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.)