Write2Ignite

Christian Writers of Literature for Children and Young Adults

Category: The Craft of Writing Page 3 of 20

Are You Thankful for Troubles? Building Character Through Trials by Jarm Del Boccio

William Shakespeare

Image from biography.com

Although my husband and I live in an almost-empty-nest, sometimes I catch myself reminiscing. Our homeschool history course many years ago includes a mini-unit on Shakespeare and his works.  We’d listened to an excellent 3 part DVD series by Schlessinger Media called, “Shakespeare for Students.”  The concepts are simply explained, but meaty.

In The Characters of Shakespeare (Part 1), we learn there are two types of characters in Shakespeare’s works. static and dynamic. Here is a summary:

Static (or Stock) Character: A person who does not change during the course of the story. A shallow two-dimensional figure used to carry along the story, add comic relief or provide a menacing presence. The Fool in King Lear is one example (which, by the way, is the most “tragic of his tragedies . . . nothing good comes from it unless it is a lesson for the readers!) A villainous character would be Iago in Othello or Edmund in King Lear.

Dynamic Character:  A person who changes, for better or worse, in the course of the play.  A deeper, three-dimensional character, such as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. She matures into a complex young lady by the last act, but, unfortunately, it’s too late.  Another example is Macbeth, who moves from a valiant war hero to a paranoid murderer within the course of the play. So, this got me thinking . . .  Not only is this good to know as we develop our own characters in a story (too many static characters spoil the broth, and vice versa), but ponder this:

What sort of character are you?  What kind do you wish to be? 

Hopefully, it’s obvious that you can’t be a dynamic character if you have no trials and tribulations. How many people do you know who have everything they want and need – are they shallow, or complex?

What character is God forming in you this Thanksgiving? Be thankful if God allows troubles in your life. It will make you a more well-rounded 3D character who will be wiser, more compassionate and helpful to others.

Now that’s character!


*This post first appeared on Jarm’s travel and inspiration blog.

Jarm Del Boccio’s debut middle-grade historical fiction, The Heart Changer, released with Ambassador International April 26th. You can connect with her at https://www.jarmdelboccio.com/

An Idea for Those Who Didn’t (or Couldn’t) Tackle NaNoWriMo This Month by Brenda Covert

Have you seen the social media posts from NaNoWriMo writers beating themselves up because they failed to meet their daily writing goals and pen a 50,000 word novel in November? Or they reached their goal but nearly lost their minds in the process? IMHO, those who wrote any amount this month deserve a pat on the back and a hearty handshake, not a load of guilt.

Though I wrote a novel in the past (not during NaNoWriMo, and it took me 5 years to complete), I now prefer to focus on children’s writing. Picture books in particular appeal to me. Wondering whether NaNoWriMo had a kidlit counterpart, I discovered a blogger who tried to get PicBoWriMo going, but it didn’t catch on. Neither did PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month), which in 2016 became Storystorm and moved to January – a challenge to create 30 story ideas in 31 days. That’s a great idea worth pursuing, but it’s not the same as writing actual stories!

After stumbling across a contest for 100-word stories, I recognized an idea even the busiest among us could tackle. You could write just 4 words a day and have a story in a month, but hopefully you could do this in a couple of days. Here are the particulars:

  • Write a story with no more than 100 words. Fewer is fine.
  • Your story should appeal to kids age 12 or under (although you could also write for adults).
  • There should be a main character and story arc; descriptive or mood pieces don’t count.
  • It can be a story poem, or it can be prose. (I tend to use fewer words in poem stories.)

There are several good reasons to attempt such short-story writing. First, publishers appreciate picture books that are light on words because that means more room for illustrations. Second, telling stories in 100 words is a lesson in succinctness; you learn what matters and what isn’t really necessary. And third, if writer’s block interferes with your writing goals, switching to a 100-word story can get your creative juices flowing again.

If you find yourself with some free time around Thanksgiving or Christmas, see how far you can get with a holiday-themed 100-word story. If you finish and feel like sharing in the comments below, please do! We would love to see what you come up with and encourage your efforts!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

**********

 

Brenda Covert, a member of the Write2Ignite team,  has been editing since 2002, first in the educational field and then in the Christian/family-friendly market. Her editing experience goes from picture books to chapter books—including Johanna’s Journey: Call to Freedom (a finalist for the 2015 Selah Award)—to YA novels and adult fiction and nonfiction, including inspirational books and Bible studies.

Brenda has two grown children, a new grandchild, two blogs that she promises to devote more attention to, and more cats than an allergic woman should have! (Want one?)

You can find Brenda online at BrendaCovert.blogspot.com. If you’re especially fond of Christmas, you’ll enjoy her blog at ChristmaswithBrenda.blogspot.com. Follow her on Twitter, where she’s  @TheBrendaCovert.

Honoring the Bible in our Fiction and Nonfiction Writing by Ava Pennington

 

fiction and nonfiction

Do you know who Colonel Harland David Sanders was?

I’ll give you a few hints…white suit, string tie, white goatee, southern charm, and the originator of a secret blend of eleven herbs and spices. Ah, you’ve got it now—the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, now known as KFC. But did you know that he was more than just a KFC marketing icon?

While you may recognize the Colonel as a real person, more than half of a surveyed group of 18 to 25-year-olds believe Colonel Sanders was a figure created by Madison Avenue marketers to represent KFC. They did not know he actually founded the company, and the white suit was not a costume, but his daily garb until he died in 1980.

Does this really matter? Perhaps not much. However, what does matter is that this is another example of the blurring between fact and fiction.

It happens time and again. What some know to be fiction, others believe to be fact. What some know to be fact, others believe to be fiction.

Three literary examples

The first is The Da Vinci Code, a novel written by Dan Brown. That bestseller has sold more than 80 million copies and has been translated into 44 languages. It also helped to revive debate over the possibility of an intimate relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, a relationship that has no basis in historical fact. Yet many people read this novel—a work of fiction—as true.

The second example is another popular novel, this one written by William P. Young, titled The Shack. In it, the main character encounters the triune God in the form of an African-American woman, a male carpenter, and an Asian woman. Some Christian readers castigate it for being irreverent in its manifestation of the nature of God. Others praise it for blessing their relationship with the Lord. Trouble can occur, however, when readers mistake fiction for truth as they determine their beliefs about the nature of God.

The third example is the Bible. For many, the Bible presents the opposite problem. People read the truth of the Bible, and dismiss it as fiction – ancient fairy tales created for simple minds in a simpler time. But the Bible is nonfiction. Its words are true and relevant to us today.

Can we be sure the Bible is true?

What about those who don’t believe the Bible is God’s Word? How do we address those who say that, at best, the Bible is filled with historical and scientific inaccuracies? That’s easy.

Archeological discoveries have repeatedly verified the historical accuracy of the Bible. Such finds have included the advanced civilization of Ur in Abraham’s day (Genesis 12), the collapse of Jericho’s walls (Joshua 6), and the power and influence of the Hittite nation mentioned throughout the Old Testament, but unknown in modern history until 19th-century discoveries.

When it comes to science, nothing in the Bible violates scientific laws. In fact, 2000 years before Christ, Job noted that the earth hung suspended in space (Job 26:7), while his contemporaries in other cultures claimed the earth rested on pillars or on Atlas, who carried the earth on his back. In the area of biology, scientists now know that four distinguishable cell structures support four kinds of flesh, while Paul clearly stated this fact in his letter to the early Corinthian church (I Corinthians 15:39). Any supposed discrepancies between science and the Bible occur when unproven scientific theory is claimed to be fact.

Finally, the Bible has been proven trustworthy in its prophecies. From Ezekiel’s description of Tyre’s destruction to Daniel’s visions of succeeding empires to the prophecies of Christ’s life and death, the Bible has shown itself to be reliable – without exception.

People may be confused about other books, but there is no reason to be confused about the Bible. It is non-fiction: true, reliable, trustworthy, and relevant.

Application to writing

So what does this have to do with us as writers?

First, we need to be convinced in our own minds that God’s Word is trustworthy before we try to influence others. Don’t be afraid of exploring objections to the Bible—this is a book that can withstand any amount of scrutiny!

Second, it’s important for us to be careful of the words we use to describe the Bible and its content. Referring to biblical accounts as stories is a common practice. But for many children, this makes it difficult for them to differentiate between biblical content and fairy tales. One way to prevent this confusion is to preface our telling with the assurance that this “story” comes from God’s true Word.

Finally, even though we write fiction and nonfiction that is believable, we do need to ask ourselves if our writing could cause readers to misinterpret or misapply Scripture. We don’t have to quote Bible verses to prove a biblical worldview. But what are we honoring as we write our stories?

What books have you read that seem to blur the line between fiction and nonfiction?  
How do you determine the truth about what you read?

How to Make Your Christian Fiction Stand Out

From Pexels by Suzy Hazelwood

As storytellers, we love to share what we’re passionate about, what concerns us, what plays out in our imaginations, and how they all come together in the real world. Many of us can’t help but include our love for Christ and our desire to bring His truth to the ones who need it the most. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get swallowed up in the typical Christian tropes that deems our words “cheesy, tired, and unrealistic.”

As a Christian fiction and nonfiction writer, I spend a lot of my time trying to bring my faith to life in a way that will both draw and minister to people. Here are my top 5 tips for how you can freshen up your faith-based writing to best cater to your Christian audience.

Put Your Character(s) in Unfamiliar Territory

Sometimes, we need to separate ourselves from what we know in order to come to new conclusions. Take your characters and put them in places that are unlike what you usually find in Christian themed stories. Church is only one example. There’s nothing wrong with church, but church can be a very comfortable way of expressing the power and love of God.

Ministering to people can take many forms and can happen in many places; take a chance and explore that. It could look like seclusion in a bunker underground, or a family boating trip, or in a spaceship. Once you’re in unfamiliar territory, you’ll have the reader’s attention quicker and they might just appreciate the different approach.

Hit Uncomfortable Topics

Nothing attracts attention like controversy. The world is filled with it, now more than ever. But BE CAREFUL! Don’t be afraid of cultural, political, and spiritual topics that make people squirm, but address them in love. It’s never good to bash someone over the head with your opinion, even if it’s backed up with the Bible. But you’re a creative writer! You can work through some of these conflicts creatively disguised for one simple purpose: to make people think.

It’s not your job as the writer to change minds or to force action. Your job is to first explore these topics creatively and provoke thought rather than to immediately turn the reader off with your beliefs screamed in the words of your story.

Minimize Christian Lingo

The Word of God is powerful, but we don’t want to overuse it so much that your story becomes preachy and boring. People don’t read to receive a sermon. They want to feel invited into a world, taken on a journey, and experience emotional connections. Address them like a normal person. You can still express the same truths, just recognize the popular phrases of the Christian culture, and tweak a little. Your work doesn’t have to be void of Jesus, the cross, or faith, but maybe downsize the words and phrases that your readers (assuming most are believers) are already familiar with. Give them something fresh to bite into and they might just go in for a second helping.

Handle Conversion with Care

Of course, we want our fictional friends to be “saved”! But, not everyone who hears the Gospel, will accept it. People reject it or sometimes feel unworthy of receiving it. People who start off as strong Christians fall away and maybe don’t come back. Your writing could explore all these stories even though they can be heartbreaking. If everyone finds God and gets saved in your writing, then it relies on the happy ending and falls into the predictable and not unique category. The key is to still provide hope. Because while we still have breath, we still have hope

Be Authentic

This is important and encapsulates all points. Sometimes, as Christians we tend to impose how we believe Christians should be on our characters. They come across very nice and friendly with few flaws. On the other extreme, sometimes Christian characters are the villain because of his or her legalism. Either case isn’t wrong, but practice humanizing characters, Christian and non-Christian.

Be real. We have ugly sides, we have bad habits, we don’t always treat people well. After all, we’re all sinners! Write how people actually speak. Feel how people actually feel. Vices and all.  Christianity isn’t always pretty, and the more we can portray our stories with that mindset, we can be more authentic with the joy and pain that comes with a life that’s intertwined with Jesus.

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I truly believe that no moment compares to the beauty of the deepest part of your heart reaching out with the extended love of Jesus. I also believe that no adventure is greater than the one you walk hand in hand with The Father. You have the privilege to make that real for someone else.

I assure you, if you keep these tips into consideration when you sit down at the keyboard, you will catch someone’s attention and touch someone’s heart.

Do you have any helpful tips to add? I would love to hear them! Happy Writing!

Leah Jordan Meahl has recently joined the Write2Ignite blogging team. She has a degree in Writing and Theater, and has pursued both passions longer than she can remember. She loves to journey with new adult Christians through her blog at www.meahltime.com. In addition to publishing a few daily devotions and stories, she’s featured in the fiction and nonfiction anthologies of America’s Emerging Writers. She’s beyond thrilled and thankful to be sharing her debut novella The Threshold. In her spare time, you’ll find her with a song on her lips, a cat on her lap, and a cup of coffee in her hand. James 4:8

 

 

What Write2Ignite Conferences Taught Me

My first attendance at a W2I Conference was in March of 2017.  I landed a scholarship which helped me enjoy the whole weekend. 

I brought a notebook of questions that God answered in every workshop I attended.  I still have that notebook with notes.  Reflecting on that wonderful weekend, I wonder, should I have been so surprised by how God showed up? I mean, as believers, we know God’s Word is truth and we can recount those scriptures that read, “Seek God’s Kingdom first and all these things will be added unto you.”  God does help us have the desires in our hearts as we live for Him.  The first thing I gleaned from this conference was a personal renewing of a desire to write about godly things for children and their families. 

CONNECTIONS

The second thing I learned about writing, and freelance writing in particular, is that people you meet at conferences can help change your life. Asking a question about poetry led me to meet with Brenda Covert during our one-on-one time.  Brenda introduced me to Union Gospel Press and she urged me to apply with them as they were open to new authors.  Months after submitting my application, I was offered an assignment.  They asked me to write devotions for singles.  So, I did.  Yes, this was a “paid and published” opportunity for me, a small step into a much larger world of writing and publishing.

RESOURCES

A third benefit is learning about various links, resources, and publications where I can continue to pursue writing projects. Currently, I have no assignments with a publisher, but I have been busy this summer entering writing contests and submitting poetry and short stories to magazines. I have been able to re-ignite my personal blog, and I have had some critiques done on a YA fantasy novel I ‘ve been writing for most of my life.  So my writing journey continues even to today.  Who knows what God may have for me around this corner of my life?

Diane Buie's pubs

Some of the magazines Diane Buie has been published in.

Diane Buie celebrated when she saw her articles in print. These included devotionals for children and pre schoolers; beginning with ages PreK up to  4th and 5th grades.  A few of the submissions to Union Gospel Press were Bible related games or activities to enhance faith development.


What about you: How have writing conferences impacted your writing or creativity?  How did attending this year’s W2I Conference in September change your life?  

 

Grow Your Writing Skills — Part I

Photo by Lum3n.com from Pexels

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.

This week, I’d like to focus on the first step.

Create a Plan

Have you ever taken a composition and rhetoric class? My first semester of college, I took English 101, which taught me how to research, outline, and write research papers. Throughout my education, I used that model (research, outline, write) for most of my papers and assignments, big and small.

The first step in any writing project is to research or create a plan. While I used a more structured outline for planning academic papers, I’ve found that bulleted lists do the trick for most copywriting and fiction writing projects.

Know Your Audience

Lurie suggests first jotting down notes about your audience. In my work as a copywriter for Liberty University Marketing, I primarily write to Generation Z high school students. Understanding my audience’s needs is important to every email, postcard, and booklet I write.

If, for example, I’m working on a direct mail advertisement, I start by making a list of things I know are important to Gen Z students:

  • Sustainability
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Fiscal responsibility
  • Hands-on learning opportunities

Photo by Kaboompics from Pexels

And the list goes on. Once I have a list of Gen Z’s priorities, I can brainstorm ways our university can meet those needs. For example, I might write about Liberty’s energy-saving efforts and 40 percent recycling rate to address Gen Z’s interest in sustainability. 

Similarly, if you are writing fiction for children and young adults, it’s important to understand what’s important to them. In a session from Write2Ignite’s 2019 conference, author and presenter Edie Melson said that you need to be reading the current literature on the market. (i.e., If you want to write young adult fiction, you need to read young adult fiction.)

Reading young adult fiction or children’s books gives you an understanding of the types of stories that are popular, but it doesn’t tell you much about your audience. I suggest not only reading popular fiction for your target audience, but also researching your audience so you can understand what is important to them.

Make a List of Collateral Requested by the Client

Collateral is a marketing term used to describe the materials requested by a client for any given project. For example, if I’m working on some projects for College For A Weekend, Liberty’s four-day college visit, I might have 30-40 projects ranging from emails to class schedule booklets to temporary parking passes. However, I believe this step can easily be translated to fiction or even blog writing: make a list of key scenes/ideas.

Some authors write without an outline. They can just sit down and write their stories without any pre-planning. I’ve never been able to write without an outline, even if it’s only a few bullet points. But writing down the key scenes I want to include in my story or the main ideas I want to address in my blog post helps me get from one point to the next without running down a rabbit trail.

Note: An outline is not a binding agreement. You are not obligated to follow your outline once it’s written!

List the Styles that Will and Won’t Work for Your Audience

Now, this idea fascinated me. Until taking Lurie’s class, I didn’t really think about the style of writing I was using in my marketing pieces. But the more I thought about my audience, the more I realized that Gen Z doesn’t like being marketed to. So how am I supposed to market to Gen Z without them knowing they’re being marketed to? (Say that five times fast!) 

Through style.

Photo from Pexels

Most of my pieces are written in a teaching style. That is, they teach my audience about Liberty and then offer a call to action. (i.e., “Did you know you can receive $10,000 in awards and scholarships over four years just by submitting your refundable $250 Enrollment Deposit? We want to make college attainable for you; that’s why we offer generous scholarship packages and flexible payment plans. Don’t wait — submit your Enrollment Deposit today!”)

In creative writing, you need to choose the correct format for your writing — you need to know the purpose. In her session “Writing for the YA Audience” at the 2019 W2I conference, Melson reminded us that we shouldn’t be writing to tell young adults what to think. We should be writing to connect and entertain and then allow the audience to draw their own conclusions about the story, which may or may not be what we intended. 

While your audience may have different takeaways, you’ve given them a reading experience they are invested in rather than another textbook. It’s up to them to decide what to do with the material.

Tune-in on Dec. 5 for steps two and three, freewriting and writing your first draft!

About Emily

EmilyBabbitt is a promotional writer for Liberty University Marketing and specializes in residential undergraduate enrollment. She has done extensive research on Generation Z and has written for school-aged audiences in her work as a promotional writer and through contract work with Growing Leaders, Inc. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, taking photos, and cooking. You can learn more about her work by visiting her website, EmilyMarlene.com, or connecting with her on LinkedIn.

 

The Value of a Writing Community

So you think you can sit alone in your room or your local coffee shop and hammer out a book on your laptop and call it done? Nope. You need a community of writers, and here’s why.[spacer height=”20px”]

Accountability

Writing is hard. And because it’s hard, it’s easy to let it slide, especially if you’re the only one who knows you’re supposed to be writing. But if you’re part of a writing group or you post your writing goals on social media, you’ve suddenly got a lot more people breathing down your neck—I mean encouraging you to finish what you start. A goal no one knows about can be ignored and forgotten, but when you’ve got a community who won’t let you forget, that goal becomes a lot more concrete—and more likely to be accomplished.

Connections

Writing is usually a solitary action, but publishing—even self-publishing—takes a village. Building a writing community now helps so much with that. You need beta readers? Authors will gladly volunteer. Need an editor or a cover artist? Your writer friends can tell you how they found theirs or connect you to someone they know. Need help marketing? They’ll promote your work like crazy. Some might even interview you for their blogs or have you write a guest post for them. I once complimented a writer friend on her marketing plan, and she gave it to me to study and adapt. Gave. For free. Never underestimate the value of a writer connection.

Writing alone has its thrilling moments, but it can also be lonely and frustrating. Having a community to get you through the good times and the hard times can be invaluable. You can commiserate with each other’s frustrations and celebrate each other’s successes. You can be inspired by others and inspire them in turn. You can cheer each other on until you accomplish your dreams.

How to Build Your Writing Community

Now that you know why a writing community is so important, how do you build one? You might try joining a local writing group; a library or university in your area might have some suggestions. You can make even more writer friends online. Facebook is a great place to connect with writing groups. You can also curate your Twitter feed to be author-friendly by following lots of authors and engaging with hashtags like #amwriting, #WIPjoy, #AuthorConfession, #StorySocial, and many more (be sure to see how other authors are using those hashtags first so you can learn how and when to include them in your tweets). There’s also National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, when you can join together with other authors to hammer out a draft of a novel in one month—the official website, nanowrimo.org, provides lots of resources and forums where you can connect with others. Finally, you can make great connections in person you might never make otherwise by attending a writing conference like Write2Ignite, Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference, or Realm Makers.

Writing is a solitary act, but it’s not one you have to do alone (nor should you). Building a community is one of the most important steps you can take towards writing success

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Award-winning author Jonathan King is a full time Library Assistant at North Greenville University. His literary experience ranges from editing The Mountain Laurel, NGU’s student literary publication, to writing short stories and plays, including two flash fiction pieces published by Splickety Havok. His short play Therapy received a Certificate of Merit from Columbia Scholastic Press Association, and another short play, Cuckoo in the Nest, received an honorable mention in the 2015 Writer’s Digest Writing competition. Jonathan loves peanut butter, superheroes, and anything combining the two.

 

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