Monday, May 29, 2017

Writers Conferences Are Like a Box of Chocolates

By Andrea Merrell

Expectations. We all have them—some realistic and achievable, others not so much.

Merriam-Webster online defines expect this way: to await, suppose, or think; to anticipate or look forward to the coming or occurrence of; to consider probable or certain; to consider reasonable, due, or necessary; to consider bound in duty or obligated.

That’s a whole lot of wishing and hoping.

I just returned from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (BRMCWC) in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. With over 500 people in attendance, it was a privilege and honor to be part of the faculty. Teaching classes and interacting with conferees at appointments, meals, and free time gave me the opportunity to observe attitudes in action. For many of these conferees—especially first-timers—expectations ran the gamut from “God’s about to make me a super star” to “what in the world am I doing here?”

When attending my first conference as a newbie, I was clueless. My friend and roomie (also a newbie) and I had no idea what to do before we arrived, while we were there, and even after we left, but we knew we were supposed to be there. Armed with faux courage, we were both convinced we would come home with an agent, a contract, and a bunch of “attagirls … you are an amazing writer and just what we’ve been looking for.”

Sad to say, that’s not exactly what happened. Actually, that’s not anything close to what happened. Speaking for myself, I wasn’t ready.

They say you don’t know what you don’t know. An acute awareness of how much I didn’t know (and needed to learn) came home with me, packed securely in my luggage—along with a fistful of business cards, bookmarks, handouts, class notes, and an abundance of wise advice. Overwhelming? Yes, but as I applied myself and attended this same conference (along with others) year after year, God’s plan for my life unfolded. Looking back over the past ten years, I can clearly see His hand in every aspect of my writing career—even in the dreaded rejection letters. Every step became part of the learning process as God opened the right doors and closed the wrong ones, taught me to keep my eyes on Him instead of others, and prepared me for the wonderful journey He had prepared for me. The key factor was—and is—trust.

This past week, I had the pleasure of speaking with so many precious individuals who have words burning in their heart that need to be written. Some were confident, while others were shy and hesitant. A few were confused and frustrated because they didn’t know what to expect, who to talk with, and which classes to attend. My advice to them was simple: “Put away your expectations and allow God to do what He wants to do. Believe for divine appointments, divine connections, and divine favor. Take one step at a time, and make the most of every opportunity that comes your way. You are not here by accident, but by design.”

God’s plans are almost always bigger than our own, and He will bless us in the most unusual and unexpected ways. I’ve learned that at a conference, the person I meet in the hallway who needs a hug and a word of encouragement might be the very reason God has me there.

Attending conferences is essential to our writing journey. But success is in the eye of the beholder. Yes, we all long for an agent, a contract, and an attagirl (or attaboy). But let’s not neglect the process of learning the basics and honing our craft. Becoming a good writer is a process, not an event.

Most importantly, don't forget to step outside your comfort zone and meet people. Forging friendships is how you build your network. I'm very thankful for lessons learned over the years and the many opportunities that have come my way, but some of the greatest gifts are all the incredible people I’ve met and the life-long friendships that have been created.

So, what about you? If you’re not getting the desired results, maybe it’s time to change your expectations. To quote Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates.” We could say the same thing about a conference. You never know what you’re going to “get,” but when you’re trusting in God, you can be sure it will be a blessing and another step in the right direction.

Has God blessed you in ways you least expected? We would love for you to share with us and our readers.

(Photos courtesy of Castillo Dominici.)


Monday, May 15, 2017

Don't Bury Your Gift

By Andrea Merrell

Writing can be a tough business, especially when working with deadlines, keeping up with blog posts, and coming up with fresh ideas. Even attending workshops and conferences can be a challenge—financially, emotionally, and physically. As writers, we sometimes work under strict time restraints, family obligations, and physical limitations.

So … why do we do it?

For most of us, it’s a God-given calling. We write because He has placed the gift within us. I like to say, “I write because I can’t not write.” Not a great way to say it, but it expresses the reality of this unique calling. I would be completely miserable and unfulfilled if unable to express my thoughts, ideas, stories, and characters on paper.

Because I spend so many hours at the computer, I deal with neck, back, and shoulder issues. These problems have been severe at times, resulting in doctor appointments, chiropractic care, massage therapy, testing, medication, and time away from the computer. But lately, I’ve talked with many other writers who have to push through because of severe physical limitations. Their stories have been very inspiring, making me realize I don’t have much to complain about.

On the other hand, I’ve known a few writers with an amazing gift who gave it up because they had so many obstacles to overcome.

Why would someone with such a special gift decide to bury it? I think there are several reasons, and they all have to do with fear.

Fear of Rejection
Everyone deals with this to a degree, but to some it can be crippling. It might be the very thing that keeps you from submitting your manuscript to an agent, editor, or publisher. One lady told me she was terrified to let her words “out of the nest.”

Fear of Not Being Good Enough
Perhaps you’re intimidated by other writing professionals, and this keeps you from attending workshops and conferences where you can network and polish your skills. One of the worst things we can do as writers—or anything else for that matter—is compare ourselves to others. God has called and uniquely gifted you to do what no one else can do.

Fear of the Unknown
This one could encompass a multitude of reasons we bury our gift. For me, my vision has always been an issue. Seven years ago, I had a corneal transplant and cataract surgery in my right eye, putting me out of commission as both a writer and editor for several weeks and making my work difficult for months. Now, I’m facing the same surgery in my left eye later this year. Even though the outcome is unknown, my faith, hope, and trust is in the One who enables me to do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13 NKJV). The Message puts it this way: Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

Pastor and author Bob Gass says:

Paul told the Philippians, “Keep on growing in knowledge and understanding (Philippians1:9 NLT). And he told Timothy, “Be sure to use the abilities God has given you … put them to work … kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you (1 Timothy 4:14-15 TLB). When you don’t exercise your muscles, they weaken and atrophy, and when you don’t utilize the skills God gave you, the same thing happens. Don’t be afraid. Put your gifts and abilities to work, and they’ll become enlarged and developed through practice. With study, feedback, and practice, a good teacher can become a better teacher, and in time grow to be a great teacher.

Whatever God has called and equipped you to do, don’t ever let fear derail you my making you hide or walk away from your gift. Don’t be like the unwise servant who buried his talent in the ground.

Are there certain fears that hold you back? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of Miles.)


Monday, May 8, 2017

Freelancing Offers Benefits a Real Job Can't

Thank you for joining us at The Write Editing. Today's guest is award-winning author, editor, and speaker Jim Watkins.

By Jim Watkins

As a freelance author, editor, and speaker, I haven’t had a “real job” since 1982. That also means I haven’t had a regular paycheck, health insurance, pension, or paid vacation. But before you think I’m sending out invitations to a pity party, let me assure you that it’s been worth the white-knuckle trust that bills will get paid and the sleepless nights when there’s no paying work the next day—like right now. So, I’m writing this to assure myself that:
  • I don’t have a regular paycheck, but I don’t have regular hours either, so I’m free to babysit two adorable granddaughters one day a week, be there to help my daughter through the various challenges of her divorce, and drop everything to take off to Michigan to help care for my mom. (I just got back from having lunch with oldest granddaughter during Grandparent’s Day at her school.)
  • I don’t have paid vacations, but I’m free to sit on the porch and read a good book whenever the weather is nice and work is slow. This year, I’ve been able to speak at sixteen conferences across America and stay in some very nice hotels—and be entertained at some very nice restaurants, sit on the beach of Lake Michigan, and enjoy the Rocky Mountains from my lodge.
  • I don’t have a pension, but I have such a wealth of friends as a result of my writing and speaking, so many rich emails and letters saying that I have encouraged people along their life journey, and so many precious memories of moments with family that I would never have been afforded if I was off working at a real job.
Yes, I’d love a regular paycheck, health insurance, pension, or paid vacation. And, yes, it can be frightening being one project away from homelessness. But life is a trade-off and—at least for me—freelancing offers freedom that a real job can’t. And my prayer life has never been better!

What about you. What benefits have you found as a freelancer?

Copyright © James N. Watkins

For a ream of writing resources, visit

(Photos courtesy of


Jim Watkins is an award-winning author of over 20 books and 2,000 articles, who has spoken across the United States and overseas. He has served as an editor and editorial director at Wesleyan Publishing House, an editor with the American Bible Society, taught writing at Taylor University for 15 years, and has guest-lectured at Liberty, Regent and other universities. He is currently writing and speaking full-time as well as editing for ACW Press and other clients. His most important roles, however, are being a child of God, husband, dad and “papaw.”

Monday, May 1, 2017

Four Keys to Finding Your Writing Breakthrough

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

It's been seven years since I started my writing career. Seven long years in which I've written two full-length novels and started a few more (some I've even made it halfway through). However, every time I get rejected, it's for the same reasons: episodic writing (translation: flat plot line with occasional peaks), a character who falls flat, or characters we don't have empathy for.

So I go back to the drawing board. Try again. Because I'm not a quitter, and I am a writer.

Have you ever felt like you keep hitting a brick wall and you really want breakthrough in your #writing? {Click to Tweet}

Here are a few things I've figured out as I've searched for breakthrough in my writing:

1. Be obedient to God. If you know He called you to write nonfiction, quit trying to write a novel. If He called you to write YA, stop trying to write contemporary romance for adults. If He called you to write for your family, quit seeking immediate publication. Be obedient, and breakthrough will follow.

2. Face your fears head on. One of my biggest fears is that if I dig deep enough, I'll be surprised by what comes out. I think part of me fears I'll face things I may have buried instead of allowing God to heal the hurts, and I don't really want to go there. So I avoid it in my writing. Which is probably the goldmine that would resolve my flat plot lines and characters. If I don't write, I don't have to dig deep. But then I'm being disobedient to God's call on my life. So I must tackle that fear and put words on the page until I find the golden thread for my story.

3. It's not about you. It's about what God can do with your story. It's about the people who will read it and what you will evoke from within them. Maybe someone will meet Jesus face to face in your novel. Maybe someone will find healing as she recognizes she's not the only one suffering in a particular area. Maybe someone will find a shred of hope and decide life is worth living. Get out of the way, we always tell authors. Don't interrupt the story with your own voice. Let the characters use theirs. Move over and invite the Lord into your work. When we write with Him, our words have far more meaning and purpose than when we choose to write alone.

4. Don't quit. Maybe you've seen the cartoon of the guy with the shovel digging the tunnel underground. He's about to reach his destination when he gives up and turns around. Don't be that guy. Most best-selling authors I know worked an average of eight years before they saw their first contract. And now they're making a decent living off their book sales. But even that takes time. Because you usually need four books published before you start seeing decent royalty checks. So keep digging deep and putting those words on the page. Don't give up on your dream. You never know when you'll hit that breakthrough spot.

Can you relate? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Especially if you have a breakthrough testimony that will encourage others. Thanks for sharing!

Four Things To Do for Your #Writing Breakthrough {Click to Tweet}