Saturday, May 30, 2020

Successful Writers Never Stop Learning

By Andrea Merrell

When asked if she’d been to a writers’ conference lately, the answer was quite a surprise. “I don’t go to conferences anymore. They’re all the same. Besides, I’ve already learned all I need to know.”

The truth is we’ll never get to a place where we’ve learned everything we need to know. This is true, not only in life, but in our writing. Writing and publishing is an ever-evolving industry. Changes come quickly. As soon as we think we have a handle on the “rules,” they change. Again. Taking shortcuts and avoiding the training we need can derail our efforts.

Pastor and author Bob Gass says:

By taking shortcuts, you risk shortchanging your future. Your unwillingness to learn today will leave you unprepared for tomorrow’s opportunities. No skill you learn will ever be lost. Gleaning knowledge and learning new skills builds confidence and sharpens your mind. Successful people have one thing in common: they never quit learning.

Even the Bible tell us to study in order to show ourselves approved unto God (2 Timothy 2:15). We’re also told in Ecclesiastes 9:10, Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going (NKJV).

When God places a calling on our life, He expects us to learn, grow, prepare ourselves continually, and put our best foot forward. If we don’t know the next step, He tells us to ask for godly wisdom (James 1:5).

How important is it for us to remain teachable? To keep learning and growing? Meditate on these words in Proverbs 2:2-10 (NLT):

Tune your ears to wisdom,
 and concentrate on understanding.
Cry out for insight,
 and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver;
 seek them like hidden treasures.
Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord,
and you will gain knowledge of God.
For the Lord grants wisdom!
 From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest.
He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.
He guards the paths of the just
and protects those who are faithful to him.
Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair,
and you will find the right way to go.
For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will fill you with joy.

There are many webinars and online courses available. Read books on your craft. Read books in your genre. Attend a local workshop. Join a critique group. Try to attend at least one conference per year if possible.

Every successful writer I know makes it a priority to keep learning.

What about you?

(Photos courtesy of, jscreationzs, and ankris.)


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

It's Just Straw Paper

By Yvonne Lehman

Several of us go out to eat after church on Sunday. Our number of available women varies. Several who are accustomed to me, hand me the paper coverings from their straws and the rectangles from around the napkins that holds their utensils. I make bows from those papers and give them to the eaters or line them at the end of the table for the waitress.

Some seem to think I’m creative, but I think I’m … let’s not say, bored, but antsy, needing to do more than just sit and listen or talk. Also, I write with the TV on. I need noise in the background. Makes my subconscious get into gear. And my fingers need to be moving.
Sunday, there were only three of us. One was new to us and did most of the talking. While she talked, I flattened the paper, folded each side toward the middle, making a loop on each side, leaving two edges hanging down. I placed my index finger inside each loop to fluff it out. Using condensation from my water glass, I wet my finger and thumb, then pressed the middle to secure the bow. Sometimes the sides aren’t even, and I start over. Many times my first effort with the water isn’t wet enough to secure the bow, and the middle pops up. Sometimes the bow is lovely upon first try. Not often, however. Generally, putting that finishing touch with the water takes several attempts. But when Sunday’s bow was finished, I gently placed it toward the center of the booth away from me, so I could satisfactorily observe my creation.

The other two women didn’t notice or comment. To the constant woman, this was commonplace. The new one was intent upon telling her story. I thought about what they did with their papers.

The new woman removed her straw, crumpled the paper, and tossed it toward the center of the table away from her. It lay sprawled in an ungraceful manner. The constant woman rolled her paper around in the palm of her hand until it became a wadded ball. Then she carelessly laid it aside, without any thought to its potential or my needy hands. (I could excuse that since the new woman’s conversation was … revealing. Or one might say … a story idea.)

So, while waiting for my fried salt and peppered catfish and non-salt and peppered non-crispy fried oysters, I looked at my bow that went unnoticed by my companions or the waitress.

Those other straw papers, having been abused or pampered, reminded me of the writing process.

We can have a story idea in our hands—or heads, so to speak. It’s a good idea, but if not given serious thought, it’s crumpled and tossed away.

We can have an idea, hold it for awhile wondering if it’s of any value after all, roll it around in our heads, but become distracted by something of interest at the time and then carelessly lay it aside to be treated like trash.

The serious writer, however, knows that nothing is just a paper idea. Something good can come from this. I must fold and smooth, and when it threatens to come apart, it’s as if cold ice water is applied but eventually it warms, adheres, and settles into being a lovely little symbol of an idea worked into something that’s symbolic of beauty and a piece of art.

Just straw paper?

No! A lesson about life and how we handle situations, even writing a book, article, or devotion.

We might think our story idea is like a flat piece of paper to be crumpled and tossed aside. Or we can take that idea and work with it until it becomes something creative. Sometimes, no one will notice. But there’s satisfaction in creating something from what may seem insignificant. Sometimes, others will notice, laugh, comment, and enjoy the moment.

What are you going to do with your … straw paper?

My assignment for the May conference was to teach workshops on “Ideas” and “Writing for the Moments Series.” Since we can’t meet in person yet, here’s an idea.

Write an article for one of the Moments books. You may do what many have: change lives with what you write. Or, like others, delight with an entertaining incident. Or express what you’ve learned from an experience, or how your faith grew in tying times. This may be your opportunity to be published for the first time.

Here are a few guidelines:

A story that compliments the theme of each book, such as Christmas Moments. Most are true stories. Some are reflections on the theme or subject of the book. These are written by never-before-published and multi-published authors. We have also used a few short stories, poetry, prayers, and a few by children.

Author’s natural telling voice. In fiction we’re hounded by the need to show, not tell.  A true story, or your reflection on something, is told. Tell it your way. But be aware of allowing your reader to see the action, feel the emotion.
  • Mary loved everybody. (Too little telling; needs some showing.)
  • Mary sent cards or took food to anyone she knew who was hurting. (Showing.)

These may be original or previously published if rights have been returned to you. We retain rights after acceptance until publication, then rights automatically return to you.

Word count
However many words are needed to tell your story (from about 500 to 2000+ words). Main point is the content of the story.

Look for unnecessary words, poor sentence structure, correct punctuation, typos, getting away from theme, inserting too much backstory or explanation.

Sharing, with the possibility of changing someone’s life, heart, or mind. Authors get one free copy and discount on orders. All royalties go to Samaritan’s Purse, an organization that helps victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through his son, Jesus Christ.

Submission guidelines
On the article, include your name, mailing address for your free copy, and email address. I like them in 12-point type, Times New Roman, and sent as an email attachment to

*** Accepting NOW! ***

Christmas Stories for 2020 – Santa or Jesus or both

Broken Moments – hearts, lives, relationships, objects, promises, etc. (serious or humorous)

Grandma’s Cookie Jar Moments – most will be about grandmas – others may be warm, cozy stories having the ambience of a stereotypical grandma-type story

Lost Moments – lives, souls, keys, eyeglasses, minds, things found, etc. (serious or humorous)

Can, Sir! Moments – now that we’re going through a pandemic, these may be about the virus (perhaps how you spent Easter while staying home), going through cancer, surviving, caregiving, observations, advice. It also may be about other situations in which you decided, “With God’s help, I can.”

I’d love to hear from you.


As a bonus, Yvonne will give away one of the Moments books to the first one who reads this post and sends her an article. Be sure to mention in your email that you’re submitting because of this blog post at

(Photos courtesy of Yvonne Lehman.)


YVONNE LEHMAN is founder, and was director for 25 years, of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and Blue Ridge Novelist Retreat for 12 years. She is a best-selling, award-winning author of 59 novels and compiler and editor of 15 non-fiction books in the Moments Series. She is an acquisitions editor with Iron Stream Media/LPC in the Romance and Women’s Fiction lines. Her latest novel is The Gift (LPC) and recent Moments books are Moments with Billy Graham and Romantic Moments (Grace Publishing).

Monday, May 4, 2020

Three Ps for Writers

By Andrea Merrell

“Do you have what it takes to be a writer?” the speaker asked. There was silence—and a lot of raised eyebrows—as everyone in the room processed the question.

“Don’t answer,” the speaker continued with a grin as one person timidly raised her hand. “Just think about it.”

What exactly does it take? Creativity? Desire? Skill? Just as in everything else in life, when God calls us to write for Him, He equips us. He gives us the ability, but He expects us to develop and expand that ability. That calls for three things: passion, patience, and persistence. Let’s take a look at each one.


They say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Most writers will say they write because they “can’t not write.” Words burn in our heart. Words that are given to us to bless, inspire, encourage, and entertain. Characters interrupt our days, and stories play out in living color.


Getting our words on paper or safely tucked in the computer is the easy part. Learning to do it correctly according to guidelines and industry standards is a different matter altogether. It requires patience as we learn and perfect the craft. We attend conferences, take classes, learn from critiques, and practice, practice, practice. Then we learn to wait as we look for an agent, submit our proposals, and wait for those doors of opportunity to open. Being a successful writer is a process, not an event.


Being persistent means not giving up. With passion driving us and patience keeping us steady, we continue to move forward regardless of rejections, disappointments, and closed doors. We keep learning and growing. But most of all, we keep writing.

With the three Ps in mind, do you have what it takes to be a writer?

(Photos courtesy of and FrameAngel.)


Monday, April 27, 2020

When Do I Stop Editing?

By Katy Kauffman

He didn’t just stop the opposing player—he bulldozed him all the way to the fence.

In the movie “The Blind Side,” Michael Oher used his gigantic size and his equally huge passion to protect his football team. His team was “his family,” as his new foster mom, Leigh Anne Tuohy, told him. Because he was normally passive, Michael had to tap into his protective instincts to become an incredible football player. In one scene, he blocked an opposing player and pushed him all the way past the goal line to the fence and dumped him on the other side.

As writers, we want to fiercely protect our “team” of words, so they can make a difference in readers’ lives. We want to steamroll any “opposing players” in our writing, so they don’t hinder readers from grasping our message and living it out. Opposing players include limp wording, excessive modifiers, distracting details in a story, and a jumbled flow of thought. We want to edit our way to victory, but when we do stop? At the fence line or before?

Just as there’s a time limit in a football game, deadlines limit how much we can edit. I’m learning I need to work on something way ahead of its deadline, so I feel confident enough to submit it. Glancing through The Chicago Manual of Style to make sure we have steamrolled everything bad out of our writing isn’t feasible, so how about an editing checklist—or playbook—to help you with your submissions?

Like me, you probably feel like you could edit a piece of your writing forever. Even when the piece has been published, we can still find elements to change. Use the checklist below to know when to stop editing your Scripture-related books, articles, and blog posts. Then submit and publish with confidence.

A Checklist for Editing Scripture-Related Writing:

  • Have I developed a main point that is unique, engaging, and beneficial to my target audience? 
  • Have I created an irresistible title that will hook readers’ attention?
  • Do I have an intriguing lead-in that is directly related to my main point? 
  • Have I woven my slant (the story or metaphor in my lead-in) throughout my writing? 
  • Have I cut out any unnecessary details in my stories? 
  • Have I shared explanations of Scripture that help my main point, give meaningful insights to my readers, and are interesting to more people than just me?
  • Have I included the right amount of cross-references for emphasis, illustration, or explanation?
  • Have I developed a well-planned, streamlined flow of thought?
  • Would I find this piece of writing interesting if I only read the first line of each paragraph?
  • Have I included enough short sentences for emphasis and variety among the longer ones? 
  • Have I included the Bible translations of all my verses? 
  • Have I quoted Scripture correctly each time? 
  • Have I formatted my Scripture references and my endnotes correctly? 
  • Have I checked my writing for correct grammar and spelling? 
  • Have I included all the appropriate edits from my writers’ group or critique partners? 
  • Have I read this piece of writing out loud to catch any typos or awkward sentences?

If your answer is yes to those questions, stop editing! I know, editing takes a lot of work, but the victory we experience when we reach the end is worth all the hard work to create writing that engages, inspires, and instructs. So have a game plan of meeting deadlines. Use this checklist. Edit your way to victory. And remember when to stop.

Do you have any tips to add to the list above? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of Stuart Miles, and fantasista.)


Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author, an editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazine, and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. She loves connecting with writers and working alongside them in compilations, such as Feed Your Soul with the Word of God, Collection 1 which is a 2020 Selah Awards finalist. Lighthouse’s newest compilation, The Power to Make a Difference, was released in January 2020.

In addition to online magazines, Katy’s writing can be found at,, the Arise Daily blog, and three blogs on writing. She loves to spend time with family and friends, watercolor in her new Bible journal, and do yard work in the summer sun. Connect with her at her blog, The Scrapbooked Bible Study, and on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

3 Reasons for Writers to Select a Writing Life Verse


A life verse is a verse of Scripture that one commits to memory because of its profound affect on the individual. It's a verse you tend to live your life by because of how much it influences you and your daily decisions.

My life verse is Proverbs 3:5-6.
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.

To me, this verse means that when I put God first and trust Him with my life, He will let me know what He wishes for me to do and say and where he wants me to go. Daily.

In 2010, I had a bit of a mid-life crisis. (Early mid-life.) It was then that I knew God wanted me to be a writer. Because I've trusted Him with every aspect of my life since I came to really know Him in 1996, I trusted Him with my writing career. I stepped out in faith and pursued that area of my calling.

And He's directed my steps in my writing career, just as He has every other area of my life.

As writers, it's important to have a writing life verse.

Having a writing life verse does a few things:

  1. It gives us something to reflect on when we doubt ourselves as writers.
  2. It provides direction to our career. It points out purpose.
  3. It reminds us of Who called us to be writers and gave us the talents to do so.
My writing life verse is Psalm 45:1.

I also use this verse often:
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony...
(Revelation 12:11, NKJV)

I love the Lord. I love this life He has given me. I am blessed by Him. So I want my writing to bring Him honor and glory. And I want to be ready and willing to write what He directs me to write. Because I know that what I write (my testimony) has the power to help someone else grow closer to God.

Do you have a writing life verse?

Here is a list of other verses that may inspire you to claim them as your writing life verse:


This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you. The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their ancestors to possess,’ says the Lord" (Jeremiah 30:1-3).

"We write this to make our joy complete" (1 John 1:4).

"Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.

For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry" (Habakkuk 2:2-3). 

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14).

"Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones" (Proverbs 16::24).

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things" (Philippians 4:8).

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" 2 Timothy 2:15).

 "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful" (Hebrews 10:23).

"And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works" (Hebrews 10:24).

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15).

Tweetable: 12 Life Verses for Writers via @AlyciaMorales on The Write Editing

What is your writing life verse? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below!