edits here we come

The weather is cooling down – hace fresco – in North Carolina. But the writing’s only heating up!

I’ve just come home from the writers’ critique group which meets the third Wednesday of each month. Each month I go, apprehensive at what critiques of my work will bring and excited to share my praises, questions and suggestions at the other writers’ works in progress. It’s a kind of secret fun to “see behind  the curtain” and experience these stories as they grow up from roughshod, marked-up pages to strong-voiced, complex manuscripts. (At tonight’s meeting, I also gave away some of the plentiful collection of freebie books I got at ACFWsee previous post.)

Unfortunately, after I receive all those tasty tidbits of feedback (my writer’s soul thrills at the positive, acknowledges the areas for improvement, and quakes when I realize I’ve made a character act quite uncharacteristically – I should listen to them more), I have to go home and actually make the edits. That’s the hard part.

My first manuscript – Church Critic – met with positive reviews from the agent and three editors I met with during the ACFW conference. They liked the premise, telling me it was original and fresh. In other words, worth pursuing!

BUT – and that’s a big but for sure – I’ve got a long way to go to spruce up the story. Concept is clear, but the writing execution and consistent voice needs bigtime help. So that’s what I’m working on now. How long it will take is anyone’s guess – I’m hoping to keep it to one to two months, but that’s an optimistically short timeframe.

At the ACFW conference, my new friend and writing sister Tanara McCauley suggested the book, “Self-Editing for the Fiction Writer.” I went ahead and ordered this on Amazon.com today, as well as the Chicago Manual of Style, which every editor at the conference suggested.

Unfortunately or fortunately, new stories keep tugging at my brain. I had a daydream moment today where a dual, two-protagonist story across two time periods sprung into mind and seemed like the most interesting, fun thing in the world to write. I am quickly jotting down the gist of it, because story ideas glitter brightly and then disappear if you don’t catch them quick. But sadly, I’m going to have to click “Save” and close the window if I want to be loyal to “Church Critic” and focus on her first.

At any rate – thanks for the encouragement and for reading. I appreciate each of you!!! God bless.


home again home again, jiggity-jig!

There’s something about flying back into a familiar airport that helps me breathe easier. Of course, that might just be me setting down the heavy bag of books and sucking in non-recycled air.

Mom and I arrived back into Charlotte this evening as we returned home from our first ACFW conference and our first venture to Indianapolis. I’m just now stepping into my apartment.

Photo of me and Mom at dinner

so glad Mom could come too!


I opened my car door, gritting my teeth and preparing to see ants climbing over the seats or scratches on the paint. There were none. I opened the door to my apartment, expecting a wave of trapped heat or fruit flies. There were none. I opened my tiny mailbox – ok, there was some there.

But before I open the reminders of car payments and new magazines, before I unpack the 40 books I brought home (No, seriously, 40. I lugged 40 Christian fiction books back in a sturdy canvas bag on the airplane, all the while grinning wickedly like Blackbeard returned from a successful pillaging with a chest full of glittering loot. I am officially a book glutton), before I unpack and begin laundry and set out clothes for work and catch up on emails and restock my fridge with groceries and organize business cards and sort bills and more…

I took home way too many books

books, glorious books!

Let me just thank Jesus. This conference lifted my spirits, gave shape to my writing dreams, connected me with Christian people who feel compelled to write as I do (Isaiah’s desperate urge to prophesy comes to mind). I am so blessed to have met them. It’s much the same feeling as returning from a mission trip, where you feel on top of the mountain, as they say.

The trick is to maintain that inspirational glow. For me, I’m challenging myself to stay in contact with my newfound writing sisters and brothers, to rewrite my manuscript based on the Chicago Manual of Style and excellent feedback (more on the details of that later), read and review this treasure trove of books, and above all, to spend time in the Word with my Father.

Love to you all – I’m home safely.

worshipping with writers…and loving it!

The swell of six hundred voices singing with passion gives me goosebumps. I look around the room and see arms held high, eyes closed, and the occasional tear trailing down someone’s cheek.

There is almost nothing like the joy of worshipping God, surrounded by hundreds of peace-filled, encouraging people who call you friend.

Each morning of the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference (ACFW) kicks off with breakfast and coffee (aka writer fuel) and a thirty-minute worship session. The conference hostess prays over us, and we depart to attend writing and publishing workshops or appointments with agents or editors.

Although this is my first writing conference, I already know this one is strikingly different than others. Having a prayer room is one, which is a room dedicated to quiet prayer and reflection. You can go freak out over an upcoming appointment or give thanks and praise that something went well.

Another noticeable difference is the attitude of writers towards each other. My experience with other writers – and I’m guilty too – is that we’re usually quite jealous of each other’s success. It’s almost unbearable to hear about another writer who writes more quickly than you do, or who achieves wild success with their first book publication. Hey, I’m not proud of that attitude, but sometimes it’s a knee jerk reaction that I and other writers feel. It’s probably borne of our innate drive for success and insecurity that we aren’t far enough along or constantly behind rather than actual envy. But at this conference, the writers are THRILLED for each other! There’s room in the market for all of you! May God be praised and honored by your book being written well and reaching as many readers as possible! What a soul-refreshing attitude.

I’ll recount my experiences from this workshop – the appointment meetings, meeting acclaimed authors (the notable Frank Peretti was present!!), reviews of the giant 40+ books I’m toting back, nerding out with like-minded writers who enjoy crazy fiction and struggle with dialogue and know what a Bildungsroman is – in later blog posts. Got to spread out the pearls of wisdom I’ve collected to share with you!

We’re off to the final event – the glamorous awards gala. Readers, à bientôt!

first writers’ conference – here we come!

Tomorrow I fly out to Indianapolis for the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference. 

Level of excitement? Like a little kid who’s just been given a pony and told we’re going to Disney World and received an entire box of Raisinets and gets to stay up past bedtime. And just heard school’s cancelled for a snow day.

In other words, pretty excited.

How did I select this conference out of the lollapalooza of other writers’ conferences out there? Very simply, it came on good recommendation from a Christian mystery writer who goes to our church in South Carolina. Sue Duffy is an accomplished writer whose enthralling trilogy I’m currently enjoying. Will have a review for you on them soon!

She suggested this conference as a way to meet other writers (potential co-writers? mentors?), editors (!!!!) and agents (!!!!) from well-known Christian publishers and secular publishers that publish religious fiction.

I’ve been to conferences focused on corporate training and instructional design, but I’m brand-new to the world of writing conferences. What can I expect? Rock-star writers swinging from the ceiling or giving autographs, feverish workshops of silently scribbling wordsmiths, team-building activities both uncomfortable and surprisingly enlightening?

I asked Google, the guru of random questions. Turns out there’s actually a book out there on how to prepare for writers’ conferences. 

Now, isn’t that a surprise? Someone wrote a book about preparing to attend a writers’ conference. Hah!

Rather than buy a book on it, I’m preparing the best way I know how.

Susie’s Entirely Unproven Plan for Preparing for a Writers’ Conference:

  • Praying that God will open doors before I even get there.
  • Bringing paper and digital copies of the proposal for my manuscript, “Church Critic.”
  • Packing a series of layered clothes, in anticipation of the chilly hotel conference rooms.
  • Charging my iPad.
  • Bringing a notebook for when my iPad inevitably dies.
  • Taking a tote in case there are goodies, like free pens.
  • Plan to buy a book or two and get it signed by the author!
  • Bringing my mom.


That last part – you might have said, wait, what? Your mom’s coming??


Yes. My mom is an incredibly talented, sociable and encouraging presence. She’s excited to visit Indianapolis as much as she is to attend writing sessions and swap tips with me. I know we’re going to meet dozens of writers, editors and agents, and hopefully she’ll help me remember names and connect with people.

If you have read through to the end of this, please just say a prayer for our safe travels and everyone else coming to the conference, and then also for God to be honored in all we do! I’d also appreciate some inspiration.

Thank you and bless you all,