Monday, November 27, 2017

Your Writing Journey ... One Step at a Time

By  Andrea Merrell

I’m a creature of habit, especially in the morning—bathroom break, eye drops, vitamins, coffee, devotions, and time spent in prayer. That’s my routine. When it gets interrupted or changed, you could say there’s a disturbance in the force.

As a detail-oriented Melancholy temperament, it’s important to me to have my steps follow a certain order. When they don’t, my day usually ends up being out of kilter and unproductive. (Plus, I tend to forget what I’ve done or haven’t done.)

If you’re more flexible and spontaneous, you might be wondering what this has to do with our writing journey.

For writers—especially new writers—it’s important to understand how to follow your passion and destiny without missing any steps or getting one step in front of another.

As an example, when I first started writing, all I knew was to get my words on paper. I had never been to a conference, read a book on writing, or even spoken with another writer. I randomly submitted a few projects, which were immediately turned down. They were simply not ready for publication. I had a lot to learn.

 After several years, the Lord divinely connected me with Vonda Skelton, who totally understood where I was coming from. Her sage advice to me was, “You need to attend writers’ conferences, join a critique group, and network, network, network.”

That’s how my writing career began as I took one baby step after another.

If you’re just beginning your journey, let’s look at a few ways to keep your steps in order.

Read, Read, Read
A good writer is a voracious reader. Read books on the craft of writing by others who have learned the ins and outs of the industry. Read for pleasure. Read books in the genre that you feel called to write.

Write, Write, Write
Don’t just think about writing and talk about writing. Write. Write letters (yes, people still do that), thank you notes, blog posts, or an article for your church newsletter or local paper. Maybe you prefer to start with a devotion. Journaling is always a plus.

Join a Local Critique Group
A good, supportive critique group is worth its weight in gold. It’s like iron sharpening iron. You can learn, grow, and be encouraged by a like-minded group of people. If there’s not a group in your area, organize one. There are also online groups available.

Attend Conferences
Conferences are critical for the writer. That’s where we learn the craft, get encouraged, and expand our network. It’s also the place where you can have face-to-face interaction with agents, editors, and publishers. Depending on the location and length of the conference, the cost can be high. When I first started attending, my husband told me to think of it as continuing education. Put money aside, and make plans to attend at least one conference or local workshop per year.

Build Your Platform
Most people have a love/hate relationship with social media, but it’s another critical element for the writer. People need to find you. At a minimum, be active on Facebook and Twitter. Then add others (Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, etc.) as you feel comfortable. The time to build your platform is now. If you wait until you receive a book contract, you’ve waited too long.

Promote Others
In the Christian community, there’s room for all of us, and the Bible tells us to prefer others above ourselves. The best way we can do that is by promoting them. We can subscribe to their blogs, follow them on Facebook or Twitter, like and share their posts, and support them when they have a new book, blog post, or article. We can also invite them to be a guest on our blog and write a review for them on Amazon or Goodreads. I love Edie Melson’s five-to-one rule: for every five posts you share, only one can be about you. The other four are to promote others. It’s the principle of sowing and reaping: the more we pour into others, the more the Lord will pour back into our lives.

Pray, Pray, Pray
Pray over your projects and ask God to open the right doors at the right time. If the Lord has blessed you with the gift of words, He has a purpose for them.

What suggestions can you add to the list? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of Miles.)


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Monday, November 13, 2017

How to Be Your Characters – Inside and Out

Today’s guest blogger is award-winning author Jayme Mansfield. Her newest book, Rush, released this month, and Jayme is giving away a free copy. To enter the drawing, leave a comment below and include your email address.

By Jayme H. Mansfield

Once again, Halloween has come and gone. Although it isn’t my favorite holiday, it provides a fun excuse to dress up and be someone else for a change.

But for us fiction writers, we have a little secret … we  “dress up” and become different characters all the time. Now, I’m not saying put on a cowboy hat or a Batman mask, or swipe on a little face paint, or slip on a furry bunny suit. Instead, when it’s time to delve into the world of fiction, create a full-blown story, and hang out with your characters over the course of thousands of words, it’s time to put on the full disguise—the internal and external persona that makes characters come alive.

What’s Inside?
This is an exciting and revealing place to start. Instead of determining your character’s hair and eye color, height, choice of shoes, straight versus crooked teeth … you get what I mean ... first go inside the heart, mind, and soul. You won’t know everything yetas the character must grow and change over the course of the book—but you’ll discover that what’s on the inside impacts what’s on the outside.

A Few Thoughts to Consider:
  • What does she think about when she can’t sleep at night? 
  • What’s in her dreams?
  • When she isn’t speaking, what is she thinking, feeling?
  • When she looks in the mirror, whom does she really see?
  • What does she wrestle with that no one else would suspect or see on the outside?
  • What's her demeanor with others versus when she is alone?
  • Does her past haunt or help her?
  • What is the “hole” in her heart?

Inside Out 
Now, like a favorite sweater, turn your character inside out and see what’s there. The color and texture is slightly different, yet made from the same fabric. What’s on the inside of your character that might dictate outward appearance and actions?

Perhaps your character’s rough upbringing results in unshaven stubble on a daily basis. Or, toss in a juxtaposition and instead, he is obsessed with immaculate hygiene to compensate for an out-of-control and messy childhood or past marriage.

Maybe your high-powered executive refuses to wear high heels so she can walk quickly every place she goes, but is actually fearful of who or what may be after her.

Don’t forget the eyes. There is truth that they are the windows to the soul. What color and shape are your character’s eyes? Are they adorned with wrinkles of age and wisdom, glassy and dull with despair, or bright and youthful with hope and anticipation? Maybe your character chooses to wear dark sunglasses. Hmm?

Wardrobe Switch
If becoming one character isn’t fun enough, we fiction writers get to trade out personas and switch to other characters—try on their pants, walk in their shoes, and wear their hat, so to speak. It’s quite a thrill to get to know others so well. And if you really want to get wild, take a whirl at writing in first person POV (point of view). But I’ll warn you, you may begin to look, feel, act, and believe that you actually are that person. Let’s just hope it isn’t the antagonist!

What ways do you get to know your characters inside and out? 

(Photos courtesy of Pexel and author.)


Jayme H. Mansfield is an author, artist, and educator—and feels a bit incomplete when she’s not juggling all three balls. Jayme H. Mansfield is an author, artist, and educator—and feels a bit incomplete when she’s not juggling all three balls. Her award-winning debut novel, Chasing the Butterfly, is a book club favorite and Amazon bestseller. Her new novel, RUSH, provides a tension-filled, moving tale of a pioneer woman’s determination to survive. The story is based on the life of Jayme's great-great grandmother.

Jayme lives in Lakewood, Colorado, where she and her husband have survived raising three hungry, hockey-playing sons. Currently, a very needy Golden Retriever runs the roost. When Jayme isn’t writing, she teaches art to children and adults at her long-time art studio, Piggy Toes.

Visit Jayme at and sign up for her entertaining newsletter about writing, art, and education.
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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Thankfully Called to Write

by Alycia Morales     @AlyciaMorales

November has descended upon us like fallen leaves piled high in a myriad of colors, and as the sun sets each night, I can't help but notice the golden hue beaming through the trees like liquid gold. I can't explain how it makes me feel other than to say I am reminded of God's goodness.

Once again, He has proven Himself faithful, even when I may have proven unfaithful for the zillionth time. Sometimes in life, I lack in stewarding my gifts and talents. At least I imagine I do. Did I write that novel like I promised I would? Did I succeed at what I put my hands to do? Did I do what God requested of me, or did I choose my own path through 2017? Or any other year, for that matter? These questions rise within me at this time of year, and I figure I'm not alone.

The year isn't over yet. Have you met your #writing goals? via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

Stewardship has been solid on my heart this year as I've struggled to walk in obedience to the things God has called me to do: write, make healthier eating/exercise choices, and get my finances in better order. I have a confession: I'm not sure I've been a great steward in any of these areas this year. But God. Despite my shortcomings, He is merciful. He is gracious. He is blessing. He is pouring out favor. And He is ever faithful.

And the year isn't over yet.

I've found some successes. Maybe I'm being too hard on myself. Maybe I've found the successes He hoped I would, and I set my own expectations too high. As a perfectionist, I aim to please, and I push myself beyond my personal, comfortable limits. High Achiever could be the title of my autobiography, if only I truly believed I met my own goals. Instead, I look back on my year and note what I didn't accomplish rather than all I did accomplish. And I momentarily forget the struggles I've faced in the past ten months as well. Life never goes as I plan it. And I remember grace. I remember I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to believe I haven't achieved anything I set my heart and mind to do. Because the truth is, I have achieved more than I thought I could or would. Because I don't walk this path alone. I walk it alongside Father, who holds my hand and guides me into His will.

And I have two more months to do even more. Because I am thankfully called to write. And it's November, which means I have thirty days to write the very rough and down and dirty draft of that novel that He's put in my heart. That I've pondered for two months, itching to put words on the screen, to replace the blinking cursor with the blessing of story. That I know I'm supposed to get out of the very depths of my soul, to breathe life into, and to eventually present to the world. And I am thankful that the calendar has turned a page and NaNoWriMo has begun. No more waiting. Let the writing begin.

And may I glorify the Father who has blessed me with the gifts and talents He poured into me when He formed me in my mother's womb. I pray the same for you as you look forward to the end of another year and what you have left to accomplish and look back on what you've done thus far. May God grace you with strength, determination, endurance, and the gift of time.