Monday, December 11, 2017

Blogging Lessons from My Dogs

By Edie Melson

Most of you know I’m an animal lover. We have one cat, Emily Dickinson, and our sons dog, Cosmo. I don’t know what I’d do without my four-legged friends cheering me on as I work every day. 

But they’re more than just great companions; they’ve got a lot to teach me. So today I’d like to pass along some of the wisdom I’ve gleaned from my dogs.


9 Blogging Lessons from My Dogs

1. Go all in. When you play, play. When you work, work. And when you rest, rest. My dogs are 100 percent involved in whatever they’re doing. Beyond that, I’ve discovered there’s no such thing as a multi-tasking dog. The same should be true for bloggers. Focus on the task at hand by setting aside time to blog. Don’t think of it as work you do in the spaces. 

2. Chasing squirrels never ends well. It may be fun, but it rarely brings value to what you’re doing. When our boys were young, they had the great idea of tying our dogs leash to the handlebars of a scooter so he could pull them down the street. It went well until a squirrel darted in front of them. The dog took off in one direction, the son on the scooter went another way. There was definitely collateral damage, although none of it permanent. The same thing can happen with blogging. Leave the squirrel-chasing for play time, stay focused on where you’re going in your post, and avoid the collateral damage. 

3. Loyalty is everything. My dogs are friendly with almost everyone, but their loyalty is to me. As bloggers, we have to have that same kind of loyalty toward our readers.

4. 50 new smells a day. For a dog, going outside is more than exercise; it’s the ability to gather information about the world around them. As bloggers, we can’t become so immersed in our own corner of the world and especially only our point of view. 

5. Keep digging until you have what you need. All of our dogs have had favorite toys. But our poochs favorite pastime would appear to be getting his stuck under things. He’s learning though, to not just rely on us to get what he needs. He’s learning how to work and dig until he gets them back. As bloggers, we can’t just rely on the information others provide. We have to be willing to learn, grow, and dig out what we need to be the best we can be.

6. Wag more, bark less. When my dog comes up to me, he’s grinning and his tail is wagging. He doesn’t approach me barking and growling. We need to make sure we interact with people online by wagging, not barking. Think before you post and keep it positive. You’ll never regret being nice. 

7. Puppy treats make the worst job easier. Through the years, all our dogs have loved treats, but training our newest dog is giving us a new appreciation about how valuable they are. Treats are also a good way to get me to finish a job I’m dreading.

8. Be ready for an adventure and travel light. My dogs are always ready to go for an adventure. Don’t be too tied to home base. As bloggers (and writers) we can pick up and go at the drop of a hat. 

9. Always on guard. My dogs are always aware of what’s going on around them. They may appear to be sleeping soundly or playing hard, but if someone comes to the door, they are the first to alert. Because blogging is an online activity, we also need to always be alert. We shouldn’t be fearful, but we do need to be smart and stay aware. 

These are some of the lessons I’ve learned, what has your pet taught you about blogging, writing, or even life? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

(Photos courtesy of  author, pixabay.com. freedigitalphotos.net, and Stuart Miles.)

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Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, no matter if she’s writing for fiction readers, parents, military families, or writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her numerous books reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives. 

She’s a leading professional within the publishing industry and travels to numerous conferences as a popular keynote, writing instructor, and mentor. Her blog for writers, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month and is a Writer’s Digest Top 101 Websites for Writers. She’s the Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and the Mountainside Marketing Conference, as well as Vice President of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine. In addition, she's a regular columnist for Guideposts.orgJust18Summers.com and PuttingOnTheNew.com. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.


Friday, December 8, 2017

12 Months of Writing Plans & Prompts

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

As the year draws to an end, we celebrate all that is good and wonderful in life. We give thanks. We look back and realize how far we've come in the past year. We honor those who've served. We give gifts. We spend quality time with our family. And we look forward to what's to come.

12 Prompts to Ease Your Writing Schedule in the New Year via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

What do we have to look forward to in our writing career? Here are twelve ways to plan for success in the New Year:

On the first month writing, my muse brought to me a venti cup of Starbucks coffee!
Use the five senses to write about Starbucks - or any other coffee - or any other drink you may drink while writing.

On the second month of writing, my muse brought to me two writing conferences!
Write down two conferences you'd like to attend next year. It's good for writers to attend at least two conferences a year. Networking is a big key in our business.

On the third month of writing, my muse brought to me three critique partners!
Write a thank you note to each of your critique partners, explaining what their feedback and fellowship has meant to you over the past year.

On the fourth month of writing, my muse brought to me four book contracts!
We all dream of these, don't we? What do you have to celebrate this year? Write about that. Maybe it can become an article or blog post in 2018.

On the fifth month of writing, my muse brought to me five more book ideas!
Write down five book ideas you have sitting in the back of your brain. Better yet, write them in a journal specifically for fleshing out your book ideas. Keep it close to you so when inspiration hits, you've got a place to put it.

On the sixth month of writing, my muse brought to me six platform building opportunities!
Consider your brand and then your network. Choose six people within your network who you'd like to connect with on another level. Write down six ways you can do that (i.e. comment on their blog or social media posts, invite them to guest blog, let them know how their writing or product has blessed you, etc.). Action.

On the seventh month of writing, my muse brought to me seven days of vacation!
Most creatives know and understand they cannot create forever without taking time off to recharge those creative juices. We may love our careers, but just like any other occupation, we must make it a point to take a vacation. Write down and research seven places you'd love to visit or take your family.


On the eight month of writing, my muse brought to me eight freelance gigs!
Want a way to make income while you're working on those books? Freelance! Write down seven topics you could be considered an expert at. Remember, an expert is someone who is a couple of steps ahead of someone else in an area. We're all experts at something!

On the ninth month of writing, my muse brought to me nine books to read!
Writers need to read. Write down nine books you'd like to read next year: 3 fiction, 3 nonfiction on topics outside of writing, and 3 writing books. Don't forget to leave a book review for the author when you're finished.


On the tenth month of writing, my muse brought to me ten ballpoint pens!
Write out your first page for the day on paper using a pen instead of typing it into your computer.

On the eleventh month of writing, my muse brought to me eleven blog posts!
Write down eleven blog post ideas using the following prompts:
1 guest you'd like to have post on your blog - invite him or her to do so
1 book you've read that changed your life and the concept that spoke to you and made you want to change
1 movie that taught you something about writing and what that something was
1 writing tip that changed your career
1 thing you're an expert at and the steps you took to become one
1 thing you wish you knew and ten blogs you know teach that (you'll write a post that basically provides one link to one article at each blog that you can learn from)
1 non-writing thing you love to do and why it helps you relax
1 list of ten of your favorite things (getting to know you post)
1 unique, creative way you use social media
1 recipe you use to save time when you're on deadline
1 list of ways you reward your family for their patience with your tight schedule

On the twelfth month of writing, my muse brought to me twelve social media ideas!
Most of us dread social media. Make it easy for yourself in the New Year. Outline 12 months in a notebook or planner, and lay out the following: 5 types of posts you'd like to make on a regular basis (i.e. quotes, sharing a particular blog's posts, daily questions for your followers, etc.); a theme for each month (this will focus your posts); a posting schedule (30 minutes each morning blocked off for you to post to social media).

Congratulations! You now have a foundational plan for your writing in 2018! We'd love to know one thing you've come up with as a result of our list! Feel free to share in the comments below. And here's to writing successes in the New Year!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Your Writing Journey ... One Step at a Time

By  Andrea Merrell

I’m a creature of habit, especially in the morning—bathroom break, eye drops, vitamins, coffee, devotions, and time spent in prayer. That’s my routine. When it gets interrupted or changed, you could say there’s a disturbance in the force.

As a detail-oriented Melancholy temperament, it’s important to me to have my steps follow a certain order. When they don’t, my day usually ends up being out of kilter and unproductive. (Plus, I tend to forget what I’ve done or haven’t done.)

If you’re more flexible and spontaneous, you might be wondering what this has to do with our writing journey.

For writers—especially new writers—it’s important to understand how to follow your passion and destiny without missing any steps or getting one step in front of another.

As an example, when I first started writing, all I knew was to get my words on paper. I had never been to a conference, read a book on writing, or even spoken with another writer. I randomly submitted a few projects, which were immediately turned down. They were simply not ready for publication. I had a lot to learn.

 After several years, the Lord divinely connected me with Vonda Skelton, who totally understood where I was coming from. Her sage advice to me was, “You need to attend writers’ conferences, join a critique group, and network, network, network.”

That’s how my writing career began as I took one baby step after another.

If you’re just beginning your journey, let’s look at a few ways to keep your steps in order.

Read, Read, Read
A good writer is a voracious reader. Read books on the craft of writing by others who have learned the ins and outs of the industry. Read for pleasure. Read books in the genre that you feel called to write.

Write, Write, Write
Don’t just think about writing and talk about writing. Write. Write letters (yes, people still do that), thank you notes, blog posts, or an article for your church newsletter or local paper. Maybe you prefer to start with a devotion. Journaling is always a plus.

Join a Local Critique Group
A good, supportive critique group is worth its weight in gold. It’s like iron sharpening iron. You can learn, grow, and be encouraged by a like-minded group of people. If there’s not a group in your area, organize one. There are also online groups available.

Attend Conferences
Conferences are critical for the writer. That’s where we learn the craft, get encouraged, and expand our network. It’s also the place where you can have face-to-face interaction with agents, editors, and publishers. Depending on the location and length of the conference, the cost can be high. When I first started attending, my husband told me to think of it as continuing education. Put money aside, and make plans to attend at least one conference or local workshop per year.

Build Your Platform
Most people have a love/hate relationship with social media, but it’s another critical element for the writer. People need to find you. At a minimum, be active on Facebook and Twitter. Then add others (Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, etc.) as you feel comfortable. The time to build your platform is now. If you wait until you receive a book contract, you’ve waited too long.

Promote Others
In the Christian community, there’s room for all of us, and the Bible tells us to prefer others above ourselves. The best way we can do that is by promoting them. We can subscribe to their blogs, follow them on Facebook or Twitter, like and share their posts, and support them when they have a new book, blog post, or article. We can also invite them to be a guest on our blog and write a review for them on Amazon or Goodreads. I love Edie Melson’s five-to-one rule: for every five posts you share, only one can be about you. The other four are to promote others. It’s the principle of sowing and reaping: the more we pour into others, the more the Lord will pour back into our lives.

Pray, Pray, Pray
Pray over your projects and ask God to open the right doors at the right time. If the Lord has blessed you with the gift of words, He has a purpose for them.

What suggestions can you add to the list? We would love to hear from you.



(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/marin/atibodyphoto/Stuart Miles.)


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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Monday, November 13, 2017

How to Be Your Characters – Inside and Out

Today’s guest blogger is award-winning author Jayme Mansfield. Her newest book, Rush, released this month, and Jayme is giving away a free copy. To enter the drawing, leave a comment below and include your email address.


By Jayme H. Mansfield

Once again, Halloween has come and gone. Although it isn’t my favorite holiday, it provides a fun excuse to dress up and be someone else for a change.

But for us fiction writers, we have a little secret … we  “dress up” and become different characters all the time. Now, I’m not saying put on a cowboy hat or a Batman mask, or swipe on a little face paint, or slip on a furry bunny suit. Instead, when it’s time to delve into the world of fiction, create a full-blown story, and hang out with your characters over the course of thousands of words, it’s time to put on the full disguise—the internal and external persona that makes characters come alive.


What’s Inside?
This is an exciting and revealing place to start. Instead of determining your character’s hair and eye color, height, choice of shoes, straight versus crooked teeth … you get what I mean ... first go inside the heart, mind, and soul. You won’t know everything yetas the character must grow and change over the course of the book—but you’ll discover that what’s on the inside impacts what’s on the outside.

A Few Thoughts to Consider:
  • What does she think about when she can’t sleep at night? 
  • What’s in her dreams?
  • When she isn’t speaking, what is she thinking, feeling?
  • When she looks in the mirror, whom does she really see?
  • What does she wrestle with that no one else would suspect or see on the outside?
  • What's her demeanor with others versus when she is alone?
  • Does her past haunt or help her?
  • What is the “hole” in her heart?

Inside Out 
Now, like a favorite sweater, turn your character inside out and see what’s there. The color and texture is slightly different, yet made from the same fabric. What’s on the inside of your character that might dictate outward appearance and actions?

Perhaps your character’s rough upbringing results in unshaven stubble on a daily basis. Or, toss in a juxtaposition and instead, he is obsessed with immaculate hygiene to compensate for an out-of-control and messy childhood or past marriage.

Maybe your high-powered executive refuses to wear high heels so she can walk quickly every place she goes, but is actually fearful of who or what may be after her.

Don’t forget the eyes. There is truth that they are the windows to the soul. What color and shape are your character’s eyes? Are they adorned with wrinkles of age and wisdom, glassy and dull with despair, or bright and youthful with hope and anticipation? Maybe your character chooses to wear dark sunglasses. Hmm?

Wardrobe Switch
If becoming one character isn’t fun enough, we fiction writers get to trade out personas and switch to other characters—try on their pants, walk in their shoes, and wear their hat, so to speak. It’s quite a thrill to get to know others so well. And if you really want to get wild, take a whirl at writing in first person POV (point of view). But I’ll warn you, you may begin to look, feel, act, and believe that you actually are that person. Let’s just hope it isn’t the antagonist!

What ways do you get to know your characters inside and out? 

(Photos courtesy of Pexel and author.)

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Jayme H. Mansfield is an author, artist, and educator—and feels a bit incomplete when she’s not juggling all three balls. Jayme H. Mansfield is an author, artist, and educator—and feels a bit incomplete when she’s not juggling all three balls. Her award-winning debut novel, Chasing the Butterfly, is a book club favorite and Amazon bestseller. Her new novel, RUSH, provides a tension-filled, moving tale of a pioneer woman’s determination to survive. The story is based on the life of Jayme's great-great grandmother.


Jayme lives in Lakewood, Colorado, where she and her husband have survived raising three hungry, hockey-playing sons. Currently, a very needy Golden Retriever runs the roost. When Jayme isn’t writing, she teaches art to children and adults at her long-time art studio, Piggy Toes.

Visit Jayme at www.jaymehmansfield.com and sign up for her entertaining newsletter about writing, art, and education.
Facebook Jayme H. Mansfield
Twitter @JaymeMansfield
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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Thankfully Called to Write

by Alycia Morales     @AlyciaMorales

November has descended upon us like fallen leaves piled high in a myriad of colors, and as the sun sets each night, I can't help but notice the golden hue beaming through the trees like liquid gold. I can't explain how it makes me feel other than to say I am reminded of God's goodness.


Once again, He has proven Himself faithful, even when I may have proven unfaithful for the zillionth time. Sometimes in life, I lack in stewarding my gifts and talents. At least I imagine I do. Did I write that novel like I promised I would? Did I succeed at what I put my hands to do? Did I do what God requested of me, or did I choose my own path through 2017? Or any other year, for that matter? These questions rise within me at this time of year, and I figure I'm not alone.

The year isn't over yet. Have you met your #writing goals? via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

Stewardship has been solid on my heart this year as I've struggled to walk in obedience to the things God has called me to do: write, make healthier eating/exercise choices, and get my finances in better order. I have a confession: I'm not sure I've been a great steward in any of these areas this year. But God. Despite my shortcomings, He is merciful. He is gracious. He is blessing. He is pouring out favor. And He is ever faithful.

And the year isn't over yet.

I've found some successes. Maybe I'm being too hard on myself. Maybe I've found the successes He hoped I would, and I set my own expectations too high. As a perfectionist, I aim to please, and I push myself beyond my personal, comfortable limits. High Achiever could be the title of my autobiography, if only I truly believed I met my own goals. Instead, I look back on my year and note what I didn't accomplish rather than all I did accomplish. And I momentarily forget the struggles I've faced in the past ten months as well. Life never goes as I plan it. And I remember grace. I remember I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to believe I haven't achieved anything I set my heart and mind to do. Because the truth is, I have achieved more than I thought I could or would. Because I don't walk this path alone. I walk it alongside Father, who holds my hand and guides me into His will.

And I have two more months to do even more. Because I am thankfully called to write. And it's November, which means I have thirty days to write the very rough and down and dirty draft of that novel that He's put in my heart. That I've pondered for two months, itching to put words on the screen, to replace the blinking cursor with the blessing of story. That I know I'm supposed to get out of the very depths of my soul, to breathe life into, and to eventually present to the world. And I am thankful that the calendar has turned a page and NaNoWriMo has begun. No more waiting. Let the writing begin.

And may I glorify the Father who has blessed me with the gifts and talents He poured into me when He formed me in my mother's womb. I pray the same for you as you look forward to the end of another year and what you have left to accomplish and look back on what you've done thus far. May God grace you with strength, determination, endurance, and the gift of time.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Don't Take Your Gift for Granted

By Andrea Merrell
Helen Keller once said, “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”


I recently underwent a corneal transplant which resulted in using only one eye for a couple of weeks, then not seeing clearly for several more. When my vision finally began to improve, it was necessary to stick with my old glasses for at least three months until my vision “settled.” Needless to say, it was not an easy task.

Not a good scenario for a writer and editor who spends most of her time on the computer.

A week after my surgery, my friend Cindy Sproles underwent a serious surgery of her own where they literally drilled a hole in her skull to correct a hearing problem. After the surgery, her hearing in that ear was only about 10 percent. She had to wait, as I did, for healing to occur.

Not a good scenario for someone who works part-time, leads a ministry, serves as a managing editor for a publishing company, and teaches at writers’ conferences.

A few weeks after our surgeries, Cindy asked how I was doing. She said, “I can see and you can hear. Together, we make a whole person.” Funny story, but it made me think about how easy it is to take what we have for granted.

The truth is God has given each of us gifts. Writers have the ability to craft stories and pen words that will touch the hearts of readers. Editors have an eye for detail and structure and can help polish the prose of writers. Some have the gift of a listening ear, while others possess the ability to encourage those who are struggling. Within the writing and publishing industry, there are many gifts: marketing and promotion, design, teaching, mentoring, managing projects, social media, putting together workshops and conferences, and a host of behind-the-scene projects and activities.

The Bible tells us we are one body in Christ Jesus (Romans 12:5 NKJV).  In verse 15, we’re told to be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep (NLT). All the parts of His body are connected, and each part depends on the other. That means our gifts are to be used and shared with each other.

Many times, we fail to look at our gifts as we should. We might feel entitled, take them for granted, or push them aside, planning to use them tomorrow.

In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells the story of three servants who were given talents, or gifts, according to their individual ability. Two handled theirs correctly while the third man buried his. In the end, not only did he lose it, it was given to one of the others who used his as expected.

After two eye surgeries, I will never take my sight for granted. I’m sure Cindy would say the same about her hearing. In the same way, I never want to take the gifts God has given me as a writer for granted. He gives to us so that we might expand His kingdom, bring glory to Him, and bless others. When we bury our gifts—whether from fear, timidity, or procrastination—we rob ourselves and others of God’s blessings. When we use what He has given us to the best of our ability and invest in the lives of others, we bring honor and glory to the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17 NIV).

Writer, what is your gift? Maybe you have many. Whether you excel at writing devotions, crafting exciting novels, creating interesting blog posts, giving encouraging critiques, or praying for others, look for ways to use your gifts to bless the body of Christ, and never take them for granted.

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop (2 Corinthians 9:6 NLT).

Can you share a time when you’ve used your gift/gifts to bless others? We would love to hear from you.


Photos courtesy of (FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stuart Miles and adamr.)


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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How to Write a Captivating First Paragraph

Today we welcome Katy Kauffman as our guest blogger.


By Katy Kauffman

I normally don’t buy a book unless the first paragraph wows me. Do you?

A captivating first paragraph draws readers into your world of ideas and principles, stories and lessons. Whether you’re writing a memoir, a devotional, a Bible study, a Christian living book, or any other kind of nonfiction book, craft a first paragraph that wows readers and makes them want to step into your “world.” Here’s how.

Write tight.
Don’t bog your readers down with too much detail in the first paragraph. This is your chance to open the door that looks into your world of ideas. Don’t make the door too heavy to budge.

Show, don’t tell.
Don’t tell them that they need your book—share a story that illustrates why they do. Or give an alarming statistic. Include a picture of the people you’re writing about. Let your readers “see” with their mind’s eye why they need to keep reading your book.

Be an artist.
As you paint a picture of why potential readers should buy your book, use the best colors. Pick vibrant words to make your point. Use bold strokes to get their attention when needed, and finish the paragraph with subtle movements to keep them reading. Don’t give away everything in the first paragraph, but gently point them to the next one. Keep them moving through your world of illustrations and ideas.

Engage the mind, and touch the heart.
When people consider buying a nonfiction book, they are probably wanting to deepen their knowledge of a particular subject. So engage their brains. But don’t forget to engage their hearts. People are often motivated to action because they sympathize with a need, hate an injustice, worry about a problem, or love a cause. Connect with their minds and their hearts as you introduce your subject. You will probably need your whole first page to do this, but get started in the first paragraph as you share a story, give an alarming statistic, or ask a thought-provoking question.

Use the most effective voice.
What voice, or style of writing, best suits your purposes? If you’re seeking to warn, find the wording that acts as a wake-up call to the reader. If your purpose is to encourage, write as though you are speaking to a friend. If you’re sharing a story to begin your book, be the narrator that peers into the lives of the people you’re describing and unfolds the plot layer by layer. Choose the right voice that will appeal to your target audience and will effectively deliver your message.

Which of these 5 elements would you like to see in a book’s first paragraph? Which appeals the most to you? Share in the comments below, and happy writing. 

A captivating first paragraph—never write a book without it!

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/David Castillo Dominici and nanetus.)


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Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author, an editor of
Refresh Bible Study Magazine, and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. She has taught the Bible to women and teens, and her Bible studies focus on winning life’s spiritual battles. Katy is a regular contributor to the Write Conversation and to two websites for young women. Connect with her at her blog, Life with God, and on Facebook

Monday, October 2, 2017

Square Peg ... Round Hole

By Andrea Merrell

We’ve all heard it said … you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole. Unless, of course, you intend to shave off the edges, totally changing the attributes and character of the peg.

Every one of us has our heroes, our mentors, and those we want to emulate. And we all want to fit in. But sometimes—instead of learning and gaining inspiration from those we idolize—we try to become just like them instead of who God created us to be. We can get so caught up in what God is doing in others that we totally miss what He’s trying to do in us.

The truth is we’re all called by God for a purpose. Here are some wise words by pastor and author Bob Gass:

God knows what you were born to be and provided everything you’d need to fulfill your life’s purpose. God sanctified and set you apart. He fixed it so you wouldn’t fit in and designed you so you couldn’t rest any place He didn’t want you to be. He intended for you to wander and feel lost until you found Him. That’s why you’re uncomfortable in certain places and around certain people. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, you won’t fit in because God has set you apart for Himself. Man can ordain, but only God can foreordain. Stop worrying about who does or does not recognize your gifts.

Still not convinced? Here’s another quote by John Mason:

Each person has been custom-made by God the Creator. Each of us has a unique and personal call on our lives … to be our own selves and not copies of other people.

Writer, you have been called by God, and your journey is as special and precious as you are. Embrace your uniqueness. You have a story that no one else can tell. You have thoughts, feelings, experiences, and wisdom that are yours alone. Commit your gifts, talents, and abilities to God, and watch how He uses them—in your life, for His glory, and to bless others. You never know how powerful your words can be until you place them in the Creator’s hands.

Be ready at all times to follow God’s lead, not just in your writing, but in everything you do. Be like the prophet Jeremiah. God told him, “Go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!  (Jeremiah 1:7-8 NLT) He also told Jeremiah in verse five, "I knew you ... I sanctified you ... I ordained you."

God's way is always best. If you’re a square peg, don’t even think about trying to fit in that round hole. Keep learning, growing, and moving forward until you find that sweet spot God designed just for you. It will be a perfect fit.

What about you? Have you found that sweet spot? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stuart Miles and Google images.)

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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.)

TWEETABLE

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/.