Monday, October 15, 2007


Yesterday, my husband and I visited a small country church to share in the celebration of their mortgage burning. After the worship service, the congregation gathered outside around a prepared firepit and waited for the pastor to light the kindling in order to accomplish the grand and glorious combusion of the stamped-Paid-in-Full document.

Several attempts by the pastor to light the fire with a long-stemmed lighter failed. Some anonymous soul passed a pocket-sized cigarette lighter forward.

That didn't work either.

Finally, a welder in the crowd retrieved a small butane tank from his company truck and managed to ignite the blaze without blowing us all to kingdom-come. The deed for which we'd gathered was then accomplished in short order.

Authors, who/where do you turn when your own efforts fail to ignite a fire of creativity under your work? Do you have a critique group or partner to help you fan into flame that missing spark? (Please note: I am NOT suggesting you send your manuscript up in smoke!)

Sometimes we just need a little help from others to accomplish that which we can't seem to do on our own. I'd like to hear about those people or resources you turn to when you need a fresh fire. I will award a copy of Christine Lynxwiler's new release, Forever Christmas, to the one who, in my opinion, posts the most glowing tribute. I will announce the winning "comment" on Thursday.

Off to light a fire under an author or two. . . SKD


The Write Life said...


If I get stuck or feel I'm in a rut with a story, I'll go around to my family, tell them one word about my setting, and ask them the first three things that pop into their head. Their answers get me going in all kinds of directions I wouldn't have gone on my own, and they love being a part of creating my story.

I'll try to pick one thing from each of them to incorporate, which usually gets things going again.

For instance, for a proposal on historical Alabama they suggested:

contaminated well, injured son, cave with skeleton, rival indians, insect invasion, sabatoge of garden, ex-slaves.

I'll then figure out if any of those things can re-direct where I'm stuck (this is great during outlining, but works well when actually writing, too) and off I go!

Paige Dooly

Kristy Dykes said...

Great post. Just saw it, as I have been with the bereaved all day at a funeral and funeral meal, etc. BTW, dh and I have conducted a mortgage burning ceremony for a church we pastored. He used one of my fine china plates and did it from the pulpit. The fire put a charred place in the center of the plate, but thankfully, it washed clean.

I am trying to bring freshness to my WIP, as well as the right beginning. I feel I have a good handle on the story but have been in a quandry about where exactly to start it--the physical place and the inciting incident. I have started it over and over and over. I've written about 15 chapters of the approx. 95,000-word novel, and I've axed some chapters, rearranged others, changed from third person to first, etc., etc., etc., saving each version. My computer started running a little slow, so I had a friend come over and add more memory, thinking maybe all these versions are slowing it down!

I've made changes suggested by some editors who rejected it. Then my agent asked if I wanted to hire an editor to take a look, and so I've recently done that, and made more changes and switches. And then dh says do this, do that, and I've done that. And agent, too. And then I'll lie in bed at night and think of a new way to present this story, and I get up and do it right then so I won't "lose" it, and then I loose lotsa sleep.


But hopefully, it's going to emerge as a stronger story, one that I hope will change people.

The Three E's: Entertain, Encourage, Enlighten. That's why I write. That's what I hope I can do with this story.

Lacy J. Williams said...

Margaret Daley helps motivate me.

Each month at our chapter meetings, she'll usually ask me how the writing is going.

And, boy, during the month when it's hard, I want to push through so I can have a good answer for her at the next meeting.

Thanks, Margaret, for your encouragement!

Susan Page Davis said...

Okay, Susan, you know I always go for the free stuff. I have a super gang of critique partners that I send my "problem" to. If possible I tell them specifically what bothers me about the story and ask them what they would do. They come from different backgrounds and usually come up with vastly different ideas. If I don't like any of them, at least it gets me thinking in new directions!
Susan Page Davis

Mary Connealy said...

I was at a booksigning last February, right after Petticoat Ranch came out. I was with a bunch of CAN (Christian Authors Network) authors, including Judy Baer.
We had some down time and we brainstormed some writing and I was trying to get my bad guys into the story faster, this is in the third book in the Petticoat Ranch series.
I was playing with ideas because the beginning of this book is this long, unbroken scene...not the same, with with a similar feel to Petticoat Ranch's opening.
No time to break away and go let a bad guy scheme.
So finally Judy just says, "It's your book. You can make them do whatever you want. You can figure out a way to get that bad guy into that scene."
It was like a light coming on. You know what, she was right. I'm in control. Once I just insisted the bad guy make an appearance I twisted things around so she did. And then, later, it was like I didn't know how that scene worked without her being there.
Anyway, I think of that advice a lot. I'm a charge of this book. The characters WILL OBEY ME. :)

Marcia Gruver said...

This is an easy question for me. All I need to do when I get the writing droops is remember the promise I made to myself.

I vowed to prove to my five children and ten grandchildren that no mountain is too high, no challenge too great when you're trusting God.

I want to live what I've tried to teach them, to demonstrate in practical application that they really can do anything they set their minds to, and that it's never too late to see their dreams come true.

So every time I feel I want to quit, I think about my oldest grandson's dream of coaching track, his brother's dream to play professional football, my six-year-old granddaughter's wish to be a ballerina.

And if that doesn't do the trick, I remember the words my hubby whispers in my ear when I feel afraid or inadequate for the challenge: "Ain't no step for a stepper." Then I raise my head and step higher.

CHickey said...

A mortgage burning. What a great idea. When I'm stuck, I sit back in my chair, stare at the screen, and say, "Okay, God, what next?" He never fails to send my imagination off somewhere!

Do I win?

Linda said...

Dear Susan,

Whenever I need a fresh burst of creativity, it usually means I've spent too much time hovering over my keyboard! So, I walk away from my computer and get busy pray-ing or clean-ing my house, call-ing friends, hang-ing out with the kids or convers-ing with my husband. There are definitely a lot of other "-ings" to do in my life when I'm not "writ-ing!" When I return to my screen after my break, I'm happier, refreshed and ready to fill the white paper.

Tracy Ruckman said...

When I get stuck, I go for a drive or talk it out with my husband and grown son (who moved back home this summer.)

My hubby's great - he listens, gets into the story, makes suggestions, right along with the flow of my words.

Son, on the other hand, usually starts out with, "But, m-o-m - these aren't real people!"

I just tap my noggin and remind him, "Sure they are - up here!" and pretty soon, he's into the story too.

Janelle said...

When I need a spark of creativity or all out brainstorming, I holler for the person who thinks enough like me to be my sister, (I hope that's not a slam in her eyes. LOL) is as close as a sister, my dear friend/co-author/crit partner Lisa Ludwig. I did that very thing just today. There's something about being able to talk things out that gets the juices flowing. No, more like gushing. Bouncing ideas back and forth is a blast, playing off of or building on each comment. I can always get some writing done after that. Yep, kudos to Lisa. She's a great cheerleader.

Crystal Laine Miller said...

(I think Chicky's answer was funny, especially when she asked if she won.)

When I am stuck, I sit there and listen in my mind to my mother's voice. When I was a little girl she told me story after story about her parents living in the harsh Minnesota winters, and her grandparents coming to America.

My mother died in 1997 and I still miss her stories every day, but I can go there in my memories and voila! She sparks me onward. God was good to me to let me have her back when I was 4, after nearly taking her from me, and then she lived until I was 40. I would've missed all those stories!

Jenness said...

I bounce ideas off my awesome crit buddies sometimes, and they're great at giving me ideas.

Most of the time, though, I end up brainstorming while I do cleaning jobs. It is the weirdest feeling to get so deep in your story world while you're working in zombie mode that you don't snap out of it until you find yourself trying to stuff the kitchen trash can into the tiny space between the toilet and the shower...

Kristy Dykes said...

Man, these are good ideas to spark creativity. I checked the Comments section several times and was delighted to see all of these this morning. I've got some new ideas to try.

Sandra Robbins said...

Susan, I’ve been meaning to post all week, but I’ve been busy trying to finish up those edits that you’re looking for soon. However, I thought I’d better get my comment in today.

Ever since I was in college I’ve wanted to write, but life seemed to get in the way. I married, had four children, and became a teacher. I’m so thankful for that and wouldn’t give up any of it, but I still wanted to write.

A few years ago God impressed me that life was slipping away, and I hadn’t done what He’d been telling me for years. So I began to write. Not long after completing my first book (which still hasn’t sold, by the way), I had an unexpected heart attack. I will never forget the words of the emergency room doctor as he sent me off to surgery. With a worried frown on his face, he looked at me and said, “Good luck, Mrs. Robbins.”

Wow! Now we all know we’re going to die. But somehow we ignore that until we’re faced with the certainty of our mortality. Thankfully God provided an outstanding cardiologist that night, and I was spared.

I left the hospital with a renewed desire to write whatever God gave me, and I’ve tried to be faithful to that. So anytime I get discouraged and want to hurl my computer across the room, I remember that doctor’s face and what he said. Then I pray for the words God wants me to put on the page, and I write words that I would never have thought up on my own. They’re not mine, but I know where they come from.

Sandra Robbins