Monday, February 6, 2012

You don’t have to be a Pro to Write a Winning Scene Part 1

In September 2011 I was honored with the 2011 Frasier Award. (The Frasier is a writing contest for unpublished novelists through My Book Therapy.) This is the story of how I went from inept amateur to award-winning novelist in less than one year. This victory is not mine. This story is a testimony of the power and faithfulness of God Almighty.
My Frasier story:
In the fall of 2010 I had the privilege of meeting Susan May Warren at a women’s retreat. Somehow over the course of the weekend, I managed to disclose to her my deepest secret. I’m sure my face turned five shades of red telling THE Susan May Warren that I liked to write novels in my carefully hidden free time.  Once, about eight years before, I had checked out and read the only two books my local library had on writing and publishing. Beyond that (and my college composition courses) I had no training in creative writing. My method of writing a book was to come up with interesting characters, throw a situation at them and keep writing until I found out what happened next. (No wonder my first few finished books were over 140,000 words. J) In 2002 I had send out a few queries. When I got rejections to my first three attempts, I decided that writing novels might just have to be my hobby. I changed gears, changed my major in college and became a journalist. After college, I worked as a newspaper reporter for a few years. I kept writing stories, but I did it in secret. Until the day I met Suzie and she convinced me it was time to come out of the closet.
A few weeks after the women’s retreat, I attended the My Book Therapy Storycrafters retreat. And I learned how much I had to learn. The group had more than a dozen real writers with real potential who all seemed to know what they were talking about. The shop talk might as well have been a foreign language for me. I’d never heard terms like deep POV, WIP, active vs. passive writing. What was with all the acronyms anyway? And even more overwhelming than the terminology was the foundational concept of outlining a story before writing it. I shed a few tears of discouragement. But as I took inventory of the work that I had previously done, I discovered something that pulled me off the ledge. Even though I’d never outlined a story, every book I’d written did contain all the elements of the LINDYHOP (Suzie’s acronym for the story spine or outline). Alright, so maybe I wasn’t totally hopeless. Even if my books were full of passive head hopping that had been told rather than shown. (Gibberish, right?)
At Storycrafters, I heard about Deep Thinkers. For this North Dakota girl, it was a pipe dream to go to Florida to write for six whole days.  But Deep Thinkers or no Deep Thinkers, I committed to learning how to write well.  I attended MBT chats on Monday nights. I read the archives and the blog and the e-zine. It never ceased to amaze me how many resources were there for the taking. All those years of solitary writing I never knew I was a few clicks away from a supportive community packed with information I could have been learning and growing from. I wasn’t going to waste any more time.
Through God’s provision I was able to attend Deep Thinkers 2011. I couldn’t have been more nervous or out of place. I ended up in a carpool from the airport with the 2010 Frasier winner, Melissa Tagg. Intimidated doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt with her. Not to mention two of the 2010 Frasier finalists and all the other amazing writers who attended 2011 DT. But when I discovered that all those talented writers were also amazing people who didn’t even look down at me for my unlimited supply of stupid questions, I was so glad I’d gone. I learned so much that week! Until I attended Deep Thinkers, I had never heard of ACFW or writing contests. I left Florida with the challenge to enter contests and join ACFW.
I entered the Frasier because I had heard such wonderful things about the judges’ feedback, and because I trusted MBT.  I knew my writing had improved in the six months since joining MBT, but I had no illusions of actually winning. I wanted feedback to help me pinpoint problem areas and continue to grow as a writer.
Sometimes I still can’t believe it was my name announced as the 2011 Frasier winner at the MBT Pizza Party during the ACFW Conference in St. Louis in September. It could not have been on my own merit that I won. It was only though God’s grace and power to work mightily in my life. I can look back at one incredible year and see His hand on every moment of it.
My award is also a testament to the value of the teaching offered by My Book Therapy. Everything you could possibly want to learn is presented on the pages of the resources offered there. And if it’s not, start a discussion on the forum or put in a request for the topic on the blog or e-zine and I’m sure it would quickly be addressed. Check out My Book Therapy at
Thanks for stopping by! Check back tomorrow to read about how the Frasier win has affected my life and get practical advice on how to polish your entry!

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