The Big Enchilada: The Irresistible Novel

I can’t believe we’ve been spending the past twenty Saturdays looking at The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke. This week’s chapter marks the end of the first half of the book entitled: Freeing Yourself From the Paralyzing Rules of Fiction. This portion of the text wraps up with an examination of several rules sorted into two categories: Fiction Rules that Merit Discussion and Silly Fiction Rules That Do Not Merit Discussion. Because the author focuses on so many rules in this large chapter I’ve chosen a few to highlight that I find particularly applicable to the writing that I am working on.

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In this chapter, Gerke seeks to help you understand each grammar rule, to consider whether to follow that rule, and to determine your own preference.

Fiction Rules That Merit Discussion

  1. You must give each character their own introductory scene or moment the first time they appear in your book– In order to build reader connection with each character it helps to give a little introduction to each person as they first enter the scene. This doesn’t have to be a flashback, but it helps to do more than just give their name. In my book, the main character gets a whole introductory chapter. Then, each major character as they are introduced receives a bit of an introduction followed shortly by a flashback. I’m still working on shaping this perfectly, but it’s effective for my genre and plot.

2. You should not italicize a character’s thoughts-Although using italics for thoughts isn’t technically a rule it does help a reader distinguish between narrative, dialogue, and thoughts. In my book I introduce thoughts very few times, but when I do I use italics to help the reader make the differentiation.

3. You must belong to a critique group to become a successful novelist-To me, this has proven false. Granted, I haven’t earned the title Successful Novelist, but I have not found critique groups to be helpful. I’ve joined a couple of online groups, and found them to be less than beneficial. I’ve found that my blogging community and real life friends have helped my writing more than any of the critique groups.

4. Don’t dump backstory in the first chapter-I was guilty of this in my first draft. I think a lot of people are to be honest. When you set out to begin a book you want to know about what led the character to where we meet them in the first chapter. However, as my first draft was finished I realized that I give the backstory at a later point and it is more effective. The first chapter shows the protagonist in a new struggle and in later portions of the text I discuss what led them to that point. The first chapter is too action packed to pause for a backstory.

5. Write only what you know– When I first heard this rule it really threw me for a loop. I had nearly finished my book about a middle-aged, homeless, alcoholic man and realized that I had just broken this rule. I’m a twenty-something, female teacher and in no way does my life reflect that of my protagonist. So instead of scrapping my whole novel I decided to learn about what it is like to be my protagonist. I performed a ton of research. I volunteered to work with the homeless. And I used that experience to build authenticity for my book. I do not agree that you can only write what you know, however, I do feel strongly that if you don’t know about what you are writing that you better get a little informed so as not to sound ridiculous. Research is necessary no matter what you are writing.

Silly Fiction Rules That Do Not Merit Discussion

  1. Never use beta readers– Beta readers are people who will read and critique your manuscript for free. You would be silly not to take free advice. I’ve currently got my novel out to one beta reader and their comments have proven valuable to my overall story and manuscript. I’m still looking for a couple more beta readers. If you are interested please email me at theameribritmom@gmail.com

2. Your protagonist must always fail until the climax-Again, this is a silly rule. Every story is different. Depending on your genre and the major conflict in your story it makes more sense to follow this rule. However, if your reader is used to always getting bad news it will be hard to believe the good news in the climax. In my book I turn this rule on its backside. For most of my book the protagonist is doing well for himself. The climax is a major problem leading to a setback in upward movement.

3. Crack down on your grammar-I’m learning that this rule is pretty much impossible to follow. I’m an English teacher. I’m used to correcting grammar on every assignment. But when it comes to my own writing I really struggle. It takes me hours to edit each chapter because I crack down on my grammar so hard. But, I’m learning that cracking down on grammar is the job of an editor. My book would never get finished if I cracked down too hard on my grammar. There will always be mistakes. With fiction writing, you are also given the privilege to break some of the rules. There is freedom in fiction writing. I’ve learned not to feel so bound to rules from reading The Irresistible Novel.

The Ameri Brit Mom

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Writing Conference: Yay or Nay?

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My amazingly supportive and thoughtful husband bought me a year’s subscription to The Writer magazine for Christmas. It’s been a huge investment in my writing to take the time to read every article within each edition. I’ve been playing catch-up on the magazine reading as I was overseas for a month so I just recently finished the July publication. The whole magazine was centered on writing conferences. For the most part it was from a positive perspective. Today I would like to pose a question to all of the seasoned writer’s out there:

Is the experience of going to a writer’s conference worth the travel and expense?

I must admit that the idea of attending a conference is both exciting and scary. I would love to spend some time with people I can learn from and dialogue with about the art of writing, but at the same time the idea of traveling to a different city and spending so much time with complete strangers is a bit out of my comfort zone. It is also extremely expensive to enroll in the conference on top of all the travel expenses.

So what I want to know is whether it is worth it for me to pursue conferences. Let me know about your experience attending them and whether or not you recommend it.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Stitch Fix #7

It’s always a great day when I arrive home to a cute teal box on my porch. I know that within that box five pieces of adorable fashion and jewelry are just waiting for me to try them on. And I know I say this each time, but this was definitely my best Stitch Fix yet. I’m really starting to feel like my stylist and I are both on the same wavelength. It helps that I give her access to my Pinterest board and that I have opportunities to dialogue with her before each fix is sent.

Lately, I’ve had several people ask for details about Stitch Fix so here’s a quick reminder about the company and how it works:

What is StitchFix?: StitchFix is an online personal stylist program. As the customer you begin by filling out a profile about yourself and your sizes on the StitchFix website. From this profile a team of stylists selects five unique pieces and sends them in the mail on a regular basis (the duration of which you can decide).

How does it work?: In order to receive your fix you must first complete a personal survey where you list details about your unique style and preferences and answer questions created to make your experience with StitchFix the best it can be. Next, you can schedule how often you’d like to receive your fix in the mail. I chose to not over commit to something I was unsure of so I chose the option of receiving my box once every other month.

How much does it cost?: There is a $20 stylist fee for each fix that ships to your home. That fee can be applied to any pieces that you decide to keep from that shipment. After that original $20 fee each time you only pay for what you want to purchase. If you choose to purchase all five pieces in the StitchFix box you receive a 25% off discount on your order.

What if I don’t like something?: The StitchFix company encourages you to try on every item. Anything that does not fit or that you don’t wish to purchase can be returned in a prepaid priority mail bag that is sent in each StitchFix at no cost to you. You have three days from the arrival of your box to complete the online checkout and resend any items you do not wish to keep. In order to checkout you must visit your account on their website and comment about each piece. If you choose not to keep something write why that piece was undesirable and that helps the stylists find better options in the future.

If you are interested in giving it a try yourself you can CLICK HERE to create your own account and begin filling out a profile. (Please use the hyperlink above as it helps me earn a little extra credit on my account as well. Thanks!)

Here is a look at my seventh StitchFix:

  1. Kebede Mixed Material Chambray Top (Skies are Blue)

    This top is so adorable. I love the back and the detail on the front. I also love that it will pair well with just about any pants or leggings. It is both fun and casual, but can easily be dressed up with the right accessories.

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    2. Jahana Cargo Vest  (Market & Spruce)

    I have been wanting a cargo vest for a really long time. I have struggled to find one that I love the way I love this one by Market & Spruce. Not only is this one beautiful, but it is longer than most I’ve tried on. I prefer for my vests to be longer than the tops I wear underneath to create a balanced layered look. Also, this vest has a hood which can be removed if desired. The pockets are deep. The waist is feminine. And I cannot wait until fall to wear the heck out of this vest. I love it!!

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3. Finnegan Cuffed Short (Dear John)

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These shorts were so comfortable. Made from a stretchy khaki fabric they were flexible and light. I loved the look, but unfortunately not the fit. These shorts didn’t get to join my wardrobe collection, but I did love them. It was a difficult choice, but they were a little too tight in some areas (mostly my backside).

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4. Katniss Crochet Yoke Top (Fun2Fun)

How fun is the print of this shirt? I absolutely love it. I also love that this shirt could be worn with leggings, shorts, dress pants, or a skirt. It has so many options and is light and comfortable. I chose to wear it yesterday on a date night with my hubby, and then to a meeting with some former students about college. I love how versatile it is and I’m a sucker for a fun print.

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5. Eloise Knit Maxi Dress (Gilli)

This Grecian styled Maxi dress was stunning. I loved the back of the dress and the fit at the waist. It was a bit long in length and a little over my budget. The style was so me, but I had to send this one back in order to keep a sound conscience. (I set a budget each time before even opening the box to be sure I don’t spend too much–its easy to do)

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Which pieces were your favorite? Are you thinking about giving StitchFix a try? If so, be sure to use my link to get yourself setup!

The Ameri Brit Mom

*This post contains affiliate links. I may be compensated as a result of this post. 

Missiology

For the month of July my church has been focusing on the missiology of the universal church in the sermon series We Can’t Stay Here by Pastor Travis Davenport. So far this month, my concepts of both church and missions have been challenged. And this week my idea of missiology took on a whole new perspective.

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First of all, right from the beginning my mind was blown by this statement:

It is not the church of God that has mission in this world. It is the God of mission that has a church in this world.

It may take a couple of readthroughs to process that statement. I know the first time I heard it I was like…”Hold up, Pastor, you’re going to have to repeat that.” Essentially, what that means is that God is on a greater mission than building the church. God’s ultimate mission isn’t to fill pews or collect tithes, but rather his mission is to restore all things to himself. Right from the beginning of time and the Bible God makes his mission clear.

In Genesis 3:15, God is speaking to sinful people and Satan. Adam and Eve have just committed the first sin and God is recognizing that although sin has fractured man’s relationship with God that the story doesn’t end there. In Genesis 3:15 God is referring to his true mission.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between her offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel. (Genesis 3:15)

Bible scholars refer to the second part of that verse as the protoevangelium. That’s a fancy theological word meaning that this is where God first reveals his mission–the mission of Jesus. From the moment that sin was introduced into this world God had a plan. He had a plan to restore the broken relationship. He had a plan to reach back out to the people that sin had taken a hold of. And his plan was Jesus. Yes, at first Jesus’ heel would be bruised. Jesus would face a terrible and excruciating death, but he would raise three days later and with that bruised heel he would crush Satan. That was God’s mission all along.

We as the church should never become so self-centered to think that God’s mission is ever about us. It isn’t. The mission isn’t the church. The church was created to carry out the mission. And really, that mission isn’t meant to be fulfilled within the walls of the church because every Christian has a role in that mission. It is our responsibility to restore God’s relationship with creation. It’s a personal mission. Not just the mission of a pastor or worship band. Each of us have people in our lives that God has placed there for us to carry out that mission for. These are people a pastor could never impact the way you could. Those people are your mission.

Many of us, are familiar with Matthew 6:9-13, also known as The Lord’s Prayer. In these verses Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray. In verse 10, he specifically explains the motivation behind our prayers and what it should be.

“Thy kingdom come.”

Not my kingdom come. Or my will be done. But Thy.

For far too long churches all over the world have gotten the wrong message. They are carrying out the wrong mission. The focus has moved from God’s kingdom to building kingdoms of their own. And oftentimes its an unintentional discrepancy. We’ve allowed our preferences to dictate our mission and not the other way around.

To wrap things up, the equation that should be used when looking at a church should be one that starts first with Christology. The understanding of the person and role of Christ should inform the missiology of a church. Missiology is the study of methods and purpose in the world. And after a church has determined its mission based on its view of Christ then it should be concerned about its ecclesiology, or the shape of the church.

Christology–Missiology–Ecclesiology

We cannot begin with ecclesiology. The mission shouldn’t be fashioned after the way we prefer things to look or the type of service we choose to attend. The mission is based on Christ. And the mission is a lifestyle carried out by individuals everyday. As a Christian we should first take on the mission of God and live our lives with the purpose of restoring all things to God. And if we look at life through that lens suddenly the ecclesiology doesn’t matter so much anymore.

Our mission doesn’t start with the church. The church is for discipleship. And discipleship will always lead to evangelism. God’s kingdom will never grow if our focus is on ecclesiology. So let’s be a people worried about bringing people back into right relationship with God. Let’s stop competing with other churches or organizations and realign our focus with the mission of God. Let’s be a people who GO!

We can’t just stay here.

The Ameri Brit Mom

My New Journal Bible

A few months ago I began a quest for a Journal Bible after following several blogs highlighting ideas and benefits of keeping one. My quest ended this weekend when I purchased my Bible at a local Christian Bookstore. The Bible I picked out was a Zondervan Holy Bible Journal Edition in th NIV translation. Each page has a single column for notes or artwork.

I first learned about Bible Journaling on Pinterest–I later created a board based on ideas I had found articles that seemed helpful. Then I was led to visit a blog which has become a favorite of mine. Rachel Wojo is an Christian author who blogs and is also a Bible Journaler. She’s inspired me a lot with her love of scripture. Through my months of investigating I’ve found some really neat blogs and articles about this creative method of Bible Study. Another site I like is called Illustrated Faith. I really like their infographic about how to do this method:

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My brain is wired in such a way that I love to read, write, and create. This method of Bible study is appealing to me because it focuses on reflecting on scripture using the creative parts of my brain. I can dwell on what scripture is really saying or the promises of God’s Word and create unforgettable word art inspired by the truth I’m learning at the time. I haven’t done too much lately, but here is a look at two things I’ve done so far.

At this point, I’ve still looking for supplies. I’d love to find some pens, highlighters, markers, stickers, etc. that won’t bleed through the pages of a Bible. That seems to be the most difficult part. If you have experience in the art of Bible Journaling please share your tips. I’m still a newbie, but am already loving the practice of reading, reflecting, praying, and creating.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Elmore Leonard’s Rules: The Irresistible Novel

In chapter 19 of The Irresistible Novel, Jeff Gerke takes a closer look at Elmore Leonard’s rules. Elmore Leonard is a famous author of tons of famous novels including Fifty-Two Pickup, Be Cool, Out of Sight and Mr. Paradise. The point of adding this chapter to The Irresistible Novel is to show that even the most seasoned writers neglect to follow industry “rules” and that “rules” they have established for themselves may not always apply to everyone. Hence, making the point of the entire Gerke book clear: Each of us has a writing voice that is unique to us. (And also, rules are stupid!) Here is a look at the ten Elmore Leonard rules:

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*Click on highlighted rules to take a look at Gerke’s take on that rule from earlier chapters.

Rule 1- Never open a book with weather

Rule 2- Avoid Prologues

Rule 3- Never use a verb other than ‘said’ to carry dialogue

Rule 4-Never use an adverb to modify the verb ‘said’

Rule 5- Keep your exclamation points under control

Rule 6- Never use the word ‘suddenly’ or ‘all hell broke loose’

Rule 7- Use regional dialect sparingly

Rule 8- Avoid detailed descriptions of characters

Rule 9-Don’t go into great detail describing places and things

Rule 10-Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip

Five Minute Friday: Help

This week the topic for the Five Minute Friday link-up post is Help. What is a link-up? Essentially a link-up is when you join other bloggers and write on a similar topic. You share your blog posts with one another and begin conversations via a host site. You can head over to Kate Motaung’s page to check out other entries from inspired bloggers. Here’s my five minutes of uninterrupted, unedited writing on this week’s topic:

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Last night I had the privilege of helping a friend.

It had been a rough couple of weeks for her family and so my husband and I volunteered to watch their three children to give them some much needed Mom and Dad time. So, yes, last night we were outnumbered. Four little girls (ranging in age from seven months to four years old) to two parents. But it wasn’t chaotic. It was so much fun.

At first, the girls went for the box of dress up clothes–as they always do. Within minutes of their arrival we had a fashion show of ballerinas and princesses. The second youngest, who can only say a handful of words pointed at herself during her runway debut and said, “Anna” as she was wearing Princess Anna’s dress from the Disney movie, Frozen. And the older two fought over who was going to wear the light-up, high-heel, Cinderella shoes. Meltdown #1*.

After the fashion show we paraded to the park across the street. The girls played in the eighty degree heat, but didn’t let the dry, hot air slow them down. After a little meltdown from my own child (meltdown #2*) we decided to head back home for some frozen Popsicles and a bit of Sofia the First, per request of Princess Anna.

In the end, it was such a fun play date and I’m so glad we were able to give my friend and her husband a chance to breathe. As a mom I appreciate how important it is to come up for air every once in a while.

I want to challenge you to find a small way to help out this week. Find someone in your life who could use something and offer it without delay. Don’t put it off! Maybe they need help with mowing their yard, cleaning their house, paying for groceries, or watching their children. Whatever a friend in need is craving most do that for them. Be aware of those around you and fulfill a need this week. It will be fun and rewarding, I promise!

*Also, I must clarify that the meltdown count above refers to my own child. My friends’ kids were angels. My daughter is at that age where she struggles with sharing her toys and her parents. We had a few extra cuddles last night and a couple of lectures on sharing for the thousandth time.