Showing posts with label writing tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing tips. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Christian writers on writing

QUESTION recently asked of the members in our Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook:In what ways do you need prayer and encouragement in your writing life?

Michael-Lori (I need prayer and encouragement) to write my lyrics with God leading me in the way to touch and help others.

Donna Rewrites! Although part of writing, I feel like (revisions) sap my creative energy and stifle me. I'd rather get it right the first time.

Mary The problem with getting it right the first time, Donna, is that puts you in two separate jobs at once: writing from the right brain and editing or revising from the left! Hopefully, you have a computer, which makes revisions much easier, so you might try letting the writing flow without censoring yourself. Then wait a day or two before going back and seeing what needs to be changed - if anything.

Cassie Sticking with it! I have limited time to write due to kids, so I'll get excited and start something, but then I don't have time again until later. Because of this, I start a lot of things I don't finish.

Mary Oh, I know the feeling, Cassie! I was a stay-at-home mom with my kids and am now a stay-at-home grandmom. However, my first published poems, articles, devotionals, and children's stories arose from these times.

Anointed To get a book published I sometimes wonder too much about who will like it and who won't! Will they give good or bad judgement?

Mary Your emphasis on being Anointed and chosen is the ideal faith and focus to have from start to finish! If God gives us something we're drawn to write, surely God can draw our readers too.

Barbara (I’m) physically unable to sit for long periods of time, and therefore, it's difficult for me to collect my works together, edit, and prepare a book. I so desire to publish. God willing, this too shall pass.

Mary I'm sorry to say I have that problem too. May God give us all the strength and energy we need to do what we've been given to do in Jesus' Name.

Eve Courage to step out…. I've spent 3 years writing and editing, and now it's about faith – to step out and allow God to bless others with this word He has given. I am not worried about selling copies; I just want to hear His voice say, "Well done."

Mary Yes! And every time I read where Jesus said, "It is finished," I get God-bumpy. May God en-courage us all.

Janet (I pray) that the book would honor God and only speak truth.

Mary Janet, yours is surely a God-blessed goal! Reading the Bible cover to cover again and again gives us the mind of Christ, praise God, but I try not to depend on my faulty memory. Isn't it wonderful to have so many translations on the Internet where we can easily check quotes and context?

Christine (I need) to step out and take risks, write what God wants when He wants, and in general, let Him lead and my heart follow, even when my head tells me differently.

Mary Tricky one, Christine! I kept fretting over that, too, and thinking I wasn't trusting myself to hear God even though I'd prayed and prayed. Then it dawned on me: I can trust God to speak loud enough for me to hear. May the Lord bless our minds and ears with God's Word to and through us in Jesus' Name.

Cherrilynn Time for prayer and steadfastness…. Praying for all….

Mary Thanks, Cherrilynn! We need it. And may God remind us each morning and throughout the day to pray for one another.

Shira For me it normally always is the same thing: How can what I write make a difference in the lives of others? What would you have me to say, Lord?

Cherrilynn Shira, what has changed your life or made a difference with you? Write about that. Many people will be blessed. My blog is all about how God changed me. It is raw and realistic.

Mary Shira, I find that whatever troubles or blesses me will most likely speak to others too. Then keeping it short, to the point, and honest will keep readers interested. But, from what I've seen of your work, no problem! You're doing it.

Shira I try my best to keep it real at all times. Thanks for the advice. God bless you all.

Cyn My devotions today were in 2 Corinthians12:8-9. I have chronic illness that causes episodes of nonproductivity, and I beat myself up over it. Add my distractibility, and nothing gets done. Here's where He is glorified: when I push through and do what I can.

Mary Oh, no, no, no, Cyn. No beating up allowed! Only upbeating.

Cherrilynn Cyn, I did not know you had chronic illness I will pray for you. I have chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. It is difficult to push through, but I do. May God breathe strength and life into us as He did with the bones in Ezekiel.

Shari I write Mystery Dinner Theater (scripts) with a twist – not only write them but cast, direct and produce them too! They're biblically based, and some of the general themes include God's timelessness. Each year, they sell out, and I know they are spirit-led because, when I sit down with each cast for the first time for the first rehearsal and read-through, I often find myself saying to myself in amazement, "I wrote that?" I pray for God's continued inspiration and that He continues to motivate and speak to me because there is no way without Him. I also pray that God will continue to guide our steps and encourage struggling writers, including myself, to keep stepping outside our comfort zones. (God) is with us always, and how abundant is His love for us!

Mary Interesting work, Shari! Have you approached Christian publishers who might be open to submissions of scripts? If you've found some whose work you like, they'll be apt to like yours too.

Mark I'm asking for God’s favor as I market my books.

Mary Welcome to the book world! It takes time, time, and more time, Mark, and I pray God guides us all who find ourselves having to spend more time marketing than writing!

Kelly (I need) the courage to step out – and to know what stepping out means.

Mary Your honesty eases the step out, Kelly. I guess it comes down to praying for God to guide then trusting the Lord to do just that.

Margaret (I pray) that my published book will reach those who need to hear its message. In God I trust.

Mary Amen! I suspect we all hope that, Margaret, so let's keep each other in prayer.

Beth No time to write! No funds to get a cover done! One book is (posted) on a forum of publishers, and all I got was, a “Pay me this, and I'll do it" kind of response. The other book that needs the cover also needs formatting for self-publication – frustrating!

Chanda Praying...

Mary Beth, sometimes it's about timing and using the wait-space to get to know your genre and potential publishers. May God bless and guide.

Marla I need to continue the process of editing my book, but I'm having a hard time right now focusing (as I’m) still grieving. I just pray that God will give me grace and gentle laughter in my spirit! Thanks.

Cherrilynn Praying!

Chanda Praying for grace....

Lisa Grace and gentle laughter… Such a sweet request that no doubt brings a smile to our Father's face.

Mary Amen! God bless you, Marla! Grieving is essential and, while it's fresh, it might help to journal, write notes to yourself or your loved one, and read Psalms. When it's time to edit your book, you'll know, and you'll be ready.

Nellie When I look and look at markets, and none of them seem to fit my need – that is the greatest downside to writing. I struggle with it constantly. Sometimes I take a stab in the dark, and get a big surprise of acceptance.

Lisa I know just what you mean, Nellie. I'm right there with you.

Mary I wish I could say it will get easier, but.... Prayer helps, of course, but sometimes I have to put a manuscript aside and work on the next one while I’m waiting for the next round of deadlines or the next editor or people’s interests to change or….

Judy Apart from Christ I can do nothing!

Mary Amen.

Beckie I need to stick to it! Also (I pray for) open doors for publishing a YA faith-based novel that deals with some tough girl issues and spiritual warfare.

Linda (I’m) trying to get money to publish a book that's not quite finished.

Beckie Praying.

Mary Linda, CreateSpace (print) and Kindle (e-book) are both free. Since they're on Amazon, they're also easy for you to list and for potential buyers to find.

Linda This book will touch and inspire Christians with addictions…. Writing a book…is for God's honor… and to realize you are obeying God to write your book.

Tonya (I need) to finish other written projects and find publishers or self-publish.

Mary Tonya, I pray God brings to mind the project you're to do first. Sometimes I get so many ideas, I don't know where to start! May God guide us always.

Tonya That's exactly how I feel. Bombarded with where do I start first?

Christine (I pray) to have the guts, transparency, and faith to let God lead with my new nonfiction book.

Marla If God be for you, who can be against you? Like Joshua – be brave and courageous. You can do this!

Christine Amen! I needed to read this today! What a blessing those words are. Thank you.

Jennifer I have been led to write a course and use it to teach my teenage daughter. It will be about who God is, who we are in and outside of Him and how to walk the journey when you are in the middle of a storm causing you to doubt. I need prayer since this is highly important to get right.

Shira (I’m) praying God's Divine Wisdom and Instruction for you in all your ways. Blessings to you and stay encouraged!

Jennifer Thanks so much.

Mary Jennifer, your daughter gives you an in-house editor! She'll help you get it right.

Okorie (I want) to bend and finish what may indeed be the corner and turning point of my life achievements to His glory. I have procrastinated for too long on the completion of my first fictional project.

Mary May God bless and guide.

Candy (I need prayer) to attempt to put my music out there as I have been told my whole life "you are not a musician.” I trust that God will lead me in that direction. Please pray for guidance (for me) to know how to put my poems and music out there. (I’m) thinking of a website just for my music. I would appreciate any feedback.

Shira Candy, starting out with the basics has always worked out best for me. Write your vision, make it plain. Blessings to you always.

Mary Wise words, Shira. Candy, in most bookstores or online bookshops, you can find the annual songwriter's guide published by Writer's Digest, which I highly recommend.

Glenys (Pray) that I write the words the Holy Spirit places on my heart, so that whatever I write, God may be given all the glory.

Marla Amen – yes, Jesus!

Linda Even though I have every confidence that the Lord will continue to honor His promise to be my partner and executive director in my writing ministry, I find myself needy for human encouragement. It's so invigorating when someone is touched by a piece I wrote or (when) a church uses one of my hymns and is blessed by it. Knowing that human friends are praying for me and my work helps me through long dry spells between acceptances by publishers.

Shari Beautifully said!

Linda See, there's that human encouragement right there! Thanks, Shari.

Shira Amen. Linda, the Word of God tells us to prefer others above ourselves – to edify and build up. This brings about peace, assurance, and confidence toward others, thus releasing a person's motivation to continue, persevere, endure, and finish the race. Stay encouraged! God is with you.

Linda Thank you, Shira!

Robin (I pray) that I would have the physical strength and mental clarity to focus and concentrate on my projects and get something done when I sit down to write.

Beckie Praying!

Ruby (I need prayer for) motivation, inspiration, and a cure for procrastination. I need to finish editing my devotional too.

Mary Ruby, the word "enthusiasm" comes from "en theos," which means "in God." May God give you the enthusiasm you need to write what you've been given.

Ruby Thank you! I receive that.

Sue (I’m) trying to build a platform through my blog and Facebook writer’s page. It is going much slower than I would like. Pray I continue to be faithful in the small stuff.

Beckie I'm with you, Sue! Praying for you.

Shira Stay Encouraged. It will come with diligence.

Sue Thank you, Beckie and Shira. Blessings to both of you.

Jason Writing is easy but trying to sell is very tough, and l’m out of ideas.

Beckie Praying that doors open for you….

Lisa I sometimes wonder why God gives words to share to those of us who struggle so with marketing. It's so hard! But perhaps that's just why He does it – so we'll have to rely more on Him to lead the way. I'm praying for you, too. And for all of us who struggle mightily in this area.

Mary Jason, you might notice publishers of manuscripts similar to yours, then visit their websites, and see if they've posted writer's guidelines to follow.

Lillian (Pray) that I write the story He wants me to write and keep focused on the story and not the sales.

Mary Amen!

Maxine (I’m praying) to be faithful to write as the Holy Spirit leads me and not worry about days when nothing seems to appear.

Mark Amen. The joy of writing is that God has gifted you with the ability to put together a book to glorify Him. (Sometimes) I get away or put on some worship music, and it calms me and brings peace to my mind

Joan (I need) discipline, direction, devotion to God, reliance on Him…. (And I want to) give Him the glory.

Mary Amen!

Kathryn (Please pray for me to) overcome a foggy mind with clarity and focus. So much on the publishing and project plate….

Mary I relate, Kathryn! The more overwhelmed I am, the less focused I get. May God help us to see clearly and think sharp!

Judy (I pray for) ideas, concepts and insights into God's plan and His anointing!

Mary When I'm too busy, Judy, or need a break from routine, poems don't come to me, but if we take a drive – yeah, with me as the passenger – or go somewhere with fresh surroundings, I start looking around for a pencil and paper!

Jeanne (I pray to) be diligent without self-reliance, and (I pray for) discipline to see the goal and work toward it. (I’d also like) feedback from others to sharpen me and the project.

Mary Jeanne, you've well described how most of us feel! May God help us to encourage one another in Jesus' Name.

Marcia I'm working on two plays at once and editing book three of my fantasy series. Prayer greatly appreciated!

Shira Praying!

Terry Mostly I just (need) to start.

Jonathan (I pray to) form everything into words that lift up God, encourage others, and draw people to Him.

Mary Yes.

Carla My muse is MIA.

Mary Sometimes that means it's time for a break, Carla, like a mini-vacation – a walk in the woods, a trip to a museum, almost anything different with everything soaked in prayer.

Brenda I need motivation and inspiration – and direction. Where do I fit in this industry, anyway?

Kelly I think as you do. In fact, I'm not sure I want to be "in the industry," yet I want my work seen by those who need it!
Mary My first writing projects were for the publishing headquarters of my church denomination, which gave me a good fit and good place to start – until we moved, and I changed churches! Then I wrote Bible stories for an interdenominational press.

Brenda Thank you, Mary. How can we, in turn, pray for your writing life?

Mary Oh, thank you, Brenda! I'm also looking for a place to fit again – Bible-based poems in a non-poetry-reading society.

Shira Be of good cheer. The Word of God reassures us that God wins. As we move forward, we can put our confidence in the Holy Spirit that guides us into all truth. One thing that I have realized in my faith walk is, as long as I keep seeking God's face for direction, He shows me the right way.

Dolores (I pray) to have insight as to how to complete my manuscript. I know that when God connects the dots for me, the word picture I see will cause me to say, "Ahh! Of course, it was before me all along!"

Marla I say God connects the dots too! All it takes is faith in Him and being faithful to what we need to do. God bless you in all you do.

Patti I pray the Holy Spirit provides me the words to touch the hearts and minds of readers, inspiring them to establish or strengthen their relationship with God.

Joe I'd say direction. I need to know how to move into monetizing and growing the business.

Mary Joe, it's funny that you wrote this while God was bringing you to mind for a project! Placing a book with a traditional aka established Christian publisher will usually bring an advance and periodical royalty payments. The downside is that it might take months to see a cent! However, I believe you have what it takes to be a leader of leaders in what you write. May God guide.

Chris I pray to be worthy of Christ's message.

Mary Chris, if you love the Lord, you are worth Christ's resurrection power! May God help each of us to see ourselves as God sees us and find our worth in Him.

Sherrie (I pray) that God will show me how to be confident to speak the words He has given around leaders with "titles." I feel like some try to discredit the words given because I don't carry a title (such as) Pastor or Minister.

Mary Sherrie, I know exactly what you mean! Yes, the lack of a degree in Bible studies or theology can hinder us, but since that wasn't a possibility for me, I turned to the Bible for ever-increasing degrees of understanding. I read almost every translation, asking the Lord to help me. Eventually, the words in The Word make their way into poems, novels, articles – whatever and wherever God leads. I believe our part is to trust God to give us what's needed to do the work He wants us to do.

Dolores If I might humbly suggest: pray for passion and excitement for the word He gives you that will take you past any insecurity. I believe the Word says that a person's gift can take him or her before kings and leaders. May His Word, His truth be like fire shut up in your bones so that what He speaks to you in private can be shouted upon the housetop as He gives you the unction to do so.

Sherrie This made tears come. I will pray that. May the fire and passion for the words God has given me surpass or outweigh or eradicate all insecurity.

Dolores Amen! "So it is written, so let it be done!"

Theresa I am in need of uninterrupted time to write. Some circumstances in my life have taken that time away and are beyond my control. I am believing that God will give me several days before the year ends to just be and write.

Lisa As a mom of 6 within 8.5 years, I found there were long seasons where alone time seemed far out of reach. But I also found that when God had something to share with me, He found a way to get me alone. Many lines came in the shower. If only someone would invent a water-proof voice recorder! (I’m) praying right now that God will make a way for that precious time away for you.

Marla I'm on the other end of the spectrum – retired, and living away from my family. My husband is away at work all day, so I have lots and lots of time. It has been difficult being completely alone – just me and of course God! My neighbors all work, so I have found it to be quite isolating. My mom's illness kept us on the road most weekends – back and forth 4.5 hours. Now she's gone, and here I am. Yesterday at our Bible study I realized God has given me a great gift – time to spend with Him. I'm learning no matter how much we beg for what we don't have, we’re to be grateful for what we do have. It seems difficult either way, but I know God does make a way! And when He is leading and guiding us, He will make the way for us to accomplish what it is He wants from us. God hears your cry!

Mary Amen

David Thanks, Mary, for this discussion. I am new to this group, and yours was the first post I read. I must admit that it goes right to the heart of what brought me to this group. For the past twelve years, I have worked on my book, and like many writers, I’ve had a hard time trying to get it traditionally published. Eventually, I yielded to the promises of Amazon and decided to publish the manuscript as a trilogy. The first book was released (recently) in both e-book and paperback, and now I am in a season that much has been written and said about – promotion. I need the Lord's favor in this regard. I must say that I am really glad the message is finally out for people, but as the Lord actually stated, the laborer is worthy of his wages. So much has gone into the work – finance, effort, time, prayer, and more – and now I need your prayers for the Lord's favor on this work in the "marketplace," as well as encouragement and advice from fellow writers here. This is especially so considering my present location in Africa, my hearing challenge, and the limited funds available to me for promotion. The book has attracted several exceptional reviews from around the world, but it would take the Lord's favor to make a success of it in every way possible.

Lisa David, I'm learning that writing, and especially the marketing and promotion, can be overwhelming and frustrating at times. That's when having the support of others who have been there is so important. (I’m) praying we will be that for you.

David Thanks, Lisa.

Beckie Praying for you too, David, and for God's favor to rest upon you and the rest of these authors who write in His mighty name!

David Amen! Thank you very much, Beckie.

Robin In addition to my earlier comment, I need prayer for a clean house because I am constantly picking up and cleaning up and cannot settle my mind unless the mess is cleaned up. I can't stand dirty dishes in the sink and dried eggs on the stove top! By the time I get through with the 24/7 cleanup, I have no strength to do anything else – especially writing. I’m trusting God to open the door for me to find a person to help me with heavy, deep cleaning, so I can stress less and write more. But for now, I am not able, physically, to sit still long enough to write, and I cannot write with a messy environment. Even if I go into another room or the patio, the mess is still there and my mind, spirit, and body know it! So, please pray for the "right" help to come along at the right time, or (pray) for me to gain physical strength and a sustainable routine to keep the house clean. Sorry for the long-winded post, but this is what I am struggling with and you did ask how I needed prayer/encouragement.

Shira I can't function period, Robin, in an environment that's not clean. I can identify with you on that!

Lisa Praying for you now, Robin, that God will send the help you need, give you the strength to do it yourself, or give you blinders to help you focus, regardless of the circumstances. I hope you don't mind my adding that third option. It was all I had when my kids were little.

Cyn My husband knows I have a limited amount of energy, due to (health issues) and there’s only so much I can get done. If I have to mop the floor or clean up dirty dishes on the counter or cook dinner, I can't get artwork and writing done too. Throw in a day with a doctor’s appointment, and I'm about done! So I hold onto Judges 6:14, "Go in the strength you have…. Am I not sending you?"

Anne (I need prayer) to trust God to open doors. (When) I had a speaking opportunity a couple of days ago, I enjoyed being able to share God's goodness no matter what goes on in our lives, and I felt alive as I spoke. I want prayer that I can wait on God's timing for my writing (and) speaking. I want to trust Him and not my own thoughts. And if God wants me to pursue something, I want to follow His lead.

Shira Amen to that!

Reese I believe there are such men and women of God, that you don't even have to tell them of the issues or situations you need prayer for, because the spirit of God in them will lead them into all truth, even the truth of why I need prayer.

Jeff I need prayers for wisdom in finding a good critique group – preferably one that meets in person, but a good online one could help. Also, (I need) wisdom in deciding if, when, and where to submit my writings, and whether or where to find my own website to post my writings and experiences as a writer.

Mary Other members in our group might be willing to do a manuscript swap, so look for those who are also starting out and writing in your genre. If you post your writings on the Internet, paying publishers will seldom accept the same manuscripts, so I don’t recommend that as a first choice. Instead, notice who’s publishing what. If you read a book you like, notice who published it, and check out their guidelines on their websites. Or, if you enjoy a particular magazine, consider where your work might fit. Each publisher has specific needs and reading audiences, so it’s a good idea to look for ones you like a lot first. Then consider what you need to revise to fit their guidelines. Or write something with that company in mind. In any case, pray for God’s guidance, and be on the alert for anything related to writing and publishing.

Mamie I need prayer like I need water. I don't get far without going before the Lord in prayer.

Mary Amen! Praise the Lord, and thank you all for this good discussion.

© 2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, moderator, is a poet-writer for traditional publishers and poet-author of 3 Kindle e-books on poetry and Christian writing.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Easiest and hardest parts of writing

The members of our Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook are people who love the Lord and like to write, so we often talk about things that involve our writing lives. When those discussions might help other poets, writers, editors, publishers, pastors, and/or communicators for Christ, we remove last names, correct punctuation and grammar and spelling, then post those articles here.

If you have questions you’d like to see addressed, let us know in the Comments section below, and Follow this blog to be sure you don’t miss a thing!

QUESTION: What's the most difficult part of writing and/or the easiest part for you?

Karin The most difficult part of writing is getting started! I might have an idea, but I don't like it when the words don't flow. I guess it's impatience. I usually stop and then come back to the idea later, but I often have to make myself press forward. The easiest for me is ideas. I mainly write devotionals and Bible teaching articles, so if I can't think of a subject, I can always choose a verse and expound on it.

Mary I have the same problem, but maybe it's not being impatient so much as having too many ideas, not enough time, and uncertainty about which project to work on next. If words flow, I keep going. If not, I go on to the next topic.

Theresa The most difficult part of writing for me is finishing what I start as it relates to books of instruction or administrative writing – like policies or procedures. Without fail, I get stuck at the end. The struggle can sometimes be with identifying when the project is finished and information overload begins. Then there are times when I've covered the necessary topics… but struggle for an appropriate closing. Though good content is there, the project seems unfinished or incomplete. When this happens, I generally step away for a while.

The easiest part for me is writing creatively. For the most part very little effort is needed for me to write a short story, a few poems, or songs. They just come – generally in one sitting. All I need is an idea, a word or some other form of inspiration, and that's it.

Vicky The most difficult part for me is editing.

John Hardest is knowing when to stop editing even the shortest piece and just let it live!

Jo Yeah, starting!

Dawn For me I also agree getting started. Once I get started, God shows up, and I'd like to believe the magic happens.

Mary Stepping away from a manuscript is what I do, too, as I wait for an ending to click. Editing is easier after that step-away time, and it uses a different part of the brain than writing, so it works best.

Vicky I agree. In fact, I can't stand to read my books after they are out, and I haven't read them in a while because I see all the mistakes. I find 6 months is best to step away.

Mary John, I hope you keep a copy of your original. Then if you cut to the quick, you can always go back and edit fresh. Also, I try not to edit on days when nothing seems to be going smoothly as I'm apt to get overly critical with myself.

Joyce The easiest part is just letting the thoughts/story flow – most difficult, editing.

Kathi Most difficult is finding time. Easiest part is editing.

TK The easiest part for me is writing. Once I start writing, something wonderful happens. An image, more like a movie, develops…. From that point on, I simply write as the story unfolds in my mind. At times I can see and hear my characters interacting…. Other times the ideas for my writings come through dreams and visions. On one occasion an angel told me the title of my book and content of its nature. The hardest or challenging part for me is global marketing and time management concerning my writings.

Cynthia Love the writing. I prefer pen in hand for the original first (draft) and then edit as I put it on my USB stick – free flowing and simple. I can write anywhere at anytime. Difficult are the distractions – distractions of busy times getting started, distractions that interrupt the process or when I just can't find a pen. Editing takes 10 x longer for me than writing. (When) writing is like water, be ready because, when it is flowing, you don't know where it will lead you.

Mary Time (or lack thereof) is a big factor for me, too, Kathi, especially if I'm writing poetry, which needs quiet for me to get going. TK, your experience with watching a movie in your mind is what happens when I write fiction. When I know my characters well, I let them go into a scene, and then I just write down what I "see." Cynthia, I still prefer pencil and paper to computer too, but when it comes to editing my work later, the computer makes a great friend. For example, I use the built-in thesaurus to find synonyms with sounds or connotations I want for a poem. When it comes to writing a book, it's wonderful not to have to retype pages with each draft as I had to do when I started writing.

Wanda The most difficult part of my writing is (getting someone) to look over my work.... The easiest part is coming up with a poem. Once God reveals to me which scripture to write about, He also gives me the knowledge I need to write.

Cynthia Living alone can be its own distraction – always waiting for a call or jumping on Facebook to see why something dinged, indicating someone is posting, but I wouldn't trade my life right now for anything else. I will not be the missing part of the body in church.

Ramon The easiest part is numbering the pages. Everything gets much harder for me beyond that.

Mary Funny you said that, Ramon. I have a terrible time trying to figure out how to get Word to start numbering AFTER the title page and index.

Ramon I know what you mean. I was finalizing a manuscript on CreateSpace, and the page numbers were acting up. I'd change them, and in the proof they'd change back. If I hadn't finally thrown my laptop through the library window I might have lost my salvation. Sunday morning at church I had to go forward for re-dedication.

Mary LOL

Cass I lost 72,000 words somewhere in cyberspace never to be seen again. Although I confess to being tempted to toss the laptop, my better angels persuaded me to rewrite the manuscript, (but I) do know what you mean.

Ramon 72,000 words lost?! And you didn't become a meth addict, knock over liquor stores, or become a serial killer! You, Cass, are a saint. If I lost 72,000 words of hard writing... well, do they still make straight jackets and padded rooms?

Henry Editing is the hardest. Creating the story typically comes easy. Thank You, Jesus!

Jennie Writing fiction is hardest; writing memoir easiest.

Brian The most difficult thing about writing is receiving unjustified critical reviews from other Christians.

Ed Patience is one of my greatest weaknesses. In writing the next book, it always feels to me like it is taking too long. But in hindsight, I can see how God is shaping the process.

Patti I've had many (criticisms) myself, and I've also had many fluff good stuff from people who love me dearly but were just appealing to my vanity. Easy for me (is) the writing. Hard for me (is) the rewriting! Editing!

Carolyn The most "difficult" part is the finishing. It is done in my mind, and dare I share? If I tell others the whole story-line including the end, I somehow think it to be “done” – finished, so I mentally move on to other works. Reaching the goal of being able to put “The End” on a story / book is important, even if there is a sequel, or if it is a series.

Robin The most difficult is just getting started, and the easiest part is being aware of things around me that lend themselves to being turned into a poem or prose. For example, I was in …a candy aisle (and) wrote "How to Have a Great Day" (using the names of) four different candies.

Mary Cool! I omitted the poem here, though, Robin, because you wouldn't have your full name with it, and you might place it in a periodical or e-zine!

Brian Critical feedback is valuable in assessing the worth of practice and making improvements. I circulate my writing to peers for criticisms and support. However negative feedback that tells you more about the critic than the writer is of little worth. Reviewers who only partially understand or misinterpret your work through lack of careful reading are harder to take. Rigorous criticisms with clear signposts for improvement are much more welcome. I find students receptive to constructive feedback in my work with trainee teachers and research students.

Nellie The hardest thing for me is punctuation. I like commas and use them where they don't need to be. Searching for markets is unpleasant, time consuming, and often, discouraging.

Marcie The hardest for me is writing stories. Poetry comes very naturally to me. I don't have as much time right now to delve into publishing and being as creative as I believe I could be.

Conrad Most difficult for me is finding time to write, but when I do find time it is the most natural thing to let it flow.

Paul Starting.

Mary Several of you have mentioned getting started as being hardest. What helps me is getting an opening line or sentence in mind before I sit down at my computer.

Paul My problem is that I over-think the opening line, wondering what the final product will be. Once the first words are written, the rest flows easily.

Mary Paul, you sound like a close writer friend of mine who's been meaning to do a book for years. She wants everything to be perfect. My advice was to enjoy the advantages of working via computer. In other words, write without censoring, forget about it, and later go back to revise.

Caryl Easiest (is) editing; most difficult is marketing

Brian What advice might readers give to a writer marketing their book?

Mary Good question! I definitely don't want writers following me on social media or sending me email to hawk their books. I've had good responses, selling copies of my books when I do a poetry reading or lead a workshop at a writer's conference. I seldom do either since we moved to the country, but our local library asked me to do a reading, and I sold several books! Marketing is my least favorite part of the job, but the Internet makes it easier.

Christine Editing is the worst for me; creativity is the best when the inspiration strikes.

Judy Marketing is the worst. Love the inspiration, ideas, concepts, and insight (of writing.)

Maria I publish online. I really battle to get the covers according to the publisher's specifications (as) I cannot afford to pay someone to do it for me. It could be much better to get someone to teach me, so I can do it myself.

Kim Self-Marketing…. What you receive from the publishers as part of their marketing package is not really that good with the two companies I have published with.

Jeanne Envisioning a book length-project (is hard.) I am so ingrained to write short pieces or blog posts that chapters are daunting. I need to graduate to chapter books. LOL

Mary I've heard others say that too, Jeanne, but the thing is, a writer needs one good topic/ idea for a book with a chapter for each main point. For articles, however, you have to come up with a fresh idea again and again and....

Jeanne Thanks for the encouragement. I need to graduate to main points that relate to the topic.

Mary It's easier than it sounds. I do a chapter outline for nonfiction books -- basically, just a list of whatever comes to mind that I want to cover for each point. Then each chapter consists of main points I want to cover for the whole book.

Linda Easiest (is) letting the rhythms and phrases roll out of the Spirit's mouth and into my ear. Hardest: Ignoring Satan's whisper in my other ear, insisting that my writing will never be really good or contribute anything new and wonderful. Most aggravating: Getting on a roll and having to stop when life's other obligations intrude.

Barbra Writing is like breathing, but doing anything with it is difficult!

David Getting started!

Linda In my limited experience, the easiest part is the writing because I believe God gave me the content. The hardest part is the editing to bring (the work) to completion. The most difficult part still is the marketing.

Michael Putting all the pieces together in one fluid and coherent stream that inspires is the hardest. Finishing is part of this. Starting ideas and creating themes and titles and bits and pieces that need developing is perhaps for me the easiest thing involved with writing. Beginning is fun. In-between (is the) discipline and hard work of finishing -- endurance and persistence and more hard work!

Tracy Setting the time aside! So many other things try to take over (homeschooling, housekeeping, organizing events, promoting a book, etc.) Oh, and don't forget the wonderful distractions of Facebook and the TV. (It’s hard) to turn off things and write.

Jessica Most difficult is getting into my characters with a dozen distractions around. Easiest is when I find the flow and I just write.

Glenys Most difficult is getting started. Easiest is letting the Holy Spirit take the pen

Keren Easiest (are) ideas. The hardest thing (is) the soul-destroying business of trying to market oneself and keep positive when the rejections come flooding in.

Gloria The most difficult part for me is finding the time to consistently write. I would love to be able to write daily for about 3 to 4 hours. As it is, I am only managing 2 to 2 1/2 hours on week days. The easiest thing about writing is researching, especially if it is about history. I love history and look forward to learning more about past events that can help us all understand our present. I would love to learn more about the history of Christianity, the history of the Reformation, the major saints who led the Church to expand the Gospel around the world. So, I am set for a very long time with my reading list

Diana My daughter has written a few books. Watching her and now doing it myself (shows) writing is only 10% of the work. The real work is getting into "print" and getting it out there.

Mary Thank you all for a variety of responses. Lord willing, we'll address these concerns -- from getting started to writing, revising, finishing a manuscript, publishing, and marketing -- then help each other to find workable solutions in our future question-discussions.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler is poet-author of 27 books in all genres for Christian and educational markets.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Good writing guidance from Christian poets and writers

Poets and writers often have helpful tips and advice to pass on to their writing peers, and so began this discussion in our Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook:

QUESTION: What suggestion do you most want to give other Christian poets and writers?

Dudley Never give up on your dream. Everyone has to start with that first word. Remember the only words lost are those never written.

Karin I want to encourage Christian writers to follow the instructions in Romans 12:1-2. I believe that if we strive to put on Christ in our everyday lives, we'll be more full of the Lord's presence, and the fruit will pour onto our notebook pages and computer screens.

Nellie Listen very carefully to what God is telling you. If your inner voice says write it down, then do so. Watch for road signs from God along the way, and write, write, write.

Habakkuk 2:2 (ESV) “And the Lord answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it’.”

Joy Write from your heart. It's risky, but vastly more rewarding.

Terry Don't get discouraged when you don't sell a lot at first. Remember that we write for more than money and remember that it takes time for people to discover your writing gift.

Judy Be led by the Spirit. Study the Word of God, study the craft of writing, and pray, seeking God's direction.

Sandy We are followers of Christ and children of God first and foremost. The gifts and talents God has given us are to be used for His glory and to bring lost souls to Christ. Whether we are paid or not, we should stay true to God's word and the Great Commission in our writing.

Stan Let God flow through your fingertips, and He will do the rest!

Marie Always seek the Lord as you write in both prayer and study. If writing poetry as I do, use prayer and praise as a conduit for writing. Be genuine in your written word as in speech and life.

Edie In a somewhat different direction than the posts above – one of the things I wish I had done earlier in my writing was to get publishing credits in secular publications as well as Christian publications. There are some excellent opportunities in the secular publishing world, but secular publishers are a little leery of hiring someone who may have lots of experience, but only in the Christian market. I suspect that some think that Christian publishing requires less skill than secular. Maybe they fear that Christian writers lack the kinds of skills needed in their particular area of publishing. In any case, it's a lot easier to get into secular publications once you have some good secular credits in your resume.

Patti Oh, you dear Godly writers! Everybody, never lose your first love! Keep the wonderment, the passion, the fun, the joy of it all in your very being, and it will show in your writings.

Cynthia I think the best advice I can give any writer is that first of all he/she must realize that writing is a gift from God, a gift we continue to sharpen and use, to bless and touch others with the sole purpose of giving glory to God. The result would be joy for us as writers and for the readers.

Aleshia Allow the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and direct you when it comes to delivering your gift of writing. Always remember that those words that flow and manifest out of you come from the Spirit of the Lord Himself. We are vessels of honor unto the Lord, and it is an honor and privilege to be blessed with such a beautiful gift. Words have the power to heal, touch, and lead to one's deliverance. Words encourage and plant seeds of faith. Words have life. Let your words be live and active. Let your words penetrate deep down into the souls of others to revive and give hope. Let your words inspire. Let your words be a light in the midst of darkness. In all things, as we grab our pens, our papers, and we begin to brainstorm for our next pieces of writing, allow the Lord's spirit to flow through you to be a blessing unto others!

Glenys If God gives you a dream, an idea, the inspiration to write, never give up on that dream. Once you have started writing, finish it. God cannot use half a poem, half a song, or half a book. And Noah could not have sailed in half an ark.

Stan Don't wait until YOU find yourself in your own "belly of a fish" because YOU have not done what God Commands YOU to do with your Spiritual Gifts.

Marylou My suggestion is to be careful of your title. Some people write a Christian themed story. Then, mistakenly thinking they will get greater readership, they (use) an offensive title. Don't offend God. It is a mistake.

Diana Don't give up.

Nissa Work on your craft. Lots. Also, don't expect the same book to be a 'hit' both with secular audiences and Christian readers. Secular readers these days contain a large number who won't tolerate a hint of Christian content and will find the mere mention of your personal faith (on a FB page or the like) as reason to not read…. Wary Christians on the other hand like to know that you are a Christian author or that your book has Christian values before they'll try anything of yours. Pick your audience and write for that audience.

Chanda Don't give up no matter what! Persevere!

Rita Be Patient! (Writing) is truly a LABOR of love.

Joyce Wonderful words of wisdom have been given. I would add to those that we should be skillful in what we do. Know the rules of grammar and punctuation, know how to capture the imagination in fiction and capture the heart and spirit in non-fiction, and above all else spend much time in prayer.

Anne Push through the hard parts. Just keep going one word after another. I have to say, there were times it was so difficult when I was writing my memoir..., but I kept going with it. And God blessed me with the stories that were underneath the pain. If I had given up, they would still be hidden.

The suggestion I would give other writers would be prayerfully seeking God's help and expecting the Holy Spirit to show up and direct your thoughts and continue to direct you until your writing is complete. Rest in Him, listen to Him, and just let the Spirit of God flow through you.

TK Write in the spirit of compassion and trust in your story. If it’s given from God then others will be blessed by your works. Instead of trying to write as another, simply utilize the gift or gifts that God has endowed you with and they will expand your borders.

Matthew 5:16: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

Letina Always let your writing be guided by your love of Christ. It should point the way to the cross and Christ.

TR Write in a manner that finds people where they are but does not leave them there.

Mary Excellent! Once again, you all have a diverse range of helpful responses. You've touched so many bases, I'll just add my thought that started this group:

As CHRISTIAN poets and writers, we have the unique opportunity to influence others FOR Christ and the church and to build up the WHOLE Body of Christ -- not just the individual parts (aka denominations.) If you have a concern about a church denomination, try memos, phone calls, letters, prayers, but please, please, please do not attack any part of the Body of Christ in public writings.

We're in troubling times, and Christians all over the world need to band together as ONE Body, acknowledging our ONE Lord Jesus Christ, and encouraging readers to love and forgive ONE another. Your words can help! Your words can make a difference! And, oh, what a tremendous impact we can have together -- as ONE in Jesus' Name.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, who began this discussion and the Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts. She’s also the poet-author of 26 books in all genres for Christian and educational markets

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Jump away from those conclusions

Writers of the Bible often attest to “what we have heard, what we have seen, what we have touched” (I John 1:1), and so do Christian poets and writers who aim to present biblical truths accurately or tell others about their personal encounters with God. A problem arises, however, if we jump to conclusions before “what we have heard” has a chance to finish speaking or “what we have seen” turns out to be a false impression.

Take, for example, my exercise en route to our rural post office. I walk. My husband rides his old bicycle. We know why this works best for us, but people passing by occasionally make disparaging remarks about the arrangement. Comments such as “Nice bike!” or “He makes you walk, huh?” show someone jumped to a conclusion, so I often call back, “I have a brand new bike at home!” Hopefully, that stops ill thoughts against my husband, but I rarely explain that, sitting at this desk too much over the years, has made my upper arm strength no match for holding my new beach bike steady on the low shoulders of our bumpy, patched-up, pot-hole paved country road.

Of course, I’ve been known to jump to conclusions too. For example, when I read an article or blog post that begins with something like the episode I just mentioned, I jump to the conclusion that it will be about exercising or choosing a bicycle or (fill in the blank) rather than a writing tip, spiritual encounter, or personal witness.

To jump away from those conclusions, let’s jump back to my opening statement. As we write about what we hear, see, touch, and know, our first task, besides praying for God’s guidance, may be to listen – really listen – to what the Lord has to say to us in the Bible and within our inner spirits. We might need to widen our view through research and related readings to be sure we have the whole picture and not just an impression based on someone else’s opinion or a false reading taken in childhood. We might also need to give our readers a clue about where we’re going as we touch on experiences they can connect with, hear, and envision. Then they, too, can hear, see, and touch biblical truths as all of us – walking or biking – aim to get closer and closer to God.

©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. If you’d like Mary’s feedback on your poems, devotionals, children’s picture books, or book proposals, you’ll be glad to know she’s been offering critiques and consults for 30 years at pretty much the same low rate! For more info, see Feedback, Fees, and Contact on her website.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Reading like a writer

Writing well often depends on reading well, which means studying a poem or manuscript you like, so you can see what works, what doesn’t, and why. For example, as you read, ask:

. What effect did this particular form, genre, setting, character, viewpoint, or _______ (fill in the blank) have on the manuscript?

. Is the style so chatty and loose it goes on too long or so tightly woven it's cryptic?

. Are the style and tone in keeping with the subject matter or story?

. Do word choices emphasize a sound worth stressing or thought worth repeating?

. Do sensory details add sound, sight, or feeling to help the reader "be there"?

. Is something fresh or memorable in the manuscript? If so, what? Be specific.

. Would first person (I, me, mine, we) be more effective as second person (you) or third person (he, she, his, hers, them, they) and why?

Asking questions of a poem or manuscript may seem awkward at first, but your interrogation skill will improve with practice. To make it easier, study a story, article, or poem you think is poorly written. Identify each flaw as clearly as you can. For example, a children’s picture book or short story for adults might have too many characters doing too many things in too short a space. Or maybe a nonfiction article rambles so much, each point gets lost. Or maybe the characters in a novel lack credibility or clear motivation, making everything they say or do seem erratic.

Once you have identified the flaw(s) in a manuscript, whether someone else’s or your own, just give it a little more time and thought. It probably won’t take but a few minutes for you to come up with ways to improve whatever needs improving.

©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. If you would like a professional response with workable suggestions for your poems, devotionals, children’s picture book, or book proposal, see the Fees, Feedback, and Contact page on my website.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Writing and publishing in any genre

Pray for God’s guidance in using the gifts you've been given.

Read, read, read well-written works in your genre.

Notice what draws you to each poem, story, article, or book.

Study publications you like to read. Get familiar with the magazines, e-zines, journals, and book catalogues of publishers whose work you like.

Look for gaps in the market that your writing might fill.

Plan your work before you begin. Decide on a theme, purpose, and reading audience.

Research each topic thoroughly.

Outline each article or nonfiction book. Write a synopsis of your novel in present tense.

Let your writing flow without criticizing yourself. Let it rest. Later read the pages as if someone else had written them.

Identify each problem. When you see a problem, you’ll most likely see a solution too.

Revise your poems or manuscript as needed before sending it to one editor at a time.

Follow writers’ guidelines carefully as you submit your work. When using the postal service for a submission, enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) to cover its potential return.

Keep track of where, when, and to whom you sent your work.

While you’re waiting to hear from the editor, query other editors about your next idea.

Start researching and planning another project.

If your work comes back, consider getting professional feedback on your poems or manuscript.

For poems, poetry chapbooks, books of poems, children’s picture books, and book proposals of full-length novels and nonfiction books, my website describes various options for feedback at the same fees I’ve charged for 30 years.

May God bless and guide your good work in Jesus’ Name.

©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler