A blog update from Denise M. Colby dated September 17, 2018
General, Writing Journey

An Update From Me

A blog update from Denise M. Colby dated September 17, 2018It’s been a while since I’ve written for my own blog.

Life is always busy in my household with three teenage boys and all their activities so I’ve been focusing on more simpler posts such as the First Line Fridays and on writing magazine articles and a monthly blog over at A Slice of Orange.

I jumped into the First Line Fridays scene at the beginning of the year and enjoyed sharing and commenting on all sorts of books—some old favorites and some new here on my blog. You can check them all out here or the latest one here.

I was looking forward to the summer

and hopefully a slower schedule with more time to write, but that didn’t happen.  I started the summer with a wonderful conference.  SoCal Christian Writers Conference was held June 21-23 at Biola University and it was wonderful to learn and be filled with encouragement and writing ideas.  I came back with a long list of things I wanted to do to pursue this writing career.  And then the week I got back I got a call about my mom not doing well and left to go spend an unknown amount of time with her and my sisters.

When my mother passed away in early July, I found it challenging to sit still and write. 

So even though I met my obligations to others (magazine articles and blog post), I took a break mentally from my own expectations. It was a good move for me to regroup and give myself some grace. And my list from the conference has sat there waiting patiently for me to get back to it.

But even during all that time off, ideas kept brewing in my mind.

It seems a writers mind never stops working….oh the joys of being a writer.

So now, the kids are back in school. We had a beautiful Celebration of Life for my mom over labor day weekend and I’ve gotten a handle on the laundry and the cleaning (for now). So I’m working on my routine again.

So here’s an update:

I’m editing my novel. Still. The main draft is done, but learning about all the layers that go into a novel – plot, grammar, correct point of view, balance between dialogue, narration, and action. That takes time. For me…since it’s in between being a wife, mom and daughter as well as any outside paid jobs…it’s taken a lot of time.

But I feel like it’s been worth the time. All the online classes and monthly workshops, I believe it has been good to not rush through the editing process. I have learned much and am excited to put all that learning into practice. I’m excited to be moving forward again.

I appreciate all the support everyone has given me. 

I’ve enjoyed the friendships I have made along this journey. And a journey it is! I look forward to connecting more with you, my dear friends and hopefully have more for you in the near future.

Blessings,

Denise

Writing Journey

Why the M?

Why do I use an M in my name?

When I decided to create a webpage and wanted the domain for just my first and last name, but there was another author with the same name.  Even though it had been a while since she published, the genre was too close, and I didn’t want there to be any confusion.  I also found out that particular domain was taken by a health fitness person.

I knew I wanted to use Denise Colby but I needed to differentiate myself

So, I had a decision to make

My middle name actually starts with a C, but I didn’t like two C’s next to each other in my author name, so I decided to go with M – which is the first letter in my maiden name.

When someone types in Denise M. Colby; my website, blog posts and social media appears in the search, which means I’ve done something right in being consistent with using that name.  When I typed in Denise Colby, I did not appear in anything, also because of the above statement.

I wondered, then, how difficult would it be to have something appear in a search using only Denise Colby.  To do so, would mean I would need to use Denise Colby in the alt text of photos, as well as in a post (did you know the internet indexes even the headers you choose? I’m covering that in a separate post).

So to test this theory, I decided to write a post using some specific SEO techniques.

File Names for Images: 

I uploaded the same photo with different file names.  It turns out that the file name cannot change when you upload it and that name becomes public record – even if you change the title later.  (I’m still trying to figure out what the title line is for, then).

Testing out Alt Text:

I also typed out the alt text differently with each photo.  The first one has Denise M. Colby and second one has Denise Colby in the Alt Text.

Caption & Description:

I also filled out the Caption and the Description on each photo as I’ve read that those sections can be indexed as well.  I added more text to the captions within this post, but it doesn’t back feed into the media files.  Not sure yet if that makes a difference or not.

Using Different Size Subheads With My Content:

Recently I read using the built-in subheads (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.) gets indexed into metadata as well, so I wanted to test that theory in this post.  That is why I have the words Denise Colby in the first subhead above. And why I’m writing this line next:

I decided to use Denise M. Colby instead of Denise Colby

Denise M. Colby Bible Verse Psalm 136 with Steadfast in it word of year 2018
File Name is Psalm136 with Denise M. Colby in the Alt Text
Denise Colby Bible Verse Psalm 136 with Steadfast in it word of year 2018
File Name is IMG_3829-copy with Denise Colby in the Alt Text

Each of these pictures are linked to the media file on my website.  The media file pulls from the original file name used when uploading the picture.  So if you were to save either of these, they would have the original file name that I uploaded it with.

I’m going to resist creating an image header for this post, although I believe if I added one using the file names and alt text with the same data would help with what I’m trying to test.  I might add another post similar to this one later on just to learn more.

So, thanks for following my ramblings as I test out my own theory and knowledge related to SEO techniques and website posts.  And now you know why I use the M. in my name.

Blessings,

Denise M. Colby, also known as Denise Colby

 

 

Writing Journey

Time Flies…

writers journey blog

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last posted on this blog.  Of course I haven’t been stagnant.  Life keeps moving, or as the phrase suggests…time flies when you’re having fun.  And I have been having fun. Both in my personal and professional life.

I’m still writing…

Slice of Orange Blog

…I’m now writing a monthly blog over at www.sliceoforange.net.   You can see my posts on the 12th of every month.  If you are interested you can sign up to receive the daily posts from a large group of authors.  Here’s my September post: http://www.asliceoforange.net/face-your-fear/

Writers conference southern california…I attended the SoCal Christian Writers Conference in June and met some wonderful people within the industry.  I also picked up new tips and information to help me on my journey, including some blogging lessons.

…I’ve taken two online classes over the past few months, both on editing and revisions, since that is what I am currently working on.  I’ve learned a lot and am now applying those lessons to my manuscript.

…I rewrote the entire beginning of my book.  I’ve learned so much since when I started that it was easier to rewrite it with new words and phrasing rather then continue to change what I had originally.

…I have a title for my first book that I’m completely happy with.  I had been going round and round with a handful of them, but one stuck out I really liked and after asking a few publishers and agents, I’ve decided it’s the one (I’ll have to reveal it in another post).

…I have met a wonderful new author friend who is now my critique partner and together we’ve exchanged a few scenes and gotten to know each other.  I’m really looking forward to working with her.  I’ll have to introduce her in a future post.

…I’ve been revising and editing my first book and adding words to book number two.  I can see my writing has improved tremendously, but it’s not quite where it needs to be.  So I keep working at it.

…I have a logo my middle son designed and created for me.  I need to finalize the last bit of detail before I put it on my website, but it’s been great working on it with him.  I’m super excited to share it with you.

Wow….I really haven’t been stagnant.  It feels good to write out what I’ve been doing.  I can see the progress.  Daily I don’t feel like I’ve done much because sometimes the progress is itty bitty, but all in all I can see the progression in my writing journey.

Looking ahead…

…I’m considering renaming this blog ‘my journal’ since that’s the style I have chosen to write in.  I guess an official “blog” post is more instructive and has a call to action.  Here I share my thoughts, feelings and encouragement as if I’m writing a diary entry. 

Do you like this approach?  I would love to hear your opinion.

…I hope to have revisions done by the end of the year for my first book.  The process is slow, but as I apply things from my new tool box, I can see it taking shape.

And My Family Keeps Me Busy…

With three teenage boys in my house, there is never a dull moment.  This year we have celebrated a high school graduation, an Eagle Scout, lead roles in musicals and plays, choir performances, track meets, dances, backpacking trips, college classes and lots of pizza movie nights (our weekly tradition) and so much more (including my 22nd Anniversary to my amazing hubby).  It seems daily I’m running somewhere, but I wouldn’t change any of it.  I love my family dearly and enjoy watching them get to do what they love and cheering them on.

So there’s the fun I’ve had while my time has flown by.  I encourage you to write out some of the things you’ve accomplished this year so far.  I bet it’s more than you think.

And hopefully I won’t take as long before I post something again.

Blessings,

Denise

General, Writing Journey

Celebrating Progress

A great part of being involved in writing organizations are the opportunities to get your material in front of published authors, agents and publishers through contests. The feedback they provide are valuable and instructional.

My local chapter of RWA – the OCCRWA – hosts the Orange Rose Contest every year for unpublished authors. You send in the first 35 pages and a synopsis of your story.

The first time I entered was in 2015. I took all the feedback and made several changes and decided to enter again in 2016 to see if those changes made a difference.

First Place Certificate
I Won!

 

What a shock to find out I won 1st place in the inspirational category! I received this really pretty certificate and got to stand in front of my peers who all cheered me on.

Then a month later I found out that those who placed first receive an engraved award at our Annual Birthday Bash. Here’s a picture of me writing awardgiddy with excitement after being presented with my award (yes I had to give a little speech).

 

And…

my name was listed in the Romance Writers Report Magazine

I still feel as if I’m on cloud nine. It gave me the confidence boost I needed to continue moving forward with my goal of publishing.

And what was my next goal?  Turning Pro!

For an RWA member to turn Pro, you need to submit your complete manuscript to show proof of your work. In January of this year, I uploaded my document and held my breath. I received word they accepted it and voila! My status was updated to Pro.

What I didn’t know at the time – and I was jumping up and down when I found out – I would receive a rose from my Orange County Chapter for going Pro.

Receiving my rose

What’s the big deal about the rose? Every month at our meetings, authors receive roses for selling books, novellas, and other stories. Each color rose means something – Red=Novel, Pink=Novella Length, Purple=Self-Published, Yellow=Non-Fiction, White=Articles, Peach=Turning Pro.

I’ve been watching everyone receive roses for a few years and couldn’t wait to receive one. I even purchased a vase a while back to hold my roses in. So when I found out I would be receiving one for going Pro, it was difficult to contain my excitement (just ask my husband!).

 

Not only that, I received a PRO pin to wear on my badge with pride AND I got my name printed in the RWA National Magazine on the PRO page.

It feels like all of this happened quickly, but I’ve been working up to this point for a while. It’s nice to be able to see progress in my work. I’ve included pics – I have to document it all – it helps encourage me when I have those days I don’t like my writing.

Now with these goals met – I have my eyes set on new ones for the rest of the year; Find a critique partner, edit Book #1 and finish writing Book #2.

As a writer, there is never an “I’ve arrived” moment in our career.

It’s not about the end result.

It’s all about the journey!

Thank you for letting me share mine with you.

Blessings, Denise

General, God Inspired Musings, Writing Journey

Where Is Your Confidence?

This morning I was reading in 2 Corinthians and the following verse made me stop and pause, so I wrote it down on my handy 3×5 index card for future reference:

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.     2 Corinthians 3:5

I want to be a writer. Notice I said I want to, not I am. I’ve only been writing things for over twenty years – either marketing copy or fiction stories. No matter which, the reality is I struggle with believing in myself. My takeaway from this verse is God’s telling me if I believe in him, I need to believe in myself.

After getting the kids off to school, I took a walk and the verse rattled around in my head. But for some reason the key word competence turned into the word confidence (I wonder who put that there?). As I mulled around thoughts about confidence, I knew I needed to come home and look up the word in the dictionary.

I love words. Definitions, synonyms – all of it. I also love seeing connections words have with other words.  So here’s what the website http://www.dictionary.com says about

CONFIDENCE: full trust; belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance:

And I love the example they gave in a sentence: His lack of confidence defeated him.

Is my lack of confidence in my abilities as a writer defeating me? I think about my writing and the nudges I have had over the past five years and I know without a doubt God wants me to do this, otherwise doors would’ve closed on me long ago. However I’m not fully doing what he wants me to do because I have not had the confidence to just do it.

I’ve been saying for a while now, I would like to write devotionals. I have this strong innate desire to share hope, encouragement and God’s Word with others. What I haven’t been sure about is the how and what. So I haven’t done it, period.

When I took my walk this am something clicked and I couldn’t wait to get back home because I needed to do this right now. God has confidence in me. He has given me the desire. He’s nudging me to do this. Why have I not done this? Why?

I’m afraid – that’s why. What am I so afraid of? Putting myself out there? Looking like an idiot? Is that confidence then? I know I’m not looking for accolades, not looking for stardom. I just want to write and share my heart. But I’ve been too scared to do that.

Then I saw the Synonyms for confidence – 1. faith, reliance, dependence.

And the Antonym – 1. mistrust.

Wow! In a nutshell, my lack of confidence in myself (lack of faith) and the abilities God has given me (lack of faith, dependence) are holding me back from sharing something he wants me to share. I’m not really trusting God then, am I? If I have faith, I should have confidence in what he’s asking me to do. And I need to depend on Him when I do it.

So here I am today. Writing a devotional and setting up a specific devotional page on my website. Only God knows what will happen. I just need to have the confidence to do it (already the nagging doubts are creeping in). I must rely on God with the rest.

But wait, there’s more. When I grabbed my Bible to write in the verse, I realized I made a mistake (was it really?) and the word was competence not confidence. Oh no! Do I scrap what I just wrote? Does it even relate? See maybe I shouldn’t be doing this after all. I paused for a moment then decided to look it up:

COMPETENCE: having suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge, experience, etc., for some purpose; properly qualified:

And the Synonym: 1. fit, capable, proficient.

No antonym. Interesting. There is no negative/opposite of being competent.  You either are or you are not. I may not be the best writer, but I know I am proficient. So what am I waiting for?

Then I looked at 2 Corinthians 3:4 Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.

If God has given you skills – you are capable to use them for his glory. You just need to have the confidence through Him to do it. 

What abilities (competence) has God given you?  Where do you put your confidence?  In your own efforts, schedule, skills, voices in your head? Or do you trust God?  Do you have the confidence to put yourself out there with whatever it is?

God has given us all skills. We are all competent in something. Being competent does not need to mean you are the best at something. Being competent means you are proficient. You can get the job done. We let our own voices tell us we are not competent because we think we need to be the best or someone does it better than us and we let it affect our confidence which in turn affects what we do.    

Everyone’s path is different and God has one he wants you to follow. He has given you these skills for a reason. You just have to have confidence in Him that He is with you every step of the way.

God believes in you and I believe in you too!

General, God Inspired Musings, Writing Journey

Finding Strength

Life is hard, crazy and stressful and in those moments when we search for answers, sometimes God connects things in a way that makes me stop in awe.

The last two years I have chosen a word to focus on.  Hope was my first word in 2015 and Believe was my word in 2016.  For this year I have chosen – STRENGTH – and in searching up verses I am amazed to see how many fit where I am. In my walk with God.  My daily struggles of life.  My writing career.  Everything.

I know I need strength as I begin showing my work to agents, publishers, critique partners, you name it.  I need to be able to take criticism and suggestions and have strength to really hear the recommendations to make me a better writer.  I also want to lean on God’s strength in all aspects of my life.  As I get older, I realize that I can’t do life without him.

There are so many I want to highlight so for me to pick just one is really challenging.  So throughout the year, I will share different ones on my Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Here’s one though, I want to share:

Psalm 119:28 My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.

I love this last one personally.  Many days I feel weary dealing with everyday life.  And I know I’m not alone. I hope that these verses can offer you some comfort as they do to me.

So now that I firmly have my word set for the year, I look forward to seeing how God will use this word to encourage me, bolster me, show me things.  And He will.  Not even a week after I selected STRENGTH, imagine my surprise when my Bible Study book I ordered – Priscella Shearer’s Gideon – came in and the cover had these words: your weakness. Gods strength. Oh how God knows things before we do.  The fact that I’ll be spending six weeks studying God’s strength?  I’m so excited.

I would encourage you to consider selecting a word to focus on.  Write down 3 or 4 that pop in your mind and then look up verses to them.  As you ponder each one, God will let you know what the right one would be.  And I hope that it gives you infinite encouragement in all aspects of your life, just as mine have done for me.

Blessings, Denise

Writing Journey

So Long 2016, Hello 2017

Another year, another beginning.  I love to be able to reflect on the previous year and see all that occurred over the last 12 months.  Parts were bumpy and other parts inspiring.  In my writing I had many ups and downs, wondering if the fruit of all my labor would really be anything worthwhile.  When I chose the word BELIEVE for my word of the year in 2016, I had no idea how applicable it would be. 

I found the word everywhere.  At the gym.  In a quote on the wall at the doctors.  On a t-shirt.  On a charm holder which I had to buy and now holds my keys within my purse.  Every time I saw it, I was reminded of two things.  I believe in God and His Word.  To keep believing in my writing.

This was my second year to enter the Orange Rose Contest from my local chapter of RWA.  The first year I received such valuable feedback that I wanted to enter again to see if the changes I made would be received any better.  I was so surprised when it was announced that I won 1st place in my category!  First place!  Me!  And it was then that my word took on a completely different meaning – someone else believed in my writing too. 

That gave me the shot in the arm I needed to keep editing, keep rewriting and moving to the next step. 

As 2016 turned into 2017, I had some new goals for the year.  Never thought I would accomplish them all in January, but I did. 

In the RWA world, turning PRO is one of the steps in getting closer to being a published author.  You have to upload your entire manuscript for proof of your writing and then they review it and approve it.  When I completed my first round of full edits, I sent it in and was so excited when I got the email telling me ‘it passed’.  I also decided to enter the national contest for unpublished authors – the Golden Heart.  Even if I do not final, actually sending it in was a huge milestone for me and already helps me push ahead for more this year.

I have a new word for 2017 and I will write about that in a different blog post.  But let’s just say I am super on fire for what can happen in 2017.  Stay tuned as I will hopefully have more news to share throughout the year.

Blessings, Denise

General, Writing Journey

When It All Clicks

keyboard

Being new at all this writing stuff, I admit I had no idea what I was doing when I started my book, so I wrote individual scenes mostly, almost as if they were mini individual stories.  Some scenes connected into others, while others were an idea I wasn’t too sure about, but wrote anyway to try different dialogue, character arcs or action sequences.

I think I was afraid of defining how my characters would act since I didn’t know what I wanted them to do yet. I found creating characters a scary responsibility, but I will dig into that part of my writing journey in another post.  All in all, let’s just say, with my first draft complete, I know my characters more and what they are doing.

And so, with my first draft complete, I’m on to a completely new skill called editing.

This is when I read the mumble, jumble of what I originally wrote and remove unnecessary words and find better words to communicate the story.  It also means I now need to connect all those individual scenes to tell a cohesive tale, turning it into something someone else would want to read.

Some of it is challenging as I have to really figure out particulars.  However, the parts us writers constantly search for is when it all clicks together.  When everything falls into place and connects scenes in a way the scenes wouldn’t mean anything on their own.

And I’m finding this part to be a lot of fun.  It seems when the details fall into place, when everything clicks, it becomes a real story.

So now, I write for those aha moments, no matter how much work it is.  Doesn’t mean it’s easy.  I still have to make myself stay seated in the chair at times with my fingers on the keyboard to work through it.  Sometimes I’m a pushover to get up and find something else to do because I’m not sure what to write next.

All in all, I’m thankful for these moments when I’m able to connect the dots and the writing clicks.  It’s one more step in my journey, helping me get another step closer to my goal of publishing my book.

General, Writing Journey

Taking Time to Reflect…

clock

Sometimes I look at my manuscript and feel I have so much to learn still, so much to do, before my work is print worthy, and this awful feeling of hopelessness overcomes me.  What am I really doing?  Will I ever get it right?  And then I start telling myself other authors don’t run into this same problem, do they?  Maybe I’m not cut out for this.

And then I go to one of my writing groups and realize I’m not the only one to feel this way.  Writing is such a solitary experience, yet when you get together with other writers you share all the same questions, concerns, and thoughts.  I love the writing groups I’m a part of. In person and online, I’ve met so many wonderful people and have learned so much. When I think about the meetings, online classes, and notes I’ve taken over the last two years, it makes me realize how important it is to take time to reflect back from where I started and see just how far I’ve come.

I knew nothing of the writing world terminology, yet I now can have a conversation and understand most of the lingo, spouting off terms such as ms, dialogue tags and gmc. I know now, authors don’t get it perfect the first time, sometimes writing through three to four edits after the rough draft.

I’ve learned about understanding your characters more, figuring out what the hero/heroine goals, conflicts and motivations are. I can throw stuff at them to see how they will respond. I’ve seen a character take a life of their own and get themselves into a whole heap of trouble. And how fun it is to watch it evolve on the page.

I’ve learned how to set up my website, social media accounts and write my author profile.  I’ve figured out my author brand, audience and the genre I prefer to write.  I’ve read several new authors, expanding my knowledge both as a reader and a writer.

I’ve entered contests and learned what “on the nose” dialogue is, that passive voice does not mean the same thing as past tense, and to be really careful not to tell but show action and how hard it is to do. I’ve learned my initial writing is full of data dumps and I now can delete words without panicking. I’ve survived receiving constructive feedback and now know, it’s not the end of the world.

As I reflect back, I realize, even though I have so much still to learn, I have come so far and that is something to be really proud of.  It’s nice to know I have made many new friends who are rooting for me each step of the way. 

I am so thankful for these writing groups and all the wonderful writers who have opened their hearts and minds to share what they’ve learned to us newbies.  I look forward to someday being able to do the same in return.

General, God Inspired Musings, Writing Journey

What Word Represents 2016?

Word?

Over the last several years I’ve read articles about people selecting a specific word or phrase that represents the year for them. It could be an area to focus on or something God has put on their heart to study and live out daily throughout the year.

Last year was the first year I selected a word and after several days of listing out different words, I selected the word Hope. It summarized for me where I was in my life – both writing and personal.  I had hope for my writing and where it was leading me, that I wanted to write about hope to offer hope to others, hope for how God would provide for my family, hope for the future and so much more. Several times throughout the year I found myself leaning on that word knowing God wanted me to never lose Hope, making sure it was in the words I wrote and in my actions.  It really did sum up my year when I reflect back. 

So this year I was excited to see what new word would fit me and my life.  I prayed about it and wrote down several words that I felt my heart leaning towards, but one kept coming up more than the others, so for 2016 I selected….. BELIEVE. 

First and foremost I need to BELIEVE in God, believe he will meet my needs, and so on.  I also need to believe I can become a published author, believe I have something worthy to say, believe in this journey God is taking me on, believe in my family and their support, and so much more.

I looked up the word Believe in the bible and there are too many verses to count with the word believe in it, but as I read different ones it became even more clear that this was the right word for me this year.  So many of them spoke to me, specifically: 

Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”  Mark 5:36

“If you can’t?” Said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”  Mark 9:23

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!  Luke 1:45

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.  John 7:38

I know without a doubt that this is the word for me this year. The year I’m going to believe in myself to show my work to agents, editors and hopefully become a published author. I just need to believe

I encourage you to take some time to reflect and pray about a word for you for 2016. When we take time to listen to what God wants for us it is amazing how he can encourage and strengthen us in our journey through his Word. 

Let me know what word or words you choose for your focus word this year. 

Blessings to you throughout 2016. 

Denise