Monday, August 2, 2021

Writer, Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself

 By Andrea Merrell

They say we’re our own worst enemy. Our biggest critic. The first (and the worst) to find fault with ourselves. If we’re not careful, we can develop the mindset that nothing we do is ever good enough.

This is especially true for writers. Sometimes we critique our own work until it gets shoved in a drawer or hidden on our computer, never to be seen again.

One of the biggest culprits to our feelings of inadequacy is comparison. We are unique individuals with a unique voice and style. We should never compare our writing journey to that of anyone else. Envy can creep in when we see someone else’s success. But we don’t know how long and hard they’ve worked to get where they are. Besides, God has a special, personalized, one-of-a-kind plan and purpose for each of us.

When I wrote my first few pages of fiction (believing it was not in my bailiwick), I showed it to a friend and asked her to be painfully honest with me, which I knew she would. I fully expected her to tell me to keep my day job. When she liked what she saw and asked for more, I was shocked. To me it was anything but good.

Over the years, I have written hundreds of devotions and blog posts. Sometimes when I think one is not up to par, it will be the one that resonates with a reader.

I’ve had other writers send me pages, asking me to look over them and let them know if I thought they were “stupid.” They never were. In fact, sometimes I thought they were the best that particular person had ever written.

Think about great sermons you’ve heard, but what you got out of them was completely different than someone else. That’s the way God works. He knows how to reach someone’s heart and meet their need with exactly the right words at exactly the right time. You might write something today that won’t be read for years down the road. But those words might be the very ones the person reading them needs to hear at that moment. In God’s kingdom, nothing ever goes to waste.

My point here is not to be so critical of your own work and judge yourself so harshly. After you let your words pour out of your heart, give them a chance. Do your editing, rewriting, and proofing, then give them to someone else. This is why writing buddies, critique groups, and beta readers are so important. They can give us valuable feedback that will only improve our projects.

Maybe you’ve had a harsh critique. Maybe you’ve been trying to find an agent or publisher for years with no success. Perhaps you’ve read your manuscript so many times it all runs together in your head. Or maybe you just don’t have the confidence to step out and try.

If that’s you, remember what I said about God having a plan and purpose for your writing. His timing is perfect, and He can open doors that no one else can. When He puts words in your heart, they are meant to be shared—maybe with the multitudes or maybe just the person next door.

Study to show yourself approved, as the Word says (2 Timothy 2:15), then step out in faith and use the gifts and talents He has so generously given you. And remember …

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

 

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, chaiwat, and tawatchai.)


 

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Writer, don’t be so hard on yourself. Step out in faith and use the gifts and talents God has given you. via @Andrea Merrell (Click to tweet.)

 

Monday, July 26, 2021

Passive Tense Isn’t Good for Writing or our Bodies

By DiAnn Mills

 

Writing is not a physically engaging activity. We sit in our chairs exercising our fingers over the keyboard while the rest of our body slips into passive mode.

 

While writers are concentrating on their manuscripts, they too often forget about taking care of themselves. When we choose high-sugar-content snacks and beverages instead of good nutrition, our bodies suffer. The result is unhealthy bodies that suffer from stress, insomnia, and susceptibility to diseases. Energy is depleted. Unwanted pounds creep up. Over time, we can guess what that can do for the quality of our writing.

 

The benefits of maintaining good health are always on the plus side.

 

Staying in shape physically and mentally isn’t just an exercise routine. We need to eat healthy too. The combination of sound nutrition and exercise lengthens our lives. We feel great. We relieve stress. And being more mentally alert means our writing is more polished.

 

Research tells us that when we don’t exercise our bodies, our bodies take a nosedive. Harvard Health states exercise charges the brain.  When our brain receives an increase in blood flow, look out world. New brain cells spin into action. Imagine what that does to our manuscripts.

 

Experts claim aerobic exercise improves our brain functions, which means we learn more. We stay fit and are more able to fight off illnesses.

 


Experts also say resistance training helps our memories. It’s a huge defense against weakening bones.

 

I start the day with exercise. Lifting weights and propping my laptop onto the treadmill is a win-win situation. In approximately three to five miles, I’m able to churn out my best writing of the day while keeping my body in shape. When we go to all that trouble, eating properly becomes a habit. Combine an exercise routine with eating nutritionally, and we have another win-win situation.

 

In a recent article from Prevention, the writer offers 12 benefits to walking: #5 states walking increases brain power and #9 states walking increases creativity. I encourage you to read all 12 for the maximum benefits of walking. And if you’re hesitant to start, enlist a friend to join you physically or virtually.

 

Some writers have physical challenges that limit movement. Here are two sites that offer solutions.

1.          10 Chair Exercises for Seniors

2.          How to Exercise if You Have Limited Mobility

 

Your method of maintaining sound health may not be like mine, but the important factor is to weave diet and exercise for solid brain function that results in incredible writing.

 

How do you keep yourself and your writing at the top of your game?

 

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, tiniroma, and nalinratphi.) 

 

TWEETABLE

Diet and exercise create solid brain function that results in incredible writing. via@Diannmills (Click to tweet.)

 

 

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.

 

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Retreats: Marketing, Speakers, Nonfiction and Novelist with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion for helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

 

Connect with DiAnn here: www.diannmills.com

 

  

Monday, July 12, 2021

Homonyms – Did You Sea/See Them Their/There?

 By Cindy K. Sproles


I love editors. They are a breed all their own. A bit OCD and leaning toward a perfectionist’s mentality, they are the eyes that make our writing spotless. Clean. Grammatically … spit-shined. Without them, many of us would be—well, let’s just say we wouldn’t look as good as we do. But if you want to have some fun with an editor, mess with a homonym and watch their eyes begin to roll.

Homonyms are, in some ways, tricky, but for the most part, it’s our lack of attention to them that causes us to look bad. Really bad. A writer’s fingers key letters faster than their brains work and it happens. The wrong word is chosen. Even Microsoft Word in all its glory can only search for misspelled words. In the case of a homonym, the words aren’t misspelled, making spell check useless. This is when due diligence is important.

I recently reviewed a critique at a conference. This is what I saw:

She called there home. Sent them notes. But it wasn’t until Meg knocked on there door to bare her indiscretions, that Jon realized her fear.

Those pesky homonyms reared their ugly heads and in this case, made an advanced writer look sloppy.

Some homonyms are easily confused, such as bear and bare, especially when portions of their meaning are similar.

Bear – an animal; give testimony (bear false witness); give birth

Bare – to support or uphold; naked; basic and simple

Then there are those homonyms that prove to be writer laziness or unwillingness to proof and correct.

For example: Their – possessive case of they; belonging to, and there – a place.

Whatever the case, homonyms are basic mechanics in writing and a vital part of the self-editing process. Practice due diligence and professionalism in your writing by watching carefully for homonyms.


Below is a short list of commonly misused homonyms. Check out

www.cooper.com/alan/homonym_list.html for a more complete listing.

there – a place OR their – relating or belonging to

capital – most important OR capitol – a center of government

discreet – confidential OR  discrete – individual

threw – to propel by hand  OR  through – from end to end

too – also OR to – toward

pare – cut down OR pair – set of two

reign – sovereign rule OR rein – horse’s steering wheel

wreak – to inflict OR reek – to smell

elude – to escape OR illude – to deceive

then – past OR than – comparison


How many of you caught the error in the first graphic. To cease the day would be to stop it or bring it to an end. The correct usage is to seize the day, or to make the most of it.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.


TWEETABLE

Homonyms are basic mechanics in writing and a vital part of the self-editing process. via @Cindydevoted (Click to tweet.) 



Cindy K. Sproles is proud of her Appalachian Mountain heritage and loves to share it with others. She is an author, speaker, and conference teacher, teaching across the country. Cindy is the co-founder of Christian Devotions Ministries, and she has served as a managing editor for two publishing houses. Cindy is the director of the Asheville Christian Writers Conference, held each February at the Cove, Asheville, NC. She is married and has four adult sons and two grands. 





Monday, July 5, 2021

Five Fiction Faux Pas

 By Andrea Merrell

 

This week’s post is how to guarantee your manuscript will be rejected in five easy steps.
  

Five Fiction Faux Pas

  1. It’s not necessary to hook your reader. They’ll get into the story—eventually.
  2. Using strong verbs, descriptive phrases, and lively dialogue is a waste of time. Just tell your story. It’s much easier that way.
  3. As long as your story is good, don’t worry about developing strong characters. Your readers don’t need to connect with your protagonist.
  4. Don’t worry about point of view (POV). Head-hopping is permissible and even encouraged. It’s okay to keep your readers guessing whose head they’re in.
  5. Plot is not important. Your readers are smart—they’ll “get it.” 

Now, let’s call in Faux Pas Busters to dispel those five terrible myths.

 

The Hook

Writing is a lot like fishing, and you need to choose your bait carefully. Hooking the reader is important whether you’re writing a novel or a simple devotion. Make your reader want to read on. You have a very short window of opportunity to capture someone’s attention, especially when they’re reading online. A hook is a bit of a teaser. If you’re not sure what makes a great hook, go back and reread the first paragraph of your favorite books.

 

Show—Don’t Tell

Allow the reader to experience your story. Use all five senses. Help them see your scene as it plays out in their mind. Are there sounds causing them anxiety or fear? What does it smell like?  Is the meal described in such a way they can almost taste it?  Do objects seem so real they could touch them? Don’t just relate the facts. Help your readers connect with your characters and get lost in your plot. Pull on your readers’ emotions. They may not remember exactly what they read, but they will remember how you made them feel.

 

Characterization

Introduce your characters in such a way that the reader will immediately connect with them. Let the reader know something important right away (i.e. name, appearance, age, occupation, goals, desires). Show their strengths and weaknesses. Make them down to earth and relatable. If your readers don’t like your characters, chances are they won’t like your story.

 

POV (Point of View)

In each scene, make sure you stay in the main character’s POV. If you are in Michelle’s POV, she can’t possibly know what Steven is thinking or what his intentions are. Picture Michelle with a camera on her head. Her only reality is what she can see through the lens of that camera. Be careful not to head-hop, making your readers constantly go back and reread to find out whose head they’re in.

 

Plot

Do you have a plot? What does your protagonist want? How does your protagonist get from point A to point B? Create tension throughout your manuscript, keeping the goal just out of reach. You don’t want the reader to finish your story and say, “Okay, so what was the point?”

 


Writing is a continuous learning process. There are many other elements to crafting a good story, but these are five of the key elements. If you’re struggling in any of these areas, here are a few suggestions:

  • Find a good critique partner who can steer you in the right direction.
  • Attend writers’ conferences and take classes that will help you hone your craft.
  • Search for online classes.
  • Subscribe to blogs that will help you with both writing and self-editing.
  • Read, read, read. Writers are readers. Learn all you can from other writers.
  • Write, write, write. The best way to learn is by doing.

 

What other suggestions do you have? We would love to hear from you.


 Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

(Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash)


TWEETABLE

How to guarantee your manuscript will be rejected in five easy steps. via @AndreaMerrell (Click to tweet.)

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, June 28, 2021

Five Reasons to Write Articles and Devotions

 By Lori Hatcher

Many writers dream of writing a book. They attend writers' conferences where book publication is exalted as the pinnacle of writing accomplishment. They watch others accept awards, attend book signings, and garner 5-star reviews, and they long to share in the joy.

If you’re a writer who hopes to see your name on a book cover one day, I’d like to share five reasons you should consider writing articles or devotions first.

1. Writing articles or devotions can serve as your writing apprenticeship.

Writing isn't something we perfect overnight. It takes hard work and dedication. Geoff Colvin's research for Talent Is Overrated refers to the ten-year rule which states that talented performers don't become great “without at least ten years of very hard preparation.” He adds, “. . . authors produce their greatest work only after twenty or more years of devoted effort.” Article and devotion writing can help you learn the craft and understand the business.

2. Writing articles or devotions proves you can start and complete a writing project.

New (and seasoned) writers often grow discouraged in the long haul of writing a book. Articles and devotions, however, take much less time to write and publish. You get feedback fairly quickly, both from editors and readers, and experience the joy of publication.

3. Writing articles or devotions helps you gain publishing credits.

These are a crucial part of your CV and writing resume, and a huge part of a book proposal. Publishers and editors want to see that you have a long publishing history and that others in the business value your work.

4. Articles and devotions help you find your audience and gain credibility in the marketplace.

A series of articles or devotions can help connect you with the readers who might one day buy your book. If you become known as “the woman who writes on grief,” or "the guy who tackles hard spiritual subjects,” this audience recognition can pave the way for an audience following. Additionally, the more articles you publish, the more seriously other publishing professionals (think agents, editors, and publishers) will take you and your writing.

5. Writing articles and devotions develops skills that carry over into book publishing.

As you write articles and devotions for online and print projects, you learn to write to a specific length, focus, tone, and audience. You gain insight into how to handle professional editing and demonstrate that you can do a rewrite if necessary. These are invaluable skills to bring into the book publishing process.

If you have a dream to one day write and publish a book, you don't have to write articles or devotions first, but it's an excellent way to break into publishing.


(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Chaiwat.)


TWEETABLE

If you have a dream to one day write and publish a book, writing articles and devotions is a great way to start. via @LoriHatcher2 (Click to tweet.)



Lori Hatcher loves God even more than she loves chocolate—and that’s a lot. Since He saved her at age 18, she’s been on a relentless journey to know and love Him more. Her deepest desire is for others to join her on the journey. As an author, writing instructor, blogger, and women’s ministry speaker, she writes for Our Daily Bread, Guideposts, Revive Our Hearts, and Crosswalk.com. She’s written three devotional books (soon to be five), including Refresh Your Faith, Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible, and Hungry for God…Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. Connect with her at www.LoriHatcher.com or on FacebookTwitter (@lorihatcher2) or Pinterest (Hungry for God).