and got the response, “Write while you run.” Why not?

You can find inspiration when people watching on the greenbelt. You could rock climb as research for a scene. Maybe consider it endurance training for that Snoopy dance you’re going to want to do after you sign your next contract. Or simply use the time to clear your head and reenergize.

As writers, our job is to make sure the main character grows, and we can become better at doing that by learning how to grow ourselves. New Year’s resolution or not, make time in 2013 to move your butt!

(And if that wasn’t enough motivation, come sign up for my Body and Soul Six-Week Challenge at www.endurancepress.com.)

How do you balance fitness and writing and what do you do to keep fit?

How Does a Mother Balance a Writing Career with Homeschooling?

Home-schooling is already a full-time job, so how does a mother balance a writing career along with it? There are some specific things that we can do to adjust our teaching lifestyle so that we can also enjoy the talents and passion that the Lord instilled in us.

In my last article, I spoke about the importance of planning ahead – something that even seat-of-the-pants writers can do with just a few focused questions. The whole goal is to jump into your story-world with little preparation once you find time. Tweet This!

Carve Out Time to Write

Just like anyone else who works full time, we have to utilize every empty moment made available to us. Write while your student writes. He doesn’t need you hovering over his elbow. While he’s reading, read books on craft. As he sees you studying, the example of life-long learning inspires him.

This can be a bigger challenge with younger children who have shorter attention spans and need more help with their work, but even these can complete tasks on their own once they understand the expectations. (And self-motivation to finish a task is a prime value in home-schooling!) For instance, a first-grader can develop pictures using tangrams or pattern blocks. Making designs on geoboards or sorting a box of manipulatives into categories feels like a game to them, but it establishes pertinent skills and provides them with some work-alone time. (And some for you, too!)

Because my kids are older, my home-schooling consists of the planning I do at the beginning of the year and morning overviews.  A little more for my eighth-graders, a little less for my junior.  Even with all the running around that their special classes, co-ops, and sports require, I can usually write for a couple of hours every day. (I know—I feel very blessed!)

But hours of writing isn’t the norm for most folks. I don’t get that either during volleyball season when we spend twenty hours a week traveling and watching games. During the games, I keep score for the coaches, but before, after and between, I sometimes have fifteen to twenty minutes of sit-and-wait.

Out comes one of my most valuable tools – my novel notebook. Sometimes it’s a composition book, sometimes my Ipad, but I always have one or the other. I learned the hard way though, trying to distinguish a story line from the tiny letters scratched on a well-used napkin. I keep a notepad in my car – just in case I find myself without, but my Ipad usually goes with me everywhere.

What about the times when I can’t write? We drive all over North Texas, sometimes for hours to the matches. Shoot, the practices themselves are a half-hour from our house. I feel like I practically live in my car during that period. And even outside of the season, when I actually get to go to my critique groups again, I travel over an hour and a half, one-way, to get to our meetings. Even though I can’t write while I’m driving, I’ve discovered a wonderful app for my Ipad. It’s a recorder with a really big on and off button. I set my Ipad on the passenger seat with the app open as I start my trip. A scene forms while I’m driving and I slap the button and talk it out. Then later that night, I merely type up what I’ve already dreamed. So cool! So easy! And I don’t have to waste any time! Yea!

Your turn: When do you find time to write?

Is Home-Schooling and Writing Possible?

A home-schooling writer? The title builds pictures of a pajama-clad woman huddled in the corner over her laptop. The view of her is partially blocked by a broken easel and a thriving tomato plant. Microscope slides and a celery stalk in purple water decorate her desk while a partially colored US map provides wallpaper behind her.

Don’t get me wrong. This was never me. Well, never all at once. (And, my kids’ plants never thrived!) With all of the demands of home-schooling how does someone take on the career of writing? Tweet This! After all, teaching is already a full-time job.

I’ve got some suggestions to offer over the course of the next several posts here. I hope you’ll be able to use some of them and by all means share some of your own!


Ideally, we set up a schedule just like people at “real work” do. We put down “write novel” from 9:30 until 11:30. Yeah, right.

We can waste time setting up a calendar like that, complete with organized media time, along with house cleaning, showering, and putting on something besides pajamas. (Yeah, you guessed it. Already tried that one and it did work – for about two days.) The truth is, with teaching, nothing is routine. Tomorrow won’t look like today. We can’t just assume we can hold to any expectation we set.

And that’s really not the type of planning I’m talking about. Whether you’re a plotting writer or one that dreams as she goes, you can set up a plan. Short bites of what you want the next scene to look like or feel like.

For me (a way-extreme plotter who LOVES spreadsheets and has found a new miracle toy called Scrivener!) I use the little scraps of time I get to engage my characters, dreaming up their personalities and investigating their goals and nightmares. I do research on the settings that I want to use, even if I’m making them up. I have a terrible memory, so I make notes of everything and download pictures of similar places, people, and situations.

I outline my story so that I have a scene by scene process. I don’t have to do any rereading because I know what my next scene will be. That way, when I do find time to write, I don’t waste any of the minutes getting back into the story. I’m already there just by opening my planning file.

For pantsers, it may just be setting up your next section with a question or a note so you can jump right back into story-world. I heard a suggestion once that the set-up of the next scene starts at the end of the previous one. The author suggested that when you complete a scene, you crawl into the skin of the next POV and ask, “What are you feeling right now?” Once you jot that answer and maybe a note about what you want the next scene to accomplish, you can be ready to start when you get the next bit of time.

Your turn: How do you plan your writing?

The Digging Up Death blog tour continues: Find reviews & giveaways here:

Mystery Writing is Murder with 8 Ways to Cut the Fat from your WIP and a Giveaway!

Digging Up Death


And if you want to host me (Gina) for a guest post or interview here’s all you need to know:


What Writers Can Learn From Disney

The company I work for sent me to a training seminar presented by the Disney Institute. The instructors spoke about how Disney does business and how to apply their concepts of leadership and customer service to your own organization. I found that some of the lessons could be applied to my life as a writer.
Details matter. Disney is all about the details. Their movies are full of tiny references to other Disney movies that most people will never notice. They showed a clip from Wall-E and pointed out some of these hidden references. Not only does it create a buzz from those who have noticed or heard about some of these things, but it adds a lot of depth to every scene. As a writer, this reinforces the importance of research. Every reader won’t notice every detail that your research adds to the story, but some will and it will enhance the experience for them. Also, it reminds me to always strive to keep my characters, setting and plot from being one dimensional.

Surround yourself with good people. Corporate culture is a big deal at Disney. When hiring, they focus less on a specific skill set and more on whether or not a person will fit into their corporate culture. I think it’s also important what kind of support system we create for ourselves as writers. Do we have mentors, critique partners, an agent, or editors who support our dreams and goals of writing? Organizations like ACFW give us an opportunity to network with others with a shared passion and vision.

It’s all about the story. Disney is all about storytelling that connects to people’s emotions. If our stories don’t evoke emotion, we haven’t done our jobs.

What is your favorite Disney movie? Have you ever learned anything about writing from an unlikely source?



Jennifer Fromke on Living the Writing Dream

Jennifer Fromke won the 2010 ACFW Genesis Award for Women’s Fiction. That novel, A Familiar Shore, released in March 2012 from Write Integrity Press. When forced to separate from the laptop, Jennifer can be found with her nose in a book, one hand around a latte, and the other hand sometimes stirring something on the stove. Soul food for Jennifer includes laughing with her family, teaching Bible studies, and talking about books with anyone. She grew up in Michigan, and writes from North Carolina, where she and her family await their annual escape to their favorite lake “up north” in Michigan.

Wood paneling lined the walls of my dad’s office in the basement of my childhood home. About halfway up the wall, a “secret” door blended into the paneling. I used to climb into the attic space there, with a blanket and a pile of books. Commence: hours of reading beneath a naked light-bulb.

Books have always been a passion of mine and I’m only a little ashamed to admit I often insist people read books I love. I used to think authors must be the most interesting people on the planet, and I dreamed of one day becoming interesting enough to write something.

When I reached my early twenties, I heard someone say that no one can possibly write a novel before the age of thirty-five. They simply wouldn’t have lived long enough to say anything worthwhile. Believed the lie. Writing dream shelved.

Fast forward fifteen years, three children and two moves crossing multiple state lines, and the idea of writing a book resurfaced. When thirty-five popped up in my rear-view mirror, I started to write. A friend invited me to attend the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. Insert life-change here.

At the conference I learned what it meant to be a writer, the key elements of a plot, how to develop characters, and much more. Best of all, I met other writers. I connected with them and maintained the relationships via email. I found a critique group and received feedback on my writing. Milestone: I started calling myself a writer.

I began a novel whose plot I developed at the conference. In 2010, I entered the manuscript into the ACFW Genesis contest to get some feedback. Surprise! My manuscript won the women’s fiction category. Unfortunately, the manuscript was not finished when it won the award. I worked quickly to finish so I could send it to the agents who requested it, and I didn’t hear anything back from them. Timing fail.

A year later, I’d sent queries to several agents, and many of them requested fifty pages. I received some good feedback, but nothing ever blossomed into an offer for representation.

Meanwhile, I heard about a brand-new publisher soliciting direct queries from writers. I decided to give it a try. She sent me the best rejection I’ve ever received. Her company’s mission statement stated they would publish only evangelistic/Christian fiction. While my story is clean enough for CBA, there is no outright Christian theme or subplot. My Christian values inform the story but they are not projected on the page. But the publisher loved my story. Heart encouraged

Six months later, the same publisher emailed me, asking if the manuscript was still available. She remembered the story (still loved it!) and explained that she opened a second publishing company with a broader mission statement. Hope realized: debut novel published in March, 2012.

I’ve recently finished the first draft of a second novel. The editing process is underway . . . and I’m living the dream.

A Familiar Shore tracks a year in the life of Meg Marks, a young lawyer raised off the coast of the Carolinas. An anonymous client hires her to arrange his will, and sends her to meet his estranged family at their lake home in northern Michigan. After a shocking discovery, she finds herself caught between his suspicious family and a deathbed promise her conscience demands that she keep. Will she sacrifice her own dreams for revenge, or will she choose something more?




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