Write2Ignite

Christian Writers of Literature for Children and Young Adults

Category: The Craft of Writing Page 1 of 20

10 Reflections from a New Author

 

This past year has been a special one for the books (pun intended) because I published my first book! As you know, the process is anything but quick, but you can bet that the experience has been rich with lessons that will carry on into my future projects. My brief takeaways might just work as a reminder for you while on your writing journey.

 

  1. Dedicating your work to God makes a world of difference

Writing a book is a daunting task that involves more than just hashing out 300 pages. You have the task of giving a reader an experience, good or bad, influential and entertaining. Praying over my message, my chapters, my ideas and more helped me surrender, knowing God will help, inspire, encourage, and take the book where it needs to go.

  1. Don’t marry your words

This idea comes from one of my writing professors. We writers can get so attached to our words that we fail to receive criticism. When it comes to crafting your ideas effectively, the best practice is to be open minded and flexible.

  1. Your audience is more important than your ‘dream’

I’ve always been so focused on “writing the book” that it hindered me from thinking about who I was writing for. Becoming a writer may have been the dream that got us started, but our attention to our readers allows us to bear good fruit, which is ultimately more fulfilling.

  1. Editing never ends

You can go through your manuscript a hundred times and still find something to tweak. I had several sets of eyes go through my work and I went through in a variety of formats, but the final product still has a few errors. Learn when to let go before you let the editing process keep you from ever publishing.

  1. Rejection doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer

I thought that I would be a mess when I received my first rejection. To my surprise, I had prepared myself enough to be confident despite each “No” from the industry. Publishing houses and literary agents reject for a number of reasons: length of the manuscript, criteria of the publishing house, market need, etc. Let them roll off your back as you continue to learn and grow.

  1. Your work is not less significant if it’s self-published

I always went along with the stigma of self-publishing. Obviously, it meant that the writer wasn’t good enough to get really published. Fortunately, I don’t feel that way now. Though some self-published books are less than good, self-publishing is a great way to learn about formatting and design. It’s also effective in building a readership that publishers ultimately admire.

  1. Don’t skimp on quality

In reference to self-publishing specifically, you are the one with the final say and the same goes for quality. Have editors but don’t rely on just their edits. Go back through yourself. Don’t try and design a cover if you have little to no experience as a graphic designer. Those details will scream low quality and end up hurting your readership. Cost effective solutions are out there, and you’ll be thankful once you have that stellar looking book in your hands.

  1. Marketing is a game: win or lose, you still have to play

Many writers hear the word ‘marketing’ and cringe. Growing your inner marketer is part of the job, and it will include trial and error. Read the books, try new things, get people excited about your work. Marketing is necessary, so bite the bullet. Seeing your platform growing, your calendar filling, and your books selling will make it all worthwhile.

  1. Doubt is part of the territory

No matter where you are in the process, I bet you’ve experienced doubt. I had many doubts right up until my release. We tend to doubt our story is as good as what’s out there. We doubt if anybody will truly enjoy reading our work. The list goes on. But don’t let those feelings keep you from doing it anyway. Keep writing, keep querying, keep advertising, and keep editing. You’ll be glad you did.

  1. Practice makes perfect

This is a lesson we all learn at a young age and it’s no different for the writing and publishing world. The more we read, write, edit and worm our way into the industry, the better we will get. I look forward to the day I can look back at my first book and praise God for how far I’ve come.

What’s something you’ve learned on your writing adventures? Is it on this list or is it something different? Please share with us!

Write on, friends!


Leah Jordan Meahl is an up and coming Christian author. She loves to journey with new adults and Christians alike with her blog. Check out her full Bio.

Writing With Consideration by Darcy Hendrick

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. Luke 12:27

I have always loved this passage, perhaps because among the many challenging instructions in scripture, this one comes naturally to me.

Consider the lilies.

My pleasure! And not just the lilies but a cloud streaked sky, how the rays of the sun shine through the window on a cold day, the mist rising from warm grass, snow glistening in the sun… The list of beautiful images from God’s creation are, I imagine, literally endless.

And God tells us in His Word very specifically, and more than once, (Psalm 8:3, Luke 12:24, Proverbs 6:6) to consider His creation.

This is not just happy instruction from an endlessly creative and loving God and Master Artisan. For the Christian writer it is endless source material. And if you write for children it is a playground of possibilities!

In my studies, one of my assignments was to write an article for a children’s magazine. That was basically it. It could be fiction or non-fiction on the subject of my choice.

As I was toying with ideas for subject matter I was also living my life and, as I have a tendency to do, looked up. I’m a sky watcher. Not for meteors or new planets, although I’m sure those are fascinating as well.

I simply love the sky. And as I watched I noticed, on more than one occasion, ravens soaring in ascending spirals. They would reach some invisible stopping point and leave the spiral only to soar back down and begin the ascent again.

I was fascinated and curious – a wonderful combination for a writer!

What were they doing? Why? And did they enjoy it as much as I fancied they did? It reminded me of a rollercoaster.

And so, these seemingly insignificant moments of curiosity became my article, Raven’s Rollercoaster explaining thermal dynamics and air currents.

Because I considered.

I didn’t just give God’s creative genius a passing glance. I stopped to look, and in looking I learned.

But I didn’t just learn about air currents and ravens, I learned a bit more about my Creator. I learned he delights in His creation, whether it’s giving ravens a roller coaster in the sky or giving me a special scripture to remember it by, long after my assignment was completed.

Luke 12:24 says, Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!

 What a gift! A gift God gives to us and we pass along to our readers.

When we consider.

Whether your writing needs direction, inspiration, or a bit of child-like wonder, stop, look around, and consider the works of God’s hands. Inspiration may just be right in front of you.

So write with consideration and let God’s lessons begin!

********

Darcy Hendrick is a member of the Write2Ignite team. She lives in South Carolina with her fearless Yorkie-Poo, Baby. She delights in spending date nights with her grandson and finds endless inspiration for her writing simply observing the beauty of God’s creation.

writing

Writing Resources: Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams

“This book is for you–the person who wants to be published or grow in your writing craft  . . . My desire is for your writing to thrive and move into a higher gear after you read these pages.” (W. Terry Whalin, pp. 20)

Writing for publication is a skill that must be learned, and one of the best ways to learn is to go to the experts. Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams by W. Terry Whalin offers solid advice in clear, easy-to-digest sections which motivate you to work toward your goals.  At the end of each chapter, Whalin includes Dig Deeper lists of additional resources that elaborate on the subjects he discusses. He also offers questions for reflection and challenges you to take action based on what you’ve learned. Whalin aims throughout the book to help you define and achieve your goals as a writer, and in doing so, he creates an informative, encouraging text that you’ll want to keep ready at hand. 

Here’s a sneak peek of what Whalin has to say:

Fittingly enough for a book focused on achieving dreams, Whalin spends chapter two discussing the importance of making a plan for your writing. This chapter grabbed my attention the first time I read it because it makes two very convicting points.

First,

Whalin asks us to consider what our Time Wasters are, listing among them emails, family interruptions, and even writing opportunities. He explains, “Whether you have several hours a day or a full day to accomplish your writing goals, it is easy to fill those hours with ‘good things’ that do not help you move toward the fulfillment of those goals” (pp. 32). As an expert procrastinator, this line stung me a little. Whenever I sit down to write, there are a million other to-dos floating through the back of my mind. All of them seem more important, or at least equally important to the task at hand. But at the end of the day, time set aside for writing needs to be set aside for writing. If we want to accomplish our goals, we have to be willing to make them a priority. And that means sometimes, it’s okay to say no to other opportunities, even good opportunities. Our writing is worth devoting our full attention to, even if it requires a little sacrifice.

Second,

Whalin reminds us to make consistent short-term goals. Big-hairy goals, as a professor of mine used to call them, are great. Necessary, even. Dreaming big inspires our writing, helping us to believe in the possibilities. Short-term goals, however, make those big-hairy dreams achievable. Whalin explains that the key to being productive is to continually set smaller goals and follow through with them. Every small milestone brings you a step closer to your destination. While writing a 500 page novel can be daunting to consider, writing 5 pages a day is a manageable plan. And over time, the consistent effort of 5 pages a day will create the finished novel that was so intimidating at the beginning.

These tidbits of wisdom barley scratch the surface of all you’ll find in this book. Every chapter brings with it more applicable information, getting deeper as you go through.

So How Would I Rate This?

I give Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams 5 out of 5 jumping goldfish. 

This book is designed to be put into practice. Whalin’s conversational tone, real-life examples, and calls to action make the book engaging, and the advice is easy to understand and apply.  Reading each chapter left me with the same feeling I get when I leave a writer’s conference: I just can’t wait to get started. I hope you’ll add a copy to your shelf, and if you do, I hope you learn as much from this book as I did. 

One final question before you go. What is one short-term goal you have for your writing, or that you’d like to set for your writing today?

 

Whalin, W. Terry. Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams: Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success. WTW Press, 2009.

 

CONTENTMENT: MY Writerly Word for 2020

This past year was a difficult one for me. Due to our financial situation, we have not been able to travel, which has always been my go-to for inspiration. A new destination has the ability to shake up my brain cells and send them in a new direction, but this year, they stopped. Cold.

It’s as if I had a brick in my hand, and couldn’t lift my pen. My creativity was on lock-down. My mind was a blank. Oh, I could compose an email, and even write blog posts. But a story? Nope.

Have you ever had that feeling? Not comforting, is it?

What’s more, I felt jealousy rising within me whenever an author friend signed a new contract or received a raving review from Kirkus or Horn Book. It hurt when fellow authors posted about their school visits or bookstore signings.

It’s not that I hadn’t put forth the effort. Not at all. I had been contacting local bookstores and schools daily during the Fall, dutifully sending my one page of info immediately after I hung up the phone. I even kept a spreadsheet of the contact info and details of the email or phone call.

I felt like quitting Facebook and Instagram. Twitter, especially, was the worst. A knife went through me each time I witnessed someone’s successes as I scrolled. It’s not that I wanted to steal their joy or take away their accomplishments. Of course not. But I wanted it to happen to me as well.

It was then God brought the word CONTENTMENT to my heart and mind. If God has gifted me as a writer, then He knows what I need, right? And He has perfect timing. If He can move mountains and calm the sea, He certainly can remind my contacts to call and arrange a school visit. Or not. And, He can spark my creative muse in an instant. Or not. My part? To be CONTENT with what the Lord brings into my writing life.

My Word last year was PERSEVERANCE, and boy, did I persevere. I contacted over 30 schools, bookshops and conferences asking if I could share my author’s journey or teach a writing course. But in 2019, I had five events to attend where I could introduce my debut MG historical fiction, The Heart Changer.

This year, I want to rest in God’s plan for me. I have classes to take, and blog posts to write, and short trips to take as I search for ways to be inspired. And as I rest, do you know what is happening? Little by little, I see the Lord, my Master Designer, taking control and connecting me in almost imperceptible ways with my readers. What a freeing experience! I am released from my duty of cold-calling and reminders. CONTENTMENT is coming into focus as worry and doubt are banished.

I’m coasting down a gently flowing river on a raft, letting the current take me wherever it will. I lift my face to the sun, feeling its warm glow. I don’t need to worry about the destination, God has it all under control. I only need to rest.

Although I want to be content with my writing life and schedule, I am still open to connecting with the public in any region of the US. If you know of a church, school, bookstore or conference looking for a middle-grade author to participate in a bookish event, check out my Visit page. I love to share my passion for the Bible, history and the writing life with my readers!

Jarm (‘J’ pronounced as a ‘Y’) Del Boccio finds her inspiration in everyday life, but in particular, when she travels the globe, observing the quirky things that happen along the way. Focusing on the lives of characters from the past, Jarm is devoted to breathing new life into the pages of history.

Her debut middle-grade historical fiction, The Heart Changer released with Ambassador International April 26th, 2019. Connect with her at her Author’s Website.

5 Messages Teens Desperately Need to Read

Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

 

It’s 2020! Never has it been so clear that we are living in a completely different world with a completely different set of rules. Each generation is reared up with other influences, more distractions, and a whole new set of problems.
Since we have accepted the call of God to write for the growing generations, we must now pay attention to their needs. If you’re wondering what to explore with your upcoming projects, these 5 crucial concepts are just some that teens desperately need when they open their next book.

1. Good vs. Evil

This concept isn’t lost on storytelling. Any good versus any evil can be found in just about any book. But I’m getting at the nature of good and evil. More stories need to focus on what causes good and what causes evil. We need to promote the biblical fact that we all have a fleshly, evil nature, even if we’re the protagonist. The fight may look different when we realize that good is caused by God and evil by Satan. But the victory might be just what someone needs to hear for their own life.

2. Hope in Mental Illness

We have an epidemic of mental illnesses on our hands. I read that nearly 1 in 5 people are dealing with some type of mental illness. The coming generation is plagued with depression and anxiety. We must write freely about it in order to spread awareness, but our words need to reveal hope and a means of help. I believe more than enough people will relate better when our stories show that we see, we understand, and we offer comfort in a hopeless mindset.

3. Authentic Love

If you’re like me, you like a good old-fashioned love story. But I’m not talking about writing more love triangles and epic romances. I’m talking about demonstrating through our words, the love Christ has challenged us to show. For example, what does it mean to love an enemy? A bully or an undeserving family member? What does it feel like when people fail at showing that love to us or worse, when we fail at showing it to others? A world of possibilities will follow when we take the time to unpack true love.

4. God’s Intentions

Culture has made it easy for young people to decide what they think of the world and what it should be like. Unfortunately, culture’s agenda hasn’t been kind to God’s ways. With a velvet tongue and a delicate hand on the keyboard, we need to nudge our readers to question the views of society just as they are taught to question the views of faith. We need to give them a glimpse of hope through family, marriage, service, and morality in a way that points them back to God.

5. Independent Faith

In reference to the last idea, it’s good to question your faith. The idea is to not only take for granted what has been given to you, but to also discover for yourself the deep well of truth ready to be explored. If we aren’t encouraging our readers to understand and live out their faith, what are we doing but providing entertainment which they get just about everywhere else in the world?

 

It’s easy to look at these messages and say, “Well, looks like you got yourself a good recipe for a cheesy, Christian read.” Not so.

Just because these themes are necessary for our audience doesn’t mean our stories need to be safe and boring. The youth is confronted with a harsh world every day, so we don’t need to shy away from the harsh truth. Pay attention to these felt needs and your writing will live on in the young hearts of those who read them.

Happy writing!


Leah Jordan Meahl is a Christian author who enjoys journeying alongside you through faith with her blog. Visit her full bio on the Bloggers page.

Finding Your Writing Voice

Find Your Writing Voice Through Guide Poets

“Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery – it’s the sincerest form of learning.” ― George Bernard Shaw

As writers, we tend to strive for originality. We don’t want our work to be a copy of someone else’s; we want to write words that are unique. But what if I was to tell you that you should imitate other writers? Would you believe me if I said that mimicry can help you write more authentically? The fact is, every one of us has authors who influence the way we write, and by studying those authors, we learn how to grow in the areas we care about most. Guide poets can lead the way as you find your writing voice.

So What is A Guide Poet?

A guide poet, put simply, is a writer whose voice resonates with your own. Think of your guide poet as a kindred spirit. In their works, you’ll find a style that matches the tone of your words or a way of thinking that speaks to you. Their writing will sound like something you would say. This isn’t just an author you like; it’s an author you understand and who you feel understands you, although you’ve never met.

How to Find Your Guide Poets

Choosing guide poets is a bit like choosing friends: it’s a mix of chance and intentionality. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

  1. Start with your nightstand-The collection of books you keep ready at hand are a great indicator of your current interests. Make a stack of the books you always have nearby; the books you list off as your favorites and the ones you reread often. Even though not all of your favorite authors are guide poets, chances are your guide poets will be found among your favorite authors.
  2. Evaluate your collection— Look at each of the books in your stack and consider why you’re drawn to them. Do you like them just because they’re fun to read or you learned from them? Or, do they connect with you on a deeper level? If you find yourself underlining whole passages of a text or thinking “I wish I’d written that,” then you may have found a writing guide.
  3. Pick your guides–Ultimately, who your guide poets are boils down to who you want them to be. If you feel like you connect with a bunch of different writers, focus on the ones you’d most like to emulate. Find the ones who best match the goals you have for yourself and make them your models.

 How Your Guides Help You Find Your Voice

Once you find authors whose voices resonate with your own, who you feel connected to and want to learn from, it’s time to consider how they can help you find your voice. There are two main ways these writers can help.

First, Defining Your Voice:

Guide poets can help you decide what you want your voice to sound like. Your writing voice is the underlying tone and message that weaves through everything you put on the page. It’s the flavor that makes your writing distinct, and it stems from both the way you write and the reason you write. Guide poets help you define your voice by helping you recognize the aspects of writing you are most focused on.

When you read the work of the authors who influence you, take note of why you connect with them. Do you love the way they write characters? Is their message something you care about too? Make a list of the different characteristics you admire in their work and then compare it to your own writing. As you begin to find overlap between your style and goals and theirs, you can start to put into words the characteristics of your voice.

For example, studying my guide poets (J.R.R. Tolkien, William Joyce, and Annie Dillard) helped me realize that one of my main goals in writing is to take small, simple parts of life and show the value and wonder to be found in them. I realized I love books with lots of description, color, and light, and so these were aspects that I wanted to focus on in my projects.

Second, Developing Your Voice:

Guide poets can also help you develop your voice through imitation. By mimicking the aspects of your guide poet’s style which resonate with you, you can test out different parts of your voice. You aren’t giving up your uniqueness, but rather using similar authors to learn the skills you need to grow. In taking on the style of another, we can’t help but make it our own. That’s why a thousand different poems can be written in the same form without becoming the same poem. The guide poets simply become a shell, an outline, that we fill with our own color and design.

Here’s a simple exercise to try.  Give yourself 30 minutes to write as much as you can in the voice of one of your guide poets. By putting on their style for a moment, you’ll exercise your creative muscles in the areas you desire to develop.

 

At the end of the day, God has gifted each of us differently. Your story is distinct from all others; your voice is unique to you. The influence of others doesn’t take away our ability to find our own tune, but rather enhances our ability by offering us a chance to sing in harmony.  When we learn from guide poets,  we take what is offered to us and make it into something new.  In them, we find both mentors that guide us as we find our voices and friends who make the journey easier to travel.

So who are some of the guide poets in your writing journey?

 

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Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time editor, and full-time bookworm. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both.

Grow Your Writing Skills — Part III

Polishing your writing is the final step in Ian Lurie’s copywriting course.

In an effort to grow my copywriting skills, I took Ian Lurie’s LinkedIn Learning course “Learning to Write Marketing Copy.” He broke copywriting down into four easy steps: create a plan, free write, write your first draft, and polish your writing. While the course focused specifically on writing marketing copy, I’ve been able to apply his method to fiction writing, blog writing, and even journalism.

For the final blog in this series, I’d like to focus on Lurie’s fourth and final step: polish your writing.

Polish Your Writing

When I first started my job as a promotional writer with Liberty University Marketing, I noticed something almost immediately. Writing only takes up a small amount of my workday. The bulk of my time is spent editing and proofreading my work (and other writers’ documents).

Our editorial process has several levels it must pass through to meet the university’s quality control standards. Because everything that comes from the marketing department must be properly branded, there are very specific guidelines we must follow when creating an email, letter, or advertisement. 

Our editorial team, called quality control, checks for grammar, spelling, clarity, and, of course, our brand. They ask questions like Does this piece sound like it was written by the president of the university? Is this email consistent in tone with our other pieces?

However, before they ever lay eyes on my projects, I need to polish my text to be the best it can be. Lurie suggests taking three steps when polishing your work: get help, edit, and proofread.

Get Help

Always be willing to ask for help when polishing your work. Readers will often catch mistakes that you do not.

No matter what kind of writing you do, it’s always good to have another pair of eyes on your work. If you’re writing a company newsletter, have a fellow employee read over it for you and offer suggestions for improvement. If you’re working on a fictional piece, reach out to a friend who enjoys reading fiction. 

As one of eight promotional writers for my department, I have seven other writers who review my work for me before it goes to our quality control team for proofing. Generally, we try to have two “reads” on our work before we hand it over to quality control. 

This is helpful, especially when I’m writing something similar to what I’ve written before. Every month, I write monthly offer emails. These emails generally advertise similar offers, but I often leave information out because my brain writes on auto-pilot. Having coworkers who are unfamiliar with the material lets me know where I need to improve. They ask questions as both a reader and a writer, offering insight and sparking conversation.

If you cannot find someone to review your work for you, take some time away from the piece. Anywhere from an hour to a few days will give you “fresh eyes” when reading the document, and you’ll find mistakes you didn’t catch while writing. Reading your writing aloud is also a great way to spot errors.

Edit

Editing is making large structural changes to your work, while proofreading is checking for grammar and spelling.

Lurie describes editing as “reorganizing and modifying copy.” Basically, this means you should make large structural changes before worrying about the details of a piece.

When editing, you’re looking for readability and flow. You want your piece to make sense to the reader without them having to work too hard to understand what you’re trying to say. (Many readers will stop reading if the writing is difficult to decipher.) Editing can be as simple as rearranging a few paragraphs to totally reworking sentences. 

At the end of the editorial process, your piece should have a logical flow that gently guides the reader from sentence to sentence. 

Proofread

Proofreading is a little different than editing, though the two often get lumped together. Lurie says proofreading is “correcting spelling and grammar.” Spelling and grammar are difficult for many people. Understandably so.

My suggestion for proofreading is to make it easy for yourself. Always write with spellcheck turned on. Download Grammarly for free to have your work automatically proofread as you go.

Tools are great for proofreading, but they will fail from time to time. That’s why it is so important for you to have a basic understanding of English grammar. I keep a couple of books on my desk at work to help me with proofreading. You don’t have to know everything about English grammar, but using these resources will help you grow more comfortable with it:

  • Merriam-Webster Dictionary — Because spellcheck doesn’t always work the way you need it to
  • The Elements of Style by Strunk and White — Great basic overview of English grammar
  • The Copyeditors Handbook by Amy Einsohn — Excellent resource for mastering copyediting

Never rely solely on built-in tools to proofread your work for you. Always proofread your work all the way through before submitting it to your editor, posting to your blog, or sharing online.

At the end of the day, writing is a skill that you develop. You may be a passionate young writer with many exciting stories to tell, or you may be a seasoned professional struggling against the daily grind. No matter where you are in your writing journey, know that there is always room for improvement. Just remember Lurie’s four steps: plan, pre-write, write, and review.

Follow these four steps, and you’ll see improvements in your writing in no time.

Emily Babbitt is a promotional writer for Liberty University Marketing. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband. Learn more about Emily here.

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