Monday, March 19, 2018

Are You a Waffle or Spaghetti Writer?

By Andrea Merrell

There have been many books written about the difference in men and women and the way they think and approach life, but my favorite is Men Are Like Waffles—Women Are Like Spaghetti by Bill and Pam Farrel.

The concept is simple. The Farrels explain how a man’s mind is divided into boxes or squares, just like a waffle.

The typical man lives in one box at a time and one box only. When a man is at work, he is at work. When he is in the garage tinkering around, he is in the garage tinkering. When he is watching TV, he is simply watching TV. That is why he looks as though he is in a trance and can ignore everything else going on around him.

Not so with a woman’s mind, which resembles a plate of spaghetti. Just as each piece of pasta touches or intertwines with the others, so does a woman’s thoughts. Because of this, she can jump from one subject to an entirely unrelated one and back, with five rabbit trails in between, and never miss a beat. Men have a hard time keeping up. To women, it’s normal. It’s the way we’re wired. This is why women are such good multitaskers. As the Farrels put it:

If you attempted to follow one noodle around the plate, you would intersect a lot of other noodles, and you might even switch to another noodle seamlessly. That is how women face life. Every thought and issue is connected to every other thought and issue in some way. Life is much more of a process for women than it is for men.

By now you’re probably thinking, what does this have to do with reading and writing? The answer is simple.

The male is a logical thinker. Everything must fit into a category (or one of his boxes) and follow a pattern. For example, let’s take a look at the book he’s reading. Most men feel they are being completely objective when they analyze every part of the book, dissecting it into neat little packages. This is how it makes sense to them. Knowing that most stories follow a certain path, they can tell you what’s going to happen almost as soon as they begin. For example, my husband can usually tell me within the first scene of a Hallmark movie, exactly what’s going to happen. Is he right? Most of the time, yes. But that’s not the point.

For me, and for most women, structure is not the most important element. We get lost in the story. We fall in love with the characters, relate to their weaknesses and problems, and become their personal cheerleader as we wait for the proverbial happy ending.

Here comes the disclaimer. We all know there are always exceptions to every rule. This is especially true when it comes to the plotter and the panster (seat-of-the-pants writer). While it’s true that most guys fall into the plotter category, there are some who sit down to write and let the story take them where it will.

While the majority of female writers (at least the ones I know) are pansters, there are some who take the more painstaking road of charts, graphs, plot points, and story boards. This is what works for them. This is how they process their thoughts and creativity.

So, who’s right? Both. The secret lies in discovering the way God has gifted you, then running with it. Whether you read and write waffle style or spaghetti style, just do it.

What about you? Are you a waffle or spaghetti writer? We would love to hear your comments.

(Photo courtesy of, photostock, Suat Eman, and Aduldej.)


Monday, March 12, 2018

How Investigative Reporting Can Enhance Your Conference Experience

By Lori Hatcher

I was trained in journalism at the illustrious Airport High School in West Columbia, South Carolina. In 10th grade Newspaper 101 class, I learned the key to investigative reporting: Ask questions. Specifically, Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? 

Although my journalism knowledge has grown since those early days, these questions continue to serve me well. They can serve you well too, if you use them at the next writers’ conference you attend.

For several days, you’ll have the opportunity to interact with fellow Christian writers. What a joy! And if you’re introverted, like most of us, what a fright! With rare exception, we’d much rather “speak” through our fingers in the solitude of our offices than through our mouths in a crowded classroom or dining room. Yet by meeting and getting to know your fellow writers and instructors, you can tap into a force more powerful than the cappuccino machine outside the Cove dining room.

Christian writing friends can give you a dynamic support network. They cheer you on when you’re discouraged, hold you accountable when you’re slack, and help you promote when the day comes to launch your project. They can connect you with resources and people you’d never meet otherwise and help you brainstorm when you get stuck. A knowledgeable sounding board when you’re struggling with POV, storyboarding, or endnotes, fellow writers can offer information to unknot the tightest writing snarl.
So, how do you break the ice and step into the sometimes-chilly waters of conversation? You engage in a bit of covert investigative journalism and start asking questions.

“Hi, my name is Lori Hatcher.”
  •       What genre do you write?
  •       Who have you met already?
  •       When did you begin writing?
  •       Where are you from?
  •       Why did you choose this conference?
  •       How did you hear about the conference?

These simple questions are guaranteed to launch a lively enough conversation that you might not have to speak again until you think of something stunningly brilliant. If the conversation stalls, turn to the person on the other side of you at the dinner table or in class and start over.

As I’ve networked with fellow instructors and conferees over the years, I’ve found kindred writing spirits who have become some of my dearest friends. I’ve met men and women who have graciously helped me fulfill my writing goals, and I’ve connected with up-and-coming writers whom I’ve been able to help reach the next level in their writing journey.

All because of six simple questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

In the weeks leading up to the next conference, I encourage you to practice them on your family and friends. Then, at your next conference, sidle up to a friendly face, ask a few questions, and go where the conversation leads.

What tips can you add? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of Lori Hatcher,, Stuart Miles, and kraifreedom.) 


Lori Hatcher is the editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine and the author of the 2016 Christian Small Publisher Book of the year, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. A blogger, writing instructor, and inspirational speaker, her goal is to help women connect with God in the craziness of life You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time . Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@LoriHatcher2), or Pinterest (Hungry for God).

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

5 Mistakes New Writers Make & How To Fix Them

by Alycia W. Morales      @AlyciaMorales

Editors are like treasure hunters. We work to find the gems in our clients' novels so we can polish around those bits of quality writing and make the entire manuscript shine. When working with first-time writers, I find many issues in craft or grammar and punctuation that are common pretty much across the board.

If you're a new writer who is ready to hand your baby over to an editor for polishing, consider going through your manuscript to find the following ten issues before you do so.

New writer? Here are 5 things to look for & how to fix them before turning your manuscript over to an editor. {Click to Tweet}

1. POV (Point of View)
Writers need to stay in one character's point of view at a time. Many new writers will start in one character's POV and then switch to another's in the same scene, paragraph, or even the same line. It's standard practice to be in one character's point of view for an entire scene. If you need to switch point of view, it's important to use a hard break on the page (designated by a # or * centered on the page).

How can you tell if you've stepped out of point of view? Look for areas where your character is suddenly hearing someone else's thoughts. Or seeing something outside of their immediate surroundings (like on the other side of a wall, in the next room, or outside when they're inside). Another way to tell is to look for paragraphs or scenes where you've switched to someone else without providing a break, as mentioned above.

To fix it, get back into your character's head. Remember, they can't see, smell, taste, touch, or hear something that isn't in their immediate surrounding unless it could happen in the natural (for example, hearing a helicopter approaching) or they have some kind of superpower that allows for it. Again, if you need to change who is seeing or hearing something, use a break and change point of view.

Note: this should NOT be done just to write in one or two sentences and switch back to the original character. Ask yourself if it's imperative to the plot to show that switch in POV or if you could have the main character of the scene observe the same thing.

2. Repetition
Repetition comes in many forms. I'm going to focus on three of them here, as these are common in new writers' manuscripts.

The first is repetition of words. Reading your manuscript out loud will help you identify these. Watch for the same word within a sentence or paragraph on the same page. To fix these, simply delete the repeated word and replace it with a better one. You can also rearrange the sentence structure to avoid having to use the word twice.

Pet words are very similar to the repetition of words. Only you will find them throughout your entire manuscript, and they will show up more than a handful of times. Some examples are: starting sentences with conjunctions (and, but, yet, although, etc.); adjectives (we don't need the person's eye color every time we see them); adverbs (used to describe verbs), and verbs (used over and over again because we can't think of some other thing for our character to do, such as sigh, smile, laugh, etc.). If you think you've discovered a pet word, do a search of the document for it.

The second is repetition of sentences. Now, you won't find the same exact sentence written in a row (hopefully), but you may find you've written three sentences to say the exact same thing. I see this a lot. Pick your favorite of the three and use that one. Delete the other two. Fixed!

The third is repetition of emotions or actions. Your character should not be feeling the same thing in chapter one as she is in chapter ten. If her emotions haven't changed, you haven't given her a character arc. She needs to be growing past the sadness or shock or depression or anxiety, not remaining in it throughout the manuscript. This require a bit of character development in order to fix it. Try going back through and giving her some hope she'll overcome that conflict she's facing. Write it in. Change her mood, and you'll change the reader's mood. Hopefully they'll keep going now instead of throwing your book in the trash. Do the same for actions. Go back and think of ways the character could move or respond that aren't the same every time.

3. Starting with Backstory (or using too much throughout the manuscript)
If you have to tell your character's backstory, maybe you're focusing on the wrong plot line. It's okay to include a little bit of backstory in your novel, but it should come out naturally via a conversation or in a sentence of a character's deep POV. But it shouldn't take up an entire chapter or paragraph. If your character's backstory is that interesting to you, consider writing more than one book. Or use it as a blog post to introduce your reader to a character. But don't start a novel with a chapter of backstory (or flashbacks). Start with the current action happening and move forward from there.

4. Information Dumps
An info dump happens when a writer believes they must explain something (usually in detail) in order for a reader to understand why their character is doing something, what is included in a setting, or some other facet of the story.

To locate info dumps, read through and ask yourself if you've included an explanation of a procedure, the artifacts in a room, why the character is doing a particular thing (like picking a lock), or anything. Info dumps are telling, rather than showing. I've seen these a lot in historical novels. These particular info dumps read like a history text book. Instead of showing the reader by putting the character in the scene and having him or her react to it, the writer will take an almost omniscient point of view and describe the history lesson as the character waits to continue their dialogue or move through the scene. Anywhere you feel the story slow or break as you step out of the character's point of view to provide a lesson, you've discovered an information dump.

To fix these, put the character back into the scene and remove the dump. Show what you're trying to say via the character's dialogue with another, their observations of the room they're in, or something they remember from that era via deep POV moments.

5. Over-description
Many newbie writers use multiple adjectives to describe one thing, whether it's the character's eyes, the object the character is holding or observing, or the room the character is standing in. The sentences look a lot like this: Mary gazed into Tad's deep-blue, sapphire, cold-as-ice eyes.

How to fix this? Pick the adjective that says the most and delete the others. You could even go a step further and show the reader how the eyes affect Mary, like this: When Mary gazed into Tad's sapphire eyes, a chill ran up her spine.

This is only a handful of the things I see first-time writers do in their novels. But these are extremely common. So, if you've been writing and are considering hiring an editor to help polish your manuscript, go through it first and look for these five mistakes and fix them. Your editor will love you for it.

What are some errors you've noticed in your own writing? (We all have them.) We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Make the Most of Your Conference Experience Part Two

By Andrea Merrell

In my last post we talked about how to make the most of your conference experience. This week, let’s look at a few more benefits and opportunities.

As I said before, be sure to have plenty of business cards (**with a photo**), and exchange them whenever you can. There is no greater place to connect with like-minded folks than a writers’ conference. These are people who get you. Follow up with them after the conference and establish a relationship. God has a way of creating kingdom connections and lifelong friendships ... and you never know how they might come. Sometimes our greatest blessing may come from the last possible place (or person) we expected.

Learning the Craft
Conferences offer a wide variety of classes from social media to how to write a novel. You can learn everything from the basics of writing to marketing. Writing is a lifelong learning process, and this is the best way to sharpen your skills. Always be open and teachable. Take notes and brainstorm with other conferees. If the classes are recorded, purchase the MP3s or digital downloads. This way, you have the entire conference to listen to over and over.

Pitching Your Work
Whether you have a completed manuscript or simply an idea for a project, conferences give you the opportunity to meet with agents, editors, and publishers. Prepare your elevator pitch (your project in 30-60 seconds), and be ready to present it at your appointment, at a meal, or whenever the opportunity arises. (You might even get to share it in an actual elevator.) These industry professionals will give you valuable feedback. Listen to them carefully.

Contests and Critiques
Many conferences will allow you to send in your work ahead of time to be critiqued. This is another way to get feedback on your writing. Don’t hesitate to enter. It’s not important whether you win or lose; it will be good experience for you to submit your words.

Conferences are an important part of your writing career. Think of them as continuing education.Whatever you do, be ready. When you ask God to bless you and open doors of opportunity, He will.

From your experience, what advice can you add? We would love to hear your suggestions.


Monday, February 19, 2018

The Struggle Is Real

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

I'm sitting here waiting for the water to boil so I can cook pasta and sauce for dinner. Sometimes, my writing career feels like a pot of water waiting to boil. Like it's taking forever to warm up so I can make something from it.

Have you ever felt that way?

Today isn't helping, either. For the second day in a row, my planner's outlined and detailed plans fell through the cracks of my day like broken pasta falls between the stove and the counter when it misses the pot. Forever lost.

See, I had plans. Good plans. Plans to write and plans to dream and plans to edit my client's work. I thought thoughts and was ready to put them into the Scrivener pages so they could magically, over time, transform into a book.

But after a day filled with dental appointments and fillings and sore teeth and a strained system after stressing in the dental chair all morning, followed by a day of another child's doctor appointment and spending three hours on the road in order to deliver a job site key to my husband, my planner sits without check marks noting the work I finished, because it. never. got. accomplished.

The struggle is real, my friends. {Click to Tweet}

Days come when life gets crazy - hectic - busy - beyond our control.

What's a writer to do? I have learned that just as I am imperfect, I have to learn to roll with life's imperfections.

I may not have gotten more than this blog post on the page. I may not have been able to edit my client's awaiting novel. And I may be frustrated and feel like finding a cabin in the woods to run off to so I can have focused time to get things done without interruptions.

But I did spend some quality time with the Lord - three full hours to think without being interrupted. I did get to focus my thoughts on my novel and discovered I need to develop my secondary characters so I know what roles they play in the plot. I did manage to finish reading Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth before the kids made it to school this morning.


There's always tomorrow.

At least we hope there is.

As Proverbs says, don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today. But when life interrupts today, be still and know that He is still Lord of your day.

Monday, February 12, 2018

How to Keep the Writing Juices Flowing

This week, we welcome DiAnn Mills as our guest blogger. If you haven't heard, she has a new book out this month! High Treason released February 6th. Click here to find it on amazon.

by DiAnn Mills

Every writer has faced the monster called dried-up-prose. We read what we’ve penned from the previous day, and it sounds like the same dull voice from the day before that. Is there an inspiration injection to keep the writing juices flowing?

I don’t have an instant solution to perk creativity, but I do have several ways to help unplug the dam. One of these suggestions just might flood your brain and add momentum to your next word and the next.

Keep your #writing juices flowing with these tips from @DiAnnMills. {Click to Tweet}

Continuing Education
Writers need to navigate the waters of learning. This means study the respected blogs about the craft, publishing, and social media. Get involved in a writer’s group. Research conferences for a good fit.

Physical Checkup
Our thinking takes a hiatus when our bodies aren’t healthy. Make an appointment with a doctor for a complete checkup. If lifestyle modifications are prescribed, do it.

Sound Nutrition
If our diet consists of sugar, grease, and air, we have no fuel to write.

Start the day with exercise. Raise the heart rate and the neurons will fire with creativity.

God has the answers to our problems. He speaks to us through His Word, other people, His creation, circumstances, and meditation. His answer may not be as quick as we’d like, but God promises to answer our prayers.

By reading in our genre, we’re able to see various techniques and find inspiration for our own writing. Losing ourselves in another writer’s work frees our mind to solve the problems in our own work.

Take a Break
Walk away from your writing for a period. Relax in a walk or a hobby. The key is give it a rest.

Confide in a Trusted Friend
Many times our friends see our failings before we do. Take a deep breath and confide in someone you trust.

Mentor a Serious Writer
The best way to get our minds off ourselves is to help another person. The satisfaction of guiding a writer who longs for instruction often changes our thought patterns.

We all need to keep the juices flowing to inspire readers with our work.

What way do you keep yourself inspired?

  DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational ReadersChoice, and Carol award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian Fiction books of 2014.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Mountainside Marketing Conference with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.
DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on Facebook:, Twitter: or any of the social media platforms listed at

Monday, February 5, 2018

Make the Most of Your Conference Experience Part One

By Andrea Merrell

With conference season getting underway, it's important for you as a writer to plan ahead. Let’s look at a few pointers to help you make the most of your conference experience. Whether you’re a newbie or seasoned attender, it helps to be well prepared. Here are the basics to get you started.

Check the Website
First and foremost, check the website. You will generally find valuable information on both the conference and venue.

Check the weather (extended forecast) and pack accordingly. Take a jacket or sweater. Even in the summer months, classrooms and auditoriums can be chilly. Layering is always a good idea. Most conferences are business casual, and comfortable shoes are a must if you will be doing a lot of walking. If there is to be a banquet or awards night, you might want to take something dressy.

Some conference centers have restaurants, snack bars, and vending machines, but it’s helpful to take your favorite snacks for those in-between or late-night moments when food is not available. You can also pack a few bottles of water or soda. Be sure to keep mints with you at all times. 😊

Materials for the Conference
  • Business Card with your name, e-mail address, website, and photo. Make it a point to exchange business cards throughout the conference. This is how you network.
  • One-Sheet: a single sheet of paper with the title of your project, genre, word count, your photo and bio, and a short synopsis of your story (think back cover blurb).
  • Notebook, extra pens, conference schedule, and driving directions.

Other Important Items
Don’t forget your vitamins, prescription medications, and toiletry items (toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, razor). Many conferences are now fragrance free. Be sure to bring your chargers for phones, tablets, laptops, and extra batteries.

The most important thing to remember is to relax and make the most of your experience. It’s especially hard when you are a newbie, but we were all newbies at one time. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek help when you need it. Christian conferences are a special community of like-minded individuals who are more than ready to help each other.

In my next post (2/26) we'll talk about more ways to have a positive conference experience. In the meantime, happy writing.

(Photos courtesy of and Andrea Merrell.)


Monday, January 22, 2018

Writer, Don't Despise Small Beginnings

By Andrea Merrell

The writing and publishing industry is a wonderful, exciting, terrifying place. Can I get an amen?

When attending my first writers’ conference, I was overwhelmed … the proverbial fish out of water. What in the world am I doing here? I asked myself for days. I was completely outside my comfort zone, not to mention my element. Observing and speaking with others who had achieved varying levels of success almost convinced me I would never make it. But I hung in there and persevered.

Fast forward ten years. Since that first encounter with the industry, I now have three nonfiction books published (LPC Books), have contributed to numerous anthologies, and even won a few awards. I have written hundreds of devotions, articles, short stories, and blog posts, and am currently working on three novels. For the past few years, it has been my privilege to teach at a variety of writers’ conferences—something I never dreamed possible. But will all these "accomplishments," the greatest blessing of all would have to be the countless number of amazing people that have crossed my path over the years, many of whom have become close friends.

Why do I say all this? Those of you who know me well understand that I’m definitely not one to toot my own horn (that’s why marketing is my Achilles heel). The reason for sharing these achievements is to show you what God can do in your life when you obediently step into your calling and trust Him to lead the way.

And it all happens with small beginnings. Zechariah 4:10 says Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord  rejoices to see the work begin …

Moving toward my God-given destiny began with someone handing me a business card. My connection with that writer and speaker led to a small writer’s retreat, my first conference, and several life-long friendships. As I continued to move forward—one tentative baby step at a time—God opened doors of opportunity I never even knew existed. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has a plan and purpose for our lives. That’s a promise you can take to the bank.

When something small happens to you, especially in your writing career, you may tend to overlook it or think it unimportant. But look at the life and ministry of Jesus. He could have chosen hundreds of disciples, but He carefully selected twelve. He could have called down manna from heaven, but He fed thousands of hungry people on a hillside with a small boy’s lunch. Jesus shows us how a mustard seed—the tiniest of seeds—can grow into a massive tree and how a pinch of yeast raises a lump of dough to be made into bread. These are all kingdom principles that teach us valuable lessons.

What drives you as a writer? Do you have a heart to write for God or simply desire to see your name on the cover of a book? Are you willing to do what it takes to learn the craft and perfect your gift, or are you trying to advance by skipping important—and necessary—steps? Do you want to be bigger or better?

Pastor and author Bob Gass says, “All the prayers in the world won’t pressure Him (God) into giving you what you are not ready to handle.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Most people would succeed in small things if they weren’t troubled with blind ambition.”

Jesus said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much (Luke 16:10 NIV).

Nobody wants to be a flash in the pan—well-known and successful today and gone tomorrow. Bigger may be easier to measure, but gradual success is a solid foundation that is valuable, lasting, and fulfilling.

Writer, if God has called you and given you the gift of words, commit that gift to Him, take one baby step at a time, and watch what He’ll do. Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged, and never compare yourself with others. God has great blessings in store for you, and His timing is always perfect. Don’t ever despise small beginnings. Be thankful for each step forward and believe that God will open amazing doors of opportunity made just for you. With Him, all things are possible.

Photos courtesy of, nenetus, and Andrea Merrell.)


Monday, January 8, 2018

Writer, Make 2018 Your Most Productive Year

By Linda Gilden

My favorite Christmas gift this year was a big whiteboard for my office. In some ways it feels old school but in others, it feels like a brand new start. I am going to keep up with my deadlines and writing goals better than ever.

Every year in January I vow this year will be more productive than the last. I will write on a better schedule. I will try a new genre. I will keep all my projects on a calendar and meet my word count for each one every day. I will get endorsements before I am done writing my book. I will query for at least five articles a month. I will do my best not to miss my quiet time each day. The list goes on and on. And, of course, the last one on the list every year—I will exercise more.

All these things are well-intended but rarely come to fruition. This year, I said to myself, is going to be different!

How can I possibly make so many changes in the way I work? How can I be more productive in 2018?

Don’t Overcommit
Why is it so hard to say no? Every year there are many writing opportunities. Figure out which ones best fit the purpose and mission of your writing and stick to them.

Make Use of all the Digital Assistance Available
This year I am going to learn more about how to make my devices work for me.

Keep a Visual Plan in Front of You
Here is where my new whiteboard comes in. I need to be able to see where I am and how each project fits into my schedule with the others. I can post deadlines and submission dates. And if I need to adjust a bit to make it all work, it is easily done.

Plan Times of Rest and Refreshment into Your Days
As a fairly busy writer, I have found if I don’t plan for “play” time, it doesn’t always happen. Schedule time with your family and children to make sure you are making plenty of memories. Unplanned interruptions as well lead to precious family times. Don’t overlook them as bonus opportunities with your family. You can finish your article later.

Whether you use a whiteboard, keep a written calendar, or schedule your goals digitally, won’t you join me in my efforts to make 2018 the most productive and organized writing year yet?

(Photo courtesy of and Stuart Miles.)


Linda Gilden is an award-winning author, speaker, editor, ghostwriter, and writing coach. Author of twelve books and over a thousand magazine articles, Linda loves helping others discover the joy of writing. Her twelfth book, Articles, Articles, Articles will be released early this year. Linda lives in SC with family and loves every minute spent with her six grandchildren (great writing material). Visit

Monday, January 1, 2018

Take a Risk in 2018

By Andrea Merrell
Are you a risk-taker? I’m not talking about being a daredevil or doing dangerous stunts, simply someone who has the courage and ambition to try new endeavors.
I’ll have to admit, I’m not very adventurous. I like to play it safe, staying well inside my comfort zone. But one morning during my quiet time with the Lord, I was reading my daily devotional from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and it addressed this very subject:
Be willing to go out on a limb with Me. If that is where I am leading you, it is the safest place to be. Your desire to live a risk-free life is a form of unbelief. Your longing to live close to me is at odds with your attempt to minimize risk. You are approaching a crossroads in your journey. In order to follow me wholeheartedly, you must relinquish your tendency to play it safe.
Going out on that proverbial limb can be scary but as Sarah Young so aptly puts it, if that’s where God is leading, it’s the “safest place to be.”

Everyone has that dreaded fear of the unknown to some degree. Some push past it easily and take the plunge, while those of us who want to know exactly what’s ahead tend to hold back and wait for a clear signal.

I can tell you that the times I have moved out of my comfort zone and taken that leap of faith, God has been right there, holding my hand and guiding my steps. There is no greater satisfaction or fulfillment than being obedient and walking in our calling.

So, my question for you on this first day of the New Year is are you ready to take a risk? Are you willing to make a commitment to move forward in 2018 and do those things you’ve been shying away from?

Attend a Writers’ Conference
Maybe you’ve never attended a writers’ conference. My first one was a bit overwhelming because I didn’t know exactly what to expect. But it was the catalyst that God used to propel me into the writing career He had planned for me. This is where you begin to learn the basics, grow in the craft, build your network and platform, and meet the most amazing people you will ever meet.

Join a Critique Group
Perhaps you’re hesitant to get involved in a critique group. Putting your words—your baby—out there for feedback from others can be very intimidating. This is where we have to develop what some call a writer’s rhino skin. Accept your critique with grace and don’t take it personally. It will only make you a better writer.

How about that blog you’ve been meaning to launch? Maybe you’re blogging but need to be more consistent. Could it be that your website needs a face lift?

Is there a contest you’d like to enter? Don’t put it off. Go for it.

Has an editor or publisher requested material from you? You’d be surprised how many times we ask for a proposal or chapters from a writer and never get them. If you’re given that open door, walk through it.

Social Media
Afraid of social media? I was at one time, but it’s a necessary tool for writers. Just remember it’s not all about promoting yourself or your books—it’s about building relationships. Use what you have, and build as you go. Promote others whenever you can. Use the law of sowing and reaping.

Just Do It
Write that devotion or article. Contact other bloggers and ask if you can be a guest on their blog, or invite them to be a guest on your blog. Inquire about speaking engagements. Finish your manuscript. Whatever you’ve been putting off, now is the time to do it.

It’s a New Year. Instead of dwelling on the past, look to the future. As you make your to-do list for 2018, pray for guidance and creative ideas. Add a few items that will require you to climb out on that limb, knowing God will be right there with you.

But what if it doesn’t work? you might be thinking. But what if it does? We never know until we try. I’ve always heard it said that we will end up regretting the things we didn’t do more than the things we did. Pastor and author Bob Gass puts it this way: "The only way to know you've discovered your niche is to try things, take risks, learn from your failures and successes, and discover what God has gifted you to do."

Are you willing to take a risk?

What can you add to the list? Is there something in particular you’ve been struggling with but want to step out in faith? We would love to hear from you.

Alycia and I would like to wish you 
a blessed and prosperous New Year!

(Photos courtesy of and Stuart Miles.)