Monday, March 29, 2021

A Writer’s Journey

 By Tim Sudduth

Finally, spring has arrived. To me, winter is the hardest season of the year. Between the cold, the dreary skies, and the ultra-short days, the energizer bunny in me has a tough time making it through the day. I seem to be able to do so much when the sun doesn’t go down before the six-o’clock news.

With the decrease in energy, I also have a harder time keeping a positive outlook. With the gray skies of winter comes a gray blah over life. A good snowfall helps, but here in the South, we know that only brings with it slush and icy roads. Ho-hum and bah humbug.

Because of this, I think it makes much more sense to make any annual resolutions in the spring instead of at New Years. Not only do I have more energy and a brighter outlook, but spring also represents new life and new beginnings. To the gardener in me, this is amplified by all the new leaves and blooms that pop out everywhere around my house seemingly overnight. The flowers and new neon-green leaves just make everything a little brighter.

Whether you already did this at New Years or not, I challenge you to take a new look at where you are in your writing life. Is this where you want to be or is there something you need to do to take the next step?

Actually, I think we should continually be doing this throughout the year. In Ephesians, Solomon wrote about how we will encounter different seasons in each of our lives. It doesn’t mean that we will all go through the same things, but it does mean that things change. Whatever is challenging you today will change given time.

A child must first learn how to crawl, then how to walk. Much later maybe how to walk with a cane, then a walker. Learning the alphabet and multiplication tables changes to whether to use a semicolon or leave a tip. Dating, parenting—well, you get the point.

No matter where you are in your writing journey, there are always challenges to face and lessons to be learned. If you are like me, first, I’m sorry. Second, although I wish I could fast forward through the tough, boring times in my life and get to the good stuff, often it is in those tough times that we learn the most lessons. Some truths can only be learned in the heat of the battle.

Even though these lessons are hard, they are important. And we need to take our time and make sure we learn them. That brings us to a tough catch-22. We don’t need to hurry out of the trial too soon, but neither do we want to dwell in it. And we can’t judge for ourselves how well we are doing.

We often don’t know when we’re ready.

(Well, Tim. That doesn’t help.)

The best thing about our journey—whether it’s writing, a career, a relationship, or life—is that we don’t travel alone. The One who designed and equipped us is also walking along with us. He knows when we’re ready.

Our job is to constantly be making sure we are walking with Him. And we can do that through prayer and seeking His will. I’ll admit, a lot of times I feel like I’m floating in the middle of the sea, alone, and waving my hand, saying, “Yoo-hoo, Abba. I’m over here.”

But remember Who is God and who is the creation. The feeling of being adrift from God is normal. Just because you don’t see or feel Him, doesn’t mean He’s not in the boat.

When you feel like your prayers aren’t even reaching the ceiling remember, they don’t have to. They only have reach to your heart.

There are two ways you should NOT use to determine if you need to make a change.

  • Don’t look at the calendar. I am struggling with that now. I have some finished manuscripts that are just sitting around, and I want to get them published. I know that I only want them out when they are ready, but when another year passes, yikes.
  • God doesn’t go by our timeline. (Maybe we should buy Him a watch?) And if you aren’t finished writing your book or whatever your goal is, by a certain age, so what. Are you where God wants you to be as best as you can determine? Are you seeking His will? Again, He is God. He has the wisdom and power we need to continue on this journey. And He understands that we don’t.

Don’t look at others. Everyone else in your writing group may have published several articles or books, and you feel left behind. Another writer’s sales may be eclipsing yours, but you know your characters are better. But none of that matters. Each of our journeys is unique. And maybe God has a lesson He is still teaching you. And He is smart enough, and kind enough, not to rush.

All of this boils down to the poem about the two sets of footprints in the sand. One set is yours, and one set is God’s. And the times when only one set is visible are those times when He is carrying you.

Think about what an awesome and mind-blowing gift we have that the Holy God of the universe has decided that He wants to take me, you, on this journey with Him. How long will it last or where are we going, we don’t know. We do know that since it is with Him, it will be more awesome than anything we could ever imagine.


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


TWEETABLE

No matter where you are on your writing journey, if you are writing for the Lord, you are never alone. via @TimSuddeth (Click to tweet.)



Tim Suddeth is a regular attendee of The Blue Ridge Mountains Writers Conference and a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He’s currently working on his fifth novel. He has a monthly post on The Write Conversation and is trying to make a dent in his to-read bookcases. You can follow him at on his blog at www.timingreenville.com or on Twitter @TimSuddeth. 

 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Writer, Don't Forget To Listen

 By Ann Tatlock

 

Your laptop is updated with the newest writing software, and the cursor is blinking. You’ve attended online writing seminars, tuned in to podcasts for aspiring writers, and traveled the vast circuit of writing blogs. You’ve got your characters situated on the stage of your mind and you have a pretty good idea of how you’re going to start their story and how it’s going to end.

 

So you’re ready for Chapter 1, right? Maybe, but let me add one more item to your Preparation Checklist: Listen!

 

Have you listened to your story? Have you spent time listening to what your characters are telling you about themselves: who they are, what they want, what they intend to do?

 

People think it’s strange when I say my characters speak to me, but it’s a good thing they do. They invariably make the story better when I look to them for the unfolding of the tale.

 

For instance, in my first novel A Room of My Own, my plan was to have the main character’s father die from his injuries at the end. But Papa insisted that he had no intention of dying, and he promised a better outcome to the story if I let him live. We debated it for a time, but I relented and discovered he was right. I loved that the book had a happier ending, and I’m sure my readers did too.

 

This is simply imagination at work. The gift of imagination is a mysterious thing, and I can’t really explain how it works; I only know that it does. If we let it. If we are willing to be patient, give it time, submit our own thoughts to it so that the voice of creativity can be heard above our own.

 

So how do we listen to our characters? It isn’t easy in a world in which news and information, emails, social media posts, and phone calls are coming at us like one loud chattering tsunami. We have to consciously take time away from all that, first of all, and second, we have to make an effort to quiet our own minds.

 

It’s almost like Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.” Be still. Quiet yourself. Listen. God speaks in the stillness. So do our characters. And I have a feeling that’s not by coincidence. After all, God’s Holy Spirit is our Muse, our inspiration. He guides us in our writing by igniting our imagination, His gift to us to be used for His glory.

 

My characters speak to me while I am taking my afternoon walk, making the bed, washing the dishes, listening to classical music. They speak to me when I am falling asleep, or in those moments when I’m waking up. Often they speak when I am reading the works of other authors who know how to listen to their imagination.

 

Creativity can’t be forced. Good literature can’t be rushed. We can’t simply churn out good books by forcing our characters to do what we want them to do so we can meet our deadline.

 

So I’ll say it again: Be still. Quiet yourself. Listen. Listen to your characters as they walk out the story of their lives with you. To me, this is the most important ingredient of good literature. Nothing will create a more beautiful story than the voices of your own imagination.

 

 (Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and stockimages.)


TWEETABLE

One of the most important ingredients of good literature is listening to our characters and the voices of our own imagination. via @AnnTatlock (Click to tweet.)

 

 


 

Ann Tatlock is a novelist, children’s book author, and editor. Her newest novel, The Name of the Stars, was published in October 2020 by New Hope Publishers. She founded and is former  managing editor of Heritage Beacon, the historical fiction imprint of LPC/Iron Stream Media. Ann and her family live in Raleigh, North Carolina. Please visit her website at www.anntatlock.com.

 

 

 

Monday, March 15, 2021

That’s It! I Am Done as a Writer!

 By Linda Glaz

 

 

I'm done!

Yes, that’s definitely what most folks say, often in less than a year. I’ve heard it many times before, and I’ll hear it again. Why bother? I can’t write. 

My brother, who I adored and who was a brilliant writer, was one of them. Back in the Sixties after writing a wonderful short suspense, he sent off ONE query to a publisher who passed on the project. ONE rejection. The story was filed away and that was the end of what could have been a truly gifted writing career. No one ever read it but the family and one publisher.

 

What makes writers give up? Don’t they know THE SECRET?

 

There is no one story that will please everyone. It takes the right story at the right moment to the right publisher. Period. Any other combination results in a rejection. Now, in all seriousness, we’re talking about stories that have been polished to the nines, have complex characters with plots to fool even the best readers. So we aren’t comparing apples and oranges here. We are assuming the writer has learned the craft, written a compelling story, has passed it through numerous critique partners, and possibly a professional editor. Not someone who simply sat down, dashed off a novel in a month, and expected everyone to fall all over themselves to publish it. We are being realistic.

 

Writing a novel takes work. A lot of very hard work. How does a new writer learn all of these things? They soak up every blog written by agents and publishers. They work with critique partners. They attend conferences. Too pricey? Not always. Many are online this year at reduced fees, and many others are in the reasonable category all the time. I know of one that is $99 regularly. They offer shared rooms for $30 each. Is that affordable enough for most folks? Of course. And the two days are packed with information from industry professionals. There are those conferences that are much costlier, but in the end, the takeaway is worth every penny. Plus, most of the conferences offer scholarships to serious writers with a need. If not a conference, then what? Online classes and courses offered free with most organization’s registration fees. One fee for a year with classes for Basic through Advanced writers. You literally can’t go wrong.

 

Agents and editors receive thousands of submissions each year, and only a handful of those writers have done their homework. Even those with great books often fail to read the agency site’s requirements, so they send out a query that is obviously not a good fit. What do we sit up and take notice of? A well-written query attached to a proposal for the kinds of books that we handle. That says professional writer all over the page. Most agencies will post exactly what they want: query or proposal, and for what genre.

 

Will the writer, doing everything correctly, still be rejected? Yes, they often will. Sometimes the story itself just isn’t a good fit. For example in nonfiction, it might be a memoir. And for one agent or editor, memoirs might not be selling for him or her. So even though the writing is solid, it gets a pass … at this time.

 

“If the writing’s great, and I’ve done my homework, and I’m still rejected, why keep trying?”

 

The prize goes to the one who never falters. Who continues to write more stories even while being rejected. Who shops their stories around without giving up. NEVER giving up. Agent Jane Doe might not take the story today, but might be willing to look in a few months when she expects suspense to be hot once again. Or historic, or contemporary, or any other genre that she might not be selling at the moment. And yes, I’ve signed folks who did rewrites, who returned, who never gave up.

 

THE SECRET?

 

One word: P-E-R-S-E-V-E-R-A-N-C-E. Let that be your mantra until you find your way to publication.


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



TWEETABLE

Don't give up, and don't quit. Let P-E-R-S-E-V-E-R-A-N-C-E be your mantra until you find your way to publication. via @LindaGlaz (Click to tweet.)



Linda S. Glaz, married with three grown children and four grandchildren, is a complete triple-A personality. How else would she find time to write as well as be an agent for Hartline Literary Agency? She loves any and everything about the written word and loves when families pass stories along through the generations as her mother did with her. She’s a speaker, presenter, and searches her emails each day to find that one nugget of gold. Writing so stellar from a teachable spirit. What more could she ask for?

 





Monday, March 8, 2021

How To Support Fellow Writers

 By Cathy Baker

 

It’s easy to become consumed with our own list of to-dos as writers. There are platforms to build, blog posts to write, books to edit, and caffeine to pour. If we’re not looking out for ourselves, who is?

 

Truth is, we’re to be looking out for each other. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3 ESV.)

 

Below are practical but powerful ideas for putting this truth into practice:

 

  • Choose 1-3 authors each week or month and share their promotions. It’s as easy as a simple click.

  • Leave a book review on Amazon and Goodreads.

  • Private message and offer words of encouragement.

  • See fellow writers as collaborators, not competitors.

  • Follow them on Amazon.

  • Subscribe to their podcast and leave a review.

  • Subscribe to their blog and encourage others to do the same.

  • Mark their book as one you “want to read” in Goodreads.

  • Meet up with them at writers’ conferences.

 

Praying for another writer’s work to be blessed is the most powerful, selfless, and loving gift we can offer for God’s ultimate glory.

 

“Our” Prayer prompts:

 

  • Search our heart, O Lord. Do selfish motivations hide behind good intentions? Is our deepest desire to have Your message shared – whether by us or another? Flesh pinches the tenderest of places, tempting us to put the spotlight on our name, our brand, and ourselves.

  • Help us to find our validation in You alone, not an agent, publisher, or contract. None were created to fill this role. 

  • Keep our priorities properly aligned. What do we gain if our name is on the cover of a book but we no longer find it written on the hearts of those we love?

  • Infuse our writing with words, sentences, and paragraphs that sing for Your glory alone.  

  • Help us do our best, and release the results to You. Some are called to plant, and some to water, but God alone brings the growth, landing our work in the places of His choosing. We don’t need to manipulate, beg, or sulk. Help us to embrace and rest in truth—that You are for us, not against us, even when we cannot see, hear, or feel You at work.
 

 

So, what’s one way you plan to support a fellow writer this week?

 

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

 

 TWEETABLE

Cathy Baker gives us practical ideas for supporting our fellow writers. (Click to tweet.)

 

Cathy Baker is an award-winning writer and author of Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Beach as well as Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Mountains. Cathy is a Hope*Writer, a member of the Advanced Writer and Speaker Association, and Bible teacher who has taught numerous studies and workshops over the past twenty-five years. Her work has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Upper Room, and Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family. She and her husband, Brian, live in the Blue Ridge Foothills where she writes from a space lovingly known as the Tiny House on the Hill. Connect with Cathy @ Creative Pauses from the Tiny House on the Hill @ https://www.cathybaker.org, or visit her Facebook Group, Creative Pauses

 


 

 


 


Monday, March 1, 2021

Evergreen Writing

By Vie Herlocker

 

Evergreen: Relevant and Fresh

Bloggers and web content writers know that “writing evergreen” helps raise their search engine ratings and pull readers to their site. Like a cedar that stays fresh all year, evergreen writing feels like it was just written, even when it’s months or years old. Evergreen topics are always current as opposed to news articles that come and go. You’ve no doubt noticed the rack magazines at the grocery stores are nearly predictable with self-help and how-to stories. That’s evergreen.

Blogs and articles are considered evergreen when they:

  • are not tied to a particular time and
  • remain relevant to the reader over an extended period.

But what if you are writing a nonfiction book—or a memoir? By writing evergreen, you can keep your book relevant over time—and drive readers to purchase it long after it’s published. Years before the web became a platform for writers, one of my mentors, Cec Murphey, taught me a simple secret for making dated information evergreen: use description that will continue to be true, no matter when the text is read.

Let’s look at these three examples of dated text I found in books I’ve edited—and the simple fixes:

  • In a book about the Boy Scout Oath and Law, which released the year of BSA’s one-hundredth anniversary, the author made several references to one hundred years ago. But that reference would be outdated the second year the book was out. By simply changing those one-hundred-year references to the actual date, 1910, that Baden Powell started Boy Scouts in America, the content moved from dated to evergreen.

  • In a memoir, an author had this sentence on his back cover draft: “Twenty-five years ago, Chris Harvey paused from studying for final exams to talk to his college housemate. Gunshots interrupted their conversation…” Well, Chris is still selling his book as he speaks to groups about being shot in the head and instantly blinded for life. But the “twenty-five years ago” referred to 1980, not twenty-five years subtracted from the current year. By simply adding the year, “In 1980, Chris Harvey…” we move to evergreen.

  • In another manuscript, the author beautifully related a God-lesson from a nature walk. The draft referred to “when I took my walk yesterday.” While this was an accurate statement when she wrote it, by simply rewording, “One day as I walked,” the material moves to evergreen.

Are there ever situations appropriate to include a current time or age in a book? Possibly, but often you’ll see a qualifier, like “at the time I am writing this…” Instead, an evergreen writer might state “when Johnnie was six” rather than, “my six-year-old.”

What about fiction? I recently found an avoidable evergreen mistake of a different sort in a middle grade mystery. The book was a contemporary story for readers in third to fifth grades. But the self-publishing, first time author had the characters playing with toys that were popular when the author’s grown children were in elementary school. Unless you are writing a period story, stay away from fads—immediately, this mystery (which was well written) pulled me out of the story with a reference that the intended audience would not relate to. Even if this book had been published in the 1990s, by using generic toy references, that book would be as fresh today as ever.

Happy writing! Have you seen anything in books that dates them? I’d love to read your examples in the comments.


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


TWEETABLE

What is evergreen writing? Learn the basics from Vie Herlocker. (Click to tweet.)


 

Vie Herlocker is associate editor for Surry Living Magazine, Mt. Airy, NC. Her experience includes editing for a small, traditional Christian publisher and reviewing for Blue Ink Reviews. She is a member of Christian Editor Connection, Christian PEN, ACFW, ACW, and WordWeavers.