Just Write

ProfessionalPic1 - Laura ZimmermanBy Laura Zimmerman

Last year I attended the “Write His Answer” Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference. Although excited to attend, I also had my reservations since I hadn’t published anything traditionally. For months my heart had been heavy at the thought that it might not happen.

My first morning at the conference, I heard a message from a published pastor. He mentioned that after he’d released his first book, he attended a writers’ conference thinking people would line up for his autograph. But they didn’t. He found that he was a tiny fish in a huge sea of authors, and when it came to notoriety, he’d missed the boat.

Then it occurred to him—Maybe publishing that book wasn’t where his worth should reside in the first place.

His words hit home.

Two weeks prior I’d felt God speak to me in prayer. ‘Why do you write? Is it for fame or for Me?’ He had spoken His message to me before the conference, and now He confirmed it. As I sat on that bench and listened to the pastor, I fought back tears of joy and peace. God had spoken to me.

But God’s nudging didn’t end there. I attended a class with a similar theme—then another, and another. God had a message he wanted me to hear.

‘Write for Me, not for them.’

This idea was liberating.

To write God’s words—and not my own—takes away the pressure of having to attain the world’s idea of success. It releases me from the burden that I must see my name displayed in some bookstore window to gain worth. Not to give up those dreams all together, but realizing that the pressure of attaining them belongs to God alone.

Maybe I will see my work traditionally published—maybe not. It’s possible my work will be read by many, or that it’s intended for an audience of One. The important thing is that I write what the Lord has laid on my heart, regardless of fame or fortune.

That’s my job. To seek the Lord, write His message, and share it.

Just write. 

Bio:

Laura L. Zimmerman resides in Phoenix, AZ and is a homeschooling mom to three beautiful daughters. She just moved there from Pennsylvania. She is thankful for a supportive husband, who is always quick to encourage her love of singing, reading and drinking coffee. Laura writes young adult and middle grade fantasy fiction. You can learn more about her at http://www.lauralzimmerman.com, on Twitter @lauralzimm, and on Facebook. Laura is represented by Cyle Young through Hartline Literary Agency.

Praying for Readers

wessel-HR-8by Cass Wessel

My Canadian friend, Rev. Katherine Burgess, writes the best prayers. Today’s prayer for readers spoke to my writer’s heart. The reason? Readers are among the reasons we do what we do.

Oh yes, we love writing. That flow of ink across parchment, the clicking of the keyboard as words appear magically on the screen in front of us. We simply love to put words down for others to read. The satisfaction that fills us when we complete a project. Even more, we love having our readers respond. Positive responses rock, but negative ones morph into rocks thrown. Not nice . . . besides, good boys and girls play nice, right?

My friend, Katherine, posts a new prayer on Facebook almost every day. I’m grateful for her posts. I pray her prayers, even if I omit stuff because I believe differently. Always, I ask the Lord to change the hearts and lives of those who live contrary to His Word as presented in the New Testament. After all, as another friend’s post read, “forever is a very long time.” So in my mind, I always add a line to her prayers for those who don’t yet know Jesus Christ. I pray they open their hearts to Him, because, eternity is forever. I really, really think withholding the way to heaven isn’t playing nice, so with permission, I’m sharing my friend’s prayer. And that’s my take on writing for today.

A Prayer for Readers
by Rev. Katherine Burgess

I pray, Lord, for readers
For young readers
Who are still mostly
At the stage of picture books
Who tell stories
Instead of reading them
Who like bring cuddled
While they are listening
To a book being read to them
May they always find a thrill
In reading

I pray for those readers
Who have just begun
Chapter books
Books with more
Words than pictures
Who now prefer reading
By themselves
May they still want
To share their books
To talk about what they have read

I pray for adults
Who are often hard-pressed
To find the time to read
In the way they used to
Grant them space
In every day
To spend a few minutes
Or hours
Lost in the world of books

I pray for seniors
Who may be finding it
Difficult to read
Due to failing eyesight
May there always be someone
To read to them
And to spend time with them

Most of all, Lord,
I pray that all who read
Will read your word
So that they will find direction
In a world where
Many are lost
Amen

 

Bio: Cass Wessel is a member of ACFW and ACFW Pennsylvania State Chapter who spends her time reading, writing and critiquing stories to win the heart. A multi-published devotional author, she lives in Tionesta, PA. She’s a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

Choosing the Right Details

Lisa E. Betzby Lisa E. Betz

We writers know details are important. We are urged to write vivid and memorable descriptions by using specific details and utilizing all five senses to bring the story to life.

Good advice, so long as those details belong in the story.

But what if they don’t?

Extraneous details

Too many details can overload a reader’s brain. As Lisa Cron explains in Wired for Story,

“Myth: Sensory details bring a story to life.

Reality: Unless they convey necessary information, sensory details clog a story’s arteries.”

In real life our brains filter out most of the input our senses take in. In a story, the reader assumes you have done the filtering for them, therefore all details are important. Pad the story with extra details and the reader will become annoyed.

If my story is set on a tropical island, I may be tempted to describe the lush flowers and stunning sunsets. But do those details convey necessary information? Perhaps the sunset provides a vital time clue. Or the flowers trigger an important memory in the hero. However, if those flowers add nothing useful for understanding characters or plot, they may confuse the reader or obscure details that actually are important.

Distracting details

Misused details, especially vivid ones, can sabotage a story. This is an easy trap to fall into. In my experience, it goes like this…

I’m in the middle of a scene and the character is running down the street. For some reason I toss in the fact that he is wearing athletic shoes with neon-pink laces. No time to ponder that interesting detail because the words are flowing, so on I type.

Everything is fine until a few scenes later, when the character is with his ex-marine friend. At this point I realize the buddy will react to those pink laces. A guy like that wouldn’t let them slide.

This is where I must ask myself whether the pink laces are important or distracting. Maybe the laces show us something about the character, so his explanation to his buddy will add to the overall story. Then again, the pink laces may take the story down a bunny trail. In which case, the pink laces must go.

Dangling details

Alternately, I need to spice up the setting, so I add the first thing that comes to mind: the flowerbeds of house next door are filled with cacti.

Wonderfully vivid, right? But the reader will assume those cacti are important, and read on expecting them to play into the story. If those cacti don’t show up somewhere, readers will get annoyed, or feel less than satisfied at the end of the book.

Yikes.

The bottom line

Don’t be afraid to write with creative abandon, but remember to stop and analyze your details afterwards. Are they deepening the story, or derailing it? Adding clarity or bogging things down?

Choose your details wisely.

Need more help? Read Lisa Cron’s post on which details enhance a story.

Bio:

Lisa E. Betz lives in an empty nest perched on a wooded Lancaster County hillside, along with a sensible husband and a mischievous kitten. When not writing, she can be found teaching Bible studies, volunteering at the local library, or dreaming about ancient Rome. You can connect with her through Facebook, Twitter and her website, lisaebetz.com. Lisa writes historical fiction, and is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.

Write What You Know

by Robin Luftig

SONY DSCI always thought being a Christian fiction writer was the next thing to sainthood. Not only did the author write the most entertaining story possible, but they also left the reader with a message. Their story had a purpose.

When I decided to write fiction I struggled with all the criteria I felt I needed to meet. Would my story be believable? Could I show Christ like I wanted to? Would my words sound preachy? I stressed over my fears for months until I remembered a simple quote from Mark Twain that set me free.

“Write what you know.”

I am a Christian. I live a Christian life because of my love for Christ. I strive to do good, but so often fail. I know what it means to live in a fallen world. I know heartache and other emotions—sorrow, joy, fear, disappointment, struggle with vengeance—all the makings of a great novel.

So I write what I know.

Nowadays my challenge has changed. Writing has taken on a different meaning. I need to be selective in sharing what I know. What experiences do I know that could connect with readers? What emotions can I express on the page that would connect with a reader to pull from them their own emotions? Sorrow? Joy? Disappointment? Struggle with vengeance?

I still read novels by others so I can learn more about my craft. I go to writers conferences to sharpen my skills as well as participate in critique groups to stay connected with like-minded people.

But I always come back to what I know.

I challenge you to do the same. Attend this fall’s writers conference. Connect with fellow writers on Facebook and share your ideas. And write what you know. You’ll be a blessing to others when you do.

Bio:
Robin Luftig and her husband Lew live in Central Pennsylvania. While her writing career began in 2003 she proposed her first novel, Ladies of the Fire at BRMCWC in 2016 and received encouragement as it was met with enthusiasm. Now she just needs to finish it. She has shared her story of God’s grace and mercy at conferences, churches, and retreats in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. You can find her blog and website at http://robinluftig.com, Twitter @robinluftig, and Facebook page at Robin Luftig

An Unpublished Novel Writer’s Journey

by Cassandra Wessel

wessel-HR-8After answering a call to write a blog post, I wondered what I, an unpublished novel writer could share. A friend responded, “No one else had your experience. Theirs may be similar, but it’s not yours.”

Gulp. Here goes.

My writing journey began before retirement and included many published devotionals, followed by a few articles in our denominational magazine. After retirement, more devotionals were shared, and I joined a couple of online writers’ groups. An editor from one online group called for submissions and published a few pieces. Three anthologies later, I submitted another devotional to a different acquisitions editor. At this point, four books held my contributions.

Encouraged, I wondered, could I write a novel? I thought, “How hard can it be?” I’d written several term papers, some of them 35 pages long. I’d written, preached, and filed away some seven hundred sermons. I could do this, but I needed to learn more.

I devoured writing books and went to local writer’s conferences. I submitted several pieces to contests and won a couple ribbons. Next, I attended the ACFW Conferences held in Indiana and St. Louis. Both encouraged me. An agent asked for a full manuscript, and then . . . life and death happened. As the kids say, “bummer.”

What’s the take away?

  • Persist. Work at our craft and learn as much as we can. Keep on keeping on.
  • Get a second pair of eyes. Find a critique partner who can give us an objective opinion. Note the operative word, objective. We don’t want a pat on the back when our work stinks.
  • Network online, and join writers’ groups.

These days, my devotionals continue to be published, and my critique partner slashes what my eyeballs overlook…and that’s my take on being an unpublished novel writer, and published devotional author.

Bio:
Cass Wessel is a member of ACFW and ACFW Pennsylvania State Chapter who spends her time reading, writing and critiquing stories to win the heart. A multi-published devotional author, she lives in Tionesta, PA. She’s a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

Mark Your Calendar!

CONFERENCE LOGO-1Mark your calendars for the Second Annual Keystone Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference, Saturday, November 5, from 9-5 in Harrisburg. Check back in mid-July for updated information posted under our Conference tab.

We’re excited, because we’ll have a wonderfully inspirational keynote speaker, two agents, two publishers, and hopefully, a couple published authors as workshop speakers, to also take appointments.

Last year, three of our attendees were signed by Hartline Literary Agency as a result of our conference. I’m hoping for much more this year.

So…mark your calendars for Saturday, November 5, Harrisburg, PA. More information coming soon.

 

Lots of Exciting News Coming Soon

from Flickr

from Flickr

It’s an exciting time for our ACFW Pennsylvania State Chapter.

We passed our first anniversary in March as a chapter, with our first online meeting in April of 2015. We continue to meet monthly, but we will take a short break this summer.

Watch for a new blog post late Tuesday evening or Wednesday that announces the winners to our Keystone Great Beginnings Contest. I’ll give one hint: I’m pleased that a chapter member won 1st prize.

Also – mark down Saturday, November 5th, 2016 on your calendars and join us in Harrisburg for our 2nd Annual Keystone Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference. We are fiction only, and fiction first. We are the only Christian writers’ conference that is all fiction. We’re nailing down the details as this is being written. We think you’ll like what we’re planning.

If you have any questions regarding chapter membership, please let one of the board members know.

We’ll be unveiling more information soon!

Thank You to All 17 Contest Entrants

GREAT BEGINNINGS LOGO

Thank you! We had an astonishing 17 entries (we were hoping for 15) for our Keystone Great Beginnings Contest. The judges are currently reading and scoring entries, and winners will be announced at our online meeting, April 26th at 7:30 p.m. and here on this blog.

It takes a lot of courage to submit one’s work for critique and scoring. Only one can win 1st place with a $50 prize. If you don’t win, don’t give up. Keep working on your craft, your story. Take the judges’ comments and learn from them. It will help you improve and maybe, the next contest you enter, you’ll place!

If you win here, you’ll be rewarded monetarily, and that will show potential publishers two things: 1) you are serious about your writing, and 2) you are willing to put yourself out there and try to get published.

Two years ago, I entered the ACFW Genesis contest. I didn’t make it past the first round, and one judge seemed quite harsh with their low score. After a period of time, though, I was able to re-visit their score sheet, and learn what I needed to do to improve my novel.

The next time I submitted it, I made the semi-finals in Operation 1st Novel.

So whether you win or place here, even with an Honorable Mention certificate, the point is: learn, progress, and keep submitting. Perseverance is the key. I know. I’m still persevering, hoping for a publishing contract in my future. Blessings to you.

Dress for Success and Corrie ten Boom

Carol Hamilton

Carol Hamilton

Blogger: Carol Hamilton

Although you may not like it, today’s authors should be speakers also. To make yourself more comfortable before an audience and to allow your audience to be more at ease with you, learn to dress for success.

When you stand on a stage, the crowd sees more of your feet than they may want. Women, be sure heels aren’t spiked enough to get caught in cracks on a wooden stage and that you can stand comfortably for your entire session. Closed-toed shoes present a professional appearance. Toastmasters’ Past International Director, Ruth Ray, says, “No one wants to see your toes.” I’ve been known to break this rule when speaking at a women’s retreat at the beach, but only with a fresh pedicure. Men, be sure you polish your shoes. Well kept shoes give subconscious credibility. The exception would be if you use your shoes as part of your persona, like entertaining anti-bullying speaker, Michael Karpovich, who wears different colored Keds on each foot.

Michael Karpovich and Corrie ten Boom

Michael Karpovich and Corrie ten Boom

Let’s go to your head. Men, learn to tie a double-knotted tie so it remains centered. Otherwise a disgruntled OCD person may leap onto the stage to straighten your tie. Ladies, avoid earrings that sparkle and spin like fishing lures. Draw attention to your face so the audience can focus on what you teach. The bling of your necklace should balance with the size of the crowd. Smaller crowd, simple, less flashy choker length shouldn’t distract. If your theatre is vast, sparkle close to the face will attract the gazes of the audience to your face. Avoid dangling necklaces since they shift and twist. I play too much with bracelets and large rings, so I don’t wear them. If you can leave them alone, they are acceptable.

Know how your audience will dress and take it up a notch. Wear clothing you can move comfortably in. If you wear a jacket, it should be buttoned at least one button when you begin.

Once you have chosen your outfit and dressed to the best of your ability, go onto the stage and forget about how you look. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

When I was a teen, I saw the astonishing Corrie ten Boom speak. Even though it’s been over forty years, I still remember the stories told by this wrinkled old woman in orthopedic shoes and a hair net. Lessons of forgiveness only God could instigate. Reminders to get rid of sin and let your light shine for Jesus, the One Miss ten Boom loved the most. Her clothing was plain, but her face shone with the love of Jesus and her words of truth resonate still.

What you wear and how you look shouldn’t be distracting to the audience, look the best you can, but in the end, it is a dynamic message that matters.

My Top 5 Writing Tips for Christian Authors

KelleherBlogger: Ellen Kelleher writing as Elle E. Kay http://www.elleekay.com/

There is so much useful information available on the internet that it is difficult to narrow the list to a manageable one, but here are the most helpful tips I’ve discovered. #amwriting #writingtip

  1. Prepare spiritually. Yes, it sounds like common sense, but how often do we sit down at our computers or open our notebook without having first taken the time to pray. Click to Tweet How often do we neglect our daily Bible reading? If we prepare spiritually, we will be writing with Jesus on our minds and in our hearts. There is no other single step that will produce a more fruitful result.
  2. If you get stuck use a prompt. There are websites devoted to providing prompts to kick start your writing. There are picture prompts and word prompts, full sentence prompts, and even story starters. Don’t just sit there starting at your computer. Use a prompt. Some of the best writing I’ve done started with a prompt.
  3.  Edit. Once you have a beautifully written masterpiece, put it aside. Come back a few months later (sooner if you are on a deadline) and look at your work with fresh eyes. Tear apart that manuscript and make it better. You may be surprised at the number of errors you find. Once you’ve done that, share it with your critique group (ACFW has a good one called Scribes). Then after all of that, pay for a professional editing.
  4. Market. Yes, you need to market. It isn’t fun for introverts. I get it. We still have to do it. You should have a presence on social media. At the very least, you should be on Twitter and Facebook. You should also seriously consider a website and a blog.
  5.  Reviews. Most reviews will be positive, but there will be some negative. Don’t dwell on the negative. Sometimes you can even wear them as a badge of honor, like when someone accused me of proselytizing. Well, thank you. Yes, I followed my Lord’s command and told people about Him. Amen. I’ll take that one star review. If you can’t handle the negative reviews, don’t read them. Click to Tweet Whatever you do, don’t respond to them.

There you have it. A simple list of the most helpful advice I’ve found. #writingtip #amwriting