Self-Discovery

Birth of IDEA. Concept background.Most—if not all—of us have “ah ha” moments in life, moments when we learn something new about ourselves.

But do our characters?

These moments need to be part of not only the hero’s journey but also the other main characters’ in our works of fiction as.

Let’s use that as our springboard this week.

  1. Introduce your main character to a sibling he didn’t know existed. What does your character learn about himself in the process?
  2. When a grouchy old woman responds kindly to a homeless man, she goes on a journey of self-discovery to find out why. What does she learn about herself?
  3. The child in your story is afraid of bright lights. He asks his older sister about it and she tells him a story about a time he was a toddler. What does she say?
  4. A recently released convict comes across her grandmother’s diary. The young woman had no idea about her family’s past. What does she learn about them—and herself?
  5. Tormented since he began Kindergarten, a high school sophomore moves to a new town and has a fresh start. What does he learn about himself on the first day of class?

And for you fantasy writers . . .

  1. Your human antagonist awakens to find herself surrounded by aliens. Her only hope of figuring out what is going on . . . the man she came to kill.

Take your time and think through each situation. It’s easy to fall into cliché responses. Instead, be careful to make each discovery believable. Set the scene carefully, thoughtfully. Your characters have to have a legitimate reason why they say and do things, especially those that seem out of character.


by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing Services and Find Christian Links

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com

Get in Your “Write” Mind

And then God answered: “Write this.
Write what you see.
Write it out in big block letters
so that it can be read on the run.”
Habakkuk 2:2 MSG

Holy SpiritOn my past blogs, I have shared samples of some of the stories I have written for my family. After my grandmothers’ passing, I realized much of their legacy would be lost if someone didn’t document their stories. The great-great-grandbabies being born now might never know how our family came to Christ. I wanted to document as much of it as I could.

I’d like to point out that you don’t have to be a Karen Kingsbury to write your family’s story. Just start writing. Don’t dwell too much on proper language mechanics. Just get your story on paper. There are people with large gifts of writing who can help you bring your story to life. The main thing is for you to dust off your keyboard or pick up your pen and get busy writing. Your family will thank you.

After a loved one has died, I’ve never heard adult children say, “They wrote down too many things. I don’t have time to read all the stories they jotted down.” But I have heard many of them say, “Oh, I wish I would have had my grandmother write down that funny story or favorite recipe. Man, I’d give anything to ask Grandma about that!”

You have a story and even possibly a book inside you. Don’t listen to anyone or anything that tries to insinuate you are not smart enough! Time is marching on. Soon it will be too late. Begin today. Your family will be very thankful for the gift you’ve left for them. Get in your “write” mind today.

I would like to share my great-grandmother’s testimony with you. Six generations have been influenced for Jesus because of her choice to follow Christ. One woman, one choice, and six generations! Amazing, isn’t it? I hope you enjoy the story of my great-grandmother Ada Stillion.

One Woman, One Choice, Six Generations

Ada poured the last few drops of the bottle of rubbing alcohol into her cup of coffee. Taking a big gulp, she growled at her husband, “Ed, we’re out of moonshine, and I’ve used the last of my rubbing alcohol to stop these tremors!”

Edward hissed back, “Addie, you best get on down to your brother Mel’s house and get us some more brew. We’re low on cash, and if we could do some bootlegging, it might help get us caught up.”

Ada’s brother lived in Metropolis, Illinois, eight hours away from the small town in Iowa where Ada’s family lived. Every few months Ada and her daughter, Nettie, would take a trip to load up on some of Kentucky’s white lightning. They would bring some home and sell most of it to their kinfolks, who were slaves to whiskey too, but this trip God had something else planned for forty-five-year-old Ada Stillion, something that would change her life forever.

“Mel, it’s so good to see you!” Ada cooed as she hugged her older brother.

“Ada!” Mel exclaimed. “So much has happened to my family since we last saw you.”

“You got any good whiskey?” Ada asked. “I’m spitting cotton. Let’s sit down and have a stiff drink and then you can tell me all about it.”

“Addie, I don’t drink anymore.” Mel shook his head. “You’ll find no whiskey in our house! I’ve met Jesus!”

Ada shot back, “Are you trying to tell me that you done got religion?”

“No, Addie! I met Jesus.” Mel reached for his sister’s hand. “Tonight we’re having revival meetings at our church. Oh, Addie, you’ve just got to come. I have found what we’ve been searching for.”

“Church? You want me to go to church?” Ada’s eyebrows stood at attention. “I ain’t never been to church in my life!”

Nettie stiffened and poked her elbow in Ada’s side. “Ma and me are going to Kentucky tonight. We’ve got some important business to tend to. Don’t we, Ma?”

Mel’s moist eyes met Ada’s. “Please come. You’ll find what we’ve been looking for our whole lives.”

“Well, I guess going to one church service ain’t gonna kill us,” Ada chuckled. “What time should we be ready?”

“Seven o’clock sharp!” Mel let out a whoop. . . .

“Listen to that beautiful singing!” Ada motioned for Nettie to sit on the back pew. “Have you ever heard such singing?”

Nettie snarled, “Don’t know why they are singing about blood. That’s kind of gory, don’t you think, Ma?”

Ada pressed her finger to her lips. “Shhhhh. Listen!”

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the Blood of Jesus!
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the Blood of Jesus!

Ada sat mesmerized by what she heard and felt.

After the singing a minister stood behind the pulpit. “We all are sinners and need a Savior.”

Ada had flashbacks of her daughters and how alcohol had robbed them of a decent childhood.

The pastor invited all who wanted their sins forgiven to come forward and kneel at the altar. Ada stood to her feet, walked down the aisle, and knelt at the altar. The minister prayed with her and then asked her if she would like to pray.

Tears poured down Ada’s cheeks. She called out to God for the first time in her life. “Lord, forgive me of my sins and make me worthy to be called mother.”

When Ada stood to her feet, she knew she was a new creature in Christ. Old things had passed away and all things were new!

“Nettie, we aren’t going to Kentucky to buy any whiskey!” The trip to Kentucky was canceled. Ada never touched another drop of liquor the rest of her days. She lived to be ninety-two years old and shared her salvation experience with anyone who would listen.

Ada Stillion was my great-grandmother. Her decision to follow Christ has impacted six generations. She followed Christ. Her daughter accepted Jesus. Her granddaughter invited the Lord into her heart. Her great-granddaughter committed her life to Jesus. Her great-great-granddaughter dedicated her heart and life to the Lord, and even Ada’s great-great-great granddaughter has given her life to Christ.

Great-Grandmother could have left our family a legacy of alcoholism and abuse; instead she left us a legacy of God’s amazing love. God answered her prayer and made her worthy to be called Mother. In fact, He made her a spiritual mother of many.


by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing Services and Find Christian Links 

10 Easy Steps to Avoid Writing

How can you avoid writing? Try these 10 easy steps!

  1. woman in doubtDream about all the books, blog posts, and articles you want to write.
  2. Constantly build your library and read, read, read some more.
  3. Pursue everything interesting that comes your way.
  4. Justify that extra half hour of sleep in the morning and kicking back in the evening. After all, you need your rest.
  5. Ask yourself repeatedly, “Does the world really need another book? Do I have anything worthwhile to say that hasn’t been said a million times before?”
  6. Convince yourself that you wouldn’t want to see your byline on a newspaper or magazine article or your name on the cover of a book if you were truly humble.
  7. Fill your day with all those urgent things that call your name.
  8. Let each day unfold come what may.
  9. Bee-bop around your social networks. You wouldn’t want to miss anything.
  10. Remember tomorrow is a new day.

Actually, there is nothing wrong with any of these things . . . if we let them serve as springboards for our writing.

Dreaming about what to write is our pre-planning stage. We just can’t get stuck there.

Stephen King has been quoted as saying, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Reading is good, both nonfiction and fiction. We just can’t read so much that we don’t take the time to write.

Being eclectically interested and knowing that amazing things have come my way from a variety of sources makes me inclined to flit around like a butterfly. However, we all have to buckle down and write knowing we just might miss something along the way, but that’s okay.

Getting sufficient sleep is extremely important. However, we won’t just find the time to write if it isn’t our day job. We will have to make the time.

Years ago, I read that no one will say something exactly like I will. We each have a unique perspective and a unique “voice.” Plus, it’s important to remember how many times we’ve read or heard the same thing, but there comes that time when it really hits home. You may be the one to write something in just the way your reader needs to hear it.

It’s important to do whatever we do to the best of our ability—even writing. Sometimes we will be acknowledged for our achievement. This often opens doors to even more opportunities, and that’s not a bad thing. More open doors for our writing means more readers reached.

Stephen Covey referred to the urgent and the important. The ringing landline. The chiming cell phone. The Facebook message. These are among the urgent things that call us away from what is truly important. If our writing is important, we must let our calls go to voicemail, silence our cell phone, and set aside specific times to check emails and social media—and stick to those times.

Not every day will unfold the way we plan, but we do need a plan. Somewhere between scheduling every waking minute and scheduling none is the right balance. And in that balance, we must include our writing projects—not just writerly pursuits, actual writing.

There are countless great writing blogs out there in cyber space and countless writers with whom we can connect. It’s always incredible when a favorite author actually answers our email, but if they didn’t sign out for significant portions of the day, they wouldn’t get anything written—and neither will we.

Procrastination can rob us of so much that is truly important. However, at the end of the day when we haven’t accomplished all we’d like, it is a very good thing to remember that, indeed, tomorrow is another day.

All the best for all your tomorrows.


by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing Services and Find Christian Links 

Moses Was a Basket Case

Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile.”
Exodus 1:22 NIV

mosesI love the biblical account of an infant boy named Moses. Satan conjured up a plan to kill him, but God was watching over the little guy. Jehovah gave Moses’ mother a creative plan to save her baby’s life. She built a basket made out of bulrushes and coated it with pitch.

When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she
could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.
Exodus 2:2-4 NIV

Even though Moses was a “basket case,” he grew into a mighty man of God and was handpicked by Jehovah to deliver the Israelites from the land of bondage.

My husband and I have been in fulltime ministry for more than 30 years. We have seen firsthand the enemy sabotage ministries in their infancy. We’ve stood in the gap with those God has called for a heavenly assignment and rejoiced with those who fulfill their divine destiny, but our hearts have broken when we watched others allow the wicked one to snuff out a brand new ministry God had called them to.

I would like to speak directly to those of you who sense the Lord is calling you to “birth” a new ministry, whether it is writing, singing, pastoring, or something else the Lord has laid on your heart.

  • Always ask God for wisdom as you begin this new chapter in your life.
  • Never lean on your own understanding. It doesn’t matter how smart and experienced you may think you are, in your natural fleshly nature you are no match for the devil.
  • Never be shocked by the enemy’s tactics. Remember his goal is to kill the newborn ministry.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have 
life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10 NIV

Don’t let the enemy destroy what God is birthing in your life and ministry. Remember the story of Moses. May God use you to lead souls out of bondage.


by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing Services and Find Christian Links 

One Day at a Time

by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist

When I look around—and within—I realize it is a very human thing to look to the future.

When I sell my first article . . .

When I find a publisher for my book . . .

When I sign on with an agent . . .

When the workday is over . . .

When the weekend gets here . . .

When I finally get away on vacation . . .

Making plans isn’t wrong. Thinking ahead isn’t wrong. Looking to the future isn’t wrong.

But . . .

TodayWe are only assured of today.

Yesterday is gone. Hopefully we can learn from it and move forward, but it’s gone.

Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. If there’s one thing the uncertainty of personal struggles and global turmoil have shown us, it’s the truth of this statement.

I realize, so far, this post has been “a downer,” but that’s not my intention. When I was writing in my journal today, I posed a series of questions like this one: How can I keep my eyes on the Author and Finisher of my faith TODAY?

Let’s focus on today and go from there.

What writing project do you want to work on today?

Set a time to do so and keep the appointment.

What market for your work do you want to research today?

Even if you don’t have a market guide, there are countless resources online. Explore at least one of them today.

What small change will inspire you to write more today?

Make the change and move forward.

What “urgent” thing on your To Do list can you put off until tomorrow so you can be more productive as a writer today?

Scratch the item off your list and rewrite it on tomorrow’s.

What one thing you especially enjoy can you do today?

Don’t make excuses; just do it.

What one thing can you do to make the day special for someone else?

Include this on your schedule and do it. (Remember even the smallest kindness can make someone’s day.)

We mustn’t ignore the heartache and atrocities going on all around us, but sometimes we must take a step back. What can you do to distance yourself from the pain today—and thereby, be better able to take action in the future? (As a writer, don’t underestimate the power of writing to a government official, the editor at a major newspaper, or the readers of your blog. You never know who will read what you’ve written and change the world.)

Take a step back today. Take a deep breath. Determine what good you can do right this minute—and do it.


Please visit our websites: Christian Editing Services and Find Christian Links

The Invisible One

Team.Dixie-120-140

Dixie Phillips

by Dixie Phillips (http://www.christianeditingservices.com/dixie-phillips.html), CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Song Writer

“He persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” Hebrews 11:27 (NIV)

This scripture has been a tremendous blessing to me and impacted my writing journey. In the life of every Christian writer, we keep pushing our pen because we have seen and been forever changed by the invisible One. As we look upon His face and spend time in His presence, we realize this truth—only those who see the invisible can do the impossible!

  • Where were you the first time you caught a glimpse of the invisible One?
  • When did you sense God calling you to write?
  • Do you remember the first time someone was ministered to by something you’ve written?

One of my favorite Old Testament Bible stories is Elisha and the floating axe-head. Do you remember how the axe-head slipped off the handle, fell into the deep water, and would have been gone forever, but a man of God prayed and miraculously the axe-head floated to the top.

Broken spirits are heavier than iron axe-heads, but when one tiny sliver of Calvary’s cross is inserted into a bleeding heart, the hemorrhaging stops and they rise with resurrection life and beat again. God wants to use your story to be that “tiny healing sliver” from Calvary’s cross.

Whether we are writing for children or adults, God wants to use our stories to change the world one soul at a time. Keep sowing those seeds and pushing your pen. Remember the invisible One is watching and if you listen you might hear Him clapping His nail-scarred hands just for you.

Why Write Biographies?

by Debra Smith, CES Editor (read more about Debra)

crazy student

Research!

Writing a book about a person’s life can be tedious, time-consuming, and fattening. Research may require countless hours on the Internet, searching archives, conducting interviews, fact checking, and securing permissions. However, research also allows you to explore, meet fascinating people, and perhaps inspire the next generation.

Getting started may be the biggest hurdle. Think about a biography you read as a child—what made it memorable? Does it influence who you are today? Publishers are sometimes open to biographies, even as they reject a flood of fictional stories. There is less competition because fewer writers have the time, interest, and research skills to do this job well.

So, who will you write about? You may already have an inspiring person in mind or just seeking to fill a niche. Perhaps an educational publisher has a series about inventors, and you have always wondered about who invented the microwave, Ziploc bag, or prosthetic limb. A writer hooked on history might research about their indentured-servant ancestors and discover a fascinating story. Whoever you choose as a subject, be sure you like that person—they will be with you for a long, long time.

9 Ideas to Gain Writing Inspiration While on Vacation

cruise-6Are you going away this summer?

My husband and I are heading out west for two weeks. And while we’re away, I’m sure to accumulate lots of inspiration for my writing.

My plans to do so might inspire you as well.

Take a book—or two or three.

I recently purchased the third book in Sandra Orchard’s Serena Jones Mystery series. It is a lighthearted mystery that I’m saving for the flight.

I will also be taking my Kindle, overflowing with unread and partially read volumes. I won’t be able to hike all the time. (grin)

Reading a variety of styles inspires our own writing. It appears the most successful writers are also voracious readers.

Keep your eyes open.

Inspiration surrounds us every day. However, most of us are too busy rushing from one thing to the next to the next. A vacation is the perfect opportunity to pay attention to those things that aren’t even on our radar the rest of the year.

Take photos.

While photos and videos make great mementos, they also serve as prompts for new writing projects. I intend to take both my camera and the camcorder I’m just learning to use.

People watch.

While our surroundings are bound to give us ideas for the location of future stories, people watching is sure to give us ideas for characters to populate those stories.

Eavesdrop.

I’m not talking about straining to hear a clearly private conversation. But taking note of snippets of overheard conversation can fuel our imagination and enrich our written dialogue.

Take a deep breath.

Studies show that smell is the sense most closely linked to memory. Describing familiar scents in your writing gives you a closer link to your readers, something we all want.

Make note of the local cuisine.

Use it to flavor your writing. (Pun intended.)

Rejoice in setbacks.

Granted, most of us would prefer to live relatively conflict-free lives. However, conflict fuels story. With that in mind, try to view those inconveniences as fodder for your work.

Keep a notebook handy.

Of course, you may choose to use an app such as Evernote on your phone. Either way, don’t trust your memory to capture all those moments you don’t want to forget. Even a line or two can bring back the inspiration you felt.

These are only a handful of ideas. How do your travels inspire your writing?

 

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

How Camping Improves Your Writing

Camping

Ever imagined writing the first draft of your novel in 30 days?

That’s the whole premise behind NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. In November, writers from all over the globe sign up to write 50,000 words in a single month. And many of them are successful.

Although I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo, I have attended Camp NaNo on a number of occasions. In fact, I’m in the midst of the July challenge now. Camp NaNo is a virtual experience that happens in April and July each year.

Unlike its namesake, Camp NaNoWriMo is not about writing 50,000 words—unless that’s the goal you set for yourself. Instead, you can choose from a few different goals: word count, time spent writing, etc. Plus, you’re free to write nonfiction if that’s what you’d prefer.

This month I’ve set a goal of 10,000 words. That should be easy to hit before July 20, when I head out on holidays with my hubby.

So why participate?

Productivity

As I’ve mentioned, campers set their individual goal. Your homepage included a target and an arrow. As you enter your word count, the number of minutes you’ve spent writing, or whatever measure you’re using, the arrow moves toward the 100 percent ring. It’s fun to watch it move every time you make a new entry. But not only is it fun, it also motivates you to keep at it.

Comradery

Writing can be lonely work. It’s just you and the screen (or the blank piece of paper). And if you’re one of the rare breed, as I am—an extrovert who writes—this community can provide some much needed human contact. Although it’s optional, I would encourage you to join a cabin. You can let the camp directors assign you to one or your friends can choose to camp together. The lady who is hosting my cabin this time round decided to create a Facebook group so we would get notified when one of us posts an update.

Inspiration

The Camp NaNo community is fun, it nurtures creativity and allows campers to be as social (or reclusive) as they choose. You can pop onto Twitter and join the word sprints (which is how I’m finishing this post). There are also write-ins you can participate in. If you’re stuck and don’t know what to write, the team suggests optional prompts to get those creative juices flowing.

Accountability

Whether you join a cabin and report on your progress or whether you simply watch the arrow on your target move toward the 100 percent ring, the process will give you a sense of accountability. I’m finding this kind of accountability is helping me achieve the goals I set out for myself in a few areas: weight loss, decluttering, and writing.

Plus, it’s just plain fun.

From word sprints on Twitter to hanging out with your cabinmates to watching the arrow move toward the 100 percent ring. All of these are optional, but they add to the whole camp atmosphere.

Participation is free, but you can contribute funds so the organizers can keep improving the Camp NaNo experience. Plus, there is camp-related merchandise to purchase. Because I live in Canada, it makes the cost of shipping prohibitive. But if you live in the US, you may want to check out the camp store.

If you’re participating in Camp NaNo or have done so in the past, I’d love to hear about your experience. And whether you “win” or not, you’ll be that much closer to your writing goal.

 

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

Oo, Shiny: How to Make Your Writing Shine

Make Writing Shine

This book first appeared on the InScribe pro blog on May 4, 2017.

Like most writers, I want my work to shine. I’m not particularly interested in awards or acclaim, but I do want it to be the best it can be.

And now for the disclaimer . . .

I want the first draft to burst forth sparkling like a perfectly cut diamond.

I know. I know. Not going to happen!

So what can we writers do to make sure that at least some of what glitters truly is gold?

FOCUS

Speaking of “oo, shiny”—I am easily distracted. How about you? While I am eclectically interested and eclectically involved, there comes a time to reign in those wandering thoughts and firmly affix the blinders.

No matter how many projects we have on the go, we can only work on one at any given moment. It will take a long time to get anything done if we don’t learn to ignore the distractions and focus on the work at hand.

FANTASIZE

Part of focusing is actually allowing our mind to wander within established parameters. These parameters must be narrow enough that we’re not thinking about what to have for dinner when we’re plotting our novel or outlining our nonfiction book. But they must be expansive enough to allow our creativity to take us places we never imagined going.

FORMULATE

Plotters and pantsers alike (I am definitely the latter) must formulate a plan. While a plotter may know every twist and turn before they write “Chapter One,” even a pantser has to have a rough idea where they’re going.

And whether you formulate a plan for a specific writing project or simply set aside time for writing in your schedule, don’t neglect this important step. (Talking to myself here. Feel free to listen in.)

FACILITATE

We have to make time to write. We have to arrange our lives in such a way that putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard isn’t always at the bottom of our list of priorities.

Not only must we make writing a priority, but we must also arrange our schedule in such a way that we have time to revise and rework our piece. This is the only way it will shine.

This leads to the last step . . .

FIX

Since our writing doesn’t burst forth brilliant and dazzling, we must fix it—sometimes over and over and over again.

We must do the best we can to make it shine, then enlist the help of others: beta readers, editors, proofreaders.

That vein of gold or hunk of transformed carbon bears little resemblance to the treasure it can become.

Are you willing to do the backbreaking work it takes to remove the treasure from the rock?

Are you willing to spend countless hours chipping away at the impurities and subjecting the raw material to almost unbearable temperatures?

Are you willing to polish until every visible smudge is removed?

Are you willing to ask for help once you’ve done all you can do?

If so, you will have a piece that dazzles.

Oo . . . shiny indeed!

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor