Monday, June 25, 2012

It's Over

Today is the last day of Jeff Goins'15 Habits of Great Writers Challenge, and I'm a bit bummed. Besides being extremely helpful, this was fun! Will I be able to stick with these productive writing habits? There will be days I fall short, no doubt. But I am committed to moving forward and sticking with it.

The most helpful habit for me was establishing a set time to write. Getting up at 5 a.m. was hard. After an hour of writing, my head was just getting clear. After two hours, my brain was creating faster than my fingers could produce. Many times I kept writing when time allowed. When quitting did time arrive, I didn't want to stop. Now comes the time to follow through. To continue writing, to prioritize and finish what I started and move on to the next project.

What part of the challenge resonated with you? If you didn't participate, what part of writing is easiest or hardest for you? Share in the comments.

I am a writer.

You are a writer.

Let's encourage each other along the way.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lip-Reading Mom

Shanna Bartlett Groves

Shanna Bartlett Groves is on mission. A mission to bring words into the world of the hearing impaired.

Shanna is deaf. She began to lose her hearing after the birth of her first child. She now has three children, and just as her family has grown, her hearing loss has also progressed. She wears aids, but not the typical kind. Even with those aids, Shanna read lips or uses closed captioning when possible.

Much of our society is oblivious to the struggles of the hearing impaired. Why? I think it is because the disability is invisible. We see when someone is missing a limb or in a wheelchair. We visibly recognize that person has limitations. However, we can't see hearing loss. I may eventually notice someone wears hearing aids, but I've made the erroneous assumption that aids negate the disability. That's just not true.

Yes, hearing aids help people hear better. In other words, even with the use of aids, hearing isn't perfect, and there are still challenges. My father wore hearings aids in both ears. He hated going to restaurants—all the background noise made it nearly impossible to understand the conversation taking place at his own table. My mother complains of the same thing. She also says her own voice sounds like she's at the bottom of a well. Yes, all of today's technology makes life better for those who struggle with hearing loss, but it does not remove the challenges.

Through her blog and speaking ministry, Shanna is ministering to those with hearing loss, bringing greater awareness of the challenges, and campaigning for change in arenas that have not been responsive to the needs of those with hearing loss. Thank you, Shanna, for your tireless work.

Read Shanna's blog:
Find out more about her novel Lip Reader:
Read about and join her campaign to bring closed captioning to the Internet:

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Day 8 of the Challenge

I've stalled. Waking up at 4 a.m. three mornings in a row with a headache tends to dampen my creative thoughts. Writing today's blog post is a step in the right direction to establishing a daily habit of writing every day.

Day 8 of the You Are a Writer Challenge is about "The Difference Between Starting and Building." I started an online magazine, Glory and in March 2009. Given what Jeff has to say about starting and building, I've done my share of both over the past 3 years as I've worked to grow the magazine. Each year as December rolled around, I've questioned myself about whether or not to continue the magazine--people weren't subscribing, few were reading, writers weren't submitting. My budget didn't allow advertising the magazine, which meant no one was really learning about its existence except through friends. A vicious circle that has kept Glory and Strength in relative oblivion.

But each December as I considered whether to continue, God always brought an encouraging word or two from those who were reading. And that's what it really is all about--reaching people with our message and making their lives better. Granted we'd like to reach millions rather than just a few, but as the Bible encourages us in Zechariah 4:10, we should not despise small beginnings.

I've been learning the magazine business through trial and error, and doing a lot of reading. It's been through this Great Writers series by Goins that I've realized my own thoughts, fears, and lack of writing discipline have kept Glory and Strength's outreach small. Today, all that changes.

Monday, June 11, 2012

You Are a Writer Update

Last week I started a 15-day challenge by writer Jeff Goins in conjunction with his e-book You Are a Writer. I wanted to post a quick update on how that's going and to encourage you with my journey.

I normally start my day at 6 a.m. Day 2 of the challenge was to get up two hours earlier than normal and spend those hours writing--not reading email, or checking Facebook posts, but writing. That meant getting up at 4. Okay, that was just a tad early even for this morning person.

That next morning I failed miserably. Admittedly feeling a bit intimidated about forcing myself to write, I stayed up late watching TV. I got up at 4 all right--with a migraine. So much for writing that day. The next was better. I had a guest blog to get written and the deadline was nearing. I set the alarm for 5 and determined I would write until at least 7.

I started my favorite playlist of music (soundtracks from the Chronicles of Narnia movies) and started writing. Three hours later I was still pounding the keys. I felt so invigorated. Today was my second day at writing. I finished the guest blog post I started last Friday and sent it to a friend for her critique. (Yes, I take the weekends off, otherwise I find myself working 14/7 and dreading everyday.) I can hardly wait for tomorrow so I can tweak that post, and get started on another.

Having a specific time each day and designated number of hours I plan to write gives me focus and energy. I am excited about writing and submitting again. I've been talking about revising my book for a year now. I've made a few attempts, but keep getting stalled. Now I'm certain I'll actually get it done

Give it a try. Get up two hours early or stay up two hours longer, whatever works for you, but set aside a specific time of the day and focus on nothing else but writing.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 8

Who's Got the Power?
When you sit down across the table from an editor to pitch your story, who in the relationship has the greater degree of power? Who has power in a parent-child relationship? In America when a man and a woman interact, even for the very first time, whom do you think holds greater power? The concept I've just illustrated is called power distance (social hierarchy), and can serve to add conflict, humor, confusion, and much more to your story.

Power distance varies among countries, and that's why I've chosen to put this under our discussion on culture. For a quick understanding of power distance think about the accessibility between an employee and boss in the US and those in China.

Power distance varies according to three things: relationship ( as in parent/child), position (boss/worker), and situation (attacker/victim). You want to show your characters, especially your protagonist and antagonist, in varying power distance circumstances. Never let your protagonist ACT in a way that will put him/her in a lesser position of power with the antagonist.

Here's an illustration. The antagonist broke into the home of your protagonist and seized Pro in a chokehold. If Pro whimpers and cowers, Pro has lost power and will lose respect in your reader’s eye. However, if Pro resists and makes eye contact that speaks defiance, Pro maintains power over Ant and your reader can continue to cheer for Pro. Take note of the words “whimper, cower, resist, defiance.” They communicate degrees of power. Work to find the best words to communicate your intent.

Do your research and employ power distance with your characters.
Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Monday, June 4, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 7

Elements of Culture
Many writers often overlook culture in their fiction or only give an obligatory mention of color. The ways culture affects communication could take up an entire series. (If there is interest enough, I will consider doing it.) Today, I am simply going to mention a number of those affects to get you thinking and expand on several of these as the week progresses.

What do you think of when you think of culture? Do you consider:
  • power distance
  • body language
  • indirect communication
  • direct communication
  • high context
  • low context
  • slang
  • individualistic society
  • collectivist society
  • history

Cultural dynamics are ripe with opportunities for comedic episodes, confusion, misunderstandings, and conflict between your characters that can move your story forward. Use them to your advantage.

Give your story characters cultural flavor.
Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Friday, June 1, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 6

Special note: Christian Writers Guild is offering a webinar on June 28 presented by Liz Curtis Higgs on creating characters for your novel. Find out more here:

A Name Is Not a Name
Did you know the name Dobby, a character from the Harry Potter series, was a real word? I discovered quite by accident one day playing Scrabble that the word is a British dialect meaning fool. No doubt J.K. Rowling’s British readers knew the importance of the word. To me it was just a strange name to match a strange little creature, until I learned its meaning.

Like a computer organizes files, a person's brain begins to classify people by certain qualities the instant one meets, and that includes a person's name. Let me offer an example: "I just met Sean O'Malley." If you know nothing else about this person, what possible clues have I given you about the character?

You want to be as particular about the name you give your character as you are about his or her physical build and personality. Names carry meaning and speak of the culture of origin. If your character is from Ireland wouldn't it seem rather odd if she had a Chinese name? Of course it would, but when we learn she has one parent who visited China as a child and fell in love with the country, then it makes sense.  

Every reader may not catch the importance of a character’s name, as I did with Dobby, but the point I want to make is that in writing you need to make every word work for its space on the page.

Visit here to discover more about the meaning of names:

Make your characters' names work for you.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012