Monday, February 18, 2019

Five Things You Might Not Expect from a Writers' Conference


By Andrea Merrell

Writers’ conferences are essential in the life of a writer. Those of you have been writing for a while know this for a fact. We save our money and set aside the time to go and learn from the best. We expect to expand our knowledge, get inspired, network with other writers, and hopefully land an agent or contract. But here are a few things we might not expect.

New Friends
Over the past ten years, I have met many wonderful people at conferences. Little did I know in the beginning that some of those people would become dear friends. Many times, a conference will feel more like a family reunion.

Critique Partners

As important as conferences are to the life of a writer, so are good critique partners. If you don’t have a group in your area, this is a great place to forge relationships and create the support you need. You might meet people in your area who can meet on a regular basis, or you might form an online group. The important thing is to get involved.

Prayer Partners

God never ceases to amaze me at the way He knits hearts together. He has given me a wonderful group of prayer warriors who go to bat for me whenever I need it.


A New Perspective

Sometimes we go to a conference with a certain mindset, while God has a different plan. Proverbs 16:9 says A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. If you’re a novelist, He may inspire you to write heartfelt devotions. Or if you write nonfiction only, He may give you the idea for a great fictional story. You might be the shy person sitting on the back row whom God calls to a speaking ministry. You never know what God might do in your life when you’re open to His leading.

Unexpected Writing Opportunities

Networking is one of the most exciting things about a conference. You are there with like-minded people who “get you.” As you interact, you never know the seeds that are being planted. They might sprout immediately ... or show up years down the road. 

Last year at my first ACFW conference, I was seated next to an amazing woman who does a blog on fear. As we chatted, she invited me to do a guest post for her blog. Several years ago, when I was on the faculty of a conference in another state, I met a lady who was just getting started on her writing journey. She kept my card and contacted me three years later to write a few guest posts for her blog. As a result of teaching at a conference six years ago, I was recently contacted by a very sweet lady and asked to edit her book. Once at a table during a meal, I was asked to speak at the National Speakers Association because someone had cancelled at the last minute. Who knows, someone might invite you to do a radio interview or speak at their church.

Whatever you do—before, during, and after a conference—be ready. Whenever you ask God to bless you and open doors of opportunity, He will. The best way to begin each day is to pray for divine appointments, divine connections, and divine favor.

What about you? What unexpected blessings have found you at a conference? We would love to hear from you.

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.)



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Monday, February 11, 2019

Glimpsing God in the Frustrations of the Writer’s Life


By Lori Hatcher @LoriHatcher2

Do you ever wonder what in the world God is doing in this crazy writing life?

God, why did I work so hard on that article only to have it
rejected?

God, why was that piece chosen, but the one I really love not selected?

God, why did I spend nine months of my life on that project, only to have it sit in my computer going nowhere and reaching no one?

God, why do you fill my head with ideas to write about and wake me up in the middle of the night, then don’t grow my blog as quickly as I’d hoped?

God, if I’m obeying your call to write, why is it so hard?

God, what are you doing in this crazy writing life of mine????

If you can relate to any of these questions, there’s hope. Hope that comes, of all places, from the book of Job.

Imagine that.

God is laughing already.

Who would think that a man who had lost ten children in a tragic accident, went from millionaire to pauper in a day, and was married to a cruel, faithless woman would have any hope to offer? But in God’s upside down economy, it’s not surprising at all.

My latest devotional, Refresh Your Faith (due out in the spring of 2020 with Discovery House) spotlights uncommon verses buried in every book of the Bible. Job 26:14 is one of them. In the twenty-sixth chapter of the book that bears his name, he rehearses for his “miserable comforters” the might, power, and majesty of God.

“He hangs the earth on nothing,” he says. “He binds up the water in His thick clouds . . . He stirs up the sea with His power . . . By His Spirit He adorned the heavens . . . "(v. 7-13).

Then he concludes with this awe-struck realization: “Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, And how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?"

The mere edges of his ways.

I grew up on the rocky shores of Narragansett Bay in Bristol, Rhode Island. I’d often sit at the shoreline, walk in the shallows, or swim out until my feet barely touched the bottom. Because I had lived around the sea all my life, I thought I knew it well.

Then one day I boarded a ship that took me hundreds of miles off shore, where the water stretched from horizon to horizon and the ocean floor lay miles beneath me. Only then did I begin to understand the true nature of the ocean. Before that, I had experienced the mere edges – and how small a whisper they had been.

After pointing out our nearsighted perspective, Job lifts the fog on the ocean of God’s ways: “But the thunder of his power, who can understand?”

Paul, in First Corinthians, says it like this: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (2:9). And, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror” (13:12).

As Christian writers bound to the earth by our mortality, we glimpse only the mere edges of His ways. And hear only small whispers of Him.

But one day we’ll sail out into the vast expanse of no-time life. We’ll hear the clarion call of His mighty voice. We’ll witness the thunder of His power. And we will understand.

Every word typed in obedience to Him? Seed for the harvest.

Every hour spent hunched over a keyboard? Sandpaper smoothing the edges.

Every late night and early morning session? A fragrant offering.

Every pitch and proposal sent out for His glory? Stepping stones on the journey.

Job can speak into our angst and impatience because he, too, was a frustrated author. He shared our desire to see our words published. He, too, wanted others to benefit from the insight he had received. “I wish that my words were recorded and inscribed in a book,” he lamented in Job 19:23.

I’m not sure what steps his publishing journey included (I suspect it contained a Ghost writer), but I know none of his experiences or his words were wasted. Even today, thousands of years later, God still uses his insight to encourage us along the way.

Perhaps, one day, God will use our words to do the same.

“God is not unjust,” the writer of Hebrews promises, “He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them” (Heb. 6:10).

Now it’s your turn. What verse encourages you when you feel discouraged? Leave a comment and encourage us all.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Stuart Miles, and tiramisustudio.)


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Lori Hatcher is the editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine and the author of several devotional books. Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women won the 2016 Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year award. Her most recent book, Refresh Your Faith – Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible is due out in early 2020. A blogger, writing instructor, and inspirational speaker, her goal is to help women connect with God in the craziness of life You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time . Connect with her on FacebookTwitter (@LoriHatcher2), or Pinterest (Hungry for God).


Monday, February 4, 2019

Where Do You Find Inspiration to Write?

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

Inspiration comes from many different places in our lives. Typically we think in generalized terms when we consider finding inspiration for our writing. We can go to Pinterest and scan the boards. We can take a walk in the woods and be inspired by a sunrise. Someone in our lives may have impacted us in a way that inspires us to do something great. But these are all general places we find things to inspire our writing.

Today, I'd like you to take out a piece of paper or pull up the notes app on your phone. Answer the following questions:

1. You've spent a sick day in bed (like I just did). What movie marathon are you watching? Or are you binge watching a series on Netflix? Why? What about that movie or series inspires you? Is it the characters? Plot? Setting? Does it thrill you? Encourage you? Challenge you? Bring peace? Dig deeper into why it inspires you and write that down.

2. You're writing the story of your life. What is the soundtrack? Most of us have songs or even entire albums that relate to moments in our lives. Think back to your childhood. What song did your parents sing when it came on the radio? My mom says I knew all the lyrics to ABBA and Captain and Tennille songs by the time I was two. We spent a lot of time in my early teen years traveling back and forth to my grandparents as their health failed. Four hours in the car meant Air Supply, the Top Gun soundtrack, and John Denver. I eventually tuned out and put Madonna in my Walkman. What about your first dance? First kiss? Wedding song? Write down your soundtrack. Take it a step farther and create a playlist on YouTube.

3. Go to your favorite place in your mind. What's it like? How would you describe it to someone else? Use the five senses. Write down what you see, hear, smell. What would you eat or drink there? What do the surfaces feel like? What do you love about that place? What's the one thing you would change about it if you could? Come on, everywhere we go, we can find one thing we'd like to change in order to make it more perfect than it already is.

4. This one has to do with characterization, and neither is going to be easy. Think about your best friend. Now, turn him or her into your worst enemy. But keep some of their positive traits. Because the best villains always have something we can sympathize with about them. Now, consider your biggest rival (we all had them in high school...). What did you dislike so much? Turn that person into your best friend (in high school). What would you have changed about them if you had the ability to do so? Remember, when we're writing, we're creating characters just as God created us. We give them their traits and make them who they are.

5. If you could change one thing in this world, what would it be? How would you rid the world of evil, cure a disease, put an end to abortion? What would your character do to do the same in his or her world? How would he or she inspire others around them to see things from their perspective? Does it have to do with their past? Their testimony? Expound for a few minutes.

Maybe you answered all of these. Maybe you chose one. Or two. The point is to really consider what inspires you in life. And then transfer that into your storytelling, whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction. At the base of our desire to write is usually a desire to inspire others with our words. By really looking at what inspires us, we are able to then translate that into our writing.

Share with us in the comments. Which of these activities did you choose and why? What inspires you?

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Where Do You Find Inspiration to Write? @AlyciaMorales has 5 prompts. {Click to Tweet}

Monday, January 28, 2019

Three Ways for Writers to Grow a Thick Skin


This week's post is by writer and editor Yolanda Smith. We are excited to have her join the Write Editing team.


By Yolanda Smith

Recently, a client of mine sent a few short pieces for edit work. In her email she said, “I am pretty thick-skinned and appreciate your honest feedback, corrections, and edits.” The most successful writers I know have this trait in common: they’ve developed a thick skin.

Perhaps you were born with a steely personality, but if that isn’t you, here are three practices that will help you form a thick skin:

Separate Yourself from Your Work

You are not your work. Your writing is an extension of you, much like a limb or digit. If one of your appendages were severed—God forbid—it wouldn’t fundamentally change who you are. Writing is personal, and part of our essence leaks into our work, but after we’ve sweated and bled all over the page, our core self remains intact.

A tough critique is not a slam on your personality. It’s an opportunity to learn how to maneuver through criticism, deciding what to use and what to reject. Learn to wield objective analyzation like a skilled swordsman, slicing away input that doesn’t work for you, and keeping the voices that ring true.

Carry Determination in Your Back Pocket

Hold your manuscript loosely, but don’t lose sight of your end goals. Bulldog tenacity is a necessary component of a successful writing career. Fiery determination—and a bucket full of prayer—will carry you beyond hurtful situations. Be aware difficult and dark moments will worm their way into your creative life, but set your eyes on the prize and don’t let go for any reason other than a divine change of direction. Sometimes I write myself a reminder before submitting a piece of work and put it in a prominent place where I can see it when I receive a response: Remember, this acceptance or rejection will not make or break you. You may cheer or you may cry, but both are momentary reactions. Take a few breaths to enjoy your celebration or wallow in your sorrow, then get back to work.

Get a Second Opinion

And sometimes a third and fourth. Early in my current manuscript I worked with a writing coach. She’s a best-selling author and award-winning editor. In other words, she knows her stuff. My novel is historical Appalachian fiction and as such contains dialect peculiar to mountain folk. I took a chapter to a critique group where a few well-meaning writers advised me to scale back the hillbilly idioms. I followed their suggestions. When I sent my next round of chapters to my coach, she asked what had happened to my writing voice. I lost it by following the recommendation of writers barely ahead of me in their craft. I gave too much weight to their assessment and was thankful to get another opinion that felt more authentic to my story line.

Here’s a bonus element for gaining the tough hide necessary to persevere in your writing life: submissions. Submit anywhere and everywhere you can, thereby opening yourself to criticism. You’re bound to find plenty of opportunities to grow beyond the pain, and your thick skin will layer at a solid rate, I promise.

Have you developed a thick skin as a writer? If so, we'd love to hear your suggestions.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Michelle Meiklejohn, and Stuart Miles.)



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Yolanda Smith enjoys life in the foothills of North Carolina. In a “Yours, Mine & Ours” spin, she and her husband are parents to a combined total of twelve children and grandparents to a growing number of littles. Yolanda serves on her church’s worship team, works as a freelance editor, is a guest speaker at various churches, and writes in the cracks of life. She is currently working on her first novel featuring historical Appalachian fiction. A former member of a legalistic, cultish church, Yolanda is passionate about helping people find freedom in Christ. She is also enthusiastic about reading good books and correcting bad grammar.


You can find Yolanda on the Internet at:





Monday, January 21, 2019

Writing is a Process, Not an Event


By Andrea Merrell

When I attended my first writers’ conference over ten years ago, I was certain my book was ready for publication. It was great. That’s what my family said, along with folks at church. Boy, were they wrong. And so was I. There was much to learn.

Thus, began my journey.

It took a year before my first devotion was published on www.ChristianDevotions.us, then several more years before my first nonfiction book was published, with two more to follow. In the meantime, I attended conferences and became a faithful member of a local critique group. I studied, took classes, read books on the craft, and built relationships with other writers and professionals in the industry.

There were pitfalls along the way—too many to mention—but I kept plugging along. My journey reminds me of a lively game of Candyland with my six-year-old granddaughter. She was almost to the finish line when she chose a card that sent her back to the beginning. “But I don’t wanna go back,” she whined.

That’s how I felt when I had to go back and make serious revisions to my novel. But no matter how many times I said “I don’t wanna,” it was necessary. It was part of the learning and growing process.

Sometimes the writing life feels like two steps forward, then three back. But when you have the heart of a writer—and you know that’s what God has called you to do—you keep on going no matter what. 

We must always keep our eye on the goal, but the key to true success and fulfillment is to learn to enjoy the journey. That means not allowing ourselves to stay stressed out and uptight when things don’t go exactly as we planned or in the time we expected. One writer says that “many of us look like we’re walking a tightrope  instead of a pathway of peace.”

That being said, if you’re called to be a writer, enjoy every moment of where you are on the way to where you’re going. This is important in God’s kingdom, because the destination He has in mind may be very different from the one we envision. We can waste precious now moments trying to rush into the future, ignoring or overlooking the blessings and opportunities that are given to us today.

Here are some wise words for 2019 from Chris Tiegreen: "No matter how stuck you feel at any given moment in life, God has opportunities planned for your future. That’s his nature. Approach this year as a year of open doors. You have complete freedom in God’s kingdom to do that, not because he follows the calendar but because he is always the God of open doors. (He does shut doors sometimes, but always in order to open another one sooner or later to put us in the right direction.) Live with expectancy that wherever you are now and whatever you’ve been through, this will be a year of experiencing his unfolding plans. He loves that kind of faith; it recognizes his goodness and honors his ways."

Remember, winning that contest or getting a contract is not the ultimate goal. It’s only a part of our development.

Whether you’re a newbie or have been writing for years, writing is a process, not an event. We all have much to learn, especially with an ever-changing industry.  But never get discouraged over how far you have to go. Look at each step forward and celebrate every success.

How do you navigate your writing journey? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Stuart Miles, and Master Isolated Images.)

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Monday, January 14, 2019

The Blessings of Being a Writer


By Henry McLaughlin

Yes, Virginia, there are blessings to being a writer. And it goes beyond multi-book deals, beyond making the bestseller list, beyond movie deals. Few writers attain these lofty heights.

But all writers can experience the blessings of being a writer:


Learning
And not just learning a new skill such as the craft of writing. Though this is crucial. It’s also learning about who we are as individuals. It’s learning patience and determination and perseverance. It’s learning to constructively receive feedback, especially when it’s not what we want to hear. Writing has revealed parts of me I hadn’t seen before. Some of them make me feel pretty good about myself. Others not so much. But incorporating these lessons has made me not only a better writer, but also a better person.

Community
The act of writing is usually done alone, but it does not occur in a vacuum. As we strive and struggle in the craft, we meet and form relationships with a myriad of people who share this journey with us. Non-writers can’t relate to this as well as writers can. It’s like we have a non-verbal language for communicating with each other. These relationships can become deep and meaningful friendships with people who “get us.” People who share our frustrations, our rejections, and our successes. I value my close writer friends who refuse to let me wallow in my self-pity at my self-perceived lack of success. They pray with me, challenge me, and won’t let me quit.

Readers
Whether we write fiction or nonfiction, blogs, articles, or newsletters, we touch readers. And we may never know who we touch or in what way. Some readers have thanked me because my novels brought them closer to God. Others thank me for creating characters who give them hope that they too can change their circumstances.

The call
Many writers will say they are called to write. And not just writers in the Christian market. Writing fulfills a deep purpose in our lives, deeper than just working to put food on the table. For many, writing is more than a job. I know God has called me to write for this season of my life. So I write. I pray over ideas and manuscripts. I pray over characters and plots. I get to paint pictures with words, not a brush. I get to use words to reveal Jesus to my readers through the characters who tell my stories. I need to respect his calling and honor it through what I write and how I write it.

What blessings has being a writer brought you?

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.) 

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Tagged as “one to watch” by Publishers Weekly, award-winning author Henry McLaughlin takes his readers on adventures into the hearts and souls of his characters as they battle inner conflicts while seeking to bring restoration and justice in a dark world. His writing explores these themes of restoration, reconciliation and redemption.


Besides his writing, Henry treasures working with other writers and helping them on their own writing journeys. He is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. He regularly teaches at conferences and workshops, leads writing groups, edits, and mentors and coaches.

Follow him on Facebook.