Monday, September 28, 2020

Time to Revise Your Manuscript

 By Henry McLaughlin


Writer, we’re coming toward the end of preparing our manuscript for submission or self-publishing. What now?

Revise—Again

It’s time to write the third draft. Or maybe yours is a higher number. Doesn’t matter how many drafts you make to get to this point. My award-winning novel, Journey to Riverbend, went through eight drafts before winning its award. And then it went through one more draft through the publisher.

The key to revising is recognizing, as Jerry B. Jenkins puts it, when all we’re doing is changing it, we’re not making it better. 

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for knowing when we’ve reached this point. The moment comes as a realization after prayer and working with others, we trust we’ve done the best we can. And we trust God to do the rest.

This revision is when we incorporate the comments and feedback from our beta readers into the manuscript.

Please don’t see this as merely tweaking. We enter this revision with a commitment to rewrite as much as we need to. This is where we kill any darlings that escaped the earlier drafts. We tighten our writing, cutting extraneous words—yes, we’ll still find them. And cutting or tightening scenes, chapters, characters, and anything else that hinders our story.

The first thing to do is read all the comments and answers from our beta readers. When we see criticism, we need to remember—we asked for it. They took the time and made the effort to help us. We need to respect that by giving close attention to their efforts. Identify areas where the beta readers agree on something. If two out of three of my readers tell me there’s a problem in a specific area, I fix it. If I’m still not sure, I may ask them to re-read such a section to clarify that I got it.

Helpful Resources

Self-editing is not something we do in a vacuum. We have critique groups and beta readers to help us. We also have the expertise of other authors and editors. There are conferences, workshops, and webinars.  

And there are books. The best things about books is they’re always available at our desk in print or e-book. I prefer print for highlighting and margin notes. And their batteries don’t give out when I need them most. 

Three I recommend are:

  • Revision and Self-Editing for Publication (2nd Edition) by James Scott Bell. Writer’s Digest, 2012. This book gives excellent tools and advice for taking our first draft to finished manuscript worthy of publishing.

  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers [2nd Edition) by Renni Browne and Dave King. Harper Collins, 2004. In this book two professional editors teach writers how to apply editing techniques to turn their manuscripts. A valuable resource that never seems dated.

  • Troubleshooting Your Novel by Steven James. Writer’s Digest, 2016. This book provides practical instruction that targets the problem areas and weak spots in our stories.

What other resources have you found helpful in self-editing your work?

After we complete this process, we’ve probably done all we can to prepare our manuscript. But I would argue we’re not done yet. In my next post, we’ll talk about hiring a professional editor. 


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


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Henry McLaughlin via @RiverBendSagas gives us tips on when and how to revise our manuscript. (Click to tweet.)


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.

Visit him at http://www.henrymclaughlin.org.



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Monday, September 14, 2020

The Secret to Being a Confident Christian Writer


By Emily Golus

In my nearly 20 years of participating in Christian writing conferences and critique groups, I’ve noticed two types of Christian writers:
  • Those for whom writing is a hobby, job, ministry, and/or passion.
  • Those for whom being a writer is the whole reason they exist.

    That second category may sound good. If that’s not dedication, what is? But in my observation, going “all-in” on being a writer—making it a key part of your identity—is a recipe for anxiety and personal crisis.

What Being a “Christian writer” Isn’t

A Christian may feel that God is calling him to be a writer, and that can be wonderful. But sometimes that vocational calling takes on a deceptive significance. Writing is no longer an activity this Christian does, but the essence of who he is—perhaps, in his mind, the very reason God created him.

And then when something an “all-in” writer creates gets a negative review, or a rejection letter, or is simply ignored—she’ll be more than disappointed. She’ll be shaken to her very core.

How could God allow this? Does she not have enough faith? What justification does she have to exist if she failed at the one thing that makes her life count?

When Your Writing Doesn’t Actually Matter

Let me share the truth that ended my own spiral of anxiety and doubt:

Your writing can be meaningful to others, 
but your writing does not give YOU meaning. 
Only Jesus can do that.

Listen, Christ didn’t die for you because you had the potential to be a great writer. He did it because He is kind (Ephesians 2:7-9). He wanted YOU, even in your flaws. You have nothing to offer back—not on that divine scale—that makes you a strategic choice for His kingdom (1 Corinthians 1:26-30).

You matter because the God of the universe loves you. He is so delighted about your rescue that He sings over you (Zephaniah 3:17). You matter to Him, end of story. There’s nothing you can do to add onto that.

Let the power of that roll over you like ocean waves. Let its peace sink into your bones.

What It Really Means to be a Christian Writer

Now, with that in mind, do you want to write? Great! You can be a Christian—with all that security and peace in place—who also enjoys the writing process.

And here’s the paradox: When you don’t take your writing so seriously—when your self-worth doesn’t ride on it—you become a better writer. The stakes are lower, and suddenly you’re free to be more daring and creative.

Experiment. Try hard things. Learn from negative feedback. If you fail, shake it off and try again.

If you enjoy the creative journey, that itself is a bonus gift from God. If you end up having success—hey, another bonus. If not, there’s nothing to be worried about, because your performance as a writer doesn’t change your significance one bit.

You’re free, writing friends. Enjoy the adventure.

(Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels and Stuart Miles from FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

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Emily Golus has been dreaming up fantasy worlds since before she could write her name. A New England transplant now living in the Deep South, she is fascinated by culture and the way it shapes how individuals see the world. Golus aims to create stories that engage, inspire, and reassure readers that the small choices of everyday life matter.

Her first novel, Escape to Vindor, debuted in 2017 and won the Selah Award for young adult fiction. Its sequel, Mists of Paracosmia, released in April 2019.

Golus lives in Upstate South Carolina with her woodworking husband, an awkward cat, and the world's most talkative toddler.

You can keep up with Vindor news at WorldofVindor.com and EmilyGolusBooks.com, or find her on Instagram as WorldOfVindor.

Monday, September 7, 2020

What Might Have Been


By Andrea Merrell

Sometimes I wonder where I would be today if I had ignored the words of someone who told me over twenty years ago that it was time to “get to writing.” Or if I had failed to make that all-important phone call ten years later to someone who gave me great advice about my writing journey. A woman who would become a mentor and a good friend.

What would have happened had I not submitted that first devotion? Would I have had the courage to submit my first article and then a short story? What if I had been too afraid to pitch my first book or attend my first critique group and writing conference?

The what ifs are endless, but so are the possibilities.

When God gives us gifts, we should never be afraid or reluctant to use them. In fact, the Bible says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10 NIV). One writer says, “When God gives you a gift, He give you the grace, guts, and grit to use it.” But even though He equips us, we have to step out in faith and do the work.

What is it you’re struggling with? Fill in the blanks:

  • I want to go to a writers’ conference but________________
  • I’m ready to submit my proposal but ___________________
  • I know I need an agent but _______________________________
  • She asked to see my first three chapters but ___________
  • There’s a contest I would love to enter but _____________
  • I’ve been thinking about blogging but ___________________

Whatever God has put in your heart, go for it. Will everything you try work out? Probably not. But that’s how you learn and grow. You can’t reap a harvest without first sowing the seed.

Don’t wait for the perfect time or the perfect opportunity. Take the opportunities that come your way. You never know what God might have in store just for you.

As John Greenleaf Whittier said, “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: it might have been.”


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


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