Fact Stranger than Fiction

The greatest story every told begins with these words. “For unto us a child is born” (Isaiah 9:6) . What we know as the Christmas Story, can be found in the biblical accounts of Matthew and Luke (Matthew 1:18-25; Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 2:1-20). Although there has been much debate over the details of the birth of Jesus, one thing is certain – His mission.

I often marvel at the resolve of the writers of this story because of the risks they took in telling it. An old priest is visited by an angel while serving in the temple. The angel tells him that he and his wife will have a son and that he is to be named John.  The old man can’t believe it and so the angel makes him mute until the birth of the child as a sign that what he says will be so.  Some how he is able to communicate to his wife what happens. Sure enough she gets pregnant at her advanced age. Six months into the pregnancy the old woman is visited by her cousin, a young girl who is also pregnant with the Son of God. The young girl was also visited by an angel who told her she would become pregnant without knowing a man and that her son was to be called Emmanuel (Jesus).  The news was so shocking that her fiance was about ready to call off the marriage until he was visited in a dream by an angel that told him not to worry.  Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph had a lot riding on these angelic visitations. Can you imagine waiting nine months for a child to be born with everyone around you speaking  words of doubt and unbelief? Then watching and waiting as the child grew to see if there was any sign of what you claim was true.

Fact is often stranger than fiction. When this story was told it was written as historic accounts of the birth of a savior. The Jewish world at that time was awaiting a Messiah that had been promised through the prophets of old. Some believed that Jesus was that Messiah and others did not. For those of us who believe, Christmas is a celebration to this miraculous birth.  There is no greater gift than the gift of salvation and there is no better time to receive that gift than today.

Merry Christmas,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

 

What If …

images-5                 I’m convinced that the best sellers are those that ask the question, “What if?” I admit that I’m a little partial to a Mystery or a Whodunit. However, what a reader really wants is to be taken on an adventure. I also happen to like learning something new or being challenged in some way. So let’s examine what would happen if …

Christmas is the perfect time to ask this question and many of our beloved holiday stories start with this premise. Frosty the Snowman asks the question, “What would happen if a snowman came to life?” Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer asks, “What would happen if one of Santa’s reindeer had a red nose?” The Grinch Who Stole Christmas asks, “What would happen if someone stole Christmas?” I followed this same formula with my own children’s story, I Wish For Snow. I was curious to know, what would happen if a little girl asks for snow on an island?

I Wish for Snow Cover

The next time you are having difficulty with a theme or plot twist begin with a question – What if? Exploring all the possibilities and even the impossibilities of a situation will open the story up to intrigue. The best way to give your characters an interesting dilemma is to examine how they would respond if the rug is pulled out from under them. The most interesting characters are those that are a little abnormal in some way.  Edward Scissorhands was one of the most unusual Holiday tales that asks, “What if a man was created with scissors for hands?” The answer, is what makes this a classic story.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

Book Trailer for I Wish For Snow by Flye Books

Resources for Freelance Writers

I began seriously trying to make a living as a freelance writer around this time last year.  It took a few months, but I now have a pretty good system for getting regular work from a few trusted sources. If you are still struggling to find work I’m sharing my list of resources in the hopes that next year, you’ll get more work.

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  1.  Elancehttp://www.elance.com is my number one go to for writing assignments. I’ve been successful in landing long term relationships with vendors who come to me time and again to ghostwrite books for them. I’ve gotten the occasional editing jobs as well as daily writing assignments. Eighty percent of my writing jobs come through  Elance.
  2. Odeskhttp://www.odesk.com is a secondary place where I’ve found work. I’ve done everything from editing books to writing promotional video scripts. The work is varied and I’ve had some very exciting projects on Odesk.
  3. Freedom With Writing – www.freedomwithwriting.com is a website that post all of the various places you can find writing jobs online.  I signed up for the e-newsletter and every week I get a list of new places to look for work. One of those places is the next place on my list to look for work.
  4. Guruhttp://www.guru.com – is another site similar to Elance and Odesk. The main difference is that anyone can post jobs on there for free. As a result the jobs don’t pay much. I must admit that I don’t use Guru much because there are just so many people out there on the free version that it’s hard to get work without paying. I don’t think I should have to pay to get hired for work.
  5. I also recently, began offering my services to friends and local business owners that I know. Writing newsletters, reports, and marketing materials can be a big help to small business owners who are trying to do everything on their own. If you can take one thing of their plate, they will happily pay your for it.

Using these resources to find writing jobs has kept me plenty busy and provided extra income. I don’t do it full-time, but I believe that with the right focus, you could make a decent living as a freelance writer. I wish you the best in the New Year. You have three more weeks to create your game plan to get more work doing what you love next year.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D. P. McLaughlin

An Exercise in Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving Day approaching, I’m taking an inventory of all the things I’m thankful for. I practice daily journaling and decided to dedicate today’s journal entry to a list of things I can give thanks for today. I don’t usually do writing prompts but I thought it appropriate this week to introduce a writing exercise on the topic of thanksgiving.

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Instead of just listing all the things you are thankful for. I challenge you to write an alternate version of what life might be like if you did not have all of the things you are thankful for. What would your living space look like? What if you never went on that first date with your spouse? Who would you be if your parents never met? It doesn’t have to be long. 250-500 words are enough to remind you to be thankful because things could be very different.

Have fun with your writing assignment and remember to give thanks everyday.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

Salute to Small Business

November is also National Entrepreneur Month and in this post I’d like to celebrate all the self-published authors, small independent publishers and presses that make up the indie book scene. We are the little engines that could. This Saturday is Small Business Saturday and if you have a book that you would like to promote this week, I open this blog up for you to pitch your book. In the comments, tell me your name, title of your book and give a link to where we can purchase your book. I ask that everyone who reads this blog today would consider purchasing a book from a self published author or independent publisher this weekend.

I have two books that are both available online.

I Believe              I Wish for Snow Cover

http://www.amazon.com/shops/AV3MJQ7H1J1P6

Every book comes signed by the author.

Thank you for your support of me and the other authors who post their links.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

National Novel Month

The Great Gatsby

November is National Novel Writing Month. If you’ve been wanting to write a great American novel, this is your month. There are programs that promise that if you follow their method, you can write a novel in 30 days. Whether you write fast or slow, I encourage you to get started writing this month. If you’re like I was when I began writing my first novel (which I’m still working on), you may wonder how to get started. Here’s my simple tips on how to write your first novel in the next one to six months.

  • Choose an engaging theme
  • Create interesting characters
  • Chose an attractive local or setting
  • Make sure the plot has plenty of things at stake for your characters
  • Leave somethings to the imagination of the reader
  • Show don’t tell
  • Write dialogue that mimics the natural rhythms of speech
  • Add an element of surprise
  • Give the reader a satisfying conclusion

Once you’ve done all of this, it’s time to edit and re-write and craft your writing. If you’ve every read a novel in a weekend, it was because the writer was a master a their craft. They kept you wanting to know what happens next. They created characters that you cared enough about to keep reading until the end. And if you really enjoyed the book, they ended it in a way that was satisfying to you. In order to write like this, you will need to know a few things.

  1. Your Audience
  2. Your Genre
  3. Your Craft

All of these things can be learned and improved upon. Writing is one of those things you learn by doing. You also learn by reading the kind of books you want to write. My novel, as I mentioned is not complete. The story is complete but the word count is about half that of an average novel. I could put it out as a novella, however, I believe that I can expand it. So in honor of National Novel Month, I’ll be revisiting my novel. I probably won’t finish it this month because of all the other things I’ve got going on. I may finish by the end of the year, if I get focused on it.

If you are going to start or complete a novel this month, I want to hear from you. Please leave a comment and let me know your title and the name of your main character.  At the end of the month I’ll check back in with you to see how it’s going.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

The Business of Writing

The moment you decided to become a writer, you become a business. Not only are you in business, you are the CEO of You Incorporated. Everything you do and say from this point on will be scrutinized. People will suddenly care what you have to say and genuinely want your opinion on everything. What exactly, is the business of writing?

Writing as a business is about more than putting words on paper. It’s about sharing ideas and at times challenging beliefs. Writing is about giving a voice to the disenfranchised or being an authority in a field. It’s about communicating effectively as both a teacher and a storyteller. The hardest part of the business of writing is discovering your platform. Once you decide what being a business means for you, then you can sit down and be about the business of writing.

When I began my publishing company back in 2004, I branded myself as a writer of Christian books for children and young adults. I’ve since expanded that to include adults. The subject matter is on a different level but my message is still the same. My mission has not changed. There is room to grow and evolve even within the brand and platform you’ve chosen.  Just be strategic in how you roll out the new direction of your company. I’m always looking for ways to improve the business and to find what I consider to be success.

Success for some writers is being published. For others, it’s writing a best seller. For me it’s being able to use my gifts and talents to make a living that will help support my family. It’s writing this blog in the hopes that I’ll share something that will help you take things to the next level in your writing. This is the cake for me, public recognition would be the icing.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin