Monday, June 25, 2012

A Step in the Write Direction--June 25, 2012

A Step in the Write Direction

June 25, 2012

Update: Today my daughter and family leave to go back to Oklahoma after a two-week vacation. They moved there last December 1, and then my other daughter and I visited them in May this year. Don’t know now when we’ll be seeing them again. We miss them—our daughter, two precious granddaughters, and a great pastor son-in-law.

Has been a slow week proofing and editing-wise. Need to decide what book to work on next. Will send book proposals out this week for caregiver book and for parents who have lost children. Once I get a publisher lined up, I’ll send out guidelines.

Prayer Request: For headaches from fall in Oklahoma on May 21st.

Thought for Today: The word must become flesh, but the flesh also must become word. It is not enough for us, as human beings, just to live. We also must give words to what we are living. If we do not speak what we are living, our lives lose their vitality and creativity. When we see a beautiful view, we search for words to express what we are seeing. When we meet a caring person, we want to speak about that meeting. When we are sorrowful or in great pain, we need to talk about it. When we are surprised by joy, we want to announce it! Through the word, we appropriate and internalize what we are living. The word makes our experience truly human (Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey).

Laugh for Today: A woman calls her doctor and asks, “Is my disease terminal?” “No,” he replies. “Why do you ask?” “Well,” she says, “you told me to take this prescription for the rest of my life, and the bottle says ‘No Refills’.”

Writing Tips:

Following are some questions a reader sent me. Perhaps you’ve had the same questions yourself.

1) What does "accepts simultaneous submissions" mean?
It means you can send the same manuscript to several sources at the same time, as long as they're not in the same denomination. For example, you could submit to a Southern Baptist publication and an American Baptist, but not to two that are both Southern Baptist. It's harder in secular magazines because many people read the same ones. For example, you wouldn't submit to both Family Circle and Woman's Day. Woman’s World asks that you not submit it to a competing magazine until a year has passed.

2) What does it mean when a magazine says “No Reprints”? That means they won't accept something that has been published before. However, if it's been published in perhaps your church newsletter, or in a shorter or lengthier format, I'd type Reprint Rights* in the upper right-hand corner, then at the bottom of the page I'd type *Published in church newsletter, circulation _________ or *Published in name of magazine in ______ words."

3) How do you get guidelines for magazines? Usually you can find the guidelines on the magazine's web site without writing and asking for them. The web site address can be found in the Christian Writers Market Guide, or type the name of the magazine in Search or Google.

Have a good week spreading the gospel through the printed page!

"A Step in the Write Direction--the Complete How-to Guide for Christian Writers"

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Step in the Write Direction--June 18- 2012

A Step in the Write Direction

June 18, 2012

Update: Our sermon yesterday and the music were all on the cross. Having struggled with some family crises during the week, the realization came to me anew that I can take all these burdens and lay them at the foot of the cross. Then I thought of the words of the old hymn, “Oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Whatever you’re struggling with today, take it to the cross!
Thought for Today: “I’m a musician. I write songs. I just hope when the day is done I’ve been able to tear a little corner off of the darkness” (U2’s Bono).
Today’s Humor: A boy graduating from high school had to give a speech. He began by reading from his prepared text. "I want to talk about my mother and the wonderful influence she has had on my life," he told the audience. "She is a shining example of parenthood, and I love her more than words could ever do justice." At this point he seemed to struggle for words. After a pause he looked up with a sly grin and said, "It's really hard to read my mom's handwriting."
Answer to Last Week’s Puzzle:

The 11 words you can make out of the word therein are: the, there, he, in, rein, her, here, ere, I, therein, herein

More Hints on Writer’s Block

Whether you are a beginning or advanced writer, if you have faced the problem of writer’s block, the following suggestions may help.
Whenever you are working on a project, keep a pad handy to jot down related ideas. Our pastor calls this “hitchhiking on a thought.” Do you need a Scripture verse for a devotional? While reading that portion of the Bible, a nearby verse may suggest another article. Write this verse down on your pad, along with a tentative outline and any other related scripture or song that comes to mind. Later, as you're working on a different article, you may come across other verses that fit the tentative outline you jotted down earlier.

If you get more than two ideas on the same subject, give it a working title and put it in a file folder—manila or computer. Then when you complete your first article, turn to your file with the tentative outline and you're ready to write. While you're working on this new article, a verse of Scripture may lead to a third article, and so on.
Don’t Throw Anything Away
If you are working on a large project and end up with more material than you can use, save the rest for another project. Many years ago while writing two Bible study textbooks for a home school publisher, I accumulated pages of research. I have returned to these notes several times in writing other articles and devotionals.
This is the day of recycling—in your writing as well as in your community. Don’t ever be satisfied with selling something once! Continue to send out reprints until you know you have exhausted all the markets for that particular manuscript. Then rewrite it with a different slant.

Recall a time in your life when you struggled with a decision or a trial, but God brought you through. Write this as a personal experience article. Then, using the same incident, change the characters and location, make up a “what if” ending, and turn it into a short story.
If you’ve written this story from a mother’s point of view for a woman’s magazine, rewrite it from the father’s point of view for a male-oriented periodical. If the story involves a family, write it from a teenager’s point of view for youth magazines or take-home papers. Or change the dialogue and situations to that of a younger child for children’s publications.

After you have sent to all the fiction markets, keep the same theme, do some research, add a few statistics, and turn it into a nonfiction piece. Or develop the main theme into a devotional or poem.

Dennis Hensley sold an article to a local newspaper about a high school boy who began a mobile horseshoeing business. He then sold it to a teen periodical. Because the young man was deaf, Hensley offered it to a magazine looking for stories on the hearing impaired. And since he was a Christian, the story next appeared in his denominational magazine. The teen used a Ford truck in his business, so Hensley then sold the story to Ford Times. And because he had offered only one-time rights to the local newspaper, he sold the story to other newspapers in the state, and eventually nationwide to the Grit newspaper. What a great example of recycling!
Type Something on Your Page
Some articles on writer’s block suggest leaving your hero or heroine in a precarious situation. Then the next day you'll be eager to sit down at your keyboard to get him or her out of danger. Other writers suggest leaving off in the middle of a thought and picking it up the next day. (If I left a manuscript like that, I wouldn’t be able to sleep! I’d either be too wound up or afraid I’d forget what I was going to write.)

The idea is to get something on that blank page. Some writers retype the previous page. This not only gets your fingers going but it also gives you a sense of continuity and makes it easier to begin your new material. Or you can write a letter to an editor, a friend, a manufacturer—anything to get the creative juices flowing.
Work on Several Projects at a Time
Have more than one project in progress. If you’re writing a personal experience book, select a particular event and write it as an article. Select a character from a novel you’re writing and put her or him in a short story. Write a filler or a devotional, then set it aside for further editing. Outline a chapter of a book or an article. Edit a rejected manuscript before sending it out again. Send a query letter.

(This material on Writer’s Block is taken from my book A Step in the Write Direction—the Complete How-to Guide for Christian Writers. Available for $20, plus $3 s&h. Student edition, with assignments, also available for $15, plus $3 s&h.)

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Step in the Write Direction

June 11, 2012

Thought for the Day:
You are obligated to understand
that you are unique in the world.
There has never been anyone like you
because, if there were,
there would be no need for you to exist.
You are an utterly new thing in creation.
Your life goal is to realize this uniqueness.

~ Aaron Perlow (Itturay Torah)
Puzzle for Today:

At least 11 words can be formed from the word therein without rearranging or changing the order of any of the letters. (Answer next week!)

Writer’s Newsletters

Hope Clark is one of the best sources for writer’s newsletters. She has three: Funds for Writers, Small Markets, and Children’s Markets. To get on her email list, write to:


I have to delete this portion from my critique group because I won’t be sharing this good news with them until we meet tomorrow, but…I received an email from Harvest House last Thursday that they are accepting my Rhyme Time Bible Stories picture books!! I submitted them as 12 separate books, but they will bring it out as one book titled My Rhyme Time Bible for Little Folks. I’ve proofread for the company for over 15 years, but this is my first sale to them.

Writer’s Block

Have you ever sat down at your keyboard and suddenly your mind goes blank? Nothing will come. There are several reasons for writer’s block. A few of them are:
Sometimes when writer’s block hits, your body and mind is saying you need a break. You may have recently lost a family member or close friend. You or someone in your family might be dealing with a serious illness. You may be in the middle of a relationship problem with a friend or relative. Or you’ve lost your job and are facing a tough financial crisis. Although it’s hard to write at times like this, try to jot down notes while you’re going through these tests. They can be the seed for an article or short story later to help others experiencing similar situations.
A Difficult Assignment
Perhaps you have an assignment that is not to your liking or you feel you don’t have the ability to write it. You can’t get the impetus or courage needed to complete it—or even start it. After completing two books for John Wiley & Sons on operating a typing service and an income tax business, the editor asked me to write a book on opening a computer store. Computers were rather new at that time—and I didn’t even have one. I interviewed one store owner, but what he shared was pretty much Greek to me. I did not accept the assignment, feeling that the subject would be better covered by someone more knowledgeable.
Too Many Assignments
You’ve sent out several query letters and received a go-ahead on most of them. They all have deadlines, causing you to feel totally overwhelmed. If this is the case, sit down and make a list of each one with the due date. Concentrate on the article that must be done first, and put the others out of sight until you’re finished. If you need to obtain more facts and quotations for the remaining articles, send out your requests before you start the first assignment.
No Inspiration
Kathi Macias says on the Writer’s View Web site: “I’m journalism-trained. As a result, I learned early on that if we want to make a living by arranging words on paper, then few of us have the luxury of waiting for the muse to whisper, wrestle with writers’ block, or write only that for which we have a passion. If I were a nurse, would I be able to work only on the days I feel a passion to patch up broken bodies? If I were a teacher, could I teach only on the days my pint-sized pupils stirred up my passion? If I were President, could I govern only on the days my polls were favorable?

“If we’ve been called to do a job, we do it—period. On the days we have a passion for it, whoopee! Rejoice and enjoy it! On the other days, do it anyway. It’s amazing how much steadier our writing income will be when we approach it with that attitude.”

An anonymous author writes, “If you wait for inspiration, you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.”
You’re Stuck in Your Writing
One of the biggest reasons for this happening is that you haven’t planned in advance what you’re going to write. In my first nonfiction book on setting up a typing service, I got bogged down in the chapters until I realized that I needed to outline each chapter as I would an article. Once I did this, I found it easier to finish the book. On the second book dealing with setting up and running an income tax business, I outlined so thoroughly at the beginning—heading, subheadings, even sub-subheadings—that when I sat down to write, I completed the book in 30 days.

Another problem, if you’re writing fiction, may be that your characters have taken over the story and you don’t know where they’re going next. Or—if nonfiction—the details in your article or book just don’t seem to come together like they should. If this is happening, go back and re-read your synopsis or outline to remind yourself of the theme and the takeaway you want to leave with readers. If you haven’t developed an outline, now is the time to do so. Former baseball player Yogi Berra says, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” How true! If you don’t know where you’re going, the readers won’t either—if it gets past the editor to the reader, that is.

If you’re still stuck, pick up an instruction book on the genre in which you’re writing and follow some of the author’s suggestions. Or join a group of writers who meet on a regular basis for encouragement and critiquing. You’ll come away with not only help for your manuscript, but a renewed desire to continue.
Get away from writing for a while. Take a walk or a nap, have a snack, go for a drive, work out at a gym, enjoy a lunch with friends, take a weekend vacation. Even getting away from your keyboard for an hour or so to do something in the house or workshop will recharge your creativity.

Next week we’ll share some more suggestions on dealing with writer’s block.

* * *

Have a good week. We’re looking forward to our daughter and family coming tomorrow from Oklahoma to visit for two weeks.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Step in the Write Direction

A Step in the Write Direction

June 4, 2012

Sorry I missed the last two Mondays. The first Monday I was in Oklahoma to visit my daughter and family, and to teach a daylong writers workshop. Met some neat new writers!

Came home on Thursday the 24th, but the Monday before, while touring the college my granddaughter will attend this fall, unfortunately a curb on campus refused to move and I took a flying tumble. Two weeks later I’m still sporting a black eye (which you can see on my new driver’s license!) and a bruised cheek.

Then I had a 300-page manuscript to type and two books to proofread, but here I am back and hopefully won’t miss any more Monday blogs!

Thought for Today: While singing a new song in church yesterday, with the words “You overcame,” several people stood up and raised their hands in praise. The man standing two rows in front of us, probably in his early 50s, was told a year ago he had six months to live as he has stage 4 lung cancer. A man down the row from us: His 4-year-old daughter just got a new heart a year ago. Then his wife, who also needed a new heart, didn’t get one in time and died several months ago, leaving little Penny and an 8-month-old son. And two teen-age girls, standing at the front row with hands raised, lost their mom also a few months ago—54 years old, she collapsed and died while getting ready for work at our district church office. My husband and I were both in tears, realizing—in spite of some things we’re going through—how much we have to be thankful for.

Make a list of your blessings today:

Laugh for Today (after reading the above, you may need something lighter): From the last paragraph of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain: “...there ain't no more to write about, and I'm rotten glad of it, because if I'd 'a' knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn't 'a' tackled it, and ain't a-going to no more.”

Question from Reader:

How do you feel when people edit your writing? I feel it's a personal expression and style and when people add or subtract words, and rephrase sentences it changes the style from yours to theirs. How much should editors change your articles? I know they can cut words because of space, but do they add and delete words, and change the way sentences are worded?

I write for our church newsletter and have never had a church secretary edit my articles. In the past they would turn them back to me if they were too long or short and I edited them. The current one is skilled and has taken to editing. She and I are engaging in positive dialogue about this and it may give both of us an idea of the editing standard.

My Answer:

Editing is a very iffy thing. When I do editing for writers, I never want it to end up sounding like me. I try to keep the writer's "voice," even though it wouldn’t be how I would write it. Also, when I edit I try to give them reasons for any suggested changes I make (and they are just that—suggestions). I also point out their strong points. No one likes to get a manuscript back with only negative comments and no positive ones.

I belong to a weekly critique group of professional writers. We bring enough manuscripts for each person to have a copy and we read silently. If more than one person makes the same suggestion, I take it seriously. Some I use and some I don't.

I proofread for a large publishing house. Previously, I got the edited copy to read along with the new printout, so I got to see the changes the editors made (now the editors make the changes on screen so I don't see the original). Probably 99 percent of the time the changes greatly improved the manuscript. And yes, sometimes they did delete words and change the way sentences were worded. HOWEVER, and this is important to know, they always send the edited copy back to the author for their approval.

If your church secretary is editing your articles, I would try to determine the reason why. Is she correcting something that is actually wrong, or just changing it because she likes to change things? If the article is going out under your name, it should sound like you.

Many years ago a publisher published my devotional book for S.S. teachers. They didn't send me back the galleys to proofread, so I didn't know until the book came out that they had replaced two of my devotionals with two they selected. These devotionals sounded nothing like my writing or what I would have chosen. People who knew me questioned their inclusion.

Again, the most important thing is that the article ends up sounding like you—how you talk, etc.

Hope this helps.

Readers, send me your questions and I’ll try to answer them in a blog.