How to write an anniversary speech

My parents recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Not too many people hit that milestone anymore, and we wanted to acknowledge their perseverance and commitment to one another through the difficult and easy times of 50 years of marriage.

50 years

Together with my siblings, we hosted a party. My job was to welcome those in attendance and segue from the introduction to the vow renewal ceremony.

I struggled to come up with an appropriate way to kick-start the festivities. I wanted something personal that might strike a sentimental chord, perhaps cause those in attendance to smile or laugh, and yet still be meaningful to my parents.

I crafted this list of questions, then used my parents’ answers to write my welcome. Download your free copy the Anniversary printable

anniversary answers 2

I used their answers to write the tribute below. You can use it as a template to craft your own personal and heartfelt speech to honor your parents.

A long time ago Bev set sail across the ocean carrying a China doll and a panda bear. She left behind England, her round flower garden, and a bird aviary (this was before she was afraid of birds). She couldn’t even imagine what lay ahead.

About that same time, Dave was chasing freedom and catching grass stains in Highgate, Ontario. In the winter months, he scraped the ice from the inside of his bedroom window and then off the windshield of his rusty 1951 Ford pick-up truck.

The truck he loved drove him to the job he despised where Bev’s mother spotted him. Her mother said, “He seems like a decent guy.” Bev, now grown, agreed.

On their first date, Dave brought Bev to the movie theatre thankful that his job at Zellers had finally paid off. She was the one.

After months of laughing and kissing, learning to Polka and waltz, the lover of boiled eggs and soldiers (that’s toast cut into strips – not men) married the lover of ice cream and pie.

They established their home in a tiny upstairs apartment with only a bed and a $30 refrigerator that fell down the staircase. Bev cooked their dinner in an electric frying pan and heated a tin of vegetables over a candle. Life was good.

The babies soon came, bringing with them the years of Tupperware, paper bag lunches, bike rides, Star Trek reruns, big Sunday dinners, mashed potatoes, and words of wisdom:

“Your word is your bond,” Dad would say, along with, “Life isn’t fair.”

Mom would tell us, “Everyone must choose for themselves if they will serve Jesus.”

They built a home and a life together. They welcomed grandbabies and great grandbabies and made family memories fishing, baking, and being together.

We celebrate their 50 years of marriage this summer with joy, so thankful that mom got on that boat all those years ago and that Dad went to the job he despised – otherwise none of us would be here now.

 

Why I Write Christian Romance

whyiwriteromance

Christian Romance books do not involve sexual love. The romance is based on an emotional connection between the characters and growing respect. The story is told as an allegory of God’s love for His children.

In my novels, the plot moves the story forward—not shocking or steamy scenes. I take Ephesians 5:4 seriously, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

God has placed each of us in the middle of a love story.

You are, right now, in a love story.

Some love stories are dramas. They’re full of heart-wrenching moments and climatic events. Some love stories are like a feel-good-girls-night-out, everything falls into place at the right moment and clicks. Some love stories are suspenseful; they have us biting our nails and wondering if good will ever prevail. And some of you are thinking – love story? – yeah right!

I don’t know your circumstances or life, but what I hope all my readers understand is that there is Someone who does. He is greater than any fictional prince, and He left his kingdom to pursue your heart. Not only is He pursuing you, but He is writing your story as a part of His story. He has promised that the stories of all His children end in victory for His glory.

Broken Love Stories

Our culture often depicts love in steamy images, as if love is solely based on sexual feelings. Our culture manipulates hearts and stirs up inappropriate passions. I believe this world needs clean, wholesome, and God-honouring stories. It needs authors bold enough to call cheap, broken, and worldly lust what it is—sin. It needs stories of purity, characters that honour God first, and illustrations of how true satisfaction comes from a right relationship with God not from a human relationship.

Ephesians 4:29 refers to speech, but it applies to authors as well, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Christian romance stories thrive within the boundaries God has created for love, and that gives hope to those who have only known broken love. Not hope in the right man, but hope in the Lord.

Happily Ever After

In this genre, you can count on your happy ending—and I like that. But more importantly than finding her one-true-love is my heroine’s growth in her walk with the Lord. More important than saving the day, winning the girl, and defeating the villain is my hero’s surrender to God.

So yes, I write romance. But the real story is exposing the lie my characters believe about themselves, the world, or God and proving that lie to be untrue. The real story is that God is the Hero, the pursuer of our hearts, and the lover of our souls.

The Rejected Princess – author Katie Clark

Today, author Katie Clark visits to give some writing advice and tell us about her new novel, The Rejected Princess. 

Katie: Writing—or writing well—usually takes time, just like growing a garden. As an early writer, I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I pounded out a complete novel in 30 days! I thought it was perfect, but a few honest critique partners quickly let me know that is wasn’t. Frustration set in and I just didn’t understand why my story wasn’t any good.

After three years of learning, rewriting, and learning some more, I finally realized my issue was editing. There had been no plot revisions, no cutting or adding, no polishing my sentences or rearranging scenes to make everything flow more smoothly. I had cut out the editing stage completely.

Okay, so how does all of this relate to growing a garden? Let me tell you!

One of the first things you do when planting a garden is taking a seed and putting it into the ground. You find the right spot, prepare the dirt, lovingly place your seed inside, then cover it with soil. Writing your first draft is like planting a seed. You pick the right setting, do a little pre-plotting to figure out what your story is about, then put words to paper.

Now, this is where I made my mistake. I felt that once the seed went into the ground, I was finished! But we all know putting a seed into the ground isn’t the end of growing a garden. There is watering, weeding, and pruning to be done. This is when the real work begins! In the writing world, we call it editing.

It took several manuscripts before I got into my editing groove, but now I’ve streamlined my process to a place of comfort. Editing is my favorite part—the part where I can prune my plants into masterpieces (ahem, masterpieces might be a stretch, but we’ll go with that)!

Drafting

I don’t edit as I draft, but I do often realize I’m on the wrong track with something, and so I make myself notes in the manuscript as I go.

Big Plot Problems

Once I’ve finished the entire draft, my next step is to go through these notes and make all the necessary changes. This might include plot holes I’ve noticed or places where I can tie certain subplots together. When this is complete, I read through the entire manuscript again to check for other big changes that need to be made, and I make them.

Pruning and Shaping

After I get the plot worked out, I do another complete read-through. This is usually the stage where I do a lot of pruning—cutting, shaping, and filling out. I check to make sure scenes or paragraphs are in the best possible order. Sometimes I realize that what makes sense to me won’t necessarily make sense to others, so I need to rearrange my descriptions and actions.

Voice

My last step is to read through the manuscript for voice. I want to make sure I’ve used the words my characters would use. In one manuscript, my main character was a baker. I went through the manuscript and changed a few expressions to reflect this. For instance, instead of saying Kayla was going to have a nervous breakdown, I wrote that Kayla was about to invade the baker’s chocolate. I love raking through my manuscript, looking for little changes like this that can bring the story to life!

Unlike a garden, unfortunately, there is no Miracle-Gro for your manuscript. Editing takes time and hard work, but in the end, you will have yummy fruits and veggies to share. And the best part? People will be glad you shared—unlike if you tried to saddle them with a first draft, because really, who wants to eat a seed?

 

DSC_8889KATIE CLARK started reading fantastical stories in grade school and her love for books never died. Today she reads in all genres; her only requirement is an awesome story! She writes inspirational romance for adults as well as young adult speculative fiction, including her YA supernatural novel, Shadowed Eden, and The Enslaved Series. You can connect with her at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

 

 

Katie’s Book: 

TheRejectedPrincess_ws12465_680When Princess Roanna Hamilton’s parents arrange a marriage with a prince of Dawson’s Edge—the mysterious and backward kingdom to the south—Roanna reluctantly agrees, accepting that peace must be put ahead of her lifelong relationship with Prince Benjamin of Lox.

But when Roanna is introduced to Dawson’s royal family, strange mind-bending anomalies are awakened within her, and she discovers the Dawsonian royal family holds secrets of their own.

Roanna becomes locked in a battle between kingdoms. Rebels wish to eliminate people who possess powerful anomalies. With threats growing daily, Roanna comes to realize the danger she is in—not to mention how her own family, and Benjamin’s, would react if her anomaly was revealed.

Tensions rise when Lox is attacked. If Roanna is to save herself and her future, she must stall her marriage and squelch the growing rebellion—all while discovering how deeply her power runs. But will Prince Benjamin and her family accept her when the truth of her heritage is finally revealed?

You can buy The Rejected Princess on Amazon

 

How a Writer Writes a Bio

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Every writer needs a short bio for introductions and a longer bio for that dreaded “about me” tab on the website. At the bottom of this post is a link that will help you create a personal and easy-to-read bio. I had LOADS of fun creating mine.

About Stacey

I am from the play-until-the-streetlights-turn-on and come-when-your-father-whistles generation. I’m a cool-off-in-the-sprinkler, drink-straight-from-the-hose, and fish-off-the-pier kind of girl. I’m loyal even when others are not.

I’ve wrestled with brothers, played Barbie with neighbors, and stayed up too late reading just one more chapter. I’m from BIG Sunday dinners, steaming hot tea, and Saturday morning coin-sized pancakes. I grew up with Tupperware, paper bag lunches, Yorkshire pudding, and mashed potatoes.

Lots of mashed potatoes.

My family is a finish-what-you-start, bargain shopping, home cooking, and respect-your-elders kind of family. I am one of four children framed in memories on a wall. I jumped off docks, endured eight-hour trips that took twelve, and sat in the middle bench seat of the family sedan.

I am a wait until you enter the house before driving away kind of mom. I boil the kettle in a crisis, and I know that a job worth doing is worth doing right.

I am a fixer of old things, painter of everything, cleansed and forgiven child of God. I believe that nothing matters more than the Lord Jesus Christ and who I believe He is.

Who are you?

Visit this link and use the template to write your own bio. Every writer needs an ‘about me’ page on their website. http://www.swva.net/fred1st/wif.htm

3 Fantastic Tools for Writers

UNLOCKING THE MYSTERIES OF PRODUCTIVITY. HOW ONE MAN MADE THE MOST OUT OF HIS 24 HOURS.-2

Writers need to do more than write to succeed. Today, writing involves maintaining an online presence which can include updating blog posts, websites, and social media accounts. The problem is that most writers want to write, not spend hours online marketing their work.

Good News

Fortunately, there are several available resources online that can aid the writer in crafting professional, quick, and EASY graphics and videos. Below are three of my go-to tools in my writing toolkit.

Three Must-haves for Marketing

Grammarly: Before you publish any graphic or video, you must ensure the grammar is correct. When I first tried Grammarly, I began with the free program. I was so impressed that I immediately downloaded it to my daughter’s computer for school use.

I upgraded to their paid services, and I LOVE it. Grammarly not only highlights my mistakes, but it also explains why the error is wrong. Like any program that checks for spelling and grammar, you are still required to engage your brain. Occasionally, like many other proof-reading programs, Grammarly has suggested an incorrect change. Visit: http://www.grammarly.com

Canva: I am relatively new to Canva, and I already love it. In fact, I made the graphic at the top of this page in less than five minutes. It offers several templates for marketing, social media, book, and magazine covers. Visit: http://www.canva.com

Lumen5: I’ve used Lumen5 to create a few videos, and I love how easy it is. After you create an account, you have the option to upload your own images or search their database for free photos and graphics. I used this blog post to create the short promotional video below. I copied and pasted the text, arranged the wording, uploaded images and/or chose images from Lumen5’s selection, and added music from their free options. DONE.

It doesn’t get much easier than this, which gives this writer more time to write.

Can a Writer Over Plan?

Writing coach Brian Henry once said that it takes three things to publish a book traditionally.

  1. A well-written manuscript.
  2. Perseverance.
  3. Dumb luck.

And you only need two out of three to succeed.

The only two items on that list that an author can control are numbers one and two. So how do you craft that stellar manuscript?

Many people look for the solution in worksheets, how-to books, and writers’ manuals. These are great things. I use many and have benefitted from the instruction of more experienced and successful authors. But, as I procrastinate starting my fourth novel, I can’t help but wonder if it is possible to over plan and if all those charts and worksheets can morph into a hindrance instead of help?

A Writer has Options

I am a firm believer in the fact that there is more than one way to write a book. There are probably as many ways to write a novel as there are writers, and the way that is right is the way that works for you.

I happen to blend a few methods, and I am a planner. The more books I write, the more detailed I plan. For me, plotting results in a cleaner first draft that requires fewer edits later.

But I had to question my motive when I downloaded a guide over 100 pages long on developing characters when I already had copious notes on said characters. It turns out that I had begun using charts and planning to avoid the hard work of writing that first draft.

You may think it gets easier with every published book, but for me, the reality is that the first draft is agony NO MATTER WHAT. It requires hours and hours of butt-in-chair writing that cannot be avoided by filling in the blanks on a chart.

NaNoWriMo

The right method to write is the method that works for you. But whatever you do, don’t use planning as a way to avoid writing. You eventually have to get the words on the page, and there is no better time than NaNoWriMo!

National Novel Writing Month begins November 1st. It might be the motivation you need to jump over the hurdle of planning and get that story on paper. Hop on over the website and check it out. If you sign up, let me know! Maybe we can cheer on one another.

 

Be a teachable writer

Funny story.

After publishing Write Every Day in the for writers category, I had to go back and edit out a mistake. Thirteen mistakes. I used the word everyday wrong every time. Thirteen times. All incorrect.

Quick tip:

Everyday – ordinary. Not special.

Every day – doing something daily.

Boy, is my face red.

Why am I telling you this?

Eventually, someone will tell you that you’ve made a mistake. You’ll learn a new grammar rule or an old grammar rule and recognize the dozens of ways you’ve mishandled the English language. You can be embarrassed. You can get angry (at yourself). You can run and hide and vow never to publish again. Or, you can be teachable. You can hear, apply, learn, and grow.

Being teachable might be more important than being perfect

I am not a perfect writer. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time you already know that. But, I continually learn and apply new knowledge so I can improve. I lean less on editors today than I did yesterday, but I still require LOADS of instruction.

I’ve discovered that most other writers will share their knowledge with a student eager to learn. Many editors will graciously explain tricky grammar rules when the student responds to their correction and advice with a teachable spirit. It’s not always about being perfect. It’s about being teachable.

Being teachable involves learning

When I learn something new, I write it down on the white board near my desk so I can refer to it easily. My editor or writer friends do not want to continually correct the same mistakes over and over again. They want me to improve. So when someone is teaching, LISTEN. Then, APPLY their advice to all drafts before sending them back for another critique.

It takes multiple passes and multiple eyes

I don’t catch every POV slip in one edit. I don’t correct every telling scene on a first pass. However, there should be a marked improvement with each pass and it is helpful to organize your edits.

I do multiple edits, each one focusing on something different. The first edit focuses on the big picture/main plot line/ does it make sense/and do I answer all the questions. The next is an edit in the heroine’s POV. I focus on her emotional/spiritual growth and her story arc. The next edit is in the hero’s POV and I focus on his emotional/spiritual growth and his story arc. I devote an entire edit to the romance, making sure the pacing is right. I take my time, addressing things one at a time. Finally, the last edit is grammar and punctuation. My weakest area.

I do my best to ensure I send my editor the cleanest draft possible. I have friends, further along in this writing world, who graciously look over my work at various points to help me see the story with fresh eyes. They always see things that I have missed. Always.

Slow down and enjoy the journey 

After completing a first draft, I take a long break and celebrate the victory of having the bones of a book on paper. Then, after a rest, I start the long stretch of edits. If you give yourself some distance from the story, you may find yourself enjoying the edits rather than hating them.

You’ll send your best work to the publisher. You’ll send it after rounds and rounds of edits. You’ll send it after it has been critiqued by others in the writing community. You’ll send it when it is the best you can make it.

Then, be teachable when it sells and the publisher begins the editing process afresh.

 

 

Fear: Its role in the writer’s life

Before I start, I want to address my non-writing readers. You will want to read to the end of this post and learn how you can win a $20 Amazon gift card from me!

Now, to those who write, want to write, are afraid to write, or are just curious about the mind of a writer…most of us battle fear. But what exactly do writers fear? Are all fears the same? How can we overcome fear and succeed?

First, there are different kinds of fear.

Fear of failure

Fear of Failure Questions:

  • What if I try my very best and it still isn’t good enough?
  • What if I pour myself into this dream and I never publish more than a blog post?
  • What if the stack of rejection letters don’t pave the road to traditional contracts but are, in fact, just rejections upon rejections that declare I am not good enough?

The Fear of Failure Lie:

  • If I never try—if I never put myself out there—I’ll not fail.

Fear of Failure Truth:

  • If you never try, you’ve already failed.

Fear of success

Fear of Success Questions:

  • If I do my best, battle the fear of failure, actually sell a book, will anyone read it?
  • If they do read it, what if the reviews are bad?
  • Can I handle criticism of my work?
  • Can I handle not being liked?

Fear of Success Lies:

  • I can protect myself from hurt by closing myself off from others.
  • I can control all aspects of life.

Fear of Success Truth:

  • Putting yourself out there is always a risk, but sharing your work helps you become a better writer.
  • Not all feedback is negative. Weed through it, apply the truth, and discard the rest.
  • If you’re looking for praise and adoration, you’re in the wrong career/hobby. Everyone has an opinion and the popularity of social media has made it easier to share those opinions.
  • Learn to differentiate between a criticism of your writing and a criticism of you. Comments are often not as personal as we make them.

Fear of self promotion

Fear of Self Promotion Questions:

  • How do I get the word out about my book without sounding prideful?
  • How do I spread the news beyond a repeated request for everyone who knows me to: Buy my book! Because that gets old. Quickly.
  • How do I, as a believer in the Lord, a person committed to the pursuit of making less of me and more of God, do something as self-promoting as talk about me? My book? My work? My yada-yada-yada?

Fear of Self Promoting Lies:

  • A grass-roots word-of-mouth publicity plan is enough.
  • Promoting my book and promoting me are the same thing.

Fear of Self Promoting Truths:

  • Word of mouth is GREAT. But sometimes, I have to speak first.
  • If I don’t care how my book is received, why will anyone else?
  • I am NOT promoting me. I am promoting a product or message that I believe can help/encourage/instruct someone else and ultimately draw them closer to the Lord.

One core fear

All the above sub-fears share one core fear: Fear of man. What will people think of me, my work, my message? But I am not called to fear man. I am called to fear God.

Do I fear the Lord?

The bigger question is: Do I fear the Lord? Because if I do, than I know my life isn’t about me. It’s about Him. The truth is, I will get some things wrong. I won’t always say it right, write it right, or be right. But God hasn’t called me to perfection. He has called me to repentance and obedience. He has called me to develop and use my gifts for His glory.

glorious-surrender-hr_finalI’ve battled all three of these fears in the weeks leading up to this Friday. This Friday, I am celebrating the release of Glorious Surrender. Getting to this point has forced me to surrender even more to the Lord.

  • I’ve surrendered my privacy by sharing some deeply personal illustrations with the desire that my experience will point you to the answers found only in Christ.
  • I’ve surrendered my writing preferences, because in many ways, fiction feels so much safer. This book is real. It’s raw. Sharing it has put me into an uncomfortable and vulnerable position. But if being in this spot helps you in your walk with the Lord, it is worth it. Because that’s what matters. More than comfort, more than preference, I want to see you deepening your faith and seeking the Lord.

Come on back Friday, Nov 4th to this blog and celebrate a social media book launch party! I will be hosting in three places: my Facebook writer page, twitter, and on my blog. Visit any of those places and comment about surrender between 10:00am and 9:00pm EST for your chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card. See full contest rules here.

Watch this short video for a glimpse into my heart for Glorious Surrender.

Glorious Surrender from Stacey Weeks on Vimeo.

Write Every Day

Write every day. Those two words were the most repeated advice offered to me as a new writer. However, there was a huge discrepancy between what was said to me and what I actually heard.

Said: “Write every day.”

Heard: “Write novel material every day.”

Said: “Write every day.”

Heard: “It only counts if the writing is on your major writing project.”

Said: “Write every day.”

Heard: “If it doesn’t benefit the novel, it is a waste of time.”

Why Write Every Day

A new writer writes every day because it is through the practise of writing that improvement is achieved. A new writer writes every day because it develops a habit that increases ones chances of reaching success. A new writer writes every day because no one masters a craft in which they half-heartedly invest. So yes, write every day.

What I’m Not Saying

It’s amazing that two simple words could be misunderstood for so long. To prevent you from repeating my mistake from years ago, let me clarify. Write every day means write something. Anything. Novel project? Sure. Brainstorm a new project? Sure. Work on a blog post? Sure. Trade your fiction for non-fiction? Sure. Simply write.

Something.

Anything.

Write.

As you string words together it contributes to your ability to write well. You learn to tighten your thoughts. You learn to structure your sentences. You learn to present information in a logical fashion. These are all necessary skills for every kind of writing.

Enjoy it!

My best advice to a new author? Love what you do, but don’t so tightly define what you do that you fail to recognize the value in all others styles and genres of writing. Love your fiction work (if publishing a novel is your dream). But don’t devalue non-fiction, poetry, research, blogs, articles, or newspaper work. Sometimes, dipping your toe into a different pond sends out ripples of creativity.

Credit

Publishing my first novel was my dream. However, I took a break that stretched over a few years and worked for a magazine, freelanced for various small publications, and worked on writing classes. I wrote every day for years and misbelieved I was failing because it wasn’t on my novel. What wasted years beating myself up! I would not have been able to rework that novel without those years of writing non-fiction. Those years schooled me in the art of writing. Those years—those writing classes—sharpened my skills.

Write on, my friend. And don’t fear taking a break from your major project. All writing is profitable when you are doing your best to write better today than you did yesterday.