Monday, January 21, 2019

Writing is a Process, Not an Event


By Andrea Merrell

When I attended my first writers’ conference over ten years ago, I was certain my book was ready for publication. It was great. That’s what my family said, along with folks at church. Boy, were they wrong. And so was I. There was much to learn.

Thus, began my journey.

It took a year before my first devotion was published on www.ChristianDevotions.us, then several more years before my first nonfiction book was published, with two more to follow. In the meantime, I attended conferences and became a faithful member of a local critique group. I studied, took classes, read books on the craft, and built relationships with other writers and professionals in the industry.

There were pitfalls along the way—too many to mention—but I kept plugging along. My journey reminds me of a lively game of Candyland with my six-year-old granddaughter. She was almost to the finish line when she chose a card that sent her back to the beginning. “But I don’t wanna go back,” she whined.

That’s how I felt when I had to go back and make serious revisions to my novel. But no matter how many times I said “I don’t wanna,” it was necessary. It was part of the learning and growing process.

Sometimes the writing life feels like two steps forward, then three back. But when you have the heart of a writer—and you know that’s what God has called you to do—you keep on going no matter what. 

We must always keep our eye on the goal, but the key to true success and fulfillment is to learn to enjoy the journey. That means not allowing ourselves to stay stressed out and uptight when things don’t go exactly as we planned or in the time we expected. One writer says that “many of us look like we’re walking a tightrope  instead of a pathway of peace.”

That being said, if you’re called to be a writer, enjoy every moment of where you are on the way to where you’re going. This is important in God’s kingdom, because the destination He has in mind may be very different from the one we envision. We can waste precious now moments trying to rush into the future, ignoring or overlooking the blessings and opportunities that are given to us today.

Here are some wise words for 2019 from Chris Tiegreen: "No matter how stuck you feel at any given moment in life, God has opportunities planned for your future. That’s his nature. Approach this year as a year of open doors. You have complete freedom in God’s kingdom to do that, not because he follows the calendar but because he is always the God of open doors. (He does shut doors sometimes, but always in order to open another one sooner or later to put us in the right direction.) Live with expectancy that wherever you are now and whatever you’ve been through, this will be a year of experiencing his unfolding plans. He loves that kind of faith; it recognizes his goodness and honors his ways."

Remember, winning that contest or getting a contract is not the ultimate goal. It’s only a part of our development.

Whether you’re a newbie or have been writing for years, writing is a process, not an event. We all have much to learn, especially with an ever-changing industry.  But never get discouraged over how far you have to go. Look at each step forward and celebrate every success.

How do you navigate your writing journey? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Stuart Miles, and Master Isolated Images.)

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Monday, January 14, 2019

The Blessings of Being a Writer


By Henry McLaughlin

Yes, Virginia, there are blessings to being a writer. And it goes beyond multi-book deals, beyond making the bestseller list, beyond movie deals. Few writers attain these lofty heights.

But all writers can experience the blessings of being a writer:


Learning
And not just learning a new skill such as the craft of writing. Though this is crucial. It’s also learning about who we are as individuals. It’s learning patience and determination and perseverance. It’s learning to constructively receive feedback, especially when it’s not what we want to hear. Writing has revealed parts of me I hadn’t seen before. Some of them make me feel pretty good about myself. Others not so much. But incorporating these lessons has made me not only a better writer, but also a better person.

Community
The act of writing is usually done alone, but it does not occur in a vacuum. As we strive and struggle in the craft, we meet and form relationships with a myriad of people who share this journey with us. Non-writers can’t relate to this as well as writers can. It’s like we have a non-verbal language for communicating with each other. These relationships can become deep and meaningful friendships with people who “get us.” People who share our frustrations, our rejections, and our successes. I value my close writer friends who refuse to let me wallow in my self-pity at my self-perceived lack of success. They pray with me, challenge me, and won’t let me quit.

Readers
Whether we write fiction or nonfiction, blogs, articles, or newsletters, we touch readers. And we may never know who we touch or in what way. Some readers have thanked me because my novels brought them closer to God. Others thank me for creating characters who give them hope that they too can change their circumstances.

The call
Many writers will say they are called to write. And not just writers in the Christian market. Writing fulfills a deep purpose in our lives, deeper than just working to put food on the table. For many, writing is more than a job. I know God has called me to write for this season of my life. So I write. I pray over ideas and manuscripts. I pray over characters and plots. I get to paint pictures with words, not a brush. I get to use words to reveal Jesus to my readers through the characters who tell my stories. I need to respect his calling and honor it through what I write and how I write it.

What blessings has being a writer brought you?

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

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Tagged as “one to watch” by Publishers Weekly, award-winning author Henry McLaughlin takes his readers on adventures into the hearts and souls of his characters as they battle inner conflicts while seeking to bring restoration and justice in a dark world. His writing explores these themes of restoration, reconciliation and redemption.


Besides his writing, Henry treasures working with other writers and helping them on their own writing journeys. He is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. He regularly teaches at conferences and workshops, leads writing groups, edits, and mentors and coaches.

Follow him on Facebook.

Monday, December 31, 2018

A Writer's Prayer for 2019


By Andrea Merrell

Lord, I praise you for your Word that is a lamp unto my feet and a light for my path. As I step into the New Year of 2019, I know your plan is not to harm me but to prosper me and give me a bright future. Therefore, as I meditate on your Word day and night—and as I do everything written therein—I believe whatever I set my hand to do will prosper and come to maturity. My life as a writer is in your hands.

Because you are with me and will never leave or forsake me, my success is guaranteed according to your specific plan for my life. Your Word says I am blessed in all my comings and goings, and that goodness and mercy will follow me all my days.

Please lead me in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake so I may prosper according to your Word. Your Word tells me I am blessed in the heavenly realm with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Even when the Enemy rises up against me, I will not falter or fail in the calling you have placed upon me. I thank you for the gifts, talents, and abilities you have given me. May I never take them for granted but use them for your glory.

Lord, promotion comes from you, and you will open doors of opportunity for me that only you can open ... and no man can shut. My confession for 2019 is that I will continually encounter divine appointments and connections and be surrounded by divine favor wherever I go.

Thank you, Lord, that you have already predestined my prosperity and success and, through me, your name will be glorified.

In the precious name of Jesus, amen.

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

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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