Friday, August 18, 2017

Facing Paralyzing Fear by Dawn Kinzer

Dawn Kinzer

Facing Paralyzing Fear

I know a young woman who has a beautiful voice. She loves to sing. In the car, around the house, during worship . . . She’s an extrovert who doesn’t fear meeting new people—or speaking to a crowd.

But this same woman would never sing in front of a small group of people, let alone a large one.

Do you want to know why?

When she was a little girl she was given a solo to sing during the Christmas production at a large church. The evening of the program, the worship center filled with close to a thousand people. She’d been excited for weeks to play the role of Mary and sing the lullaby, but while kids got into costume, many of them asked if she felt nervous. When the time came for her to sing, she was terrified. With the spotlight illuminating the girl on stage, her voice cracked while hitting a high note, and following the performance, several children teased her.

That experience created a paralyzing fear to sing alone in public.

But, you know what? Recently, that now thirty-three-year-old woman (my youngest daughter) decided to face her fears. Wanting to be an example to her own daughter, she auditioned for the worship team at their church and was asked to join them. It’s been a freeing experience for her.

An older daughter is a professional singer and actress, and she thrives on performing. I served on a worship team as a vocalist for nineteen years. We could have downplayed my younger daughter’s fears of singing in public. But when audition day arrived, we texted and cheered her on, prayed for her, and let her know that we understood how important that step was for her. We told my daughter we were proud of her.

We’re products of our past. Our history plays a significant role in how we perceive ourselves and what we can accomplish. We all probably have memories of at least one failure—one thing that makes us cringe inside every time we allow ourselves to think about it. Maybe that experience involved a person who made us feel stupid or not good enough.

Our writing life can also be affected when we allow past failures or hurtful comments to paralyze us.

Many of you will be attending the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in September. I attended my first ACFW conference in 2005. I traveled to Nashville alone, having only an e-mail connection with one other writer. I remember the hour—the minutes—prior to my first appointment with an agent to pitch my novel. I was so terrified I felt physically ill. But, I survived that meeting! And as time passed and I gained more experience at conferences, I actually began to look forward to meeting with agents and editors.

It may take all the courage we can muster to write the stories of our hearts and then submit our work to be scrutinized by critique members, contest judges, professionals in publishing—even readers. But, we need to be bold! We need to be brave!

For those of us who are a bit more experienced, let’s remember how difficult it is to be vulnerable.  Let’s be patient and not belittle anyone’s questions or insecurities. Let’s cheer our fellow writers on.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NIV)

When it feels that fear may paralyze you, remember . . . you’re a child of God. You have a personal relationship with a King! And he loves you.

He’s bestowed a passion and gift for writing upon you because he has a purpose for you and what you create.

Be strong and courageous enough to follow your calling. God is with you wherever you go.

What fears have you faced (or are currently facing) in your writing career? How have you handled them?

Romance. Heartbreak. Scandal. Secrets. Second Chances.

In 1902, Sarah McCall is waiting to leave for the mission field when the man she once loved steps back into her life. Abandoned as a child by her mother and gambler father, she strives to overcome a tarnished history she didn’t create and a heartbreak she can’t forget.

Peter Caswell returns to his Wisconsin hometown a pastor, dedicated to his four-year-old daughter and new congregation. But no matter how hard he tries to move on with his life, he can’t forgive himself for his wife’s death.

When Sarah learns that Peter is returning to Riverton, the letter giving her departure date for Africa can’t come soon enough for her. They were best friends—she loved him and supported his dreams—but he married another and broke her heart. Although ten years have passed since he left Riverton, Peter hopes Sarah still cares enough to give him a second chance. But a charming newcomer pursues her affections—and Sarah’s childhood nemesis manipulates her way into Peter’s life. Will Sarah and Peter find their way to forgiveness and each other, or will past mistakes make a life together impossible?

Readers will find 20+ questions included for reflection and discussion.

Dawn Kinzer is a freelance editor, and her own work has been has been published in the Christian Fiction Online Magazine, Backyard Friends, The One Year Life Verse Devotional, A Joyful Heart: Experiencing the Light of His Love, and featured numerous times on the radio ministry, The Heartbeat of the Home.  She co-hosts and writes for Seriously Write. Her personal blog, The Garden of Dreams, focuses on encouraging women to find purpose and pursue their dreams in the different seasons of their lives. Sarah’s Smile is the first book in her historical romance series The Daughters of Riverton, and Hope’s Design is the second.

A mother and grandmother, Dawn lives with her husband in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Favorite things include dark chocolate, good wine, strong coffee, the mountains, family time, and Masterpiece Theatre.

You can connect and learn more about Dawn and her work by visiting these online sites: Author Website, Dawn’s Blog, Goodreads, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Sign up on her website to receive her newsletter, and you’ll receive Dawn’s short story, Maggie’s Miracle (PDF format) as a gift.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Writing is a Tough Process by Terri Weldon

Do you ever have days where you feel like you’re beating your weary writer’s head against a brick wall? I know I do. First I have to come up with a story idea, then brainstorm, then plot (which I’m horrible at), and then write my masterpiece. Only after I read the first draft I discover it isn’t a masterpiece. Sometimes I think there’s hope for the book and other times I think it is more boring than the phone book. 

I’ve never met a first draft that didn’t need work. Sometimes I have too many ly words, or I’ve used a weasel word 325 times, or a character lacks motivation, or worst of all I discover the book is flat boring when the hero and heroine are on their seventh coffee date. More rewrites!

And then when I have the story spit shined and polished I hand it over to my most trusted reader. Does she love it or hate it? To be honest she has never hated one of my stories yet. But she always finds plot holes, places where my character is acting out of character, and boring spots. Can anyone say more rewrites?

When I’ve typed my poor fingers down to nubs I bravely send my manuscript off to two friends. They are good friends and don’t let me embarrass myself. Translation – my manuscript looks like a vampire used it for a napkin. 

So I set to work on what I hope are the final rewrites of my manuscript and finally type the end for what I hope is the last time. Now you know why so many authors suffer from headaches! 

Do I accept every suggestion my favorite reader makes? Do I incorporate all the changes my friends suggest? No, because when all is said and done it’s my story and my voice. However, more often than not they’re right and there is room for improvement. 

Now that I’m finished (can you hear me snickering) I send my book in for consideration to be published. If I’m lucky and it grabs an editor’s attention and is accepted for publication there are always changes required. If I receive a revise and resubmit letter there are definitely changes to be made and still hope for publication. The only time I don’t need to make additional changes is when I receive a rejection. Hmm, when I look at it like that additional revisions don’t seem so bad. 

Don’t get me wrong writing is tough, but I love it. If I didn’t there are much easier things in life to tackle. Plus I love writing stories that show God’s love and plan for my character’s lives. How about you? Have you found any shortcuts to help speed up the writing process? What keeps you writing? I’d love for you to leave a comment and let me know.
Terri Weldon is a lead analyst by day and an award winning author by night. Her novella The Christmas Bride Wore Boots won the best novella category in the 2016 Lyra Awards. She enjoys traveling, gardening, reading, spending time with her family, and shopping for shoes. One of her favorite pastimes is volunteering as the librarian at her church. It allows her to shop for books and spend someone else’s money! Plus, she has the great joy of introducing people to Christian fiction. She lives with her family in the Heartland of the United States. Terri has two adorable Westies – Crosby and Nolly Grace. Terri is a member of ACFW and RWA. She is a member of the Seriously Write Team ( Readers can connect with Terri at

Ellie Alexander is in love. And the only thing sweeter would be if Libby, Natalie, and Stephanie, her three unmarried, unattached granddaughters, could find the same happiness. Maybe with a little help from her and her beau Blake Parker . . .
A Match Made in Williamstown by Lady of Love Inspired Romance Jean C. Gordon — Libby Schuyler has avoided dating since her break-up with college-sweetheart Jack Parker. Out of nowhere, Jack shows up claiming Ellie is swindling his grandfather, Blake, through a travel agency partnership they’ve formed. Libby and Jack team up to protect their grandparents and get to the bottom of Ellie and Blake’s business and romantic relationship. While Libby and Jack fight their reignited attraction, Ellie and Blake conspire to bring the two together.

A Match Made in Sheffield by Terri Weldon— Natalie Benton bounced from one foster home to another until she landed on Ellie Alexander’s doorstep. Natalie’s vagabond childhood caused her to yearn for a secure life, which led to Natalie’s five-year plan: complete her law degree, marry the perfect man, become a partner at Montgomery, Haynes, and Preston, and produce one child. Getting arrested wasn’t in Natalie’s plan. Needing a public defender wasn’t in her plan. Falling for Grady Hunter, her public defender, definitely wasn’t in her plan. Can Grady convince Natalie there is more to life than her five-year plan? Is Ellie the only one who sees a future for Natalie and Grady?

A Match Made in Freedom by Lisa Belcastro — Stephanie Gould loves life on Martha’s Vineyard . . . until she runs into Kay and Tim, her former business partner and her ex-fiancé, who just returned from their honeymoon. Surprised by the heartache she thought was gone, Stephanie heads to the Berkshires to visit family and friends. Arriving in Stockbridge, Stephanie meets Captain Henry Lewis. Little does Stephanie know, her grandmother has already met Henry, and Ellie thinks Henry is perfect. Stephanie has no interest in dating, Henry included. If only Henry didn’t turn up everywhere Stephanie goes. When he walks up beside her at the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stephanie can’t deny her attraction, but she’ll do her best to fight it.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

There’s No Place Like Home by Christina Lorenzen

For writers, the perfect story idea is their lifeblood. Oftentimes, writers are faced with two battles at the complete opposite ends. There’s the battle where one can’t seem to come up with a good idea. Similar to writer’s block, where the words just won’t come, those are the trying times when you just can’t come up with a good idea for your next story. It just seems like everything has been done before. Then there’s the battle of having too many ideas and you can’t decide which one to choose. Usually, most writers fear going with the wrong idea and spending countless days writing only to hit a wall. Too quickly that right idea is all wrong.

When you’re searching for the next great story idea to write, sometimes, like the old saying goes, ‘there’s no place like home’. Last night I was flipping through my writer’s notebook. I started keeping a writer’s notebook several years ago when I saw another author mention it on her blog. This small notebook fits in my purse and goes everywhere I go. You never know when you might come up with a spark of an idea, a great sentence or character. Chances are if you don’t write it down right away you won’t remember it when you want to. While thumbing through my notebook, I noticed some of my notes for my newest releases, Healings Seas and The Silvershell Beach Inn (to be released late August). Though my chicken scratch makes me wonder if I couldn’t have entered the medical field, I was able to make out something that stopped me in my tracks. I had written down two things – Grandma Dorothea’s favorite movie and Nana’s famous Canja soup. Those were both distinct things I remembered about two very special grandmothers in my family.

While many times we’re looking for the next one of a kind, unique, never been done before story, the stories that sometimes click are the ones closest to our hearts. Like Dorothy found out in the classic story, The Wizard of Oz, sometimes what we’re looking for is in our own backyards. When I remembered how much my husband’s  grandmother loved the movie the Titanic, an event that happened the year she was born, the idea for Healing Seas, my first historical romance, was born. When my cousin and I were reminiscing about summers on the beach and our grandmother’s Canja soup (a Portuguese dish) in Marion, Massachusetts, the idea for The Silvershell Beach Inn nearly wrote itself. Because these two stories were born from my own memories, the words flowed and there was no wall to hit. And because they came from my own life, I knew they had never been done before.

There really is no place like home. What sweet memories might make the perfect story for you to write? 


Christina started writing as a young teen, jotting stories in wire ring composition notebooks. Her first typewriter made it faster to get all those stories out of her head.
Rapunzel’s Lighthouse is Christina’s sixth book. Her next release, The Silvershell Beach Inn, will be released August 2017 from Forget Me Not Romances. When she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found walking her dog, talking to her herd of cats and spending time with her family.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

God Makes Clear His Call—Eventually by Zoe M. McCarthy

Zoe M. McCarty
For many years, my sister invited me to attend Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). BSF is an international, nondenominational,, and comprehensive Bible study. I resisted. I had enough on my plate. I worked full-time; I was working to get published; I was taking another Bible study; I was … blah, blah, blah.

Then in 2004, I prepared to attend two conferences on the same trip. I would fly from Richmond, Virginia to Denver for my first American Christian Romance Writers (now American Christian Fiction Writers) conference. I would have a full day after the writers’ meetings before I would fly to Las Vegas for a business symposium.

Because my dream of becoming a published writer was progressing far too slowly, I desired confirmation that writing was God’s will. So, during the extra day between the two conferences, I planned to hold a fast in my Denver hotel room and seek God’s will.

At the writers’ conference, the keynote speaker, Francine Rivers, shared that BSF changed her life. My jaw dropped. BSF! One of my favorite authors attended BSF?

At lunch, I sat at author Robin Hatcher’s table. As she chatted with us, she mentioned going to BSF.

OK. What was going on here?

After the conference, I fasted, prayed, and read the Bible, seeking God’s will concerning my writing. But God had already spoken to me through my sister and two respected authors. He simply confirmed I was to attend BSF. He conveyed nothing about my writing, but the circumstances spoke loudly about BSF. As soon as I returned home, I signed up.

I spent seven years in BSF, five in leadership as a children’s leader. After three years in BSF, He clearly confirmed that I was to finish four more before we retired to the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, where I would write as a nine-to-six job. During that time of commitment and hard work, God encouraged me with small writing successes as I learned to write.

With hindsight and four books either published or contracted now, I believe God wanted me drenched in His Word before I wrote for Him full-time.

How has God made a calling clear to you?

About the Author
A full-time writer and speaker, Zoe M. McCarthy, author of Gift of the Magpie and Calculated Risk, writes contemporary Christian romances involving tenderness and humor. Believing that opposites distract, Zoe creates heroes and heroines who learn to embrace their differences. When she’s not writing, Zoe enjoys her five grandchildren, teaching Bible studies, leading workshops on writing, knitting and crocheting shawls for a prayer shawl ministry, gardening, and canoeing. She lives with her husband in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Zoe blogs regularly at

Gift of the Magpie
Gift of the Magpie
by Zoe M. McCarthy

Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, her heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high school Valentine’s Day date. He may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy, is she wrong.

Purchase link for Gift of the Magpie:

Zoe M. McCarthy is a regular contributor for Seriously Write. To read her other posts, click here.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Time and a Freaking Out Writer

by Peter Leavell @peterleavell

My emotions broil until my insides turn to jelly. It’s all about time.

I’ve written about time before. I even had answers. So, why am I a quivering mess of goo?

I’m not alone. Writer men come to me in tears. Day job. Family time. Lawn. Boom. Day over. Writer women’s fingernails are daggers piercing their palms. Whirlwinds destroyed the floor they just cleaned. Expectations. Church duties. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Day job. Boom. Day over.

God gave me a need to write, and then took away my time!

We’re serious writers, and we know what it takes to compete with the person who has a spouse with a satisfactory job and the kids are away creating their own havoc in the world. #jealous (This isn't a competition! Drive to be your best, and don't listen to agents and editors who say there are hundreds of manuscripts for every publishing slot.)

—Study of craft.
—Study the market.
—Read 1000 pages for every 1 we write.
—Maintain five social media profiles, two blogs, and a website.
—Research our topic.
—Know agents, acquisition editors, and publishers.
—Write, rewrite, edit, and galley proof.
—Do it all so well, people pay money to follow you.

Comments from people who have time that turns my blood to lava:

—I’ve got writer’s block.
—I’m not feeling it today, so I’m going to binge watch Downton Abbey.
—I know you asked for half an hour of quiet time, but you never sit down, and I’m feeling sad, so I need you to help me cheer up.
—How’s your book coming?
—I found a spelling eror in your last blog.
—You need to put more thought into your work.
—You love writing more than you love me.
—I wrote 10,000 words today!
—You’re going to come home and just sit there in a make-believe world when there’s so much going on in real life?

You know who you are. You know what you can do

Tips to help with time:

—Keep a planner. It’s okay—no, not okay, it’s essential—to manage every half-hour and tell people no. Or yes, for a specific amount of time. Time management takes practice!

—Home a den of entertainment and noise? Create a culture of reading and learning. Sit down with your spouse and discuss steps to fill the house with books where the TV used to be, both mentally and physically. Talk about what you’ve learned. Then, family members are eager to keep learning. I can chat later about how we cultivated this culture in our home.

—If writing actually works, and you do publish, people will want to hang around to be with you because you’re famous. Famous like me. (so laughing right now) You’ll need to learn to control situations. Honestly, I failed here, and am just learning now how to control conversations.

—Give yourself a few moments of downtime.

—You’re not going to be the best. But you’re not called to be the best of anything. At home, work, or art. Read Galatians in the Bible. You’re not a slave to those thoughts. It’s freeing to be yourself, and to bring your best, not be the best.

— Consider studying a bit of Reformed Theology and the connection between Christ and art. Should you make your artistic passion part of your devotional life?

Novelist might be on your business card  but you’re a businessperson, a content creator. Blogs and social media posts have as much impact as novels. So, if a post is all you can handle in a day, great job.

—One idea about craft, taken in during a five-minute break, is better than an entire book of ideas crammed and soon forgotten.

Readers don’t handle an author’s excuses with grace. They want action! Reading material! Which, if you think about it, is fantastic! But don’t forget, a little self-care makes your writing better. Exercise, read, and pray!

Do you have tips that help with time frustrations?

Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter's books, research, and family adventures at

Friday, August 11, 2017

Created for Community by Cathe Swanson

Cathe Swanson
Sure, writing is a job we can do alone, but should we? Author Cathe Swanson shares her wonderful perspective on community and what God has to say about it. 
~ Dawn Kinzer

Created for Community

Most writers identify as introverts. Some of us even have our Myers-Briggs tags memorized and wear them like a badge. Some of us use the label as an excuse to avoid community.

Being alone is peaceful. Writing is the perfect occupation for a private person. I sit at my desk and watch the birds at the feeders in my garden while I write, refilling my coffee cup periodically and puttering around the house. I envision myself like Jane Austen sitting at her spindly desk, quill pen in her graceful hand, or as the man hunched over a manual typewriter, vigorously attacking the keys, a pipe clenched between his teeth.

The work of writing is a solitary pursuit, but writing is what we do—not our whole identity. As a child of God, I am more than a writer. I am a part of the church—one member of the body of believers, built into one whole, of which Christ is the Head. God created us for community and equipped us with the tools—the spiritual gifts—we need to build each other up into unity.  He said we should stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, encouraging one another.

After creating the world and calling His work good, God took one look at Adam’s situation and said, “It’s not good for Man to be alone.” So he created a woman, and then families, cities, nations and churches. Communities.

I was always too busy with activities and communities while we raised our sons, and it wasn’t until the youngest one graduated that I had any time to myself. I retired from my long career as a homeschooling mom and enjoyed staying home. I wrote. Sometimes I wouldn’t leave my house from one Sunday to the next, perfectly content to stay at home, writing. I had church and some online communities, convenient and undemanding, and that seemed like enough.

The stories piled up in my computer, collecting digital dust and rapidly becoming dated. They weren’t bad stories, but they were private. Writing was something I did alone, and I shied away from the idea of publication, certain I would fail. I got a job and went to work for a few years, and even though I kept writing, I didn’t do anything with the stories. Writing became depressing. Fruitless.

Meanwhile, a woman I had known online for many years—a good friend—was rapidly becoming a successful author. She encouraged me when I didn’t want to bother writing anymore. She persuaded me to share my writing with a few people. Then she nagged and dragged me into online writing communities. I joined the ACFW, nationally and regionally. I learned that another old friend, also an author, was a member of that group. Together, we established a local group. I attended conferences and took online classes. I listened to podcasts, joined Facebook groups for authors, met more local writers, and I gained confidence as my knowledge and skill increased. I was challenged and encouraged by “real” authors.

And one day, someone introduced me to another person, saying, “This is Cathe. She’s an author.” It was real. My first published work was a (very long!) novella in a Christmas collection, followed by a full-length novel a few months later. I will have two more books out this fall. In isolation, I was a writer without a vision for the future. With friends and community, I became an author.

Baggage Claim
Baggage Claim

There had to be at least one healthy branch on his family tree…

Who can he trust?

Ben Taylor, widower and father of four lively children, enjoys his easy, uncomplicated life. He likes his work and has a competent nanny to manage his household. Everything is good until he decides to seek out his biological parents and discovers a family tree with tangled roots and broken branches.

His comfortable life crumbles when he gets caught up in a criminal network of fraud and conspiracy at his new job. When Ben is forced into a dangerous alliance, he scrambles to find a safe situation and protection for his children before setting out to clear his name—all without getting himself killed in the process.

A nanny with a past…

Becoming a nanny was the perfect solution when Teresa Cooper needed a place to hide ten years ago, but now that she’s no longer in danger, she’s ready to move on and make a new life for herself. When Ben asks her to take the children to an unknown relative in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, she finds herself in hiding again, this time with four children in tow.

As the children explore the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula, Teresa begins to wonder about God’s plan for her future. Who is this stranger Ben trusts with his children? Why here? Can a city-bred nanny find joy in this wild corner of God’s creation?

Cathe Swanson lives in Wisconsin with her husband of 33 years. They enjoy spending time with their family and being outdoors, kayaking, hiking, birdwatching and fishing, but summer is short in Wisconsin, so it’s important to have indoor hobbies, too. Cathe has been a quilter and teacher of quiltmaking for over 25 years, and she enjoys just about any kind of creative work, especially those involving fiber or paper.

Social media links

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Blurbs, back cover copy and pitches – oh, my! by Lisa Phillips

My first ever Love Inspired Suspense I pitched to editor Emily Rodmell with only 100 words. There isn’t a lot of give in that word count, and in that pitch competition I had to be short, to the point and punchy (it was suspense, after all).

Sabine Fraternau, CIA agent, is on the hunt for her brother’s killer. When the Delta Force soldier she loves barges in, the mission goes from bad…to busted. Doug “MacArthur” Richardson is all military, a man of faith with no room in his life for love. When Sabine is accused of betraying her country, Doug is the only one who believes the woman he’s falling for is innocent. But after her ex-husband’s betrayal, Sabine doesn’t believe in happily ever after. Together they have to find the killer and prove Sabine’s innocence, before the nightmare of her past comes back…to kill her. 

Only 100 words, and it packs a huge amount of information in.

Let’s break it down.

A female CIA agent hunting a murderer.

It’s a reunion romance (a hook in Love Inspired novels, and something I knew she’d be looking for.)

The hero is Delta Force, also on a mission. But he’s not looking for love.

Sabine gets betrayed, Doug tries to help but she’s got baggage (are you surprised?)

They have to face down the killer – with a solid link to Sabine’s past in the final twist.

What are your hooks?

Is it a reunion romance? Is there a single mom, a cowboy, is it Amish? What sets your book apart from other novels in a way that would peak an editor or agent’s interest? Maybe there’s a unique setting (like my Sanctuary series, which features a secret witness protection town in the mountains.)

Let’s break down the pitch, and how it’s crafted.

1. Main character #1 - who is this person in a nutshell? If their job isn’t relevant, don’t put it in. But what do they WANT?
2. Main character #2 - do the same.
3. What is going to keep them from this goal? Let your editor know this book has CONFLICT that won’t easily be resolved. Lines like Love Inspired Suspense need conflict in the plot and conflict in the relationship. Make sure it’s all there.
4 and 5: How is the situation going to be resolved? How will the characters work it out? Does faith play in? What about the Antagonist (if there is one)? What’s he up to? 

The first thing I do is answer the questions above. That gives me a big mess whole lot of wonderful details and pertinent information. From there I can refine and refine and refine until it’s a single shiny paragraph.

HINT: If it’s back cover copy, DON’T GIVE AWAY THE ENDING!!

An editor wants to know the twists. You can’t assume they’ll be reading your manuscript so they’ll find out the big twist then. They probably won’t. Give them all you’ve got up front. It’s your once chance to impress them.

For back cover copy (if you’re publishing independently, hats off to you – I do both) then you’ll need to craft the paragraph in a way that draws the reader in. Will he get the girl? Will they save the day together, or die trying? Genre conventions can answer those questions for you, but your job as a writer is to make the reader BELIEVE that there’s a chance the character might not win. That way the victory is all the sweeter.

And guess what? That’s my advice for you while you’re crafting that pitch paragraph for your novel.

Success is hard work – but it’s worth it in the end.

Lisa Phillips is a British ex-pat who grew up an hour outside of London, Lisa attended Calvary Chapel Bible College where she met her husband. He’s from California, but nobody’s perfect. It wasn’t until her Bible College graduation that she figured out she was a writer (someone told her). Since then she’s discovered a penchant for high-stakes stories of mayhem and disaster where you can find made-for-each-other love that always ends in happily ever after. 
Lisa can be found in Idaho wearing either flip-flops or cowgirl boots, depending on the season. She leads worship with her husband at their local church. Together they have two children--a sparkly Little Princess and a Mini Daddy--and an all-black Airedale known as The Dark Lord Elevator.

Lisa’s new book is out this month!! It’s her 8th Love Inspired Suspense and marks five years since that pitch competition!

Amid the idyllic scenery of Hawaii, rookie Secret Service agent Alana Preston is attacked, and a sinister plot to assassinate the president begins taking shape. But nobody seems to believe Alana, and she doesn’t know who she can trust—except Secret Service director James Locke. Now, with an assassin hiding in plain sight on the island, she and James may be the president’s last line of defense. The closer they get to cracking the case, however, the more intertwined their lives become. And they must fight to keep their hearts out of it. With the life of the commander-in-chief in their hands, falling in love could be a deadly distraction…

AMAZON     NOOK     iTunes     KOBO

You can sign up for Lisa’s mailing list HERE and get a free book!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Not A Solitary Endeavor by Heidi Chiavaroli

One thing I’ve always loved about writing was the solitude of it all. Never a big fan of school group projects (I always ended up shouldering the brunt of the work while the others coasted along) I was happy to entertain a career in writing. A solitary career.

By myself.


Yes, I work better alone. That’s why I write. All by my lonesome. Me, myself, and I.

Or so I thought.

With my debut novel just released, I can’t help but acknowledge the simple fact that although I spent hours alone at my computer to get to this point, there is no way I would have reached the height of my dreams—having my debut novel release with my dream publishing house—without other people investing in my career.

Writing, it turns out, is not a solitary endeavor after all. Far from it. It is absolutely a team effort.

Here are a few on my team:

Critique Partners and Writing Friends: I have had several critique partners over the years and have appreciated them all as we’ve gone through different stages of career and life. I cannot recommend anything as much as I can recommend a good critique partner. Not only does my CP improve my writing with honest feedback, she encourages me on those days when I am tempted to give it all up.

Another dear friend, when she noticed something of potential in my writing, was kind enough to offer recommendation to her agent.

Writing is a lonely endeavor. Without others, we may be tempted to quit, to feel lonely with just that screen and those uncooperative words before us. I would suggest joining a writing group if you don’t have a critique partner. I highly recommend ACFW ( I found most of my valuable friends—friends who share a passion for both writing and Jesus—there.

A Good Agent: There are so many opportunities and paths to publication today, and many of them don’t require an agent. But I cannot imagine navigating this career without my agent as my advocate. She is not only an encourager and friend, she possesses wisdom I will never have. She opens worlds of opportunity and helps me avoid pitfalls I never would have seen coming. But beware—there are a lot of not-so-credible agents out there. Do your research and talk to other authors before signing with any agent.

Editors: Like my agent, my editors have wisdom to know what will work and what won’t. I cannot believe how they have helped me to improve my story. Quite simply, I don’t have all the good ideas. Their insight, their brainstorming sessions, make a book all it can be.

Marketing/Graphic Design Team: Alone, I simply don’t have the means to make a beautiful cover. I don’t have reach that extends beyond my small fan base. But my marketing team has increased that exponentially. They have the know-how and the resources to promote my book in a way I cannot do—you guessed it—alone. J

Book Buyers: Yes, these are part of my team, too. An important part! From the individual who orders online to the amazing team of buyers at Christian Book Distributors (I met them and I can absolutely confirm how amazing they are!), every buyer is a part of my team. Buyers help you get the word out, they can leave reviews, and be part of the all-important launch team.

And the list doesn’t end here. Those who have helped me with research, my family, my friends, my church. This is one big team I am so, so proud to be part of.

As I held my book for the first time in my hands—the cover more beautiful than anything I could have come up with, the pages freshly printed, the thoughtful endorsements on the first page, the story so much stronger than when I first turned it in—I was hit with this overwhelming gratitude that I am not alone.

And I am blessed for it.

If Jesus, who is and was God himself, enlisted the help of others to carry out His mission, how dare I think I could ever go at my teensy-tiny mission alone? Life—no matter what we set out to do—is not meant to be lived alone. Sure, we need our solitary time, but that should not be the goal. Our goal—in writing and in life—should be to engage others, to live fully with them, to work as a team for the mighty purpose of carrying out the greatest mission of all.

Who makes up your team?


Heidi Chiavaroli is a writer, runner, and grace-clinger who could spend hours exploring Boston's Freedom Trail. She writes Women's Fiction and won the 2014 ACFW Genesis contest in the historical category. She makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband, two sons, and Howie, her standard poodle. Visit her online

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Should You Quit Your Day Job? by Marie Wells Coutu

When I first got serious about writing fiction, I had a full-time job, so my writing time was limited to evenings and, sometimes, my lunch breaks. It didn’t take long before I started to dream about leaving my job to write full-time. It would be more than five years before I would get to the point where I could retire.

And then reality hit. Not working full-time didn’t necessarily mean I could write full-time. Family, travel, and friends frequently dragged me away from writing. Or rather, I allowed myself to be distracted.

I realized that being a full-time writer isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Marie Wells Cout

I’m fortunate that I don’t have to rely on making an income from writing. Because I reached retirement age, and my husband was already retired, together we have adequate income. My husband retired from the military, so health insurance would not be an issue.

Besides financial considerations, though, there are other factors to think about before you take the leap:

  • Are you a self-starter? What kind of writing schedule will you establish?
  • Is your work “just a job” or is it part of your identity?
  • Will you miss the camaraderie of co-workers, the “water cooler” discussions, and the emotional vibe of working closely with others?
  • Will your family, friends, or neighbors assume that you are “not busy” because you work from home? How successful are you at deflecting such interruptions?
  • Where does God want you? Are you seeking His will for your career or attempting to strike out on your own?
Obviously, these are only some of the questions you might ask yourself while you’re daydreaming about becoming a full-time writer.

Most importantly, before you make any final decision, think through the possibilities. Talk over the decision with your family and others close to you. Tell them your expectations for your work schedule, and ask what the decision means to them.

Only you can make the decision, with the help of your spouse or a close friend. Just be sure you’ve examined all the angles.

I’ve never regretted retiring when I did, but I sometimes wish I had known what to expect.

If you’re considering cutting the ties, what concerns do you have? For those who already write full-time, what advice can you offer to others?

The Secret Heart
by Marie Wells Coutu

Marie Wells Coutu retired in 2013 from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. She now spends her time writing fiction—when she’s not busy having fun with her husband or with their four grandchildren. She has written three novels for Write Integrity Press, including the award-winning For Such a Moment and Thirsting for More. Her most recent book, The Secret Heart, released in February. She is working on a historical novel set in western Kentucky, near where she grew up.

Marie is a regular contributor to Seriously Write. For more posts by Marie, click here.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Setting as a Character by Annette M. Irby

Beach chair and sea ^

Name your favorite place. Describe your happy place. For me—the beach. Saltwater is best, but a freshwater lake is also relaxing for me.

As a writer, we might choose to write about our favorite places. Perhaps your favorite place isn’t a “place” exactly, so much as it’s a time. I have lots of writer friends who write historicals. Or maybe you prefer to write about a make-believe land and create a world for the sci-fi marketplace.

Our family loves beach vacations. The sand, saltwater, marine life, and mysterious depths of the sea inspire me. So one summer day, I went looking for a book to take me there. A summertime read that would let me escape to the beach. I was specifically looking for a compilation of novellas that were set along the coast. No luck. Most of the novella compilations that year were set on ranches, which are great, but generally aren’t too beachy. So I decided to write a novella set on the water.

That novella turned into a full-length novel and became the book I’m featuring below.

In this story, I use Friday Harbor, Washington, and the Salish Sea almost as a character. The setting lives. I immerse the characters, and hopefully the readers, into its beauty. The setting is moody—sometimes a marine layer fogs in the harbor, chilling the residents. The setting sparkles with diamonds on a sea of blue, or stars on a velvet night sky. The setting woos the characters (just like our favorite places woo us). The setting challenges my characters—deep water can harm people, even good swimmers. 

Hopefully readers will taste the grilled salmon and the rich fudge, and smell the salty air, crunch the crushed seashells underfoot on the shore, and feel the frigid water wash in on the incoming tide. Hopefully, the song of the gulls and eagles crying overhead will inspire them. And the views of the orcas performing for tourists will give them a moment of living vicariously through the book, through the setting.

How about you? What’s your favorite place? Have you written about that location? Would you like to? I’m working on a series set in my favorite place—the Salish Sea and Puget Sound. It all started with a dream and a visit to the setting, where I fell in love.

Write on, friends!

Releasing 9/1/17 from Mountain Brook Ink. The e-book pre-order link is now live. 

FLI Friday Harbor, WA
Will keeping his promise lead to another broken heart—or help them find love again? 

Professor Mikaela Rhoades has a plan: she’ll encourage her students’ marine biology research through an exclusive program while helping an old family friend’s whale touring business stay afloat. The challenge is the tour captain is her first love and ex-fiancé. Mikaela longs to help his family in the wake of his father’s death, but she’s keeping secrets. She’ll have to face her past and overcome her concerns about the future to make it through the summer. 

Captain Hunter Cahill has taken over the family touring business after his father’s death. Unfortunately, he’s drowning in grief and accumulated debt. He’s hoping the incoming stodgy professor will help resurrect the failing business, but he’s not prepared when that professor turns out to be Mikaela, his former fiancée. To make matters more difficult, he’d promised his father to pursue her if she ever returned to the island single. The more time they spend together, the easier it is to keep that promise, though she still plans to leave at the end of the season. How much will it cost him to spend the summer romancing Mikaela?


Annette M. Irby *
Annette M. Irby has been writing since her teen years when she sat pounding out stories on a vintage typewriter just for fun. Since then, she’s joined Christian writing groups and launched blogs so she could share the joy of writing. She likes to say she’s addicted to color as flowers and seascapes inspire her. In her off hours, she enjoys gardening, photography, and music. She lives with her husband and family in the Pacific Northwest.

Learn more on her Seriously Write Page.

Links to connect with Annette:
Twitter: @AnnetteMIrby
Facebook Reader Friends Group:

* Author  Photo Credit: Sarah Irby of Irby Photography
^ Beach chair photo credit: Pixabay