Monday, December 1, 2008

Lessons from NaNoville

On Thursday night, I reached an official total of 50,279 words. Yay! Thank you thank you thank you to all of you who supported me this month. You are the wind beneath my wings! I would have given up a long time ago without your constant encouragement, prayers, e-mails, and face book encounters.
So, what did I learn? Well, first of all it's nice to say that now I've actually done everything I tell you guys to do on a constant basis. Write. When it sounds stupid, write. When it doesn't make any sense, write.
I had some moments where the words just flowed and they actually made sense when placed beside one another. Other times, there was no flow, just a barrage of seemingly disjointed thoughts that may, in the most abstract sense, go together if the planets are aligned exactly right.
If you stop when your writing feels like you're walking up hill in the snow with no shoes, then you will never crest that hill and enjoy the times when writing is like sled riding down the hill. Every time you start, you'll still be at the bottom of the hill.
At the very end, once I had reached my epilogue and I still had over 2,000 words to write, I just started making things up - telling stories that were very verbose and didn't really belong there. I decided to give up on my entire plot and just write to get the last words in. Guess what happened? The very last sentence of my crappy epilogue is one of my favorite sentences. I think it's going to be the first sentence of the book. So, Natalie Goldberg is right when she says to burn through first thoughts to get to the good stuff. If I had given up or waited until I had something fabulous to say, I never would have discovered the gem that is the last sentence.
I didn't know what was deep down inside of my mind until I got rid of the shallow stuff on the top. If there is a story living inside you, sit down and start writing. Give yourself fully to the story and it will write itself. Your characters will lead the way - they are waiting to amaze you with the adventures in their lives.
If the Lord has called you to write, what are you waiting for? He will equip you, but you have to take the fist step in faith. Set goals, sit down, and write.
Do you have any writing ah-ha moments that you would like to share? Any tips for what to do when the going gets tough?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


The Challenge
For the past 2 weeks or so I have been pounding away at my keyboard, trying to reach my goal of 50,000 words for the month of November. My current word count is 21,115. I have procrastinated and now I must write at least 5,000 words a day in order to make my goal. It takes me approximately one hour to write 2,000 words if I write nonstop.

The story
Two teenagers - Sam and Zoe stumble upon a box filled with their late mother's journals. They dive into her writings and discover a woman they never knew. Unlike her conservative adult years, her college days were replete with sex, drugs, and rock and roll. As their father continues to ignore them and drown his sorrows in a bottle of scotch, the siblings ban together as they travel down their mother's dark and bumpy road to hope and healing.

It started as a coherent thought. I was very excited about the beginning. On day one, it just flowed. Now, weeks later, it resembles something a preschooler might turn in as a first draft. I haven't gone back to re-read the entire thing and I dare not - it might be my undoing.

Nevertheless, I am thrilled to have a goal to push toward. Be silent self-editor! I have no use for you. Writing so rapidly has been a very freeing experience. I can now stop slogging through the muck of edit-as-I-go. I am able to fly above it and zoom through the clear air. Will you spread your wings and come on up with me?

Has the Lord been encouraging you in your writing lately? How so?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Economical Writing

Turn off the flashback-machine that's showing your boring Economics class; that's the wrong Economical. This article is about writing that avoids waste, and that applies to all subjects. Here are the bullet points; dive in for more details:
  1. Always ask "so what?"
  2. Always ask "how do you know?"
  3. "Fluency can be achieved through grit."
  4. Guard your inspiration and "clean up in a dull moment."
  5. Don't skimp on supplies.
Although the author's main audience is actually economists, it's straightforward to apply these to other disciplines.
  1. For non-fiction, you can right the best treatise in the world, but if there's no point to it, why would people read it? Why should they? For fiction, why does this story need to be told? What makes it compelling to those in your audience?
  2. For non-fiction, don't just state something; make sure you know why it's true and be sure that's communicated to the reader. For fiction, the same holds for characters: why do they do what they do? Does it make sense for them to act and react as you've written?
There are 26 more rules outlined in the actual book, including:
  • Avoid Words That Bad Writers Love
  • The Order Around Switch Until It Good Sounds
  • Speak to an Audience of Human Beings
These chapter headings alone have propelled this book onto my Wish List.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Writing Opportunities

I just discovered! November is national novel writing month. To celebrate, there is a competition of sorts on It's free, but you have to register. It's a challenge to write a novel in 30 days. You can have an outline and character sketches done beforehand, but the novel has to be totally written from Nov1 - Nov30. I'm going to give it a shot. Who's with me? For more information go to

Here are a couple of really great sites to get your writing going: - they have a weekly writing challenge, message boards, a critique circle and so much more. - thank you Cindy! They have a daily writing exercise.

Does anyone else have a source that they would like to share?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

D.C. Awakening

There is a revival going on Oct 5 - 11 in our backyard. It will be a week of prayer, praise, and worship around the clock. This is our chance to stand up and be counted.

On Thursday, Oct 9 instead of having group, I would like to go to DC and join with brothers and sisters from around the world in crying out to God. If you would like to join me, please let me know. Check out the website: for more information.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust

Daggers of steel
Daggers of fire

Thousands lost their lives.
Thousands died.

Whatever happened to the ones who survived?
The ones who risked their lives?

They are needing to be set free.
Free from the agony
Free from the memories.
Free from their own grief.

Too many innocent lives.
Too many had to die.

I don’t understand, can’t comprehend.

You say you work everything for the good,
Who am I to argue?

I know You were there,
There in the midst of it all.

You were there weeping for them.
You were there weeping with them
You were there comforting them.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Jeff Watkins

A beautiful light,
Shining bright.
Gone from this world,
Gone from this world.

But, there will be no more pain.
You are given a new name.
A body complete.
No more suffering.

No more pain.
It’s gone away.
No more tears.
No more fear.

Welcome to paradise.
A world without end.
You, a son of the king.
Such joy you will bring.

Running, jumping in the streets of gold.
Such joy untold.
Seeing all there is to see.
Your body truly being free.

Free to worship.
Free to jump and run.
Free, at last.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Go Forth and Write

"May Jesus himself and God our Father, who reached out in love and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, enliven your speech." 1Thes 2:16-17 (Message)

I am aware once more that my only job in this zany life of a writer is to put pen to paper (fingers to keys) and God will do the rest. If He does not breathe life into my words or bless my work, then it's all for nothing.

There is a writer's Bible Study called, Write His Answer by Marlene Bagnull. You can check it out on Amazon. I'd like to go through it and I'd love for you all to go through it with me. I'd like to start with chapter one on Thursday October 16 at 6:00pm. We will be meeting on the 1st floor outside of Nordstrom in Dulles Town Center. Let's use the comfy seats if they're available.

If you would like to stay for Scribe's Alley after the Bible Study, you can but you don't have to. No pressure.

If you are unable to attend in person, but are interested in doing the study, we can share thoughts through this blog or e-mail.

Other books I would like to go through:
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
The Soul Tells a Story by Vinita Hampton Wright

Any thoughts? Any other book suggestions?

The Group Must Go On

Thursday again. Another long trip to the mall. It wasn't as difficult this time. The Lord blessed me with three songs that said, "I love you. I'm here. I understand."
What a great big wonderful God He is!

Courtney and I had a great conversation before group tonight. (Last night? What day is it?)
She described to me a fantastically decorated house. From the elaborate gardens to the intricate stained glass windows with an outer space motif, it represented a creative mind unfettered by well, anything.

Question and writing exercise:
If you had unlimited funds, how would you express you creativity?

Does anyone else have a writing exercise they would like to present?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Kicking (in) the Habit

I came across a short little piece from about 5 Hacks Just for Writers. The part that caught my eye:
There is a certain mindset that goes along with writing well. It isn’t a talent that you are either born with or must cultivate; instead, the writing mindset is a question of being able to focus on the task at hand. The easiest way I’ve found for getting into the writing mindset is to create a pattern: if I sit down to write every day at the same time, I can focus on my writing faster.
For me, there's a certain dread that comes along with [GASP] writing. Although I have other issues that I'm fighting against, I think part of the struggle is feeling like it takes too long to get going, and that I won't have enough time to finish. But if I can get in the groove quickly, and "time" myself to keep from over-analyzing every word or phrase, maybe writing won't be so scary.

Anyone care to share success stories from devoting a set amount of time each day?

Catch You on the Flip Side

I just had the chance to say my goodbyes to Jeff. It was a tough act for me to do, but not for the usual reasons. For the past couple years, I had been avoiding him, simply because it was a little too uncomfortable for me. I rarely saw him once I stopped attending writer's group, so it was easy to just "forget" about him. Except of course God wouldn't let me. For the past few months, He prompted me again and again to pick up the phone and just call him. And again and again I postponed it, thinking to myself that I just didn't have the time to commit to another friendship.

Thankfully, and mercifully, God got through my thick skull (or maybe thick heart) and I called him. We chatted for a half-hour about nothing of great importance... just two friends catching up after too long a hiatus. I said I'd definitely call again soon (and meant it from my heart), but did dodge his request to get together again at McDonald's for a Coke. With my teacher wife going back to school and my 1-year-old daughter adjusting to day care, I knew September was not going to afford me a lot of free time. I figured after that, I'd have more time and through the phone calls would have grown a bit closer to him again. About a week after that call, Jen e-mailed us that Jeff was in the hospital fighting for his life. A fight he would eventually lose.

I knew enough ahead of time to pray for Jeff's health (thank you Jen). Funny thing was I couldn't ask God to have him win this battle, just for His will to be done. Not that I wanted this hole in my heart, this emptiness from having lost him; it's just how could I ask for him to stay if God's offering him such a deal:
  • He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
  • They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
  • And I know that this man ... was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.
  • The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
  • Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
No more blindness for Jeff... he's seeing marvelous things that none of us can even imagine. No more medical problems for Jeff... he is wholer, stronger, healthier than any of us. No more spiritual struggles for Jeff... he has been made new, and is forever in the unhidden presence of the One who loves him always.

I mourn only for my loss, and those of his friends and family. I rejoice in what Jeff has gained. And I look forward to the day when I get to meet up with Jeff again and have the heavenly equivalent of a McDonald's Coke. His treat this time, as I'm certain he's earned far more spiritual treasure than most of us.

Catch you on the flip side, Jeff!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Building a Monument

We are writers. We paint pictures and build things with words. Let's build a monument to honor Jeff Watkins. What are your memories? Who was he to you? Who is he still?

For those of you who didn't know him, I'll give you a little synopsis. He was born with an inability to feel the entire front of his body. When he was a baby, he punctured his own eyes several times because he couldn't feel it, so they had to be removed. The doctors told his mother that he wouldn't live to be 2 years old. Not only did he live, he learned to walk and talk. He went to school and participated in the creative arts at Perkins School for the Blind in Boston, MA.

I am who I am today in part because Jeff was my friend. He put my life into perspective with his vary presence.

I met him at a Cross Current retreat at Doubling Gap, PA. We were in the same group and one night after a session he said, "Let's go somewhere and talk" I asked him why and he said, "Because I don't know you very well." So, I bundled him up and we sat outside on the porch rockers and talked.

For the past few years, he has been a member of this writer's group. I, along with other group members took turns picking him up and taking him to group and then home again. During those car rides, we talked about life, real life. Jeff didn't pretend like everything was fine when it wasn't. He always told it like it was and expected me to do the same. He could always tell just by the sound of my voice if I was sad, tired or upset. He would always ask about it and he would listen.

We sang songs to the radio. He was from OH just like me. We spent a lot of time talking about radio stations in OH. He knew them all and what type of music they had played in the past and what was currently being played. He could tell me the artist and year of almost every song that we heard. He laughed at me when I would start to belt out a girlie song that of course he didn't know the words to.

He put up with my freakish driving. He would always tell me when a motorcycle or a big truck would go by (sometimes it was just a Honda with a HUGE muffler on it).

He loved coke. We stopped at McDonald's or Chick Fillet every week to get him a coke.

He loved action movies with a lot of suspense. He also loved movies with a good story. I learned to love movies in a different way as I explained things to him. He "saw" more than I ever did.

He used to give a Christmas concert every year. Last year it was at my house. He came over one afternoon to work on the program with me. The concert was about an hour long. He dictated the program to me and I typed it out. The day of the concert, he went right down the program schedule without missing anything. He sang songs in English, Spanish, and Hebrew. It was a wonderful performance by Jeff and his friend Philip.

He was an amazing leader and teacher. He had a fabulous sense of humor. He was kind, gracious, and patient. I am so blessed to have known him.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


There is a hole in the world where our dear friend and fellow writer once was.

It still doesn't seem real to me. I want to go to his house, hug all the staff, and see his room. Is it really empty?

I didn't realize how difficult it was going to be to have writer's group without him. On the way to the mall, I listened to the radio on scan. The walk from the parking lot was long. I was so obviously alone, with no one on my arm telling me stories.

The smells of the mall, the arctic temp, and the never ending 80's mix blaring from the speakers were all the same. But it wasn't the same. It was hollow and empty.

I wanted to tell everyone that he's gone. The people at McDonald's who sold us a Coke every Thursday. The people who work at Nordstom Cafe. The sweet Asian couple who walk by our table every week. I guess I want them to care that he was here at all.

My heart is screaming, "Please don't be gone! Come back!"

He was supposed to come over last week for a movie. He was going to come with me to the D.C. Awakening in Oct. We had plans. God, you get him for the rest of eternity, couldn't we have had him for a few more decades?

Who am I to question You? You said that you would rescue and protect those who love You. Jeff has been rescued and he is protected. Could you please give him a really big hug for me? Tell him I love him and I'll see him soon.

Anyone else need to vent?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Man, I Feel Like a Writer

What are the silly (or not so silly) quirky (or not so quirky) things that you do to make yourself feel like a writer?

I love to buy pens and notebooks - it might be considered an addiction. The pens I actually use, the notebooks, um, well, I'm going to fill them up - really.

My desk is piled with books, papers, pens, notebooks, etc. I used to be a neat freak, but now I'm embracing my cluttered habits (thank you Shae). It's creative clutter to inspire me and help me feel like I'm actually working.

Going to a coffee shop to write makes me feel like a writer. Sitting outside b/c a writer loves the fresh air, drinking an iced mocha with no whip b/c that's what a writer would drink. Slouching in a not so comfortable, but looks comfortable position b/c that's what a writer looks like when she is really into her work. Letting my emotions pour into my writing so that I don't mind if people stare at me when I laugh out loud or begin to cry as I write.

I talk to myself constantly. Sometimes I answer too. And, I like it.

Right now I'm drinking tea from a mason jar b/c I think it's weird and fun and something that only a very eccentric writer would do. Is it redundant to say eccentric writer ? Are there normal ones out there?

Anyone else care to share?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Introducing Me

Hello Everyone!

I'm Jen Waddell - facilitator of Scribe's Alley Writer's Group.
I've been journaling since 3rd grade, but have just recently begun to focus on my writing as more than a hobby.

For almost 5 years, I was a member of the creative team for Cross Current Ministries. I was part of the writing team that wrote dramas for Sunday Morning worship services.

Now, I am working on a young adult novel called, Letters to Edward. I'm currently stuck on chapter 5. I'm sure it would help to sit down and actually work through it instead of finding ways to procrastinate.

I'm the kind of writer who can't seem to just sit down and write. Once I get going, I love it, but getting started is my problem. Anyone else?

The Difference between Critique and Criticism

  • Criticism finds fault/Critique looks at structure
  • Criticism looks for what's lacking/Critique finds what's working
  • Criticism condemns what it doesn't understand/Critique asks for clarification
  • Criticism is spoken with a cruel wit and sarcastic tongue/Critique's voice is kind, honest, and objective
  • Criticism is negative/Critique is positive (even about what isn't working)
  • Criticism is vague and general/Critique is concrete and specific
  • Criticism has no sense of humor/Critique insists on laughter, too
  • Criticism looks for flaws in the writer as well as the writing/Critique addresses only what is on the page

Taken from Writing Alone, Writing Together; A Guide for Writers and Writing Groups by Judy Reeves

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Welcome to Scribe's Alley!

Mission Statement:
We are a community that seeks to foster authentic and creative expression through the written word. To explore and expand the craft of writing in a safe environment that glorifies God.

To demolish the stronghold lie that "I can't" and to adopt the truth that says not only "I can" but "I should". No one in this world can say it exactly like I can.

We are a read and critique group made up of writers from all different backgrounds, focused on many different genres. This group is open to anyone who would like to join in the writing adventure with us. No experience is necessary. It is an ultra casual and fun atmosphere where anything can happen.

Currently, we meet every Thursday night at Dulles Town Center in front of the Nordstrom Cafe on the 1st floor from 7:30 - 9:30pm. We arrive and chat from 7:30 - 8:00. Read and Critique begins at 8:00.

To submit your work, please e-mail it to me ( by Tuesday evening (7ish). I will then e-mail it to the group. Each member is responsible to read the submissions for the week, print out a copy if they wish, and bring it to the meeting.

If you would like others to read your work, but don't want it to be critiqued, just let me know. I will indicate that it is a 'read only' piece. It can be scary to put your stuff out there.

You may submit your comments via e-mail, but you must ask the person if it's okay for you to talk about their piece. Sometimes, it's hard to chat one on one and sometimes, the person is not ready to talk about that particular piece.

I look forward to seeing you online or in person. Happy writing!
Jen Waddell