Monday, January 26, 2015

First Corinthians for Writers

Today's post is by author and editor Lori Hatcher. She will be teaching this in one of her workshops at the Asheville Christian Writers Conference (Writers Boot Camp) February 20-22, 2015. For more information, see her bio below.

By Lori Hatcher

There are different kinds of writing gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of writing service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of writers’ work, but the same God works all of them in all writers.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of biblical wisdom, to another the message of publishing knowledge by means of the same Spirit.

To another, faithful blogging by the same Spirit, to another written words of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers of editing, to another publishing, to another distinguishing between commas, semi-colons, and colons, to another speaking in different kinds of social media languages, and to still another the interpretation of html codes. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines.

The writing body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether bloggers or novelists, contract or freelance—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Now the body of writers is not made up of one part but of many.

If the blogger should say, "Because I am not a novelist, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the editor should say, "Because I am not a devotion writer, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.

If the whole writing body were social media experts, where would the copy editors be? If the whole writing body were non-fiction writers, where would the lyrical poetry be?

But in fact, God has arranged the parts in the writing body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the writing body be?

As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The writer cannot say to the editor, "I don't need you!" And the proofreader cannot say to the publisher, "I don't need you!"

On the contrary, those parts of the writing body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable, we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment.

But God has combined the members of the writing body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers writer’s block, every part suffers with it; if one part receives the Christy Award, every part rejoices with it.

Now, you are the writing body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Based with reverent respect on 1 Corinthians 12:4-27 © Lori Hatcher

(Photo courtesy of pixgood.com.)

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Lori Hatcher is the editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine and the author of two devotional books including the recently released Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. This adaptation (First Corinthians for Writers) is part of one of her favorite writing workshops, “The Day I Wanted to Quit—Tackling the Mind Games that Foul Writers Minds and Distort Their Perspectives.” Lori will be sharing this workshop at Writers Boot Camp. For more information on Lori’s workshops, visit her on her blog, Hungry for God … Starving for Time or connect with her on Facebook (Hungry for God) or Twitter (@lorihatcher2).

Monday, January 19, 2015

What Writers Can Learn from Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Alycia W. Morales

Carlis, you have won C.S. Lakin's book! :) Please contact Andrea with your mailing address so that she can get that out to you.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said a lot of inspiring things. Let's take a look at some of them today and apply his words to our own writing...

"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step."

Sometimes we feel like we need to know an entire story before it can be written.Or we want to know every detail about a conference before we dare attend. Or we want to know what our career path will look like before we take the first step down it. The key to Martin Luther King's quote is TRUST. We must put our trust in God, believing that He is directing our steps. And then we must take that first step of faith. I can guarantee you that if it's the path He wants you on, doors will fly open for you. I have plenty of testimony I could share...

"All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence."

In other words, don't do sloppy work. Take the time to research, to do your best writing, to edit and rewrite until the crappy first draft shines like a diamond. If you're truly called to write, then God has a divine purpose for your words. Which leads me to this...

"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well."

One of my favorite Scriptures when I think of work is Colossians 3:23-24. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. When we write, we should write for an audience of One. Only then will we stop heaven and earth long enough to consider our words and take them to heart. We can get in our own way too easily...

"The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea."

Writers are told all the time that we need to develop a thick skin. Anyone who has participated in a critique group, entered their writing for a critique, or asked an editor to have at it knows the experience of having their work slashed with red ink. Or sometimes, harsh words. Even constructive criticism can tear our hearts in two. But, really, if we want our work to shine like a diamond, if we want to convey God's message to the world, we must get over ourselves and truly consider what others are saying about it. We have to get past the pain of someone else's new ideas for our work and consider applying them.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

How do you react to what other people say about your writing? My second thought on this is: do you have the guts to tell the hard truths in your stories? Because every writer will come across a moment of challenge or controversy. Consider what has recently happened in France at the Paris newspaper office and with The Interview and North Korea. It's a dangerous time to tell hard truths, even under the guise of fiction.

"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope."

Rejection letters can crush our spirits, or they can give us hope. We can stop writing or we can keep trying until we succeed. J.K. Rowlings didn't quit when Harry Potter didn't sell at first. Neither did Jerry B. Jenkins with Left Behind. We've all heard the reports of the 80+ rejections that happened before one house took a chance on these stories and they became best-sellers. So will you accept disappointment as your lot in life, or will you choose to keep hope?

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

In other words, keep writing. No matter what. 

Tweetables:
Inspiration for Writers from Martin Luther King, Jr. {Click to Tweet}

A Few Things Writers Can Learn from Martin Luther King, Jr. {Click to Tweet}




Monday, January 12, 2015

Are There Grammar “Rules” for Writing Fiction?

Our guest today is best-selling novelist and writing coach, C.S. Lakin. Leave a comment below and you will be eligible to win her newest book, Shoot Your Novel. 


By C.S. Lakin

When it comes to writing fiction, often there are no definitive rules to certain aspects of structuring sentences. In addition, a writer’s voice, writing style, tone, and genre can and should influence choices in how to craft narrative, internal thinking, speech, and description. But there are some basic principles or practices that many fiction writers use, regardless of genre, to help them tighten up their writing and keep prose from becoming muddled, clunky, or redundant.

One of my English teachers in high school had a saying he often repeated: “Say what you mean. Don’t say what you don’t mean.” It’s stuck with me for four decades, and I often think of this when writing. It may sound simple, but the advice is sage. The task of an adept writer is to figure out what she wants to say, then find the best way to say it.

Granted, when in a character’s voice, the rules can often be set aside to convey the personality intended. Speech and thoughts may be grammatically wrong but entirely appropriate for that character due to his background, education, and other factors. But there are specific places where bending or breaking the established rules of grammar is not a good idea. Your novel or short story (or anything you write) should showcase a handle on correct grammar.

So be judicious with breaking the rules. And use your judgment in deciding when and if to follow these fiction “rules” I’m presenting here. If any of them can help you write better, tighter sentences, then they’ll have value for you.

Avoid passive construction. 
Perhaps the weakest sentence is one that begins with “it was” or “there were.” So often when I critique a manuscript, I ask the question in the comment balloon: “What is it? Who are they?” So, go through your manuscript and search for it was and there were and replace each phrase with a strong noun and verb. Instead of “It was raining hard,” try something more descriptive like “rain pelted the roof.” Writers have been taught to avoid passive voice, but it’s not wise to say you should never use the word was anywhere in your writing. There are times when passive voice is the best choice. If your character is in the process of doing one thing when something else happens, you need to use the passive progressive structure: “I was stirring the noodles, when my contact fell into the water.” That works perfectly. If you try to rewrite that to avoid the passive construction and come up with “I stirred the noodles as my contact fell in the water” it’s a bit off.

Use correct verbs with speaker tags.                                                    I'm surprised at how often I see incorrect speaker tag verbs. Those are the verbs used to describe speech. It’s important to understand that speaker tags use only verbs that can create speech. Writers often get creative with verbs in their tags, saying things like: “I love you,” he smiled (or laughed, joked, lied, sighed, coughed, chuckled, etc.). You can’t sigh speech or cough speech, so only use verbs like said, asked, replied. Simpler is better. The word said is most recommended because it is considered invisible—which is a good thing. There are simple ways to tweak your sentence to use a variation of the verb you want:
  •  “I love you,” he said with a smile.
  • “I love you.” He coughed, then added, “I mean . . . I think I do.”
Avoid adverbs. 
      Perhaps you’ve heard that adverbs are often frowned upon. It’s true—a lot of beginning writers use adverbs excessively. And it does make your writing look cluttered and amateurish. Why? Because it is better writing to have the choice of words and the structure of a sentence imply the mood, emotion, or intent of what you are trying to get across. Rather than tell that someone is angry (“Go away,” he said angrily), show it (“Go away,” he said, slamming the door in her face).

     Distinguish between consecutive and simultaneous events. 
      I often notice in the manuscripts I critique and edit, two (or more) sequential events happening simultaneously. Authors often construct sentences like this:
  • Turning the doorknob, she ran over and grabbed him and pushed him away.
  • She stirred the cereal on the stove, sitting down with a sigh.
  • Opening the car door, he turned on the ignition and started the car.
  • He poured a cup of water, setting it down on the nightstand.
Certain things have to occur in sequence. You first turn the doorknob, then open the door, then grab the guy. You stir the cereal, then sit down and sigh (maybe you’re sick of eating cereal?). After the man opens the car door, he then turns on the ignition and starts the car. Don’t be afraid to use then. It’s a useful word.

If you follow these “mostly accepted” rules, you’ll find it easier to “say what you mean” instead of “saying what you don’t mean.” Break them at the risk of being misunderstood.

(Photos courtesy of teachingideas.co.uk and lennys-world.blogspot.com.)

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BIO: C. S. Lakin is a multipublished best-selling novelist and writing coach. She works full-time as a copyeditor and critiques about two hundred manuscripts a year. She teaches writing workshops and gives instruction on her award-winning blog Live Write Thrive. Her new book—Say What? The Fiction Writer’s Handy Guide to Grammar, Punctuation, and Word Usage—is designed to help writers get a painless grasp on grammar. You can buy it in print here or as an ebook here.

Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.



Monday, January 5, 2015

Top 10 Signs You Need to Hire a Professional Editor

by, Alycia Morales

Whether you're aiming for a book contract with a publishing house or you're planning to self-publish, here are the top 10 signs that you need to hire a professional editor:

10. You've never let anyone else read your novel until now. Chances are you've made mistake.

9. Your best critics have read you're manuscript. They include your mom, sister, best friend and high school English teacher.

8. Even an editors eyes are blind to errors after the tenth time through a manuscript.

7.  Your favorite way to finish a sentence, or a thought is ...

6. A good portion of your manuscript is underlined with red squiggly lines. Spell check isn't always relatable.

5. The happy, beautiful, fabulous, main character started walking down the lush, green, flowery path toward the white, glistening castle in the middle of the field.

4. Your novel reads like a Dick and Jane picture book.

3. Your character is depressed or reflecting on the same thing on page 1, page 3, page 10, page 25, page 86, page 101, page 240, and still on page 450.

2. God told you to write it, it's going to sell millions of copies.

1. None of us have enough minions to do everything that needs to be done and hiring an editor will give you a much better chance at successful publication than thinking you've done good enough on your own because, after all, no one is perfect. Well, there was One...

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Top 10 Signs You Need to Hire a Professional Editor via @AlyciaMorales #amwriting {Click to Tweet}

PS - Today's post was meant to illustrate a point. How many errors did you find?