Thursday, October 26, 2006

Ever Changing

I wrote a novel a long time back. After numerous rewrites, edits, and critiques, I felt it was finally finished. Then, I asked a few someones to read it. Well, after listening to these people... people whose stories I admired and people whom I respected, I set off to make the suggested changes. I ended up rewriting the whole thing, and pretty soon it was no longer the story that I had started with. Nothing made sense anymore. The plot wasn't the same. The characters weren't the same. It's not that those peoples suggestions were wrong, on the contrary, but it wasn't what the story was about. My story ended up sounding like a million others. My voice sounded like a million others. I found myself disappointed and disillusioned; to the point where it became a chore to write. The fun of writing had vanished. I talked with my dear friend Staci Stallings and told her what I was feeling. She told me she had just written an article that explained what I was going through. With her permission, I have posted it below. I hope this helps and blesses those that read it, as much as it has me.
Thanks, Staci, for restoring my love for writing. And for reminding me to write the stories on my heart.

And the Greatest of These is Love
All writers know about faith. They know what an act of faith it is to put words on a paper the first time. They know the faith it takes to search for the right word, the right phrase, the right nugget of truth that will set off their work as top-notch. Ultimately, they know the gut-wrenching faith it takes to turn their written babies over to someone who * gasp * might not like it.
Hope? There’s always hope. Even after you’ve been kicked to the curb by an agent who probably didn’t even read the first sentence of your query, hope prevails. After a few days of chocolate and Kleenexes, hope surges again. Maybe the next editor will love it, buy it, publish it, send it to be included next to John Grisham’s on the front table of every bookstore in the country. Then it will hit the New York Times Bestsellers list for 97 weeks and make you a millionaire. Don’t deny it. You know that hope is real.
One element, however, sometimes gets lost when faith and hope begin to emerge in our writing journey. That element is love. Sure, we love it, or we wouldn’t be stressing ourselves out to learn how to do it better, to find someone to publish it, and to put ourselves on the chopping block of rejection time and again. It’s almost a given that we love it. The problem is that we forget that we love it.
As a character who loves music in one of my books says, “You know me, I’d play for the squirrels if they’d listen.”
Too often the longer we write, the less we remember what we love about it. Why? Because our focus shifts from writing for love to writing so others will love what we’ve written. Let me explain.
When we write for the love of it, every frustratingly magnificent moment is a challenge like none other. Being able to shape the ephemerally picturesque stories in our mind into something coherent and fluid is like no other experience. The very act of putting that last piece into our word puzzle has no peer for a peak experience. You know what I’m talking about, or at least you used to.
Remember the journals you kept, the poems you wrote, the short stories that are still tucked away in some old notebook. You wrote those not to gain love but because they were burning a hole in your soul to be put on paper. What happened to that?
What happened is you began writing not for love but to gain love. Others—those you believe are much more knowledgeable—began to convince you to twist your writing to meet what they believe is marketable or publishable. And so you let your love for writing morph into wanting your writing to be loved… sometimes at all costs. You twisted yourself into a pretzel, learning perfect grammar, point of view, the “correct” way to write a marketable manuscript.
Learning and growing in your writing is one thing, but when that gets so tangled in the rules, that you forget why you started in the first place, that is something altogether different. Love is the key to everything in this life. As the Bible says so eloquently:
In the end three things shall last, faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love. –1 Corinthians 13:13
It’s a lesson every writer should take to heart.
Copyright Staci Stallings, 2005
Want something great to read? Check out the previews for Staci’s latest two novels “Cowboy” and “Lucky.” You can read the first three chapters of each for free at: You’ll feel better for the experience!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

As promised.

Hello again. I decided it was time to post another of my published short-short stories. Please feel free to comment.

God bless you all.

My Pleasure, Ma’am
Debra Ullrick

“Please, let me go,” Allison begged her abductor.
“I can’t.” The man’s voice was kind and sounded vaguely familiar.
The horse stumbled, sending her forward. His arm tightened around her, pulling her snug against his chest. She tried to free herself from his grip, but he secured his hold.
“I promise not to bite,” he said with a low chuckle.
That laughter reminded Allison of someone. But who? Anxious to see her kidnapper, she asked. “Won’t you please remove this blindfold?”
“In a few minutes.” His breath brushed against her ear. “We’re almost there.”
Almost where? Allison wondered. And what did he want? If it was ransom, her controlling uncle was so stingy with his money his billfold had cobwebs. And no one knew about the large fortune her parents had left her, not even her greedy aunt and uncle.
An outlandish thought occurred to her. Here this strange man had kidnapped her from her uncle’s home, and for some odd reason, Allison wasn’t the least bit afraid.
The horse stopped. “Are we there?”
Allison felt him shift his weight on the saddle, and get off the horse. He placed his hands around her waist, gently removed her from the animal, and cradled her in his arms. “Please, put me down.”
“In a minute.” His baritone voice seemed friendly and pleasant.
His footsteps creaked as he carried her up three steps. The realization that this man was taking her into a building, caused Allison’s insides to tremble. God, please keep me safe. As soon as the prayer left her mind, peace filled her whole being.
He seated her onto a hard surface. “I’m going to remove the blindfold now,” he said from behind her.
She squinted against the brightness. Her abductor came around and stood in front of her. Allison looked up at him and gasped.
* * *
Terrence stared at his lovely Allison. The last time they were together was on her birthday, seven years ago. That day they had pledged their love to each other. That day Allison’s controlling uncle had whisked her away. And that day her aunt had told Terrence to stay away from her because she was promised to their business partner. Even now his stomach churned with the memory.
Knowing Allison would never agree to such a thing, Terrence had never stopped searching for her. When he noticed a sign, James Royal Shipping Yards, her uncle’s business, Terrence made inquiries around town, and discovered Allison still lived with her uncle and was still single. He vowed he would find a way for them to be together. And now he had. Of course it wasn’t exactly the way he had planned…but here she was, sitting in front of him, staring at him with wide gray eyes.
* * *
Allison blinked. No wonder that voice and laughter had sounded so familiar. “It is you!” Allison cried. Her heart sang with joy. She leapt off the chair and flew into her beloved Terrence’s arms and boldly kissed him. “Oh, Terrence.” She covered his face with kisses. “When I hadn’t heard from you,” she kissed him some more, “I’d almost given up hope of ever seeing you again,” she rasped before pressing her mouth hard against his.
When she released his lips, her sweet Terrence smiled. “We have an audience,” his peppermint breath mingled with hers.
Allison jerked back and noticed a man wearing a minister’s collar. Her hands flew to her face. Heat rushed into her cheeks.
“Allison, this is my best friend, Pastor Dan. He’s here to marry us.”
“Marry us?” She looked back at Terrence.
“That is…” He smiled shyly. “If you still love me and want me.”
“Love you? Want you?” Her heart melted like ice on a hot day. “Oh, my darling, Terrence. I’ve never stopped loving you…” Her eyes met his. “And I’ve never stopped praying that one day we’d be together again.”
Inside the cobwebbed, dust-laden church with the broken stained glass windows and rickety wooden cross, Terrence got down on one knee and clasped her hands. “Allison Marie Royal. Will you marry me?”
A thousand butterfly wings took flight in her stomach. “Oh, yes, my love!”
Terrence stood. “Now?”
His twinkling eyes and gorgeous smile, and the fact that she’d dreamt of this moment ever since she’d met him ten years ago, sent a boldness through her. Not about to lose him again, she turned to the pastor. “We’re ready, Sir.”
After they said their vows, Terrance drew her into his arms and kissed her. Allison pulled back. Looking up into his forest green eyes, she whispered, “Thank you for kidnapping me.”
He swung her into his arms and kissed her passionately. With his lips feather-light against hers, he whispered, “My pleasure, ma’am.”

©2005 Debra Ullrick

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I just had to write and share what a dear friend said about the two short-short stories posted on my blog. But first, I want to share a bit of background. Two of my main weaknesses when I first started writing were characters and description. Coming up with likeable characters was a huge struggle for me, as I was constantly told they were shallow. Shallow? I needed my dictionary. After finally figuring out that shallow meant they had no depth to them, I strived to create more well rounded characters. As for description... I was mooey-poopey at it too. Either I came up short, or I added way too much description. Well, I must have learned some things because this is what my sweet friend, who had no idea that I struggled in these two areas, said:

"Hi Debi!
It's so much fun to read your work. You have a very descriptive style and fabulously alluring characters! You've been blessed with a beautiful heart and mind, and I believe it's His will that you use them!
I love ya, Cindy"

You can only imagine what this did for me. Talk about encouraging. Woo hoo! Thank you, Cindy! ~~Waving~~

So... I'm off to work on WIP.

Until next time......