Category Archives: writing

Today’s Research: Humorous Scribes

What Your Teacher Wasn’t Suppose to Read

I’ve read some of these before, little notes written in margins or on scraps found inside book bindings. I can relate right now to these medieval scribes. See if you can figure out why.

photo by Walters Art Museum Illuminated Manuscripts

Complaints by Medieval Scribes

  • New parchment, bad ink; I say nothing more.

  • This page has not been very slowly written.

  • The parchment is hairy. The ink is thin.

  • Thank God it will soon be dark.

  • Oh, my hand.

  • Now I’ve written the whole thing. For Christ’s sake, give me a drink.

  • Writing is excessive drudgery. It crooks your back, it dims your sight, it twists your stomach and your sides.

  • St. Patrick from Armagh, deliver me from writing.

And my favorite:

  • As the harbor is welcome to the sailor, so is the last line to the scribe.

I’m a long way from the last line right now.

How I Would Rewrite These Scribe Complaints

  • New version of Word crashing. I say nothing more.

  • This page HAS been very slowly written.

  • Laptop battery is dead. The charge is slow.

  • Oh God, why did you create electricity?

  • Oh, my hand. (And wrists, and shoulders, and elbows.)

  • I can’t seem to write the whole thing. Give me a drink!

  • Writing is excessive drudgery. It crooks your back, it dims your sight, it twists your stomach and your sides. (I couldn’t improve on this one!)

  • Oh shopping girlfriend, save me from writing.

  • As the hot tub is welcome to sore muscles, so is the typing of The End to the novelist.

I feel a kinship to these ancient scribes, although my complaints are nearly as charming.

3 Things I Wish I’d Said at the Book Festival

Cindy Thomson and Karen Harper

With author Karen Harper at Ohioana 2017

Yesterday I enjoyed appearing at the Ohioana Book Festival in Columbus, Ohio, a festival I’ve appeared at for several years now. It’s a great time to meet new readers, reconnect with those who have read my books, and mingle with other authors, bookstore owners, librarians, and book lovers. This year I was asked to be on a panel with other authors who have published both traditionally and independently. There was a lot of discussion, but there were a few things that didn’t get said.

 

If you are AN AUTHOR WHO WANTS SOME ADVICE ABOUT THE PROCESS, this post is for you!

What I Wish I'd Said about Self-publishing at the book festival panel. #indiepublishing… Click To Tweet

1. Don’t Rush to Publication

flickr by Ann Arbor District Library

I get it. It’s discouraging when you learn how long a publisher takes to get a book out. You just want your book to be launched to the world, and you don’t want it to take sooooo loooong! While doing it yourself will most likely get your book to the marketplace quicker than a traditional publisher would, don’t rush the process. Take the time needed to polish your book, to send it to critique partners and early readers, to get it to an editor, to make changes, to perfect the book cover and title, to get some reviews and endorsements prior to publishing, and to create some pre-publication buzz. You will also need time to review proof copies, make any necessary changes, and wait for the first copies to be printed and shipped to you.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a self-published author say something like, “I need to get my next book out by September and it’s already July and I only have half of it written.” No, no, no! Stop it! That’s just not enough time to do all the things I’ve listed above. Remember, you are in charge. Not having a deadline forced on you is one of the advantages of doing it yourself. No one is insisting you have your book out by a certain date. You may be shooting for something like launching it at a book festival or getting it out before you have knee surgery, but plan for that way in advance. Rushing never produces anything good. I’m sure your parents told you that when you were younger. That advice never goes out of style.

2. Carefully Consider the Title and Cover

flickr by Karen

Get second opinions, lots of them. I have seen (I’m sure you have too) many terrible covers done by indie authors on their own computers. The fact is, we do judge books by their covers. If you are not an accomplished artist, don’t do it. You don’t want to risk having your cover show up on one of these sites. There are stock images sites, and photo sharing sites where you can get images for low cost or for free that are high resolution. For print books your image must be high resolution. But even if you use a quality image, choosing the best font type, size, and color requires a practiced eye. You may think you know what looks good, but obviously many people are getting it wrong. You will also need to consider how it will look online as a thumbnail and how the spine will look. The genre of your book should be considered. Look at others that sell well and study them.

I worked with an artist and saved money by bartering some writing services. I have gotten many compliments on my covers. Most people don’t realize that this cover:

Sofia's Tune by Cindy Thomson

Book Three, Ellis Island Series

was not created by the publisher who did these two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most important thing I wish I’d had time to talk about….

3. Get a Professional Editor

During the panel discussion it was mentioned that you’d need to either hire someone or get friends who are really good at it to edit your manuscript. No, no, no! Stop it! Please don’t think your friends, even avid readers and college professors, can edit your books. They may make it better and serve a valuable role in the process, but you need to finish with a pro in order to produce a professional product, one in which the reader doesn’t even notice the editing. Yes, that costs money. Again, planning ahead is critical. Having had some wonderful editors with my traditional books, I knew how valuable that process is. You do need to pay people for the work they do for you. Save your money. Do some freelance magazine writing, take on an extra job, Some people are using crowd funding. I did a little of that with Sofia’s Tune (thank you, contributors!) For my next book I won a grant I applied for to pay for one of the best editors out there.

Flickr by Seth Sawyers

Anything less than a professional editor will result in a book that is less than it could have been. Who wants that? Even if your book is free from typos and grammatical errors, an editor will have feedback about flow, about the organization, clarity, and word choice. Once you’ve worked with a professional editor, you will understand that a good editor will make you look smarter, and just generally help you be a better writer than you ever thought you could be. Don’t skip it. Don’t skimp. Just don’t.

But here’s an advantage you will have by publishing on your own. You will most likely use a publishing platform like Create Space. Your print books will be print on demand. If you find a mistake you can temporary take that title down, fix the mistakes, and re-post it. Your changes can also be made to your ebooks. By not having thousands printed like a traditional publisher would do, you will not have thousands of books with your name out there with errors.

I should say a word here about copy editors. If you don’t know the difference between a copy editor and a substantive editor, that’s enough to tell you you need a pro. I had a great edit for Sofia’s Tune. I put the book out there. And then I kept finding typos and misspellings that we’d both missed. Not the editor’s fault. She was not doing a copy edit. I happen to have a friend named John who is great at finding those things. He even found mistakes when I was re-publishing a traditionally published book that went out of print that the original editors had not caught. John now goes over all my self-published books at the very end, right before I send them to a formatter (which is another service I hired out. Not expensive and so worth it since ebooks and print books have to be formatted differently.) Try as you might, you WILL miss things in your manuscript. So will your mother and best friend (unless John is your best friend.) Trust me on this.

So Now I Said It

Those are the things I wish I’d said to the room full of writers who came to the panel. They might not read it here, but just in case, I wanted to try. And I hope others stop by to learn a little of what I’ve learned along the way. (And I’m still learning!) Let me know if you have any questions!

 

Still Here!

Yes, I am.

writerthinkingThe Life of a Writer

I like blogging. I know some writers dread it, but for me, it’s a way to communicate directly with readers. It takes a looooong time to publish a book. A blog lets me publish something sooner. And I get to write about anything, although on this blog I mostly keep to writing projects, history, and genealogy. But, if I decided to write about baseball, I just might!

However, I don’t end up posting as often as I’d like. Other things take priority, including getting Sofia’s Tune finished (I’m close!) and then when I get a head cold (haven’t had one in two years so I’m pouting!) things slow down.

I Still Chat on Facebook

You can find me at www.facebook.com/cindyswriting and I’d love for you to “like” and “follow” that page so we can keep in touch. Facebook is different, of course, and you never know what I’ll be prompted to post there: pictures, videos, thoughts on writing, links to other blog posts…

Never Fear, I AM Still Here!

All that to say that I’m still around, even when I have to get my head down and keep on writing. Are you around??? Let me know!  🙂

I Need Your Help

Cindy Thomson's novel Sofia's Tune is coming!Bringing You Sofia’s Tune

As many of you know, I’ve been working on book 3 of the Ellis Island series and I’m going to be publishing it myself. I haven’t given up on traditional publishing but I am becoming what is referred to as a “hybrid” author–some of each. I like the way Sofia’s Tune is taking shape. If you are a fan of the series, I think you are going to like it. But the question was, how to bring it to you. It’s not as simple as typing it up and sending it to Kindle Publishing. A good book must have good editing, and a good cover. Those things cost money, and so, that is why when people ask me when it will come out I’ve had no answer. Until now.

Crowd Funding

You may have heard of it. Lots of musicians are using crowd funding to get their music published. I heard of a site called Pubslush that is focused on books and magazines. It made sense to me that readers who are anxiously waiting for a book could have a say in when it gets published. While you donate money, you do get a reward, which depending on the level can be a copy of the finished product, some gifts, even the ability to have a say in the cover and name characters.

Funding Sofia’s Tune

So I’m all set up on Pubslush! Click here! I’ve sent my goal to deliver my the end of this year. I’m hoping I can get on a really good editor’s schedule in time to make that happen. I write books for readers, so this made perfect sense to me. I hope you’ll support my campaign!

 

Support Sofia’s Tune! Click Here!

Author Cindy Thomson is using @pubslush for her next novel. Read all about it! #crowdfunding #novels Click To Tweet

Why I Can’t Forget 2014

Clonmacnoise High Cross
Always remember to forget the troubles that passed your way.
But never forget to remember the blessings that come each day.
~Irish Saying

And that’s why I chose to count my blessings in 2014. Not that I haven’t learned from mistakes. The true purpose of making mistakes is to learn from them and try not to repeat them. But dwelling on them isn’t helpful. Novelists really do have to protect their minds and spirits in order to focus on writing stories that not only entertain but also inspire.

Now that I’ve written that, I realize that the bad things that happen in life also help to form inspiring stories so long as hope is still visible.

Looking Forward Without Blinders

Author Cindy Thomson's bookcasesComplaining about life only brings you down. Focusing on moving forward, on new opportunities, on the hopeful future is what motivates us to keep on going, don’t you agree? But if that’s all you do, you will miss out on the wonderful experience of counting your blessings. One of my characters (I’m sure it must have been Mrs. Hawkins or perhaps Grace’s mother) taught that no matter how miserable your life seems to you, there is always someone else who has it worse. That perspective is necessary if we’re going to avoid becoming bitter, complaining people no one wants to be around. So I’m taking time to reflect on the blessings that came to me in 2014. I am going to focus on my writing career for this list. I certainly have personal blessings beyond this.

My 2014 Blessings

*I had a second novel published with Tyndale House Publishers! This was a huge blessing. Cindy Thomson Books by the Banks Book FestivalGetting published by a traditional publisher is harder than ever (oops, slipped into a bit of complaining there!) but I was fortunate with this book. It could have very well not happened, but I worked hard, was blessed with fantastic editors and a tremendous cover, and Annie’s Stories was introduced to readers!

*Annie’s Stories was well-received. Sure, there were critics who didn’t like it, but the vast majority of folks who reviewed it, liked it, and most of those liked it a lot. That’s why I wrote the book, for readers. So this was extremely rewarding.

*I did a lot of mentoring in 2014, and I saw many of my students improve vastly. It was a privilege to witness their passion for telling stories. The future is bright with potential when it comes to novels!

*I was able to meet lots of readers this year. I went to many events: book launches, book festivals, multi-author signings, and I saw firsthand how much readers love books. That certainly blessed me.

* I had several media interviews surrounding the launch of Annie’s Stories. That’s a blessing because they are difficult to get for novels.Around Cincinnati radio

*At one of those events (The Dublin Irish Festival–Ohio) I sold a record number of books for me!

Brigid of Ireland by Cindy Thomson, ebook*I was able to re-introduce Brigid of Ireland by making it available on Kindle. There were many blessings involved in that project, including two designer friends who donated their skills: Deirdra Doan who contributed opinions and some of the interior design, and Kim Draper who designed the cover and title page. They really blessed me, and readers too!

*I have learned so much about social media marketing that has helped me connect virtually with readers. My literary agency conducts a yearly marketing seminar, and I was able to go this year. I have also learned a lot from various webinars and newsletters.

*I had another college intern from Denison University this year. Elena did various tasks for me and make some valuable contacts.

*I have some viable ideas and directions for future novels. Woo-hoo! 🙂

Ready Now, Go!

Those were only a few of the blessings. And none about my personal life because I’m trying to stay focused on one topic. Focus, by the way, was My One Word for 2014. For 2015 it is Share.Sharing I’m not sure what I’ll be sharing, or what the whole scope of that word will reveal, but I’m ready to turn toward the New Year without complaining about the publishing industry. I have to make lemonade out of lemons, but that’s a challenge I can only meet if I keep that frame of mind–what I CAN do, not what I can’t. True, the industry has changed. Authors have been left behind in the dust for the most part. But blessings still abound and they will propel me forward in 2015. Ready, set, go!

Writers Are Unique People

Just in case you didn’t know that, I’ll tell you a story to illustrate what I mean.

Mentoring Mentor mug

There are mentors for all kinds of occupations, and what my county does with high school students I think is tremendous. Even before they get to college students are able to get some real life experiences to find out if they would like to work in a certain career. They’ve been doing this for years. I didn’t know anything about it until a few months ago when a gifted coordinator (that’s her actual title) from a local school district contacted me and asked me to mentor a high school senior. I really enjoyed doing this since I’ve mentored students online for several years and I used to teach. I’ve also had a couple of college interns. But in this program, I was somewhat of an anomaly, because Bethany is as well. If you assumed I was the only author mentoring a student in the program, you would be correct. (But I didn’t care.)

A Writer Must Write

No matter how difficult the path is (and it is difficult, make no mistake), no matter how unsure the possibility of financial gain, a true writer must write. If someone can choose another career, he or she must do so. Because if you feel like you have a choice, you may not make it as a writer. It takes dedication. It takes perseverance. It requires hours and hours of working alone. It requires being able to hold up under a cloud of rejection. Sure, lots of writers work in other occupations, but if you want to write you simply must have the drive to do it. You can’t NOT do it. A writing career is not for the “take it or leave it” personality type. If you do not possess this drive, then do something else because nothing you write will impact readers. And that’s what all readers want–to be heard.

Unique, Meaning Not The Same as Everyone Else

Bethany could not think of another career she’d like to explore. Writing was it for her. So her counselor had no choice but to seek out a published author for her to mentor under.

At the end of the mentorship the programs holds a luncheon to honor the mentors and to show off the students’ final projects. The other mentors present were professionals such as veterinarians, nurses, politicians. They seated me at a table between a forensic scientist and an aerospace engineer. Seriously. The brain power at the table was overwhelming. How could a novelist not find that amusing, and a bit intriguing at the same time.

Mentor student Bethany

Bethany Garrison, my student, with her mentorship project

The head of the program (the gifted coordinator) admitted at the beginning that we would have to be creative. I have no office. I have no procedures to observe or patients to work on or clients to see. And of course, Bethany and I were creative. We talked a lot about writing career choices. We visited a publisher and spoke with some editors. We chatted with my literary agent. She joined my writers meeting one Saturday. And in the end she was the only student who chose the option of making a scrapbook for her project. Very creative, I thought. Yes, she still wants to be a writer. (Despite the reality check I was honor bound to present. Few are able to make a living at being a novelist.) She has no choice but to write, really, because she has that peculiar writer’s virus–a gene, a brain that simply must write or have no rest. (Hmm, I wonder what the genetics researcher would think of that? Yep, that person was a mentor too!)

The World Needs More Good Writers

Just as much as scientists and engineers. Sure, there are tons of books out there. Plenty of people fancy themselves writers but then never put in the work required to produce high quality books. We don’t need more of those kinds of people. But we do need more books that are so well done that they inspire us to become better people. Bethany strives for excellence. I’m sure she’ll find it. It might be a long time before another high school student requests a writer as a mentor. We are different and not many can understand us. (We really do hear voices in our heads!) But I sincerely hope they invite me to mentor again. It was refreshing to see the author gene alive and growing.

Best wishes to all the young writers out there. Take up your pens and follow your heart!

My 2014 One Word

My One Word, Changing Your Life

My One WordHave you heard of this? Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen wrote a book in which they explain how choosing one word to focus on for an entire year can change your life. The concept involves praying about what God wants to teach you, and that can be both scary and enlightening. Often the word you pick turns out to show you something you hadn’t considered before or you end up needing that message more than you could have ever imagined. You can read more about the book and the whole movement on this website.

My Words

PEACE

Photo: Muff McElfresh

In past years my words have been: Listen, Kindness, Peace, and Focus. Each year I have learned something new about myself and about where God is leading me by meditating on these words, seeking them out in the Bible, and praying over them. Sometimes they are a slap to the head. I’ll just let you imagine what that could mean! 😉

Often women who choose a word will buy something with that word on it to help encourage them along the way. Usually, yeah, it’s jewelry. But also ornaments, coffee mugs…

I admit I’ve ordered something with my word on it. I’ve even created my own little pictures. They are reminders because I forget easily. The more reminders, the better. I made this little image to place on my desk because in 2014, I really needed to focus.

Cindy Thomson FOCUS

There have been so many distractions keeping me from making as much progress on my writing as I should. Some of them I created. Others have been beyond my control, but overall I just needed to focus and plow through.

How Is That Working?

Slowly. I am so happy God is patient with me. I would like to report that these words have changed me in spectacular ways, but the truth is, I have a long way to go. It’s a journey, and I have to keep reminding myself of that. I should not expect to have arrived. Because of that I’m a little reluctant to let my words go at the end of the year. I haven’t learned everything yet! That is why I’ve been keeping some of them together like this:

Cindy Thomson's My One Word

One thing I have learned from concentrating on one word for an entire year is that there is always something I have indeed learned. Maybe not perfectly, but it’s progress I might have missed had I not chosen to do this.

My 2015 Word

This came to me in church one Sunday, and then I heard the word somewhere right after. And I felt it in my heart.

SHARE

I realize that this word could have several meanings (as is the case with a lot of words) and I am not entirely sure what it means for me. My first thought had to do with mentoring since I’ve been seeing some changes in the way I’ve mentored in the past. My next thought was that I need to give away some of my writing, which feels just a bit painful right now because my writing income is virtually nil. Another thought is that if I don’t FOCUS in 2014 and get the current novel I’m working on finished, I won’t be able to SHARE in 2015.

But there are other things it could mean, such as speaking up, sharing my heart, my passion, the Gospel. I don’t know where it will lead in 2015, but I am sure God has a reason for asking me to focus on this word.

Have you chosen a word to focus on for a year? Are you considering doing so?

Farewell to the Christian Writers Guild

Mentoring with the Christian Writers Guild

Christian Writers GuildI began mentoring the Guild several years ago, starting with the Pages program for kids when it was first introduced. I was thrilled to be included, and as a former teacher I loved that it gave me the chance to teach again. Over the years the Guild asked me to include Squires (for teens), several of the short adult courses, and in the last year the adult courses referred to as Apprentice and Journeyman Fiction. I also did a couple of critiques, attended the Writing for the Soul conference to take appointments as a mentor, and judged the first round of The First Novel Contest for several years. Besides my students, which I enjoyed walking through these courses, I met other mentors and employees of the Guild that I count among my friends. Wonderful people.

Jerry JenkinsJerry Jenkins

I heard Jerry relate his reasons for buying the Guild in 2001 many times at conferences and meetings we had in Colorado. He believed (and I’m sure he still does) that Christian writers ought be just as good or better than mainstream writers. We should represent Christ by writing with excellence. And to this end he wanted to train Christian writers and the Guild was the way to do that, a means to give back. He gave of his time and his resources. If anyone thinks it was a money maker, they’re wrong.

Anyone who has witnessed his “thick-skinned critiques” understands how much he cared about teaching writers. He even chose carefully each mentor and employee of the Guild. But as time marched on, he wanted to focus on his family and his own novel writing. The time had come to close the doors. Some have reported that he did this “suddenly” but that’s not true. The man doesn’t make impulsive decisions. Not that I’ve witnessed anyway. It was a process.

One thing I learned over the years about the man is that he’s a perfectionist, but a kind one. Did you know he wears an atomic watch so that he’ll always know the exact time? When we had mentor meetings he used it to make sure we started each session on time. So it makes sense that he is now personally making sure the students and members currently enrolled in the Guild finish and receive all they’ve been promised. And the mentors still get paid for the work they have left to do. He is honorable. Make no mistake.

Endings and Beginnings

I hate saying good-bye to an organization that has done so much so well. But an ending creates the opportunity for something else to commence. I am open to that. I’ll be mentoring in other ways, including offering short critiques that interested writers can sign up for right here on my site. But I’m still just a wee bit sad.

What endings have you experienced that ended up opening new doors? Please share!

Writing Again!

Really excited about the next few days!

My literary agency is holding its annual marketing seminar this Sat. in Nashville (and if you’re not repped by them, you can attend on Sun (same program repeated) for a fee: http://www.chipmacgregor.com/marketing-and-platforms/last-chance-join-us/)

So, I thought maybe I’ll go down to TN early and get a quiet place to stay and write. My husband liked the idea. He can come and golf and make me dinner–yay! And our anniversary falls during that time, and we get to have dinner when we first arrive with my friend editor Jamie Chavez! What could be better? I’m really planning to knuckle down on my next book so that when I get home I’ll be on a roll. Sounds like a plan!

The Writing Process Blog Tour With Author Tamera Kraft

My friend Cara Putman asked me to participate in this fun blog tour. There are a few short questions to answer, and I’ve done this over on her blog. Click here.

And now, I’m presenting you the answers to those same questions from my author friend Tamera Kraft. Tamera and I first met at our Ohio ACFW meetings. We both love historical fiction and are history nuts.

Tamera will be giving away a paperback copy of her book Solider’s Heart, U.S. entries only, please. (I loved this story, by the way!)

1.    What am I currently working on?

I’m writing a novella set post WW1 in western Ohio. Vivian is left heartbroken and devastated when her fiancé dies in the Great War and her parents die of influenza, leaving her penniless. Henry, best friend of Vivian’s fiancé, returns from the war determined to rescue her from poverty and make her his wife. He promises her it will be a marriage of convenience until she is ready. After a year, Vivian has grown to love Henry, but doesn’t believe he cares for her. Henry has always loved Vivian but doesn’t know how to express it. When a tornado strikes havoc in their lives, they may lose each other before giving their love and marriage a chance.

2.   How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write Christian historical fiction. Although a lot of my novels and novellas have a strong element of romance, they always have a stronger element of adventure. History is full of intrigue, turmoil, and adventure, and that’s what I like to show in what I write.

3.   Why do I write what I do?

History is where I get my ideas. I’ve thought of writing other types of novels since my tastes are eclectic, but I always find my stories when I’m researching historic events. I always wonder what it would have been like for people living through these times.

4.   How does my writing process work?

Usually I get an idea by reading about an event in history. After researching the event, I get to know the characters in my stories. Then I do some planning, but I don’t do the typical outline. I use the Lindy Hop plot points created by Susan May Warren’s My Book Therapy and insert the main points that need to happen throughout the novel. Then I stew about it for a few weeks until it germinates. After that, I sit down and write the thing. I usually create a playlist of instrumental music that goes with the feeling of the story and play the music while I’m writing. If I get stuck, I’ll go back and edit what I’ve done. Usually I find what is missing or what isn’t working while I do the editing. It will get me back on track.

Visit Tamera online: http://tameralynnkraft.net, Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Tamera-Lynn-Kraft/e/B00H9EW5XU/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Enter to win Soldier’s Heart