A real Trope of a Character

I’m currently listening to a podcast called Writing Excuses. I’m doing that because Thomas Umstattd Jr. and James L. Rubart told me to, in order to become a best selling author in the next 5 years. Since I have a resolution of having an agent by the end of this year, having a 5 year goal to being a best seller is a good range I think.

Anyway, my first podcast from the folks behind Writing Excuses is about cliches and tropes. They suggest I go through my writing and seek out these cliches and tropes to make sure I’m not using them without originality. I hadn’t thought about it too much, but after listening to the podcast, I realize that I do have a couple of these as characters in my stories.

For example, in The Dirty Campaign, I have two characters that would be considered tropes. The first is Mildred, who is the town gossip. She hangs around, gathering bits and pieces of a story, and then tells it as gospel truth. She is a trope, bordering on the cliche. Yet, Mildred also plays an important part of the story by forcing the reader to consider the damage gossip causes in our churches. This is something I’ll explore more in future stories with her as well.

In the current WIP (Work in Progress), J. William Seymour, the intrepid young reporter for the Sunset Sentinel that you met in The Dirty Campaign, also serves in the trope/cliche role. He dreams of being the big city investigative reporter who breaks the big case, and Sunset just isn’t big enough for him. Because of that, he over-attacked the situation in The Dirty Campaign and, not to spoil things, causes issues in Tragedy in Sunset as well. Whereas Mildred served to move the story along and sound the warning, however, I need to work more on Will Seymour. Truth be told, right now, he’s too canned.

While I wish I had great examples to share with you in addition to Mildred above, the truth is, I have a long way to go before I’m where I want to be as an author. I’ll get there, though, and I’d love to have you along for this ride of a lifetime! Sign up HERE to get on the mailing list and join me on this adventure!

2018 and 2019: A look Behind and Forward

When gauging 2018, I have to be careful. I typed an amazing number of words for me (just over 200,000 total), but failed to get more than two sales. I didn’t get my sci-fi sale, despite submitting to various sci-fi publications a total of nine times. I failed to get an article published in a national Christian magazine as well, despite eight queries. My novel, Tragedy in Sunset, failed to garner any attention, despite submission to three publishers (this is in addition to submission to four agencies in 2017). Kind of a disappointing year in certain terms.

frontLooking at the positive, however, there were some key points to celebrate. First, my novelette, The Dirty Campaign, went live and has met several positive reviews. I also sold 41 more copies of Gluttony, my perennial best seller (total sold: 254). Of the 200,000 words written, I published 33 blog posts (2013 views on my website), four short stories, the novelette, a published article, a published short story, and 26 newsletter-based email campaigns. BTW, not on my mailing list? Why aren’t you on my mailing list!!! Click HERE!

I also made more money this year than ever before, though not by all that much. In total, I made $315 from articles and short stories. I estimate another $20 or so from Amazon and Smashwords, though the final tally hasn’t come in on that yet.

Overall, a mediocre year, but mostly that is because I set the wrong goals for this year. I wanted too many things. Sci-fi credits, major Christian publications (a la Christianity Today), and a book deal. Just too many balls to juggle.

Which leads me to 2019:

First, I only have one goal this year: By December 31, 2019, I will sign a contract for representation with a literary agent in the Christian fiction industry. If I sell articles, great. If I sell short stories, also great. I’ll continue writing my monthly newsletters as well. All of that is still in play, but the only goal that matters this year is signing a contract with a Christian literary agent.

What will that mean? It will mean that I’ll have a representative to help manage my writing career, at least at the novel-writing level, so I can focus on churning out books. It doesn’t guarantee a publisher for Tragedy in Sunset, or the follow-on novel, Redemption in Sunset, but it does guarantee I’ll have someone with business acumen in my corner.

I’ll still deal with articles and short stories directly with the various editors and their respective magazines. Agents make 15% from my sales, and book-length projects are the only things that bring in enough money for both the author and agent.

If I had my druthers, I’d like to see six bylines and 250,000 words typed this year. Those are great goals to have. However, they are secondary to the only one that matters: That I have an agent to represent me in 2020 and into the future.

My work on the proposal for Tragedy (first fifty pages or so and a proposal package), is progressing along nicely. I’d like to start submitting by the end of February, the same month I plan to launch my next Sunset short story.

Speaking of the first 50 pages, I bought a new resource I want to share with you. It’s literally called The First 50 Pages,* and it comes with a recommendation from Donald Maass, the famous lit agent who wrote, Writing the Breakout Novel.* I can’t wait to learn more about preparing my manuscript for publication!

Anyway, I can’t wait to share with you how 2019 goes! I hope you have some solid goals for your life. By the by, if you want to beat gluttony this year, may I suggest my short nonfiction work called Gluttony: A Study of Overeating in the Bible? You can get it HERE.*

So, that’s my plan for the New Year! If you want to get monthly updates on my progress, and the progress of my characters, sign up HERE and you’ll get all the details!

2018 Resource Investments

IMG_7389Since making a decision on Christmas of 2015 that I would become serious about my writing, I’ve made it a point to make one writing investment each winter. For the last few years, that investment has meant buying a few writing books. Here’s what I bought for Christmas of 2017:

  1. Interzone:
  • One of my goals is to get published in a science fiction magazine this year. Part of making that goal a reality is to fully understand what gets published in science fiction magazines. Side note: in the fall of 2017, I ordered a combo pack of Analog and Asimov magazines. You can do the same at this LINK). Link to purchase Interzone below:

  1. Christian Writer’s Market Guide:
  • I purchased the Writer’s Digest Writer’s Market Guide in September and was sorely disappointed in the religious section. Only a handful of periodicals were represented. I didn’t want to buy yet another market guide, but I felt like I had no real choice in the matter. I write religious articles and stories for the most part, so I need a good market guide for that industry.
  • Also, I have purchased the Christian Writer’s Market Guide several years ago when Sally Stuart used to publish it. It was a good publication then, and I am making an assumption that the agent Steve Laube has continued that quality as he oversees its publication. I like it so far. Link to purchase below:

  1. Writer’s Digest
  • I’ll be honest, I bought this because Andy Weir, who I listened to in person, is on the cover. He had some great stories about his writing career, so I want more. I don’t subscribe to this magazine (might start soon), but I usually buy the first issue of the year. Link to purchase a sample copy at this LINK:
  1. Crafting Novels and Short Stories:
  • I’ve submitted several stories in the past, and it’s only recently that I realized that I need some serious work on my short story craft. Honestly, my book-length fiction needs work too. I’ve become fairly good at writing articles and essays (enough to have over a dozen credits), but I want more.

While that’s it for now, don’t be surprised if I update this list from time to time in 2018. In making my writing more of a priority, I will be adding the resources to make it a successful expenditure of my time. Check back for more!

Closing 2016 and Opening 2017

In December of 2015, I decided to officially make an effort to be a writer. Not just a guy who had a couple of publishing credits (I had five credits outside of a volunteer stint at the Sherwood Voice), but a writer with an extensive list of bylines. Also, because I was a freelancer, I wanted to have a wide array of credits in 2016.

I did two things to push me in the right direction for 2016. First, I started journaling. Writing about my writing helped me see my progress. Secondly, I set a goal: 16 in ’16!

Neither of those worked as I planned. I didn’t journal everyday, though I did journal often and it has shown me things like how much time I waste chasing ideas that don’t matter. It also helped me find my writing voice. That voice has started to become a solid part of who I am. For that, I’m grateful.

The goal of 16 credits didn’t happen, not by half.

This doesn’t mean that 2016 was a bust though. I got seven credits last year. I’m so happy with that! By pushing myself, I got more credits in one year than in the entirety of my effort since 2000 when I got my first byline. I’ll take the seven and run with it. I also made more money this year than ever before, though it was really not that much.

So, as the clock turns over on 2016 and my writing starts a new year, I need to decide what 2017 will hold.

First and foremost, it will hold a closer relationship with God. I wrote about this in my main blog post on 2017, but it bears repeating…none of the following goals matter if my faith is not strengthened in the coming year.

Instead of making a 17-in-17 goal, I am making a goal of hitting certain wickets on my path as a writer. For example, in 2016, I got published by EFCA Today and EFCA Now, both periodicals with (you guessed it!) the Evangelical Free Church of America. This year, now that we’re members of a Southern Baptist Church, I want to focus on getting published by an SBC publication. I have already started the process, but more details will have to wait.

Another goal in 2017 is to increase the exposure that my writing receives. Here’s another example: In 2016, I was published in many smaller-circulation e-zines or periodicals. This year, I want to increase my writing exposure by going for magazines like, On Mission, Christianity Today, Outreach Magazine, and the like. These are bigger names in publishing, and I’ll probably get rejected a lot, but I’m used to it (been getting rejection letters since 1999!

The final goal of 2017, and the biggest one as far as I’m concerned in writing, is getting an agent and/or a book deal. Since the book is still in planning and writing, I don’t know yet if I’m going to sell it to the publisher directly or get an agent for it. Of course, it would always be cool to say, “well, my agent is working on…” but I want to do what is right for the book. If the book can be sold directly, then I’ll probably go that route.

Here’s to 2017. While I didn’t reach all of my writing goals in 2016, I made a huge splash with the number of times my writing appeared in periodicals. I believe 2017 holds even more promise!

The Only New Year’s Resolution that Matters

dscn0145The year 2017 is looming large in my sights. While the Christmas lights still twinkle on the tree and the kids haven’t even broken any of the toys yet, I know that I must start thinking seriously about the coming New Year. It isn’t all about football and parties, you know. There’s the goal setting and resolutions to think about too!

Do you have any? Resolutions I mean. Like me, I suppose (assume?) you’d like to finally lose that 20lbs you’ve been staring at in the mirror for the last several months. I know that this is a big one because my e-book “Gluttony” is selling faster now than any other time of the year. But not even this important resolution really matters.

Goals are important too. For example, I have a goal to write for some major publications this year. Christianity Today tops that list. In my opinion, it’s the gold standard for Christian journalism. But not even this major milestone goal matters.

The only thing that matters this year…the only resolution that bears us any benefit, is to get closer to God this year than we were in 2016.

II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Of course, this happens when a person accepts Christ. Maybe that happened for you at the New Year, but chances are, if you are reading this, then you’re already a Christian. Yet there is something we as humans, whether regenerated or not, have in common with every year as it ends. We know what it’s like to have the old pass away and the new arrive. And just like 2017, our lives carry the baggage of the previous life. You’ll deal with decisions you made in 2016 for some time in the New Year just like the New You continues to deal with the issues that came from the old you.

Which is why it’s so important to set the ultimate goal this year. Make your New Year’s resolution count…make a committment to know God better this year.

I’ll give you three realistic ways to accomplish this.

  1.  Get into the Bible. Read it consistently. As for me, I’m a horrible daily reader and my ship’s watch schedule often keeps me from setting aside a very specific time each day for scripture reading and prayers. Doesn’t matter. Just read. I’m more a believer of getting into the Bible than doing it at a specific time each day. We’re all busy. Just get into it. Put a little “x” on the calendar each day you do it. Just get started and over time you’ll develop the habit you need.
  2. Pray more. All the time. Every day. I have ideas on how to do this every day and you can read them here. The important thing, however, is simply to do it. Set a timer and talk to God for five minutes. It’s not that difficult. Five minutes. You can talk about the latest Hollywood gossip or your favorite sports team for hours. You can talk to God for five minutes. What do you talk about? How about the football team or your favorite actor? Do you think he isn’t interested in what you’re interested in? The important thing is to just start somewhere.
  3. Fellowship often. I put this last because the first two deal with God directly, and I’m an introvert. Extended time with other people wears me out. This is especially true if it’s time spent with people I don’t know. However, fellowship isn’t just the exhausting potlucks and parties. Find people who also follow Jesus and spend time with them. Even as an introvert, I find my soul rejuvenated when I do this with people I love and who love Jesus.

I want to encourage you to start 2017 with a strong, sensible, spiritual goal to get to know God better. It’s the only thing that really matters in eternity, and I am convinced that eternity is the only thing that matters for our lives.

May you have a blessed 2017!