Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ten Seeds a Writer Should Sow

By Andrea Merrell

Every farmer and gardener knows that in order to harvest a certain crop, he or she must plant the right seeds. Planting the wrong seeds would be foolish, but not planting any seeds at all would be a disaster.

You might be wondering what this has to do with being a writer.  Just like there are natural laws in effect—like the law of gravity—there are spiritual laws that govern our Christian walk, determining how we fulfill our purpose and God-given destiny. One of the most important is the law of sowing and reaping (Galatians 6:7).

I’ve heard it said that what you are today is a result of what you’ve been believing and confessing (sowing) for the past five years. If this is true, then what you want to become in five years will depend on the seeds you sow now.

To make it more practical, if I want love, friendship, and encouragement from others, those are the seeds I must plant. When I plant seeds of hate, indifference, and criticism, those are the things I will harvest. Not only do we reap what we sow, the Bible says we receive the same portion, whether it’s a spoonful or a bushel basket.  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38 NIV).’’

As we talked about in my last post, I just recently returned from a large conference where I met a multitude of new writers, bringing back memories from my own first experience. I can vividly remember the seeds I tried to sow before I was ready. My pitch was not polished and my proposal not ready. My one-sheet looked like my ten-year-old granddaughter designed it, and I made my own business cards. My three-inch notebook was so organized I couldn’t find anything. Being focused on making a good impression and getting a contract created missed opportunities to network, make new friends, learn the craft, and encourage others who were just as nervous as I was.

The Bible tells us to sow seeds of kindness. This is easy to forget when we’re focused on our own agenda. The best way to achieve our goals is by pouring into the lives of others. To live generously. To tithe our time and our talents, as well as our finances.

When we “delight in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4), He promises to give us the “desires of our heart.” He abundantly grants those desires when we invest our time in helping others. Everyone needs approval and acceptance, and that’s a gift we can freely give.

Here are ten seeds we can regularly sow:

  • Develop a relationship with other writers either face to face or through social media.
  • Pray for others when needs arise, and let them know you’re praying for them.
  • Encourage others when they’re struggling with a project or just received a rejection.
  • Rejoice with others when they win a contest, sign a contract, acquire an agent, receive an award, or have a five-star review on Amazon. 
  • Share your talents. You might be a graphic artist, have an eye for detail, or love marketing. If someone can benefit from your expertise, don’t hesitate to bless them.
  • Find someone to mentor. We’re all at different stages in our writing career, and we all had to start somewhere. Everyone needs others to help them succeed (just like we did). The Bible says that “two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9 KJV). The Message translation puts it this way: “It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps. But if there’s no one to help, tough!
  • Look for the best in others. Encourage them. Don’t offer shallow flattery; give them genuine, heartfelt praise.
  • Be a trustworthy friend and confidant.
  • Don’t just sow query letters, proposals, and contest entries. Sow love and kindness into the lives of others, and watch what God will do.  
  • When you do sow query letters, proposals, and contest entries, make sure they are as clean and professional as possible. 

I’m much further ahead now than five years ago, but I’m still on that journey with a long way to go. The seeds I sow from this point forward will not only determine my destination, but the joy and fulfillment I experience along the way.

What seeds are you planting? We would love to hear your suggestions.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/koko-tewan.)


Monday, June 12, 2017

Ten Things You Should Never Say to an Editor

By Denise Loock

Hiring an editor is wise. But you’ll waste the money you’ve invested if you’re unwilling to accept an editor’s advice. Here are ten things you may want to say to an editor but shouldn’t.

1. No one will notice. No one cares. If you’ve ever noticed a misspelled word or a misplaced comma in a newspaper or on a billboard, you care about accuracy. More than that, though, God cares. He loves excellence. In fact, He demands excellence. Colossians 3:23-25 says, “Don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God. … The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work” (MSG). Ouch. God never excuses “shoddy work.”

2. My friend, an English teacher, told me this was correct. I taught English for 29 years before I became an editor. The differences between English-teacher style and publication style are many. Get the right resources. Here are three: The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, fourth edition (CWMS); Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors; The Associated Press Stylebook.

3. How will readers get my point if I don’t use italics, all-caps, and exclamation points? Make your words work. Don’t glitz them up with fancy fonts and superfluous punctuation. “The craft of writing involves arranging words and phrases in such a way as to emphasize the important points without depending on typographic peculiarities” (CWMS 77).“Typographic peculiarities” attempt to mask mediocrity with gaudiness. Don’t insult your reader with such shenanigans.

4. Max Lucado does it that way. According to his website, Lucado has sold 92 million books. Yes, he’s successful. But if God wanted another Max Lucado, He would clone him. Be your best self. Find your voice.

5. This is God’s message. I can’t change it. Yes the Holy Spirit impresses on us a message. He reveals fresh meanings and applications in Scripture. But He also uses traditional means of education. Paul’s letters are filled with post-resurrection connections to Old Testament Scriptures. Revealed by the Holy Spirit, yes. But Paul had studied the Hebrew Scriptures thoroughly. He learned under Gamaliel, the most respected rabbi of that era (Acts 5:34; 22:3). Messages need refinement. So do messengers. Just ask Paul.

6. That’s the way I talk (or blog.)  The CWMS devotes three pages to the difference between blog style and book style. It covers topics such as tone, structure, transitions, repetition, and references. Learn the rules of good writing and practice them in everything you write.

7. I like it the way it is.  Stubbornness is the twin of arrogance. Everyone makes mistakes—writers and editors. But wait at least 24 hours before insisting, “I won’t change it.” Pray about it. In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer says of the student: “And gladly would he learn and gladly teach.” Wise words.

8. But I love that song (book, speaker). We all have favorite books, speakers, and songs. But that doesn’t mean we insert lyrics, paragraphs, and illustrations from those sources in our books or blogs. Find a fresher way to say it that reflects your experiences, your environment, your interests.

9. I saw it somewhere on the Internet (heard it at church, at a conference, on TV).
Documentation is essential. If you don’t know the source, don’t use it. Misquotes and wrong attributions permeate the Internet. Avoid using brainyquote.com and goodreads.com/quotes. And never depend on Wikipedia. Respect the sources you admire enough to read the original version of their words.

10. It could mean that, couldn’t it? Use Scripture accurately and appropriately. Context is everything. Don’t mix fiction with fact. Even if you’re using only one verse, study the context, read a few commentaries, and pray about it.  Research Scriptures as thoroughly as other citations. Plant 2 Timothy 2:15 in your heart and “correctly handle the word of truth” (NIV).

Remember, an editor is your friend. Editors want your manuscript to be the best it can be. Editing is a humbling career. Writing is a humbling career. Neither writers nor editors are infallible. But we both can strive for excellence and make our heavenly Father proud.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Master Isolated Images, Denise Loock, and Google Photos.)


Denise Loock is a writer, editor, and speaker. She is the former editor for The Journey Christian Newspaper, which reaches over 60,000 online and print readers. As an assistant editor, she helps Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas produce high quality, engaging inspirational books. She accepts freelance editing projects too. Contact her at info@digdeeperdevotions.com.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Time Management Tips for Writers

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

Life has a way of taking over, and it always seems to be my writing that suffers. For the past few years, I've been working as a freelance editor—and a very busy one at that. Between the editing and busyness four kids entail, I've let my writing dreams take a shelf. No longer. Based on what I've been taught over the past seven years, I'm setting a schedule and sticking to it. Here are a few of those tips:

7 Time Management Tips for Writers {Click to Tweet}

1. Start your morning with God. I don't know about you, but if I skip my morning quiet time with the Lord, things don't go very well the rest of the day. It may not be evident in the events of the day, but I can always tell my stress levels are up and my patience levels are down. I need that time with the Lord to gain the peace only He can provide. Other benefits to quiet time with Father? Reassurance of His love. Direction. Healing. Freedom. Creativity. Just to name a few...

2. Half an hour of social media first. As writers, we're assured we need a platform. Social media and blogging are two ways to help build that platform. After your quiet time, spend half an hour scheduling your social media posts across sites for the day. Use HootSuite and preschedule those posts so you don't have to be tempted back to Facebook or Instagram until you've gotten your day's work finished. What to share? Quotes. Memes. Links to pertinent information for your audience. Questions to get your audience sharing. Interesting facts. Something interesting to you or about you that will pull your audience closer to you. And remember the golden rule: 5 posts that promote someone else to every 1 post that promotes you.

3. Find your golden hours. Every creative person has a certain time of day they are most creative. When's yours? Mine happens to be mid-morning until early afternoon. It's definitely not after 6:00 PM when I can no longer put two sentences together. Know your creative golden hours and do your writing then.

4. Schedule the other tasks around that time. I'm an editor and, as of this year, a ghostwriter. I have clients lined up through the end of 2017. I will work on their projects around those golden hours when I'll be writing my own novels or blogging.

5. Make one day a week the day you run errands for your household. I know that Fridays tend to be the days I am out and about getting groceries, taking care of household business, etc. So, I plan to work four days a week, Monday through Thursday, and spend Friday taking care of everything else. I spend the day working the weekly household budget, paying bills, grocery shopping, dropping bags to the thrift shop, and anything else that needs accomplishing.

6. Pick a day of the month to dedicate to appointments for your household. My doctor isn't in the office one afternoon every month. That's his dedicated day for dentist appointments, doctor appointments, etc. Granted, kids will get sick or break bones any day of the week, but if you know you have annual checkups and cleanings coming up, pick one day a month to schedule these. That will allow you to stick to your schedule and not be running 50 directions all week.

7. Let everyone who typically interrupts your schedule (family, friends, church family) know that you are running a business and cannot be interrupted anymore. Turn the ringer off on your phone or set text messages to Do Not Disturb and get to work. If you're going to make an income, you need regular office hours just like any other businessman or woman. It's time to set healthy boundaries and minimize interruptions.

I hope these tips will help you! Now, I'm off to set my schedule in motion and let my household know I have a job to do. If you have any tips you'd like to add, please feel free to share them in the comments below. We look forward to hearing from you!