The Heart of Christmas

Merry Christmas! It has been a while since we journeyed a blog post together. This year has had many challenges for my family, but I am delighted to say Thoughts On Plot will be reconnecting with all of you every week in the new year.

This Christmas I am so grateful for family and friends. Friends like Beth Vogt who sends little reminders that God has not forgotten me and friends like Jessica Patch who ping me on Facebook to see if I am doing all right. Then there is Lisa Jordan who makes sure I don’t fall off of the grid too long. So many others have taken the time to connect. For all of my amazing writing friends, thank you!

The heart of Christmas is summed up in the very heart of what each of those friends and family members do for me, for each other. Have a Merry Christmas and experience a slice of the joy the good news of our Savior brings!

For the writer in you: The Christmas Season is filled with more emotion than many other seasons. Take out a journal and write your emotional journey this season. Jot down poignant moments that you can bring to mind in the future to help you write certain emotional scenes.

Who gave you a glimpse of the heart of Christmas this year?



10 Reasons To Keep Believing In Spite Of Mistakes – NFL Bloopers And Writing Gaffs


Photo by j m Griffin

Have you made some mistakes that you are afraid you can’t recover from in your writing career?

When it comes to success, sometimes we can be our own  nemesis. We make mistakes, forget pitches, stick our feet in our mouths, you name it, it’s probably been done.

No matter what, Believe.

Here are some NFL bloopers that I’m sure the players thought they might not recover from, but they lived to play another day.

10 Reasons to Keep Believing in Spite of Mistakes:

  1. You Love To Write- At the end of the day, your voice won’t stay silent. You must write just as much as you must breathe.
  2. Editors Are Human – They have seen almost any mistake you have made before.
  3. Agents Are Human Too – They have heard almost every mistake in the book.
  4. Mentors Create A Lifeline – There are mentors in the writing community that will come along side you and give you get-back-on-track advice.
  5. You’re A Life-Long Learner – Writers are constantly learning new things about the trade. You never arrive. Just keep learning and be teachable.
  6. Someday You’ll Look Back And Laugh- Hold on to this thought. There will come a day when you see the humor in these moments.
  7. Everything Is Possible – Our Heavenly Father has promised that “All things are possible to those who love God.” (Phil. 4:13)
  8. You Are Not Alone – There are many on this writing journey with you. Find a local writing group or share with friends, but don’t go it alone.
  9. A Career Is Not Defined In One Day – Aren’t we all grateful for this?  One day will not make or break your career. Be patient with yourself.
  10. The Patriots Won The Superbowl – In an unprecedented comeback, never before seen in history, the Patriots won the Superbowl. If they can do it, against all odds and Superbowl past stats, so can you!

Who else has come back from sure defeat in their past, or can you think of someone in history that has made a huge comeback?

3 Tips To Successful Group Brainstorming


Photo by Kyryl Lakishyk

Group work in the writing community can be wonderful, or frustrating. It becomes frustrating when individuals aren’t on point when you brainstorm your story, or you end up following story threads that eventually won’t work in your story. But the rewards of a group brainstorming session can be substantial.

So, how do you get brainstorming sessions to be effective ways to expand your story options? Gather your courage to share your story with others and ask for their help.

Brainstorming with other writers.can bring new life to an author’s stories. The challenge is often in finding the right group to brainstorm with and keeping the brainstorming session focused enough to be helpful.

Over the past few years I’ve watched some brainstorming groups succeed and some fail. Each group that failed got bogged down in one of three areas. Here are 3 tips to successful group brainstorming from my observations.

3 Tips To Successful Group Brainstorming:

  1. Select group members carefully. Keep the group small- 6 or less to allow everyone time to bounce ideas. Find group members who use similar methods to write, providing a commonality of terms and knowledge.
  2. Identify the focus of the session. A complete book is too broad of a topic to brainstorm successfully in one session. Instead, focus on one thread of the story. This allows everyone in the group to focus on the area of greatest need. If the whole story idea is the focus, recognize that it may take a few brainstorming sessions to complete it.
  3. Record ideas and follow-up. During the brainstorming session, record ideas without passing judgement on them. Occasionally, redirect the conversation back to the thread you want to explore. Have a follow-up brainstorming session to further develop the ideas from the first session. This follow-up will deepen your story.

What works for you in group brainstorming?

How To Survive A Writer’s Life Gone Rogue


Photo by Gozde Otman

Do you ever feel your writing life has gone rogue, all kinds of chaos is following you and you can’t seem to get a handle on it?

I am right there with you! Being a mom can be chaos, but being a mom writer. . . absolutely bonkers.

Here is a clip that shows a bit what it is like to be a mom writer, assuming I am the officer and the people are all of the chaos that bombards me day in and day out. See if you can relate:

There are ways to survive the mayhem. I am not always successful, but this is a list that I have found helpful.

How To Survive A Writer’s Life Gone Rogue:

  1. Call for Help. Have a list of emergency numbers for when you completely freak out. Have more than one number and be sure to represent the different kind of chaos interventions you might need. For example, you might want Grandma on speed dial, your editor or agent email handy, and the number of a few writing mentors to talk you off of the cliff.
  2. Just Breathe. Knee-jerk reactions result in random tasing that can cause all kinds of difficulties. Take a deep breath before doing anything rash that you will regret. My favorite song in moments like these is:
  3. Recognize Your Underlying Purpose. When chaos strikes it is easy to jump to generalizations about failure, but these usually undermine our self-worth. Identify your underlying purpose, the very thing you are pushing for, and how God has uniquely gifted you to achieve that purpose.

Life can bring complete and utter chaos. For the writer who must manage their own creativity, deadlines, and other obligations it can be overwhelming. These strategies can keep you sane and productive despite the struggles of a writer’s life.

What do you do to help you survive a life gone rogue?



5 Qualities Of A Journey To A Carol Award – Observations in Author Beth K. Vogt

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Photo by Beth K. Vogt

Do you long to be an award winning author? Who doesn’t, right? The reality is that a journey to such an award is full of potholes and cliff hangers.

We see the end result in a moment of celebration, but we often don’t recognize the journey that gets a person to the top of the podium. Behind that trophy are years of work, tears, and dedication.

Many of my friends have received big awards. Observing their writing journeys, I’ve learned a few things I’d like to share with you.

In previous years I’ve seen many of my friends, including Lisa Jordan, Susan May Warren, Colleen Coble, Rachel HauckJulie Klassen and others receive a prestigious award.

What are the secrets to their success?

5 Qualities In A Journey To A Carol Award that I’ve observed in all of these recipients stand out.

This year my writing friend Beth K. Vogt won a Carol Award for her book Crazy Little Thing Called Love. I can’t think of a more deserving author. She has shown her dedication to excellence in several award winning books.

Not only is she a proficient author, she is an amazing person who I have learned a lot from over the past few years. She is one of my favorite romance authors of all time. I’ve been blessed to observe much of her journey. Here is what I discovered.

5 Qualities In A Journey To A Carol Award – Observations in Author Beth K. Vogt:

*Dedication to excellence in writing craft. Beth has taken an incredible amount of time to study the writing craft. It is not enough to be excellent once. Each book she pushes to improve her craft. Her rich metaphors and emotions that grip readers are honed in her writing workshop.

*A Mentor’s heart. Beth continues to pour her life into other authors to help them succeed. She doesn’t worry about keeping success for herself, but shares freely of her knowledge with others. In sharing, she grows stronger as a writer both mentally and emotionally.

*A supportive tribe. Learning from other great mentors and sharing the journey with a tribe of writing friends is a key to Beth’s success. She has cheerleaders and challengers to keep her on the writing path towards success. It is more than just those who encourage, but also those who would be honest with a skilled eye for writing.

*Accepts constructive criticism with grace. On the journey there are times when Beth received constructive criticism from mentors and writing friends, just like all of us. She didn’t get defensive, or angry. She replied with grace, giving thought to what was shared.

*Pursues her relationship with Christ. In writing Christian Fiction, Beth recognizes the importance of deep, abiding faith. She pursues her relationship with Christ as she writes, so that her characters live and breathe in the real world. It keeps her grounded on the journey’s roller coaster turns.

Who is your favorite award winning author? What have you learned from their journey?

How To Have Olympic Writing Motivation – Tips from Bronze Medalist Dana Vollmer’s Story

Photo by lotus head

Photo by lotus head

The writing journey can be a roller coaster of ups and downs. It is hard to stay motivated at different times along the way, but we are not alone in chasing a dream.

Bronze Medalist Dana Vollmer is a dreamer just like us. Her story of coming back to win a Bronze medal in the 100 Butterfly after having a baby inspires me. Looking at her story, made me think of what takeaway I can learn from her experience.

More than anything I wanted to figure out How To Have Olympic Writing Motivation on my journey. Here are a few tips from her story.

How To Have Olympic Writing Motivation – Tips from Bronze Medalist Dana Vollmer’s Story:

Vollmer spent two months on bedrest in the final trimester of her pregnancy. Her son Arlen was born in March 2015. Six weeks later she showed up at the University of California, Berkeley pool with baby and nanny in tow to start swimming again.

*After being sidelined on the journey SHOW UP. Vollmer got back into the pool to work on her dream. Whether it is planting yourself in your writing chair and setting a timer, or going to a writing workshop, get back to work. Even if you only write one thousand words a day it becomes five thousand by the end of the week.

“I’ve always had to set extremely lofty goals,” she said. “So to come back and say that I wanted to race Sarah Sjöström, that’s setting it at the absolute top bar. Just having each of the little steps, I felt like I really appreciated every day, not knowing if I was going to be able to get there.”

*Set the bar high when setting long term goals. Dana Vollmer recognized the importance of reaching for a long term goal that was sure to be a challenge. Reach for big goals that are measurable in some way. You cannot control winning a Christy, but you can control finishing your novel or several.

*Set small steps in between. The big goal is something we aim for, but the everyday small steps are what get us there. Be sure you have the short term goals in place for success. Weekly and daily goals are helpful.

*Celebrate each day of the journey with its own challenges. Part of the beauty of the writing journey is the process of getting to the big goal. Let yourself celebrate and enjoy each milestone.

Which Olympian inspires you?



4 Tips For Those Not Attending A Writer’s Conference

Photo by Vicky johnson

Photo by Vicky johnson

It’s almost that time of year again when everyone is gearing up for the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference.  And the speaker this year is Ted Dekker! This is one of my favorite conferences and I can’t wait to see many of you there.

Unfortunately, there are times as a writer when you are unable to attend a conference due to schedule or financial challenges. You may feel as if the writing community is moving on without you, but in truth it will still be there the next time you are able to go to a conference. There is no reason your writing should grow stagnant.

But what can you do to boost your career if you can’t attend a conference?

  1. Review what publishers and agents are looking for. Often conference websites will give information about editors and agents in regards to what they are looking to acquire. Take the time periodically to look up different conferences and peruse this information. The industry is constantly changing and this can give you a boost.
  2. Purchase the conference lecture CDs. Even if you can’t afford to go to a conference, select those courses you need the most and purchase the CDs. If possible purchase the package, but only if you are going to listen to them. These are only as good as your dedication to listening.
  3. Send cards to your network of friends. One of the benefits of writing conferences is the networking that occurs. Use this time of year as a reminder to send cards to friends in the writing industry. This allows you to make meaningful connections.
  4. Read conference reflection blogs. Many writers and agents blog about conferences after they have finished. Benefit from their knowledge by reading more blog posts than usual about writing craft and industry, especially from those you know attended the conference.

Are you attending ACFW this year? What tips can you give others about boosting their careers when they can’t attend?