Monday, June 21, 2021

Writer, Let’s Learn to Polish the Pronouns

 By Crystal Bowman

Creating words pictures can be hard work. As writers, we want to create visuals and stimulate the senses of our readers. We want our writing to shine. But it’s those little in between words that can really challenge our writing. I’m talking about pronouns. They do not add creativity or emotion to our writing. They do not enhance the suspense of a plot. They simply give us an alternative to using a person’s name too many times. At first, they seem pretty innocent. But when you begin using them in your stories, they can mess with you. To cover the entire spectrum of pronouns would take numerous blog posts, so let’s just look at a few that tend to trip up writers.

Singular Subject/Singular Pronoun

The previous rule was fairly simple—always use a singular pronoun with a singular subject.

Example: When my mom shops at the market, she can buy                            fresh produce.  

Easy-peasy. But when we don’t know the gender of the subject, it gets more complicated.

Example:  When a person shops at the market, he or she can                        buy fresh produce.
Or:  When a person shops the market, it can buy fresh                               produce.   

Since these gender-neutral options are awkward, the sixteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS, 2010) introduced using they, them, and their as singular pronouns. I almost went into a period of mourning—but I am getting used to it. I agree it’s better than referring to a person as it, and the whole he or she thing is a bit weird.

              Examples: When your child is talking to you, they want you to listen.
                    Go for a walk with a friend and tell them you enjoy their company.                   

Since this decision was met with opposition, the position of CMOS is that using they, them, and their as  singular, gender-neutral pronouns is acceptable, but professional writers may want to explore other options such as changing the subject to plural when possible.  

              Example: When children are talking to you, they want you                          to listen.


Personal Pronouns

He, She, I—These are singular personal pronouns when used as the subject. When used as the direct object, they become him, her, and me.  Example: She threw the ball to me. I called her on the phone. These are pretty much no-brainers, but when the subjects or direct objects are compound, the grammar police show up! Brad and I are going on a date (correct). The night was fun for Brad and I. (wrong). You would not say: The night was fun for I. So when it’s a compound direct object use me. The night was fun for Brad and me (correct).


Possessive Pronouns

My, mine, your, yours, his, her, hers, their, theirs, its, our, whose are used to show that something belongs to an antecedent. These are pretty straightforward, but a common mistake is made with the word its. Its is a singular possessive pronoun and needs no apostrophe (like his or hers).  It’s is the contraction of it is and always uses an apostrophe.

              Example: It’s best to put trash in its place.  

Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns are used to connect relative clauses to independent clauses, sometime offering more information. Relative pronouns include thatwhatwhichwho, and whom. Typically, who refers to people, and which and that refer to animals or things.

              Example: The people who live in the United States are Americans.
                              The dog that was lost was found by a neighbor.

A common confusion with writers is when to use who vs whomWho is a subject pronoun and whom is a direct object pronoun.

              Example: Who is going to the conference next week?
                                 To whom are you sending those letters?

Deity Pronouns

And the big question is: Do we capitalize pronouns referring to God? Some believe it shows reverence for God, while other believe our rules of English deem it unnecessary. Most publishers leave it up to the author to decide. The key is to be consistent. If you prefer to capitalize deity pronouns, then any Scripture references you use should be from a version that also capitalizes the pronouns for God such as the New King James Version. If you do not capitalize deity pronouns, then use versions such as the New International Version or New Living Translation (there are many more).

The Bottom Line

Pronouns may be small words, but they can make a big difference in your writing, so professional writers need to learn how to use them correctly. Pronouns will never go away, so keep polishing those little in-between words to make your writing shine.  


(Photos courtesy of and Stuart Miles.)




Pronouns may be small words, but they can make a big difference in your writing. Learn how to use them correctly. (Click to tweet.)


Crystal Bowman is a former preschool teacher and a bestselling, award-winning author. She has written more than 100 books for children and four nonfiction books for women. She is the creator and co-author of Our Daily Bread for Kids, M is for Manger, and I love You to the Stars—When Grandma Forgets, Love Remembers. She is also a speaker, freelance editor, and Mentor for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). More than 2 million copies of her books have sold internationally, and her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. She is a regular contributor to Clubhouse Jr. Magazine, and writes lyrics for children’s piano music. She and her husband enjoy spending time with their grown children and seven huggable grandkids.


Monday, June 7, 2021

Writer, Don't Listen to the Lies

By Andrea Merrell

I will always remember the day I heard a multi-published, award-winning, best-selling author say, “Even with all the books I’ve written and all my success (she said using finger quotes), sometimes I still feel like a fraud.

Have you ever had that thought? I have, many times.

At my very first writers’ conference, waves of insecurity washed over me until I feared I would drown. Then I heard, Look at all these people. They’re all somebodies. You’re the biggest nobody here. You should just pack up and go home. You don’t belong here. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t silence that negative voice in my head.

Fast forward thirteen years. My resume now consists of three published books, hundreds of devotions and blog posts, contributions to over a dozen anthologies, and numerous published articles. I’ve taught classes at conferences from Kentucky, to North Carolina, to New Mexico. I’ve served as a general editor for Lighthouse Publishing and Iron Stream Media, as well as a professional freelance editor.

Why am I telling you all this? Certainly not to “toot my own horn.” It’s because at times, even with all my success (note the finger quotes), I still feel like a fraud.

I can vividly remember sitting in a room filled with other writers—some seasoned and some hopeful—at the end of a conference. The keynote’s objective was to encourage and strengthen us for the journey ahead. “God has a plan for you,” he said. “A purpose for your writing that is uniquely yours. If you’re faithful to your calling, He will use your words in ways you could never imagine.”

I sat there, looking around, hearing the lie that those words applied to everyone in the room—except me. I listened to the lie and went home discouraged and defeated.

I share this to remind you that when the Lord places a calling on your life—no matter what it might be—the Enemy will always try to derail you. He will whisper lies that tell you, you’re not good enough and never will be. You’ll never make it. You don’t have what it takes. You might as well go ahead and quit. There’s no room in this industry for you anyway.

They say anything good is worth fighting for. As writers, we need to learn to persevere. Obstacles and setbacks will happen. Rejection and criticism come with the package. To succeed and keep moving forward, we must develop that tough rhino skin and let things bounce off. We must keep learning. Keep growing. Keep moving forward. Most of all, we must keep trusting the Lord and allow Him to guide us on our journey and open the doors only He can open.

One writer says sometimes we want something because it looks good in someone else’s life. We should never look around with envy or compare our gifts with others. Our eyes and heart should always remain focused on the Lord.

If God has called you to write, be faithful to that calling. You are not a fraud, my friend, you are a writer.


Photos by sydney Rae and Jackson Simmer on Unsplash


If God has called you to write, be faithful to that calling. You are not a fraud, my friend, you are a writer. via @AndreaMerrell (Click to tweet.)


Monday, May 31, 2021

Lazy Rivers

 By Kevin Spencer

The Doobie Brothers wrote the song “Black Water” about building a raft and floatin’ on the Ol’ Mississippi. It talks about jumpin’ catfish, thumpin’ paddle wheels, and rollin’ black water. It also mentions the Mississippi moon.

Okay, I can hear your questions. What do the Doobie Brothers have to do with a writing blog?


Well, it's not the Doobie's per se, although I do love their music, but it's the imagery invoked by the song. Floating on a raft on a large lazy river, the river banks gliding past quietly, the water still, but moving, an almost imperceptible current moving you along.


What is it that makes a book you can't put down? At the very heart of any manuscript, what is it that makes a particular story one of those where the pages begin to turn themselves and the chapters mysteriously fly by? It is that lazy, flowing river the wonderful Doobie Brothers describe.




(I know that's what you're thinking, so I went ahead and stuck the word in there for you. You're welcome.)


When I work with writers, I tell them to imagine their readers' eyes as a raft on that languorous river, drifting along from word to word to word. That's what keeps a reader drawn into a story. You want to keep those eyes moving, sliding along word to word, sentence to sentence, chapter to chapter. You want your manuscript to flow like a river, just pulling the reader along.


What you DO NOT want are rocks in your river. You don't want boulders with their plumes of white water that will spin your raft out of control. You don't want submerged logs just under the surface that will catch and flip your raft. And you definitely don't want to run up on a dam stretching across the river from bank to bank.


One example of rocks in our manuscript river is the exclamation mark! Even worse are multiple exclamation marks!!!!! What happens when you read an exclamation mark? Your eyes stop. The flow stops. You hit a rock. It is far better to DESCRIBE whatever you are exclaiming about than to lazily use an exclamation mark.


Robert Ludlum, the creator of super-spy Jason Bourne, was in love with the exclamation mark. It used to drive me insane trying to get drawn into his novels because he would throw exclamation marks at his manuscript like he was salting popcorn.


Other rocks might be unnecessarily complicated words or sentence structure. It might be an acronym or abbreviation. It might be stilted or out-of-place dialogue. It could be anything, really, that stops the reader. 


You aren't going to eliminate ALL the obstacles in our metaphorical river. Even I allow a writer two (but just two) exclamation marks in a work-in-process. However, the more rocks you can eliminate, the more you can keep your readers’ eyes gliding effortlessly from word to word, like a lazy flowing river.


"Old black water, keep on rollin' …"


(Photos courtesy of and Baitong333 and Master isolated images.)


You’re reading a book you can't put down? What makes that particular story one of those where the pages begin to turn themselves and the chapters mysteriously fly by? (Click to tweet.)

Kevin Spencer is a freelance writer and professional editor and is privileged to be a staff writer for Christian Devotions. He lives in Middle Tennessee with his beautiful wife Charlotte and his wonderful fourteen-year-old grandson Caleb. A former prodigal son, Kevin has been blessed beyond measure and lives a life far, far better than he deserves. 

Monday, May 24, 2021

Scene Progression

By Eddie Jones

Not that I do this with every novel, but when I have time, when I'm in my right mind, or not too far into the Jesus Juice, I follow the following formula for scene progression.

But before I get into the structure of scene building, let me offer some thoughts on Amazon’s new Kindle Vella program.

According to Amazon: “Kindle Vella is a serial reading experience. To protect readers from purchasing Kindle Vella content they have already read in a different format, you cannot incorporate your Kindle Vella content into other long-form content (e.g., a book) in any language. If you wish to incorporate an episode or story into other content, you must unpublish all episodes of that story from Kindle Vella.”

There remains some confusion as to whether you can publish a serial story in novel form, but the phrase, “If you wish to incorporate an episode or story into other content, you must unpublish all episodes of that story from Kindle Vella” seems to suggest you can.

Kindle Vella may be a great way to introduce readers to a forthcoming novel, gain valuable feedback from Vella, and grow your fan base. That said, if you’re planning to plunge into Vella publishing each episode needs to hook the reader and pull them into the next scene and next episode.  

  • State the goal of your Lead at the beginning of each scene.
  • What does she want?
  • What does he need?
  • How does he plan to acquire the thing he wants?
  • What will she give up for the thing she wants?
  • This “want” is your Lead’s stake in the ground.
  • Promise pain through foreshadowing (tears, heartache, physical discomfort).
  • Deliver pain through action (show your Lead suffering).

Allow your Lead to progress from:

  • Goal
  • Conflict
  • Disaster
  • Choice


Suspense is anticipation, so announce the reward for your Lead early in the scene. Restate your Lead’s goal as necessary. Halfway through is a good spot for reminders.

  • Never let your Lead relax for too long.
  • Increase the risk of failure.
  • Toward the end of the scene add penalties for failure.
  • Tension comes from unresolved conflict so leave your character’s world messy.
  • Promise a payoff for that scene, then delay the payoff until later.
  • Deliver some payoff, but not the thing your Lead sought.

Either introduce a new wrinkle to the story or alter something significant (new wrinkles that promise pain and problems AND altering a significant element in a negative way will generate reader interest IF they care for your characters).

I write middle grade paranormal murder mysteries and YA pirate novels so my readership will be different from yours, but you should be able to apply most of these general principles to your genre.

Write on. Write fast. Write as if Jesus will come tomorrow.

(Photos courtesy of, IndypendenZ.)


Writer, write on. Write fast. Write as if Jesus will come tomorrow. via @EddieJonesTweet (Click to tweet.)

Eddie Jones is an award-winning author of middle-grade fiction with HarperCollins. Father of two boys, he’s also a pirate at heart who loves to surf. An avid sailor with a great sense of humor, Eddie has been married to a girl he met at a stoplight in West Palm Beach during spring break for ... "too many years," Eddie's wife says. "Not enough," says Eddie.

Monday, May 17, 2021

One Writer’s Editing Process

 By Debra Dupree Williams

The editing process is one we either love or hate. I don’t mind the edits, it’s the revisions that often stump me. Once I’ve written something, I struggle to change it. Wasn’t it perfect the first




We fall in love with our words, and it hurts to cut them or change them. But change is necessary if we want our work to sing.


As a musician, auditions are required for all manner of groups, from my high school choral groups to the most professional of church choirs. Even though I’d studied singing for years, those auditions were necessary to create the most harmonious, well-blended group possible. Some singers were cut. There were times when I was one of those.


The same holds true for our written words.


We spend years learning to string together coherent thoughts and then we sweat over each one as it appears on the blank page before us. Eventually, they form a story, or a blog post, or an article. But is every word necessary? Is each one required for a harmonious story?


Likely not.


The editing process is necessary to make our stories the best they can be. As a fiction writer, I found an excellent editor to help walk me through my manuscript before I submitted it to agents or publishers. She found and saw things I never would have found because my work was too familiar to me . . . too close to my heart.


My advice to any writer, but especially to new writers … write from your heart. Then invest in good books on self-editing. When you’ve done all you can to make your work the best it can be, hire an editor who will make it even better.


The process my editor and I followed was simple. I submitted three chapters per week, she read over them, and sent them back to me with Track Changes within Word. At that point, we met via telephone to talk about what she changed and why. It was a learning process for me for sure. This was my first novel, after all, and I had much to learn.


The entire process took around twenty weeks, and the manuscript became a 265-page book. To me, the money spent was so worth it. Without a doubt, the finished product was so much better than it would have been without the help of a professional editor.


It can get expensive to hire an editor, but I still urge you to find the best one your budget can afford. If you can’t afford one, be sure you are in critique groups where many of the members are editors or seasoned authors with years of experience. Word Weavers and ACFW are two groups which have all manner of aids for the writer. If you’re a beginner, these are the places for you. Find your local chapter and join.


But first thing to do? Pray over the work of your hands and heart.


But then you still need to edit. Not one of us is perfect.



(Photos courtesy of and Stuart Miles.)



The editing process is necessary to make our stories the best they can be. via @DDuPreeWilliams(Click to tweet.)


Award-winning author, Debra DuPree Williams, tells stories of faith and family set in the deep south. Debbie’s debut novel, Grave Consequences, A Charlotte Graves Mystery, has earned praise for its authentic voice, setting, and characters. A classically-trained lyric coloratura soprano, Debbie’s first love is Southern Gospel. Debbie and her husband have four sons, a beautiful daughter-of-their-hearts, and two perfect granddaughters. When not writing or in search of an elusive ancestor, Debbie and her husband enjoy life in the majestic mountains of western North Carolina.