Welcome to the blog of author Tricia Goyer!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mommying and Writing: The Nitty Gritty - Buddies

For the next two weeks I'll be running a 'Mommying and Writing' series. Just a few things I've learned along the way as both a Mommy and a Writer!

Writing Buddies.

Sometimes as a mom you long for “adult” conversation during the day. As an author, there are also times when you hope for someone to talk to who understands the business of writing. I was blessed to find many friends who understood both.

The “One Heart” group was made up of various women I’d met at my first Mt. Hermon’s Writer’s conference. We have been emailing each other for fifteen years now, and our friendship is strong. It was to these women that I turned to for parenting advice, writing help, and prayer needs. They were the ones who encouraged me during seasons when I felt like giving up my dreams of publication. They kept me accountable when I had deadlines to meet. They prayed with me through tough stuff. They rejoiced when my dreams came through.

As Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “ … a cord of three strands cannot be broken.” These women started out as writing buddies, but they became friends for life. I count on them and they count on me, and I can’t imagine walking this path without them.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mommying and Writing: The Nitty Gritty - Goals

For the next two weeks I'll be running a 'Mommying and Writing' series. Just a few things I've learned along the way as both a Mommy and a Writer!

Set monthly, weekly, and daily goals.

I learned the value of goal setting with small deadlines, which has helped with larger ones. For example, when I was mainly writing parenting articles I’d make a goal like: “Write one article and three query letters this month.” Then I’d break it into small segments. My weekly goal may have been, “Write rough draft of article” or “Look through market guide to find five new markets to write for.” Daily goals might be, “Write five hundred words” or “Interview a parenting expert.”

Sometimes I’d write my goals, and other times I’d just make note of them in my mind. Some days I had an hour to write, and other days thirty minutes, yet since I was firm in not changing my goals, I’d just sit down and write fast. The more I did this, the easier it was. I also strove to write well. I’d write as if I was writing the finished piece. I made it as close to “the real thing” as possible. This led to less editing later.

I set small goals throughout the day, and I discovered a timer was a friend. Even on days when I didn’t feel like writing (especially if I was staring at a blank page), I’d tell myself, “Turn on the timer for thirty minutes, write, and see how far you get.” Most of the time I surprised myself by how much I could do during a thirty minute stretch. Other times I discovered that after thirty minutes I was in the mood to write, and I kept going. I’d then reward myself for a job well down with a nice cup of coffee or a few minutes to relax with a magazine while the kids watched a movie. Bigger goals reached were rewarded with dinner out with my husband or a girls’ day out with my friends.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mommying and Writing: The Nitty Gritty - Kids and Chores

For the next two weeks I'll be running a 'Mommying and Writing' series. Just a few things I've learned along the way as both a Mommy and a Writer!

Kids and Chores.

Since I homeschooled and had kids home all day, trying the keep the house perfectly clean was impossible. Instead, I tried to find a balance between letting things go (like messy rooms) until the end of the day. I also incorporated chores into our daily routine. At each age-level I figured out what things the kids could do to help, and made it fun. For example, when my oldest was two he put away our non-breakable dishes. At three he set the table. At five I taught him how to load the washing machine. (An angel sticker on the washer told him where he needed to turn the knob to turn it on.)

It did take time to teach my kids, but the older they got the more independent they became. By the time my kids were in elementary school I could direct them to set the table or make a salad for dinner with full confidence that it would be done. Training them in chores freed up more time for me to write, it also gave them important skills that they’ll carry into life.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mommying and Writing: The Nitty Gritty - The Calendar

For the next two weeks I'll be running a 'Mommying and Writing' series. Just a few things I've learned along the way as both a Mommy and a Writer!

The Calendar.

One of the first things I did to make more time for writing was to gain control of my calendar. I started by looking at my month and filling in all the necessary appointments: doctor appointments, homeschool field trips, church events. The next thing I did was to pick “town” days. Since town was a 30-minute drive, I’d try to plan one day for errands such as the library and post-office. This not only saved fuel, it save time. When something needed to be done, I didn’t run into town then. I put it on the list for the next time.

I also organized my daily schedule.

6:00 – 7:00 a.m. Quiet time

7:00 – 8:00 a.m. Breakfast and get kids dressed

8:00 – 9:00 a.m. Devotions with kids and Bible reading

9:00 – 9:30 a.m. Chores.

No, I didn’t not always stick to that schedule. In fact, I could probably count on one hand the number of times I even got close. Yet, it did help me plan. It gave me guidelines for my day and helped me become disciplined. I didn’t turn on Regis and Kelly and watch it for an hour, because once I figured out my goals I knew that adding that in would mean cutting something else out.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mommying and Writing

For the next two weeks I'll be running a 'Mommying and Writing' series. Just a few things I've learned along the way as both a Mommy and a Writer!

When talking about mommying and writing the word I hear most often is after:

After the baby is weaned.

After the toddler is potty-trained.

After my kids are in school.

After my kids are out of school and off on their own.

Is it possible to write professionally and be a mom? Will one suffer? Will both? Actually, as a mom of three school-aged kids and author of 18 books I've discovered both benefit!

My Story
My journey to becoming a published author started when I was 22-years-old and pregnant with my third baby. A former teen mom, I’d never considered being an author until a friend from church told me she was working on a novel. I love writing. Is that something I could do professionally?

I started reading books on writing, and then I had an opportunity to attend a writer’s conference. It was three weeks before my baby was due, and I attended with great expectations. I was sure the year would birth a new child and a new career. The child came a week early, but the career took a bit longer. Yet, I didn’t give up. Sometimes I woke before the kids to write. Other times I wrote while they napped. I wrote about things happening in my life, and although only one thing was published during the next three years, I learned a lot. Mostly, that I could balance writing and kids. All it took was motivation and a little time management.

The Benefits:
What I didn’t realize when I first started writing was how much I would benefit as a writer from having my kids at home. Parenting put me into the “real” world. I dealt with kids, with neighbors, with preschool groups, with people at church. I chatted with other moms about their struggles. I faced struggles of my own.

Mommy authors cannot sit at a desk all day and just write. We fix meals, change diapers, say “no” a hundred times a day (and an occasional “yes”), and we give lots of hugs. Yet it’s in living in this real world that we discover stories. In fact, the “real struggles” I had became the inspiration for articles I wrote. If I was struggling with picky eaters, teaching my kids to share, or dealing with a reluctant reader I figured other parents were too. Knowing this, I’d query a magazine and propose an article about one of those topics. Then, once the editor said he/she was interested I’d contact parenting authors or other professionals and get advice. Yes, that’s right, I’d get free advice from the pros for the very things I was struggling with. Then I’d get paid to write about it. How cool is that?

Another benefit of writing and being a mommy has been to my production level. Believe it or not, writing with kids at home has taught me how to produce … more. When the kids were small I’d sit down and write knowing I’d only have 30 minutes tops. So I didn’t dawdle. I focused. I worked. I put words on paper and I figured out systems to help me write fast.

And now … I’m going to share some of these systems with you.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tension, Pacing, and Speedboats

Guest Blogger: Ben Whiting!

Every good story has some degree of underlying tension. Even in a character-driven novel like Pride and Prejudice, which is totally devoid of exploding helicopters and other modern action conventions, is full of internal and external conflict. The question is not if? but how much?

Think of your story as a speedboat. You, as the author, are the pilot of this speedboat, charged with controlling both the speed and direction of your story at all times. The reader is pulled along behind you as a water-skier and is free to let go of the rope at any point. Your job is to keep the ride interesting—by taking unexpected turns or traveling at break-neck speeds. Another method of maintain interest is alternating your speed, which is our focus here.

The first reason to vary the speed at which you pull your reader is simple: boredom. Going at the same pace through an entire novel, no matter how gripping that pace may be initially, will sooner or later grow tiresome to the reader. Clich├ęs are avoided for the same reason. Variety is the spice of life. Familiarity breeds contempt. We've heard these self-condemning sayings so many times they have lost their impact, and a constant pace in your story will have the same affect.

Perception is the other reason speed variation is important. You need go no further than your local highway to test this theory. To the pedestrian standing on the side of the road, sixty miles and hour is very fast. To a passenger in a car going ninety-five, sixty seems as slow as dial-up Internet access. By taking advantage of this comparative aspect of pacing, an author can make an already tense portion of the story seem even more intense.

Ben Whiting is a full-time English student at the University of Texas at Arlington and co-general editor of the award-winning collegiate publication Marine Creek Reflections. His current writing project, Penumbra, is a contemporary suspense novel that he hopes to finish over the summer.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Go back and be happy!

My good friend Margaret McSweeney's latest book is out. She co-wrote Go Back and Be Happy with Julie Papievis. Visit Julie's site to read more about her incredible story!

Also, pop over to Margaret's site and enter to win a copy of the book!


In Julie Papievis' words:

Traumatic brain injury is the number one killer of persons under the age of 44. Every twenty one seconds, someone suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the United States. As a result, 5.3 million Americans are living with a disability from TBI. This non-discriminatory injury changes life in an instant.

On May 10, 1993 my life was changed forever because someone ran a red light. Featured on Lifetime's "Beyond Chance", CNN, Woman's Day Magazine, and top ranked WB's WGN News, my story is gaining national attention. After a life-threatening car accident, I suffered a severe brain stem injury and medically died, rating a "3", the lowest number possible on the Glascow Coma Scale. According to medical experts, 96% of the people with such a severe injury either die or remain permanently comatose. The few who survive typically face a non-functional life. I completely beat the odds even though I remained in a coma for over a month.

Paralyzed and unconscious, I was transferred to the locked brain injury wing of a rehabilitation facility, where I awakened with vivid memories of my near death experience. During "death" I saw my grandmothers in heaven. They instructed me to "Go back and be happy" and assured me that my body would heal. Although medical experts said I would never walk again, or be able to take care of myself, I didn't listen. I believed the words of my grandmothers.

Through extensive therapy, I relearned how to stand, walk, and swallow. However, I faced the daunting challenge of facing the able-bodied world as a disabled person. After overcoming paralysis and battling severe depression, I embraced my gift of recovery as a true miracle.

In 1999, I ran in a 5K race near Chicago on Mother's Day! In February 2007, I completed my first triathlon. I have become an advocate for other survivors looking for hope and guidance. I work with the Brain Injury Association of Illinois, the Spinal Cord Injury Association of Illinois, and am a peer advisor to the Midwest Brain Injury Clubhouse. As a VIP member (voice for injury prevention) for the national program of ThinkFirst, I speak to students about injury prevention and safe driving. I volunteer at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago in their Peer Support Program. I currently work part time as a community relations advisor for a top Chicago law firm.

I hope my story of faith and determination offers an inspirational and practical approach to dealing with sudden changes in life. Like an oyster, I transformed the unexpected "grit" in my life into a precious pearl.

Visit the author's website.


A Wrecked Life: May 10, 1993 at 6:55 p.m.

Pulling her short brown hair, Toni Rapach screamed over the blaring song on the car radio, “Honk your horn, TJ! Hurry! Honk your horn!”

The couple watched in disbelief as a large burgundy Oldsmobile Cutlass ran a red light and violently struck the driver’s side of a small, white Mazda sports car turning left out of a shopping mall in a Chicago suburb.

Toni jumped from her car and shouted “Somebody call 911!”

An older couple raced toward the accident scene. The wife shouted over to Toni, “We’re calling 911 right now on our cell phone, and my husband’s a doctor!” In 1993, a mobile phone was not a common item.

Toni burst into tears when she looked into the Mazda and saw an unconscious young woman with a mane of blonde hair. She watched helplessly as the woman’s head lay against the chest as if it was disconnected from her body. Toni turned around and shouted, “Please somebody help!” “This poor girl and her family,” she sobbed. “They will never be the same.”

The gathering crowd rushed to the crumpled car and tried to open the driver’s door which was streaked with burgundy paint from the Oldsmobile. The forceful impact left both axles broken on the Mazda. A man ran to the other side of the car and managed to climb into the tangled debris. As he reached behind to pick up the young woman’s head, the doctor instructed, “Don’t move her.”

“I’m an off-duty paramedic,” the man answered in a calm and confident manner. “I know what I’m doing.”

“Go ahead then. I’m here if you need anything.”

The off-duty paramedic happened to be a block away from the accident scene getting his tires fixed. He lifted the woman’s head from her chest and cleared the airway so oxygen could pass to the brain. At 6:57 p.m., just two minutes after the accident, firefighters and paramedics arrived in a whir of sirens and flashing lights. Realizing the severity of the accident, Lieutenant Jim Streu radioed in a call to the station, “Extrication equipment is needed at the scene. Send in the fire truck.”

Paramedics Greg Sauchuk and Randy Deicke leaped out of Ambulance 61. Racing to the scene with his first aid box, Greg said, “Oh, man. This is really bad.”

They faced a “Trauma Red” and time was a major concern. Two minutes of the “Golden Hour” had already ticked away. Comprehensive medical treatment within that golden hour was imperative to offer any hope. Opening the first aid box, Greg removed some medical instruments to assess the woman’s condition. He recognized his off-duty paramedic friend who was holding the woman’s neck from the back seat of the car. Chips of sparkling glass surrounded the Mazda like Mardi Gras beads. Reaching through the blown out window, Greg said, “Tom, how did you manage to even climb into this pretzel? Thanks for stabilizing her neck and clearing the airway.”

Greg checked the woman’s breathing and said, “Amazing. I feel a pulse. She doesn’t need CPR.”

Lifting the woman’s eyelids, Greg checked the pupils with a small flashlight. They didn’t react. “Pupils dilated and fixed,” Greg reported to Randy and then shouted, “Hey, Miss! Can you hear me?!”

The woman remained silent. With his large six foot three, 245 pound frame, Greg pressed his fist into the woman’s chest. She didn’t even flinch.

“Patient is unresponsive to pain with sternum rub,” Greg said. “She scores a 3.” Greg rated the woman on the Glasgow Coma Scale, a quick, practical and standardized system developed in 1975 for assessing the level of consciousness and predicting the ultimate outcome of a coma. A three was the lowest score out of a possible fifteen.

“I’ll check her vitals,” Randy said as he wrapped the vinyl cuff around the woman’s arm to check for blood pressure. He placed the stethoscope on the inner arm and pumped the rubber ball. No reading. He tried again. “I can’t even hear the blood flow,” Randy said and shook his head while placing his fingertips on the woman’s artery to check for a pulse. “Patient’s palpable blood pressure is only eighty. Not good. Looks like a traumatic brain injury. Probably brain stem. Elevated heart rate is 120. This is bad guys. She’s in shock. Possible internal damage. After this car door is off, let’s do a ‘scoop and run.’”

Within a minute, the fire truck arrived with the “jaws of life” equipment. Al Green, another paramedic was also on the truck along with firefighter, Tony Pascolla. Tony lifted the forty pound Hurst equipment and steadied the hydraulic spreader as he ripped open the car door from its hinges. “I’ll be done in two minutes,” Tony shouted over the loud noise.

The paramedics decided against calling a helicopter since time was essential. Due to the severity of injuries, they agreed to take the woman to a Level I Trauma Center instead of the nearest hospital. Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois was fourteen miles away. They knew that neurosurgeon, Dr. John Shea was her only hope. The ambulance left the scene at 7:12 p.m and arrived at 7:25 p.m. Randy, Greg and Al pulled the stretcher out of the ambulance and ran into the emergency entrance to hand the woman over to the trauma team. “She’s posturing!” Randy said. They watched as the woman started extending her arms and legs in primitive reflexes, a sign that her body could not regulate itself. She then urinated all of the water from her body, soaking the stretcher, and started agonal breathing, the last breaths taken before dying.

As Greg walked back with Randy and Al toward the ambulance, he glanced over his shoulders at the lifeless body being carted away by the trauma team. “Dear God,” he prayed. “Please help her through this. Just help her through this.” He climbed into the driver’s seat and left the hospital. He’d seen it before. He knew firsthand that traumatic brain injury is the number one killer of people forty-four years old and younger.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Advice for Novelists (Part 64)

C.J. Darlington, co-founder of TitleTrakk, is running a great series on her blog: She started a series of blog posts in which industry professionals (editors, agents, publicists, authors, etc.) share their responses to this question:

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

Today multi-published author Lorena McCourtney shares her response. This came from an interview I did with her for TitleTrakk.com. To read the full piece click here.

I think persistence is more important than talent. But by that I don’t mean just persistence in sending the same manuscript out over and over (although that can be important too!). I mean persistence in learning the craft, in reading widely and studying what you read, and persistence in actually finishing something. Not just writing great beginnings and then jumping to something else. And persistence in actual writing, not just talking about writing, or being on writers’ loops, but actually writing.
--Lorena McCourtney, author of Here Comes the Ride, Your Chariot Awaits, the Ivy Malone mystery series, and more. Visit her online at her website.