Friday, January 29, 2010

Encouraging Story of My Journey by Christina Berry

Last year, I met Christina at the ACFW writer's conference. (Come to think of it, Dawn was standing right beside me when we greeted her.) We'd discussed my reviewing her fantastic book The Familiar Stranger. This Fortifying Friday she shares her journey to publication story with us. Enjoy!

Encouraging Story of My Journey
by Christina Berry

More than a decade ago, my mother (Sherrie Ashcraft) said, “Let’s write a book together.” For years we’d talked about wanting to be writers; her from second grade on, me from ninth grade. I’m a slow bloomer, I guess. But she knew that without the accountability of working as a team, we would never get started.

So we spent two years writing THE BEST BOOK EVER. We did have to find out little things like how long a book should be and how to submit to publishers, but once we finished our precious little baby, we knew that editors would be knocking on our door.

We heard of a contest called The Noble Theme (now the Genesis) sponsored by American Christian Romance Writers (now American Christian Fiction Writers/ACFW). One thing about writers is that they let the power of being able to name characters and books and their children go to their heads, and randomly start renaming contests and organizations. Anyway, we sent in our submission and sat back, planning our acceptance speech. Months later we received out feedback sheets with a score equivalent to a D. What, a D???

Turns out we had no clue how to write a book: how to stay in one POV(Point of View) a scene, how to plot or pace or describe, how to write conversation. In short, we had a heap of learning to do. Enter OCW(Oregon Christian Writers) and ACFW. The one-day seminars and days-long coaching conferences taught us an incredible amount. Funny though … only after we went home and put our seats in chairs and hands on keyboards, forcing words out of our brains, did we actually learn to write.

The rejections became requests for proposals, then full book requests, yet editors stopped just shy of contracting the book. Time passed; we kept working.

My mother spent the summer of 2006 with her dying mother-in-law and couldn’t concentrate much on writing.

Two stories appeared in the newspapers that summer and would not get out of my head. I wondered, “If they had a baby, what would that little tale look like?” The plot of a novel fell into my lap, working title of Undiscovered and tagline of, “An accident that isn’t; secrets that won’t be.” I took four months to write it, sent it to a freelance editor, bled over her edits, placed second in the 2008 Genesis Contemporary category (redemption!), and had two offers within weeks of hearing the results. Me, the person who had logged more hard rejections than years on earth, had two offers. My favorite rejection was one I received AFTER selling the book!

I chose the house that best fit my style of fiction and never looked back. Being with Moody Publishers has been an incredible experience. They’ve spoiled me for working with any other house, I do believe. The Familiar Stranger released in September ’09, hopefully launching a long, fruitful career. I’d love to have enough clout to rename an organization sometime.

Here's a bit about her book, The Familiar Stranger.

Craig Littleton's decision to end his marriage would shock his wife, Denise . . . if she knew what he was up to. When an accident lands Craig in the ICU, with fuzzy memories of his own life and plans, Denise rushes to his side, ready to care for him.

They embark on a quest to help Craig remember who he is and, in the process, they discover dark secrets. An affair? An emptied bank account? A hidden identity? An illegitimate child?

But what will she do when she realizes he's not the man she thought he was? Is this trauma a blessing in disguise, a chance for a fresh start? Or will his secrets destroy the life they built together?

(Read Annette's review at Net's Book Notes.)

As a single mom and foster parent, Christina Berry carves time out of her busy schedule to write about the heart and soul of life. She’s one of those crazies who enjoys Math and Literature, majoring in both with a minor in French. All that confusion must have influenced her decision to be team captain of a winning team on Family Feud. Get to know her better at or Sign up for her infrequent, humorous newsletter at either site and you might win free, autographed books for life or a 4GB iPod Shuffle! Purchase your copy of The Familiar Stranger here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Willing to Be Vulnerable

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

"Instead, speaking the truth in love,
we will in all things grow up into him who is the
Head, that is Christ."
(Ephesians 4:15 NIV)

Speaking the truth in love can mean different things to different people. It can be as simple as telling a friend at a party that she has spinach stuck between her teeth. For some, it’s sharing God’s word. For others, it includes confronting another person with gentleness about a wrong doing, and then encouraging the individual to make changes.

What would happen if we interpreted “speaking the truth” as being vulnerable in our writing?

Of course, boundaries are important. I would never want to disclose information that would hurt someone. But I believe most people have experienced (personally, or through someone they know) at least one of the following: broken relationships, physical pain, trauma, grief, serious illness, financial hardship, job loss, divorce, addictions, depression, relocation, etc.

You see, through a willingness to be vulnerable and dig deep into our experiences and emotions, we can lay words down that are honest and will resonate with our readers. Yes, it can be scary. We may not want to go there. It may bring up unpleasant memories . . .

But . . . by wearing masks and continuing to pretend we’re perfect people . . . we’re not serving our purpose, which is to help others “grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”

I'm encouraged and grow in my faith when a writer is willing to be transparent. In their humanness, I see myself. And because the writer has experienced victory, I believe that I can also be victorious.

Devotions touch hearts when messages are relevant.

Articles teach when words don’t sugar coat the Christian life.

Novels inspire and encourage when the characters have depth and feel like real people.

Being vulnerable isn’t just about sharing the bad feelings we’ve experienced. With it also comes the freedom to express our joy with abandonment. Let’s not hesitate to also talk about the good things He’s done in our lives.

Let’s speak the truth in love, so that we in all things can grow in Christ.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Discouragement in Writing by Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar

This Writer’s Journey Wednesday, please welcome author, speaker, and certified Christian life coach, Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar.

Discouragement in Writing:
How a Christian life coach can help

Discouragement: It’s the state of being discouraged, deprived of confidence and courage. Like an ugly weed in a beautiful flower garden, discouragement can creep into our lives and choke off our happiness.

It can also keep us from writing.

But a Christian life coach can help in the following ways.

1) Faith, Hope, & Love

A Christian coach can and will encourage you in your faith and help you regain a focus on Jesus Christ and take your eyes off yourself and your situation. What are we doing under the circumstances anyway? As Christian authors, we need to be continually looking up. Even the most impossible deadline isn’t too impossible for God.

In essence, a life coach can help you turn your thinking around, from yourself to God.

2) Purpose

I don’t agree with everything author, Rick Warren writes; however, I do agree with this quote from his book The Purpose Driven Life:

"It’s not about you. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.”

A Christian life coach can help you realize your own purpose.

3) Goal setting

Once you realize what your purpose is, you can begin to set goals. A life coach can help you determine whether those goals are realistic.

Many times setting unrealistic goals and not meeting them can bring discouragement.

4) Accountability

Weekly phone calls and intermittent emails to your life coach will help you stay on track and accomplish your goals.

5) Setting boundaries

As Christians we want to serve God by helping others and being a blessing to them. However, many people will take advantage of that “goodness” we feel inside and then relationships can becomes toxic and energy draining. It especially hurts when those relationships involve people we love and/or family members. They play upon our obligatory senses and when these relationships take root in our lives, they eat away our God time, family time…and writing time. Suddenly we can feel stressed and overwhelmed.

A life coach can help you gain renewed awareness of these toxic relationships and energy drainers by helping you set boundaries.
Remember, God can heal any and all broken things, including relationships, but sometimes He wants us to get out of His way so He can work in both our hearts and the other person(s) who are involved.

Discouragement. We’ve all experienced it at one time or another. But it doesn’t have to take root, causing depression, bitterness, and even envy. Hiring a Christian life coach can help you take important steps to eradicate discouragement right where it grows: In our hearts!

In 1994, Andrea Boeshaar's first novel was published. Since then she's written numerous articles and devotionals. Andrea has also published inspiration romance novels, women's fiction, and novellas. In the year 2000, Andrea cofounded the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). She served as its vice president and then, later, its CEO. In 2003, Andrea joined the Hartline Literary Agency and worked as a literary agent. She saw much success. But then in 2007, Andrea realized she was more of a teacher/encourager than a sales person. She left the agency and became a certified Christian life coach. Now, in addition to her writing, Andrea enjoys encouraging others to use their God-given talents and gifts to their fullest. Her next novel, Unwilling Warrior, will be released in May 2010. Find out more at

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Author's Character Series - Courage

Net's Notations Tuesdays
The Author's Character Series


Accusing voices mocked me when I saw the notice come up about an upcoming booksigning. I wouldn’t participate. After all, it’s for well-established authors, right? I have a little book from a small press. What can I bring?

Remember how we talked about faithfulness on a recent Net’s Notations Tuesday? Well, there I was disqualifying myself and letting the accusing voices intimidate me.

What’s the antidote to all that self doubt? Courage!

What about when a rejection letter comes in the mail (or email)? Ugh… You’ve waited months and finally a word, but it’s not the one you want—a big NO. Now what?

Here’s what happens to me. I usually handle the rejection fine in the moment. But later, for a few days (at least), it really begins to eat away at my confidence. (Which probably means I didn’t process it fully in that first instance.) What rejection can lead to, though, is my not wanting to submit anything again. Multi-published inspirational romance author Colleen Reece has a solution for this. You get a rejection one day, you get your project back out the next. What great advice. That’d keep you hoping for a positive response. And odds are, someday a "YES" will come!

I’ve learned that doubts don’t disappear once you’re published. Multi-published writers have to beat back the monster, too. For them, it’s critical reviews, negative reader letters, or editors who reject their latest work.

So, what do you do when intimidation or doubt creeps into your writing life?

Embrace courage!

Courage is intentional. You can’t just accidentally happen upon courage. It’s inside you. So, when a tough situation presents, you have a choice—fight or flight, right? So, fighting (or facing the issue at hand and pushing through) is a choice—it’s intentional.

Courage is the sign of a mature writer, a mature person. If you’re a man or woman of courage, congratulations on embracing this virtue. If not, let’s press in and let God refine this part of our author’s character.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Nell's Big Theme by Susanne Lakin

Please welcome Susanne Lakin once again as she concludes her January themed visits. She's been giving us insights on themes and showing us application here on Manuscript Mondays.

Nell's Big Theme
By Susanne Lakin

Nell is an amazing movie. The plot itself is wonderful and enough to drive the story. But we see again another story where there is a theme underlying the plot. It's not just about a girl who has spent most of her life in isolation and can’t communicate. In Nell, we are put face-to-face with the question about our place in the world—what is considered normal and sane in the way we live our lives. Two forces fight over Nell—those who want to let her keep her freedom, and others in "authority," who insist Nell cannot care for herself, that she has to have others tell her what to think, eat, dress, how to act, and live that is not just acceptable, but healthy.

Nell threatens the established norms. Jerry and Paula take her to court, in despair over her fate. To everyone’s shock, Nell actually speaks up—in her strange manner of talking (because her mother, who had a stroke that impaired her speech, raised her with a warped version of English). She presents herself as an intelligent, intuitive person. But, most importantly, she understands the heart of life—what scares us, what moves us. Nell tells us that she knows small things--her world is small. And that her listeners know big things, there in the city, in the big world. Yet, she sees how no one will look each other in the eye. She sees everyone's hunger for connection, for love, and asks why their world hasn't given them either hope, love, or answers. She tells them she knows what it's like to love and to lose those she loves. She makes it clear she is no different than anyone else. But she can accept that those things are part and parcel of life.

In this beautiful, haunting speech, she reveals she knows far more than most of her listeners. She has a wisdom that comes from reflection and true living. She doesn't just live in her world, she embodies it. She puts her opponents to shame with her honesty and compassion--something starkly lacking in those seeking to constrain her "for her own good."

So, what’s the theme? Nell is considered helpless. Society is needed to tell us how to live and function, and we must be a compliant participant in order to not just survive but to enjoy life. Rules=happiness. The theme is that these are falsehoods. That sanity, happiness, functionality have nothing to do with society, but have to do with your heart. That you can throw out every rule that doesn't speak to your heart, because, in the end, those rules will not serve you or anyone else. That you have to face your fear and your pain to get to the raw truth of who you are. And that's too scary for most people, yet Nell, of all people, is there. She embraces her pain and loss in a beautiful acknowledgment that this is life—in all its beauty and despair. She challenges each one of us—can we live so honestly? How's that for a BIG theme?

C. S. Lakin (Susanne Lakin) writes contemporary literary mysteries and allegorical fantasy. She is completing her ninth novel and has had four novels contracted in 2009 for publication. She considers herself somewhat schizophrenic, having two agents and two genres she works in, but it’s always an adventure! When not writing, she earns her living as a professional copy editor and writing coach, always in search of the perfect sentence. For more information about her books, click over to her Web site.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Playing Dominoes in Prison with Joseph by Susanne Lakin

Today's guest has been very busy around Seriously Write this month! Please welcome Susanne Lakin to share her success story with us this Fortifying Friday.

Playing Dominoes in Prison with Joseph
by Susanne Lakin

After twenty years of submitting agented work to publishers, God has kindly dropped a book contract in my hands. I had just finished the second fantasy book in my series when I chatted with Jim Bell. "Jim, I'm going to take your mentor clinic at Mount Hermon in the spring. Whoops--I don't really have anything suspenseful to share." So, I got the idea to write a psychological suspense for CBA (my other contemporary books were written for the commercial market). But I had an idea brewing.

I wrote one novel loosely based on Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians." My agent thought it might be a great trademark to take her novels and twist then. So my next obvious choice was "Murder on the Orient Express." I wanted to set it in a small town with people quick to blame and distrust a newcomer. I originally planned to make Billy Thurber really evil, but as I wrote, I kept feeling he was redeemable. The story evolved into more than a story just about how quick we are to judge, weaving in themes of faith, hope, security, and forgiveness. That's how Someone to Blame was born.

Since writing STB, I finished book three in my fantasy series (which just sold to AMG).
So, I am so humbled, thrilled, and beside myself (yes, that's me, standing over there across the room!) Here I was writing fantasy and God yanked me aside and said, “Oh, BTW, I have a completely different book for you to write (which was so much fun) and then you can go back to fantasy where you belong!” (Go to your corner and sit on a toadstool!) I am finishing my ninth novel, a commercial psychological contemporary mystery, but I do have four more books in the fantasy to write and have started plotting another book I hope to pitch to Zondervan.

So, for any of you who are frustrated and depressed that you are not published yet, I say try to enjoy the writing journey while you sit in your prison alongside Joseph. I always pictured myself playing dominoes with him, hoping Pharaoh would hear about our predicament. You know the rest of the story. In God's due time--perfect time--after Joseph spent two years wondering why God set him on this path, Joseph was remembered and brought out of prison to do great work. I believe God wanted to give him a season of testing, but also teach him patience and trust in Him. (He did have a bit of a cocky attitude back there with his snazzy coat.) So I think God needed to do some work in him. I know for a fact He did with me. It took me twenty years to get out of jail, but I did have something Joseph didn't have-- a window looking out at the world. Through it, I watched and learned all I could about this writing life and, more importantly, this godly life that includes seasons of uncertainty, of feelings of abandonment. God is good. That's what you learn.

C. S. Lakin writes contemporary literary mysteries and allegorical fantasy. She is completing her ninth novel and has had four novels contracted in 2009 for publication. She considers herself somewhat schizophrenic, having two agents and two genres she works in, but it’s always an adventure! When not writing, she earns her living as a professional copy editor and writing coach, always in search of the perfect sentence. To learn more about her upcoming books, click over to her Web site.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Different Gifts

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.”
(I Cor. 12:4 NIV)

Most of us have probably accepted the fact that God doesn’t give everyone the same kind of gifts, nor the same amount of talent. Some are teachers. Others will have the ability to offer warm hospitality. There are musicians, artists, athletes, scientists, and inventors. We’re blessed to have a world that includes people who have the gift to heal, either through prayer or through medicine.

I think it’s also true that God didn’t provide all writers with the same gifts. Oh, we all have the ability to study the craft, learn, and improve with hard work. But I think we’re given our own place – our own nitch - where He’s provided talent specific to His plan.

Some people have the ability to write articles, devotions, or books that challenge spiritual growth and give insight into God’s word.

When it comes to fiction, I read and enjoy a wide range of genres, but that doesn’t mean I can write them. I do have a sense of humor and occasionally will write something funny. A line or two. But I couldn’t write 395 pages labeled as comedy. It’s just not in me.

I categorized my first manuscript as women’s fiction and the second as a mystery. I originally planned to place the novel I’m working on now under women’s fiction.

And then one day Annette confronted me and said, “Honey, accept it. You write romance.”

Would you believe I fought that? I didn’t want to write romance. Why? Because of painful experiences in my past, I didn’t want to go there.

But, I’d always been a romantic. And once I looked closer at all three manuscripts, I realized that despite having elements of other genres, they contained vital romance threads.

“Okay, Lord. I get it. That’s who I am and I accept it.” Wow! I felt free.

God has a job for each of us. I admire people who can write comedy because they bring laughter to people and brighten their day. I respect authors who can bring me to tears with stories of women’s courage and relationships. They make me want to be a better person and remind me to appreciate my own relationships. I enjoy mysteries and suspense because they give me a thrill and challenge my mind. Historicals, science fiction, and fantasy take me on adventures in other times and places.

And romance? Christian romance is able to teach through the love of a man and woman, how much God loves and forgives us.

God gave you the ability to write in a way that no one else can. Embrace it. Treasure it. Be proud of it. It’s special and specific to you.

What gifts in writing do you believe God has given you?


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Writing for Guideposts by B.J. Taylor

Last week on Writer’s Journey Wednesday, B.J. Taylor shared tips on making a writer’s group work. She joins us again today to talk about writing for Guideposts. Welcome, B.J.!

Writing for Guideposts

Writing for Guideposts had been my dream for 20 years, ever since I began reading the small-enough-to-tuck-in-your-purse magazine filled with inspirational stories. I pulled it out in doctor’s offices, at the car wash, even when getting a pedicure. One time I dropped it in the water swirling around my feet and had to call customer service to get a new one.

I wanted to be in that magazine! So I crafted an entry for the Guideposts Writers Workshop. They run a contest every other year (2010 is a contest year) and ask for stories written in first-person. Hundreds submit, and they choose 15 people to come to Rye, New York. They whisk you there for five days of intensive training, all expenses paid.

Here are some of the things I have learned since winning a spot in that Writers Workshop in 2004:

Study the Magazine There is no better way to learn what a magazine wants than by reading what they publish. Check out the Table of Contents. Notice the headings above the story title? See if your manuscript can fit into one of those and study different issues with stories like that.

Show, Don’t Tell I can’t emphasize this enough. Can a reader visualize your story? Can she “see” the events happening through well-crafted scenes? Can he feel the drama as you describe an intense event? Consider the five senses and put as many into your story as possible using the techniques of show, don’t tell.

Conflict and Change There must be conflict, otherwise, why would the reader keep reading? The story must contain struggles that lead the reader down a path toward change and resolution.

Length Does Matter Focus on one specific event. Tailor your manuscript to 1500 words. For an entry into the contest, they allow you a bit more, but try to write tight.

Wrap it Up With a Shiny Bow Take a look at the endings of published stories. There is usually a turnaround just before a satisfying, and often cheerful, ending. Many times there is a takeaway that resonates with the reader. She feels good after reading your story, and often has a shift in attitude or a new way of thinking.

Get Help From Others Have someone who subscribes to Guideposts read your entry. Does it sound like a story Guideposts would publish? Run it by your critique group members and listen to their feedback.

FYI: Watch for an upcoming issue of Guideposts for details on this year’s contest. And if you attend the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference this March, come to my class. I’ll divulge even more nuggets of wisdom to help you create a winning Guideposts story. Best wishes, and don’t give up! It took me eight years before getting accepted. :-)

B.J. Taylor is an award-winning author and a special correspondent/writer for Guideposts and Angels on Earth. Her publication credits include contributions to John Gray’s Mars and Venus in Love, twenty stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and many other magazines and newspapers including Writer’s Digest, Romantic Homes, Victorian Homes, and Lexus. She was chosen as one of 15 writers invited to attend Guideposts Writer’s Workshop in Rye, New York in October, 2004, and is a faculty member at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference where she speaks on writing inspirational stories. B.J. belongs to three writers’ groups: two face-to-face and one online. She is working on her second novel in a three-book series, which is all about dogs and the people who love them (B.J. calls it dog-lit). She lives in Southern California with her husband, dog Rex, cats Red, Diamond and Bear, and a Beta fish named Fish Face.

B.J. Taylor – Author
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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Author's Character Series - No Easier Roads

Net's Notation Tuesdays
The Author's Character

No Easier Roads

I don’t write historicals (yet—never say never in fiction writing). Why? I’d rather avoid the extra research involved. You can’t even write about people having a normal conversation without painting the setting (research), using the correct wording (research), and considering the clothing (research). What should be simple becomes so much more complicated because of the extra legwork involved.

Oftentimes I’m tempted to take the easy way out. Like while writing a recent Author’s Character post, I used a word I wasn’t 100% sure of the meaning on. Then the temptation—just choose another word or use it anyway, who’s gonna notice? Am I the only one to take the easy way out in the past? ;-) Not anymore!

I recently launched an editing business. How many of you know if you’re serious about editing you can’t avoid the tough stuff?! So, welcome to the world of intentional and in-depth use of the CMS (Chicago Manual of Style). As a writer, I think (and sometimes rightly so) “The editor will apply what fits her house. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Write a good story!” But as an editor myself, the tables have turned! Like with acquiring all your awesome pieces for this site. Dawn and I get to be the editors—read it through one more time. Make sure it reads smoothly. The other side of the desk, but necessary to grow as a writer and, as God would have it, as a person.

So, are there areas where you’re just getting by? Areas you’d rather not go through the extra steps to ensure you’ve got the right info, the right words, etc.? I’m feeling the challenge of God lately to stay on the difficult road. That’s what makes a mature writer, a mature person. Going through the tough stuff, the stuff we’d rather avoid. After all, He's working on the author's character.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Babe: A Little Pig Goes A Long Way by Susanne Lakin

Today, Susanne Lakin pulls the themes from Babe. Please welcome her once again this Manuscript Monday.

Babe: A Little Pig Goes a Long Way

by Susanne Lakin

Who would have thought such a simple, small children's book would have become such a blockbuster movie? Babe excels in a number of ways—mostly because there are some great themes. The most obvious one has to do with one's "purpose" in life.

Babe finds himself lonely at Farmer Hoggett's farm. He soon learns that every animal on the farm has a purpose--and so he goes about trying to discover what his might be.
Babe experiences a saving twist of fate, for Farmer Hoggett is a keen believer in divine purpose. His character is concerned with everything having a place, everything functioning efficiently. The symbol that ties in with this theme of purpose is "the gate."

Using this subtle but powerful element, the screenwriter keeps us coming back to Hoggett tweaking his gate. His aim is to have the gate close with a gentle touch and lock with the least amount of extra effort. Likewise, he wants his farm to run smoothly, and part of that involves his dogs herding the sheep into their pens for various reasons. When he sees how Babe has acquired a knack for herding these sheep effortlessly, his attention rivets on Babe. Here is a pig with a destiny--with a purpose. Perhaps it is an unusual one. But Hoggett is not one to give a hoot what anyone else thinks--even when hundreds of people are laughing at him as he strides out into the arena with Babe as his "sheep herding dog" to compete in the time trials. He doesn't enter Babe so he can get attention or laughs, or to become famous or notorious. He enters Babe because it makes perfect sense. Babe is an excellent sheep dog, despite his porcine nature, and it is only logical for him to compete and earn the recognition deserved for his skills.

By the end of the movie, Hoggett's gate closes perfectly, and Babe ends his sheep dog trial--to the astonishment of the now-silent audience--with Hoggett only making one simple move: lifting his hand to close the gate behind the sheep Babe has properly herded into the pen.

The audience in the stands jumps to their feet and cheers--and those watching the movie feel the same exhilaration. Babe and Hoggett have faced all odds and humiliating jeers and the weight of others' disbelief in them. But they shine victoriously because they proved faithful to their calling. They found their purpose in life and grabbed it by both hands, despite every possible obstacle and discouragement. This theme is huge when you realize the movie is not about a pig that just happens to have some special skills--that's not the theme at all. Because Babe explores a universal theme that each one of us struggles with daily--how to find our purpose in life and fulfill it--this movie met with enormous success. Once you realize there are two kinds of stories--stories "with a purpose" and stories "without a purpose" you will understand what you need to make your novel a breakout success.

C. S. Lakin writes contemporary literary mysteries and allegorical fantasy. She is completing her ninth novel and has had four novels contracted in 2009 for publication. She considers herself somewhat schizophrenic, having two agents and two genres she works in, but it’s always an adventure! When not writing, she earns her living as a professional copy editor and writing coach, always in search of the perfect sentence. For more information about her books, click over to her Web site.

Friday, January 15, 2010

My Journey: Part Two by Maureen Lang

This Fortifying Friday, please welcome Maureen Lang as she continues her series. We've appreciated her transparency and wisdom!

My Journey: Part Two
by Maureen Lang

Last week, I talked about my journey to writing secular historical romances. Shortly after that, a few of the choices I’d made resulted in some painful consequences. My marriage ended; I became a single parent. Maybe it’s common for people who have a “start over” moment to reevaluate everything, and that’s what I did. It was then God really claimed my heart, and I knew I wouldn’t leave God out of anything.

I withdrew my fourth secular romance from my agent, then made a brief attempt to rework one of my stories for a Christian audience. But life was too busy to devote myself fully to writing. As it turns out God didn’t lead me back to writing for about fifteen years. During that time I didn’t read as much as I used to, but occasionally I came across an idea I thought I’d write about “someday.”

One idea was about a secret newspaper being produced in Belgium during the German occupation of the First World War. When I finally sat down to write again, in three months I wrote a manuscript one-hundred-fifty-thousand-words long. Whew! It was fun. But unwieldy. Wordy, to say the least. I did propose it to a few publishers, but I’m sure the size alone played a part in its rejection.

One thing was obvious: God was nudging me to write again. I rejoined RWA, then joined American Christian Fiction Writers. I knew I needed not only writers around me this time, but Christian writers. People who understood the spiritual element in life and writing.

This time while writing, I felt God’s pleasure—seeing me want to honor Him. I sensed His sympathy when I went through the first rounds of rejection in this market, heard Him tell me it wasn’t yet my time. I needed to trust Him a little longer, keep on writing, keep on wanting to honor Him. Eventually I knew that even if I were only writing for the two of us, I’d still be writing—so why give up trying to reach a wider audience?

After over three years of studying the market (much of which I still do!), submitting, attending writer’s conferences, honing skills through critique groups, my first Inspirational was contracted in 2004 and released in 2006. I’ve learned how important it is to trust God’s hand, in life and in my writing. Writing for the Christian market is the most rewarding kind of writing, knowing spiritual elements can remind us of eternal implications, from the choices and decisions we make to the people we surround ourselves with.

Oh, and about that one-hundred-fifty-thousand-word novel I wrote? I’m happy to report it will be published by Tyndale House as Book Two in my Great War Series, to release June, of 2010, under the title Whisper on the Wind. Little did I know the plans God had for this story. Not my timing, but His. I’m thrilled with the trimming and polishing this story needed. So hang in there! Some projects may see the widest audience farther down the road than you think, so it’s important not to give up.

Look to the East released in August, 2009. Here is the summary:

At the dawn of the First World War, the French provincial village of Briecourt is isolated from the battles, but the century-old feud between the Toussaints and the de Colvilles still rages in the streets. When the German army sweeps in to occupy the town, families on both sides of the feud must work together to protect stragglers caught behind enemy lines. Julitte Toussaint may have been adopted from a faraway island, but she feels the scorn of the de Colvilles as much as anyone born a Toussaint. So when she falls in love with one of the stragglers-a wealthy and handsome Belgian entrepreneur-she knows she's playing with fire. Charles Lassone hides in the cellar of the Briecourt church, safe from the Germans for the moment. But if he's discovered, it will bring danger to the entire village and could cost Charles his life. First in a three-book series.

Maureen Lang grew up as one of the youngest in a six-kid, boisterously loud German-Irish family in the suburbs of Chicago. She started out writing for the secular market and now writes for the Christian marketplace. To learn more, see her Web site.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Listen for God's Voice

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

“My sheep listen to my voice, I know them,
and they follow me.”
(John 10:27 NIV)

Do you ever ask, “What does God really want me to do?”

Does the question pertain to your writing?

I try to include God in all aspects of my writing, but I admit that sometimes I neglect to check out what He wants. Even though I know that the decisions I make, and the words I write, will bear more fruit if He’s directing them.

I’ve probably learned more about waiting on God while working on devotions for Seriously Write. Even though I’d love to have a month’s worth prescheduled to post, often the topic God wants me to address doesn’t come until the weekend before it goes live. I’ve had to trust that God will give direction if I just wait and open myself up to what He wants shared.

And surprisingly – or maybe not surprisingly – I’ve frequently discovered that Annette has had the same topic pressed upon her heart for the weekly feature she writes. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

I desire to listen and follow God’s direction on not only what to write, but also where to submit my work - whether it’s a publishing house or an agent. I want to know how much time and energy He wants me to put in to this part of my life, so that I’m careful to not neglect Him, my family, or friends.

But, how does God speak to us? How does He tell us these things?

Of all the ways, I believe He most frequently uses His word, wisdom already gained or given from others, and the small voice of the Holy Spirit inside us who speaks God’s will to our spirit. Our spirit is then able to convey to our mind and heart God’s will and the action to take. Then we feel that glorious inner peace of knowing we’re on the right path.

What have you experienced in your writing career after listening for God's voice?


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Writer’s Groups: How to Make Them Work for You by B.J. Taylor

Last week on our Writer’s Journey Wednesday, I (Dawn) shared my experiences with critique groups. B.J. Taylor has not only participated in writer’s groups, she’s also written the book, The Complete Guide to Writer’s Groups that Work. Enjoy and learn from her tips. B.J. will return next Wednesday to talk about writing for Guideposts.

Writer’s Groups: How to Make Them Work for You

The best-kept secret to becoming a successful author is finding a professional writer’s group that really works. Why? Because you’ll learn to accept constructive critiques—an excellent way to prepare yourself to work with editors/agents—and your writing will improve.

Keep these five things in mind:

1. Size Does Matter Eight members is optimum, providing enough personal attention to supply you with diverse opinions, without being overwhelming. Remember to apply the Rule of Three to all comments on your work: if one person suggests a change, it is one opinion; if two people make the same point, you could take a closer look; but if three people feel the same way, you may want to consider it. In the end, it is your manuscript and your right to keep your words the same, but the Rule of Three will help when you’re wondering whether you should make a revision.

2. Location, Location, Location Find a group that is near where you live and make attendance a high priority. Really listen to the comments and suggestions of others. Your work will rise above the competition and contain the sparkle and shine editors and agents look for.

3. Put Your Best Foot Forward Have you ever read your first draft over again and found typos, stilted grammar, or choppy dialog? Prepare your work in plenty of time before a meeting so that you bring your third or fourth draft. Oh, sure, you’ll still see areas that need improvement when you get comments from others, but you’ll feel better when you’ve brought your best.

4. Take Every Advantage Be prepared when your writer’s group meets. Bring your work and read it out loud. Did they laugh at the right moment, become confused at any point, get misty-eyed or emotional at the ending? Learn from this group of test readers and your work will soar to higher levels.

5. Give it a Chance Ever buy a new pair of shoes that pinched your feet the first time you wore them? In the beginning, a writer’s group may seem scary and challenging. Will they like my work? Will they try to change my voice? If you surround yourself with writers who are pursuing publication like you are, you can embrace their comments and learn from each other. It takes time to feel comfortable if you join an established group, and if you start a new group, give it six months to become a cohesive, working unit. One of my groups, The Sixteen Thumbs, has met every third Saturday for 15 years. All eight members are published. We make our meetings a priority in our writing careers. Won’t you make it a priority in yours?

P.S. Wondering WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHY about writer’s groups? The nuts and bolts of face-to-face and online writer’s groups are available in an easy to read step-by-step guide that includes sections on troubleshooting and how to critique.

B.J. Taylor is an award-winning author and a special correspondent/writer for Guideposts and Angels on Earth. Her publication credits include contributions to John Gray’s Mars and Venus in Love, twenty stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and many other magazines and newspapers including Writer’s Digest, Romantic Homes, Victorian Homes, and Lexus. She was chosen as one of 15 writers invited to attend Guideposts Writer’s Workshop in Rye, New York in October, 2004, and is a faculty member at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference where she speaks on writing inspirational stories. B.J. belongs to three writers’ groups: two face-to-face and one online. She is working on her second novel in a three-book series, which is all about dogs and the people who love them (B.J. calls it dog-lit). She lives in Southern California with her husband, dog Rex, cats Red, Diamond and Bear, and a Beta fish named Fish Face.

B.J. Taylor – Author
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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Author's Character Series - Faithfulness

Net's Notation Tuesdays
Author's Character Series


Those who are faithful with little, will be given more.

I’ve had one book published for a while now and hope to be in contract again very soon with another. But it’s been a long wait. Not for lack of trying, mind you. ;-) I have many projects. Can you relate?

Before that first book was accepted by White Rose Publishing (then a division of Wild Rose), I remember writing the story. I always spend Christmas seasons reading Christmas books. Love to match up the read with the seasonal joys around me. I can really sink myself into the stories and enjoy them. So, as I was reading novella after novella that year, I remember beginning to form a story idea of my own. I’d been writing for several years, so it was logical to just begin writing.

So I did.

After the story had come together, I began to seek publication. I thought, “The house which published all these novellas I’m reading would be a great place to start.”

Problem—I’d written a story of a married couple finding their romance together again. The house I’d targeted didn’t publish novellas around marrieds romance. So I gave up. For a season.

About a year later, God began stirring that story up again. I’d moved on. I was working on a trilogy and other novellas. But God wanted me to bring that story back out, polish it up and keep hope burning that He’d show me where to go.

Through networking I discovered a new house which had launched with a wide open door for writers. And after I submitted my story, they wanted it! Love Letters had a home!

And since that time God’s been teaching me so much about the process and how to be faithful with what He gives me.

First, not to despise small beginnings. It all began so much earlier with articles and devotionals published elsewhere, but in terms of books, my publication road started here for me.

Second, to be faithful with this “little” thing so He can grant larger things. Jesus talked about that in Matthew, chapter twenty-five.

"His lord said to him,‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ ” Mt 25:21

That meant, market this story. Try things out. Get out there. Participate in booksignings. Be faithful to promote and honor this story God had given me.

Of course, we can’t be faithful without God’s help. Thankfully, He covenants with us in faithfulness (both His that He extends toward us, but also the grace to make us faithful). (See Hosea 2:16-19)

Faithfulness is a sign of a refined author’s character. How has He worked in your writing life around faithfulness?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Writing Themes: Slicker than Slick by Susanne Lakin

Please welcome writer Susanne Lakin this Manuscript Monday. We'll be hearing from her often this month as she has a lot of great tools to share, as well as her success story later in the month.

Writing Themes: Slicker Than Slick

By Susanne Lakin

I’ve been exploring the topic of using universal themes in writing, and here's another movie just chock full of 'em. Not many comedy movies do such a brilliant job of juxtaposing humor with heavy issues, but City Slickers is a gem of an example. Half the time you don't know whether to laugh or cry--if you're paying attention.

There are two big themes happening in this movie. First, there‘s Mitch, Phil, and Ed and their midlife crises. They go off on adventures to offset the growing truth that they are not getting any younger. Mitch voices the problem when he says, "what if this is the best I'll ever look, the best I'll ever be, the best I'll ever do--and it's not very good?" The theme, then, is: how do we find true meaning and happiness in life--is it something we need to look for outside...or inside ourselves? Can true happiness be found, or do we just have to settle for a mediocre life and learn to live with it? This major theme is closely tied up with the second one, and by answering the latter, the former is solved.

The second theme is presented by Curly, the trail boss. He looks at Mitch and says, "do you want to know what the secret of happiness is?" Mitch says yes and Curly holds up his finger. "It's this," Curly says. "One thing." "What? Your finger?" Mitch says. Curly explains the secret of happiness is different for each person--you have to go figure what it is, but when you do, you'll know it--and you'll be happy.

It may sound trite and simple, but when the three friends run into real danger and have to make tough choices, they find that being true to who they are and what they believe in is what leads them to their "one thing." For Mitch, it's risking his life to save Norman, the calf, as he's swept downriver. Yet, it's bigger than that. Mitch is suffering from feeling unimportant, that his life is meaningless, makes no difference to anyone, doesn't matter. But when he saves Norman, his act mattered--maybe just to a cow, but the symbolism to Mitch is huge. He made a decision and gave it all he had because he believed it was the right thing to do. He wasn't standing on the sidelines anymore but engaging in life.

They all discovered, to their surprise, that happiness was in the last place they would ever imagine--inside them. Rather than look outside to find happiness, Mitch learns that he needed to change his attitude. "I'm just going to do everything better," he tells his wife when he gets home. There's a bit of Zen philosophy here--the collect water, chop wood realization that joy can be found in simple unimportant tasks, because even those kinds of tasks have value. This reminds me of the Scripture: "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31).

C. S. Lakin (Susanne Lakin) writes contemporary literary mysteries and allegorical fantasy. She is completing her ninth novel and has had four novels contracted in 2009 for publication. She considers herself somewhat schizophrenic, having two agents and two genres she works in, but it’s always an adventure! When not writing, she earns her living as a professional copy editor and writing coach, always in search of the perfect sentence. For more information about her upcoming books, click over to her Web site.

Friday, January 8, 2010

My Journey: Part One by Maureen Lang

Please welcome my friend Maureen Lang this Fortifying Friday as she begins a two-part series on her journey in publication. She and I (Annette) have been friends for a few years and it all started when I read her book Oak Leaves. Read my review of this fantastic book here. We're pleased to host her today.

My Journey: Part One
by Maureen Lang

Have you ever wondered how gifts we’re given by God can be used either with His input, or without? I’ve done that very thing.

When I was young, my father called me “the creative one” and nearly from the moment of that identification, I thought about telling stories. My first recollection of writing down my ideas came when I was around ten. Of course in those days I wrote long hand—family computers were things of the future. I used notebook paper, snapped them into a notebook which I then covered in soft deerskin, and pasted on pictures from magazines of models I thought fit the look of my characters. Voila—my first, albeit literally self-published, novel. I then passed it around the neighborhood to rave reviews.

I share that to let you know I’ve always had a passion for writing, even before the Lord claimed my heart. But do I think He wired me to write to begin with? Absolutely.

In my Jr. High years I did feel the Lord calling me to a closer relationship with him, but despite that initial connection, I ended up making choices that had little or nothing to do with my fledgling faith. I married someone who didn’t share my faith, and I chose to read (and write) books that didn’t honor God.

Nonetheless, God honored my desire to write. He brought people into my life who taught me a lot about writing, from teachers to family members to pen pals I met through a writer’s magazine. Eventually I joined my local RWA group (Romance Writers of America), where I learned so much through the critique of both my own work and others, along with the procedures of submitting manuscripts to editors. I’ve always believed the three best places for writers to get an education are found in honest feedback, reading well-written books and listening to other writers. Once a person decides they want to write, reading for pure pleasure is over. Everything we read is a study in what works, or doesn’t. And other writers are not only the voice of experience, but usually willing to share much of what they’ve learned over the years.

I spent about three or four years seriously pursuing publication in the secular market. Surrounding myself with others on the same path was extremely encouraging, because all of us knew the pleasure to be found in writing and sharing our stories with others. We also knew what rejection felt like. Knowing I had friends who believed I had the talent to get published—if I stuck with it—made it easier to keep going.

In the same year, I entered and won RWA’s national Golden Heart competition for unpublished novels, found an agent and also received a contract from a romance publisher. It was quite a year! To some, it might have seemed like a quick success. But then they don’t know I started training for my writing career when I was younger than ten years old!

Her latest book, Look to the East released August, 2009. Here's the summary:

At the dawn of the First World War, the French provincial village of Briecourt is isolated from the battles, but the century-old feud between the Toussaints and the de Colvilles still rages in the streets. When the German army sweeps in to occupy the town, families on both sides of the feud must work together to protect stragglers caught behind enemy lines. Julitte Toussaint may have been adopted from a faraway island, but she feels the scorn of the de Colvilles as much as anyone born a Toussaint. So when she falls in love with one of the stragglers-a wealthy and handsome Belgian entrepreneur-she knows she's playing with fire. Charles Lassone hides in the cellar of the Briecourt church, safe from the Germans for the moment. But if he's discovered, it will bring danger to the entire village and could cost Charles his life. First in a three-book series.

Maureen Lang grew up as one of the youngest in a six-kid, boisterously loud German-Irish family in the suburbs of Chicago. She started out writing for the secular market and now writes for the Christian marketplace. To learn more, see her Web site.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hurtful Criticism

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?
Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men,
I would not be a servant of Christ."
(Gal 1:10 NIV)

How do you handle criticism pertaining to your work?

I’m used to receiving constructive feedback from my critique group. I ask for it and I trust them to be honest. I also trust them to not be hurtful. My work has never been trashed by readers, but this past week I experienced criticism that was not only painful, it didn’t feel fair.

I work for a national telecommunications company in a departments that deals with customer accounts. I look at payments, numbers, and uninteresting stuff (to a creative person) all day. But when it became known that I write, I was asked to create a quarterly newsletter for the department of 90 people. This is an ongoing, out-of-the box kind of project. Four people stepped up to help me, offering their time and wonderful gifts.

The first issue recently came out and received rave reviews from managers, supervisors, and even a top executive. They loved the variety of business, fun, and personal topics. We were flying high.

Then we sent out a survey – to be answered anonymously by the department. Most comments were very positive, but constructive feedback was also given.

However, comments left by one person cut. They weren’t constructive, but felt mean and spiteful. A personal attack. “Poor editing.” The comment was left without explanation, as well as additional words slamming every aspect of the publication.

My assistant editor and I wracked our brains throughout the day wondering if we had an enemy in the department who wanted to make sure our egos were kept in check. Someone who was envious of the project? A coworker who was having a bad day and just needed to take it out on someone?

Or did this individual’s comments have merit?

I pulled myself back, remembering several multi-published and award-winning authors who had received scathing letters from readers who didn’t like their books.

Hmmmmmm . . . I guess I’m in good company.

And criticism is a part of the publishing business. I better get used to it.

But more than that . . . I need to remember that my job is to please God, not man.

I encourage you to keep that knowledge tucked away in you heart. Because if it hasn’t happened yet, it will. You’ll read hurtful comments that will make you question your ability to write anything. Even your grocery list.

God’s approval or man’s?

We all make that decision.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Finding the Right Critique Group by Dawn Kinzer

It’s Writer’s Journey Wednesday and today’s topic is finding the right critique group for you.

I’m a strong believer in critique groups, but not every group is a good fit for every person. And what works for you today, may not work tomorrow.

My first group was comprised of four people. We worked strictly through e-mail. During the week, we sent a total of several written pages up to a full chapter or more to the group. As soon as a member critiqued the work, they e-mailed it back, copying the group so we could see what points or corrections other people had made.

As a member of an online group, you can still benefit from other writers’ input, even though they may live thousands of miles away. You can also critique when your schedule permits. The downside is that some people write faster than others, and you can become so inundated with someone else’s work that you don’t spend time writing yourself. So be clear as to what and how much you can do within a time frame.

A year later I started and facilitated a small writer’s group in my area. We met once a month at a local library. Out of need, the meetings became critique sessions. We e-mailed work to the group a week prior to meeting, and then came together with critiques in hand, ready to discuss our suggestions. This, too, worked well for a time. Then several members moved out of state, or left because of life changes.

From that experience, McCrit emerged, the critique group that Annette and I now belong to with Ocienna Fleiss and Veronica McCann. McCrit stands for McDonald’s Critique group because we really do meet at a local McDonald’s. We settle in at a back corner table almost every Monday evening from 6:30 pm until closing at 11:00 pm.

First we allow ourselves to indulge in not-too-healthy food while we catch up on each other’s lives. Printed copies (usually 7-12 pages) of our work are handed out and a time limit is given for reading and critiquing. If someone doesn’t bring anything to submit for feedback, that’s okay.

We finish the evening by taking time to focus on each person’s chapter, sharing our corrections and suggestions. One of the many benefits is that we grow as writers/editors as we discuss each other’s work. Often times these discussions become brain-storming sessions in which plot problems are solved and characterizations are deepened.

Yes, 4 ½ hours is a long time to sit at a fast food joint. But, it works for us. First of all, coffee, hot chocolate, and other snacks are available throughout the night. ;-D We don’t disrupt our households. And the crew doesn’t care how long we stay, often allowing us to linger after doors are locked and they're cleaning up.


* If possible, find a critique group that includes writers with your skill level or above. It's great to help those less experienced, but you also want to be challenged to improve.

* Seek out people who will be honest in their feedback, but not arrogant or unkind. Criticism is hard enough to take when it's given in love. Who needs to be smacked in the face with it?

* Don't worry about finding a group exclusive to your genre. It helps if someone in your group reads it, but it's not necessary. One of our members writes Westerns. I never would have given her book a second glance in a store, but her story was so well written, I became totally involved with the characters.

* Make sure you understand the group's expectations.

In McCrit, we treat each other with respect. We encourage each other. We pray for each other. And we celebrate successes.

Critique groups can bless your life in so many ways . . . but keep searching until you find the right one for you.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Author's Character Series - Integrity

Net's Notation Tuesdays
The Author's Character Series

Who are you when no one’s looking? Would a “fly on the wall” recognize you by your deeds? Do you have a separate public persona from your private one? Does your family know a different you than say, attendees at a writer’s conference?

One of the broadest areas God highlights in our writing lives/careers is integrity.

We pray and work toward breakthroughs. Then, a contract! We meet the deadlines, learn the ropes, climb the ladder. But here’s a question: are we skipping steps we’d rather omit? Are we avoiding areas we’d rather not face? Careful, no evasion of tough stuff allowed.

That brings up a point: Tax time is coming with this new year. God wants us to be honest in our reporting. (That’s a touchy topic, I can sense it. I’m gonna leave that at that.) :-)

So, the business side of writing requires integrity. How about the writing side? Say we discuss a project with one house, but think we’ll find a sweeter deal with another. Oh, boy. Did you see that? A tempting side path just appeared. Looks all sunny and friendly now, but if you venture down there you may just run into briers and trolls.

God wants us to be people of integrity, glorifying His name, trusting Him and obeying His guidance. Watch what He’ll do when we follow through and remain people of integrity. He will honor those who honor Him, whose character matches up with the ultimate Author’s character.

Monday, January 4, 2010

First Things First: Part III by Patti Lacy

This Manuscript Monday, please welcome Patti Lacy as she concludes her First Things First series.

Discovering Your Message
by Patti Lacy

“Write for me,” a Still, Small Voice whispers. “Tell my stories.”

You label a file "Great American Novel." Memorize a snapshot of your target victim—I mean reader—like it’s a Post Office poster. Now what?

Decide what you want to say. I’m not talking plot or scripture, though to survive the publishing journey, you’ll need narrative and spiritual life jackets.

What in the deep blue sea do I mean?

Moral premise. Williams declares in The Moral Premise: “…the desperate desire of the audience for entertainment that embodies some moral principles, some guidelines for ethical living, some prescription for a healthier world and a saner life” (xv).

Need oars to row that boat?

Before you write anything, determine your character’s want.

Example: What does Sheila, a preacher's wife protagonist, want?

To help the son she gave up for adoption.

Who wouldn’t help their son? So what’s the conflict?

Example: If Sheila helps her son, she risks destroying her husband and their ministry.

Wow. A woman, choosing between son and husband. Conflict. But not a moral premise.

To create moral premise, think algebraic equations. If “A” happens, “B” results. If “C” happens, “D” will result.

As Williams explains: “[Vice] leads to [defeat], but [Virtue] leads to [success.]” (61).

Determine character’s reaction to greater moral good AND lesser moral good.

Example: If Sheila withholds the truth, she faces rejection by son and possibly her husband.

If Sheila tells the truth, she may begin a relationship with her only child and heal a marriage based on secrets.

Build a solid vessel to weather market storms and reach the shore of a well-written story.

What’s next?

Development of Character. As conflict tears at your characters, how do they change? Jean Valjean of Les Miserables steals to save his nephew from starvation. Then a priest provides an alibi and dedicates Valjean to God. Valjean must now answer to God. When he adopts a Cossette or wields a sword with student protestors, he does so at God’s behest. By the deathbed tear-jerker, Valjean has been transformed into a saint. And we followed it every compelling word of the way!

Sociocultural Values expand readership and layer your story. Scan headlines and thread issues into plot. Bulging budgets? Protagonist has a purse strings problem. Euthanasia? Protagonist’s parent has cancer. The plight of 143 million orphans? Your character considers adoption or is an orphan.

Satisfactory Ending. All good stories must end. Leave your target reader satisfied and zippings to with a five-star review.

I said “satisfied,” not necessarily “happy.” The difference? If your character doesn’t CHOOSE events that produce greater moral good, let him or her suffer the consequences. Readers crave structure and justice. 1 + 1=2 and not 5. Readers want orderly things, especially when they grapple with life situations far from these ideals.

Whether you outline or SOP, plan what you want to say before you hoist the sails and explore distant shores. Your readers will thank you!

Patti Lacy thanks her parents for planting the love of stories in her heart and for laying a foundation for a career in teaching. At age 50, she entered the world of writing and has published two novels, An Irishwoman’s Tale and What the Bayou Saw. Patti and her husband live in Normal, Illinois and love to take long walks with their dog named Laura.

Friday, January 1, 2010

My Writing Journey by Tiffany Amber Stockton

Annette and I have known Tiffany Amber Stockton through ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and attending writer’s conferences. Her article, “What I Wish Someone Had Told Me,” was recently featured on a Writer’s Journey Wednesday. We’re pleased she’s returned this Fortifying Friday to share more of her personal journey.

My Writing Journey

Like many other writers and authors, my journey toward publication began many years ago. I wrote my first short story in 5th grade with several accolades from both my teacher and my fellow students. It was even entered into a ‘Young Writers of America’ contest and placed but didn’t get selected for publication. Ever since I learned to read at age 3-1/2, I’ve been telling stories. My parents often had to correct me from the extra embellishments I’d add from what really happened. I could often easily keep a captive audience, so writing seemed to be a natural progression from the verbal.

I wrote often, but it wasn’t until I was a Senior in high school that I got the ‘bug’ to write. My English teacher saw potential, and as an author herself, she encouraged me to pursue the talent further. However, I became more focused on finishing my education and getting my degree, so my writing took up residence on the back burner.

In 1997, I joined and online community for a television show and wrote my first fan fiction. After receiving a lot of encouragement and feedback, I realized I might be able to make something of this ability. It took me another 5 years and encouragement from Tracie Peterson (one of my favorite authors) before I took the step professionally to begin a career by joining a national organization called ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers).

I did everything I could to improve my skills and develop my craft. I bought writing books, studied a wide variety of fiction, conversed with other writers and authors, attended conferences, purchased audio recordings of workshops and presentations, and soaked up as much information as I could handle. Almost 4 years later, I sold my first book and took a rather scary step into the world of authorship.

When I received the notification that my first book was actually going to be bought, so much elation and excitement filled me. The first thought that went through my mind was, “I have to tell someone!” Since the hour was late, and everyone had gone to bed, I logged online. The only one signed on was the man who is now my husband. Some people would call that ironic. I call it God. One of the biggest moments of my life, and the first person I tell is the man I would marry just 8 months later. Amazing!

Today, I have sold 8 novels with more on the horizon, and total sales for my books have crested the 50,000 copies mark. God truly has blessed my endeavors, and I look forward to sharing more stories with my readers in the years to come. Thank you for supporting me. An author is nowhere without readers.

Tiffany Amber Stockton is an author and freelance web site designer who lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart, and their baby daughter in beautiful Colorado Springs. They also have a vivacious Border Collie mix named Roxie. Amber has sold eight books so far to Barbour Publishing. Other writing credits include five short stories for Romancing the Christian Heart, and contributions to Grit for the Oyster and 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage. A born-again Christian since the age of seven, her faith in Christ has often sustained her through difficult experiences. She seeks to share that with others through her writing.

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