Monday, September 14, 2020

The Secret to Being a Confident Christian Writer


By Emily Golus

In my nearly 20 years of participating in Christian writing conferences and critique groups, I’ve noticed two types of Christian writers:
  • Those for whom writing is a hobby, job, ministry, and/or passion.
  • Those for whom being a writer is the whole reason they exist.

    That second category may sound good. If that’s not dedication, what is? But in my observation, going “all-in” on being a writer—making it a key part of your identity—is a recipe for anxiety and personal crisis.

What Being a “Christian writer” Isn’t

A Christian may feel that God is calling him to be a writer, and that can be wonderful. But sometimes that vocational calling takes on a deceptive significance. Writing is no longer an activity this Christian does, but the essence of who he is—perhaps, in his mind, the very reason God created him.

And then when something an “all-in” writer creates gets a negative review, or a rejection letter, or is simply ignored—she’ll be more than disappointed. She’ll be shaken to her very core.

How could God allow this? Does she not have enough faith? What justification does she have to exist if she failed at the one thing that makes her life count?

When Your Writing Doesn’t Actually Matter

Let me share the truth that ended my own spiral of anxiety and doubt:

Your writing can be meaningful to others, 
but your writing does not give YOU meaning. 
Only Jesus can do that.

Listen, Christ didn’t die for you because you had the potential to be a great writer. He did it because He is kind (Ephesians 2:7-9). He wanted YOU, even in your flaws. You have nothing to offer back—not on that divine scale—that makes you a strategic choice for His kingdom (1 Corinthians 1:26-30).

You matter because the God of the universe loves you. He is so delighted about your rescue that He sings over you (Zephaniah 3:17). You matter to Him, end of story. There’s nothing you can do to add onto that.

Let the power of that roll over you like ocean waves. Let its peace sink into your bones.

What It Really Means to be a Christian Writer

Now, with that in mind, do you want to write? Great! You can be a Christian—with all that security and peace in place—who also enjoys the writing process.

And here’s the paradox: When you don’t take your writing so seriously—when your self-worth doesn’t ride on it—you become a better writer. The stakes are lower, and suddenly you’re free to be more daring and creative.

Experiment. Try hard things. Learn from negative feedback. If you fail, shake it off and try again.

If you enjoy the creative journey, that itself is a bonus gift from God. If you end up having success—hey, another bonus. If not, there’s nothing to be worried about, because your performance as a writer doesn’t change your significance one bit.

You’re free, writing friends. Enjoy the adventure.

(Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels and Stuart Miles from FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

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Emily Golus has been dreaming up fantasy worlds since before she could write her name. A New England transplant now living in the Deep South, she is fascinated by culture and the way it shapes how individuals see the world. Golus aims to create stories that engage, inspire, and reassure readers that the small choices of everyday life matter.

Her first novel, Escape to Vindor, debuted in 2017 and won the Selah Award for young adult fiction. Its sequel, Mists of Paracosmia, released in April 2019.

Golus lives in Upstate South Carolina with her woodworking husband, an awkward cat, and the world's most talkative toddler.

You can keep up with Vindor news at WorldofVindor.com and EmilyGolusBooks.com, or find her on Instagram as WorldOfVindor.

Monday, September 7, 2020

What Might Have Been


By Andrea Merrell

Sometimes I wonder where I would be today if I had ignored the words of someone who told me over twenty years ago that it was time to “get to writing.” Or if I had failed to make that all-important phone call ten years later to someone who gave me great advice about my writing journey. A woman who would become a mentor and a good friend.

What would have happened had I not submitted that first devotion? Would I have had the courage to submit my first article and then a short story? What if I had been too afraid to pitch my first book or attend my first critique group and writing conference?

The what ifs are endless, but so are the possibilities.

When God gives us gifts, we should never be afraid or reluctant to use them. In fact, the Bible says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10 NIV). One writer says, “When God gives you a gift, He give you the grace, guts, and grit to use it.” But even though He equips us, we have to step out in faith and do the work.

What is it you’re struggling with? Fill in the blanks:

  • I want to go to a writers’ conference but________________
  • I’m ready to submit my proposal but ___________________
  • I know I need an agent but _______________________________
  • She asked to see my first three chapters but ___________
  • There’s a contest I would love to enter but _____________
  • I’ve been thinking about blogging but ___________________

Whatever God has put in your heart, go for it. Will everything you try work out? Probably not. But that’s how you learn and grow. You can’t reap a harvest without first sowing the seed.

Don’t wait for the perfect time or the perfect opportunity. Take the opportunities that come your way. You never know what God might have in store just for you.

As John Greenleaf Whittier said, “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: it might have been.”


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


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Monday, August 31, 2020

How Isaac Newton’s Law of Physics Applies to Writing


By Linda Yezak


He eyed her from head to toe.

She hit him.

He smirked.

She thought he called her a name.

Sounds like a scene from a novel, doesn't it? In truth, these lines are derived from different novels in which the author presented an unanswered action, violating a major law of physics:

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

This, the third of Sir Isaac Newton's laws, should be the first law of writing. Whenever a character does something, unless he's alone in the scene (and sometimes even then), there should be some sort of reaction.

The examples I've given were derived from novels I've read where the author left me hanging after an action was portrayed. The first one, especially, yanked me out of the story: "He eyed her from head to toe." Since we were in her POV, we should've seen her reaction (even if we weren't in her POV). Believe me, a woman reacts to being scoped, and how this one reacted could've solidified her characterization. The author missed an opportunity.

The next one, "She hit him," surprised me because she hit him hard in the legs with a metal object. At the very least, he should've said "ouch." He should've jumped up and down, holding one injured shin, then the other. He should've exclaimed something—anything—that would indicate pain. 

Should have … but didn't.

Pay attention to what you're writing. Picture your scene and the natural reactions your characters should have to the stimulus presented—in a natural sequence. I emphasize the sequence because I've also seen something similar to this:

She whacked him on the back with the board she toted. She didn't mean to, she just wasn't paying attention. When would she ever learn? She was so careless, such a klutz. Even her mother said so. What would her mother say if she saw her today? Nothing good, no doubt.

"Ouch," he said.

Oversimplified of course, but it happens when writers aren't paying attention to what they put on the page. It may seem odd that an author wouldn't realize what she's writing, but if she's overanxious about getting to her next point or presenting a vital character quirk or whatever goal is on her mind, she's blinded to what she has written.

Among the rules of writing, don't overlook a couple of obvious ones:

  • Every action has a reaction.
  • Pay attention to what you're doing.

Have you ever read something that pulled you out of the story? Have suggestions? We would love to hear from you.

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

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Linda W. Yezak lives with her husband and their funky feline, PB, in Texas, where tall tales abound and exaggeration is an art form. She has a deep and abiding love for her Lord, her family, and salted caramel. And coffee—with a caramel creamer. Author of award-winning books and short stories, she didn't begin writing professionally until she turned fifty. Taking on a new career every half century is a good thing.







Facebook: Author Page
Twitter: @LindaYezak
Goodreads: Linda W Yezak




Monday, August 24, 2020

6 Reasons Your Voice Is Important as a Writer

Voice Writer
by Alycia W. Morales    @storyinspirations.3

As writers, it's so easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves to others. And in doing so, we diminish the importance of putting our voices out there in the midst of the rest.

What do we get caught up in? Have you ever thought or said any of these to yourself?

  • They've written longer than I have.
  • They have a better message than I do. They've honed it.
  • They've already written what I would.
  • There's nothing new under the sun, so why should I waste my time adding to it?
  • She's speaking too. I'm not speaking yet. I need to be speaking before I write.
  • His social media platform is stronger than mine, and they say I need to have numbers before they can publish my book.
  • I could never write like that.
  • There are already too many people writing about that. How could I ever get heard?

I am getting started as a mom blogger. It's an already saturated market, I'm sure. There are plenty of moms out there writing about their experiences as mothers and sharing their favorite products. So what sets me apart from them?

Simple: My Voice. 

6 Reasons Your Voice Is Important as a Writer

1. You have different experiences from others.

Granted, there are similarities between what I've been through and what you've been through at times, but that does not make them the same experiences. One of the reasons I started Life in the MotherShip is because I know that what has worked for me in my home with my family may not work for you in your home with your family. But someone else out there has something for you that will work. So by bringing together the experiences of multiple families (moms, in particular), there's a greater chance of finding something that will work for you on my site.

2. Your voice is as unique as you are.

God created us all in His image and His likeness. If you handed me four books, each written by one of my favorite authors, I could probably tell you who wrote which one. Jesus said that His sheep know His voice. There is voice recognition technology in the world today. Why? Because our voices are uniquely our own. By God's design. (John 10:3-5)

3. You have a testimony to share.

There is something that God has redeemed you from. Something that you've done or have had happen to you through no fault of your own that God has covered with the blood of Jesus, His Son. Your salvation story is something that can be shared with others so that they, too, may come to know the love of God. No one else can tell your testimony. (Revelation 12:10-11)

4. You've been healed of something.

Every one of us who has a testimony has been healed in some area or another. Whether a physical healing or a spiritual healing or an emotional healing, we've all been through something that has caused a change inside of us, evident to others or not. When we are healed, we enter into a place where God can use us and our words to bring healing to others. What have you been healed of that you can share from? What could you tell others that would help them face things in their lives and in their hearts that could lead them to healing? (Mark 5:18-20)

5. We shouldn't be the silent majority.

When the majority remains silent, the enemy wins. We're living in a time and age when Christian voices need to stand and be heard. God didn't put a light in you so you could put a basket over it and hide away in a corner somewhere. He gave you the Light of the World so that you could step out and dispel darkness. So you could SHINE. (Matthew 5:14-16)

6. God gave you a talent.

What are you going to do with it? Are you going to bury it and pray that when He returns, you can hand it back to Him and show Him how well you protected what was His? Or are you going to put it out there so that He can multiply it? (Matthew 25)

6 Reasons Your Voice Is Important as a Writer via @AlyciaMorales https://tinyurl.com/yxgylhn2 #amwriting #writer (Click to Tweet)

Don't let the voices in your head deter you from writing. You have something to say in a way no one else has said it. In a season when we have the opportunity to share our faith in the Lord with those who are searching for hope, don't be afraid to write. To speak. To use your voice.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Don’t Overlook These 2 Quick Research Tools for Writers


By Vie Stallings Herlocker


Research. Whether you love it or loathe it, writers must be researchers.

Perhaps you’ve diligently researched details for your nonfiction subject or your novel’s physical setting, characters, and timeline. That’s a great start, but what about research at the word and phrase level—do your words convey the meaning you intended? If you’re writing a novel, are your words and phrases accurate to the time period?

As an editor, I find that even meticulous writers sometimes slip up at the word or phrase level. While there are many scholarly resources for linguistic research, I’d like to focus on two easily accessed online references that I use regularly:
  1. Merriam Webster 11th Collegiate Dictionary (free online version, and free phone app)
  2. Google Books Ngram Viewer (free online site)

Merriam Webster 11th is the book industry’s standard dictionary. You’ll find definitions and correct spelling of words, including trickier items like hyphenated, open, or closed compounds—and as the TV ads say, “But wait! There’s More!” Merriam Webster also notes part(s) of speech, word origin, and the year a word or phrase was first seen in written language. Another bonus of the online Merriam Webster is a feature called “Time Traveler.”  This exhaustive list of words first noted within a particular year is a fabulous research find for writers.

Google Books Ngram Viewer draws upon Google’s corpus of digitized books and magazines between the years 1500 and 2019. This online tool allows you to research individual or multiple words and phrases within a range of years and in a certain language. Advanced searches can search a word by part of speech, and more. The resulting graph shows the percentage of print usage through the years for each search item.

How these tools helped me in a recent edit. 
I came across the word cookware in a manuscript set in 1899, and my editor antennae went up. Were pots and pans called cookware then?

I checked Merriam Webster first. The first known printed use of the word was 1922. What would people have called cookware previously? I looked at the definition for a clue: “utensils used for cooking.”

Next, I opened Google’s Ngram tool. I selected American English and set my date range from 1850 to 1950. In the search bar, I entered my search words and terms, separated by commas: cookware, cooking utensils, pots and pans. As you see from the screen shot of my search (with my added highlights) the Ngram confirmed that cookware was not a period appropriate term for this manuscript. The Ngram page also links to specific books or magazines that contain each of the search terms by years. From there, I learned that the earliest usage was in magazine advertisements for sets of pots and pans in the 1920s.

Google Books Ngram Search Result

Do you have a favorite research tool? Would you share a favorite in the comments—whether it’s research for word usage, characterization, settings, occupations, hobbies, technical terms, or whatever! Let’s talk research, writer friends!

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

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Vie Herlocker is the associate editor for Surry Living Magazine. She offers freelance editing services through Cornerstone-Ink. While her heart is in editing, her writing has been published in many of the Guideposts family of magazines, The Christian Communicator, and several compilation books. She’s also cowritten a motivational book for the educational field and ghostwritten a memoir. She and her husband recently moved to Nashville, TN.