Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Three tips to help readers love reading your book

Today's readers expect stories to read as if they are immersed in a well-crafted movie. How do you make your book read like a movie? 

Books consist of words that form mind pictures. We want to craft them in a way that draws readers in so they want to read more. Sometimes, we miss the mark. That can leave readers frustrate or bored.  

Three ways to make your book more readable. 

  1)  Keep each sentence simple, focused on one thought or idea. In general conversation, we sometimes ramble before we get to the point. We don't have that luxury in writing. 

Example: "After the unnerving discussion with Louise late last night, I had such trouble sleeping, I barely got up in time to smear some cream cheese on a bagel before I gathered my papers and left in my SUV for work on the new project my boss laid out for me."

Better: "The unnerving discussion with Louise kept me awake most of the night. The next morning, I smeared cream cheese on a bagel and rifled through my papers. I had to be at my best today. My boss just gave me a new project." 

The first sentence had so many thoughts, it was hard to determine what was important to the story and how that piece of information contributed to it. 

The second one eliminates some unnecessary information and is broken into smaller bites. In it, important information is organized in a way that lets each element be part of the framework for the story, and keeps the story moving along. 

2)    Don't backload the information.  Most of the time, give the information in logical chronological order. It might be necessary to change the order now and then, but it's easy for readers to grow tired of having to think out of order.

Example: "I ate a small bowl of yogurt and a slice of sprouted bread to fuel me for the new project my boss wanted me to start today and knew I needed to impress her with this one."

Better: "I need to impress my boss with this project. Rather than my usual breakfast donut on the way to work, I'll toast a slice of healthy bread and grab some yogurt. That way, I am fueled and ready to do my best."

In the first example, the reader neither knows the reason or the importance of the food choices until several phrases later. 

In the better option, the reader walks through the decision process with the character and understands the motivation from the beginning. This helps the reader comprehend as well as identify with the character.

3)    Vary the length and style of your sentences. While active voice is preferred, not every sentence needs to begin with the subject/verb structure.

Example: "I entered the room. I saw the man standing in the corner. He looked at me. I met his gaze. We approached each other with open arms."

Better: "After I entered the room, I saw a man standing in the corner. My gaze met his. We walked toward each other arms ready to embrace."

The writer earns points for having short chronological sentences but, risks losing the reader with repetition. The five sentences began with; I entered, I saw, he looked, I met,  and we approached. Unless you are creating a dramatic scene or writing under the constraints of music lyrics or a children's book, it becomes boring to read sentences so similar. 

A better version might include a time phrase and link a couple of the sentences together to bring variety in length and style.

It's also a good practice to take the time to look at the first sentence in each paragraph and include variety there, too.

Dear writer,
Remember that your story is important. The world only has one of you and your words can make a difference. 

Keep working to let your words shine, glorifying God. Brush any discouragement off your fingertips and write. You will never learn all there is to know about writing. 

Write anyway. 

Let a trusted critique group help you refine your words, paragraphs, and pages into something lasting for His kingdom.

I'm praying that 
"... the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; 
and do confirm for us 
the work of our hands..." 
Psalm 90:17a (NASB)


Thursday, June 2, 2022

Two things to remember if you are doing your best and still don't win an award.

While being genuinely thrilled to hear of fellow writers achieving their goals and being recognized within the industry with awards, writers can still be disappointed about their lack of one. Other writers'  walls fill with plaques and certificates but yours lacks that one elusive award or perhaps your latest work has yet to earn any recognition. It is so common in the industry we call it the "imposter syndrome." 

It is natural to want your work to be noticed, even praised. You worked hard on it and expected it to make an impact on the world. When it doesn't happen in the form of winning a contest, we can feel as if we aren't really doing what we should be doing. We doubt if we should even call ourselves "writers."

First, remember your calling to write. God gave you the mind, the words, and the desire to write. You are writing to honor Him. Your obedience to obey His calling is what He desires. He will provide the fruit from your labors in His time. 

You may never know this side of heaven of the impact of a simple comment, an article, devotion, or novel made in one person's heart. Those words you prayed over and wrangled into place hit home with someone. It could have changed their response to a situation from a volatile response to a more measured one. Your words might have prompted someone to open their Bible one more time, read and pray. The story you wrote might have touched their heart into action for a ministry or service. It could have been the one thing that God used to prick their heart into a deeper faith.

1) You are working for God, not the praise of men. He will reward you.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily (from the soul), as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Colossians  3:23,24 (NASB95) 

2) If you are writing/working to please men, it is not likely you will be writing for the Christian market. Christian writers rarely have comparable income or praise as secular writers. 

You aren't writing to impress. You're writing to bless.

For am I now seeking the favor or men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

Dear Writer,

Please remember your audience is the Lord God. He will use your words in ways you might never realize this side of eternity. But, oh, in heaven, how great will be your reward!

Keep writing for Him, precious writer! I'm cheering for you! Encourage another writer today. They need the boost as much as you do. Your encouragement might inspire them to write a little more.



Father in heaven,

Encourage the writer reading this today. Remind them of the calling You have for them. Strengthen them when they feel discouraged and empower them with the message You want them to share.

In Jesus' name, amen.


Friday, May 27, 2022

Three things writers need to remember

Keep it simple. Stumbling over difficult words distracts from the story and becomes frustrating and mentally exhausting. If you want your readers to stay with the story, keep it simple so they will enjoy it. Try to use one or two-syllable words with the same meaning that are easily understood. 

Your goal isn't to impress the reader with your fancy words but to bless them with the story. Take the time to edit out any stumbling block words

Stay with the theme. If your book is an adventure, don't let the action lull. If it is a devotion, make every sentence point to the main thought. Even if it's a memoir, not every detail needs to be included. Choose the important elements that hone in on the major theme of the book. 

If the sentence or scene doesn't move the story along consider deleting it. Put enough interest, adventure, or excitement into the storyline rather than adding unnecessary details that distract from the overall theme. Think of moving forward on a journey, not stopping at every roadsign along the way.

Consider having the main theme in front of you while you write to keep you on track. You could put it on a sticky note on your monitor or write it in the header of each page. 

Stay within the expectations of your genre. 

Evoke emotion.  People read for education, escape, and entertainment, but they usually aren't looking for a list of information or a statistics chart. They want an experience. An ordinary book will provide information, but an extraordinary book will evoke an emotion in the process. 

Let the reader identify with the main character and feel what they feel. Let them experience the joy or pain of the characters. Put them inside the action rather than describe it from a distance. 

People will remember how they felt more than what you say. To give them something they will remember, it will need to touch their heart and leave them changed. 

Dear Father in heaven,

I pray we as writers will consider our words carefully and use them to bring blessings. I pray You will shine through our words and be glorified. May we be obedient to Your calling with all we do.

In Jesus' name, amen.

Dear writer,

Keep writing. Keep learning. Keep editing. 

As He prunes and shapes us, we can prune and shape our words to have the best impact and bear fruit. There will always be room for improvement but keep striving to make your words the best you can for Him. 

Let His light shine through you!


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

I want to write but I feel stuck

It's not uncommon for every writer to go through a slump. Writing can be a roller coaster of highs and lows. Some books and stories can be well received, others seem to never gain momentum and take flight.

Writers with Christian elements and themes in their books face the same ups and downs. Life circumstances change our writing habits. A negative review makes us hesitant to put our work out there. The plague of "imposter syndrome" is rampant in writing communities, often settling in when we compare our success with that of another author. 

What can we do when we're in the low part of the ride? Below are four "whos" for the Christian writer to remember when it's hard to write.

Who called you to write? 
When God called Moses, he didn't feel qualified. When God called Elijah, he sometimes ran in fear. As He did back then, God often calls people to do things they do not feel qualified to do. We might have to spend time in training, but probably not the decades Moses spent in the wilderness before leading the people out of captivity from Egypt. 
Hone your skills while writing. Seek critique groups to help you find areas to work on while you write. Attend seminars, conferences, or work with a coach while you are writing. Don't wait until you feel equipped. No writer has achieved perfection, and it's not likely you will either. He expects and will use your obedience to His call. If God asked you to write, what could be more important? Prayerfully ask God to renew your desire to write and have His words flow from you.

Who will receive glory from your book/stories?
When God called you to write, He didn't do it to put your name in lights. If the fear of not being good enough is a hindrance, remember it isn't about the critics. It's kingdom work. 
Writers with a Christian theme or elements are drawing readers closer to God or perhaps introducing them to the Savior. That's far more important than my fear of rejection from man. Remember the reason for the words--to gently draw another soul toward heaven.

Who did He call to write this story? 
Sure. There are many great Christian writers out there. However, He called you to write the one in front of you, or in your heart. This is your chance to obey the God who knows who needs to hear this story--the one He wants you to write. He chose You. 

Who wants to stall your message?
The enemy, Satan, has the most to gain if we set our calling aside. He will not be happy with anyone who speaks the truth that expose his lies. He will find ways to distract you and delay you. He often slips in a little doubt to sway you from being obedient. 

He planted doubt in the heart of Eve in Genesis by asking if God really said to not eat from the tree.
He plants doubt in the heart of the Christian writer by asking if God really called us to write, if God really want us to write boldly about Him, if God really wouldn't rather you make a lot of money by writing more lucrative stories with unbiblical themes. 

You know the gift He has given you. You know the responsibility that comes with it. You also know who would love to see you give up.

Meanwhile, God is cheering for you. I am too.

Father in heaven,
remind us of your call on our lives and give us the courage to stand against anything that tries to draw us away from it.
In Jesus' name, amen.

Dear writer,
Prayerfully recall the desire God already planted in you. Write it down and keep it front and center of your writing space. You could make it your mission statement to keep you focused.

Remember He is the one who will bring the fruit from it if you cultivate it and keep at it. Don't quit. Your cheering section is rooting for you.



Wednesday, May 11, 2022

I want to write the story about my life. Is that a memoir?

When you write your life story, that is an autobiography

When someone else writes your life story, that is a biography

When you write about a portion of your life, that's your memoir.

All memoirs will have some elements in common. 
  •  Memoirs are written in first person, from the point of view of the author. Dialogue is a frequent choice to help the reader understand the setting and emotions within the story.
  •  More than just dates and events, a memoir will share their feelings and emotions about their experiences. When done well, the reader will likely both laugh and cry with empathy for the author.
  •  Often, memoirs will reveal a change or growth of the person during the course of the book, inspiring readers.
  • Memoirs are not a detailed list of events. Rather, they include major life events with the purpose of entertaining, educating, or inspiring the reader. 
  • Memoirs are non-fiction that include the emotions, realism, and inspiration elements readers appreciate from fiction. 

People write their memoirs for a variety of reasons. 
  • Preserving their family history, with personal stories. Many include recipes and photographs.
  • Spiritual growth while working through a traumatic event with insights into how they managed to survive and come out spiritually stronger. 
  • A widely-known public figure, often a political, sports, or television personality, shares about their life. Often, they share about before they became famous along with insights into their life as a celebrity.
  •  An astounding adventure that few have experienced. Often in dangerous or extreme circumstances. Perhaps a survival experience.
  • A collection of episodes in a person's life that held importance and spiritual growth. These are usually connected by a common theme and include Scripture references with a devotion style.
  • Transformational memoirs usually include how their life looked before they made a change and information about how someone else can make a similar change. These include leadership, emotional and physical self-help from personal experience.

Dear writer,
I encourage you to tell your story. We all have events we can recall that led us closer to God. Those stories are valuable and need to be heard. When you make the effort to record them for the coming generations, those blessings you received will be available for posterity. It's important for us to remember and pass that legacy to the generations who follow us.

Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons. Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when the LORD said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.’ Deuteronomy 4:9,10


If you need a starting point, you might consider this book. It is a keepsake guided journal with pages for you to fill out answering questions about your life, your prayers, how you saw God at work in your life. 

If you need more help, please check out the coaching and consulting information and packages I offer. If I can't help you, I will try to find someone who can. 


Monday, March 28, 2022

Types of Editing

First, understand that your editor(s) wants to help your book be its very best. It might feel like they are tearing your work apart, but their end goal is to make it shine. Having a "teachable spirit" and willingness to accept their constructive critique is essential to becoming a good author.  

Editorial Assessment When an author doesn't know if they’re ready for developmental editing--of if their budget is a major concern--they might need and want an editorial assessment. An assessment is a fairly broad evaluation of issues like characterization, plot, structure, and style. After an editorial assessment, the author usually receives an letter with detailed feedback and suggestions for revision.

Developmental editing. Developmental editing is the first phase of editing. Sometimes called, structural or substantive editing, developmental editing looks at the larger structures of your book including; plot, characters, themes, and tone. They will notice story plot holes, determine if the character development is appropriate, and make sure the tense and point of view are consistent.

They will critique the plot, story arc, organization and structural elements, characters, and dialogue, and then make recommendations to improve the manuscript. Don't be surprised if you need to have major rewrites during this phase. (A great reason to have your developmental editing done before copy editing.) 

Good developmental editing will consider your target audience and assess your work in relation to industry standards and expectations for that genre. This takes place before your manuscript is ready for a copy edit and proofreading, as major rewrites may need to take place to polish your manuscript to be its best. A developmental editor will help you make sure these wider story elements are strong before your manuscript moves onto the line by line details of copy editing. Cost of developmental editing ranges about $.05 per word or $12-$15 per double-spaced page to $2.00 per word.  

Copy editing. A professional copy editor will thoroughly work through your text, and make changes that polish your manuscript. They will look for clarity, syntax, and flow of the manuscript while also checking for inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and errors in the grammar, punctuation, tenses, spelling and typos. Copy editors eliminate unnecessary words and phrases and find redundancies in your text. They will substitute weak words, phrases, and sentences with powerful alternatives. When needed, they will restructure sentences to improve the impact. 

After a thorough copy edit, your manuscript will be more efficient, accurate, and focused on your voice. In fact, your manuscript will be in such good shape that it will be ready to be reviewed by a proofreader.

The difference between developmental and copy editing.  First, understand that all types of editing include some overlap. Generally, developmental editors are looking at the overall story and the copy editor will look at the words, sentences, and details.

Proofreading. The proofreader provides the last line of defense against spelling, punctuation, grammar, and text errors before publication. Think of proofreading as the quality control check, ensuring that only the most professional product will be going to press.

Again, keep in mind the editors want your book to be a success and their edits will likely make your book better for your readers.

Dear writer,
Keep writing. You have a story the world needs to hear. If you want to improve and reach more readers, editors will help you. I pray you will follow what God has led you to do and persevere to do it. 

"Whatever you do, do your work heartily, 
as for the Lord rather than for men, 
knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. 
It is the Lord Christ whom you serve." 
Colossians 3:23,24

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Traditional publisher or self-publishing? How do I know which path to choose?


Today's Christian writers are blessed with multiple publishing options. It's important to know what path to take, but it isn't always easy to know which one to choose. 

Traditional Publishing
Companies that take all the responsibility and expense of producing a book. They do the editing, book cover, printing a book, and some of the marketing. 

    Some major traditional publishers
  • Thomas Nelson
  • Zondervan
  • Baker Books
  • Revell
  • Bethany House
  • Kregel
  • Moody Publishers
    Pros of using a traditional publisher
    Credible and professional result. Readers recognize the traditional publisher and the finished book should be of high quality.     
    Access to major book awards. 
    No upfront costs to the author.
    More marketing/speaking opportunities.

    Traditional publishers often require
        Authors to have a platform (followers) of 50,000 or more.
        Manuscript or idea to be submitted through an agent. 
        A year or more from the manuscript to publication.
          (Publishers can delay publication or never publish the book.)
        A contract giving them complete control and ownership of the book and the royalty amount to be paid to the author.
         Publisher can decide to take the book out of print.
        Author is expected to actively participate in the marketing.

Royalties - Author receives 5% to 15%. Libraries and bookstores purchase books at wholesale price. The publisher and agent also keep a portion.

The author takes full responsibility for (and has control over) the production of the manuscript, cover, and marketing. They can do it all themselves or hire editors, cover designers, and marketing experts. They typically publish through Amazon and Ingram at little or no cost.

    Pros of self-publishing
    Complete control over the look, style, and marketing of the book.
    The publication timeline can be as quick as a few days.
    No agent required.
    Print on demand availability means you can keep the book active as long as you want.

Note - there are many indie book contests available.
    Inexperienced authors can produce low-quality books that give an unprofessional impression.
    The author pays for the editing, cover design, formatting and marketing expenses.  

Royalties - Author receives 70% to 30%. No fees go to an agent or publishing company. If you sell through wholesale distributors such as Ingram, your royalty will be lower.

Hybrid publishing  A blend of indie and traditional publishing. The author has a team they pay to work with them.  
    Pros of hybrid publishing
        Authors have a team to guide them through the process.
        Authors often retain some creative control in the process.
        Usually faster than traditional.

        They can require ownership of the book.
        Costs can escalate quickly. 
        It's sometimes difficult to know if a company is reputable or not until the author has invested heavily.
        Remember you are hiring them for services. Some offer pricey "complete packages." Others have you pay as you go along and see how much help you need. You might not realize the number of professional services your manuscript and cover needs and underestimate the cost.         

Royalties - range from 20% to 50%.

Beware - There are many reputable hybrid publishers who produce quality books as well as those who do poor work and customer service. 

Note - There are many small presses that act as indie publishers and pay a modest royalty. They typically require some control, require the author to pay for having the book professionally edited and formatted.


How do I choose?

Before you make a decision, 

    consider attending writers conferences. There, you will make contacts and have opportunities to ask people who have already been published about potential agents and publishers.
    Also consider joining a good critique group, such as Word Weavers, to hone the craft. Just because you have a great story doesn't mean you have a manuscript that meets industry standards. 
    Study writing and editing techniques from professionals. Numerous books and blogs are available. 
    Be ready to edit, rewrite, and take constructive criticism from those who are already in the industry.
~Making the choice~

What is most important to you?
    If the prestige, credibility, and highly professional book are important to you. 
    If you already have a major following.
    If you want access to major book awards. 
    No upfront costs to the author.
    More marketing/speaking opportunities.
Make sure you are willing to wait for publication, receive small royalties and turn over your creative control.

    If you have experience in writing and publishing and have a critique group who can help with editing.
    If you want to retain complete control over the look, style, and marketing of the book.
    If publishing on a fast timeline is important to you. 
    No agent required.
    Higher royalty rate.
    Make sure you are willing to navigate the creative, publishing, and marketing aspects or hire someone to do those.

    If you are willing to hire a team to guide you through the process.
    Retain some creative control in the process.
Make sure you understand the costs, potential costs, and restrictions, as well as talk with other writers (benefit of writers conference) before you sign a contract with them. 

Dear writer,
Many options are available for you to publish the books God has laid on your heart. The world needs to have them, so 
  • take your time. 
  • Pray first and often. 
  • Seek godly counsel. 
  • Ask other writers who have information about each option and then 
  • pray again.