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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.

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Find Your Writing Voice Through Guide Poets

Finding Your Writing Voice
“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.
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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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Navigating Your Writing Goals by Guest Blogger, Penny Reeve

Have you ever stood at the edge of a road, holding the hand of a small child, getting ready to cross the road safely? You glance up the street. You look back down the other way. You take notice of the cars and the traffic lights and when all is clear and safe and your small person is ready, you head towards your destination.

Goal setting for writers can be a bit like that. You generally know the direction you are headed; you need this or that manuscript to be researched/written/edited/revised/submitted and so forth. But pinpointing the goals into language and tasks that make them manageable and successful can be a little tricky. Sometimes the oncoming traffic of our to-do list feels overwhelming, or the rejection truck swerves closer than we would like, tipping us off balance. Occasionally we can even find ourselves standing still, lost and unsure of the direction we should be heading and why.

Because of this, it can be helpful to slow down and carefully navigate our way forwards in regards to our writing goals. Here are four directions we need to look in order to prioritise our writing goals for 2020:

  • Look Back

Looking back is remembering our writing dreams and reflecting on the progress we’re made so far. We can celebrate our writing achievements and be kind with our disappointments. Even a rejection can indicate progress if it means we’re putting in the hard work and growing as writers! Looking back allows us to deliberately build on last year’s progress and provides powerful motivation for our new year’s writing goals.

  • Look Ahead

Looking ahead as a writer means thinking strategically about what we’d like, or need, to achieve in the New Year (and beyond). It means realistically considering what might be achievable (for example: write a children’s devotional, or complete my middle grade novel), but it can also mean allowing yourself to dream. This is especially important if you’ve had a tough year writing wise.
Looking ahead allows us to create goals that move our writing forwards.

  • Look Down

Looking down means checking what’s already on our writing desks. Literally, this may mean doing a clean-up. Clear your physical and mental space for new projects. Sort the paperwork, tidy your desk, flick through your ideas notebook and choose the fun ones you’d like to work on this year. Looking down also means checking the status of your works-in-progress. It ensures us there’s nothing in our way to trip us up as we step out to achieve our writing goals.

  • Look Up

Looking up means reminding ourselves of God’s perspective. It’s so easy to get swept away in the try harder mentality, or to be discouraged because our writing dreams haven’t turned out as we might have liked. But when we remember Christ and the extent of his humility and love (Philippians 2: 5-11) it reminds us that our writing is but a small thing in the scope of God’s glory. Our task is obedience. Walking humbly in step with the Spirit of God, we write as an expression of worship.

 

So as you step onto the curb of the New Year, don’t forget to look ahead, look back, look down and look up as you journey through goal setting for your writing in 2020.

 

Which direction do you find easiest to consider when setting new goals? Which one makes the most impact in your planning? Leave a comment below.

 

Invitation: If you’d like to spend some more time reflecting on your writing priorities and goals for the New Year, why not join the Summer Writer’s Refresh Facebook Group? It’s a January 2020 challenge for writers of any stage and genre, to celebrate, reassess and reflect on their writing. Join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/summerwritersrefresh/

Penny Reeve is the award-winning author of more than 20 books for children and older readers. She lives in Sydney, Australia and writes picture books, junior fiction, children’s Bible Studies and young adult fiction (she also writes as Penny Jaye). Penny is also a writing workshop leader, conference presenter and writing coach with a particular interest in equipping children’s book writers. For more information visit www.pennyreeve.com or follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pennyreevethepennydrops/

 

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Tips for Productive Writing by Helena George

Ultimately, to have a productive writing session, you need to have self-control. I can give you all the best tips in the world, but unless you have zero self-control, it won’t help.

Here’s my tip: open your document and write. And don’t stop.

Need something more specific?

Social Media? Turn it Off!

Yes, this is the most obvious. Don’t check social media until you’ve finished your writing time! Turn your phone off if you have to. Do whatever it takes to not get distracted. I have the willpower to not check Instagram before I write, but if I somehow end up on there (maybe to message someone, maybe to look for something I saved for reference), it’s harder for me to turn it off and get back to writing.

 

Treat Writing Like it’s Your Job

 

And no goofing off when you’re on the clock. It’s your writing time, so sit down, and write. It’s a production environment, folks. Time is ticking, and words have gotta fill the page. Sometimes I’ll get a timer going, say for 10-20 minutes, and write without stopping until the timer goes off. Other times I’ll use the stopwatch function and let it run while I’m writing to mimic being punched in at work. I’ve even logged in my hours in a notebook.

List Things to Lookup Later

 

Need to google what kind of fish live in the Atlantic Ocean? Jot it down and keep writing. Wondering what plants are used to dye fabric? Look it up later. Right now, you’re writing. Once I’ve completed the draft (or round of edits), I’ll pull up that list (physical paper, or via word document) and spend a writing session looking up all those things. Then I can go in and make corrections as needed. And because I have a list of things to do, it’s easier for me to not get sidetracked while exploring all that info on the internet.

(If it’s a plot-altering thing, by all means, stop and look it up, but make sure you don’t end up on YouTube 15 minutes later, watching funny cat videos.)

Set Session Goals

Maybe write for 30 minutes? Maybe finish the chapter? Maybe tackle that descriptive paragraph? Having a goal in the back of your mind can help you get right on track the minute you open that draft.

Write and Don’t Look Back

Whatever you do, don’t get stuck in the destructive editing circle. When I first started writing, I got to a point where I was writing and re-writing the first couple chapters for a number of books. The instant I felt like something wasn’t right, I was back at the beginning, tweaking those first couple paragraphs…and I never got deeper into the middle of the story.

And can I tell you a secret? When you finally get past that beginning and into the middle of the book, things will need to change again. You’ll have learned more about the characters, about the story world. But don’t got back to change the beginning. Because by the time you get to the end, you’ll need to change things again, because know you know the ending.

So if you’re unhappy with the beginning, or a certain scene, or can’t figure out a character…just keep writing. By the time you struggle through to the end, you’ll have a better picture—the full picture—of the story and how things need to be started, hinted at, and carried through.

Just keep writing, y’all. Push on. Get the book finished. It’ll be worth it when you’re done.

Helena George has participated in NaNoWriMo 5 times, winning each one (and even writing a 100K+ draft in Nov. 2018). She encourages writers to also do the twice-yearly Camp NaNo, because setting your own personal goals is less stressful and more fun. So far, her multiple YA fantasy stories remain unpublished, but hey – hard work will pay off eventually, right? Follow her on Instagram @julian.daventry or check out her blog.

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Writing to Ignite by Darcy Hendrick

When you write Christian literature for children ignition is the goal. Writing literature that will ignite a child’s imagination, a zeal for learning, a love of reading, and a reverence for God is the mission. More than that, it’s a ministry. And engaging, well written literature that reveals the presence and purpose of God is a powerful tool toward that end.

And that ignition is the reason for Write2Ignite. We are a non-profit organization that seeks to enable that mission through  a website that offers resources, blogs that supply the writer with tips and encouragement, contests, and a two day conference with a full schedule of keynote speakers, workshops, the opportunity to meet with editors or agents, and to surround yourself with a community of like minded writers. Writers who share a passion for God and children, and good literature that draws the two together.

Write2Ignite specializes in Christian literature for children because that is our passion. Children who develop a love for reading at a young age are life long readers. De That is a high calling for those called by God to write for children.

And if ignition is the goal, what sparks the flame?

The simple truth is, it’s not that simple.

I have four sons. My oldest took to reading without coaxing. He simply loved to learn so a book in the hand was opened and devoured.

My second son showed no interest in reading but he loved his action figures. Teenage Mutant Ninga Turtles in particular. So when I saw a TMNT early reader book I scooped it up in the hopes that the subject matter would entice him to open the book. It did! As a matter of fact those TMNT early readers made him realize not only that he could read, but he liked to.

My third son seemed to prefer a narrative told rather than read. That became obvious when, in his teens, he gravitated to youth theater where, to my surprise, he memorized scripts and eventually developed an interest in Shakespeare.

My youngest son devoured the Beanie Baby resource guide and could recite it with encyclopedic precision.

The path to an appreciation of the written word was as unique as my sons.

So what’s a writer to do?

Just as my sons read what they were passionate about, the writer should write their passion. Your interest in the subject matter, whether it’s science or sci-fi, mystery, comedy, or a Beanie Baby resource guide, will come through. And children who share that passion won’t have to be coaxed into reading, they’ll volunteer.

We write to an audience of one – our reader.

But as Christian writers we write for an audience of one – God. Our first passion should be our love for God and if we write what we’re passionate about, and we are passionate about our relationship with God, we will write literature that reveals the presence and purpose of God.

And we can trust God to put each unique piece of literature in the hands of the child who can be uniquely drawn to Him through it.

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Give the Gift of Writing

Do you know a teen or tween who dreams of writing a book? Or, perhaps your spouse or best friend is a budding poet. Either way, Write2Ignite has the perfect gift opportunity!

Starting in January, team members Brenda Covert and Carol Baldwin will be giving writing workshops at area Hobby Lobby stores.

The cost for each two-hour workshop is $25.00. But, if you purchase a workshop by December 31, it is only $20.00.

From the Heart: The Gift of Poetry 

Date and Time: January 25, 1:30- 3:30

Location:  Hobby Lobby, 7816 Charlotte Hwy, Indian Land, SC 29707

Supplies: Notebook and pen, laptop, tablet, or whatever you’re most comfortable writing on.  Or, use a journal from Hobby Lobby and a special set of colored pens.

Description: This poetry writing workshop is for teens and adults who want to craft the perfect poem for Valentine’s Day. Brenda Covert, author of a teen poetry curriculum, will help you find your poetic voice so that you have a poem suitable for framing and gift-giving. A gift from your heart is the best gift of all!

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Date and Time: February 1,  3:30-5:30

Location: Hobby Lobby, 6007 Wade Hampton Blvd, Taylors, SC 29687

Supplies: Notebook and pen, laptop, tablet, or whatever you’re most comfortable writing on.  Or, use a journal from Hobby Lobby and a special set of colored pens.

Description: This poetry writing workshop is for teens and adults who want to craft the perfect poem for Valentine’s Day. Brenda Covert, author of a teen poetry curriculum, will help you find your poetic voice so that you have a poem suitable for framing and gift-giving. A gift from your heart is the best gift of all!

Cracking the Core of Fiction Writing: Character and Conflict for Teens and Tweens

Date and Time: January 11, 1:00 PM-3:00 PM

Location: Hobby Lobby, 1511 Woodruff Rd, Greenville, SC 29607

Supplies: Notebook and a pen. Or, use a journal from Hobby Lobby and a special set of colored pens!

Description: If you’re between the ages of 11-17 and love creating stories, then this is the workshop for you. Join North Carolina author, Carol Baldwin, for a fun and informative workshop that will help you create memorable characters with conflict—the driving force of a riveting story. Whether you’re writing fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, or a contemporary story, the principles you’ll acquire will move you forward on your writing journey.

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Date and Time: January 18, 1:00 PM-3:00 PM

Location: Hobby Lobby, 7816 Charlotte Hwy, Indian Land, SC 29707

Supplies: Notebook and a pen. Or, use a journal from Hobby Lobby and a special set of colored pens!

Description: If you’re between the ages of 11-17 and love creating stories, then this is the workshop for you. Join North Carolina author, Carol Baldwin, for a fun and informative workshop that will help you create memorable characters with conflict—the driving force of a riveting story. Whether you’re writing fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, or a contemporary story, the principles you’ll acquire will move you forward on your writing journey.

TO PURCHASE A WORKSHOP AND REGISTER

Email Cathy Biggerstaff at Write2ignite.Cathy@gmail.com.  Let her know which workshop you are purchasing and who will be attending. She will then send you a PayPal invoice. DEADLINE for the discount is 12/31/19 but participants can also pay when they come. Checks should be made out to Write2Ignite. Questions? Contact Carol Baldwin or Brenda Covert.

Coming in March: Self-Publishing with Sandra Warren and Gretchen Griffith in Hickory, NC.

Date to be announced.