Monday, September 18, 2017

The Benefits of Walking in God's Favor

By Andrea Merrell

I often tell people that one single word from God can change the entire course of your life. Another writer says that one moment of God’s favor will do more for you than a lifetime of striving. There are many benefits to walking in God's favor.

Are you striving in your writing career? According to Merriam Webster Online, striving can mean “devoting serious effort or energy” … or “to struggle in opposition.”

Maybe you feel there’s never enough time. Maybe there are too many obstacles standing in your way. Or perhaps you feel invisible, discouraged by rejection and missed opportunities.

We hear it said that when God closes a door, He will open another one … or even a window. Too many times, we stand at that closed door and try to open it with a chainsaw or stick of dynamite.

It’s also said that when God opens a door, no man can close it. We see proof of that in Revelation 3:8: Now see what I’ve done. I’ve opened a door before you that no one can slam shut (MSG). The key for us is being in tune with Him, following His lead, and walking boldly and confidently through the doors He opens. It all boils down to attitude and expectations. What are you expecting God to do? Or maybe you’re not expecting anything from Him, thinking you have to succeed all on your own.

Another thing I tell writers is to believe God for divine appointments, divine connections, and divine favor. When we do, we are putting the proverbial ball squarely back in God’s court. And He never loses.

Listen to what pastor and author Bob Gass has to say: "As you walk in God’s favor, doors of opportunity open, the right people are drawn to you, and you discover ideas, strategies, and resources in the most unexpected places. Like changing the direction of a moving stream, God can change people’s hearts and give you favor with those who might otherwise reject or overlook you."

The Bible tells us God is not a “respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34 KJV). In other words, God does not play favorites. What He does for one, He is ready and willing to do for all. That’s not to say our gifts, talents, abilities, calling, purpose, and destiny are all the same. What it does mean is that His Word is true, and He responds to those who believe and act on it—in faith.

Just look at the story of Ruth. She went from being a poor widow to becoming the wife of a wealthy nobleman. Esther transitioned from an unknown Jewish girl to a queen and saved her people from annihilation. There are many other stories in the Bible where God’s favor rested upon people who trusted in Him.

If you feel invisible or insignificant, know that God sees you right where you are. He is intimately acquainted with you and has a wonderful plan and purpose for your life. Change your thinking and your expectations. God desires to bless you—and your writing—in ways (and through other people) that you can’t even imagine.

Begin each day thanking God for opening the right doors of opportunity for you. And pray for favor. Several years ago, I heard a pastor say “Lord, I thank you that I am surrounded with favor like a hedge, like a shield, like a wall of fire.” That’s what I call walking in the favor and blessings of God.

What about you? Have you experienced God’s favor in your writing? We would love to hear your story.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stuart Miles/phanlop88.)

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Following the Call to Write

by Diana Sharples     @DianaSharples

There was a rush of inspiration and a thrill of hope when I first felt called to write for Jesus. I'd been writing my whole life, but suddenly I had a sense of "this is it!" After all, if God is with me, who can be against me. Right?

The problem is this feeling is born in the human heart. Yes, I felt a calling, and over the years since, the Lord has reminded me that I have been called. But like a newborn baby that needs time to learn to walk, the calling was just the beginning of my journey. I had a lot of work to do before I could see any rewards.

It was hard work and demanded a lot of time, dedication, and financial resources. I experienced the sting of harsh criticisms and the disappointment of vaguely worded rejections. I went through times when the market for my genre dried up and no one would even look at my work. I asked God what He was doing. If I was truly "called," why were all the doors closing? Even after getting published, I struggled with marketing - a job I was completely unprepared for. Over the years, I have doubted my calling, wondering if what I felt in that initial rush was my own desires, not God's will. During those times, the Lord always brought some comfort, some encouragement, some new inspiration.

But He never took away the hard work.

Recently, someone asked me what my idea of success was and suggested that I shouldn't be focusing on publication and marketing. Rather, I should be writing only for God, for my audience of One, for whatever He was trying to show me in the process. I've heard this mantra before, but not exactly used for sound Scriptural purposes. It's used to console the writer who is struggling, or even in a patronizing manner when a writer might not have developed the "chops" he or she needs for publication. It's also false consolation that suggests a writer doesn't need to struggle for excellence, but just the act of writing something is enough.

Think about this. Would we ever tell a person called to, say, dentistry that he shouldn't go to college or work toward a thriving practice because pulling teeth in his garage for Jesus is enough? Would we ever give this kind of advice to people in any other industry?

And who are we to say what plans God has for another person?

This doesn't mean that every person who feels compelled by God to put words on a page will be published or become a bestseller. It certainly doesn't mean the doors of opportunity will fly open and the world will embrace our Holy Spirit-inspired brilliance the moment we put it out there.

I believe that writing - or pulling teeth, or raising kids, or entering the ministry - for our audience of One means becoming a partner with Him on a journey toward excellence. Scripture often refers to a process of purification in somewhat violent terms: removing the dross from the silver, burning the chaff from the wheat, being thrown and molded on a potter's wheel. The journey God has put me on has involved years of "purification" that likely won't be fully accomplished this side of heaven ... and for that I am grateful. He has sustained me as I've struggled to become a better writer and when fluctuations in the industry made things look bleak. I'm not silver yet. There's still a lot of chaff. My pot is rather lopsided. But I've learned to love the journey, the whole process of becoming something more than I was a year ago, and much more than I was when I started. And if publication is what God has planned for me, then striving for it is my part of the deal. Until such time as He removes the desire from my heart and the ability to write from my soul, I am partnered with Him on a task He prepared for me, and not one step of the journey is wasted.


Diana Sharples holds a degree in art from the Atlanta College of Art, and has produced award-winning illustrations. As a writer, she has penned many novels, currently focusing on contemporary young adult fiction. Her debut novel, Running Lean, was published in 2013 by Zondervan/Blink, a division of Harper Collins. Two more novels are slated for 2018, the sequel to Running Lean, tentatively titled Running Strong, and the first novel in a new YA series with mystery elements, tentatively titled Finding Hero.

Diana is a wife and mom, a follower of Jesus Christ, and an avid motorcycle rider. To find out more about Diana, visit her website at http://www.dianasharples.com/.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Your 6-Week Prep Plan for NaNoWriMo

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

It's nearly the middle of September, and I'm basking in all things fall. Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Cozy sweaters. Cooler mornings (and some cooler afternoons). Leaves turning all sorts of brilliant colors. NaNoWriMo...

Wait a minute! NaNoWriMo??!!!?? Is it that time already? Yes, yes it is.

Will you #NaNoWriMo ? A 6-Week Prep Plan via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

If you haven't heard of NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it's held annually in November. Sign up to write the first draft of your novel in the month of November. At 50,000 words from November 1 - November 30, you're a winner!

Scared? Don't be. It's not as spooky as it seems. Just as it is with any marathon, preparation will be key. So here's a 6-Week Prep Plan for NaNoWriMo:

Week One: Meet your characters. Who are those funny people dancing around inside your head? Take week one to get to know them. Draw/Pin/Write out a character sketch. Figure out who your key players are. Protagonist. Antagonist. Hero. Villain. Now you know who you're starting with.

Week Two: Create your world. Where on earth or other world is your story taking place? Let the setting tell you something about the plot. How will your characters interact with their surroundings? What do the flowers smell like? What does the ground feel like between the characters' toes? Think about the world and Draw/Pin/Write it.

Week Three: Give your character a hard time. What issue is your character going to struggle with? What's the main conflict of the story? How will this impact the characters' lives? Start to think about your main character's arc. How will your character change throughout the novel? And who or what will trigger that change?

Week Four: Lay out your plot. Even if you're a panster, it's a good idea to have some idea of where your story is going. Especially since you only have 30 days to write it. What story do you want to tell? What story do your characters want to live out? If nothing else, at least write a paragraph about the story you'd like to tell. Like a back-cover blurb.

Week Five: Schedule your writing time. It's so easy to let life get in the way of our writing, especially as the holidays approach. Pull out your calendar and set a specific amount of time you're going to write each day. NaNoWriMo suggests you write a minimum of 1,667 words per day if you want to hit the 50,000 mark in 30 days. Let your friends and family members and any other distractions know you won't be available until you've hit your magic word count each day.

Week Six: Get ready! If you haven't already, sign up for NaNoWriMo at their site. Be sure to follow their instructions so you know how to update your word counts, find buddies, and more. At the same time, let your writer friends know you're participating. It's great to have someone who can hold you accountable to finishing your novel!

What other NaNoWriMo prep tips do you have? We'd love to hear them in the comments below!

If you'd like to be my NaNoWriMo buddy, I'm AlyciaMorales on the NaNo site. To add a buddy, go to the top right corner of the NaNoWriMo page and click on the Search button. Under search, be sure the circle before Authors is selected. Type in the name of the person you're looking for and hit return (or search). When the authors appear, scroll to find the one you're looking for and click on their name. Find the "Add as Buddy" words and click on them (right corner of author description). Your buddy should be added! :)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

5 Practical Ways to Meet Your Daily Word Count

by Alycia W. Morales    @AlyciaMorales

It's important for writers to be writing. Otherwise, it's difficult to call oneself a writer. Eh?

Some days it's a struggle to sit at the keyboard and put words on that screen. We all have them. The cursor blinks at us as if taunting us to dare to move it. One letter at a time. One word at a time. One sentence at a time. One paragraph at a time. One page at a time. One scene at a time. One chapter at a time. One book at a time.

5 Practical Ways to Meet Your Daily Word Count {Click to Tweet}

Below are five practical ways to get those words onto the screen:

1. Write 300 words a day 300 days a year. That gives you 65 days off. At the end of the year, you'll have 90,000 words to revise into a really great novel.

2. Write for 15 minutes a day. Not everyone has an hour or five to pound out those chapters. But all of us can find 15 minutes in our day to write. Before breakfast. Before bed. Before we get out of bed in the morning. On the train ride to work. Over lunch break. There are 15 minutes somewhere in our day that we can put words on the screen.

3. Use voice-to-text software. Write while you're driving, doing dishes, bathing the baby, walking around the grocery store, or running to your next engagement. Even if you're only using the recording app on your phone, you can get it onto the computer later.

4. Schedule an hour(s) in your calendar and take that time only for writing. This isn't time for researching, as that can easily become a social media/email-checking disaster. This is time for you to unplug from everything and simply write.

5. Challenge your friends to a writing marathon. Who can get the most words in an hour on Wednesday from 2-3 p.m.? Set a date and time to go at it. Encourage one another. Set a prize for the person who writes the most. Maybe everyone owes her $5 or has to go in on a Starbucks or Barnes and Noble gift card.

The key to getting words on a page is to guard whatever goal you set with your life. Writing 300 words? Writing for 15 minutes? An hour? Five? Don't let anyone or anything distract you during that time. Treat it like work. If you were at your 9-5 office job, would you be letting the dog out? Checking Facebook updates? Running household errands? No. Make writing a priority and get those words on that screen.

What ways have you found to meet your words counts? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Green-Eyed Monster of Envy

By Andrea Merrell

We’ve all battled with it to some degree at one time or another: the green-eyed monster of envy. It’s part of our carnal nature that has to be redeemed and brought into submission. Exodus 20:17 (NLT) says, You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.

If God instructs us not to covet, why is it so hard to overcome? It usually begins in childhood. Susie has a nicer outfit. Tommy has a better skateboard. Lisa’s family has a swimming pool and a newer car with a DVD player. Left unattended, envy escalates in the teen years and morphs over into adulthood.

As writers, envy is a subtle enemy that can steal our peace, our joy, and our purpose. We all have our heroes—people in the industry we look up to and want to emulate. Having these people as our inspiration is fine as long as we don’t allow our admiration to become an obsession.

I’ve heard writers say things such as, “Look at her. How did she get a contract so fast? I’m a better writer than she is.” And "I’ve been writing longer than he has. How did he get so successful? It’s not fair.”

On the other hand, some might say, “If I could only be like _____ (you fill in the blank). She has it all together. She’s talented, outgoing, and … well, I just can’t compete.”

And therein lies the problem: trying to compete.

Envy not only causes competition, it can create a stronghold that produces bitterness and a critical spirit toward those we view as successful. This is what the Bible says about envy: Envy rots the bones (Proverbs 14:30 NIV). The NLT puts it this way: Jealousy is like cancer in the bones.

Pastor and author Bob Gass writes, “In essence, envy says to God, ‘you made a mistake when you made me like I am. I want to be like that other person and have what they have.’”

The truth is found in Jeremiah 29:11. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (NIV). Your calling and destiny are unique. God has a plan and purpose for you that no one else can fulfill. He can use you—and your words—to reach individuals that no one else can reach.

Writer, you are special. You are unique. There is no one else like you, and no one is able to do what God has called and equipped you to do. Don’t allow the green-eyed monster of envy to steal your God-given destiny from you.

Lord, thank you for the gifts, talents, and abilities you have placed inside me. Thank you for the words that flow from my heart to bless others. May I never give envy a foothold in my life, but use it as a tool to motivate me to become the person you created me to be.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stuart Miles/Graur Codrin.)


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