Friday, July 30, 2010

HOPE—There and back again . . . by Jill Eileen Smith

Earlier this month, on a Writer’s Journey Wednesday, author Jill Eileen Smith shared tips for using Idea Boards as inspiration when writing novels. She returns this Fortifying Friday to talk about her journey to publication. Be encouraged by her story!

HOPE—There and back again . . .

Writers carry an indomitable sense of hope. We write alone, but we seek to share our genius (or lack thereof) with the world someday. One moment we are eternal optimists. The next desperate pessimists. We are a paradox. A dichotomy. Feelings I know too well.

After twenty years of writing to improve my craft, I was losing hope of ever seeing my work in print. I had written eight full length novels including Michal’s and Abigail’s stories. I had signed with agent extraordinaire, Wendy Lawton, who loved Michal, but try as she might, she could not sell my work.

In May 2007, Wendy told me we needed to put my biblical fiction on the shelf for a while. Michal had been around the Christian publishing block too many times and no one was interested. Though Wendy still planned to market my suspense novels, years of rejection had taken its toll. Hope was wearing thin.

By June, I had moved to despair, ready to give up. I wrote a prayer in my journal to the Lord seeking direction, giving Him (not as an ultimatum, but as a request) one more year to allow Wendy a chance to sell my work. Then I tucked the journal away and forgot about the prayer.

In July, life went on as it always did, but in the midst of persevering to keep writing and learning, I felt a sudden, urgent need to pray about The Wives of King David. The prayer came in the form of a question - "Lord, I have loved this series for so long! Are you ever going to do anything with it?" Then I fantasized about an editor coming up to Wendy at a writer’s conference or book convention and asking if she had any biblical fiction. I figured a girl can dream…

In August, while I was catering food to my kids and their crew during a music video shoot, (Mom’s are always good for food, right?) I came home to an email from Wendy asking for the full manuscript on Michal. An editor she met at a writer’s conference was looking for a work of biblical fiction…and I had a sense that God heard not only my prayer but my dream. Nail-biting hope revived.

By October, we had confirmation of a contract for a 3-book deal with Revell for The Wives of King David series.

In December 2007, I found my prayer journal, and in it the prayer that I'd written the previous June describing my heartfelt despair and how ready I was to give up and do something else with my life. God had given me hope again. The discovery was humbling. And He has continued to bless my work in ways I could not have imagined.

I am also constantly reminded that I am not special or deserving, and the journey is more important than the destination. Our writing is just a small part of our life, and we never know how long He will allow us to continue. Loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength is what shapes who we are and gives us the strength to go on—to hope.

Jill Eileen Smith is the best-selling author of Michal and Abigail, books one and two in The Wives of King David series. She has more than twenty years of writing experience, and her writing has gathered acclaim in several contests. Her research into the lives of David's wives has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times.

When she isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with her family; in person, over the webcam, or hopping a plane to fly across the country. She can often be found reading Christian fiction, testing new recipes, grabbing lunch with friends, or snuggling one or both of her two adorable cats. She lives with her family in southeast Michigan.

To find out more about Jill and her books, please visit

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fulfilling His Purpose

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your love, O Lord, endures forever—do not
abandon the works of your hands.”
(Psalm 138:8 NIV)

Do you know anyone who doesn’t want to have purpose in his life? I don’t. I think it’s a need in most of us—if not all of us—to feel that we’re contributing something to the world and the people in it. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we want to believe that our presence makes a difference. I think when people deny the internal need for purpose, the result is selfishness and greed.

God tells us that He does have a plan and purpose for our lives. We’re not put on earth to meander until we breathe our last breath. As writers, part of our calling is to write and share His word, in whatever format works best for us.

Many of you have witnessed lives changed by people not only reading the Bible, but also the devotions, articles, and books that authors pen. I’m often spiritually fed by a Christian novel as much as I am by attending a church service.

If God chooses, He can use our work to reach people not only here in the U.S., but to the corners of the world. More and more frequently, I hear of author’s books being translated into a variety of languages and sent to other countries.

A missionary friend of mine works with orphaned girls and teens in Peru. His organization takes abandoned children off the streets and provides safety in three large “homes” built for them where they can get food, medical care, and education. They receive love from the staff and they learn about the One who “is” love.

Most of these little girls have been sexually and emotionally abused. They’re wounded both externally and internally. But with care, it's possible for them to heal.

My friend expressed a need for Christian books in Spanish to help the girls understand God’s love and acceptance of them – no matter what they had done—or what had been done to them. Along with children’s books, I sent Francine River’s, Redeeming Love. The teens devoured it, and when it came time for one of the older girls to leave, he gave her a copy to take with her because the story had meant so much to her.

We may never write a novel as internationally read as Redeeming Love, but dear writers, we have our own job to do. When doubts creep in, remember . . . God will fulfill His purpose in you.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

This Is Your Life by Elizabeth Goddard

Keeping a balance in one’s life is difficult for most writers, and I think even more so during the summer months when the kids are home from school and we want to spent time in the park, at the beach, or at friend’s barbeque. (Dawn here.) This Writer’s Journey Wednesday, author Elizabeth Goddard is here to share what she’s learned on her own journey about keeping balance.

This Is Your Life

When I first began this writing journey I had a lot to learn about crafting good content, networking and marketing. In fact, ten years ago I’m not sure I even understood the terminology I just mentioned. I still have much to learn and sometimes feel like I’ll never arrive at that final writing destination. After all, there is always another proposal to write, always another book to sell. Once you decide you’re going to write a novel and you actually do the deed, then you must convince an editor to buy it. After you sell it, then you must do it all over again. Even after you’re finally published, it’s the circle of the writing life and it never ends.

During those first few years of accepting the idea that I could actually write a novel, and that I might get published one day—I was thrilled to pursue this dream. Unfortunately, I became obsessed. The dream was all I thought about. I couldn’t seem to shut my mind off or tune out all the story ideas clamoring for my attention. I couldn’t turn off the writing thoughts even during praise and worship at church. Then I spent countless hours working on my novel, hours that I didn’t spend with my family, with my children. Before my article begins to sound a little depressing, let me just say that I have five books releasing this year—and finally, I’ve discovered a way to balance my life with writing. I no longer obsess over it.

There is nothing more important than family, than you children, than others in your life. Lisa Samson delivered a wonderful keynote address at the Christy Awards and she discussed this very topic. You have to take time to be involved in the lives of others, to be Jesus to others. If you don’t, as a writer, you’ll lose the ability to add depth to your fiction, you’ll lose yourself in a story life that isn’t real, and you’ll lose time with your precious ones. The next time you look up from your computer, your daughter will be grown up.

Through my writing journey, I’ve learned to trust God with the writing. Things will happen in his timing. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work as hard as you can, pushing your writing to the next level. By all means, attend conferences; join critique groups, network and market. Work hard and get proposals sent. But in all of the busyness, don’t forget there is a life outside of writing.

Your life.

Elizabeth Goddard is a 7th generation Texan who lives in East Texas with her husband and four children. She and her family recently spent five years in Oregon, which serves as the setting for several of her novels, but in 2010 they returned to Texas to live near family again. Elizabeth is the author of seven novels and novellas, including Praying for Rayne and The Camera Never Lies, releasing December 2010.

To learn more:
visit Elizabeth’s Web site and blog at

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

God's Promises to Writers Series: To Sustain Us

He Will Sustain Us
God's Promises to Writers Series
Net's Notations Tuesdays

A few weeks ago I talked about how God keeps us. My focus was His keeping us in the face of risks, as well as keeping us on the path He has for us.

What about sustaining us?

Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you;
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22)

Do you ever grow weary with waiting? Weariness can bring discouragement and even defeat. Over the years, I’ve read of writers giving up writing and pursuing publication because they’re weary from rejection and would rather not try anymore.

But if you know God has called you, and if you remember His promise to sustain you, you can find rest while you wait. His promise to sustain us gives us hope, confidence, strength in the midst of rejections or the push toward a deadline.

Sometimes all I really need is a good nap.

Ever felt that way? I’ve been pushing myself with the fantastic new program offered through ACFW—Novel Track: Writing. So, it’s up early and focused on meeting my goals. Throw a little family vacation into that and all the work involved, add one small pup, plus hosting a party for our worship team and you’ve got a busy couple of weeks.

So, where in the midst of our large family and our summer plans and my writing career is there any time to rest?

Hmm . . . beats me. *grin* I have to make time. I have to take time.

And I have to remember God will sustain me. I have to rely on Him for that.

So, if He calls me to rest, I need to heed that call. As my Good Shepherd, He knows what I need.

We can cast our cares on Him because He cares for us (see 1 Peter 5:7). He can bear our burdens so we can get some rest.

Sometimes we push ourselves harder than we need to. Sometimes we aren’t disciplined as much as we should be. There’s a balance somewhere in between where God sets the pace and we follow it. And when we do, we will be sustained. It’s His promise to His writers.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Christening Your Characters by Ocieanna Fleiss

Ocieanna Fleiss, dear friend and fellow critique partner, is back this Manuscript Monday with a new two-part series. Do you ever have trouble choosing just the right names for your characters? She'll share some tips this week and next to help make the task less daunting.

Christening Your Characters: Part One*
by Ocieanna Fleiss

“I’m sorry, hon, but the name Barry does not shout ‘strong protagonist.’ Sounds more like a stuck-up socialite to me,” I playfully chided a friend in my critique group. “Bar-ry,” I mocked. “Come down to the club and join me in a rousing game of squash.”

She laughed. But another critique-er contradicted my dislike of the name. She thought Barry aptly described the laid-back, hard-working guy the writer portrayed.

Well, I still think I was right, but that’s not the point. The point is that names matter—are worth thinking about, discussing, and refining. I want my characters’ names to do something—exactly what can vary—but overall, I want them to resonate with my readers.

How do we christen our characters? Here are some techniques I’ve found as well as some “Why’s”.

Poor Asheley Wilkes

Sometimes we pick based chiefly on how a name sounds. A well-toned moniker helps readers relate to the carefully crafted players in our stories. Consider some familiar characters. From Pride and Prejudice, Bingly chimes of happy congeniality; Darcy sounds dark. Scarlett O’hara fits perfectly, as does Rhett Butler. And don’t forget poor Asheley Wilkes—what hope did he have with that flimsy name?

To work through this process, I throw names on my characters like changes of clothes. Does Bubba McFlat fit? No. How ‘bout Charlie Prince? Not really. Jonathan Kirkpatrick. Yeah, that one’s pretty good. Dickens mastered this. Ebeneezer Scrooge—what name could sour the ears better? And Fezziwig rings of a jolly party thrower. Tiny Tim? Can’t help but feel sorry for the sweet tyke.

The Why? Picking names based on sound adds another tool to give the reader a deeper sense of satisfaction with our stories. On the flip side, an ill-fitting name distracts and annoys.

Find the Hidden Meaning

My husband recently read Uncle Tom’s Cabin. “Honey,” he said, his voice full of thought, “I think Evangeline represents the gospel.” (Evangel means gospel. How smart is he?) Lots of names are pregnant with meaning. Did you know Aslan means lion in Turkish? And think about Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout—she’s scouting out the truth. Or a strong leader might have the name, Leo, suggesting lion.

If you have a well-defined character, make a list of his or her traits. Then go to a baby names Web site** and look up names that go with the meanings you’ve listed. You may not find the perfect fit, but it’ll spark your creativity.

The Why? Layers, layers, layers. Giving our characters meaningful names adds the yummy depth that keeps readers coming back for more.

Next Monday, I'll share more tips on naming your characters.

* This article first appeared in Northwest Christian Author newsletter.
** is a good one. Go to their Advanced Search section to look up names by meaning.


Ocieanna Fleiss
has cowritten two novels with Tricia Goyer—both for Summerside press. The most recent, Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington, released July, 2010. Ocieanna has also written several articles for national publications and a bi-monthy column for Northwest Christian Writers Association. Homeschool mom of four little ones, she, along with her husband, stay busy at her home in the Seattle area.


Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss:

The Second World War has stolen Rosalie's fiance from her. But rather than wallow, Rosalie throws herself into her work at the Boeing plant in Victory Heights, shooting rivets into the B-17 bombers that will destroy the enemy. A local reporter dubs her Seattle's Own Rosie the Riveter, and her story lends inspiration to women across the country. While Rosalie's strong arms can bear the weight of this new responsibility, her heart cannot handle the intense feelings that begin to surface for Kenny, the handsome reporter. Fear of a second heartbreak is a powerful opponent - but will it claim victory over love?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rejections as Stepping Stones by Rita Gerlach

Welcome to another Fortifying Friday. Today, author Rita Gerlach is here to share her journey to publication, as well as encouraging words to writers who have experienced rejection. (Dawn here.) Now, who has NEVER had their work rejected? Come on! Raise your hands. Hmmm . . . I don’t see too many. Enjoy Rita’s story and be ready to dig back into your manuscripts!

Rejections as Stepping Stones

When I read accounts of aspiring writers expressing their disappointment after they’ve received a rejection, my heart goes out to them. I've been in that exact same place where rejections seemed an endless circle for several years after I began writing seriously.

There are two things a Christian writer must have besides a tough skin - persistence and patience. You continue to write, improve the craft, send out queries, put your writing career into God’s hands, and commit your work to Him.

But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. ~Romans 8:25

Commit your works to the LORD, and your thoughts will be established. ~Proverbs 16:3

Rejections come with the writing life. However, the day you land your first publishing contract, all that you went through to get to this point will be worth it, no matter how long it took. Still, you might get a rejection from your editor on a new proposal, but you can ask what you can do to make the manuscript better, what can you change to meet her expectations. As you grow as a writer you'll begin to view rejections as stepping stones to something better . . . to make you a better writer, a motivation to make your manuscript the best it can be.

When I finished writing Surrender the Wind, I started sending out queries. Frustrated after a year of receiving rejection letters from agents, I sat down at my desk and asked the Lord to show me what He wanted me to do with this book and with my career. I have a verse in a frame on my desk that says ' Commit your work to the Lord'. And so, that is what I did. If He wanted this novel published, it would be. I had to be patient for the right door to open.

Fifteen minutes later I saw on Brandilyn Collins' blog that Barbara Scott had been hired as the new acquisitions editor at Abingdon Press. They were starting a fiction line. I sent her a query and she requested the manuscript.

I was offered a contract and Surrender the Wind came out August 09. In November, Diana Flegal at Hartline offered me representation. In June 2010, I signed again with Abingdon for a historical series. Book 2 in the series I had began writing as a stand-alone. Barbara rejected it. I asked her if I could make changes and resend. She said yes. Then it occurred to me I needed to tell the stories of the other women in this book, thus a series. Barbara looked at the proposals and loved them.

I'm not sharing these successes to toot my own horn. I just want to encourage you to look at rejection in a different light. Remember rejections are stepping stones to something better. Be patient and persistent.

Rita Gerlach lives with her husband and two sons in a historical town nestled along the Catoctin Mountains, amid Civil War battlefields and Revolutionary War outposts in central Maryland. She has published four historical novels, and writes the blogs Stepping Stones Magazine for Readers and InSpire, focusing on the writing life and the promotion of authors. Her fourth book Surrender the Wind, an inspirational historical romance set in Virginia and England, was released from Abingdon Press in August 2009. Currently she is writing a new series, Daughters of the Potomac, for Abingdon. The first in the series, Before the Scarlet Dawn is due for release early in 2012.

To find out more, please visit:

Blog: InSpire:
Stepping Stones for Readers:

Read the Prologue & Chapter One to Surrender the Wind

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Are You Praying?

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

“When a believing person prays,
great things happen.”
(James 5:16 NCV)

Are you a person who prays?

Once a week? Once a day? All day long? Or just when desperate situations calls for desperate actions?

What do you pray about?

Finances? Your family’s health and safety? Relationships?

I strongly believe that prayer makes things happen. I believe God hears and moves on our requests to heal the sick, mend wounded hearts, and provide for physical needs.

We are so privileged to have open communication with our heavenly Father – with GOD. What an honor to speak directly to Him. As often as we’d like. Whenever we like. And He not only welcomes it, He desires it!

Do you pray about your writing? Ask God what He wants you to do with your skills? What you should write? Open yourself up to the Holy Spirit to give you the words? Do you ask how He wants you to go about developing a writing career? If at all?

Because of our limited vision, prayer isn’t about telling God what to do and when to do it. It’s about sharing the desires of our hearts, and then looking to Him for direction - trusting that He’ll do what’s best for us.

There is power in prayer. When we believe and pray, great things can happen. Doors can open that may provide opportunities for contracts and connections in the publishing arena. People may be touched – lives may be changed – by our words.

Through prayer, great things can happen in our own hearts and lives. We may gain greater insight into what He wants us to write. And we may find the patience needed to wait on His timing. The grace to be joyful over a fellow writer’s achievement. And the perseverance when our own success doesn’t come as easily – or as quickly – as we’d like.

Are you hoping for great things to happen in your life?
Pray. And trust that they will.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Benefit of Hindsight by Karen Witemeyer

I'm pleased to have author Karen Witemeyer with us today on Writer’s Journey Wednesday. (Dawn here.) Take a close look at the beautiful cover of her debut novel, A Taylor-Made Bride. The detail on that gorgeous dress . . . Okay – enough of cover envy. Enjoy what Karen has to share!

The Benefit of Hindsight

So many times during my journey to publication, I found myself asking if the choices I was making about how to pursue my writing goals were leading me in the right direction. Perhaps some of you are experiencing the same quandary.

Every writer's journey is unique, but in an effort to help you discover the right path for you, I'd like to offer the benefit of my hindsight. The following items are choices I made that I believe played a significant role in propelling me forward in my writing career. Perhaps they will help you in your own decision-making.

• Read extensively in your genre. I've often heard publishing professionals recommend that writers read a variety of genres to keep their ideas fresh. I do better when I'm focused. Long before I wrote historical romance, I read historical romance—nearly to the exclusion of all else. Because of this, I know my genre inside and out. I know my readers because I am one myself.

• Join a professional organization that fits your writing niche. I firmly believe that the best thing I ever did for my career was to join American Christian Fiction Writers. You need to surround yourself with people who know your business better than you do. Whatever your genre, there is a national organization out there that you can join. Do it, and get involved.

• Join a critique group. One of the benefits of joining a professional organization is that it allows you to network with other authors who share your passion. Find two or three authors that you respect and form a critique group. They will help you polish your manuscript and become a friendly support system.

• Enter contests. Contests are a great way to get feedback from publishing professionals and build your author credentials. However, remember that an editor will only buy your story if the middle and end are as strong as the beginning, so give the rest of your book as much attention as the section you enter in the contest. The year I finaled in the ACFW Genesis contest is the same year I signed with an agent and received a three-book deal from Bethany House.

• Attend national conferences. Conferences are expensive, but if you have a manuscript that is ready for publication and you can't seem to get past the slush pile, they are the best way to get your foot in the door. But they are not magic. I attended the ACFW conference three times before I made the connection with my editor that eventually led to a contract. Were those other conferences a waste of time? Not at all. I attended classes on craft, I met other authors who were in a similar place on their journeys, and I gained experience in pitching my ideas. My craft improved, I landed an agent and an editor at my fourth conference, and now that my first book has released, many of those early writing friends are the same people who are now helping me market by hosting me on their blogs, serving as influencers, and creating positive buzz for my book.

This is only a sampling of the decisions writers face, and only based on one writer's experience. I hope, though, that by sharing some of what I've learned through hindsight, it will help you look forward and make choices that will keep you moving in the right direction.

Karen Witemeyer is an author still facing a myriad of choices as she seeks to market her first novel, A Tailor-Made Bride. She continues to attend conferences, is active in her critique group and writing organizations, and plans to start entering contests for published authors this next year. Oh, and that story of hers that finaled in the Genesis in 2008? It will be released in October under the title, Head in the Clouds.

Find Karen online at:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

God's Promises to Writers Series: His Presence

His Presence
God's Promises to Writers Series
Net's Notations Tuesdays

Show of hands if you’ve ever been outside your comfort zone as a writer. Perhaps before or during a booksigning, or when sending in a manuscript? Maybe when you were scheduled to meet with an agent at a conference. You sat across from her and saw only weariness, no sign of interest in your project. Or maybe lots of interest, but then the whole manuscript had better shine, and you’re not sure it does. Perhaps you’re an author/speaker and that first speaking engagement brought on a slight case of hyperventilation followed by dry mouth and a near-fainting spell. Perhaps starting a new project and staring at the blank screen intimidates you.

In all those situations, aren’t you glad God promises to go with you? He’s with you. Always. Here’s His promise:

For He Himself has said, “I will never leave
you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b

I’ve heard this phrase expressed as “I will never, ever, ever leave you. I will never, ever forsake you, ever.” In other words, God’s not going anywhere. It’s good news, isn’t it?

As a participant in ACFW’s Novel Track: Writing challenge for July, I have had to really lean on God—both for inspiration and stamina. I’m so glad He’s with me all the time. He doesn’t call us and then let us fend for ourselves. He’s there to inspire, strengthen, guide, and even root for us—like any good father would.

Do you picture Him rooting for you? He does.

Next time you’re unnerved or unsure what to do next, remember He’s with you, holding your hand. His presence, that He will go with us, is another of His promises to us as believers and writers.

Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
(Isaiah 41:10)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Reactions, Part Two by Ocieanna Fleiss

This Manuscript Monday, please welcome back Ocieanna Fleiss as she continues her two part series on writing reactions into your fiction. Happy writing!

Reactions: A Recipe to Propel Your Scenes
from Bland to Delicious, Part Two*
by Ocieanna Fleiss

Last week, we talked about creating scrumptious descriptions, hot-out-of-the-oven plot points, and satisfying dialog. The one ingredient that thrusts a story beyond yummy, sends senses longing for more, transports taste buds is, you guessed it, a character to fall in love with.

One way to create a character to savor is to zero in on reactions. In Part One, we talked about obstacles and then people. Today: reactions to setting.

It Smells Like Coffee in Here: Reactions to Setting

Example from my life? At the sound of the word Starbucks, a sense of longing for a peaceful escape from four chaotic children surges through me.

Why not use this in writing?

The café’s music always seemed too loud, the temperature too cold, but the scent of brewing coffee, the baristas’ youthful banter, and the other solo customers clicking on keyboards enticed Merry to stay for hours.

We get the gist of the café—loud, cold, smells good, etc. But mere description won’t boost a story beyond blah.

Stepping through the door, Merry’s shoulders immediately relaxed, despite the slightly too loud music and frigid temperature. She scanned the small lobby. A guy absorbed—as she soon would be—by the vital workings of his laptop glanced up. Another funky couple slurping frappuccinos shared the corner table. And a burgundy-velvet cushy chair—the prize she sought—sat empty, like a waiting hug.

She plopped down a notepad to save her spot, then stepped to the counter to order. Digging through her purse for her ATM card, she found other treasures—a half-slurped lollipop wrapped in a tissue, a pirate, a binkie. She gave the barista the card. He returned it with a smile that made her feel young again, then zipped her purse closed. She had a sitter for two hours, and that comfy chair was hers.

It’s a typical Starbucks, but Merry’s reactions transform the everyday stuff into a measuring cup of her emotions. The loud and cold don’t deter her. The comfy chair entices her. The barista’s smile makes her feel young again. She zips away the kid treasures to enjoy a much-needed escape.

Cook’s Hint: Physical reactions like Merry’s shoulders relaxing should be used sparingly. A pinch is okay, but these descriptions come close to “telling.”

Now that I’ve given you a few tips to create a scrumptious story, try picking a scene from your work-in-progress and adding a cup of reactions.


* This article first appeared in Northwest Christian Author.


Ocieanna Fleiss has cowritten two novels with Tricia Goyer—both for Summerside press. The most recent, Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington, released July, 2010. Ocieanna has also written several articles for national publications and a bi-monthy column for Northwest Christian Writers Association. Homeschool mom of four little ones, she, along with her husband, stay busy at her home in the Seattle area.


Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss

The Second World War has stolen Rosalie's fiance from her. But
rather than wallow, Rosalie throws herself into her work at the Boeing plant in Victory Heights, shooting rivets into the B-17 bombers that will destroy the enemy. A local reporter dubs her Seattle's Own Rosie the Riveter, and her story lends inspiration to women across the country. While Rosalie's strong arms can bear the weight of this new responsibility, her heart cannot handle the intense feelings that begin to surface for Kenny, the handsome reporter. Fear of a second heartbreak is a powerful opponent - but will it claim victory over love?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Let the Shoe Fit by Linore Rose Burkard

Welcome to another Fortifying Friday – the day we focus on providing words of encouragement and success stories. Recently, author Linore Rose Burkard joined us on a Writer’s Journey Wednesday and shared her article, “Starting Out Strong.” She returns today to help send you off into the weekend, motivated to dive into your writing projects.

Let the Shoe Fit

You know the saying . . . if the shoe fits, wear it. You also know what it really means: that if something strikes home, applies to you, own the truth of it. Admit it. Even better, take a lesson from it.

Following are just a few sayings I'd like to share, which I've often thought of doing, but felt that it's not enough for a blog post to just share some quotes.

Well, I've changed my mind.

Take these aphorisms and apply them to your writing life. You'll be surprised how well they can speak to your situation. And if the shoe fits . . . go for it!

Here goes:

"Only those who risk going too far will ever know how far they can go."

"Do something every day that you don't want to do. You need to get out of your comfort zone in order to grow."
~ Ed Smith

"Strengthen the things that remain."

"Opportunities are disguised by hard work, so most people don't recognize them." ~ Ann Landers

"When you reach for the stars, you may not get one, but you won't come up with a hand full of mud, either." ~ Leo Burnett

"I couldn't wait for success, so I went ahead without it." ~ Johnathan Winters

"Why not go out on a limb? That's where the fruit is." ~ Will Rogers

How can your writing be improved by taking the advice from one of the above sayings? Do something today with that new thought or inspiration!

If I hadn't gone out on a limb by self-publishing the first Christian regency novel of its kind,I would never have landed three contracts with Harvest House Publishers.

If I had waited for success to reach me, I would not have met with the success I've had.

If I hadn't (figuratively speaking) reached for the stars, I wouldn't have achieved publication with a big publisher.

You get the idea. Now take some advice and let it move you ahead in your writing and career.

Added Bonus
Linore will be teaching two workshops at the upcoming Writer's Conference in Dayton, Ohio. July 28th, 9-1:30PM. Registration is still open. She’ll be teaching: How to Get the Platform of A Pro; and, Building Believable Characters. Anyone who registers and comes after reading this blog will get a free book from her! To register, please visit

Linore Rose Burkard creates Inspirational Romance for the Jane Austen Soul. Her characters take readers back in time to experience life and love during the Regency England era (circa
1800 –1830). Ms. Burkard’s novels include Before the Seasons Ends and The House in Grosvenor Square. Her stories blend Christian faith and romance with well-researched details from the Regency period.

Ms. Burkard was raised in New York, where she graduated magna cum laude from the City University of New York with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature. She lives with her husband and five children in a town full of antique stores and gift shops in southwestern Ohio. Her hobbies include writing four new Regency novels, family movie nights, swimming, and gardening.

To find out more, please visit

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Making an Investment

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen,
but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.”
(2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV)

What do you invest your time in? Does it provide temporary rewards? Or eternal rewards?

We’re pulled in so many different directions, and we make countless decisions every day in how and where we invest our time and energy.

I watch very little reality TV, and rarely have spent even a few minutes engaged in The Bachelor. But, I did happen to view the episode when Jake proposed to Vienna. Since then, the demise of their relationship has become a public disaster. Followers of the show had invested so much personal time, energy, and emotion into wanting Jake and Vienna’s romance to be real, that when it failed, it was almost expected that a public explanation be given. What resulted, in my opinion, was hurt and humiliation for both people.

I’ve gotten wrapped up in a few TV shows this past year that have suddenly ended with no resolve. Apparently the ratings weren’t what the producers hoped for. It’s been a bit frustrating that after getting hooked into stories they created, I ended up feeling cheated in the end. But that’s my fault. I chose to invest my time in something that was temporary. I knew that before I began.

There’s nothing wrong with watching television or taking time out to do to other “fun” things we enjoy. But I’ve become more conscious of how I spend time that I’ll never get back.

I think it’s good to invest in our relationships. Our spouse, children, relatives, and friends need and deserve our attention. Sharing our gifts and talents in our church, or with organizations that do good things is a great way to spend our time. All of these things have the potential to have lasting – and maybe even eternal value.

When you write the stories that God lays on your heart, you are investing in the spiritual lives of the people who read them. A book can be kept for many years and passed on to friends and family members. Books may live on library shelves indefinitely. When you write words of encouragement or hope on your blogs, those words are available for millions of readers to find them. And they can remain out there in cyberspace for years to come.

Whatever you write to honor God is a good investment toward increasing the flock. You do your part, and God will do the rest. He’ll bring your words to the right people. The people who need to read them.

So today, as you sit at the computer, or with paper and pen, remember that you’re not just writing a story. You may be making an investment in someone’s spiritual journey and life. An investment that could pay off for eternity.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lyn Cote's 12th Annual Christian Fiction Update

As writers, it’s vital that we keep up to date on what's happening in the market. This week on our Writer’s Journey Wednesday, author Lyn Cote is here to share current information. Thanks, Lyn!

12th Annual
Christian Fiction Update

It's my pleasure and my passion to keep up with the growing Christian fiction market and to share it with other writers. I've done this for 12 years now. Here's an intro to this year's

2010 Christian Book Publishers and Christian Agents

You'll notice that I have 3 categories, the Main houses, Newer and Smaller and Ebook houses, and African-American publishing. Our market continues to change and grow.

1-Example of a Main House from my listings:

Avon Inspire (HarperOne, Division of HarperCollins)
353 Sacramento Street, Suite 500
San Francisco, CA 94111
Editor: Cynthia DiTiberio

Types of fiction sought historical and contemporary romance, chick lit, romantic suspense, African American Christian fiction, historical women's fiction with romantic elements. Guidelines for submission: Right now we are only considering published authors.

Go to for a complete list.

2-An Example of Smaller or Newer Presses or Ebook publishers

Marcher Lord Press
8345 Pepperridge Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80920
Website: Contact: Jeff Gerke

Marcher Lord Press is a small, indie publishing company founded by Christian publishing industry veteran Jeff Gerke (a.k.a. Jefferson Scott). Marcher Lord Press specializes in Christian speculative fiction: fantasy, science fiction, time travel, supernatural thrillers, and other "weird" Christian fiction. These are full-length novels for adults (no YA) and are regular printed-and-bound novels like the ones on the shelf in your bookstore, though these novels are available through the Internet only. Marcher Lord Press is not a subsidy, vanity, or self-publishing press. It is an advance-paying, royalty-paying publisher that publishes less than 1% of the proposals submitted to it. Marcher Lord Press releases 6 novels a year, in April and October.

3-Now an intro to African-American Publishing

Steeple Hill
African-American authors should submit queries or manuscripts to Love Inspired. They are seeking African-American voices. See Main listing for information.

Kensington has an inspirational line, SOULS OF MY SISTERS which is aimed at African-American readers. The editors to query are Candace Sandy and Dawn Daniels. I'm certain that they are accepting only agented submissions at this time.

Visit find out more. Contact information is on their site.

And finally a listing of reputable Christian Literary agents.

4- Mike Hyatt's Agent List
Many aspiring writers have asked me about reputable literary agents. A LITERARY AGENTS list from Mike Hyatt's Blog, CEO of Thomas Nelson exists on the Web. (I recommend you subscribe to Mike's blog. I do.)

So click here to get a list of reputable agents--some work only with Christian authors and some do both secular and Christian.

Again go to for complete listings. Hope this helps you in your writing career!

Her Abundant Joy
Can a beautiful young widow find peace in the arms of a Texas Ranger?

When Lyn Cote became a mother, she gave up teaching, and while raising a son and a daughter, she began working on her first novel. Long years of rejection followed. Finally in 1997, Lyn got "the call." Her first book, Never Alone, was chosen by Steeple Hill. Lyn has had over twenty-five novels published since then. In 2006 Lyn's book, Chloe, was a finalist for the RITA.

Lyn helped found two RWA chapters: Heart of Iowa Fiction Authors in 1994 and Faith, Hope & Love Inspirational Chapter in 1997. She served as president of both. She is an active member of Wisconsin Romance Writers and American Christian Fiction Writers. Lyn has also written three articles for the RWR on the inspirational romance market and one on Classic Romantic Conflicts. Lyn has taught regional and national workshops for RWA. Lyn also compiles a Christian fiction market update every month which she posts on her website Lyn’s brand “Strong Women, Brave Stories,” always includes three elements: a strong heroine who is a passionate participant in her times, authentic historical detail and a multicultural cast of characters. Living in northern Wisconsin in a lake cottage with her husband and four cats, Lyn spends her days writing books that show the power of divine as well as human love.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

God's Promises to Writers Series

God's Promises to Writers
Net's Notation Tuesdays

The afternoon I’m writing this, sunshine streams in the window of my writing office. Wind chimes and flower pots dot the yard around me. It’s a lovely, peaceful time. But sometimes I need refreshing where my writing life is concerned, too. I’ve taken on the Novel Track: Writing challenge which ACFW is sponsoring in July. It’s been fantastic, very rewarding, encouraging, and exhausting. *grin*

You set your own goal, so it’s partly my fault—I understand this. Still, I push myself to write 2500 words a day, five days a week. Guess what? A couple Fridays ago, I got behind. Then, I spent that following Sunday night playing catch up. I needed refreshing.

Here’s God’s promise to us weary writers:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. (Psalm 23:1-3)

So, I have a refreshment tactic. I find my guided creative writing journal and snatch a pen and go sit in my prayer garden. Now, this works best in summer, so it needs modification other times of the year. But it’s helpful to just sit somewhere and listen for God.

Other times, I’ll even remain in my writing office, but with the Bible open beside me. Sharon Hinck, a dear friend and fellow author, suggested praying through a Psalm a day. I took her words to heart and have established a specific journal I use in my writing office. Being in God’s Word refreshes me. He’s the ultimate Author and His Words live.

If you’re a weary writer—whether due to waiting or writing or editing or hurtful reviews or whatever, run to God and ask for His refreshment, then position yourself to receive it. Become an empty vessel by laying aside everything to receive what He has for you.

Refreshment is one more of God’s promises to His writers.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Reactions by Ocieanna Fleiss

Happy Manuscript Monday everyone! Annette here. I'm excited today because we're launching a long stretch of articles by Ocieanna Fleiss. She is a dear friend of both Dawn's and mine, and she is a soon-to-be-official addition to the Seriously Write team! She'll take over Writer's Journey Wednesdays (and call it a cute name, just wait and see) by the end of summer. For now, though we wanted to share some of her fantastic writing craft articles. Learn more about Ocieanna below. Enjoy!

Reactions: A Recipe to Propel Your Scenes from Bland to Delicious*--Part One
by Ocieanna Fleiss

“That was delicious.” No, not my husband’s famous macaroni and cheese (Kraft). The feeling when you gobble down the last page of a well-written novel. Scrumptious descriptions, hot-out-of-the-oven plot points, and satisfying dialog make reading yummy.

But the one ingredient that thrusts a story beyond yummy, sends senses longing for more, transports taste buds is, you guessed it, a character to fall in love with.
One way to create a character to savor is to zero in on reactions.

I Burned the Rolls: Reactions to Obstacles

Arriving, Mrs. Lawrence saw the store was closed, so she left.

Okay, that’s a glaring example of unpalatable prose, but let the pathetic-ness of the sentence warn you. To feel connected to a heroine, a reader must experience the obstacles the character faced and her reactions.

Torrents of rain suffocated the town as Mrs. Lawrence’s horse galloped through the muddy streets. Her new gown was drenched and filthy, but she didn’t care. The only thing that mattered was reaching the pharmacy before it closed. Mr. Lawrence’s life depended on it, and hers.

She turned onto Willis Avenue. “Which store is it!” she screamed to no one. After sliding from her horse and tying it to the post, she ran past each storefront until she found the right one. She grabbed the door handle. Locked. The sign read, “Closed.”

She reacts to the suffocating rain—despite it, she gallops through the streets. She also doesn’t care about her filthy gown. Not knowing which storefront propels her to scream in frustration. These reactions combine to show us her feelings.

Cook’s Hint: Try not to name emotions. Notice that although we know she’s stressed, panicked, and frustrated, I never use those words.

Get Out of My Kitchen! Reactions to People

It’s easy to describe a person walking into a room. I, for one, enjoy painting a picture of a handsome protagonist.

Don Carlos sauntered into the room, his strong stance commanding the peasants’ hopeful stares. His gloved hand held one small parchment, and his deep, sad eyes searched the room.

That was fun. (I wonder who that guy is?) But although it’s a colorful description, very little emotion flows. Let’s try again.

As soon as Don Carlos sauntered into the room, his deep, sad eyes penetrated me, destroyed me, even though he dared not glance my way. Each peasant in the dusty tavern felt their prayers had been answered. I saw it in their hopeful stares.

For me it was different. I’d known Don Carlos, loved him, betrayed him. Lost him. I thought I’d accepted that, but gazing at his gloved hand clasping the parchment that would save my people, I knew he held not only their freedom, but mine. Yet his cold tone and guarded movements told me he’d never give me the one thing I longed for.

(Who is that guy?) Do you see the difference? By showing (not telling) the heroine’s reaction, we grasp her sense of loss, love, and sadness.

Cook’s Hint: One way to gauge if you’re “telling” is if you use the word felt. Avoid whenever possible—it’s sure to sour your soufflé.

Next week, Part Two: reactions to setting.

* This article first appeared in Northwest Christian Author.
Ocieanna Fleiss has cowritten two novels with Tricia Goyer—both for Summerside press. The most recent, Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington, released July, 2010. Ocieanna has also written several articles for national publications and a bi-monthy column for Northwest Christian Writers Association. Homeschool mom of four little ones, she, along with her husband, stay busy at her home in the Seattle area.

Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss:

The Second World War has stolen Rosalie's fiance from her. But rather than wallow, Rosalie throws herself into her work at the Boeing plant in Victory Heights, shooting rivets into the B-17 bombers that will destroy the enemy. A local reporter dubs her Seattle's Own Rosie the Riveter, and her story lends inspiration to women across the country. While Rosalie's strong arms can bear the weight of this new responsibility, her heart cannot handle the intense feelings that begin to surface for Kenny, the handsome reporter. Fear of a second heartbreak is a powerful opponent - but will it claim victory over love?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Remember Who You’re Writing For by Carla Capshaw

Last week Carla Capshaw shared her article, “Taking Your Setting From Static to Fantastic.” She returns today to share a few lessons she learned on the way to publication. Thanks, Carla!

Remember Who You're Writing For

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.” ~ Colossians 3: 23

Whether it’s coincidence or providence, I’ve been asked several times in the last few weeks what I’ve learned since I sold my first book. Of course, there are tons of things such as: what it’s like to write on deadline, how nerve-wracking it is to send your little baby, er, story into the world all alone, or that doing promo for said sold book takes nearly as long as writing the thing. :-D I’ve learned about target audiences, how to read a royalty statement, and that no one cares if you work a day job, have bird flu, a dozen kids and a house to clean, you still have to get words on the page.

Amidst all the chaos, it can be easy to forget why we began writing in the first place. Worse, as a Christian author, it means we can sometimes forget Who we write for.

A few years ago, I almost quit writing. My first reading love was Historical Romance, so that’s the genre I was drawn to, to write. I’d had about as much success as an unpub can have without selling. I’d won tons of contests, signed with my dream agent, and been told by several top editors they loved my work. Still, I hadn’t sold. I began to wonder if I’d missed the Lord’s will for me somewhere along the way. Was I supposed to be spending my time on something else? Instead of all those hours at the computer maybe I should be with my family, focusing on my career or just catching up on my sleep. ;-)

So, like any Christian striving to make the Lord’s will first in her life, I prayed. Not that I hadn’t prayed before, but this time I recommitted my writing to the Lord, put all my hopes and dreams in His hands and said, “Do whatever You want with them.”

Literally, the next morning, while I dressed for work the plot of my first sold novel, The Gladiator, came to me. I’d always loved ancient Rome, but I’d never thought to set a story there. The hero was an ex-gladiator who had everything he thought he wanted until he met his heroine, a Christian girl he bought from a slave trader. It wasn’t too long after that I learned Steeple Hill was launching an Inspirational Historical line and I got to mix my love of Historical Romance with my biblical beliefs. This time around, the manuscript did well in contests and eventually sold. When it was published two years later, I was blessed by readers who wrote to ask me how to become a Christian or to tell me how the story had brought them closer to Christ.

Needless to say, I was thrilled. And along with all the other lessons I listed in the first paragraph, I relearned that when the Lord’s in charge of my efforts not only am I blessed, but more importantly, so are others.

The reality is we have to focus on the Lord, to remember that all we do is for His glory. When I get overwhelmed, I remind myself that He won’t give me more than I can handle and that He’ll get me though everything He’s called me do. We don’t actually write to sell, final in contests, get our work in front of a certain editor or target audience. We write because all we do is supposed to be for Him.

How about you? Is there something in your current work-in-progress that you’re struggling with? What lessons has the Lord taught you along your writing journey?

Florida native Carla Capshaw always dreamed of being a writer and world traveler. She followed her wanderlust around the globe before beginning work on her first novel. A two-time Rita nominee, she's found Inspirational Historical Romance is the perfect vehicle to combine lush settings, vivid characters and a Christian worldview. Currently at work on her next novel, she still lives in Florida, but is always planning her next trip . . . and plotting her next story. Carla loves to hear from readers.

You can learn more at
To contact her, visit her Web site or write:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Who Wants to be a Gong?

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”
(I Corinthians 13:1 NIV)

What if we slightly changed the words of the verse above? It could read, “If I write in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I come across as a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” Gongs and cymbals have their place. But hearing them consistently for a great length of time would become annoying.

Our country recently celebrated Independence Day with picnics in parks, backyard barbeques, and fireworks. We have neighbors who are quiet and rarely seen. But they love to blow things up every 4th of July.

This year was no different. They held a large party and set off explosives nonstop from eight until midnight. It sounded like we were being invaded by the military. No one in the surrounding area could sleep. This morning our back and front yards were covered with ash and debris. It happens only once a year, so we try not to get overly irritated. But there would be a neighborhood uprising if it was a frequent occurrence.

How does this apply to writing, you ask?

Just as there are times when preachers need to be “on fire” as they share God’s word, there may be times when writers need to be direct in relaying how God desires us to live. But if those words aren’t tempered with love, the affects can be messy. Like after a wild party, it can take a lot of work to clean up the disaster left behind. Only in this situation, devastation may happen in a person’s heart or mind, as opposed to a yard. That is . . . if he's is even willing to read through the “sermon.”

Jesus on rare occasions felt the need to display anger and shout God’s word, but most of the time he took a gentle and loving approach. He often spoke in parables so it was easier to grasp what he wanted to teach.

I believe love and gentleness play important roles in the motives and manners in which we share our faith. If we write out of love - and not condemnation or with an attitude that we’re better than others - our words won't feel like gongs or clanging cymbals in the minds of our readers. Through our fiction and nonfiction stories, we’re able to share God’s love and forgiveness in a gentle way that can seep into the hearts of those who engage in the lives of our characters.

I desire to write out of true love for my readers – and not my personal agenda.

I want my words to be a sweet, soothing song to the reader’s spirit. Not a loud, clashing cymbal.

How about you?


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Idea Boards by Jill Eileen Smith

Are you looking for tools that will help inspire you while working on your manuscript? Author Jill Eileen Smith is here this Writer’s Journey Wednesday to share some ideas. (Dawn here.) I haven’t used an Idea Board – yet. But recently, I had an “ah-ha” moment. I realized that a certain actor made a perfect fit for the hero I had envisioned in my head. I now have an assortment of photos – smiling, brooding, laughing, etc., to help me visualize this character. It’s fun! Enjoy what Jill has to offer us today. She’ll return to share her journey to publication on Fortifying Friday, July 30.

Idea Boards

What is an Idea Board? When I mention my use of them, some people mistake them for storyboards as they are used in filmmaking. Storyboards are sketches that tell the story (movie) frame by frame, showing each scene to be filmed. They give the director a specific idea of how to shoot the film, to keep him/her on track.

Idea Boards are different—they are poster boards filled with photos—pictures of people and places. I borrowed the Idea Board suggestion several years ago from women’s fiction author Deborah Raney, and have used it in each of my books since. I cast my characters for my biblical novels from pictures of Jewish actors and actresses, or in some cases from Arab or Egyptian actors and actresses for characters like Hagar and Ishmael in my current WIP (work in progress). I’m looking for faces that are similar to the character I envision. (This comes in handy when the publisher asks for book cover ideas. The Jewish actresses I “cast” for each of the wives of King David, Michal, Abigail, and Bathsheba came very close to the models they found for each respective cover. (The attached example is my Idea Board for Abigail.)

Once all of my characters are “cast,” I look for photos of place. Archeological sites of ancient Israel are great, along with pictures of artifacts or anything else that gives me a feel for the setting. I’m a visual learner. I need pictures to stimulate my imagination most of the time. Research books like pictorial dictionaries or cultural atlases are too nice to cut up, so I get most of my pictures off the Internet and print them for the Idea Board. I love making them! Maybe it’s the kid in me getting to play with scissors and glue and pretending I’m artistic, but this is one of the fun parts of writing!

Another option to add to an Idea Board is to make Character Trait Cards and tact them to the bulletin board on either side of the Idea Board. Brightly colored (or white if you prefer) 4x6 or 3x5 cards work well. Put the name of each character at the top, then list their characteristics below their name. Things like: hair and eye color, weight, build, age, birth date, career, favorite food and color, unique characteristics, and how they were related to other characters in the story. Depending on your genre, you can get pretty detailed with these things, and making such a list does come in handy when you go to write. It helps to know the character’s eye color doesn’t change from blue to green because we forgot what we wrote one hundred and thirty pages earlier. And editors appreciate having such a list when they read through your manuscript to make sure you stayed consistent.

Idea Boards hang in my office as inspiration. If you find yourself stuck as you try to write your own novel, perhaps such a visual reminder will get you going again.

Jill Eileen Smith is the best-selling author of Michal and Abigail, books one and two in The Wives of King David series. She has more than twenty years of writing experience, and her writing has gathered acclaim in several contests. Her research into the lives of David's wives has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times.

When she isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with her family; in person, over the webcam, or hopping a plane to fly across the country. She can often be found reading Christian fiction, testing new recipes, grabbing lunch with friends, or snuggling one or both of her two adorable cats. She lives with her family in southeast Michigan.

To find out more about Jill and her books, please visit

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

God's Promises to Writers Series: To Keep Us

He Will Keep Us
God's Promises to Writers Series
Net's Notations Tuesdays

Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you
in the way and to bring you
into the place which I have prepared. (Ex. 23:20)

Isn't that beautiful? The "Angel" in this verse is actually referring to Christ before His incarnation. He goes before us. He goes with us.

As writers, some of us are just getting started. Some of us are newly signed and some are veterans—with variations everywhere in between. But this promise of God lends us security as we venture forth: He will keep us. Because even if you’re multi-published, there is still new ground to cover, there are new venues to explore.

“Venturing forth” can be frightening. It’s the unknown and the known that can rattle us. For example, a lot of times authors end up becoming speakers, even fiction authors. Makes sense. They have a way with words. They have a message. You have a message. God has planned for you to touch people’s lives. But what if you’re timid before crowds? What if the mere thought of speaking in front of a thousand or more people makes you break out into a cold sweat?! See that? Fear of the known.

And then there are the what-ifs—the unknowns. The inherent risk of visibility, or the fear of not earning out your advance, or not measuring up. The fear there will never another contract. Or what if I can't write another novel as good as the last?

And then, there are risks spiritually. Nope, not talking spiritual warfare (though it’s very real). I’m talking about our own tendency to trip merrily down the path toward selfish desires (rather than selfless serving), pride (versus humility), self-sufficiency (rather than dependence upon God), entitlement (rather than gratitude).

There’s a promise in the midst of our concerns about that as well:

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
before the presence of His glory
with exceeding joy (Jude 24)

That encourages me as I’m so far from where I want to be. Raise your hand if you can relate with this: serving God (in whatever capacity) both involves and requires a maturing process. And writing for Him is about so much more than writing for Him. Amen?

Praise God He promises to keep us.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Don't Let This Happen To You: Dialogue Tips by Kay Marshall Strom

Hi, readers! We hope you had a great Independence Day. This Manuscript Monday Kay Marshall Strom has graciously agreed to let us post her blog article on dialogue. Here’s the original link. Enjoy!

Don’t Let This Happen to You: Dialogue Tips
by Kay Marshall Strom

“Write good dialogue,” she said.

I just got a message from an excited writer eager to tell me all about the novel she’s writing. “My greatest fear was the dialogue,” she wrote. “I was afraid I couldn’t make it realistic enough. But I stumbled onto a secret. I’m hiding my tape recorder in the house so I can capture real talk.”

Um… unh-uh.

See, the aim isn’t really to write “real talk.” In real talk, we say such things as:

“Hey, guess what! I just got back from the… what’s it called… um… oh, I hate getting old! That place where we had your brother’s birthday deal, remember? Over by the apple place? Anyhoo, I thought I saw Micky. So funny after what happened that other time. Last year, you know… You were there. It was so hot and windy and that funny guy who sells the….”

No, the aim is to give the illusion of real talk while you actually accomplish something important such as moving your story forward or revealing a character or showing an incident rather than simply telling about it. The illusion of dialogue might say something like:

“Hey, I just got back from Gray’s Farm. I thought I saw Micky, but after what happened last year, it can’t be!”

Writing good dialogue is an art. (Okay, that dialogue isn’t so good, but you get the idea.) If you do dialogue well, it will add great strength to your work–non-fiction as well as fiction.

So what can you do to help your characters speak well? I’m so glad you asked! Here are some dialogue-polishing pointers I call: ”Don’t let this happen to you.”

• Unnatural Dialogue: “You’re crazy, Justin!” said Megan. “Look who’s talking, Megan,” Justin replied. When we talk to people, we hardly ever say their names. Yet the tendency in dialogue is to repeatedly address our characters by name. Don’t. Better: “You’re crazy!” said Megan. ”Look who’s talking,” Justin replied.

• Over-descriptive dialogue: Too many adjectives and adverbs give a fake, amateurish feel to your writing, and dialogue is no exception. “When I gazed upon the snowy-white petals of the lilies, so like winter’s icy coat of velvet, I knew Louie’s love for me was at an end,” she murmured tragically. Choose your adjectives carefully and sparingly. Make certain each one is worth its presence. Be even more stingy with your adverbs. Much better to let your sentence set the emotion than tack instructions on at the end. Better: “When I saw the white lilies, I knew what they meant; Louie no longer loved me,” she murmured.

• Lectures or soliloquies: “You will be taking the driving test next week,” Mother said. “All the days of practice, all the hours of study, all the mistakes and all the do-overs will come into play when you sit down behind the steering wheel, take off the parking brake, and put the car in gear. Take a deep breath, my dear daughter, and clear your mind of everything but the test. I know you can do this.” Long speeches grow stale very quickly. Don’t try to pack too much information into a passage. Dialogue isn’t the place to display all the research you did, either. Nor should you use it to sneak in “And the moral of this story is…” Better: “You will be taking the driving test next week,” Mother said. “You’re ready. I know you can do it.”

• Exposition: “I happened to run into your sister Julia, the one who married the doctor, Tim, from Peru, and who has the three children–Luisa, Freddie, and Lizzie. She was telling me that your mother moved to an eight-bedroom mansion on the tip of Florida where she lives among writers.” Oh, my! Please, do not have your characters tell each other what they already know just for the sake of letting your readers in on it. If you want us to know that kind of information, give it to us in narrative form. Better: I had wanted to hear the words from Sarah‘s mouth. Her sister Julia was in town with, Tim–her doctor husband from Peru– and their children. Julia had talked on and on about her mother’s eight-bedroom mansion on the tip of Florida, and all her writer neighbors. When I finally saw Sarah, I said, “I talked to Julia.”

• Unnecessary Dialogue: “Frank, this is my good friend, Jean. Jean, this is my neighbor from up the street, Frank. I thought it would be nice for the two of you to have a chance to shake hands and at least say hello to each other.” If the dialogue has no real purpose, leave it out. Dialogue that fills the page and simply serves to bide time succeeds only in slowing your story down and boring your reader. Better: She introduced Jean and Frank to one another.

• Repetitious Dialogue: All day, Marianne had been busy painting the room. She paused when Philip entered. “I’m painting,” she told him. She lifted her blue brush high. “Blue,” she said. Tell us in the narrative or tell us in the dialogue, but don’t do both. Better: Marianne had been busy painting the room. She paused when Philip entered. “Blue,” she said, holding her brush high.

• Sugary-Sweet Dialogue: “Oh, Mother, the dinner is delicious, as always. Brother, dear, please pass me more of the wonderful potatoes,” little Francine said. You say you have to be extra nice because you are writing about your own family? And you don’t want anyone to look bad? So you just add an extra touch of the positive and pare off anything that could be interpreted as negative? Your readers won’t believe a word of it! Better: “Eat your dinner, Francine,” mother said. “Starving children around the world would be glad to have those mashed potatoes!”

• Creative Attributions: “Don’t talk back,” he coughed. First of all, attributions must be other ways of speaking. People cannot cough words–or smile them or laugh them or sneeze them, for that matter. Second, plain old said and asked and answered are far more serviceable than more creative options, such as queried or extrapolated or implored. Third, look for opportunities to use an action in lieu of any attribution. Better: Franklin’s face went livid. “Don’t talk back!”
Okay, that’s my ”get started” list. Any dialogue hints you want to add?

Coming in October, 2010: The Voyage of Promise

She is safe, and she is free . . . but she is still alone.

Slavers burst into Grace Winslow's life with guns blazing and tear her family apart forever. She watches in anguish as her husband is led in chains aboard a tightly packed slave ship bound for America. An old enemy has a more sinister plan for Grace and prepares her for a different kind of servitude in London. But Grace will not be enslaved. And she will not give up on the man she loves. In her determination to be reunited with her husband, she finds God reaching out to her.


Kay Marshall Strom is the author 36 published books. Her writing credits also include numerous magazine articles, short stories, curriculum, two prize-winning screenplays, and booklets for writers. For 10 years Kay taught writing classes through the California State University system, during which she designed and directed the Writers Certificate Program for Long Beach State University. Today her writing and speaking take her around the word.

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