Sunday, February 21, 2021

A Checklist for Writing about the Bible

By Katy Kauffman

Are you a word artist? Do you love painting with words? When we write about Scripture, we have the joy of illustrating how it relates to life today. The Bible is full of rich metaphors, life-changing stories, unwavering promises, and sparkling truths. As writers, we first admire what God has painted in the Bible, and then we work with Him to share the beauty of Scripture with others. But writing isn’t all art.

Writing is both art and science. I used to stumble over the laws of writing. When do I make block quotes? Does a period go before or after a Bible reference? Why can’t I remember the order of what goes in a citation? I just wanted to write. Do you ever feel the same way?

Use the following checklist to unleash your inner word artist and submit your writing to editors and agents with confidence. Editing doesn’t have to hinder creativity; it enhances the message we long to share. I have grouped similar items on this checklist into categories. Review each category before you submit your writing to industry professionals or your critique group.

Bible Translations and Formatting Quotes

Just as an artist’s name is given next to his or her painting in an art gallery, give the Bible translation with quoted verses. Then your readers can look up a verse on their own later if they want to. A few formatting details help our writing to be consistent with industry standards (based on CMS or the Chicago Manual of Style).  

  • Be sure to give the Bible translation for all of the verses you quote.
  • Use the following format when you quote a Bible verse in running text—“God is love” (1 John 4:8 NKJV).
  • If a Bible verse is more than three or four lines long, make it a block quote, indenting the whole verse and putting the period inside the ending quotation marks—“have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NKJV)

Professionalism

Writers, like artists, build a reputation with each work of art. Let your professionalism shine by making sure you have included the needed elements in your writing and omitted what detracts from it.

  • Stay knowledgeable about how much your favorite Bible translations allow you to quote without getting permission. (See the copyright page of each translation for that information.)
  • If you are writing a book, don’t forget to include on your book’s copyright page, the copyright information for every version you quote. Find those details on the Bible’s copyright page, or you may be able to find it on www.BibleGateway.com. If you are using mostly one translation, make a note to that effect on your copyright page. Then you don’t have to cite the translation every time you use it in the book.
  • If an insight you have written is a summary of someone else’s definition or commentary note (and not even verbatim), it is courteous to cite that source. Citing a book in an endnote or footnote has the following order: Author’s first and last name, Book Title (Publisher’s City, State: Publisher Name, Copyright Year), page number.  
  • Double-check the submission guidelines for the editor or agent you are submitting to. This will show that you care about the publication and their editorial needs.
  • Don’t forget your biography with the proper word count, along with a good headshot.
  • And your name. Be sure to put your byline in the body of your writing, underneath the title. (It’s surprising how many writers forget this. But please do it for the sake of your editors. It will save them some valuable time.)

Application and Content

Be sure to paint in some application. Show how Scripture relates to life today, to your audience’s needs and challenges. Emphasize the encouragement, comfort, or promises of Scripture. It will reap richness in understanding for your readers.  

  • Work with the Master Artist long enough that you understand the picture He has painted. Understand what Scripture is saying, and make sure your insights are backed by cross-references and definitions or
    substantiated commentary notes.  
  • Give enough application for your Bible passages, instead of just paraphrasing a story.
  • Be sure to introduce a familiar Bible passage in a fresh way or with a unique slant.
  • Weave definitions and notes into your paragraphs as conversationally as possible, and only use the ones that are directly related to the main point.

Just as artists give great care to creating their masterpieces, we make our writing better by double-checking our content and formatting. This will result in a beautiful work of art that blesses those who read it.

What part of this editing checklist is the most helpful? Share your thoughts in the comments, and keep painting, writer friend.


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


TWEETABLE

Just as artists give great care to creating their masterpieces, we make our writing better by double-checking our content and formatting. This will result in a beautiful work of art that blesses those who read it. via @KatyKauffman28 (Click to tweet.)



 

Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author, an editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazine, and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. She has the privilege of working with writers and the Lighthouse team to create Bible study compilations and magazine issues. She has a monthly newsletter for writers called The Lighthouse Connection, and she contributes to three blogs on writing. Connect with Katy at her blog, Winning the Victory, and on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

Monday, February 8, 2021

Resist the Urge to Misuse Quotation Marks

By Denise Loock

 

The goal of every writer is to communicate a clear message. Sometimes, however, that goal is hindered by the urge to emphasize. Specifically, inexperienced writers often assume the use of quotation marks will make their meaning clearer, but it rarely does.


Here’s what The Chicago Manual of Style says about the willy-nilly use of quotation marks as a means of emphasis: “Quotation marks are often used to alert readers that a term is used in a nonstandard [or slang], ironic, or other special sense. Nicknamed scare quotes, they imply, “This is not my term” or “This is not how the term is usually applied. Chicago discourages that practice.”


Consider these sentences:

Weak: John’s definition of “peace” was a mystery to Janice.

Better: Janice was mystified by John’s definition of peace—avoid conflict at all times.


In the first sentence, the quotation marks are unnecessary. They don’t clarify the meaning of the word peace, and since the sentence already includes the word definition, the reader knows the author is using the word peace in that context.


In the second sentence, however, John’s definition of peace is stated clearly. No quotation marks needed.


If you feel the urge to clarify that your use of a word is nonstandard, then you may want to say something like this: The so-called peace John wanted was a cowardly attempt to avoid conflict. No quotation marks needed.


Here’s another set of examples:

Weak: Sandra was determined to have some “words” with her daughter Jamie.

Better: Sandra was determined to confront her daughter Jamie.

 

The reader cannot interpret the author’s intended meaning of words by the use of quotation marks. Far better to use the precise verb confront.


Some writers also feel compelled to place common metaphors and figures of speech in quotation marks. If the expressions are common, the quotation marks are unnecessary:


We always assume the grass is greener on the other side, but it’s probably only spray painted to look that way.

The narcissism of our culture is displayed in every selfie posted on Facebook.


Check the dictionary. If the word or phrase is listed, you don’t need quotation marks. Merriam-Webster adds dozens of new words to the dictionary every year. Selfie is a recent addition.


To summarize, use quotation marks as they are intended to be used: to enclose a person’s exact words in dialogue or in a citation. In most other cases, use word choice and sentence structure to make your meaning clear. Resist the urge to make quotation marks do a job they were never intended to do.


TWEETABLE

Resist the urge to make quotation marks do a job they were never intended to do. via @DLoock (Click to tweet.)


Denise Loock is an editor, author, and inspirational speaker. She is a general editor for LPCbooks, a division of Iron Stream Media. She also accepts freelance editing projects from writers who want to submit clean, concise, and compelling manuscripts to publishers (lightningeditingservices.com).

Denise is the author of two devotional books, Open Your Hymnal and Open Your Hymnal Again, which highlight the scriptural truths of classic hymns and gospel songs. She is the founder of Dig Deeper Devotions, a website that encourages Christians of all ages to dig deeper into the Word of God. Three collections of devotions from the website are available on Amazon: Restore the Joy: Daily Devotions for December, Restore the Conversation: Fifty Devotions on Prayer, and Restore the Hope: Devotions for Lent and Easter.

Denise teaches two online PEN Institute courses: Sentence Diagraming 101 and Editing Devotionals 101. She also writes “Mind Your MUGS,” a grammar and usage column for Christian Communicator.

 

 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Think Outside the Book

 By Martin Wiles

 

“I want to write a book.”

Over the last nine years, as I have taught grammar and writing to middle schoolers, quite a few have shared their aspirations to pen a book. Although I commend them and assure them doing so is a worthy goal, I also inform them about the roadblocks, struggles, and rejections they can expect along their journey.

And through my connections with other writers, I’ve heard quite a few of them express the same sentiments as some of my students. Without discouraging them, I’ve told them the same thing I tell my aspiring young pupils. Some give up the book route while others pursue it through various means: traditional publishing, self-publishing, subsidy publishing, or agents.

But wait. Why must we writers have a book published to be successful at our craft? Does doing so put us on a higher echelon than writers who haven’t published a book? Or had it published through a certain avenue? I’ve done the book publishing thing seven times—and through various routes—but I’ve enjoyed more success when I thought outside the book.

According to Scribe media, research shows the average self-published or digital-only book sells only 250 copies in its lifetime. Comparatively, the average traditionally published book sells only 3,000 copies during its lifetime—but only 250-300 of those sales happen in the first year (https://scribemedia.com/book-sales).

If I’ve done my math correctly (and I’m no math major), the average total of people whose lives I have infiltrated with my books’ words comes to about 1,750. Not bad, but nothing to brag about. After all, if God changes one person’s life by using my writing, then that’s enough. But why settle for less when I could easily influence more through other paths?

Each year when I attend the Asheville Christian Writers Conference, I pick up a copy of The Christian Writers Market Guide. While this resource lists agents, as well as book publishers who don’t require agents, the bulk of the book presents other forms of publication such as periodicals, devotional websites, drama, greeting cards, and Bible curriculum. And I would add newspapers.

For several years, I’ve had the privilege of writing devotional pieces for three newspapers. The combined circulation for these three papers is 26,979… in one day. Seems to me I have the potential of reaching more people once a month—even if only a portion of them read my articles—than I would ever reach in a lifetime through all my books combined. And that doesn’t include the other websites and periodicals I regularly write for.

If God is calling you to write a book, then by all means pursue publication. But don’t limit yourself. Websites, periodicals, newspapers, newsletters, greeting cards, and a host of other places need good writers. And if you’re looking to let God speak to others through you, those places might bring a high return on God’s kingdom work.

Don’t be ashamed or afraid to think outside the book.


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


Martin Wiles is the founder of Love Lines from God (www.lovelinesfromgod.com) and serves as Managing Editor for Christian Devotions and as a copy editor for Courier Publishing. He has authored six books and has been published in numerous publications. He is a freelance editor, English teacher, author, and pastor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Mission of Your Writing

By Cindy K. Sproles

I attended an intense writing class a couple of years back. It’s true that a good writer never stops learning, and I want to always present my best work, so you can imagine my surprise when the first comment from the instructor was a question. What is your mission statement? I was here to learn strong fiction writing. A mission statement?

This was never something I considered for my writing. We have one in place for our ministry and for our conference, but a personal mission statement for my writing just never occurred to me.

It’s a nerve-racking moment when you’re put on the spot to answer a question you haven’t pondered. Amid other Christian writers, I wanted to be sure I had the spiritual aspect known, but that’s when the instructor threw me for a loop. It’s a given we are here because we want to write for God in some aspect. So, move beyond that and think deeper. There went my easy mission statement.

In fact, our homework was to devise our statement for the following week. I can’t lie, it wore on me the full hour and fifteen minutes it took me to drive home, but it was one of the best writing lessons I’ve learned in a long time.

What compiling a mission statement taught me:

*To be prayerful about the work I claim to give to God – It’s easy to be a Pharisee and proudly tell the world we write for God. The question is, do we really? Do we pray over every work and ask God’s guidance or even ask if the work we are doing is within His will? It was definitely food for thought. Learning to listen to the still soft voice that guides us, leads us to words that make the perfect impact.

*To focus my writing on a deeper personal level – Taking time to consider personal experience, more intense learning, and stepping up to the plate to improve my work. It’s easy to fall into a comfortable writing place, never challenging ourselves to take our writing to the next level. This needed to be included into my statement as a commitment to further my skills.

*To commit to producing work daily – This is a biggie. Life happens to us all, but life at its hardest is not an excuse to stop writing. Often, writers grow frustrated and feel life’s trials have grown too overwhelming. I recently spoke with a friend at a conference who’s penned over 40 books. As we talked about writing despite the things that happen, he told me how he turned out three best-selling books as he walked his mother through hospice and into heaven. “Writing during Mom’s illness, drew out emotion and words, even phrases, I didn’t know I had in me. To this day, those three books are still the most remembered of my works.” Valuable insight. Keep writing, despite . . .

*To set goals – I’ve never been a goal setter, or one who wrote my goals down, but the one time I attended a business conference and was asked to write down my personal goals, I learned something very surprising. My personal goals were not for the business at all, they were to be a writer. I went home, spoke with my director, let her know my focus would be on writing, and I would be stepping aside. And step aside I did. That spring, I attended my first writers’ conference. It took writing down my goals to not only visually see them, but to come to grips with what my heart’s desire truly was.

*To remind me of the race I am called to run – I can see now, writing a mission statement not only helps me focus, but it holds me accountable. Accountability is important for us in every aspect of our lives. Reading this statement daily continually reminds me of the race I run and strive to finish not only in my spiritual life and relationship with Christ, but also in my earthly life.

Who would have thought compiling a mission statement for my writing would be such an important facet to my career?

Take time to think through the real reasons you write. Be it to earn a living, share stories, or something you do as a sideline. Allow your statement to bring into focus the desires of your heart as a writer.

The mission statement of my writing career is multi-faceted. First and foremost, I want to be mindful of the gifts and pathway God has set in place for me. I pray I might write words that impact the lives of others. I choose to place before the Father every work I do, be it large or small, simple or complex, and that the goal remains – to always be a glory to my God. I will have an attitude of graciousness, a teachable spirit, and a heart to continue to strive to learn and challenge myself to be the best I can be in my work – for God asks me to present my best to Him. I commit to use my gifts daily, even when it is hard, knowing that God refines me by the fires through which I may walk and that with continued effort during trials and my dependence on Him, He will fully use me to His glory. I pray He will bless my work. I am called to write, to daily seek the words God has stored in my heart, and to continually strive to complete each task and every story. And I understand that personal accolades are nice, but what is most important is that the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart are acceptable to Him. By daily striving to meet the goals of this statement, I will grow in creativity and in skill to produce excellent work, through Him who gives me strength.

Write your mission statement. Make it personal. Make it a challenge to your spiritual life as well as your professional life, and then place it at the feet of Christ. You will be amazed at the ways you will grow as a writer. 


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


Cindy K. Sproles is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries and the director of the Asheville Christian Writers Conference (ACWC). She’s an author, popular speaker and teacher at conferences, and a writing mentor. Cindy serves as the Executive Editor of ChristianDevotions.us, Inspire-A-Fire.com, and is the Managing Editor for SonRise Books and Straight Street Books with LPB Books/Iron Stream Media. She is the author of Mercy’s Rain, Liar’s Winter, and What Momma Left behind. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com.

 


 

Monday, January 18, 2021

Writer, It’s a Matter of Trust


By Andrea Merrell

“I’m skeptical,” the woman said as she sat across the table from me at a writers’ conference during an appointment. “The rules keep changing. I just don’t trust the process.”

It was clear this lady was not there to pitch her book. She needed to vent. So, for fifteen minutes I gave a listening ear and let her vent. She talked about the varied opinions on her writing and how everyone’s guidelines differed. She complained about all the rejections she had received. And she had strong opinions about how her former publisher handled—or rather mishandled, as she said—her project.

She was discouraged and had definitely lost her trust, not only in the process, but in everyone involved. More than anything, I gathered she had lost trust in herself.

The writing and publishing industry has changed dramatically over the past twenty-plus years. And it continues to evolve. Many of the changes are good. Others, not so much. It’s hard to predict what the face of this industry—not to mention social media—will look like in five, ten, or twenty years. And it’s certainly not something any of us can control.

Bookstores are closing at a rapid rate. E-books and audio books are in a race against the print book. And self-publishing has become the rule instead of the exception. Unfortunately, many writers have given up, saying they can’t keep up and can’t compete.

I believe it comes down to a matter of trust. But where should our trust be? Should it be in an ever-changing industry or in the One who gifted us and called us to pen words of life, hope, and encouragement?

I’ve seen doors open for others—and even in my own life—that only God could open. We’re all familiar with Jeremiah 29:11. This is how the Message puts it: I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.

God has a plan for each and every one of us. Some say where He guides, He provides. Let’s add where He calls, He equips. When we choose to follow the Lord and use the gifts He’s given to us for His glory, we don’t have to be in control. And we don’t have to understand. His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are much higher than we can comprehend. When things look impossible, that’s when God does His best work.

If God has given you words to share, don’t hold back. Trust the gift He has given you. Trust yourself. But most of all, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV).


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