Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Year in Review by Diana Flegal

This week I received several notifications in my email box, mentioning my year in review. My twitter year in review, etc.

I look back this time of year same as others. How many of my clients had a book release, received a contract, or won an award?  

Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Looking back helps us to make adjustments, so we can better move forward.

As writers, consider the adjustments you want to make this New Year to earn a different response from that agent or editor.

Practice showing instead of telling, tighten up your writing by learning to eliminate unnecessary words, deepen your characters POV (point of view), read that writing resource book, and hone your writing skills.

The result will be different next time, and you will be closer to your goal.

Niccolo Machiavelli said: The wise man does at once what the fool does eventually.

Let’s be wise.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Are Your Backups Working? by Andy Scheer

This past week I've been straightening my office. Not just around my desk, but also where I keep most of my work: my computers.

I've deleted unwanted programs, sorted files into project folders, and – most important – backed up key documents onto high-capacity flash drives and an external hard drive. I thought I was covered.

This week I've also made big changes to my website. Many hours worth. I'd hate to lose them. So I opened the administrator's toolbar, selected “online backup,” and clicked all the settings to ensure daily backups.

Or so I thought.

This morning, having made another big update, I visited the “online backup” section again. Just in case.

Good thing I did. For multiple consecutive days, the automatic backups I've been counting on had failed.

Fortunately, I discovered the problem before a crash – and made some backups manually.

If you've been in the writing business awhile, you know the horror stories of people who've lost key documents. Now they tell others to install a system for automatic backups.

Good idea. Just check if those backups work.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Many Foundations by Linda S. Glaz

We all have a foundation around our homes, hopefully a strong one. Without it, the house can’t stand.
And we are given foundations during our childhoods, some good, some lacking in sound principles. The results become evident as we go into the world as adults and interact with one another.
A strong spiritual foundation serves to create leaders on many levels without which our society grows stronger or weaker. Our hearts and action left empty or full.
While we recognize such obvious and necessary building blocks, we often miss the mark when it comes to our writing.
Our writing?!? Absolutely. There is fundamental structure and foundation to each story that is written. How great would a romance novel be without a girl and a guy? Without conflict? Without a kiss? Would we care about the romance if we weren’t given details about the reasoning behind our characters’ personal turmoil? If they had no motivation for their actions?
How about a serial killer who simply woke up one day and decided to kill 20 people? No reason, no provocation, just a switch that goes off from no motive whatsoever. Would he be believable?
Could you get caught up in a whodunit without a body?
So ask yourself with the start of each new novel: is there a strong foundation for your story? Do your characters have motivation for their actions? Is the plot built on solid ground? Will your reader believe what you’ve written?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Waiting by Jim Hart

 In the story of the Exodus, Caleb was 40 years old when Moses sent him to check out the land that the Lord had promised to give the Israelites.  Caleb and Joshua came back and said, “Yeah, we got this. It’s a great place – milk and honey!”  He said this in the face of the ten who came back and said “those people are too big and strong for us, we shouldn’t try to take the land.” (Numbers 13)

Fast forward another 45 years. Caleb came to Joshua and told him it was time for him to be given the land that he had been promised by Moses. Caleb’s words in Joshua 14 are striking: “Now, as you can see, the Lord has kept me alive and well as he promised for all these forty-five years since Moses made this promise—even while Israel wandered in the wilderness. Today I am eighty-five years old. I am as strong now as I was when Moses sent me on that journey, and I can still travel and fight as well as I could then.” (Joshua 14, NLT)

Caleb was now 85 years old. And he was still courageous, optimistic and ready to take on the giants of the land. In those 45 years he never forgot the promise that was made to him.

For Christians, patience means more than waiting. It’s waiting without anxiety and worry. It’s knowing that God’s promises are true, that He has a plan for us and has given us a dream. It’s trusting in His timing to bring it all to pass. But patiently waiting doesn’t mean that we stop while waiting. Caleb said “For my part, I wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God”.

There is so much promising and waiting in the publishing world today. (Can I get an ‘amen’?) Sometimes we’ve crossed that river Jordan, but haven’t yet been given the patch of land that we’ve been waiting for. We keep writing, sending out proposals, waiting, sending out more proposals, following up, writing more, learning more, waiting more…. and all the while wholeheartedly following the Lord. When we follow Him with all of our heart, mind and strength, then the Lord Himself becomes our focus, He becomes the Promise, He becomes our Inheritance. And every promise and blessing flows, in due time, while we wait.  

What are you waiting for while you wholeheartedly follow the Lord?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Using fiction to spread God's word by Terry Burns

Christian fiction is modern-day parables. I have some friends who said, “Our books are clean enough to go into a Christian bookstore, but they don’t. What makes a Christian fiction book?” 

I told them that it’s not what’s not in the book (language, sex, or gratuitous violence) that makes the difference, but what’s in it: some degree of faith content. There are also two types of Christian fiction: those that encourage and entertain the faithful, and those that are for nonbelievers and to possibly plant a seed. The second case is what I want to talk about today.

There is a difference between a calling and an offering.
There are two ways to write for the Lord: to be called, or to choose to write, in which case it is an offering. If we are called to write, God will prepare us, but it will happen in His time. Not only will He prepare the story, He will prepare the author. If we have decided to do write, we will do it out of our own ability, and our works will be well received if we do them right and if our intentions are something He approves of.

There is a difference in writing for consumption by the faithful and in trying to reach an unbeliever.
In the first case, the faith content should be strong and broached early. In the second case, the goal is to get readers hooked into the story before showing faith content. Coming under conviction is a difficult thing even for believers. It can push nonbelievers out of a story and make them put down the book. That content should never be aimed AT them, but they should be witnessing what you want them to see in the interaction between the characters.

The story is king.
Parables were entertaining. The object was to interest the hearers until they figured out what they meant. The object of Christian fiction is the same. Whether we are entertaining or encouraging a believer, or trying to interest an unbeliever and get them committed to reading the story before they realize there’s faith content, the story has to pull them in and keep them reading. The message should never overshadow the story.

Keep our faith to ourselves.
The reader should never realize we are sharing our own faith. That’s for the more overtly religious books: devotionals, commentaries, studies, witnessing, and so on. If our goal is to reach out to nonbelievers, we should not be in a hurry to share that faith. I’m not talking about misleading them but to get them committed to the story before we start showing faith content so they will keep reading.
The degree of content is another thing. No matter how much we might want to do it, we are not going to take someone from no faith to a decision for the Lord in one little story. If we overdo it, we will probably push them out of the book. There are those who sow and those who harvest, and it is very rare that those of us who write get to be in on the harvest. Most of the time we are planting seeds that someone else will nurture and still someone else will harvest. But it takes all three.

How about quoting Scripture?
Of course if it fits the story. But there aren’t that many people who know Scripture word for word and can give the exact chapter and verse, right? People who talk about Scripture in conversation paraphrase it, don’t they? Then when somebody is actually reading Scripture, I make it word for word with the chapter and verse. That makes it far more realistic, although some publishers differ with me on it. but not to the point of changing it, however.

What is our goal for writing?
A secular writer who doesn’t have sales in the five figures doesn’t have a successful book. A Christian writer who sold only one book but it changed somebody’s life is a success. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to sell more. We all want our books in as many hands as possible, and I’m sure all of us would like to have a little financial reward as well, but for most of us, money is not the primary motivation. In order for us to have the greatest possible witness with our words, it’s necessary for us to be very businesslike with our approach to getting those books out, even if money is not our primary motivation.

Must a book absolutely have a message?
No. A first book probably does for a writer to get established as a Christian writer. Once established, books can have varying degrees of faith from a very strong message to none at all. We need good Christian entertainment too.

The last thing I want to mention is God’s timing. If God has called us to use our writing for Him, then it will be done in His timing. Sometimes it can take longer to get published if we are writing under a calling than if we are trying to do it as an offering. Why? If it is a calling, He is going to prepare us and help us, but until our writing is what He wants, and until we are what He wants us to be, publishing is not going to happen. Hey, after all, every one of the significant people in the Bible, including Jesus Himself, were prepared for the task God had in mind for them before they went to work. Why would we expect to be any different?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Myth, Fiction, and the Power of Story by Diana Flegal

The Red Tent miniseries premiered this week, December 7th, on television. The novel by Anita Diamant, was published in 1997 by Wyatt Books for St. Martin's Press. It is a first-person narrative that tells the story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and sister of Joseph. With stellar bestseller status, this story obviously resonated with women.

While I am sure there is varying degrees of criticism from theologians, I remind you, it is a work of fiction. Wikipedia noted that the author knows of no record of a Red Tent being used by the Israelites, but that other pre-cultural groups did use one for the designated purpose imagined by the author.

To me the beauty and strength of the book, and therefore its success, was in showing the fellowship of women at its best, and the true devoted heart of a mother.

Between the first part and the second, I reread the account in Genesis 32 on up to Joseph’s reign in Egypt as Visor. Then I tuned-in the next evening for the second part. I found it extremely moving.

The following morning I continued my devotional reading of Waking the Dead by John Eldredge and
was struck fresh with the truth therein after viewing such a strong drama the two nights before.

John believes Jesus told parables to illustrate eternal truths because unlike mere facts, stories penetrate our hearts and get past our intellectual defenses. And the best stories of all? The ones that bring us eternal truths. John quotes Rolland Hein as he defines myth; “…stories that which confront us with something transcendent and eternal…a means by which the eternal expresses itself in time”.

Like in The Red Tent. Though definitely fiction; the greed, lust and selfish desires of the human condition were portrayed truthfully. Ugly as it was. And we just like the Israelites, can forget ourselves and live in our flesh if we get complacent and forget who we belong to.

But John Eldridge points out the most urgent quality to every myth or big story is the struggle, quest or battle usually underway.   
John points this all out so beautifully on page 34 “The story of your life is the story of a long and brutal assault on your heart by the one who knows what you could be and fears it, …”like Narnia in winter and the sleeping kingdom in Sleeping Beauty, “the world lies under the power of the evil one” 1 John 5:19” page

Think; Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, and Star Wars.

Ephesians 5:14-16 “Wake up oh sleeper…be very careful, then, how you live…because the days are evil”.

Eldredge says, Things are not as they seem, we are a people at war, and…

                                                                                                      we have a role to play.

Doesn’t your heart whisper to you while watching the wee Hobbit that you might have a greater role to play in the larger scheme of things?

On Page 34 Waking the Dead, John tells us,  “When Sam Gamgee wonders out loud, “I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into?” his question assumes there is a larger story going on.”

John opens his book with one of my favorite quotes by Saint Irenaes, The glory of God is man fully alive.

That is what my heart longs for. And it is what John Eldredge said is needed for the church today. To awaken to the fact things are not as they seem, we are a people at war, and we have a role to play.

For those of you who love story, and long to be fully engaged in the work God has for you, I highly recommend this book.
Have you ever allowed someone to rob you of your purpose in life like Dinah had in The Red Tent ? Or felt the whisper of a vision that you have a great role yet to play in life?