Jill Weatherholt

Writing Stories of Love, Faith and Happy Endings While Enjoying the Journey


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Ready, Set….Wait!

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.  ~ Anne Lamott

“Please have a seat in the waiting room. The doctor will be right with you.”

I followed the receptionist’s instructions and took a seat. I waited for the next hour.

“Jill, you can come on back.”

The nurse took me to a Lilliputian room. She asked a few questions and took my blood pressure.

“Please wait, the doctor will be right with you.”

As I sat in the arctic room, I realized how much I dislike waiting.

In October of 2012, I wrote a short story and decided to submit it to a magazine. The guidelines indicated it could take up to six month to receive a response. I mailed my story and as each month passed without a rejection, my hopes were high.

At the end of the sixth month, I had become as patient as a child on Christmas morning. I decided to contact a writer who had been published numerous times in this magazine. She told me it was a good sign that I hadn’t received a rejection and I should resubmit my story. I checked the guidelines and they did say it was okay to resubmit after 6 months, so I did.

Three months after resubmitting my story, I’m still waiting. Most days, I don’t think about it. Some days I can hear the mail truck coming toward the house. I visualize my self-addressed stamped envelope with a contract inside, among the bills and junk mail.

Waiting and wondering can be nerve wracking and both are passive. I’d rather focus on what I have control over, so I’ll continue to write and submit. I’m currently working on another story for the same magazine. I’ve learned the waiting game goes with the territory and this is a territory I chose to explore.

I’m curious, what do you do while you’re playing the waiting game?


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Watch Out!

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by Simon Howden

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by Simon Howden

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.  ~ Henry Ford

It happened in slow motion. I’m on the interstate going 65 mph, traffic was heavy. All of a sudden, a wheelbarrow fell off the back of a pickup truck in front of my car.

I was in the far left lane. Swerving to my right lane wasn’t an option, it was full of cars. The left shoulder was narrow and led to a steep drop off. I gripped the wheel and had a split second to weigh my options. If I maintained my course, the wheelbarrow would burst through my windshield. If I went to the right, I could cause a multi-car pileup. There was a car tailgating me, so I couldn’t hit my brakes. This was the biggest obstacle I’ve ever encountered on the highway.

In order to grab my reader’s attention and keep it, I need to throw some wheelbarrows in my character’s direction. I can’t have him reach his goals without a hitch; he’s going to have to work for it. This work will add conflict and tension to my plot and keep my reader’s turning the page. Real life is full of conflict; my character’s life shouldn’t be any different.

The first wheelbarrow he will encounter will be at the start of the story, a critical situation that changes his life. It will relate directly to the character’s goals causing major shifts in his life. It will force him to experience the story’s events.

I want to avoid stringing together bombs and car chases placed incorrectly in the narrative structure. Of course, those things are exciting and bring hardships to my characters, but they are only tiny wheelbarrows in the scope of the story. Unless they are part of the huge wheelbarrow racing toward him at 65 mph, then the scenes won’t be enough to keep my reader engaged.

By making sure my obstacles are logically and intricately connected to everything else that’s happening in the story, my characters struggle, without being predictable. I want my readers to be surprised and wonder how my character overcame the wheelbarrow.

I still think about that day on the interstate. I’m unable to explain how I guided my car around the wheelbarrow. If I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here writing this post. God took over the wheel that day and for that, I’m grateful.


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The Writing Journey

Music is the shorthand of emotion  ~ Leo Tolstoy

During my sophomore year in high school, I attended my first concert. The lights dimmed and the spotlight hit the stage, my arm hairs stood. As Steve Perry and his band members of Journey sang “Wheel in the Sky” I became lost in the music. For the next two hours, I was in awe of the energy exuding from the stage. It was powerful. It’s something I’ll never forget.

Music has always had a way of transporting me back in time. I can hear a song and I’ll remember exactly what I was doing the first time I heard it. If I’m feeling a little low, I can turn on some music from the 1980’s and I feel like dancing.

The first step in my writing process is to turn on my music. I’ve discovered the right background music can magically ignite my creative process. Music helps me create an atmosphere and visualize scenes.  When I find myself struggling for the right words, I’ll listen to a few lines from a song and again, I’m writing.

Many writers find music a distraction while writing. They must have silence or somehow the music will find its way into their story or article. For me, music is one of the key aspects of my writing process. In movies, music will enhance a scene or create tension. Music plays in my dentist’s office, with hopes of calming the patient’s nerves. Advertising agencies spend big bucks for product jingles that remain in your head long after the commercial ends. Music triggers memories and memories stir the imagination.

Obviously, every writer is different and what works for me may not work for you. When I first began writing, I needed silence.  Soon the silence overpowered my thoughts, so one day I turned on my iPod and I haven’t turned it off since. If you ever find yourself struggling with your writing, I suggest turning on some music and listen carefully to the lyrics, they may just lead you down a road you never imagined.


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The Comeback Kids

Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.   ~  Eleanor Roosevelt

During my college years, I met many wonderful people. Some remain good friends today, while others drifted out of my life when the semester ended. Despite the fact that we didn’t stay in touch, many left a lasting impression. I often think about them and wonder where they are and how their lives turned out.

Last year I wrote a short story that was published in Southern Writers Magazine. Since then, I haven’t been able to get the characters out of my head. I spent a lot of imaginative energy creating and understanding my characters. As soon as I figured them out, it was time to leave them behind. The time spent together felt abbreviated. I find myself longing to know them better.

I believe both my protagonist and antagonist have secrets from their past. I want to delve into their lives. These characters don’t deserve to be short story heroes. Their lives are complicated and filled with twists and turns that I long to bring to life.

My goal is to turn this short story into a novel that is so tightly constructed each chapter could stand on its own. There will be no extraneous plot exposition and no wasted words. My plan is to bring these characters back into my life during the month of November when I participate in my third NaNoWriMo challenge. The one thing I plan to do differently is to outline. I’ve never outlined any of my writing, but I want to know these characters inside and out before I begin to tell their story. I’m excited to see what happens.

As a writer or a reader, do characters ever take up residence in your mind long after the story has ended?