The Beauty of Distracted Writing

ProfessionalPic1 - Laura ZimmermanBy Laura Zimmerman

I used to think I couldn’t write unless I had an hour or more to devote to it. Of course this would rarely happen, since a little thing called ‘life’ would get in the way.

The idea was sound: I wanted to avoid distraction. I never wanted to settle for a 5-minute block of time or writing with kids around because it seemed pointless. I couldn’t do my best writing in that environment, right?

A few years ago I read an interview with a well-known author who claimed there was no excuse for writers who said they didn’t have time to work on their craft. While in college, she’d write on her Blackberry in the few minutes’ downtime she had before class, and that’s how she wrote her first bestseller.

So I made my own attempt. I wrote first thing in the morning, even if the kids were already up. I wrote at night, when it was past bedtime. I wrote in the middle of the day, as ‘Cupcake Wars’ blared in the background. Sometimes these only consisted of ten-minute increments, at best.

Laura Zimmerman blog picHere’s what I discovered: It is totally possible to write this way. Not only that, but it’s rewarding! Is my writing perfect? No. That’s where edits come in. But at least it’s a start. A writer isn’t a writer if there’s nothing on the paper, after all! Dropping my preconceived notion that I must have a specific amount of time to write has greatly improved the amount I get written.

I challenge you to do the same. Make an effort to write as many words as you can in the few minutes you have each day and see what a difference it makes in achieving your writing goals!

Laura L. Zimmerman is a homeschooling mom to three daughters, and a doting wife to one husband. Besides writing, she is passionate about loving Jesus, singing, drinking coffee and anything Star Wars. You can connect with her through Facebook and Twitter and at her website, She’s an author of YA, Fantasy, and Sci-Fi and is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.


Mark Your Calendar!

CONFERENCE LOGO-1Mark your calendars for the Second Annual Keystone Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference, Saturday, November 5, from 9-5 in Harrisburg. Check back in mid-July for updated information posted under our Conference tab.

We’re excited, because we’ll have a wonderfully inspirational keynote speaker, two agents, two publishers, and hopefully, a couple published authors as workshop speakers, to also take appointments.

Last year, three of our attendees were signed by Hartline Literary Agency as a result of our conference. I’m hoping for much more this year.

So…mark your calendars for Saturday, November 5, Harrisburg, PA. More information coming soon.


Oh, What a Metaphor (or Simile) Can Do

Robin Archibald

Robin Archibald

by Robin Archibald

As a fiction writer, my job is to engage readers and draw them into my stories. Using metaphors and similes helps me because they put two familiar things side by side, thereby heightening readers’ experience or understanding. Click to Tweet #simile #metaphor

The following simile from my novel “Nanie Glatfelter’s Garden” helps readers see a field of daffodils in a new way:

“Each flower poised demurely atop its stem like a lady accepting a compliment on her beauty. With each gust of wind, the heads bobbed as if in lively conversation.”

But metaphor and simile can do even more in our stories.

Using metaphor to add suspense or enhance mood

Romantic suspense writer Mary Stewart creates a wonderfully spooky metaphor by combining a couple of interesting images together:

“Long, transparent drifts of vapor wreathed up from the water and reached slow fingers across the narrow shore toward the trees.”

Stewart also uses metaphor to enhance mood. When the heroine and the man she loves meet in a grand salon after a terrible misunderstanding, her lover’s cold silence convinces the heroine she’s lost his love. To her, the chandelier’s light becomes ice:

“The light of the big chandelier dripped icily from its hundred glittering prisms. It fell coldly on the white shrouds that covered the furniture, and struck back from the pale marble of the fireplace . . .” (both excerpts from Nine Coaches Waiting)

Using metaphor as story symbol

In The Big Rock Candy Mountain, Wallace Stegner opens with 20 year-old Elsa on a train. She makes an interesting observation:

“The wires dipped, lifted, dipped, in swift curves like the flight of a swallow. She felt her stomach dipping and lifting with them.”

Stegner shows the image of the dipping and lifting wires three times in his opening, searing the image into the mind of his reader. The swooping wires are in fact a story symbol and a prophetic metaphor for Elsa’s life after she marries the unstable Bo Mason.


Robin Archibald lives in Lancaster County, PA. She writes Garden Fiction inspired by her love of the land and the people who work it.

And the Winners Are…

GREAT BEGINNINGS LOGOJill Hackman and I have been busting at the seams to announce the winners of our 1st Keystone Great Beginnings Contest.

They are:

1st Place – Rachel McDaniel for The Red Canary

2nd Place – Elizabeth Van Tassel for The Crystal Domain

Honorable Mention – Kerry Johnson for The Name Game

Thank you again, to ALL of you who entered. Your judged entries will be returned to you soon. Take the comments and learn from them to make your manuscript better. I’ve had to do that several times, from a professional editor and contest judges.

Stay tuned here for announcements concerning our 2nd Annual Keystone Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference.

Donna L.H. Smith – President

Lots of Exciting News Coming Soon

from Flickr

from Flickr

It’s an exciting time for our ACFW Pennsylvania State Chapter.

We passed our first anniversary in March as a chapter, with our first online meeting in April of 2015. We continue to meet monthly, but we will take a short break this summer.

Watch for a new blog post late Tuesday evening or Wednesday that announces the winners to our Keystone Great Beginnings Contest. I’ll give one hint: I’m pleased that a chapter member won 1st prize.

Also – mark down Saturday, November 5th, 2016 on your calendars and join us in Harrisburg for our 2nd Annual Keystone Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference. We are fiction only, and fiction first. We are the only Christian writers’ conference that is all fiction. We’re nailing down the details as this is being written. We think you’ll like what we’re planning.

If you have any questions regarding chapter membership, please let one of the board members know.

We’ll be unveiling more information soon!

Thank You to All 17 Contest Entrants


Thank you! We had an astonishing 17 entries (we were hoping for 15) for our Keystone Great Beginnings Contest. The judges are currently reading and scoring entries, and winners will be announced at our online meeting, April 26th at 7:30 p.m. and here on this blog.

It takes a lot of courage to submit one’s work for critique and scoring. Only one can win 1st place with a $50 prize. If you don’t win, don’t give up. Keep working on your craft, your story. Take the judges’ comments and learn from them. It will help you improve and maybe, the next contest you enter, you’ll place!

If you win here, you’ll be rewarded monetarily, and that will show potential publishers two things: 1) you are serious about your writing, and 2) you are willing to put yourself out there and try to get published.

Two years ago, I entered the ACFW Genesis contest. I didn’t make it past the first round, and one judge seemed quite harsh with their low score. After a period of time, though, I was able to re-visit their score sheet, and learn what I needed to do to improve my novel.

The next time I submitted it, I made the semi-finals in Operation 1st Novel.

So whether you win or place here, even with an Honorable Mention certificate, the point is: learn, progress, and keep submitting. Perseverance is the key. I know. I’m still persevering, hoping for a publishing contract in my future. Blessings to you.

No Dead “Beats”

mcmurray-HR-9By Robert McMurray

As one who prefers not to use attributions, I had a tendency to overuse action beats to delineate speakers, often groping for a variety of beats to use, when many were unnecessary and intrusive. These dead beats often proved to wreck the rhythm of my writing.

Yet, well-placed action beats, often called descriptive beats, can heighten the story, give your characters character, when used as reactions to dialogue to show movement or emotions. Reading your scenes aloud should show natural pauses which would benefit from beats or reveal where beats you have used are intrusive and interrupt the flow of the story.

Beats like a raised eyebrow or a quivering hand can ground your character. However, having him raise an eyebrow or have his hand quiver for no reason other than as a substitute for a dialogue tag is a dead beat that does not move your story forward and hinders the rhythm. In a recent editing experience, I encountered the following: “How dare you speak to me in that manner?” She set her cup on the table. “Get out of my house.”

drumsIt appeared that the beat was merely an attempt to avoid an attribution and it mitigated the emotional effect of the scene. The first revision simply omitted the beat: “How dare you speak to me in that manner? Get out of my house.” This implied a controlled, seething anger which did not fit the character, and, when read aloud, showed a pause.

The result: “How dare you speak to me in that manner?” She slammed her cup on the table, sending shards of china skittering across the floor. “Get out of my house.” Here the emotional impact is heightened with a solid visual image that displays her anger.

Although solid beats add life to your story, dead beats serve to lessen the emotional impact and rhythm of your writing. So watch for dead beats and remove or revise where necessary.