Monday, February 27, 2012

Confident Prayer

I shared last week my plans to attend a writer’s conference over the weekend. Though the experience was physically exhausting, I left Asheville rejuvenated in my spirit and my writing.

The faculty gave us much to ponder. The co-founder of Christian Devotions, who hosted the conference, encouraged and empowered us by reminding us of God’s sovereignty and availability.

My interpretation of his message is one reason we don’t get God’s help is because—perhaps—deep inside, we don’t believe we will.

There’s no magic formula or “good enough” mountaintop achievement to access God. You don’t have to be Moses or Elijah. Jesus changed everything by his appearance in the world.

So why don’t Christians have more courage in their expectations? Why don’t we approach the throne room of God (Hebrews 4:16) with confidence?

“The reason some of us are such poor examples of Christianity is that we have failed to recognize that Christ is almighty. We have Christian attributes and experiences, but there is no abandonment or surrender to Jesus Christ.”~Oswald Chambers

God asked Solomon in 1 Kings 3:5, what He could do for him. We all know the answer. Solomon wanted wisdom. He received it and so much more. Jesus posed the same question to Bartimacus, a blind man, in Mark 10:51, “What do you want me to do for you?” Read the passage. Bartimacus cried out and surrendered to the sovereignty of God. Jesus couldn’t ignore his pleas.

Perhaps our expectations are low due to failure to acknowledge that Christ is almighty. We haven’t completely surrendered to God’s authority for total control over the issues we pray about. We want our answers—not His.

Regardless of your goals or problems you’re praying about, God wants to help you. Embrace His sovereignty in every aspect of your life. This might be a scary concept, one that in our human condition leaves us quaking, but remember this passage from Joshua 1:9:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Say What?

Welcome to Thursday’s Writers’ Corner. If you’re new to my blog, this is a weekly feature to encourage fellow writers. No matter where you are in your writing journey, encouragement is a good thing.

Tomorrow, I’m off to The Cove (Billy Graham training center) in Asheville, NC, for a weekend writers’ bootcamp. Should be interesting! As long as I don’t have to do pushups, I’ll be okay. J

Please pray for my traveling safety and that I’ll learn what God wants me to in order to further His kingdom through my writing.

Meanwhile, will you consider becoming a follower of my blog? I’ve also added a simple subscriber box, if you’d like an e-mail alert when I post something new.

Now, let’s discuss a skill many writers struggle with, especially in the beginning. I certainly did. Dialogue and character building.

Think of writing dialogue as the opposite of the polished prose surrounding it, at least to some degree. Your character’s speech should reflect his/her origin and dialect for that region of the country or the country itself, if your setting is a foreign land. This is where good research is a necessity.

If your characters are from Minnesota, they won’t say “yall” when referring to others. However, if your character is from the Southern US, they will. Pepper your character’s speech with the local vernacular.

For the purpose of this blog, we’ll stick with the South for examples, since that’s where I live J

In creating dialogue for Southerners, you might drop the ending of words that end in –ing or drop the beginning syllable. A common joke here in SC is that one syllable words are pronounced with two syllables and multi-syllable words are pronounced in a single syllable when possible. While some folks speak that way, trust me, it’s not the norm for everyone. Even within a setting, you’ll find different degrees of accent. Some are stronger than others, and this should reflect in your characters.


“Are you goin’ to the store?”

“How ‘bout a cup of coffee?”

“Somethin’s eatin’ at him.”

Be careful not to overdo the accents or slang. A Southern character won’t say “yall” every time they speak. Make sure your characters sound real regardless of their setting and stay consistent within the character’s accent.

As a beginning writer, it’s easy to slip into your own dialect. Your slang or commonly used words become your characters’ speech pattern.

I can’t stress this enough, if you’re not sure what the dialect is for your character’s setting, research it!

When writing dialogue, the best way to determine if it sounds real is read aloud what you’ve written. Does it flow like someone speaking? There should be contractions and fragments in the dialogue, just like we talk.

Same reasoning applies to developing characters. Names are an excellent way to start character development and can represent the degree to which the person reflects their heritage. For example, the names Billy Bob Thornton or Billy Ray Cyrus conjure up a mental image of a good ol’ Southern boy.

But not all characters will be developed to an extreme. Readers will grow tired of characters who all mirror each other. Even if your book is set in the South, some characters will be refined and perhaps their speech won’t be distinguishable from any other part of the U.S. Overuse of stereotypical language because the writer hasn’t done their research will be apparent.

Spend a few minutes reading aloud your WIP and see if your characters seem real to you. Meanwhile, enjoy this humorous video, "Bill Cosby, Understanding Southern," from his old TV show, You Bet Your Life.

Monday, February 20, 2012

When The Going Gets Tough

The Tough Get Going
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Right? This implies, if we have enough moxie, we can endure anything just by being tough.

Well, there’s a reason hardships are called that—they’re hard!

God doesn’t allow trials in your life to determine your mettle—He already knows. Trials show you what you’re made of and strengthen you as a Christian.

A building inspector goes over new construction step by step, to uncover deficiencies or weakness that could jeopardize the entire structure. So, too, our weakness of spirit needs to be exposed in order for us to become stronger.

The oft-quoted Bible verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” shows us that God doesn’t expect us to walk alone in trials, but this verse is validated only by suffering hardships.

You might shake your head and say, “But I’m already a strong follower of His. My faith is solid. I’m compassionate. Why should I have to suffer?”

The apostle Paul had a few things to say about this.

“Five times I received from the Jews the forth lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea…I have labored and toiled…I have known hunger and thirst…I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches…If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” 2 Corinthians 11:24-30 NIV

Most Christians look to Paul as a standard bearer. If we are to grow to his level of commitment, the commitment first has to be tested. He didn’t develop strong faith outside of being shown his weakness.

James took the concept a step further. He said to “consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 NIV

Not only do we develop perseverance, we become blessed through the trials.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trials, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12 NIV

In turn, we’re able to bless others because of our trials. Take comfort in the knowledge that God knows the trials that lie ahead. He’s waiting in our tomorrows, ready to strengthen our spirit, our faith, and our mettle, and to bless us with the joy whose depth only comes from suffering first.

How can we consider trials pure joy? How do we persevere? Trials are exactly what they sound like—something to be avoided. Here are a few suggestions for practical application.

Count your blessings. It seems elementary, almost too simple and at the same time difficult to do in the midst of a storm. But even finding one or two small things to thank God for will drastically change your perspective and ability to persevere.

Ask God to help you learn what He wants you to from the trial. It may not be readily apparent, even for years, but your willingness to be molded will have the desired effect.

Find a Christian friend or family member to share your rough times. Someone who will listen and pray for you, perhaps even offer practical advice when asked. Part of the reason God doesn’t shield Christians from hardships is to force us to grow together. Trying to be self-sufficient in this fallen world not only leads you away from other Christians but from God. Often God puts someone in our path who has struggled with the same issues.

What trial are you in the midst of today? If you’d like me to pray for you and don’t feel comfortable leaving a message in the comments, please email me.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Results of Contest

I shared last December that my manuscript, "Hope's Gentle Touch," had finaled in the RWA Emily Contest.

The final results are in! The manuscript placed second in the Contemporary Single Title category. Since this contest was opened nationwide to all authors, secular and Christian, representing a variety of genres, I feel blessed and honored that "Hope's Gentle Touch" was so competitive in this field.

Thank you all for your encouragement and prayers through my writing journey. It means so much to me!

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Wow! What a busy week! I’ve been working on a book proposal and preparing for a writer’s conference next weekend. It’s already Thursday and time for another writers’ corner post.

We’ve discussed revising our manuscripts. One way to tighten a manuscript is to rid it of overused or redundant words.

For overused words, simply do a “search” for the particular word on your computer (the F5 function key in MS Word). Either replace the word with a synonym or delete it. Many times, the word isn’t needed when you look at the context of the sentence. When I first started writing, I discovered my Southernisms creeping into my writing. Searching for particular words like “just” helped me to realize “just” how much I used them.

Have you ever noticed how many times in writing and talking that redundant words are used? We all do it.

“It’s déjà vu all over again.” ~ Yogi Berra

Here are a few more common phrases you might read or hear:

They have a new baby. Is there any other kind?

She folded her two hands. Does she have more than two?

The police questioned him because he lived in close proximity to the crime.

The little boy wanted a frozen ice cream treat. As opposed to a non-frozen one?

Oh my, what an unexpected surprise!

Her cheeks were red in color.

It’s been my past experience that gas prices go up in the summer.

One of the basic fundamentals of writing is good grammar usage.

Now, take a look at your WIP, and see if you can spot the redundancies. Leave a comment, if you’d like to share a funny one you discover.

Monday, February 13, 2012

True Love

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow—the traditional day to express love in a tangible way to those we hold dear. At least, that’s what the marketers tell us. A billion dollar industry, Valentine’s Day, instead, should emulate love in its truest form.

But what is love?

Love is difficult to define. We know it by feelings, by the actions of those around us, by the longevity of those who choose to be in our lives, and sometimes even by the actions we refuse to tolerate in others—tough love.

“…neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Wow! Can you think of another love equal to this expression by the Apostle Paul?

To say Paul’s life was difficult as a follower of Jesus is an understatement. Read 2 Corinthians 11:24-27, for his accounts of shipwreck, being stoned, beaten, sleepless nights, hunger, and thirst. Yet he never whined about his hardships, nor did he blame them on God. Instead, he embraced the idea of hardships as necessary to a Christian’s life. James continued this theme in his ministry. In doing so, their lives embodied the idea that, in spite of our trials, God is still present.

So then, how can Paul, despite his willingness to endure hardships and concede God’s presence in them, take it a step farther and equate the totality of his life with God’s love? There’s only one logical answer.

It’s a love that never separates. How could love be defined any better? There’s not a human equation that even comes close.

No matter what unknown tomorrow brings, God’s love will be present. I don’t know about you, but that’s a tremendous comfort to me.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Show, Don't Tell

Week two of Writers’ Corner, and I’m glad you returned. Would you take a moment to become a follower, if you’ve enjoyed the blog so far? Thanks!

The winner of the critique giveaway is Rosilind Jukic from Zagreb, Croatia! I look forward to reading your submission, Rosilind. Please review the rules from last week’s Writers’ Corner post and then send me your WIP as an attachment through email. My contact info is above.

As we discussed last week, revising and editing are a necessary part of the writing process. It’s easy to catch obvious spelling or grammatical errors, but the ability to self-edit is a skill acquired over time. In addition to seeking feedback/critiques from fellow writers, good writing tools are important.  

If you were to look at a published writer’s bookshelf, you’d see a few dog-eared writing books. My two favorites are: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to edit yourself into print, by Renni Browne and Dave King, and Getting The Words Right: 39 ways to improve your writing, by Theodore A. Rees Cheney.

Both books were invaluable during the early stages of my writing career. They’re chock-full of helpful advice and examples to help with editing. They can be ordered inexpensively through

Now, let’s look at one admonition a writer might get from an editor: Show, don’t tell.

You might ask—isn’t all writing telling? Not exactly. Mastering this concept can be a challenge. “Telling” can creep into even the most experienced writer’s work. After all, the writer sees the scene clearly in their mind. It’s easy to forget the reader doesn’t have the same vantage point.

The editing phase is the perfect time to uncover telling scenes. As writers, we owe it to our readers to dig a little deeper—put them on the stage with the characters.

So what does “show, don’t tell” mean?

As Mark Twain put it, “Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.”

Here’s an example:

Dawn was distraught that her terrier Fluffy lay on the side of the road dead. She felt guilty because it was her fault for letting him run free instead of putting him on a leash.

Dawn stumbled down the sidewalk. Her mind refused to believe what her eyes told her. Fluffy, her little brown terrier, lay in a crumpled heap on the roadside where a speeding car had tossed him like yesterday’s garbage.

Dawn dropped to her knees in front of Fluffy. She ran a trembling hand across his soft fur. He shivered one final breath before his body grew still.

“Fluffy!” Dawn scooped the dog into her arms and clutched him to her chest.

“Why?” She wailed. “Why did I let you out of the house without your leash?”

She rocked back and forth, sobbing, with tears streaming down her cheeks. The neighbors stepped onto their porch and craned their necks to see what had happened.

The differences between the two scenes are pretty obvious. After reading the second scene, the reader knows Dawn is distraught and guilt-ridden without the writer writing either word. Not only that, the writer has engaged the reader’s senses to the point where they wonder how the rest of the scene may unfold. This keeps the reader from putting down the book.

This concept applies to both fiction and non-fiction. Whether you’re writing an article or a book, the best way to share the story is with anecdotes or scenes with action and dialogue.

Now, take a look at your work in progress (WIP), and see if there are scenes you can rewrite to show your story better.

And if you have a favorite book on writing, please share in the comments. I’d love to hear about it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

John 3:17

If I were to ask what’s the most recognizable Bible verse—your answer would probably be John 3:16. It’s written on posters held up at sporting events. Most non-Christians are aware of the reference, even if they can’t recite the verse. It’s one of the first verses children memorize in Sunday school. John 3:16 sums up the Gospel message in a short, easy to remember way.

Conversely, John 3:17 receives almost no attention. In fact, many people would be hard pressed to quote or give a summary of it.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17

Non-believers, and maybe even some Christians, assume God expects us to follow a set of rules in order to follow Him. When we don’t, He breathes a fiery condemnation on us.

Not so—according to this verse.

You see, we were already under condemnation when Jesus made the choice to obey God and become man. John 3:16 speaks of God’s love, but there’s also the love Jesus has for us—so much that he became our sacrifice for sin.

If you’re having a difficult time accepting you are worthy of salvation and feel too weak to follow rules—guess what? You’re right. That’s why we need a Savior. We bring nothing but ourselves, sin and all, to the feet of Jesus. He brings about the transformation we’re unable to do on our own.

God offers you salvation freely. Jesus paid our ransom with his life. Why not ask him into your heart and free you from the condemnation of sin? I’d love to hear from you, if you do.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Writers' Corner Launch

Welcome to Writers' Corner. If all goes according to plan, this feature will appear each Thursday, so please plan to return. Maybe even become a follower!

Join me as I share my journey to publication, rejection, and writing tips. Some weeks, I’ll hold a Q&A session where writers of all levels are welcomed to comment and ask questions. Occasionally, I’ll host a guest blogger who’s a colleague in the writing industry.

Whether you’re published, a newbie, or someone plugging along in the middle, everyone needs encouragement to stay the course. That’s the purpose of Writers’ Corner.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

Encouragement flows both directions on this blog. I look forward to our journey together in becoming better writers and getting to know everyone.

I’m a published, agented writer who’s still growing and seeking God’s plan in the literary world.  I write fiction and non-fiction, basically whatever God lays on my heart. I encourage you to explore the pages above, my profile on the right, and the archives to learn more about me and my writing.

One of the many lessons I’ve learned since embarking on the journey to publication is—no matter where you are on the path, no one “arrives.” Well, unless you’re Stephen King, Jan Karon, or JK Rowling.

Even so, most published writers are part of a critique group or have a critique partner. If not, their agent or editor serves this function. I assure you the manuscript handed to the agent is not what ends up on a retailer’s shelf.

In order to become published (and I think it’s safe to say that’s the goal of every writer), you cannot write in a vacuum. The mythological hermit tucked away in his cabin churning out bestsellers is just that—a myth. Writers have to seek and accept feedback as crucial to growth.

This doesn’t mean you have to revise your WIP (work in progress) exactly the way someone else instructs you. As you become a seasoned writer, you’ll find your voice and learn what advice to discard and what is spot-on.

Feedback can be painful. But look at trees that are pruned in the fall. They come back even more beautifully shaped in the spring. Critiques are subjective, but good critiques offer constructive criticism that enables growth. I’ve been fortunate to have some fantastic writers and editors in my journey give me sound advice and feedback.

Last year, I joined the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) large critique group. From there, I moved to a smaller group of published and/or agented writers. Both groups have been vital in crafting my fiction manuscript and pushing me to the next level.

So this leads me to the first giveaway of Writers’ Corner. You guessed it! A free critique.

I will randomly select one person to receive a free critique based on the following rules:
1.   Leave a comment on this post of a few sentences describing your WIP. Feel free to briefly introduce yourself, as well.
2.   Winning WIP submission must be 2,000 words or less.
3.   I feel certain most people reading this blog don’t have to be told this, but I’ll state it anyway. Entries cannot be erotic, vulgar, or blasphemous. For example, please do not give God a last name or slander Him and expect me to critique your work. I reserve the right to reject the entry and reselect based on these rules.
4.   You must agree to have rhino skin. Think “American Idol.” I promise not to be Simon Cowell. I’m more of a Paula. I will find the good and give you encouragement, but I will also point out your errors.
5.   The critique is not exhaustive. Most writers have to ascend the writing ladder one rung at the time. That’s hard to do if your writing has been ripped apart on all fronts. Better to tackle a few issues and learn. When doing so, you often discover other areas of your writing that need improvement.
6.   Understand that I’m not an expert. I’m not ashamed to say I’m still learning my craft. My feedback is designed to aid in your goal of becoming a published writer. However, there is no implication of publication hinted at or guaranteed, if you follow my advice.
Okay, now that we’re all on the same page, get to commenting! I will announce the winner next Thursday.