Monday, March 18, 2019

The Power of Words


By Andrea Merrell

When I created a website and started blogging ten years ago, I was a total newbie in this unique world of writing, editing, and publishing. Every baby step forward was made with faith that God was leading me down the path He had prepared for me long ago.

Naming my website and blog felt like a monumental task. So many others had beautiful sites with catchy phrases and stunning graphics. It was obvious how much time, effort, thought (and yes, even money) had gone into their web presence. I’d never considered myself very creative and didn’t know how to create a brand. I felt like a kindergartner.

But my love of words kept me going. In the early days, I set up a website on Go Daddy and called it The Word Shoppe. The header was a coffee shop theme with a cute little bistro table and chairs. It seemed to work well, and I was happy with it … for a while.

Someone told me I could create a free blog site on Blogger.com, so I did. Again, I struggled to come up with a catchy name. The name I settled on—or should I say the name the Lord gave me—was Words That Matter. I knew in my heart that whatever I wrote on that site would contain words that were important. Words that were encouraging. Uplifting. Constructive. Words that really meant something. I never wanted to fill up a page with a bunch of fluff and nonsense. 

I later cancelled my Go Daddy site and combined my website and blog at www.AndreaMerrell.com where I post a short devotion once a week in hopes of encouraging my readers. I would love to have you join me. Because to me, words are a gift, and they really do matter. They matter to us as writers, to our readers, and, most importantly, to God.

Proverbs 18:21 says, Death and life are in the power of the tongue (NKJV). That means as writers—especially Christian writers—we have a huge responsibility to use our words with wisdom, honesty, and integrity. We have the power to speak life or death to those who invest their time and energy to read our books, blog posts, devotions, and articles.

As Chris Tiegreen says “One of the greatest gifts you can give the world is the power of your words. Use them wisely. Build up rather than tearing down. Speak life instead of destruction. Express truth and love. Dispense with mindless chatter; let your words carry weight. Your mouth is an influential force. Use it well, and the people around you will thrive.

Yes, our words matter, whether spoken or written. The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverb 12:18 NIV). Our words can be a blessing or a curse, especially in this age of hatred and political unrest. The choice is ours.  

Andy Rooney once said, "Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them." We never want to live with regrets, especially because of careless words. Choose yours wisely, and bless the world with the gift God has given you. 

I would like to take a moment to personally thank each of you for reading and supporting The Write Editing. Alycia and I started this blog in 2014 as a resource for writers. We have had some amazing guest bloggers, and we plan to bring you more in the future. If there are topics you would like for us to address, please leave a comment and let us know. Thank you for all the shares, likes, and tweets over these past five years. We would love for you to share us with your friends so they can join us as well. Be blessed in your writing journey! 😊



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

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Monday, March 11, 2019

Writer, Leave Them Hanging

By Cindy Sproles

“It was a fast read. I couldn’t put it down.”
 
Nothing rings sweeter to an author’s heart than these words. The moment a reader becomes so invested in a story that nothing is more important than reading to the end. It’s
 monumental!


We call these page turners cliffhangers. Remember “who shot J. R.”—the 1980s season cliffhanger for Dallas that kicked off a new era for television? More so, it kept watchers drooling to know what happened next, assuring Dallas a knockout for the next season’s opener.

There are different schools of thought on the subject of cliffhangers, but for me … I love them, and I practice them at the end of most chapters of a novel. Why? It’s a challenge for me as a writer and a ring-in-the-nose for my reader that allows me to clip on the rope and continue to pull them deeper into the story.

Some authors insist cliffhangers are unnecessary if you write a compelling story, but a compelling story should be filled with exhilaration and take-your-breath realizations that drive your reader into a deeper investment in the characters. Carefully placed cliffhangers are the icing on an already compelling story.

The question is, exactly what is a cliffhanger and how do you insert them into your chapter without leaving a cheesy taste for your reader? First off, a cliffhanger is not always something earth-shattering. In fact, the most effective cliffhangers come when the author leaves the reader holding on to a character’s thought or motivation. It’s the “what if” factor or ratcheting up the tension. Something unexpected happens—or fails to happen—a new thought or change of thought process.

For example, your character makes a decision:  Owen knew the answer. He held the key in his hand all along … talk to Ericka. Just talk to Ericka.

With a cliffhanger like this at the end of a chapter, the reader suddenly experiences the same “ahhh” moment as the character, whetting their desire to know what follows the decision to talk to Ericka.

Perhaps it’s a moment when the character realizes something important.

Example:  I flipped open the worn pages of his Bible and pressed my finger against the words. I had my proof. My vindication right in the lines of the Good Book. An eye for an eye. “How’s this Daddy? An eye for an eye …”

A good cliffhanger acts as a lure. It proves to be just as valuable as the opening hook in paragraph one of the first chapter. Sometimes the perfect cliffhanger is a simple statement from a character that reinforces the chapter’s tension.

For example:  There was nothing left to say. When the gavel hit the desk, guilty rang through the courtroom.

Equally as important as utilizing a cliffhanger is knowing not to overuse them. Remember, when your reader is deeply invested in your story, their heart races, they wiggle in their chair with the intensity of the scene so there are times, very important times, that you give the reader the opportunity for a breath. Let them relax for a second.

I loved the television show 24. But after two seasons, I began to say, “Just how many more times can Jack Bauer save the world?” Instead of my interest growing stronger, I felt like there was no end to the dire situations the nation faced. I was tired and frustrated when the show ended. And poor Jack Bauer, how could the man ever rest?  This was the result of never allowing the watcher to experience a moment of hope. Angst is wonderful, but too much gives your reader ulcers.

As you place cliffhangers at the end of chapters, carefully assess the intensity of the chapters prior and post. Ask yourself the question, “Can my reader take a breath?” If not, give them one. As much as we love drama and action, we need to experience some hope and peace. These strategically placed sentences enrich your reader’s experience.

In a conference class under the late Ron Benrey, he shared his thoughts on the importance of a good cliffhanger. “A good story … a really good story, piques every sense and emotion of the reader, not once, but over and over. Carefully placed cliffhangers bring the story to life. It’s like the character reaches from the pages of the book, takes the reader by the wrist and yanks them into a fictional bubble which refuses to let them escape. This, and this alone, gives the reader an experience they long for.”

As you study your chapters, carefully assess how you can apply a good solid cliffhanger. Decide what type of emotion you need to tweak, and then jump on it. Learn to make your readers hunger for the next page and give them the pleasure. When they purchase your book, read it, and close the cover, they should have received the reading experience they deserve. Your best hope as a writer, is an email that asks you for more. When that happens, it’s a win-win for you and for the reader.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, marin, and Sira Anamwong.)


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Cindy Sproles explains how to draw your readers into your story by strategically placed cliffhangers. via @Cindydevoted (Click to tweet.)


Cindy Sproles is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries. 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 Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is the author of New Sheets–Thirty Days to Refine You Into the Woman You Can BeMercy’s Rain, and Liar's Winter. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com.


Monday, February 25, 2019

Writer, Put on Your Warm-Up Suit



By Yolanda Smith

There’s a word for the type of young athlete who feels he is above the necessity of a warm-up routine: lunkheaded.

There’s another word for the same fellow if he persists in his erroneous reasoning: injured.

 Whether he’s passing or punting, shooting or swinging, at a minimum his game will be so ineffective he’ll never reach full potential.


You, my writer friend, are an athlete of words. You move words from heads to hearts and pass ideas across a field of blank pages until they reach the goal: your reader’s thoughts and emotions. And like an intelligent athlete, you need a warm-up process for your brain to get in the game of writing. You don’t want to end the event hamstrung or fruitless. And how you end is conditional on how you begin.

What is your warm-up routine for getting in the groove of writing? Whether you have a sturdy warm-up method in place or you’ve never thought about having a warm-up practice, I’d like to offer a short list of possibilities for you to consider.

Brain Dump
This needs no interpretation. Set a timer for ten minutes, then empty your brain onto the page. Take all the thoughts—the chaotic scramble of random notions, the store of ideas you’ve been saving, the rant against your husband, even the grocery list—and slap them down on paper as fast as you can go. Ignore lines, punctuation, grammar, spelling, and any other conventional rules. You can also try this on your computer. Stream of consciousness is a proven method for unclogging a stopped-up mind. The only rule of this exercise is to keep your pen or fingers moving the entire time.

List Making
We’re not talking about the grocery list this time. Decide on a writing goal for the day, then make a detailed list of the steps needed to accomplish your target.

Copy Exercises
I can’t remember where I heard this idea, but it was genius. We all have that one author we admire and wish we could write like someday.  Grab a notebook, pen, and your favorite title by this hero writer. Set a timer for ten to twenty minutes, and begin copying chapter one, page one. Your subconscious will internalize rhythm and language, and over time you will recognize what works. Oddly enough, the more you copy someone else’s style, the more your own voice will emerge. Many of the world’s finest artists have learned their craft by copying the masters.

Read Books on Craft
When I read a chapter from a book on writing craft, I am instantly inspired to try something new, implement something I already know but need reminded of, or I’m given a new angle on something I’m struggling with. How-to books put a fire in my fingertips, and I’m suddenly ready to conquer the world.

Read a Chapter from a Book in Your Genre
If you’re anything like me, you’ll need to set a timer for this one. Otherwise you’ll find your whole writing time sabotaged by a captivating tale. There’s nothing like a good romp through the pages of an amazing story to inspire you to get busy and attempt the same.

Read Poetry
The reading of poetry unlocks the mind to explore creative paths that are otherwise hidden to the creative eye. Poetry has been described as the gateway drug for writing and for good reason. It evokes longing, imagination, curiosity, and other deep emotions that become a springboard for an abundance of ideas, helping the writer soar beyond the confines of space and time.

Try Them All
Any of these exercises can shift your brain into high gear for the creative work you need to do. I’ve tried all of these approaches over the years and keep them on rotation. This is how I trick myself into thinking I’m avoiding a routine. Find what works for you and stick with it, or cycle through to keep your brain guessing. But whatever you do, don’t skip your warm-up. We don’t want any injuries on the page.

Have you tried any of these strategies for warming up your brain? Do you have something different that works for you? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments.


(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Flare and Yolanda Smith.) 


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Six strategies for warming-up your brain before you begin writing. via @canitbeyolanda (Click to tweet.)


Monday, February 18, 2019

Five Things You Might Not Expect from a Writers' Conference


By Andrea Merrell

Writers’ conferences are essential in the life of a writer. Those of you have been writing for a while know this for a fact. We save our money and set aside the time to go and learn from the best. We expect to expand our knowledge, get inspired, network with other writers, and hopefully land an agent or contract. But here are a few things we might not expect.

New Friends
Over the past ten years, I have met many wonderful people at conferences. Little did I know in the beginning that some of those people would become dear friends. Many times, a conference will feel more like a family reunion.

Critique Partners

As important as conferences are to the life of a writer, so are good critique partners. If you don’t have a group in your area, this is a great place to forge relationships and create the support you need. You might meet people in your area who can meet on a regular basis, or you might form an online group. The important thing is to get involved.

Prayer Partners

God never ceases to amaze me at the way He knits hearts together. He has given me a wonderful group of prayer warriors who go to bat for me whenever I need it.


A New Perspective

Sometimes we go to a conference with a certain mindset, while God has a different plan. Proverbs 16:9 says A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. If you’re a novelist, He may inspire you to write heartfelt devotions. Or if you write nonfiction only, He may give you the idea for a great fictional story. You might be the shy person sitting on the back row whom God calls to a speaking ministry. You never know what God might do in your life when you’re open to His leading.

Unexpected Writing Opportunities

Networking is one of the most exciting things about a conference. You are there with like-minded people who “get you.” As you interact, you never know the seeds that are being planted. They might sprout immediately ... or show up years down the road. 

Last year at my first ACFW conference, I was seated next to an amazing woman who does a blog on fear. As we chatted, she invited me to do a guest post for her blog. Several years ago, when I was on the faculty of a conference in another state, I met a lady who was just getting started on her writing journey. She kept my card and contacted me three years later to write a few guest posts for her blog. As a result of teaching at a conference six years ago, I was recently contacted by a very sweet lady and asked to edit her book. Once at a table during a meal, I was asked to speak at the National Speakers Association because someone had cancelled at the last minute. Who knows, someone might invite you to do a radio interview or speak at their church.

Whatever you do—before, during, and after a conference—be ready. Whenever you ask God to bless you and open doors of opportunity, He will. The best way to begin each day is to pray for divine appointments, divine connections, and divine favor.

What about you? What unexpected blessings have found you at a conference? We would love to hear from you.

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



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Monday, February 11, 2019

Glimpsing God in the Frustrations of the Writer’s Life


By Lori Hatcher @LoriHatcher2

Do you ever wonder what in the world God is doing in this crazy writing life?

God, why did I work so hard on that article only to have it
rejected?

God, why was that piece chosen, but the one I really love not selected?

God, why did I spend nine months of my life on that project, only to have it sit in my computer going nowhere and reaching no one?

God, why do you fill my head with ideas to write about and wake me up in the middle of the night, then don’t grow my blog as quickly as I’d hoped?

God, if I’m obeying your call to write, why is it so hard?

God, what are you doing in this crazy writing life of mine????

If you can relate to any of these questions, there’s hope. Hope that comes, of all places, from the book of Job.

Imagine that.

God is laughing already.

Who would think that a man who had lost ten children in a tragic accident, went from millionaire to pauper in a day, and was married to a cruel, faithless woman would have any hope to offer? But in God’s upside down economy, it’s not surprising at all.

My latest devotional, Refresh Your Faith (due out in the spring of 2020 with Discovery House) spotlights uncommon verses buried in every book of the Bible. Job 26:14 is one of them. In the twenty-sixth chapter of the book that bears his name, he rehearses for his “miserable comforters” the might, power, and majesty of God.

“He hangs the earth on nothing,” he says. “He binds up the water in His thick clouds . . . He stirs up the sea with His power . . . By His Spirit He adorned the heavens . . . "(v. 7-13).

Then he concludes with this awe-struck realization: “Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, And how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?"

The mere edges of his ways.

I grew up on the rocky shores of Narragansett Bay in Bristol, Rhode Island. I’d often sit at the shoreline, walk in the shallows, or swim out until my feet barely touched the bottom. Because I had lived around the sea all my life, I thought I knew it well.

Then one day I boarded a ship that took me hundreds of miles off shore, where the water stretched from horizon to horizon and the ocean floor lay miles beneath me. Only then did I begin to understand the true nature of the ocean. Before that, I had experienced the mere edges – and how small a whisper they had been.

After pointing out our nearsighted perspective, Job lifts the fog on the ocean of God’s ways: “But the thunder of his power, who can understand?”

Paul, in First Corinthians, says it like this: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (2:9). And, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror” (13:12).

As Christian writers bound to the earth by our mortality, we glimpse only the mere edges of His ways. And hear only small whispers of Him.

But one day we’ll sail out into the vast expanse of no-time life. We’ll hear the clarion call of His mighty voice. We’ll witness the thunder of His power. And we will understand.

Every word typed in obedience to Him? Seed for the harvest.

Every hour spent hunched over a keyboard? Sandpaper smoothing the edges.

Every late night and early morning session? A fragrant offering.

Every pitch and proposal sent out for His glory? Stepping stones on the journey.

Job can speak into our angst and impatience because he, too, was a frustrated author. He shared our desire to see our words published. He, too, wanted others to benefit from the insight he had received. “I wish that my words were recorded and inscribed in a book,” he lamented in Job 19:23.

I’m not sure what steps his publishing journey included (I suspect it contained a Ghost writer), but I know none of his experiences or his words were wasted. Even today, thousands of years later, God still uses his insight to encourage us along the way.

Perhaps, one day, God will use our words to do the same.

“God is not unjust,” the writer of Hebrews promises, “He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them” (Heb. 6:10).

Now it’s your turn. What verse encourages you when you feel discouraged? Leave a comment and encourage us all.

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


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Lori Hatcher is the editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine and the author of several devotional books. Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women won the 2016 Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year award. Her most recent book, Refresh Your Faith – Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible is due out in early 2020. A blogger, writing instructor, and inspirational speaker, her goal is to help women connect with God in the craziness of life You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time . Connect with her on FacebookTwitter (@LoriHatcher2), or Pinterest (Hungry for God).