Creating a Vision for Your Writing Career

No doubt you have a vision for your writing career, but have you ever put it down in black and white? Taking some time to sort through and pray over your writing objectives can provide focus and direction for a solid future. If you do create a vision, here are a few pointers to help you

Why Do You Write?

Make a list of all of the reasons you write. Write about the joys that come with writing – the way your senses sing when you’re in writing mode, the enchantment of building a story world, and the satisfaction of carving away the dross as you edit.

What does writing do for you as a person? Has it strengthened your work ethic or made you a better communicator, for example?

What does writing do for your loved ones? For a long time, I struggled with whether I should write when I had a family to take care of. But I finally accepted that though I have more time when I don’t write, I’m a more satisfied and centered mother when I do. Likewise, how does your writing impact your spouse, your siblings and your parents?

What does writing do for your readers? Even if you’re not published, maybe you’ve touched others through a blog entry or devotional. If you are published, think of some of the reviews and reader emails you’ve received.

Writing about your motivation might not seem essential, but it gives you something to come back to when you’re feeling discouraged, especially if you tend to second guess yourself. And it’s a good way to count your blessings.

What Holds You Back?

List everything that gets in the way of writing – other priorities, fear of failure, dry creative well, etc. Evaluate the obstacles and work out ways to overcome them, whether with self-talk to overcome doubt or jump-starts for writer’s block. Also, think about how you can honor your other God-given priorities, such as family and health, while being true to your calling as a writer.

What Is Your Writing Style?

Set out some basics, such as genre and style. List authors you admire and would like to emulate. Do you want to write spare or with a literary bent? Are you writing to the masses or to a niche? What kind of topics do you want to engage?

But don’t simply stick to the descriptions that define your writing for the market. In your heart of hearts, what do you want your writing to be about? Think of the nerve you want to touch in your readers. Bringing beauty alive, illustrating aspects of God’s character, or simply entertaining people in their harried lives can all be things that could go on your list.

What Are Your Goals?

Think of goals that are measurable and within your power, goals you can clearly illustrate that you’ve met. For example, finish a novel in a year or submit a proposal to twenty agents by March.

This is also the place to plan over time. How much writing will you do in a given period?  If you’re not published, what are you going to do to move toward that end? If you are published, what actions are you going to take to develop your career in the next year, over the next five years, the next decade? This is where plans for your future get laid out, so the more specific you can be about writing, marketing and networking, the better.

What Are Your Hopes?

In the writing world there is so much beyond our control. As long as you realize that there are no guarantees for some things, it’s okay to set your hopes out too.

So write out the dream agency and publisher you want for your career. Talk about the kind of sales numbers you’d like to see and whether you’d like to write full time as your only career. Write about how you’d like your books to be remembered. Then plan out ways you can encourage those things to happen.


WordServe News: October 2015

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books released this month along with a recap of WordServe client news.

Welcome, Nick Harrison


Greg Johnson is pleased to announce the hiring of Nick Harrison as a new literary agent for WordServe Literary. Nick has been an author and collaborator on multiple books, but the last 15 years he has been Senior Editor at Harvest House Publishers responsible for acquisitions of both fiction and nonfiction.

“Nick will add a depth to the team that the whole agency will appreciate,” says Greg. “He’s worked with top authors for many years, has seen first-hand how the industry has changed, and is well-equipped to serve new and established authors to help them meet their ministry and personal goals.”

Nick adds, “WordServe Literary was my first choice to work with after I knew my time at Harvest House was nearing its end. Their reputation in the industry, the broad list of authors they’re working with, and the company mission ‘to serve authors of faith in all of their creative endeavors,’ made this the right decision.”

Nick will continue to write and edit on occasion, but will be primarily building a client list of established and up-and-coming authors to represent. If you know of someone ready for representation, have them contact him directly at


In Memoriam

51ODJUNvR9L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_It’s not often a literary agent gets the chance to represent a real American Hero, but Jerry Parr certainly was. He died this month at age 85. After President Ronald Reagan was shot, Jerry was the Secret Service agent who shoved him into the car and checked the president for wounds. He made the split second call to get him to a hospital. Those split seconds saved the President’s life. He wrote a book that WordServe represented called In the Secret Service (Tyndale).  To read more, check out this link.


New Releases


Terry Brennan released The Aleppo Code with Kregel. It is the third book in The Jerusalem Prophecies series, following Tom Bohannon’s band of adventurers as they gather again in Jerusalem to examine a copy of the tenth-century Aleppo Code, the oldest complete text of Jewish scripture. Unfolding against the backdrop of an Israeli/U.S. strike against Iran and the planned economic overthrow of the European Union by the sinister head of the international Muslim Brotherhood, The Aleppo Code  is an epic conclusion to Brennan’s heart-pounding series.


41vFxYzYBNL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_Greg Johnson released 101 Family Meal-Time Devotions with goTandem.

Each of the 101 five-minute readings in this book helps bring family devotions to life so families can make more of their time together at the dinner table. Relevant scripture passages and thought-provoking questions are included to spark meaningful family discussion and help children (ages 6-12) develop important Christian values.




Paul Kent released The Real Force: A 40-Day Devotional with Worthy Publishers.

Many of the themes central to the Star Wars story reflect the same beliefs and core values of Christianity, as Paul Kent reveals in this engaging devotional. Each reading discusses a scene or character from the Star Wars universe, relates it to a contemporary life challenge, and connects it with relevant scripture.




Pam Ovwigho released Better Relationships, Better Life: Encouragement & Hope for Improving EVERY Relationship with goTandem.

Guiding readers through Colossians 3, Pam Ovwhigho helps readers put relationship builders into practice to help change the way we relate to others in every part of our life.




Wintley Phipps, with James Lund, released Your Best Destiny: Becoming the Person You Were Created to Be, with Tyndale Momentum.

Vocal artist and pastor Wintley Phipps unlocks eight secrets that reveal readers’ unique characters and help them grow stronger, overcome obstacles, and achieve what God has in store for their lives.





Tiffany Ross released A Servant’s Heart: 180 Encouraging Thoughts for Church Volunteers with goTandem.

Filled with 180 encouraging scriptures, prayers, and quotes that honor the ordinary heroes in our churches–volunteers–this book is an ideal gift, the perfect way to celebrate volunteers, and maybe even recruit new workers to step up and accept God’s call to care!




Jonathan Sandys & Wallace Henley released God & Churchill with Tyndale.

God and Churchill tells the story of how one man, armed with belief in his divine destiny, embarked on a course to save Christian civilization when Hitler and the forces of evil stood opposed. It traces the personal, political, and spiritual path of one of history’s greatest leaders and offers hope for our own violent and troubled times.


419PszQMIqL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_Susie Shellenberger released 40 Days to Complete God Confidence with goTandem. Complete God Confidence shares forty engaging stories that illustrate the liberating assurance of 1 John 5:13-15: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him.” Regardless of our struggle, we can have confidence in Christ.




Karen Witmeyer released Brides of Texas with Bethany House.  A 3-in-1 collection, this volume brings together Karen’s bestselling and beloved books A Tailor-Made Bride, Short-Straw Bride, and Stealing the Preacher. Offering the best of inspirational historical romance, each story is set in a different location in Texas and contains plenty of adventure and humor with feisty heroines and rugged cowboy heroes.



New WordServe Clients

We’re pleased to announce that Bertram Hayes-Davis and Mark Affleck signed with WordServe Literary this month.

New Contracts

Stephen Arterburn and David Stoop signed a contract with Tyndale for 3 books: My Side of the StreetMy Side of the Street 365-Day Devotional, and Recovery of the Soul. The books will focus on moving towards relational health and on helping people in recovery find the spiritual strength they need by focusing on the four absolutes of soul recovery: honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love.

Jim and Lynne Jackson signed with Bethany House for their new book, Discipline That Connects With Your Child’s Heart, offering a Biblically informed approach to corrective disicpline that puts God’s purposes for parents and their kids at the forefront.

Jordyn Redwood signed a contract with Love Inspired Suspense for a new book, Fractured Memory, to be published July, 2016.

Kara Powell, Jacob Mulder, and Brad Griffin signed a deal with Kregel for the publication of Current Church, a research-driven book exploring how churches can effectively assimilate and attract younger-generation Christians.

Kara Powell also signed a second contract with Baker for an untitled non-fiction book to be published in 2018.

Angela Strong signed a 3-book deal with Mountain Brook Ink for her “Finding Love In” series. Finding Love in Sun Valley, Idaho will publish in early 2016; Finding Love in Big Sky, Montana will publish in fall 2016, and Finding Love in Park City, Utah will publish in spring 2017.

Janalyn Voigt signed a 3-book deal with Mountain Brook Ink for her new series, the Montana Gold Series. Tentatively titled Hills of Nevermore, Cheyenne Sunrise, and Stagecoach to Liberty, the books will be published in 2017 and 2018.



What We’re Celebrating!

God & Churchill  by Jonathan Sandys & Wallace Henley reached #1 on Amazon in religious leader biographies!

Too Blessed to Be Stressed Cookbook by Debora Coty was named a 2015 Fall Okra pick, an honor given by SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) for “Great Southern Books, Fresh Off the Vine.”

The Heart of the Matter

Nothing is scarier for a writer than to feel that they are out of words. It happens to me, alarmingly often, and from what I hear I’m far from the only one. The condition is akin to a fireman turning his hose onto a blazing fire only to realize there’s no water. Except, of course, that would matter.


It is the lot of writers, I believe, to constantly question themselves and their ability to produce anything anyone will ever want to read. And that’s what’s at the heart of what I feel on those melancholy occasions when I start to think I can’t produce such a thing. Does it even matter? If I never write another word in my life, would anyone care?

Two different questions, actually. I’m not entirely sure anyone would care, but I am fairly certain that it would matter. The reason for that is, while there is very little that my finite mind can comprehend about a holy, infinite God, I have come to realize something as I have written my novels. He is the giver of the stories. He is the creative source. I don’t think anyone who writes, or paints, or creates or plays music, can deny that there is a power outside of himself providing the inspiration.

And we are created in his image. Which means that we are creators too. Genesis contains no record of Adam and Eve writing or drawing or sculpting, but I’m sure they exhibited their creativity in many ways. Certainly they were the first witnesses to our wildly creative God in the plants and trees around them, and the endless parade of animals and birds and sea creatures passing before them to be named.

Thankfully, creativity continued to flow after the fall, a kind of compensation maybe, a gift from the Creator. So that yes, there would be pain and suffering and sickness and disease in the world now, but there would also be music. And the music would lift us, if only for a while, out of the pain and sorrow and give us the strength to go on.

And there would be ugliness, and destruction, and the gradual disintegration of the planet, but there would be beauty too, in paintings and sculptures and stained glass and architecture. And that beauty would remind us that the God who painted the sunsets and sculpted the mountains and formed the stars is near to us even when he feels far away.

And work would be hard and we would struggle to survive and there would be war and conflict and death, but when we needed to escape the harsh reality of the world around us, we could pick up a book and get lost in a story, or be swept away by words of poetry, and remember that there is another world, and that we are only temporary sojourners in this one, and that, even here, we are never alone.

So it matters. It matters that we accept the gift from the creative God who calls some of us to paint, or to play an instrument, or to write. And if I feel like I don’t have any words of my own, it’s because I don’t. But I can trust the keeper of the words to give them to me when they are needed–to bring joy or offer comfort or provide hope.

And that is all that really matters.

A Writing and Publishing Journey

So John, tell me about the writing of your book. How long did it take? What did you learn about publishing? What was the most enjoyable and most the difficult part of the process?

Pastor John Merritt, Discover. The Writing Journey

I’ve been asked questions like these numerous times in recent months. And since my first book, Don’t Blink, ready to be released in November (EBook is already available)—I thought I’d share what I loved and what I did not love about becoming an author (things you may consider if you have thoughts of becoming an author yourself).

What I loved: The actual writing of the book that took place during a six month sabbatical. I’ve always enjoyed writing, telling a story and making biblical application out of real life experiences. What I didn’t know was that writing the book was the easy part—let me tell you about the hard part.

Don’t Blink is for procrastinators, dreamers, and would-be adventurers who wish to grab hold of life this day, knowing there are no guarantees about someday. From Alaska to Argentina to the Amazon―in situations ranging from dangerous to humorous―John Merritt takes you on a daring pilgrimage revealing what living in the moment looks like. John demolishes the notion that once you become a Christian your freedoms are gone and your fun is done. Life is an extraordinary adventure elevated to audacious heights when God is leading the charge.

Don’t Blink is for procrastinators, dreamers, and would-be adventurers who wish to grab hold of life this day, knowing there are no guarantees about someday. From Alaska to Argentina to the Amazon―in situations ranging from dangerous to humorous―John Merritt takes you on a daring pilgrimage revealing what living in the moment looks like. John demolishes the notion that once you become a Christian your freedoms are gone and your fun is done. Life is an extraordinary adventure elevated to audacious heights when God is leading the charge.

What I didn’t love: The first thing I didn’t love was when I was advised to hire a professional editor who proceeded to get out her electronic red pen and essentially let me know how unaccomplished my writing was. In the end I was thankful for her coaching because the result was her finally telling me, “John, you’ve found your writers voice.” But that required many tedious rewrites that took longer than the initial draft.

A second thing I didn’t love was the realization that unless I was able to find an agent willing to represent my project I had no chance of getting a publishing house to even consider my work. Finding Alice Crider (then with WordServe, now with Cook) was a God-send and was not easy. (Note: Because of the difficulty in getting an agent to represent you, self-publishing is sometimes your best option.)

A third thing I didn’t love is the months it took for my agent to find a publisher who was interested in my book (took an entire year). There are many reasons why a publisher says no to a writer but the main one is market share. Publishers are in the business of selling books, and if you are not able to prove that you have a large audience who will buy lots of books, it really doesn’t matter how good your content is.

A final thing I don’t love is all the marketing of the book I must personally do because no one else is going to do it (not even most publishers these days). Because I’m not good at social media I’ve employed a person who I’m greatly indebted to (Leah Apineru with Impact Author Services, Colorado Springs) who built and maintains my website and posts my blogs. But I’ve always hated self-promotion and leaning on my friends to get the word out—sorry!

Why I wrote it: Given that being a published author is much more difficult than I ever imagined, why did I hang in there and spend lots of my own dollars in order to get my book out there? Simply because I think it will help Christians like yourself discover that God has an adventure designed just for you that will elevate your life each day. And what elevates the purpose of the book for me is if people like yourself find the book to be a good one to pass along to your non-Christian friends who could use a different perspective of the Christian life. If the publishing of “Don’t Blink” results in spiritual explorers becoming followers of Jesus then all that I didn’t love about publishing will be worth it!

John Merritt's Don't Blink TribeToward that end, I’m looking for friends who share that same passion and will help me by reading the book and then sharing it with your friends and family members. Currently Don’t Blink is available in EBook form through Amazon, Kindle, iBookstore and Barnes & Noble Nook. The paperback is due to be released November 10 and you can pre-order a book now. If you would like to learn more about joining the tribe, email:

Please connect with me on Facebook

Thanks everyone!


So You Want to Write a Book

photoHave you ever experienced that awkward “oh” followed by the nodding of the head and a slight pitying glance cast your way right after you tell someone you are writing a book? Maybe it’s just me. But it happened more often than not when I shared this little secret of mine: I wanted to be an author. But not only did I want to be, I was trying to be.

Now that my third book will soon hit shelves, those pitying looks have changed to looks of surprise and some pretty fun conversations. I continue to get contacts from friends, friends of friends, and strangers asking, “How do I write a book? Will you help me?” Originally, this overwhelmed me. A lot goes into writing a book. Where do I even begin to teach this? How do I know who will be dedicated to pursue this to the end? Major shout out to the mentors who took time to teach me. The sad truth is that not everyone who wants to write a book or says they are writing a book will ever finish it or see it published.

So how do you avoid falling into this category of a “wanna-be” or “wish-I-had?” No formula is perfect, but this worked for me and this is what I give people who ask me how to start. I had a lot of missteps. I spent a lot of money on training and books. Lost a lot of sleep. Cried a lot of tears. Wondered if I could really do this. Fell in love with characters and settings. But the bottom line is…I tried. And I’m still trying. My writing journey is still a work in progress. But I am always willing to help those who try. My guess is, if you are taking the time to read this, on some level you are serious about making your dream a reality.

  1. How bad do you want this?
    • Know that this is a long journey. How bad do you want it? Have others affirmed this gifting in you (other than your mom)?
    • Ask why this story should matter to others.
  2. Learn how to develop a story.
    • Buy books. Take classes. Do writing exercises. Join a writing group.
    • Write a couple of short stories. Study dialogue, plot, character development.
  3. Brainstorm your idea.
    • Determine what research needs to take place
    • Buy books on the topic/Check out the library
    • Write down your ideas/get something on paper
  4. Start writing.
    • Most companies won’t look at your work until you are finished. Finish the book. Write, rewrite, write again.
    • When you are finished, research publishers that print in your genre. Look into agents that represent your genre.
    • Purchase tools on writing a book proposal.
    • Pray; and be ready for rejection. If this is something you really want and others have affirmed, then keep going
  5. Connect with other writers in your stage.
    • Local writer’s groups are a great beginning, and there are also some online!
    • Develop relationships with people who love story.
    • Ask people to critique what you have, and request honest, tough feedback. Then change your work accordingly.

Prayer + Passion + Perspiration = Success

Keep writing!

Letter to the Spouse of a Writer

Dear Spouse of a Writer,

Please let this letter serve as a note of gratitude. Though you committed to support this journey, I realize your spouse’s growing career might not look like what you imagined. Within six months, any dreams of grandeur probably transformed into desires for normalcy.

At this point, you might feel frustrated.

Let’s face it, your writing spouse’s hours aren’t always that great. Early starts or late runs are often on the schedule. Deadlines might mean sacrificing a date night on occasion.Old Typewriter

You probably question whether the lack of sleep is worth it, or if they’ll ever sit still and watch a movie with you again. And what’s up with the constant pecking on the keyboard?

Do they have anything to say that people want to hear? (Other than family?)

What is the goal?

Money? Can you actually make money at this writing thing?

Why would anyone pour their heart, their energy, their time, and their soul into something so hard? And why would any spouse in their right mind continue supporting it?

Let me give you three powerful reasons it benefits you to cheerlead your spouse’s crazy dream.

  1. Not only did you and your spouse become one according to the biblical definition of marriage, but your role as cheerleader, coach, and sometimes counselor, means you play a direct role in the creative process. Your spouse cannot reach their full potential without you on board. A happy writer is a thankful writer, and a thankful writer wants to give back. In other words, there is definitely something in it for you.
  2. A marriage is not whole if each partner is not given the ability to explore their healthy passions. How would you feel if your spouse tried to take away the things that made you want to get out of bed in the morning? Maybe you’re driven by golf, fishing, shopping, painting, running, or food. Whatever it is that spurs your energy — liken it to how your spouse feels about their writing. For me, reading is my obsession, while writing is my compulsion. Telling me not to write is like telling me not to breathe. By feeding our healthy passions, we are more fulfilled, energized, and interesting.Getting Through What You Can't Get Over Book Cover
  3. The payoff isn’t always calculated in dollars. If one reader is touched, their lives made better, or even saved, no amount of money compares. I’ve received emails from two readers of my latest book, Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over, who said they didn’t commit suicide because of what I wrote. Though I realize we have to put food on the table, and I work hard to do my part, I remind my husband often, “Writing is about souls more than sales.” By supporting your spouse’s desire to write, you could indirectly motivate another human being, brighten their day, inspire them, or even save their life. You and your spouse together can make a difference.

So to all the spouses of writers out there, thank you for what you do. You are the unsung heroes. Though you are often unacknowledged, you are not unnoticed. We couldn’t change the world one word at a time if you didn’t let us bounce them off of you first. We need your voice of wisdom discreetly influencing what we write.


Another Grateful Writer

A Novelist Who Writes Non-Fiction Blogs


I love story. I love picking up a book and sinking into a character’s journey. Experiencing life and emotion through another’s perspective.

Becoming a novelist was a natural progression for me. Books became my escape from the loneliness and pain as a sensitive introvert in a family that didn’t know how to do relationship or life well. I longed for the love and connections I drank in each week as I watched Little House on the Prairie–wishing so much that I could be Laura Ingalls (though with Mary’s hair). I wanted to be loved with the depth and passion of a father like Charles Ingalls.

Fast forward many years and many choices that brought more scars to my heart. The emotional pain kept me crying out to God for relief. For help. For freedom.

And so started a journey in which God began restoring my soul. Healing brokenness and deep wounds. Bringing joy and peace. And the more healing I received, the more aware I became of the enemy’s tactics against us—God’s precious, broken sheep. And the stronger my passion to help others find the freedom I so craved when I was deep in the pit of hopelessness and shame.

So while I write fiction novels, I blog about freedom and hope.

God has gifted many of us with the power of words.

Not all are called to wield the power of words in the same way. But each of us is uniquely gifted to shine light into our patch of His garden. To hold the light high so lost and hurting sheep can find their way home.

My passion is that none would be lost. And that those who aren’t lost—those who believe in Jesus—don’t live as prisoners of war. Locked behind the enemy lines of hopelessness and fear, defeat and despair.

So many of us present smiling facades. The greater the success, the more invested we tend to be in hiding our brokenness behind shiny walls. Walls that imprison rather than protect.

Our world has evolved from front porch sitting and conversing to a place where technology is replacing face-to-face interaction.

We are designed to be seen and known and accepted in all our flawed beauty. Without that, our souls slowly shrivel while our public (and Facebook) smiles get brighter.

My desire is to encourage people to see beyond their intellectual understanding that Jesus died so we can live as overcomers, and helping them take the steps to live that as their reality. Making the promises of God a tangible daily experience rather than verses we quote but have no real belief in.

God’s desire is that we live in His promises, that His fruits fuel and flow through us. And my hope is to shed light on how to step into all that God has for us, how to kick the enemy and his lies to the curb so we become fully who He designed us to be—His spotless bride.