Monday, December 17, 2018

Is There Room in the Writing World for You?


By Andrea Merrell

It’s hard to know for sure how Mary must have felt the night she was about to give birth to the Savior of the world. Weary, cold, most likely hungry, and going into labor she was surely ready to climb off that donkey and crawl into a soft, warm bed. 

But the only words she heard over and over were “no room.”

I can only imagine the other words she heard that night. “Sorry. Filled up. You should have gotten here earlier. Come back another time.” She might have even been told “our rooms are reserved for frequent, high-profile guests.” An earful of discouragement.

At times we might face that same discouragement as writers—especially after a long journey of conferences, critique groups, appointments, classes, devouring books on the craft … and rejections.

No room. Sorry, that category is filled up. You should have submitted your proposal earlier. Come back another time after you rewrite your novel or come up with a new story. Your genre is not quite what we’re looking for at the moment. Yes, we have spots open, but they’re reserved for our high-profile, well-known authors.

That’s when the Enemy fills our mind with thoughts like: I might as well give up. What’s the point? I’m tired of trying. God must not have called me to do this after all. Maybe He’s even forgotten about me.

That’s when the fight-or-flight instinct kicks in. We either go into hiding or fight for what we want. We might shut down our computers and quit or try to break down the door that has been closed to us. Either way, it’s a waiting game.

So, what should we do while we’re waiting? Just keep on, as they say, keepin’ on. Do what God has called us to do. We should never be tempted to try and promote ourselves. That’s God’s job, and He takes it seriously. He’s also very good at it. We need to look to Him for acceptance and approval, find our significance and self-worth in our relationship with Him. One pastor says, "In God’s kingdom you don’t achieve success on your own, you receive it from God. Let others compete and compare. Just stay faithful in what God’s given you to do—and when the time is right … He’ll come and get you.”

I love that statement “He’ll come and get you.” Just like He came after David as the young shepherd was tending sheep, doing the job he was given to do, while his brothers were striving to be Israel’s next king. God had a plan. He knew exactly where David was and how to find him. When the time was right, God sent for him.

The truth is in God’s kingdom there’s always enough room—for all of us. When we belong to and work for the Creator of the universe, the Master of Creativity, there is never a shortage of opportunities. The venue you have in mind may not be the one He has reserved for you, but it’s there with your name on it—not someone with more notoriety.


As a child of God, He has a plan and purpose for you and for your writing. He knows exactly where you are and how to find you. Trust Him for His perfect timing. He will open doors of opportunity that no one else can. There is more than enough room in the writing world—for you!


(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, artur84, basketman, and David Castillo Dominici.)


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Monday, December 10, 2018

Editing Tips for Devotional and Bible Study Writers


By Katy Kauffman


I used to think books that had typos weren’t proofread enough before they were printed. Surely someone would have caught those mistakes. Now I know better.

After I self-published my first book, I found more typos than I want to admit. Mistakes happen. Our goal as authors is to catch as many mistakes as we can. First, it’s helpful to be aware of the technical aspects of grammar and punctuation and what the trends are these days. The Chicago Manual of Style acts as a safety net as we fly through the pages of our books, making sure everything is formatted properly. Second, it’s helpful to know what makes writing sparkle—lead-ins, insights, a conversational voice, great takeaway, and so forth. Reading books on the writing craft and books by authors we love, helps us to know what to shoot for in our writing.


So, if you’re a devotional or Bible study writer (or a Christian living writer), use this checklist to make sure your writing is edited as best as it can be. Following these rules will help you to feel more secure when you post something on your blog or submit something to an editor or agent.


Always cite the Bible translations you use. This is easy to forget when we’re in “listener” mode instead of “writer” mode. We don’t have to cite a translation when we’re listening to a sermon or studying God’s Word in our quiet times, but it’s a must for our writing. The same applies for creating memes. Include the translation.


Bring your commas and periods inside the “house.” As a magazine editor, I often see commas and periods standing in the wrong place in sentences. Remember, periods go inside quotation marks, not outside. Think of quotation marks as the walls of your sentence. Commas and periods need to go inside the walls of the house, not standing outside in the cold.

Know the difference in citing Scripture in running text and block quotes. Use the following example to know how to format a Scripture reference in running text: “God is love” (1 John 4:8 NKJV). Notice that the period goes on the outside of the last parenthesis, and there is no comma after 1 John 4:8. When your Bible verse or passage is longer than a few lines, make it a block quote and put the period after the words of the verse, within the quotation marks. The reference and translation are as above, but there is no period after the parenthesis.

Know the difference in how to format your endnotes and bibliography. The following are the essential ingredients you need to cite a book: author’s name, title of book, publisher’s name and city and state, and the copyright year. For your endnotes, put the page number (or location for e-books) where your quote is found. 

The following is how to cite endnotes: Author’s first and last name, Book Title, (City, State: Publisher, copyright year), page number. And the following is an example of an entry for a bibliography: Last name, first name. Book Title. City, State: Publisher, copyright year.

Put your byline under your title in the body of your text. It may be an easy thing to forget, but help your potential editors, agents, and readers know who wrote your writing. Be sure to put your byline underneath the title of your work.

Check your work for what makes the content truly “wow”—a captivating lead-in, great first lines of paragraphs, memorable stories, a conversational voice, and superb takeaway. We may be perfectly correct in our grammar and punctuation, but our voice and message is the heart of our writing. Craft your writing to include so much sparkle that readers will be looking for what else you have written. 

Which of the tips above do you find the most challenging to incorporate into your writing? What other tips would you suggest? Tell us in the comments below, and keep editing.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Stuart Miles, and digitalart.)

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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. Her first compilation, Breaking the Chains, won a 2018 Selah finalist award. Her second compilation, Heart Renovation: A Construction Guide to Godly Character, released this summer. Katy’s writing can be found at CBN.com, thoughts-about-God.com, PursueMagazine.net, two blogs on writing, in online magazines, and on devotional blogs. She loves spending time with family and friends, making jewelry, and hunting for the best peanut butter cookies. Connect with her at her blog and on Facebook and Twitter
  

Monday, November 26, 2018

Sow Good Seeds into Your Writing Career


By Andrea Merrell

What is your ultimate goal as a writer? To be a New York Times best-selling author? Maybe your desire is to be a conference leader, speaker, teacher, mentor, or social media expert. Perhaps your dream is to be the next Karen Kingsbury or Ted Dekker.

Whatever you’re striving to attain, think for a moment about the seeds you’re sowing now. Are you taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves—even if they appear to be small potatoes?

Sometimes, what might seem insignificant at the moment and hardly worth our time and effort, is the very thing God is using to prepare us for what He has in store for us. In God’s economy, nothing is ever wasted. He uses every tiny thread to weave together the tapestry of our future … our destiny.

When those small opportunities arise, we should take advantage of them to advance the kingdom and not ourselves, because promotion comes from the Lord. We never know who or what He might use to advance our career. Whatever we do today has a direct impact on our tomorrow.

One writer says, “When you do only what you feel like doing, you can overlook relationships and undervalue experiences essential to your future. Your destiny is made up of seemingly insignificant moments, experiences, and encounters. Your today is connected to your tomorrow, so maximize each opportunity and relationship that comes your way."

So, what can you do?

Maybe you’ve been asked to write a guest blog post. Or maybe someone has asked if they can do a guest post for you. Do you have an eye for detail? Offer to proofread or critique a project for a friend. If you know someone with a new book coming out, help them promote it. Post the information on your social media. Volunteer as a beta reader.Attend book signings in your area. Post reviews on Amazon for books you’ve read. Sign up for blogs and newsletters to support fellow writers. Volunteer to help at a local conference. Send thank-you notes to those who have supported you.

There are a hundred different ways to sow good seeds. Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NIV) says “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” You just might be surprised at the harvest you will reap.

What about you? Do you have more suggestions for sowing those good seeds? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and fantasista.)

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Monday, November 12, 2018

Writing for Children—A Noble Calling


By Michelle Medlock Adams @INwritergirl

When I was in first grade, Mrs. True made an announcement that would forever change my life.“We’re having a poetry contest this week,” she said, “so use today and tomorrow to come up with your best poem.”

We had just studied the various types of poems, and I decided I really liked the ones that rhymed. In fact, I had checked out every book of rhyming poetry I could find from our school library, and I’d read them all—twice.

As my classmates wrote about their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, I carefully crafted the words to my poem: “I Love Penny.” Penny was my 7-year-old wiener dog and my best friend in the whole world.

My poem went a little something like this: “Penny is my very best friend. I’ll love her to the very end. She’s a very special wiener dog. I love her though she smells like a hog…”

Okay, so I wasn’t exactly a first-grade Dr. Seuss, but my poem was good enough to earn first prize. (I guess the other first-grade poets must’ve been really bad.) At any rate, I won a few sparkly pencils and the honor of going first in the lunch line that afternoon. Mrs. True also displayed my poem in the front of the room for all to see. I stared at my winning poem all afternoon, and in my mind, I was already crafting a follow-up rhyme.

That’s the day I became a writer. I wanted to write all the time, and so I did. I wrote during recess while other kids played tag and climbed on the monkey bars. I completely fell in love with words.

I wrote a play in fifth grade that we performed for all of the fifth grade classes. I wrote short stories in junior high for a literary magazine. And I wrote many articles for my high school newspaper before majoring in journalism at Indiana University.

Though I began my career writing news stories for a daily paper, my career path took an unexpected turn when we moved to Texas so I could write features and personality profiles for an international ministry magazine. After a little while, the editor came to me and said, “You have kids, right?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“Great, you can write some kids' stories for our children’s outreach.”

I remember thinking, Just because I have kids doesn’t mean I know how to write for themBut I was a journalist, so I began researching the world of writing for children, and I once again fell in love. Head over heels. That was more than twenty years ago, and I’ve been lovesick ever since. 

Creating stories for children—stories that teach, entertain, encourage and inspire—is a noble calling. It’s a calling I don’t take for granted, and neither should you.

No matter how you fell in love with writing for children, I’m just happy you did. Let me encourage you to stay the course. Never think your work or your words are less important or less powerful simply because they are for kids. Actually, they are more important and more powerful because they are for kids.
You’re a part of a very special club—a society of writers who woo children to fall in love with words and continue that love affair their whole lives through. 

You’re the writer who transports children to far-off lands and make-believe worlds. You’re the writer who causes children to dream a little bigger, laugh a little harder, feel a little deeper, and care a little more. You’re a children’s writer, crafting copy on the very hearts of your readers, so do it well, and do it with enthusiasm.

What do you love most about writing for children? We would love to hear from you.


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Creating stories for children—stories that teach, entertain, encourage and inspire—is a noble calling. via@INwritergirl (Click to tweet.)

Michelle Medlock Adams is an inspirational speaker, award-winning journalist and best-selling author of more than 90 books, earning top honors from the Associated Press, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Hoosier State Press Association. Since graduating with a journalism degree from Indiana University, Michelle has written more than 1,500 articles for newspapers, magazines and websites; acted as a stringer for the Associated Press; written for a worldwide ministry; helped pen a New York Times Bestseller; served as a TV host for TBN’s “Joy in Our Town” show; and blogged for Guideposts.


Today, she is President of Platinum Literary Services—a premier full-service literary firm—and she serves as chairman of the board for Serious Writer Inc. and teaches courses for Serious Writer Academy.  She is also a weekly columnist for a Midwestern newspaper and serves as assistant acquisitions editor for Little Lamb Books.

Michelle is married to her high school sweetheart, Jeff, and they have two grown daughters, Abby and Allyson, two sons-in-law, and one grandson, as well as a miniature dachshund, a rescue Shepherd/Collie mix, and two cats. When not writing or teaching, Michelle enjoys bass fishing and cheering on the Indiana University Basketball team and the Chicago Cubbies.





Monday, November 5, 2018

Tricky and Confusing Words Part Two

By Andrea Merrell

In my last post, we looked at many tricky and confusing words that most writers wrestle with. This week, let’s look at a few more:

Advice vs. Advise
  • Advice is a noun that means a recommendation. (Jim gave Charlie some great advice.)
  • Advise is a verb that denotes the act of giving a recommendation. (Charlie was glad that Jim was able to advise him.)

Peak, Peek, Pique
  • Peak means the top of a mountain. (Shelly can see the peak of Grandfather Mountain from her front porch.)
  • Peek means to take a quick glimpse. (Robin took a peek out the window to see who was at the door.)
  • Pique means to irritate or stimulate. (Mandy was piqued by the clerk’s rude behavior. The fashionable window display was meant to pique the interest of customers.)

Compliment vs. Complement
  • Compliment means to praise. (Rusty was known for giving sincere compliments.)
  • Complement means the amount, quantity, or something that completes or brings to perfection. (The violin music was the perfect complement to the exquisite meal. The hotel has a perfect complement of staff at the moment.)

Desert vs. Dessert
  • Desert is a desolate place (noun) or to abandon (verb). (Take plenty of water on your trip to the desert. If I go to the party with you, please don’t desert me.)
  • Dessert means our favorite sugary treat. (We have chocolate cake for dessert.)

Elicit vs. Illicit
  • Elicit means to evoke or cause. (A bad review will elicit a negative response.)
  • Illicit means illegal or something that is taboo. (The police arrested the man for the sale of illicit drugs.)

Brake vs. Break
  • Brake means a device for slowing or stopping a vehicle (noun). (Carrie slammed her foot on the brake.) As a verb it means to decelerate or stop. (You need to brake when approaching a traffic light.)
  • Break means to interrupt or separate into pieces (verb). (The meeting will now break for ten minutes. Casey decided to break the candy in half and share with her sister.) As a noun it means a pause or interruption. (The break lasted longer than we expected. After working all day, it was time to take a break.)

So, Sow, Sew
  • So means to a great extent (adverb). (It happened so fast I could hardly take it in.) As a conjunction, it means therefore or in order that. (They whispered so they wouldn’t disturb anyone in the workshop.)
  • Sow means to scatter or plant. (The farmer has a lot of seeds to sow.)
  • Sew means to create or repair with a needle and thread. (We will have to sew the seams together.)

Altar vs. Alter
  • Altar means a kneeling rail in a Christian church where people go to pray or the table used for communion. (The pastor invited people to come to the altar for prayer.)
  • Alter means to change or modify. (We may have to alter our plans if it’s going to rain.)

Lose vs. Loose
  • Lose means to suffer a loss. (Be sure not too lose your car keys.)
  • Loose means something is not tight. (Amanda wore loose-fitting clothes for her workout.)

Course vs. Coarse
  • Course means a direction or route (noun.) (Let’s change our course and head north.) As a verb it means to move without obstruction. (Tears coursed down Cynthia’s cheeks.)
  • Coarse means rough in texture or crude. (The fabric is very coarse. Coarse language has become acceptable in most television programs.)
Bare vs. Bear
  • Bare mean naked, uncovered, or simple. (The two-year-old was bare from the waist up. Those are the bare facts.)
  • Bear means an animal. (Watch out for bears when you hike in the mountains.
Here vs. Hear

  • Here means in this particular spot. (Put the package right here.)
  • Hear means to listen. (Did you hear what I said earlier?)
Then vs. Than
  • Then indicates time or means next. (The meeting is at 4:00 p.m. I will be there then. Carol entered the contest, then won first place.)
  • Than is used for comparison. (I'd rather go to Pennsylvania than New York.)
Passed vs. Past
  • Passed is the past tense of pass. (Mandy passed me on her way to the library.)
  • Past means the time before the present. (It's time to stop living in the past. Cheryl has been working part-time for the past few months. 
  • Note: Past can be used as an adjective, preposition, noun, or adverb. Be sure to use it correctly. Example: Rick can't go past the bakery without going in.)

Some of these may seem simple, but as an editor, I see these common mistakes quite often. The best rule of thumb is: when in doubt ... look it up.

Can you add to the list? What words do you struggle with? We would love to hear from you.

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.)

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