Promises for the Writing Process

WordSwag/KarenJordanAs I worked on my first book project, I struggled with all kinds of self-doubt and fear. I wondered why I had even bothered with writing a book proposal.

I had faced several rejections in the past. And I had been unable to follow through on other book projects earlier for a myriad of reasons.

Yet I couldn’t seem to let go of my desire to share the spiritual lessons I had learned, applying God’s principles and promises to my life.

Peace. I had been praying about finding spiritual rest and peace. And I had struggled with the thought of compiling the truths I had discovered while helping others in their struggle with fear—especially with worry, anxiety, and depression.

Prayer. I had voiced a question to God as I wrestled with fear, doubt, and unbelief concerning direction for my book: How can I write a book about finding spiritual rest, when I’m still one of the most anxious people I know?

Promises. I discovered powerful promises in the Bible as I sought God’s direction and moved forward with my book. I hope they will encourage you as you work on your next writing project.

  • God will complete the work that He began in me. “[Being] confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion . . . ” (Phil. 4:6 NLT).
  • The Holy Spirit will teach me all things and remind me of everything that the Lord has taught me. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit—the Father will send Him in My name—will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you” (John 14:26 HCSB).
  • Christ promises to give me the strength I need. “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13 NLT).

What promises from scripture have meant the most to you while you labored over your writing projects?

 

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A Writing Lesson from Clark Griswold

I am Griswold.

Clark Griswold and I both love Christmas, but we can sometimes go too far. This year I actually had our writer’s Christmas party at the beginning of November, and the festivities haven’t stopped.

Christmas Writing Group

So when my writer’s group read the book The Emotional Craft of Fiction by literary agent Donald Maass, and I was struck by the lesson on catalyst and catharsis, I looked to Clark Griswold in the movie Christmas Vacation to be my example.

Here’s Donald’s definition of the idea: Catharsis is a storm followed by a release of something inside.  It is preceded by a catalyst, an event that causes the storm to break.

Here’s Clark in the midst of the storm: Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I’d like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless…

You get the idea.

Now when I was explaining this term to a writer’s group recently, one woman raised her hand and said, “I don’t buy it.” She doesn’t think we should encourage readers to lose their tempers.

Donald, Clark, and I are not encouraging such an explosion. Clark didn’t want to lose his temper. He tried to keep it all in. But his catalysts did not relent. The one thing that held him together was the belief that all of the hardships of the season would be made up for with the pool he’d planned to buy using his Christmas bonus. When he found out there would be no Christmas bonus, he lost it.

I’ve been there too. It’s not fun. But it’s real.

And that’s what Donald is encouraging. Writing real. In real life, our pent up emotions have to release sometime. I know mine do. In fact, I once bought China dishes from a thrift store just so I could throw them. It was going to be messy, so I went to a recycling station and smashed them into the glass bin. Then my best friend and I laughed like maniacs because it felt soo good to let out the anger.

That’s where we want to take our characters. To a feel good ending. But so often we are afraid of how messy their catharsis will be.

Eureka CoverAfter reading Donald’s book, I went back to my manuscript for Finding Love in Eureka–to the part where life was pressing in on my character from both sides. I’d originally had her sidestep the pressure. But life is never that easy, is it? So I rewrote the scene.

Genevieve stayed. She lost her sanity a little bit. She made a poor choice. But when the smoke cleared, she was able to see things from an objective perspective. Which created a feel-good ending that was more relatable. More genuine. More powerful.

One other tip from Donald: Make the explosion public.

Not only did Clark to blow up, but his cousin kidnapped his boss as a Christmas gift then the S.W.A.T. team swung through the windows of his house. Could Christmas get any messier?

But here’s the thing. Clark’s explosion also changed his boss’s perspective. Because Clark was honest about his feelings, and life was as messy as it could get, this made it safe for others to be honest too. There was nothing left for them to lose at this point.

If you haven’t ever experienced a holiday like this, that’s great. Either way, I’m going to encourage you to look for other examples of catalyst and catharsis in your life as well as your favorite movies. Use them to take your own stories deeper.

In the words of Cousin Eddie: That’s the gift that keeps on giving!

Santa Strong

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good rewrite!

One Surprising Thing I Learned About Marketing

I recently participated in a marketing class taught by my former WordServe agent, Alice Crider. She gave us the tools needed to take control of our careers and the motivation to create opportunities.

Release Day

There was, however, one thing about the class that shocked me. In fact, if more writers knew about this before they got started, then they might have reconsidered their career choice. Here it is:

To sell your books, you need to be a likable character, and one of the requirements for becoming a likable character is to be polarizing.

Polarizing: to cause (people, opinions, etc.) to separate into opposing groups.

This means that if I am polarizing, then there will be people who don’t agree with me, or they could, gasp, even dislike me.

I hate conflict though. Can’t we all just be friends?

The problem with this wish is that as a writer, if I want anyone to stand with me, I have to first stand for something. I have to know who I am. I have to believe wholeheartedly in what I’m saying. And while this may push some people away, it’s going to draw those who agree with me even closer. They will become my true supporters.

For example, Jen Hatmaker recently claimed that gay marriage can be holy. You can’t get more polarizing than that in the church. She was attacked, and her books have since been banned from certain stores. But here’s the interesting part. She has endeared herself to her audience so completely that her latest book is now in the running for Goodreads Best Book of the Year.

Once I understood this, I decided to not only keep yoga in my next novel, but to use it in promotion. My editor was afraid some Christians would be offended, but I explained why I teach yoga and how it is both permissible and beneficial for me. She accepted with the stipulation that I write a reader letter for the beginning of the book.

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I shared that letter yesterday online, and it was definitely polarizing. I received a personal message saying that I’ve been warned, and now they were going to wipe the dust from their feet and leave me behind. But I also got messages from people wanting to review the book. Besides that, one yogi reviewer told me Finding Love in Eureka is one of the best books she’s ever read. I’ve found my audience.

My point here isn’t to argue who is right or wrong. It’s to encourage writers to be strong. Of course, that’s going to include being knowledgeable and respectful. (You’re goal isn’t to tick people off but to say the hard things that you might not want to say for fear of ticking people off.)

You’re the expert. You’ve been given your passions and desires for a reason. Don’t let your message be watered down when trying to please people. You have something unique to offer that won’t resonate with everyone.

In fact, Jesus said, “Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” There’s probably never been a more polarizing man in all of history. And His book, you know, is a number one best-seller.

 

WordServe News November 2017

Exciting things have been happening this month at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of WordServe authors’ recently released books along with a recap of agency news.

New Releases

Dr. Daniel Amen released Memory Restore with Tyndale. Expert physician Dr. Amen reveals how a multipronged strategy―including dietary changes, physical and mental exercises, and spiritual practices―can improve your brain health, enhance your memory, and reduce the likelihood that you’ll develop Alzheimer’s and other memory loss–related conditions.

Dr. Amen also released Stones of Remembrancea companion to Memory Restore that invites readers to discover the healing power of Scripture meditation and memorization as an intentional spiritual discipline. Remembering God’s acts, promises, and guidelines for living can contribute to a healthy spiritual life and a healthier mind and body as well―reducing stress, increasing brain capacity, and even helping to reverse problems like memory loss.

Stephen Arterburn released 6 Ways for Men to Thrive in Midlife with Aspire. Midlife doesn’t have to be a crisis of identity or a failure in self-confidence. Midlife can be a season of discovering how your past years and present situation are the very stuff that an exciting future is made of. Steve Arterburn offers readers proven strategies and guidance from God’s Word that will set you up to thrive.

Stephen Arterburn also released 7 Ways to Choose Healing as part of the same New Life series with Aspire. The power to heal (emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically) is in God’s hands, but the ability to receive his healing touch is your choice. Using biblical principles and trusted counseling advice, this book helps you break the bondage of pain and hurt and guide you towards healing, forgiveness, and freedom.

Jim Burns released Understanding Your Teen: Shaping their Character, Facing their Realities with IVP Books. For teens to become responsible adults, parents need to help them grow to attain a healthy self-identity, establish good relationships, make wise decisions, and grow in their relationship with God. Burns shows how parents can shape behavior and character, navigate social media challenges, and communicate and resolve conflict healthily.

Julie Cantrell released Perennials with Thomas Nelson. In this beautiful novel set in Oxford, Mississippi, two estranged sisters reunite for their parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, where a family tragedy brings unexpected lessons of hope and healing amid the flowers of their mother’s perennial garden.

Donald Stratton and Ken Gire’s bestseller All the Gallant Men was released in paperback this month from William Morrow. The most gripping, intimate, and inspiring account of Pearl Harbor, this first memoir ever published by a USS Arizona survivor is a must-read for all World War II military history buffs.

Joe Wheeler released the 2nd Edition of Abraham Lincoln Civil War Stories with Howard Books. Updated to highlight the character and leadership of Lincoln, this beautiful collection reveals the servant heart of the President, his dedication to those who served him, and his homespun humor and wisdom.

New Contracts 

Ron Moore signed with Regnery Publishing for Finding Your Heart for God, due for publication in early 2019.

Anita Agers-Brooks signed with Kregel for her newest book, Exceedingly: Stories, Skills, and Strategies for Unearthing Your Abundant Purpose—an inspiring guide to help the everyday woman or man answer the burning question of their purpose—unearthing the real reason God made them.

Mary Davis signed with Barbour for her novella, “Zola’s Cross-Country Adventure,” which will be included in the MISSadventure Brides Collection due out for publication in 2019.

Tim Riter signed with Harvest House for his book Easy Riding, due to publish in early 2019.

New Clients

David and Karin Holder, David Muller, and Preston Ulmer signed with WordServe this month. Welcome!

What We’re Celebrating

Dr. Amen’s book Memory Rescue reached #1 on the Amazon best seller list for Aging Medical Conditions & Diseases.

Christian George’s book The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon Volume I Collector’s Edition was one of the winners of the ECPA Top Shelf Award to promote and recognize outstanding book cover design in the Christian publishing industry. Congrats!

Library Journal listed Krista Phillips’ The Engagement Plot as one of their best books of 2017 for Christian Fiction!

5 reasons to be thankful you’re a writer

‘Tis the season to be thankful! As every writer knows, the writing life is filled with ups and downs, yet it’s a blessing to claim writing as a career/passion. So while this is too long a list of items to share in a Thanksgiving prayer before digging into the holiday turkey, you might want to take a few minutes on your own to make these observations food for thought and thanks!

  1. You’re your own boss! Or at least, you are until you have a publisher who gives you deadlines. At that point, you’re thrilled to NOT be your own boss, because it means you’ve achieved your dream of finding a publisher who thinks your work should be published! Affirmation is a marvelous thing, isn’t it?
  2. You get to play with words. Writers are weird that way – we like the way words fit together to make sentences, or we hear music in our heads from the rhythm of well-crafted phrases. Also, words are free, so you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get started with your passion, unlike people who want to take up scuba diving or landscaping. If you don’t like the words you have, you can always find new ones; if you don’t like scuba diving after a few trips, you’re stuck with expensive equipment you have to donate to a rummage sale or sell on eBay…
  3. You get to tell stories. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, you get to enjoy putting together a ‘story’ – something with a beginning, middle and end. You can spend weeks, months, years, mining your imagination and doing research to create your writing, and you learn cool stuff about things you hadn’t paid attention to until you started composing your story. There’s so much in the world to learn, and you get to pick and choose what interests you.
  4. You get to connect with people. No matter where you publish your words – online on social networks, in magazines, in books, in blogs, in community newsletters – you have an audience, and your words will touch them. Some of those audience members will respond back to you, and then you suddenly realize that words truly are powerful and as a writer, you are privileged to wield that power, along with the responsibility that power brings with it.
  5. Your words can make a positive impact on a reader. At some point in your writing career, a reader is going to thank you for sharing what you have written, because it helped/healed/enlightened/entertained/connected that reader with something important in life. That point is when you, in turn, thank God for giving you the ability to write, because your words have served someone, and ultimately, that’s why you felt called to write in the first place! When you see your writing as ministry, it’s awesome motivation to keep at it. Blessing and being blessed by writing – that’s something to be thankful for!

Speaking and Writing

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The backs of my knees felt sweaty. My stomach heaved. I caught my breath in quick, short hiccups, even though I tried to slow it down. My notecards stared up at me from my desk as if mocking the very idea that I planned to stand up in front of the class and speak.

My idea seemed perfect when I planned it at home. But that day in class, my plans fell apart. Or rather, ran apart.

The assignment was to demonstrate something I knew how to do. I couldn’t think of anything special that I knew about and my classmates didn’t. However, I was an expert on cats and their care. And my cat took a regular pill that only I was able to get down his throat. I decided to show how I accomplished this feat.

Except my cat had other ideas. We didn’t own a pet carrier back in the day, so my mother wrapped our unsuspecting kitty in a towel and drove him to my school. Everything proceeded according to the plan until she approached the front doors with him in her arms.

Then the bell rang.

You know what happened next. That’s right, the cat leaped out of her arms and dashed away. But in his confusion, he ran toward the building instead of away from it. At that instant, somebody inside happened to open the door and he ran through it, down the hall, and into the first classroom with an open door. My English classroom.

While waiting for class to begin, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a brown blur fly in through the door and across the floor to the overhead projector cart. My heart took an immediate elevator ride to my stomach. I identified the blur in those spit seconds.

After quieting the resulting uproar in the classroom, the teacher suggested I be the last speaker in order to give my kitty time to settle down.  By the time she called my name, the cat sat purring in my lap. But my nerves refused to settle until after the dreaded speech.

I received an A on that speech, probably more for bravery in going through with it than the quality. But a cloud of terror hovered over me when I even thought about public speaking for years afterward.

When I realized that writers also need to speak, it was almost enough to make me give up on writing.

However, today, I love to speak. What changed? I took some deliberate steps that you can take, too, if speaking is just not your thing.

  1. I sought good training. I had attended CLASS writing conferences, so a CLASS Speaker Training seemed like the logical next step. It made all the difference in my confidence level.
  2. I found a topic I am passionate about. When your topic makes a difference in people’s lives, and you know they need to hear it, you become motivated to speak it.
  3. I added some fun and some bling. Nobody wants to listen to a boring speaker. When I worked for Premier Designs Jewelry, I learned how to bring the party. I incorporated some of those ideas into my speaking. I ask questions the audience is probably thinking of, and then tell them how to find the answers. I use visual aids. I create vivid mental images with my words–just like when I write. I employ humor. I tell stories. Someone has said that if you can make an audience laugh and then make them cry, they’ll never forget what you spoke about.
  4. I practice.
  5. I make sure I look good. There is an amazing level of confidence that comes from knowing you look your best.
  6. I Pray. If the message is from the Lord, and you ask Him to bless it, He will.

Does public speaking terrify you–or at least make you nervous? If so, take comfort in my story, and employ my tips. You might even learn to like it.

KathrynGraves speaks and writes about beauty in all areas of life. Her website and blog is Chasing Beautiful and can be found at KathrynGraves.com. 

Photo: Pixabay

 

 

10 Things You Should Know About the Writing Life

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Original Image Credit: Engin_Akyurt/Pixabay

 

Recently, a friend mentioned that she was thinking about writing—as in pursuing it as a career.

“I mean, how hard can it be, right? I like reading books and I’ve always wanted to write one. I believe I can do it.”

Should I tell her? Should I prick that golden bubble of innocence with a cold, hard dose of truth?

I knew by the stars in her eyes she envisioned something far different from the nitty-gritty, day in, day out, nuts and bolts thing we know as writing.

“And I know it’ll take work, but I don’t mind work.”

The more she talked about the written word, the more animated she grew.

As it so often goes with conversations like this, my friend went on for several minutes, espousing her lifelong wish to pen the novels of her heart.

“Sounds like the writing bug’s bit you, for sure.” I remembered those feelings.

And then I remembered others. The bittersweet ones that are tough to swallow, but necessary in the learning curve.

I tempered my thoughts with some polite niceties, but then my friend pressed.

“Okay, Cindy. Tell me. What are you not saying? What’s something I should know about the writing life?”

“It’s a unique calling…”

“But?”

“No buts. That has a negative connotation. Let’s say andAnd writing’s something that will always matter.”

Here are 10 more things I eventually told my friend about the writing life.

1.      Writing will consume you. You’ll learn to juggle your passion through trial and error. There’s no shortcut around experience.

2.      Writing will test your mettle. Emotionally. Physically. Spiritually. Professionally. Rise above pettiness. Seek wise counsel. Stay the course.

3.      Writing will challenge your comfort zones. Expect it. Accept it. You’ll write best beyond those zones.

4.      You won’t always love writing. Some days you may hate it. Don’t worry. That will pass. If it doesn’t, rethink writing.

5.      Writing with publication as your goal demands time. Sometimes lots of it. Months. Years.

6.      Writing is lonely sometimes. Align your troops—those go-to souls who get your art.

7.      Realize writing is a different medium. One size doesn’t fit all. In fact, the writing life rarely makes sense to those who don’t live it.

8.      Writing is an honorable calling. When naysayers tell you otherwise (and they will), remember who you’re writing for.

9.      Writing will shred your self-confidence. God will restore it.

10.    The writing life will change you. You won’t live with what if. You’ll write it.

Melissa Tagg once said this and I asked permission to quote her.

“It’s so true that writing is a lot of work. It takes research and dedication and so much stubbornness it’s not even funny. But man…it is also soooo fun and so filled with magical moments. And there’s a divine mystery to it. Because for all the craft books and classes and conferences that help us grow as writers, we can’t force those perfect nights when the story starts telling itself…the characters start breathing…and the plot comes alive. That’s when I know there’s something more than my own brain at work. That’s when I know I’m not doing this storytelling thing alone.”

 

*This post first appeared on my blog.

What have you discovered about the writing life?

Does your current career path align with your heart’s desire?

If not, what steps are you taking to correct that?

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Cynthia writes Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction from the beautiful Ozark Mountains. A hopeless romantic at heart, she enjoys penning stories about ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances.

“Cindy” has a degree in psychology and a background in social work. She is a member of ACFW, ACFW MozArks, and RWA.

Cindy loves to connect with friends at: http://www.authorcynthiaherron.com/

She also hangs out here:

http://www.twitter.com/C_Herronauthor

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