Friday, July 31, 2009

Why I Love to Write by Susan May Warren

This Fortifying Friday, we're excited to welcome Susan May Warren back to Seriously Write to encourage you as you head into your weekend.

Here's Susie!

Why I Love to Write

God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure. ~Eric Liddell

I love this quote by Eric Liddell, champion runner (from Chariots of Fire) who went on to become a missionary to China. I love it because he’s completely aware of both his gifts, and the joy of using them for his Savior. I couldn’t agree more. God made me a writer. And I feel His pleasure when I write. I know that the words He puts on the page are as much to bless me, as they are (hopefully) to bless others. Because I love to know God’s pleasure.

He also made me a teacher. And when I work with writers who want to purse the gifts God has given them in writing, I feel God’s presence, giving me wisdom, and enjoying with them their journey. I feel the pleasure of God when they suddenly get a new idea, or a problem is solved in their manuscript. I love to teach.

Which is why I spent a lot of time (when I’m not writing!) teaching at writer’s conferences, helping writers through my fiction editing service construct their story, why I started, a blog and community focused on writing craft, and why I wrote the beginner’s writing book: From the Inside…Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you. I love it when I get a note from someone I’ve been able to encourage, telling me that they’re getting published. My heart sings. God is good to allow us to do what we love for the One we love!

I love it that God longs to delight us with His pleasure, and that He does it by giving us gifts that he intends for us to use with joy. David says, in Psalm 16, “You will fill me with joy in your presence.” I believe he’s talking both about the future, in heaven, and here, now, on earth. God gives us a portion of that heavenly joy when we rightly use the gifts He’s given us. My hope for all writers is that they will embrace the gifts God has given you, and as you use them for His glory, you will feel His pleasure!

God bless you on your writing journey!
Susan May Warren

Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of seventeen novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep’s Clothing, a thriller set in Russia, was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader’s Choice award. A former missionary to Russia, Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Plan!

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord.
"Plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future." (Jer. 29:11 NIV)

I’m a planner. I like to have things figured out ahead of time. If I’m going to host a holiday celebration, I plan the meal and decorations weeks in advance.

I’m the same way when it comes to writing. Some people are SOTP (seat of the pants) writers. Not me. I’m a plotter. I need to know how the story is going to end and how I’m going to get there.

For people who like to have the future planned out, the unknown can be a little daunting. Maybe that’s one of the reasons Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my favorite verses.

It’s also a favorite because after living through difficult times—like so many people have—I’ve learned to lean on the fact that God is still in control. God still has a plan for my life. Knowing that has always brought me hope.

God has a plan for our writing careers, too.

At times it can feel like He’s forgotten that we’re relying on Him to help us in our calling by providing necessary opportunities. Especially when other people seem to be blessed in their writing careers. But even when we feel—despite our prayers and hard work—no headway is being made, He hasn’t forgotten.

God has a plan.

Sometimes that plan can take what feels like a detour. But, there may be good reasons. Maybe the road up ahead is full of pot holes – or possibly even a sink hole. Maybe the detour will lead you to opportunities that will strengthen what you have to offer and better prepare you to hop back on the road towards your destination.

I was recently handed an opportunity to lead a small team in reviving a newsletter for a department of 80 people in the corporation where I'm employed. The door swung wide open for me to take this on, even though it’s not the type of responsibility I normally hold in the department.

Part of me is excited. Part of me is a little scared. The people I need to please are business oriented. They’re people who are comfortable with concrete, black and white data. I’m a creative writer. I want to show them that information can still be relayed in an interesting and fun format.

God has a plan.

He doesn’t want us to shrink back from opportunities He presents. Opportunities that may bring us closer to where He wants us to be.

I’m facing this challenge with the newsletter believing that God is going to use the experience for my good.

Be willing to walking through unexpected open doors.

God has a plan for your writing career.

Trust that.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

From the Inside...Out: Discover, Create, and Publish the Novel in You!

This Writer's Journey Wednesday, here's an inside look at From the Inside . . Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you! By award-winning authors Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck.

If you've always wanted to write a novel, this book is for you!

We all have goals, right? Dreams, desires, hopes that have been niggling at us for years. For aspiring authors, it’s the dream of writing a novel. You’re a writer if every time you hear an interesting job description or read a compelling story in the newspaper, you think, hey, that would make an interesting premise for a novel. You’re a writer if, when you get introduced to someone new, you can’t help but ask about their lives and can barely resist the urge to take out a pen and paper and jot down some notes. You’re a writer if, when you’re reading a novel, you occasionally take a breath and say, wow, I want to write like that. If you’re a writer, this book is for you.

I remember the day when I decided to write a novel. I was in Siberia, in the middle of a solemn and icy winter. I had four children, all under the age of six, and my husband was gone, again, planting a church. I had read everything in the house at least twice and decided that my own imagination could do at least as well as one of the books I’d devoured in a day. (Boy, did I have much to learn!) I sat down at the computer and said, “I’m writing a book.”

That’s about as far as I got. Because once I actually sat down and stared at the computer, I HAD NO IDEA HOW A BOOK WAS PUT TOGETHER. Where did I start? How did I develop characters? What’s my point? And most importantly – how did I get it from my brain to the computer and into print?

It took me a year of writing, first on Saturdays, and then every day. But I finished my first book. (To all who think that then I ran out and found a publisher – not! 4 books later . . .)

What I learned through that first novel was that:
1. Writing a good novel was harder than I thought, and I needed a lot of work.
2. I love to write and was willing to make the journey, whatever it took.
3. Even if I never got published, God could use my writing journey for good in my life.

A writer’s life is solitary, hard work, fraught with rejection, frustration, and even envy. BUT, if you look at it as another way that you will grow and experience your world, then it’s a journey that is ripe with rewards.

This is the book I wish I had when I first started. It’s because of those years of angst and study that I started My Book Therapy, a blog about how to write and a fiction editing service to help writers along the way. Because, see, I was in Siberia. As in RUSSIA. Alone. Just me, some novels, and my imagination. I wished I had a reference guide, something to organize all the information I needed in one place, maybe a step-by-step journey, and a companion/encourager to help me complete my dream. Sure, I had writing books, but they made the process so . . . complicated. I knew it had to be easier. Inside Out is MY writing manual – what I developed and now use to create stories. It’s my successes, my systems . . . and my secrets. And, as a bonus, you also get the perspective of Rachel Hauck, my pal and My Book Therapy partner, thrown in to add another rich perspective. It’s the manual of writing the books we know how to write.

God Bless you on your writing journey!

Susan May Warren


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Injecting Value

Net's Notations: All About the Reader Series, Part 5

Here’s a fun exercise: write down all of your values as a Christian. Go ahead, this blog post’ll still be here when you finish. ;-)

Got your list? Did you learn anything about yourself? I tried this exercise a few weeks ago for a project I wanted to inject more takeaway into and wow, it was eye opening.

If you’re writing fiction, run through your list again. This time, pinpoint which values specifically address the needs of the characters in your wip (work in progress). Now, consider this:

The value you’ve highlighted will also minister to readers.

The trick is in how you handle it. You never want to beat your readers over the head with your convictions. More gently, through story, you want to weave your value into the plot and into the character’s thoughts and actions. Prove your chosen value (we’re assuming it’s biblical :-) through your story, in a gentle and thought-provoking way.

Give your reader something to chew on after the last page is turned and the book rests on the bookshelf.

Give your reader a reason to come back and read the book again.

Give your reader a reason to pick up your next book, just because your name is on the cover.

Give your stories value and your reader will value your stories.

Try it. And the next time you’re reading someone else’s work, look for his or her values. I imagine they’ll be easier to spot than ever. But hang in there with the story, because, some characters should come with disclaimers: “The views of Harry Snodgrass do not represent the views of Stacy Q. Author or Christian House Publishing.” Sometimes, you have to read the entire story to see the intent of the author and discern the values espoused by him or her.

Dwight Swain, in his book “Techniques of a Selling Writer” gives this a whole different twist: Never negate our values in story. Because when you do, your creative well dries up and soon, you’re silent. And writers aren’t writers without words. (My paraphrase!)

Injecting values into your inspirational writing is a great way to edify your readers. Remember, it’s all about your reader!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Writing Backyard Dialogue by Anita Higman

Please welcome multi-published and award-winning author Anita Higman with her thoughts on dialogue this Manuscript Monday:

Writing Backdoor Dialogue*

My family loves snappy movie dialogue, so we weave bits of it into our conversations. The more inventive we are at making it fit into our banter, the bigger the smiles all around. The snippets we choose are always poignant, witty, sardonic, or dazzlingly clever. Rarely do we take the time to memorize dialogue that's ordinary. In other words, it's never the mundane, repetitious things we say at home or the tedious yak I might produce when eating lunch with a friend. Readers want realistic dialogue, yes, but only to a point. Readers also want to be swept out of the droning, utilitarian chatter of everyday life, and given the opportunity to partake in a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers kind of word-dance that leaves us a little breathless.

After writing a rough draft, checking dialogue for its effervescent levels is part of my editing phase. I always want to ask these questions. "Has the scene gone flat because the dialogue is boring? Is there a more interesting way for my characters to say this?" I call ho-hum writing, "front door writing" because it just walks right up, knocks on the door, and does exactly what we expect it to do—walk in the front door. But a more unexpected approach, one that sneaks up on us a bit, I call "backdoor writing." And of course, it relates to dialogue as well as writing in general. Here is an example of dialogue from my cozy mystery, Another Hour to Kill. This is the way the scene ended up in the book, and I'm hoping it shows a bit of "backdoor writing."

I looked outside. The Mexican feather grass near my porch dipped and swayed in the gusts like strands of hair. "As I'm sure you know, Houston isn't a very windy place. . .unless there's a storm coming."

"I like a good storm. They're heady and unpredictable." Vlad gazed at me. " ‘O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being, Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead are driven like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing.' Shelley."

So, he was one of those guys who loved to quote famous dead poets. I fidgeted with my rose, starting to feel uncomfortable and wondering how many women he'd schmoozed into a senseless stupor over the years with his smooth hair and silvery tongue. Probably more than he could keep track of. That was the way with well-designed men. They were like Italian suits in a denim world.

Okay, that is a bit of conversation as well as inner dialogue. Here are some of my reasons for writing it that way.

1. The heroine, Bailey, mentions the storm, because she senses that something ominous is coming—something beyond mere atmospheric conditions. It makes for a moment of foreshadowing.

2. Vlad speaks of loving storms and their unpredictability. This statement reveals some of the wildness and impulsiveness in his nature.

3. I thought having Vlad quote the poet, Shelley, might be a more interesting way for him to comment on the approaching storm. I could have had Vlad say, "The wind sure is picking up outside. Gee, you're right. . .there's a storm coming." First of all, this approach wouldn't have worked since Vlad has a more formal way of speaking, but secondly, it wouldn't have been as interesting or as revealing as the poetry.

4. Also, the Shelley quote gives us more to chew on. It tells us that Vlad is a man who is either putting on airs or is cultured and likes sharing his love for poetry with others. The reader must decide who Vlad really is. And the quote gives us a bit of subtext dialogue, to reinforce the idea that a tempest is coming—one that may have nothing to do with the weather. In addition, the Shelley quote speaks of mystical elements such as ghosts and an enchanter. These are bits of Vlad's personality, so it not only keeps the scene within a gothic framework, but it holds some revelation for the reader concerning Vlad.

The last part of this passage from Another Hour to Kill is merely the internal thoughts of the heroine. Hopefully, I set up the dialogue well enough that it would allow me to make Bailey's head-talk more engaging, enlightening, and possibly amusing.

Novels have the potential to magically sweep us away from everyday life. Encountering this kind of enchanting word-dance in dialogue is something I long for whether I'm at the computer writing a novel or curled up in my den reading one.

Award-winning author, Anita Higman, has twenty-four books published (several coauthored) for adults and children, and she has been honored as a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston. Anita has a B.A. degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Some of her favorite things are exotic teas, going to the movies, and all things Jane Austen. She’d love for you to visit her website at

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Birthday Blessing by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Please welcome guest writer, Jennifer Hudson Taylor,
as she shares her journey to publication.

The Birthday Blessing

Every writer has a unique journey to publication, but mine turned out to be a birthday blessing. Growing up I had been taught that I could do anything I set my mind to, and as long as I didn’t give up. At twelve, I decided I wanted to write the next Gone with the Wind. I handwrote half of it in a spiral notebook and set it aside. I finished it at age 24. My ultimate goal was to be published before I turned 30. I was too na├»ve to realize I had set a goal that would be in God’s timing, not mine.

Age 30 came and went with no contract. I had to accept my first failure. In prayer, I asked why. The answer came in a small, gentle voice. “Because you’re not writing for Me.”

I didn’t know how to write for God. I thought I had to be like Joyce Meyers and Juanita Bynum. Historical romance fiction writers didn’t fit into Christian publishing. Three years later, a friend prayed that God would give me the desire to write again. Six months after that I was in Borders browsing the Religion section and saw Kathleen Morgan’s Embrace the Dawn, a Scottish medieval. I rushed home to retrieve my old Scottish Medieval, but I had deleted all my files and thrown away all my hard copies. I finally found a Windows 95 disk with the old version. I converted it to Christian fiction. It finaled in the 2007 ACFW Genesis contest, and is now my debut novel, Highland Blessings. It will be released May 2010 by Abingdon Press.

The Call came seven years later on my 37th birthday. It was a personal message that God had not forsaken me and showed me that not by my might, but by His power I would be published. Since I had originally set my birthday as a goal, He chose that day to give me my gift.

Jennifer Hudson Taylor is an inspirational historical author whose debut novel, Highland Blessings (May 2010), was one of two manuscripts that won awards in the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) 2007 Genesis Contest. Jennifer is a member of ACFW and Romance Writers of America (RWA), as well as RWA chapters Faith, Hope & Love, and The Beau Monde. Several of Jennifer’s articles have been published in Guideposts’ Angels on Earth, Heritage Quest Magazine and The Military Trader. She offers writing and history workshops and speaks on topics with inspirational messages. She resides with her husband and daughter in Kannapolis, NC.

Highland Blessings

Scotland, 1473
Highland warrior Bryce MacPhearson kidnaps Akira MacKenzie on her wedding day to honor a promise he made to his dying father. When he forces Akira to wed him, hoping to end a half-century feud between their clans, she struggles to overcome her anger and resentment . . . Yet her strength in the Lord becomes a witness to Bryce. But there is a traitor in their midst . . . and murder is the ultimate weapon.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Power of Word

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

“The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever." (Isaiah 40:8)

Words—along with paper and pen, or laptop—are vital to a writer.

We switch words back and forth in attempts to bring clearer understanding and make our sentences more interesting. We search for stronger verbs in order to create vivid images for the reader.

Writers know and understand the power of words.

Words can build up, and they can tear down. Words can move readers to tears, touch hearts, and help heal wounds. Words can bring a smile –even laughter. Words can changes lives.

But no matter how many awards won, or accolades received, our words can’t compare to what can be accomplished through God’s word.

“He sends his word and melts them; he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.” (Psalm 147:18 NIV)

At some point, our words will fade away if they aren’t grounded—if we aren’t grounded—in God’s word. Only what comes from Him will have lasting effect.

I encourage you to seek God in your writing. Spend time in His word and ask Him to show you what He desires you to put to paper. And then open up yourself and let Him lead.

God will give you the words.

And powerful words they’ll be . . .

Have a great week!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

American Christian Fiction Writers

Today we’re happy to feature ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) for our Writer’s Journey spotlight. ACFW holds a special place in both Annette’s and my heart. Not only have we grown in our writing, we’ve made wonderful new friends – including each other!

Now here’s more about this wonderful organization.


To promote Christian Fiction through developing the skills of its authors, educating them in the market, and serving as an advocate in the industry.


From airport newsstands to Newsweek, Christian fiction continues to grow in popularity, resonating with readers looking for both faith and fiction. The growth of the genre has birthed many new writers, as evidenced by The American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

ACFW has over 1800 members worldwide, consisting of authors, editors, agents publicists and aspiring writers and was organized in 2000 under the name of American Christian Romance Writers (ACRW). In 2004, the group changed the name to American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) in response to the diverse needs of its membership, who write across many genres.

The group offers a variety of services and benefits to members in an effort to fulfill its mission to encourage writers of Christian fiction, develop their skills, educate them in the market, and be a fellowship for writers of like interests. Members are invited to join an e-mail loop and participate in the forums, both of which provide venues for discussions about writing and the business of publishing.

Mentor groups, critique groups, and monthly online workshops offer aspiring authors the training and interaction they need to develop their craft to a publishable level. Further, members can join regional and local groups and develop relationships with other writers in their area.

Published authors enjoy the promotional benefits provided by the group which include announcing new book releases, the opportunity to have a book featured in the ACFW Book Club, and the Featured Author interviews published on the web site, which attracts thousands of visitors each month.

In addition, ACFW hosts an annual national conference that has become the premier event among Christian fiction writers and other industry professionals for the quality classes and networking opportunities provided there.

The first national conference, heldin Kansas City, Missouri, in 2002 attracted 100 attendees. In September 2009 ACFW expects over 500 conferees to come to Denver, where Debbie Macomber will serve as keynote speaker.

Past conference keynote speakers include Francine Rivers, Robin Lee Hatcher, Karen Kingsbury, Karen Ball, James Scott Bell, and Angela Hunt, all popular, best-selling authors in the inspirational market.

To learn more, please visit

Or look for an ACFW chapter in your area by going to

You won’t regret it!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Who Is My Reader?

Imagine your reader sitting here. What does she look like? How much time does he devote to reading every week? What is this person looking for in your book? And why do they keep coming back to your writing? Why do they like your voice? What do you offer them that is different than what others might bring?

How can you best minister to your reader?

We writers have to nail down our audience for every book proposal we write. But as writers, we need to consider our overall body of work—not just one novel or non-fiction tome, but our focus in writing.

Here’s how you know what your reader looks like: look inside.

What are you passionate about? I love studying the truth that Christians are members of the bride of Christ. We will one day wed the King of kings. Amazing. So, when I write, I like to include snippets of “bridal” understanding in my work.

So, for me—my reader is someone who joins me in that fascination, or someone who might. And of course, that's only one facet. There are many more.

Ask yourself what your passions are in life. There are likely several on your list. (Yes, you should list them out.) One of my other all-time favorite passions is music. I’ve been creating songs since before I could read. Whenever I can write and include musical characters, my soul cheers.

Take your passions list, match it up with ministerial value, and minister to your reader.

Keep him or her in mind as you write because it’s all about your reader.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Immersing Yourself in History by Cara Putman

Please welcome Cara Putman this Manuscript Monday to discuss researching history.

Immersing Yourself In History

Three of my first four contracted books involve a step back in time to the days of World War Two. I may have been born in the 70s, but I’ve always held a love for and fascination with the life and times of the 40s, particularly the war years. In many ways, it was completely natural to find my first novel set during that time. And it was a joy to uncover two additional stories from that time period.

But how does someone who was born 30 years after the events weave them into a story in a believable way? Here are a few tricks of the trade I’ve learned.

1) Study the culture and media of the time. I have always LOVED the old black and white movies from the early forties. Bringing Up Baby, It Happened One Night, You Can’t Take It with You, and the Thin Man series are some of my favorite movies of all time. Add in Fred Astaire & Ginger Rodgers, Gene Kelly and Bing Crosby, starlets like Katherine Hepburn and Myrna Loy and you can begin to get a feel for the styles of the time.

Now you have to be careful. Much as I love Audrey Hepburn, I can’t use her in a book from the early 40s…she wasn’t acting yet. So writers have to pay attention to copyrights on movies…Kate Hepburn wore pants in Bringing Up Baby, which released in 1938. By 1943 that was a well-established style that many attributed to her. And that leads me to my next tip…

2) Buy resources that illustrate the styles and vehicles of the time. As I wrote Sandhill Dreams, I realized I needed help describing the different styles in hats and clothing. I turned to Amazon and found a couple great resources. One was Everyday Fashions of the Forties as pictured in Sears Catalog. It’s perfect…Sears stores and catalogs were available throughout Nebraska, the setting for my World War Two series. Now I had the catalog illustrations and descriptions for the styles. It also gave me the details to back up things I knew, like during the war women couldn’t purchase pantyhose, so they drew lines up the back of their legs to mimic hose. But they also had make-up specifically designed to look like hose. Those are the details that make a book and a time period come alive.

3) Interview people who lived during that time – if you can. My time period is the early 1940s, so I interviewed my grandparents and others who lived then. If you plan to write about an earlier time period, then you’ll need to rely on resources like journals, newspapers, and other written accounts. But if you can, take the time to track down those who lived it. One night I had a delightful conversation with a veteran who had traveled through the North Platte Canteen 5 times as a soldier. Each visit was different, and he gladly shared his impressions and memories with me. His stories reinforced those I had found through other resources.

4) If you can’t interview people, don’t forget to look for sources that did. I found several invaluable resources in published books, Public television broadcasts, and spending a day with the Fort Robinson Museum curator who had interviewed dozens of veterans when they returned to the Fort. While I couldn’t interview these people, others had.

If you are writing or hope to write a historical novel, take the time to get the details right. Your readers will thank you.

You can learn more about Cara Putman by visiting her Web site.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Why I Love To Write by Rachel Hauck

Please welcome guest writer and good friend, Rachel Hauck. She leads worship at the ACFW conferences where Dawn and I lend our voices to the team. She’s here to share her reasons for writing.

A year or so ago my husband and I were walking our dogs around the neighborhood, chatting occasionally, being in that place of comfort and understanding with each other in silence.

I felt so at peace and at home with myself. Not only had God worked His love into my heart over the past years, but I loved my husband and our life together.

And I loved my job. Writing books.

“Writing is so deeply satisfying to me,” I said to my husband, pressing my hand over my middle. “Like, I’m perfectly content.”

Right after graduating college, I went with a friend to a beach house on the Gulf in north Florida. The day we drove in was beautiful, warm, clear, full of … emotion.

A swell of desire and longing filled me. I wanted to capture the moment, some way, but I didn’t know how. Write? Sing? Dance?

I had similar emotions often in those days. After seeing the coming-of-age college movie “St. Elmo’s Fire” I remember looking at my good friends thinking “I want to write about us like that some day.” We were in college, the same sorority, living a life of friendship similar to what I’d seen on the big screen. (Though not quite so … um … wild, shall I say?) But I wanted to capture our college emotions and friendship.

When I started writing, the restless longings ended. By the grace of God I’d met the desire of my heart He put there.

I love to work with words like an artist might like to work with clay or paint. I love to create a story and work with elements like conflict, goals and motivation. I love to create and solve problems.

It’s fun to mimic life. It’s awesome to present a piece of God in my stories and characters.

Writing is something that is just in me. I’ve had a lot of jobs I’ve loved and enjoyed, but nothing sits home with me like writing a book.

I don’t want fame or riches. I don’t envy celebrities or politicians, or winners of reality shows. Why? Because I’m doing what I was designed and called to do. I think I used to envy them because they were living their dream and I wasn’t.

For me, the dream was simple and clear cut. Writing. Others have a plurality of dreams. They love painting or nursing, or home schooling their children or coaching football. Writing is one aspect of their lives. They are living their dreams too.

If you love to write, it doesn’t have to be your only dream like mine, but a part of who you are. Either way, take time for your writing, your dreams. Set goals.

I love to write because when I do, I feel His pleasure in me.

Rachel Hauck is a multi-published author living in sunny central Florida with her husband, Tony, a pastor. They have two ornery pets. She is a graduate of Ohio State University and a huge Buckeyes football fan. Currently she is a book therapist as part of, while continuing to write.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Be An Encourager!

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,
just as in fact you are doing.”
(1 Thess. 5:11 NIV)

We're supposed to encourage each other.

Christianity 101. Lift one another up. Be supportive to family members and friends.

It may come naturally to kiss the skinned knee of your five-year-old and assure her it’s going to be okay.

You may approach your son with a smile after a disastrous Little League game and with conviction in your voice, express the way he slid into home base was awesome!

After looking over the pile of bills needing to be paid, you may remind your spouse that God is still in control, and together the two of you will find a way to get by.

But as Christian writers, we should not only have the desire, we should also consider it a part of our calling to uplift our peers.

Do you meet with a critique group? As you offer honest feedback to a fellow writer, temper the constructive criticism with praise. It’s not easy too put your heart into words on paper, only to receive negative comments. It leaves a person feeling defeated.

Do you attend writers’ conferences? Watch for the person who may not be having the best experience, whether feeling out of place, or from receiving less than encouraging words about their work.

Do you have a friend who also writes? Rejection letters from editors or agents are a given. If it hasn’t happened already, it will. Words of encouragement may be needed for that writer to not give up.

Have you ever read a novel you absolutely fell in love with? You became immersed in the characters’ lives and their story moved you? Write and tell the author. Even the multi-published need encouragement. They need to know their labor of love was not in vain. They need to know their words touched a reader.



Have a great week . . . and be an encourager!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My Book Therapy

Book Therapy is made up of authors Susan May Warren, Rachel Hauck and Sarah Sumpolec. Their goal is to help writers identify and diagnose story problems, and then fix them!

My Book Therapy Mission Statement:

We at My Book Therapy are all about helping the writer help him – or herself. We are a professional story crafting service designed to give writers the tools they need to develop and enhance their craft. We don’t line edit - we footnote your story, giving you suggestions, lessons and examples on how to apply them.

In short, we’ll teach you how to write.

If you are ready to take your writing to the next level, we’re ready to help.

Check out their summer specials at this link.

Here’s a list of helps:

~Basic Book Therapy

~Chapter by Chapter Therapy

~Synopsis Therapy

~Brainstorming Therapy

Also, during 2009, these authors are writing a book with you if you join the Book Therapy Voices. Learn more here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Meeting the Felt Need

Net's Notations: All About the Reader Series-Part 3

You hear about “felt need” all the time in Christian publishing. There are workshops dedicated to helping you find it and address it. What is the felt need?

Ever wondered if there’s a book out there on … pick a topic: life after divorce? adoption? caring for aging parents? Likely, you’ve found at least a few books on your chosen topic. But what if you don't? As a writer, you can address it yourself.

Nonfiction writers do this all the time—discover a need in the marketplace regarding meeting a need in people’s hearts. A new how-to approach to the lasting marriage. A fantastic slant on parenting. A great how-to on recovering from addiction.

But fiction writers can also address a felt need.

Jesus did this.

His heart wrenched with compassion as He gazed on the crowds. He had the advantage of seeing into everyone’s private thoughts and lives and knowing their pain. As He sat with them on the hillside or preached to them from the boat at the water’s edge, He addressed their felt needs through parables—stories which were relatable and poignant, illustrating truth and offering wisdom and solutions.

We are not God. We cannot see everyone’s deepest thoughts. But each of us has a resource for knowing other’s pain—our own hearts.

Dig deep inside. Ask yourself: what need(s) do I have that have gone unaddressed in books? Or what new slant can I offer in my writing (fiction or non-fiction) that will speak to people’s needs? And how can I humbly offer some wisdom, solutions, or light in the midst of darkness?

Being a Christian and a writer, you are striving to be like Jesus as you write. So, why not develop your words as He did—by seeking to meet the felt need?

Minister to your readers because, after all, it is all about the reader.

Write on!


Monday, July 13, 2009

How I Plot a Book by Susan May Warren

Please welcome guest writer and writing teacher, Susan May Warren to discuss plotting.

I am often asked: When you plot your stories do you plot the spiritual journey, then overlay the general plot?

Here’s a quick overview of how I plot (and how I teach others to plot in From the Inside…Out: discover, create and publish the novelist in you).

My plotting is more organic than structured. I think it’s easier to start with the inside, and work outward when developing a character.

So, I start with an identity of a character, and then I ask him/myself why he calls himself this…and I keep asking why until I get down to a couple foundational thoughts:

1. What lies has he believed have brought him to the place he is today?
2. What are his values?
3. What does he most want in life, and why?

Answering those questions usually brings me to some spiritual vacancy my h/hn has in his life. From there, I try and determine what verse/scripture will set him free from that lie. (sometimes that comes as I’m writing the book – I often write a tandem Bible study for personal use as I’m writing the book, and this helps me discover the truth pertinent to my character).

I then overlay the emotional and physical plot to see how they will trigger or deepen his spiritual issues. Generally, plotting for me is like weaving together the three threads, and I work with all three at the same time.

Want to know more? Join us at Blog-a-Book discussion and write a book online with the My Book Therapy Voices! See how a book comes together, and add your voice!

God bless you on your writing journey!
Susan May Warren

Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of seventeen novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep’s Clothing, a thriller set in Russia, was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader’s Choice award. A former missionary to Russia, Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota.

Friday, July 10, 2009

True Confessions by Betsy St. Amant

Please welcome guest writer Betsy St. Amant, fellow White Rose author and good friend, as she shares her journey to publication and beyond.

True Confessions: My Journey

Do you ever feel that you should start your personal story with a confession?

Hello, my name is Betsy St. Amant, and I’m an author. ::grin:: It feels that way sometimes, doesn’t it? Writers have it tough. Not only do we have to learn about the craft of writing and implement these never-ending rules and suggestions into our stories, but we also have to go through critiques, submissions, rejections, head-banging-against-the-desk . . . oh wait.

But you see what I mean. Not only do we go endure the creative exhaustion of pouring our souls on paper, we have to face the harsh reality of someone in the industry not liking it.

My journey to publication was just that. Pathetic attempts, learning, slightly less pathetic attempts, more learning, then submissions, embarrassment, new drafts, head-banging, resubmitting, prayer, exhaustion, defeat, and then—success. Or so I thought.

When my first contemporary romance was picked up by The Wild Rose Press, a new POD press, I thought I had arrived. I was so excited to receive an acceptance letter instead of another rejection; I dove in headfirst, expecting others to share my joy. Not entirely true. My friends and family were happy and supportive, of course, but other writers had pointy pins ready to pop my bubble. Apparently POD publishing (print on demand) wasn’t viewed with the same respect or recognition as mainstreaming publishing through the more traditional houses like Steeple Hill, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, etc.

This was very discouraging to me but I pressed on. I published two more short story e-books with The Wild Rose Press and learned a lot from my sweet editor.

In the fall of 2007, I signed with Tamela Hancock Murray of Hartline Literary Agency and a few months later, she sold my next romance to Steeple Hill Love Inspired. Things really happened fast then. I went through the process with Steeple Hill, and ended up with two more contracts a few months after that. I’ve been a busy girl with deadlines the past year, plus a new baby, a new house, and big career changes in my family.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way, and you know what else? I wouldn’t change my beginning, either. I’m proud to say I started my writing journey at The Wild Rose Press and would recommend other authors getting their “pens” wet there, too.

My advice, from my personal journey, is to keep an open mind, pray about your career decisions, and go where God leads you—whether that be self publishing, POD publishing, e-books, print books, etc. Don’t let others around you discourage you from your dream. Do listen to the advice of respected and trusted mentors and friends, but remember that your career and writing ministry ultimately comes down to you and to God. So boldly walk through the doors He opens and don’t pay attention to the negative whispers from the hallway.

Hello, my name is Betsy St. Amant, and I’m an author—and proud of it. =)

Betsy St. Amant lives in Louisiana and is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers group. Betsy is multi-published/contracted with Steeple Hill and has been published in Christian Communicator magazine and Praise Reports: Inspiring Real Life Stories of How God Answers Prayer. One of her short stories, 'Kickboxing or Chocolate', appears in a Tyndale compilation book, and she is also multi-published through The Wild Rose Press. Betsy has a BA in Christian Communications and regularly contributes articles to She is a wife, author, new mother and an avid reader who enjoys sharing the wonders of God's grace through her stories. You may contact Betsy at or visit her websites at or Her first novel RETURN TO LOVE with Steeple Hill Love Inspired is available now through Amazon - click here! And be sure to watch for the sequel A VALENTINE'S WISH coming February 2010.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Am I Ever Going to Get it Right?

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

"You must present as the Lord's portion the best
and holiest part of everything given to you." (Num 18:29 NIV)

As Christian writers we take our calling seriously, so we strive to produce inspiring devotions, challenging articles, and life changing stories.

But as hard as we work, aren’t there days when many of us ask, “Am I ever going to get it right?”

Our critique group explains that our work lacks the emotion needed for them to empathize with the character. The contest entry we submit with high hopes of winning doesn’t even place. The manuscript an editor loves, still can’t seem to win the hearts of the publishing board. Our article gets published in a magazine – and then we realize several paragraphs could have been written soooo much better.

“Am I ever going to get it right?”

The bad news—the answer is no. Not if you’re expecting perfection.

There will always be a better way to write something. After years of growing in their craft, authors who have been published for some time will confess to being almost appalled at their earlier works. Even if you’re absolutely thrilled with your published work, it’s likely that you’ll still find imperfections. A word may be misspelled. You may find punctuation incorrectly typed in.

The good news—it’s okay.

A high school art teacher expressed a belief that has stuck with me since I was seventeen. A sign of a true artist is the inability to be satisfied with the end result. A true artist will always seek ways to be better.

Writers are artists. We create with words. We create from our imagination.

It's impossible for our work to reach perfection. And the only way to get it right is to honor God and our calling by working hard and offering the best we can.

Then we need to leave it up to God, who in His infinite wisdom and power, can make it right for our readers, and touch those who need to be touched.

There’s freedom in that. Embrace it.

Have a great week!