Posts Tagged ‘Leeann Betts’

Those Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer

By Leeann Betts (excerpt from Nuggets of Writing Gold)

I keep promising myself that one of these years, I’m going to enjoy summer. Instead of spending the months of June, July, and August cooped up indoors writing and revising and researching, I’m going to spend the time in a mountain retreat, on the front veranda, surrounded by trees and a babbling brook. Writing and revising and researching.

So I guess the truth is, it isn’t the work that I resent as much as the being indoors. Seems such a waste of great weather not to be outside enjoying it. I don’t have any problems staying indoors in the winter. I am not a fan of cold and snow. But summer….

And then I heard those words from my agent, Terrie Wolf, that every writer longs to hear. “Take some time off. You’ve been working hard lately. You deserve a rest.”

My mind raced. Which mountain did I want to go to? Which tree would I sit beneath? Which babbling brook would sing to me, inspire me as my fingers flew across the keyboard?

Nothing came to mind.

Okay, maybe I don’t need a mountain. Maybe I need a cruise. Sitting on the deck, the sun warming me from the outside, my story plot heating up inside. Perfect.

Except I’m prone to seasickness.

Okay, how about a quaint bed and breakfast retreat in a sleepy little town. Where do I want to set my next book? Let’s go there.

I’m drawing a blank.

And then I realize my problem. It’s not that I don’t have any ideas of what to write next. I do. Dozens of ideas. It isn’t that I can’t choose a mountain or a town or a cruise — my problem is I like to write in my office in the basement. I have a peaceful moss green paint on the walls along with peaceful pictures of the outdoors.

I have a great desk and a comfy chair. I can have music on in the background, or not. I can stop and pop in a load of laundry or stir dinner in the crock pot. Or not.

And so, despite my agent’s advice, I’m going to stay home. And write. And outline. And research.

Sure, I’ll go out once in a while and see what I’m missing. Sunshine. Flowers. Heat.

I’ll take pictures and keep writing.

Maybe I’ll write a summer story. That way, I don’t miss anything.

Takeaway:
It’s not about where you write, but that you do write.

Exercises:

1. Make a writing date for yourself. In ink. On your calendar or schedule or whatever you use to keep track of things. Be reasonable. If you aren’t already in the habit of writing every day, schedule in every other day. If you work a full-time job, don’t commit to writing for three hours in the evening or all day Saturday. Instead, commit to spending twenty minutes at your computer with the email turned off.

2. If you struggle with finding time, make time. Get up twenty minutes earlier. Go to bed twenty minutes later. Don’t watch any television in the evening until you’ve spent your twenty minutes at the computer.

3. Pretend you have a deadline. Maybe not for a full book. Try setting a deadline for a chapter. Call a writing friend and tell him you commit to having a chapter written by _________. Tell your friend to hold you accountable. Then sit down and write.


Leeann Betts

Leeann Betts writes contemporary romantic suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical romantic suspense. Together she and Donna have published more than 30 novellas and full-length novels. They ghostwrite, judge writing contests, edit, facilitate a critique group, and are members of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Christian Authors Network, Pikes Peak Writers, and Sisters in Crime. Leeann travels extensively to research her stories, and is proud to be represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary LLC. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and her blog.

Coffee Shop Inspiration for Writers

By: Leeann Betts
Originally published in Nuggets of Writing Gold

Before the Pandemic

Before the pandemic, I’d sit in a coffee shop trying to figure out what to write. All around me were people sipping java or tea, munching bagels, meeting friends, talking on phones—and it hit me.

I was looking in at the goldfish bowl.

I really missed that over the past fifteen months or so. My goal is to get back to that coffee shop every Monday morning from ten until noon. Maybe have a friend or three drop in and chat. No masks. No social distancing. Let the ideas flow.

This would be a typical morning from pre-March 2020:

It’s only five past ten. I have my coffee, my asiago cheese bagel, and my laptop fired up. Already I eavesdropped on three friends who meet every two months to discuss a book, like a mini book club. While I couldn’t see the title of the one they are reading, it seemed to be full of witticisms, observations, and helpful insights. For example, one was about Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. He married 1,000 women, which were his downfall. So if a man doesn’t marry 1,000 women, he’ll already be smarter than the wisest man who ever lived.

Later there was a table of older women gathering tables from near and far, even settling for round tables, to get enough seating for their group of about 20 women. Along comes one woman with a little girl, maybe about 4 or so. And I got to wondering if this older woman was the grandmother—or the mother. And plot ideas sprang forth immediately.

Today

A few days ago, at a table nearby, sat a middle eastern man and two women. Sometimes they spoke in English, sometimes in another language that sounded Arabic. Sometimes they mixed their sentences together, using English words in the middle of a sentence with this other language. For example, I heard the word ‘embassy’ and ‘must be careful’ in the midst of other words I couldn’t understand. Got me thinking about a suspense plot.

Every Monday when I am here, there is a woman sitting nearby who is a counselor of some kind. I’ve heard her talking to a client on the phone about an issue the client was going through. Not details, but I saw this counselor’s demeanor change from the way she looked when she was typing on her laptop—doing right-brain work—to the way her face softened and her posture relaxed as she talked to her client—left-brain work. She’d make a good character where I could show both sides of her at work.

Right now, there is a couple sitting next to me who are speaking Chinese, perhaps. I don’t understand a word they are saying, but they’ve been very animated at times, voices raised, hand gestures, smiles. Are they planning a business move? To buy a house? Get a cat? Have another child in contravention of China’s one-child law? What if one of the couple wants to return to China, but the other doesn’t? Will that impact their decision?

Sitting in a coffee shop may sound like a waste of time. Usually, I come here just to get away from the laundry or to meet fellow writers. But perhaps I need this unique stimulation to get the old grey cells, as Hercule Poirot would say, working.

Takeaway

Sometimes changing our surroundings gets us looking at characters differently.

Exercises

  1. Go to a coffee shop and eavesdrop on conversations around you. Can you use some of what you hear?
  2. Hang around a central bus depot or train station. Watch the people; make notes of what they do.
  3. Go to the airport and hang around the main concourse. Make up stories about the people you see.

Leeann Betts

Leeann Betts writes contemporary romantic suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical romantic suspense. Together she and Donna have published more than 30 novellas and full-length novels. They ghostwrite, judge writing contests, edit, facilitate a critique group, and are members of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Christian Authors Network, Pikes Peak Writers, and Sisters in Crime. Leeann travels extensively to research her stories, and is proud to be represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary LLC. You can follow her on her blogFacebook, and Twitter. Her books are available everywhere including Amazon and Smashwords.

Find Your Story

By: Leeann Betts
(revised from original publication in Nuggets of Writing Gold)

At a recent conference, I attended a continuing education class by a firecracker of a teacher, both in her teaching style and in her personality. Rabbit trails she runs, but somehow manages to get her point across. In these classes, she actually had someone in the class keep track of her points so they could steer her back on course after she ran a tangent. Too funny!

At one point in this track, which was titled “Writing that Sings”, the teacher asked us to think about what we write. Not our genre or time period, not the tag line for our website or the elevator pitch for our book, but overall, what do we write.

What do you write?

So here’s the question for you: what do you write? For example, Kim Vogel Sawyer writes about broken people finding healing in the arms of a loving God. Sure, her tag line is gentle stories of hope, but if you look at her characters and plots, all of her characters are broken.

As I considered each of my books, I came to the realization that all of my characters are experiencing second chances — through remarriage, through reconciliation, through overcoming their past mistakes, through overcoming their circumstances. Doesn’t matter which book I consider or even which short story I look at.

So I came up with this: I write stories about second chances from a God who is bigger than our past.

Challenge

I challenge you this week to think about each story you have written, are writing, or are thinking about writing, and ask: what one sentence describes what I write?

Why is this important? I’m not trying to button-hole you into a particular kind of story, but I believe, as the instructor said, when you understand what you write, you’ll see the connection between your stories and your worldview. In my case, I write from the point of view of a follower of Jesus. I’ve had more second and third and more chances than you could count.

While our stories aren’t supposed to be autobiographical, they do convey our worldview. Each one of us has come through a unique set of circumstances, and each of us is equipped with a unique set of gifts and callings. Through this, we have the story of our life, carefully woven into a story others can receive, a story that can take the reader’s broken story and weave it into a beautiful tapestry.

Exercise:

  1. Look at the stories you write, and come up with a sentence that describes the kinds of books you write. Write it down.
  2. Think about the last ten books you read that you loved. How would you describe them? Write that down.
  3. Is there some overlap?

Takeaway: We each have a unique story to tell. The hard work is finding what makes the story different.


Leeann Betts

Leeann Betts writes contemporary romantic suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical romantic suspense. Together she and Donna have published more than 30 novellas and full-length novels. They ghostwrite, judge writing contests, edit, facilitate a critique group, and are members of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Christian Authors Network, Pikes Peak Writers, and Sisters in Crime. Leeann travels extensively to research her stories, and is proud to be represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary LLC. You can follow her on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Her books are available everywhere including Amazon and Smashwords.

The Challenge to Write

By Leeann Betts

(from her writing craft book, Nuggets of Writing Gold© 2015)

Several years ago I completed a 14-day writing challenge where I committed to do something every day related to writing. While I thought the process would be a breeze, it was anything but.

On Day 1, I listed the titles of ten books I’d like to write. This is what I put down for myself and for my real life persona, Donna Schlachter, who writes historical mystery:

Titles of 10 books Donna would like to write:

  • Then Sings My Soul
  • Christmas Inn, Colorado
  • Klondike Gold
  • Honor Denied – Book 2 of the Heart of Honor Series
  • Denied Liability – Book 3 of the Heart of Honor Series
  • Collusion – Book 2 of the Florida Detective Series
  • Resolve – Book 3 of the Florida Detective Series
  • My Surrendered Heart – Book 1 of the Echo Canyon series
  • The Long Trail Back – Book 2 of the Echo Canyon series
  • Home is where the Heart is – Book 3 of the Echo Canyon series

10 Titles I want to write:

  • There Was a Crooked Man — Book 2 of the By the Numbers Mystery series
  • Unbalanced – Book 3 of the By the Numbers Mystery series
  • Five and Twenty Blackbirds – Book 4 of the By the Numbers Mystery series
  • The Labyrinth – Book 2 in the Lighthouse Foundation series
  • The Landfall – Book 3 in the Lighthouse Foundation series
  • One Moment in Time
  • Of Horses and Wishes
  • Walking on Sunshine
  • Characters and Creeps
  • Remembering Mama

The good news is that Donna has written some of those books. She finished Christmas Inn, Colorado as well as My Surrendered Heart, and I have written There Was a Crooked Man and Unbalanced, as well as nine other titles in that series. She also finished One Moment in Time. Some of the others are still in progress or in the planning stages, and honestly, there are a few that I wished I’d made notes about because I don’t have a clue what I was thinking at the time.

All of this goes to my point: writing a book rarely happens in a vacuum. We get an idea, a nugget of dialog, perhaps a snippet of setting, maybe even a title, and before we know it, a plot and a character or two fall into place. When this happens, the creative juices flow, and we are off to the races. In this case, reviewing this piece ignited the desire to write these books. I’ve printed off the page with the titles and placed it in my “To-Do” pile.

Unfortunately, the muse can flee as quickly as she appeared, so that what once seemed like such a great idea fizzles like wet firecrackers.

What do we do when that happens? We can press on, force the story, force the ending, and maybe end up with something worth revising.

We can start at the beginning, with the gem that got us excited about this story, and see if we can find the true essence of the story in a different direction.

We can toss out the whole thing and start all over with a new project.

Or we can do a little of each, and treat it like a tossed salad of words.

In Donna’s case, for example, Remembering Mama was probably an idea for a coming-of-age story about a girl whose mother died when she was young and the impact that had on her life. There have been several books published with that theme in subsequent years, however, so she’s thinking she may need to switch the story around a little bit. Maybe Mama didn’t die, but ran away from her abusive husband, leaving her children behind. And the father forbade the children to ever mention their mother. But they do. The more he says forget her, the more they get together in secret to remember her. Except they don’t have much to go on because they were young, and so they make up a lot of the details. Until one day the father dies, and the mother comes back. And she isn’t anything like what they remember. Bittersweet for the mother and the children.

Plus, a while back, thinking about this story sparked an idea for another. Taking Daddy Home is about three estranged sisters who get together for a road trip to drive their deceased father’s ashes back to his hometown. What should have been a joyful reunion turns into something else. Donna isn’t certain what at this point. But that’s okay, because up to now, that’s about as much thought as she’s put into that particular story idea.

All this to say: Don’t be afraid to abandon one story idea in favor of another. All writing is good exercise for the brain, so nothing is wasted.

Takeaway: Writing requires discipline, but don’t try to shove a square peg story into a round hole outline.

Exercises:

  • Make a list of ten books you’d like to write. Make notes, maybe a couple of sentences, about the story so you’ll remember it later.
  • Choose the title that excites you the most. This would be the one where you can already see the main character and what’s going to happen to her/him.
  • Start writing that story. Let nothing stop you until you write “The End” on the first draft.

Leeann Betts writes contemporary romantic suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical romantic suspense. Together she and Donna have published more than 30 novellas and full-length novels. They ghostwrite, judge writing contests, edit, facilitate a critique group, and are members of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Christian Authors Network, Pikes Peak Writers, and Sisters in Crime. Leeann travels extensively to research her stories, and is proud to be represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary LLC.

Website: www.LeeannBetts.com
Blog: www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com
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