Friday Five: Caleb and Brittney Breakey

June 24, 2011

As a pastor and author, I enjoy those who are passionate about helping others communicate the truth of God’s love to this generation. Which is why I’m pumped about the young husband and wife writing team of Caleb and Brittney Breakey.

Caleb is an award-winning journalist who has been trained by bestselling authors like Jerry Jenkins and Brock and Bodie Thoene. Caleb is also the proprietor of Calebreakey.com where he trains and mentors young writers. He’s a sought-after speaker at some of the top writer’s conferences in the country, including the Blue Ridge, Oregon, Colorado, and CLASS Christian writers conferences.

His wife Brittney is a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature and the Christian Writers Guild.  She also operates Author Turf, a blog exclusively created to showcase authors.

 

It’s rare to find husband and wife so passionate about one calling: writing. How does that work? Do you edit each other’s work? And how are your writing styles similar and how are they different?

We usually wait until the editing process to offer feedback. There’s a certain passion that’s lost when your work is in the open, even if only one other person has read it. We can talk about our work all day long, but the actual reading? That’s sacred ground.

We do, however, edit each other’s work in the final stages. For a long time, we used Word’s Track Changes, deleting sentences and adding our own. But we realized that our writing styles are so different that we were creating an inconsistent voice.

Now we Insert Comments instead. Like: “Try adding a few more beats to this section.” Or: “POV error.” Or something completely silly like: “Dude, nice comma.”

As far as writing styles, Caleb comes from a journalism background (short, concise) while Brittney comes from a journaling background (free flowing). The result is two very different voices. But our lack of similarities has profited us greatly, as we’ve managed to balance out the extreme parts of our writing selves.

The biggest strength we offer each other is simply the support of being there for each other. Every day. We’ve both put in countless 15-hour writing bursts. To the person who doesn’t understand writing, that’s madness. But with enough coffee—anything’s possible. And because we have each other, it’s crazy fun.

You both are passionate about nurturing the writing skills of teens. What is one piece of advice you would give to a young person who feels called to write?

A good writer never clocks out, never tunes out, and is always curious. Observe everything. Unique smells, interesting laughs, quirky personalities. Everything can be material for your book, if you let it.

The second you decide to pursue writing, realize that perfectionism must be murdered. A happy writer is a messy writer. Especially during the first draft stage, you must (must!) lock your editor in the closet. And don’t let him come out—not even to say “hi”—until you are finished banging out that wonderfully messy first draft. Have fun! Be a kid. Pretend you are a two-year-old playing finger paints. You can always wash your hands later.

Oh, and don’t be deceived by a polished draft. Really. Don’t. Every writer—even the Greats—have a big secret. Revision. That’s where the magic happens. If you try to make your first draft perfect, you’ll be setting yourself up for failure.

Caleb says…

Never let someone tell you what you can’t do. If you have passion and an attitude that’s both humble and fearless, you’re going to rock this world.

Also, don’t just settle for knowing what you write. Unearth the reason why. That draws readers deep into your stories and ultimately into you as a writer. It’s what passionate followings are made of.

Caleb, you’ve pioneered a critique ladder system. Why is it so important for writers to have their work critiqued?

Every writer needs a GPS. A map that shows us how to get better. Unfortunately, critique groups usually don’t operate like a GPS, instead opting for phrases like, “This isn’t good enough. Rewrite it.”

That’s why the critiquing at calebbreakey.com starts with the writer’s strengths, then moves to tools and techniques. It’s not about molding a bunch of writers into the same lump. It’s about pinpointing unique strengths, building upon those strengths, and then unleashing a humbly fearless writer to this hurting and needy world.

Writing is more than inspiration. It takes discipline and hard work, as you know. What is your typical writing day look like for both of you?

Brittney says…

When I first began writing, it was hard to sit in one spot for more than an hour. Now I can go eight, nine, ten hours and it doesn’t even faze me.

As for a typical day, well, it always starts with morning coffee with Caleb. Then, boom, we’re at our desks. The beginning of the day is always the most exciting, yet it’s when Resistance is the strongest. I find it easier to start if I’ve edited my chapter on a hard copy the night before. Before bed, I put the copy on my desk and first thing the next morning, I make those changes. This instantly pulls me back into my story. Another way I warm up is to dictate a chapter off my Kindle. This gets my fingers moving and my mind engaged, and pretty soon, I’m racing to my own story to begin writing.

The biggest rule for me, though, is no Internet. This seems so obvious. But when you live in a world where Facebook and blogging reign supreme, it can get pretty distracting. Also, I keep water, granola bars, Kindle, gum, hand lotion, and anything else that might cause me to jump up and lose momentum.

Caleb says…

I keep a list of scenes (fiction), thoughts (non-fiction) and to-dos (freelance work) handy at all times. I always start with writing and sometimes clock myself. If I’m trudging too slowly, I hit my research in search of nuggets that will either inspire a burst of 2,000 words or simply add depth and texture to what’s already written. Then it’s back to writing. Back to the clock.

If I’m still going slow, I might try a quick writing prompt or something quirky. Sometimes I take a minute to draw something on my whiteboard. Or write longhand or talk into my recorder. All three trigger certain parts of my brain. And it’s totally worth it.

At the end of the day, it’s all about word quota and moving forward.

You both write in various genres, but is there one consistent theme in all your work?

Caleb says…

Tough question. God’s certainly put us on separate writing paths. Brittney, middle grade fiction. Me, speculative fiction and now non-fiction. I’m drawn to the mysterious. To things that seem untapped in my own mind. Things like faith, hope, and love. I look at these words and see unending wells of meaning and application.

Brittney, on the other hand, is drawn to humor and silliness. She unlocks the kid inside us all. She simply entices us to laugh by her sheer childlike fun. She knows better than anyone that we do well to never take ourselves too seriously.

If you would like to interact with Caleb and Brittany or would like coaching in your writing, click here. You can watch a special video for new writers here.