Monday, June 30, 2008

Write His Answer by Marlene Bagnull

And the Lord said to me, "Write my answer on a billboard, large and clear, so that anyone can read it at a glance and rush to tell the others." Habakkuk 2:2

This scripture begins the devotional for writers, Write His Answer. Ms. Bagnull voice is gentle and encouraging. And for this writer, it is what I needed after years of harsh criticism. Knowing someone else had been in the trenches and knew exactly how low I felt was the balm for my soul.

The book breaks devotions into small daily inspirational truths. The author uses personal experience to shine light on her message of hope.

One of my favorite lines from one of her devotions, she says, "We are literature missionaries." Wow! Could something I say or show in my character's emotion actually lead people closer to the Lord? I know that it is God's purpose for my life to write Christian fiction, but could His will include something as great as becoming a literature missionary?

If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you. James 1:5.

For a time I struggled with what genre God wanted me to write. I knew in my heart that writing hot & steamy was not becoming of a Christian nor was it right to lead readers into lustful thoughts, causing them to sin. But what about secular fiction? Clean fiction?

I finally surrendered my will to Him. Finding His will for my life brought me peace. However, I felt self-conscience and inadequate proclaiming His truth. Ms. Bagnull summed up exactly what I felt.

"Why don't you just give up?" the Evil One Hissed, "you don't have what it takes. You're only setting yourself up for heartache. What makes you think God can use you anyway?"

Several years and about thirty rejection slips later, the book I had tried so hard to sell at that conference was finally accepted for publication. What enabled me to persevere? I knew that I knew God had called me to write. I clung to the promise that I would be "rooted deeply in the soil and bear fruit for God" (2 Kings 19:30). And God faithfully honored His promise.

Now I know it is God's will for me to write Christian fiction, so then I can relax and live in peace that He will fulfill a good work in me even to the point of publication.

Every time I read this daily devotional I remember my calling through Ms. Bagnull's encouraging words. One day will come when the Lord will use my voice to write His answer on the billboards of bookshelves.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Beginnings, Middles, and Ends by Nancy Kress reviewed by Moonine Sue Watson

The book I am currently reading is called Beginnings, Middles and Ends by Nancy Kress. The book is part of The Elements of Fiction Writing series from Writer's Digest Books.

According to the "About the Author Section" of the book "Nancy Kress is an author of five novels and two collections of short stories. She is a two-time winner of the Nebula Award given by the Science Fiction Writers of America for the best series of the year. She is fiction columnist for Writer's Digest magagzine and frequently teaches writing at various universities."

Ms. Kress divided her book into three sections titled "Beginnings", "Middles", and "Ends".

For the "Beginning" section, she stresses how important the first three paragraphs of any story are to the writer seeking publication. Editors are busy people and have developed the ability to tell in that short amount of writing whether it is worthwhile to continue reading. Ms. Kress encourages the writer to polish and work on that section until it is as well-crafted as the writer can make it. She provides examples and suggestions on how to improve those paragraphs. She then gives examples of how to move to the next scene. At the end of each chapter she provides exercises for the writer to complete.

One piece of advice I appreciated was how important it is to move on with a story rather than revising the first three chapters over and over. Failing to move on means never completing a book. I liked the suggestion of rewriting a scene from five different directions to find the one that tells the story best.

I am eager to continue learning more about how to improve my writing as I read the rest of the book.

For an unpublished writer like myself, I plan to read the whole book and do the exercises to find out how to improve what I've written.

For the new writer, this is a wonderful way to start out writing, with suggestions that will start her/him down the road to developing an effective writing craft.

For the writer closer to publication or even the published writer, this book would help identify areas of weaknesses and offer remedies for the problems. Another strategy would be to read the chapters for the area that seems to be the most difficult for the author.

I plan to keep this book within easy reach in order to refer to it often.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Getting Into Character

Summer is busy. This week I'm keeping grandsons aged 5 & 10 & they keep Grandma hopping. Thought I'd take a minute to tell of a book I purchased last Septemeber at the ACFW conference in Dallas. "Getting Into Character" by Brandilyn Collins. If you've read one of her fiction mysteries, you know Brandilyn knows her characterization techniques. In fact, my suggestion would be read this book, then go to one of her fiction books and see how she utilizes her own techniques. No better way to reinforce what you learn.
Her subtitle is "Seven Secrets a Novelist can Learn from Actors." These seven aren't secrets exactly, but Brandilyn explains them, giving examples that work, to make your computer/brain activate where you understand. My personal favorite is "personalizing" and I've used that one several times already. I remember the assignment when Diann Mills at her workshop asked us to write about the lowest time in our lives. Personalizing creates emotion, and yes, I have trouble building emotion so that little key is priceless.
Well, that's all for today. I hear two small voices yelling "Mimi, let's go swimming again. Mimi, where are you?"
Happy writing all and make us fall in love with your characters.
Janet K. Brown

Monday, June 9, 2008

Divine Inspiration

Peace to all your households,

I suppose we each turn more than one cog in the great spiritual machine. I find myself called on to serve in various ways, in and outside of the traditional church organization, but my most predominant role is that of a teacher. I’m most inspired to write when God reveals truth—either through a life experience, a mountain top encounter, or through His eternal Word. This time, I’d like to blog about the Bible as being the one book that has inspired me to write—more so than any other.

Rod Hembree of Quick Study, a daily broadcast that takes viewers through the Bible in one year, once lamented that the Bible is the best selling but least read book of all times. As a writer, I pray that I would refer regularly to the Scriptures to make sure that my themes, plots, characters, and dialogues line up with sound biblical principle. At the same time, God’s word inspires me to encourage, edify, and comfort my readers by sharing sound and grounded truth.

Once in an interview, Stephen King derided authors with an agenda—who tend to preach or teach through their characters. I respectfully disagree with his opinion. The whole point of writing even a single sentence is to get across a complete thought—an idea—a message. Being humans and writers, we tend to elucidate by adding more sentences and paragraphs. While I don’t want to weigh my readers down with self-righteous preaching, I want them to feel that they’ve gained something in exchange for the hours invested in reading my work.

Certain stories of the Bible jump out at me—almost as if I were a bystander on the streets of Jerusalem. This happened to me the first time I read the story of the adulteress (John 8:1). I felt the heat and the tension in the crowd. I smelled the sweat and the dust. I saw Jesus stooping to etch the mysterious message in the sand, but my attention was on the adulteress—with her tunic torn and soiled, her legs and feet scraped and bloodied, tears wearing trails through the smudges on her cheeks. Caught in the very act of sin, without excuse, the adulteress was not only delivered from certain death, she found forgiveness at the hand of her Savior.

The adulteress’s close encounter of a Messianic kind was over in just eleven verses, but I wanted to immortalize this woman whose story had such a healing spiritual effect on my life. An artist may have sculpted or painted this woman, a composer might have written a song, but being a dramatist, I wrote a play. In what Jewish rabbis refer to as a “midrash”, I created a story to fill in the gaps. It’s a part of a play called Ladies Man, a collection of vignettes featuring seven women and their close encounters with Jesus Christ. I was similarly moved by the woman with the issue of blood, the woman at the well, the Syrophoenician woman, Mary and Martha, and of course, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and included their stories as well.

If you’re interested to see how the Bible inspired my writing, you can find this and other scripts at I pray you’ll stop by and visit!

May God richly bless your walk and your writing!

Peace and Blessing!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

No one can list 'how to write' books without mentioning Donald Maass' book, Writing the Breakout Novel.

This book's target audience are published authors who are mid-list authors. He describes these authors as someone selling books that are not best-sellers nor are they the lowest author. He wrote this book to help these authors breakout of the mid-list. However, any writer from any skill level can benefit from the knowledge of this skilled literary agent's expertise.

I like Mr. Maass' checklist style to writing. Personally, I like to chunk information for easier reading. I can quickly scan the material and not have to wade through long passages of prose.

This book is wonderful for writers who have already mastered the ABC's of writing and are ready to move on to the next level.

The author leads the reader through setting, characterization, plot, themes, multiple viewpoints, pacing, and so much more. He encourages the reader to challenge their writing skills by pushing the boundaries in their manuscripts. For instance, what is the worst thing that could happen to your character?

I promise you will learn something from this book. Go a step further and purchase the workbook with it. You know how I feel about writing exercises, so I won't bore you again on the importance of exercising your writing muscles.

My only drawback to this book is the countless references to other published works. I tend to skip over these examples when I feel their too long or excessive. I also would've liked it better if there were less references to thrillers.

Overall, this is a most awesome resource tool. I encourage you to buy it today.

Writing Tip of the Day