Meet “Lemuel”!!

Hello All!

I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite fifteen-year-olds in the world, Brandon Hall. Brandon is playing the role of “Lemuel” in the radio drama. There is a very interesting story for how he got cast as that role.

Brandon is in my acting group, and I soon found out that he lived very close to Tori, who’s playing our “Jarah.” I was already bringing  Tori back and forth to CYT, and so I eagerly offered to bring Brandon along for the ride, as well. I had noticed his love for the Lord and how he was a true servant-leader in the class and really cared about people. He was also fun to be around, and liked writing. It would also make two boys and two girls in our carpool (Brandon and my brother, Caleb, Tori, and myself). We love our awesome carpool, and it’s never complete without all four of us there. We have so much fun! :-)

Brandon Hall as “Lemuel”

But anyways, back to the casting story. I was impressed with Brandon’s audition and saw that he was really diligent and dedicated to his work. As I was thinking through which guys I knew could play which roles, Brandon came to mind as Lemuel. For the very first cold-read I did for the radio drama, I asked Tori and Brandon to read one of the scenes together (chapter 2, as a matter of fact). While I didn’t show this to Brandon and Tori at the time, I was literally jumping up and down inside. As I heard them both speak, I could hear my characters. It was one of the coolest feelings I’ve ever experienced!

Several guys tried out for the role of Lemuel. And while they all did a great job, I kept coming back to Brandon because of how his voice sounded in the role. We talked it over, and while Brandon was worried that he wouldn’t do a good job for me, everyone was impressed by how well he pulled off the part. There are some intense, and some very serious things that he has to act out! And he nailed it! :-)

Brandon is a also fellow writer. He’s got a great story idea going right now. Hopefully he’ll get it published in just a few years! :-) But instead of doing the traditional “introducing you to the character,” I actually interviewed Brandon and had him write up almost everything himself. Here’s what Brandon says about himself and his portrayal of “Lemuel”:

Brandon: “I am a 15 year old sophomore attending my homeschool, Royal Oaks Academy. My favorite subject is English. My favorite hobbies include running, video games, and creative writing. Ideas for college and beyond are hopefully to write novels, or to use the talents God has given me that are related to English; be it teaching, publishing, editing, or writing, I’m planning on spending my life around words a lot. They can be very powerful.

“Probably the coolest thing about Lemuel is that he was around my age. However, he had the mindset of an adult and wisdom beyond his years. It was very cool to explore and portray a character who had been forced into adulthood so early, due to his slavery. Experiencing a sliver of his life led me to wonder how a modern 15-year-old would cope nowadays under that kind of pressure. Lemuel’s life has been an encouragement to me to stay strong and trust God in the hardest of times.

“The entire recording process was incredible. Being surrounded by friends and siblings in Christ, while making a novel come to life, was an experience I won’t forget. It may have included many crazy late nights, and copious amounts of whipping and screaming, but it was a very positive and amazing experience.

“I for one have always struggled with the Old Testament. Some chapters and books have always been tedious for me. Growing up, I heard the story of Moses over and over. I had the “John 3:16 syndrome”; while I could rattle off a verse or story from memory, some things had become stale and bland in my eyes. The process of reenacting the lives of Hebrew slaves really made Exodus come alive for me. In turn, it’s helped me appreciate and better understand the lives of many more Old Testament characters.

“A recurring theme that I noticed throughout this process was how well History and Fiction were blended. For example, when all of the plagues struck Egypt, it was interesting to see the Hebrew point of view and how they reacted. I especially liked the character of Mariel, Jarah’s mother. Viewing the plagues from the lens of a Hebrew who believed in the Egyptian Gods was something I had never considered. I suppose the diversity of beliefs in general was what stuck out in the story; it would have been easy to simply make everyone a devout follower of Yahweh, or a rebellious Hebrew.

“One of my favorite experiences was when Hope was recording the beating scene. The script said that I was supposed to be thrown into a wall, and then beaten. So, we started recording, and I threw myself against the mattress and fell to the floor. Patrick, the overseer, started whipping the pillow next to me, and I began to scream bloody murder. Apparently I was very convincing, because everyone outside of the recording closet was freaking out, thinking that Patrick was actually beating me up!” (Note from Hope: That was probably the scariest moment of the whole recording process! When Brandon hit the wall and cried out, I almost screamed. It sounded so convincing! I really thought he was hurt!)

“I sincerely believe that God brought this specific group of people together, under Hope’s direction, to do something awesome for his Kingdom. The Bible says that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” He has brought us this far, and I am looking forward to how he will use it in the future.”

Meet Shayna!!

Hello All!

Naomi Koch as “Shayna”

I would like to introduce you to Naomi Koch who is playing the role of “Shayna” in our radio drama! Naomi is one of my very best friends and accountability partners. I met her just over a year ago in our local Christian acting group. She’s incredibly talented! And really, she’s not bossy at all. Well…. Let’s rephrase that. She’s only bossy if she’s got a camera in her hand and is working on a photoshoot, or teaching one of her art classes. But in both cases, she’s entitled to be bossy because she knows her stuff! :-) Her artwork and photography skills are incredible! But even more so is her devotion to God, her family, her friends, and her work. She is so diligent, and loves to study the things of God and point others to Him. When I first met Naomi, she asked if we could go out for lunch. As we ate, she questioned me on exactly where I stood in my faith with Christ. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised that she was so bold and so passionate for the Lord. Many of my close friends at the time wouldn’t come out and ask me deep questions like that! She’s truly one of the best young ladies I know. This is what Naomi says about herself and her portrayal of “Shayna”:

“I like to think of myself as a passionate artist and follower of Christ! That pretty sums up who I am. I try to live and surrender my life and walk to Him every day. Apart from my Savior I have no purpose or true meaning in life. He is my All and All. He paid the price for my sinful nature and I live continually in awe of His overwhelming mercy to save me from eternal death!

“I am secondly an artist and art teacher. I have many students who I have the blessed opportunity of being able to inspire and be inspired by. I am growing as I watch them grow. It is so amazing to see the many talents God has given them being put to good use!

“Acting and singing are also hobbies of mine! I got started in drama about two years back when I joined a theater group called Spiritual Twist Productions/Christian Youth Theatre. It has been one of the greatest experiences of my entire life and stretched me in so many ways! God has really used it to teach me a lot about dedication, hard work, patience, and acceptance of His will.

“Being a part of the radio drama was such a great experience on so many levels! There were so many great moments that created lasting memories I will never forget! For starters, portraying my character Shayna was a real adventure to say the least! I am not sassy or flirty, and I’d like to think I’m not very bossy either. (My family might say differently.) Rather than learning a good lesson of what to do from my character, as many of my fellow actors did, I learned many lessons of what not to do. I am very happy to be able to say that I don’t think I really relate to her in any way. She was fun to act though. I mean, where else can you get away with bossing your friends around?

“I certainly will never forget the many retakes and attempts made at Shayna’s “flirty giggle.” That had to be the most awkward and embarrassing moment of my life. But I think one of my fondest memories was getting to ad lib in the background with all the “siblings” in one scene where “the mom” was shouting around the house. What was simply supposed to be chatter in the background between the kids turned into hilarious banter and bursts of laughter!
“I am so excited to see how God will work in the lives of young ones through this book and audio drama. I am blessed to be a part of it, and I cannot wait for book two!”

Meet “Eitan”!!

Hello All!

Let me introduce you to Jonathan Walton, who is playing our “Eitan” in the radio drama. I’ve known Jonathan for nine years now. He’s been a great friend and role model to me in so many ways. I’ve enjoyed our conversations about music, school, life, acting, and the spiritual discussions we’ve had during plays and Bible studies. It’s very obvious that Jonathan puts God first in his life, and that has been a huge blessing to many. Jonathan is also a phenomenal actor. I’ve had the privilege of acting with him in a few plays. I was his gun-loader in the spiritual twist version of “Les Mis,” and when he was “Jesus” in the Christian Youth Theatre production of “JESUS!”, I was the woman who anointed his feet with perfume. He always worked so hard in his roles and I enjoyed acting with him.

When we started with this process and I knew I needed to find a talented guy to play “Eitan,” Jonathan immediately came to mind for two reasons. First, he’s a great actor, a good friend, and had many similarities to Eitan. The second reason is actually rather comical… When Mike, my illustrator, was trying to finish up the cover for “A Cry From Egypt,” I couldn’t stand the way he kept drawing Eitan. He made him look like Moses from “Prince of Egypt.” I kept trying to get Mike to change the way Eitan looked on the cover, but Mike was having the hardest time finding a picture in his mind to help him make the switch. I was trying to think of people we both knew that could possibly look like Eitan. Nothing was clicking for either of us. I finally said, in exasperation, “Ok! Think Jonathan Walton with longer hair!” When Mike brought the revised cover back to me, I was like, “NO WAY!! That’s it!!” So, Jonathan ended up on the cover as Eitan, and it made perfect sense that I should try him out as the part. :-)

Jonathan Walton as “Eitan”

The day of the cold read, I was camping out in the Campbell University library working on the radio drama. It was finals week, and I had somehow managed to grab a group study room. When Jonathan got out of classes, he met up with me in the library. I knew that I didn’t have a ton of time to decide who was which role, so I immediately threw Jonathan into the middle of everything and asked him to do a cold-read of the proposal scene to see how he did. I read for Ada, and he read for Eitan. He nailed it!! I remember listening to his voice and getting so excited that I forgot to try and act, myself! He even sounded like he was really, truly crying! It was amazing. Just wait until you hear it! That and the whipping scene. Oh goodness! Chills! :-)

Jonathan Walton was home-schooled all through grade school and is currently studying Criminal Justice at Campbell University. He has a passion for music and acting, and has been involved in musical theater for eight years. During that time he performed in more than sixteen productions, and was a stagehand for over twenty productions! Jonathan plays a variety of instruments including the acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, banjo, piano, mandolin, and harmonica. Jonathan currently leads worship for the youth group at Sovereign Grace Church in Apex, North Carolina, and also helps play music for his small group and, occasionally, for the worship time at the Sunday morning service. Here’s what Jonathan said about playing his role:

“I really enjoyed playing the part of ‘Eitan’ because of his strength of character. I can relate to the struggles that Eitan deals with, and it made the role easier for me to portray. ‘A Cry From Egypt’ is a book that people of all ages can relate to and learn from. I was encouraged by reading the book, and even more when I actually working on the audio book. The rest of the cast are Godly examples to me, even though many of them are younger than I am. I’ve known all of them for many years, and I have grown to love them even more through the time spent recording. I hope you enjoy the story, and more than that, I hope you learn by listening to it.”

 

Meet “The Queen”!!

Hello Everyone!

I would like to introduce you to “Her Majesty.” :-) Julia Johnson has been in our church for over eight years now and is one of my very good friends. We were practically neighbors for several years, and we’ve had so much fun growing up together and doing ministry work and acting together. Julia is an amazing actress. From the roles she’s played in Christian Youth Theatre plays with me, some evangelism skits that we did, and her roles in short movies such as “California Johnson and the Second to Last Crusade,” I knew that I would have so much fun trying her out for a part in my radio drama. She nailed her cold-reading as The Queen, and did such an amazing job in the recording room. Her crying and screaming scenes were amazing! I was shocked by how well she did and how realistic it sounded.

Julia is a 2012 home school graduate. She is a professional actress whose work so far includes background acting in film and TV. Her favorite subject in high school was science. Julia loves traveling and linguistics. She has a passion for acting, dancing, singing, playing piano, and all things musical. If she were stuck on a desert island with one food of choice, it would be “Curried Beef a la Tim.”  Julia hopes to one day go wingsuit flying. This is what Julia says about the whole recording experience:

“When I first read ‘A Cry From Egypt,’ I was able to see the story of Exodus in a light I never had before. Hope’s writing style is so engaging and vivid that it was easy to imagine the characters and places in the book. When she asked if I would be interested in being a part of the Radio Drama, I was ecstatic. At first, I was a little unsure about how I would portray the screaming scenes. One night I told God that I knew I was nothing on my own, but that with His strength I could do anything. After giving it over to Him, He gave me such a wonderful peace about the process. As Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”   I pray that those who listen to ‘A Cry From Egypt’ will be as blessed by hearing it as I was by being a part of it.”

All That I Need

It seems as though my most thoughtful blog posts come out on Mondays…. Not quite sure why that is….. But oh well. Here’s a rambling author’s thoughts for the day. :-)

These past couple of months have been incredibly hectic and crazy around here. What with having three birthdays in our family, the Christmas season, my parents going on a 2-week long mission trip to Africa, the recording of audio for my book, my grandparents needing some extra care…. Ahh! Not to mention that I’m trying to get my speaking schedule lined up for next year and somehow make head-way on all of this audio editing and working on ideas for the study guide and my second book. Oh, and teach piano to fourteen amazing students and enter a few in a competition. Whew! Life is never boring!

But as I’m trying to make all the decisions and sort through things, today I kind of realized that I wanted a normal life. Just for a little while. It just doesn’t seem like there’s enough of me and there’s always so many things for me to do. But this phrase kept coming to me…

God is all that I need.

He is everything that I will ever need.

We say that all the time. I say that all the time. I say it when I write, when I speak, when I teach piano. I know you home schooled moms say it many times each day as you teach your children and take care of the home. But today I realized…. I don’t believe it. I know it, but I don’t believe it. Deep down in my heart, I can’t seem to accept it. And now I know why.

I rely too much on myself and on my family and my friends. Today, I had to think about what my life would be like if I didn’t have my family or my friends. I realized that I might not be able to handle it.

This year, I’ve made it my commitment to learn to trust completely in God, to make Him my best friend first. Jarah’s journey is so similar to mine in all of these books. She’s learning the same thing – making God her best friend first. And obviously, both of us need some more work in that area. :-) Thankfully we still have three books to go and we can learn together! :-)

Here’s some verses to meditate on if you’re still struggling with trust and Jarah and I seem to be. :-) And just keep saying “God is all that I will ever need” to yourself. And then maybe, we’ll all be able to believe it together. :-)

Psalm 9:10, “And those who know Your name will but their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.”

Psalm 37:5, “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will bring it to pass.”

 

Psalm 56:3-4, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?”

Psalm 62:8, “Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah”

Psalm 73:28, “But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, That I may declare all Your works.”

My Book is Coming to Life! :-)

Hello All!

It is with great pleasure that I announce to you that we have decided to start recording my book and turning it into an audio drama! Trailers and promos are first on the list of production, but maybe one day it will actually be completely finished and you can listen to my book as dramatized and acted by my friends and family members!

We’ve had several recording days and have made many wonderful and amazing memories. I’ve pulled people from my family, church, and local Christian acting group to play the parts in my book. We are very far away from having anything listenable, but over the next months you will be seeing sneak-peaks of behind the scenes footage, get some previews of the recorded audio, see lots of pictures, and get to meet the cast and crew! :-)

Please be in prayer for us. A lot of this is super intense. Though I’ve done some acting coaching in my time, I was not completely prepared for this task. It’s a completely new medium of acting to me! And the editing and recording process is a very long one. It will take a lot of work, perseverance, and prayers from you all in order to have some finished products.

Thank you for your prayers and support! I can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on with you all!

Here’s the first picture for you all! This is part of our recording set-up. I’m working with our “Jarah,” played by one of my dear friends Tori MacDonald. Can’t wait to show you all the rest! :-)

 

Week 18, Conclusion: “Titles”

Well, since no one emailed me questions this week, I found something else to talk about, instead! This question was asked of me at the NCHE conference in May:

“How did you come up with the title for your book? Also, should you do chapter titles or not?”

So, here’s my answer. :-)

Actually, to start off with, I picked a different title for my first book. My original idea was “God Will Deliver Us,” because that was what all the characters were begging and praying throughout the course of the book. My publishers didn’t really like the name, though. It was very catching, and it didn’t reveal anything about the nature of the book. After a lot of discussion, we decided on “A Cry From Egypt.” It let prospective buyers know that the book was placed in Egypt, and it made people wonder what happened in the pages.

I’ve had a very hard time picking a title for my second book, which covers the crossing of the Red Sea and goes all the way to Mt. Sinai. I thought about “Following the Cloud,” but that sounded cheesy. We came up with “A Nightmare at Sinai,” and “Trial at Sinai.” But “A Nightmare” sounded too scary. I didn’t want parents with young children to be scared off from reading my book. “Trial” made me think of a court session with a judge in a big white wig with a gavel. So I didn’t like that one.

Then my dad and I were talking about my book and the themes in my book. We were also discussing how so many people today say that God in the Old Testament is completely different than the God of the New Testament. That is so not true! God is just as merciful and loving in the Old Testament as in the New Testament. The Israelites are just humans who failed, as we all do, to listen to God’s instructions. And that is even more obvious in the Old Testament! Even at Mt. Sinai, God could’ve killed all of the Israelites right there! Instead, He was merciful. So that gave us the idea for our book two title: “Mercy at Sinai.”

So, tips for coming up with a good book title:
1. Make sure it makes people who read it ask a question. It should grab their attention immediately. Book titles will make or break a book!
2. Keep it short. Try not to use more than eight words. Generally speaking, titles should be between two and six words.
3. Pick something that hints at the main theme of your story.
4. Even picking a quote or line for your story might work!
5. If you’re stuck, have some people read it and give you suggestions. It’s ok if you don’t have a title until the very end, by the way. If you don’t know what your theme is, you don’t necessarily need a title.

If you’re wondering whether or not to give your book chapter titles, here’s some thoughts.

If you’re writing for younger children and teens, book titles help them keep track of where they are and keep them engaged. If you’re writing for older teens or adults, chapter titles aren’t really necessary. However, they can be very fun to write! If you’re going to write chapter titles, make sure you do it right! Don’t give away major events. Don’t write out a summary of the entire chapter. Give us a little snapshot of something. Some of my chapter titles are as follows:

Rameses
Jarah’s Question
What Happened at the Nile River
Frogs?
Thank You
A Hardened Heart
Trapped in the Darkness
Back in the Palace

They either summarize events, ask questions, or make you want to keep reading. :-) Do NOT write chapter titles if you write them like G.A. Henty. For example: “A Captive.” Me: “NO! I didn’t want to know that he got captured!” OR…… “Marie Arrested” or “Escape.” Me: “Well thanks for ruining the whole book!” Do not write chapter titles like that. Or like this:

“Chapter Six: When Harry Goes on a Wolf Hunt to Find the Great Wolf and Ends up Getting Injured.” Don’t give away the whole chapter like that, either. :-)

Thank you all for reading my blog series! I hope that I’ve been able to help you and encourage you along your own writing journey. I will continue to update my writing blog with new events and happenings with my first book and second book, and other writing tips and news. Thank you so much! Happy writing!

Week 17, Step 17: “The Summary…..” :-)

And now we come to the closing of our blog post series. I’m going to summarize the points I’ve made through this series right here so that you all can look back at them and see if there’s anything you missed or that you want to look at in more detail.

But before I summarize that, there is one point I would like to make.

I know that I have a variety of people reading these posts. I’ve heard from people as young as thirteen and as old as retired adults. This point is mostly geared towards young, single people.

I know a lot of you unmarried people are busy with school, family life, serving Jesus, spending time with friends, etc. Some of you probably really like writing but think, “I don’t have time to write. I like it, but I only work on it sparingly because I don’t have time. I’ll work on it when I’m older.” Well, I hate to break it to you, but life doesn’t become easier as you get older. Really, it gets much harder – AND busier! These single years before you’re married and staying at home with your children or working full-time is the BEST time to focus on your writing and see where God leads. Don’t put it off! Do it right now! Don’t wait until it’s too late. If God really is calling you to write, make it a priority and do it! I promise that you will regret it later.

Now, the summary…. :-)

Inigo Montoya: “Let me explain… No, that would take too long. Let me sum up.” :-)

1. Always write for God’s glory, putting His sacrifice and His desires above money, status, or fame.
2. When trying to get an idea, spend lots of time in prayer. Rely first and foremost on God’s inspiration. Remember to ask your family and friends for help, ideas, and other inspirations.
3. Find at least one writing buddy to keep you accountable and make you finish writing.
4. When starting your book or story, limit all detail. Introduce people and events slowly. Have a very, very grabbing opening that will force people to buy your book and read it!
5. The first sentences are crucial to catching the attention of your reader. Make them grip the reader!
6. Make sure you write a complete first draft. It is very important to God to finish what you’ve begun and to make sure all of your thoughts are tied together.
7. When it comes to firming up your plot-line, write out your main character(s) journey and make sure their are dips when your characters have conflict and ultimately a climax and resolution.
8. Remember to have the moral to your story be one that honors God. The main character also needs to have a spiritual journey where they learn to become more Christ-like in some way, shape, or form.
9. When you’re writing the middle, persevere! It will get better. Get your writing buddies to help you. Skip around in the story if you have to.
10. Make your climax huge and suspenseful! Keep the resolution short, or even have NO resolution if you’re writing a series of books.
11. As you start to revise, find people who know what they’re doing to help you and work with you to accomplish your goals.
12. Make you have readers, editors, copy-editors, and possibly a professional editor. They are invaluable!
13. Avoid pride as much as possible. Be teachable. Learn from others.
14. But don’t be too humble! Don’t fear man more than you fear God.
15. Pay about what publishing route you need to take. Where is God leading you?
16. For short stories, limit your use of characters. Make them all unique and different. All of the same rules apply, but condensed! :-)
17. Remember that Jesus is the one who gave us the gift of writing. He deserves all the praise we can give Him!

So there you go! That’s the summary of my blog post series! Please email me any questions you have that I might not have answered in the series. I’d love to hear from you!

Next week will be the Q&A week to wrap everything up. Please email me at hope@hopefulstories.com if you have a question that you want answered!

Happy Writing! :-)

Week 16, Step 16: “The World of Short Stories”

I’m sure some of you who have been following these blog posts are writing short stories.  Some of you are probably more entitled to write a blog post about short stories than I am! :-) I’m actually not very good at writing short stories. I’ve done a few, but I’ve only been happy with one of them. (By the way, that story should be released in just a few weeks to the world! I’ll be posting it here.) So I’m just going to give you some tips. And if there’s something I’ve missed, please feel free to comment and tell me – and everyone else! – what to do to make our writing better.

In some ways, writing a short story is way easier. Your plot line and build-up to the climax is a LOT shorter. There’s less details to worry about because it usually doesn’t cover a very long time. But there are some things that will help guide you along this process.

1. First of all, use very minimal characters. The less time you spend introducing people, the better. That means that having huge families or big nations is probably not a good idea. The ideal number would be between 3 and 12 people. There are 5 main types of characters in your story. Having one of each of them makes for a great short story.
The Protagonist: The hero or heroine, the one on the journey
The Antagonist: The villain OR the idea or fear or thought that is trying to stop the hero from accomplishing their goals/dreams
The Mentor: The one leading, guiding, and/or protecting the hero
The Side-Kick: The one who supports your character and helps them and goes through all the struggles with him/her
The Comic Relief: The character who could act as a side-kick or an assistant to the villain who provides some good laughs or less suspenseful moments
The Romantic Interest: This one is actually not completely necessary, but almost every single GREAT story in the world has some small amount of romance in it. However, there are many EXCELLENT stories without romance. Take the Chronicles of Narnia, for example! But adding a hint of romance to your story, especially if it’s done Biblical, is not a bad thing.

All you need are those five or six characters to have a good story. And some of them can even overlap! The comedic character and your side-kick can be combined into one. Your side-kick and romance character can be combined into one. There are several options and combinations. Many children’s books only have two or three main characters. But really, you don’t need a ton of characters to have a really good story.

2. Figure out your plot and how each of the characters fit into it and when. Use the same plot-outline that you would use for a big book, but make it a lot shorter. Make sure there’s still a grabbing opening, a struggle, a climax, and a short resolution.

3. In the beginning, don’t introduce everyone at once. Introduce the main character, then slowly add everyone else. Don’t overwhelm us with a ton of facts. All the necessary information should be given in just a few sentences or paragraphs. Make sure you have an opening that will really grab the audience!

4. For short stories in particular, you don’t really need to say much about your characters, the surroundings, etc. The less that can be explained, the shorter and more compact your story is, and the more exciting it will be because you’ll be using more dialogue. Readers LOVE dialogue. They can picture so much more using dialogue than whatever long descriptive paragraphs you can write in your story. And sometimes for short stories, when every single word counts, description can get in the way and take up unnecessary space.

So, to summarize….
1. Short stories are very similar to tiny itty bitty novels. Most of what we’ve talked about in the other blog posts apply in a condensed form.
2. Limit your characters! Pick them carefully and make sure they fit the character-types that we’ve discussed.
3. Remember to have really short introductions and an intense or mysterious opening!
4. Don’t put in much description at all. Let the dialogue be your description.
5. Spend time writing out a plot-line that works before you write out the short story. Make it compact and very plot-driven instead of character driven.

That’s it! Don’t forget to email me at hope@hopefulstories.com to ask me any questions that I haven’t answered! Week 18 is going to be our last and final week and our Q & A week! Thank you for reading!

Suggested Homework:

For those of you writing short stories, put into action the points listed above.

For those you who are NOT writing a short story, try it! Pick a character that’s in your novel and write a short story about them. It’s good experience, and you can possibly use it to publicize your book when you get ready to publish it!

Week 15, Step 15: “Publishing: Which Route To Take?”

So, about publishing. This is every writer’s goal and dream. It’s the end of a long, hard, but rewarding race. But, it can also be very, very overwhelming.

What I’m going to tell you today is what I’ve learned from my publishers and other writers about the publishing process. I’m going to lay out three different paths that you can take and tell you the pros and cons of each. Then you can chose for yourself which path meets your goals. Decide what’s important for you in a publisher/publishing house and then go from there. Hopefully what I’m telling you today will help narrow down your options and get you heading in the right direction. 

Self Publishing

There are many advantages to the self-publishing route, but there are also several things that you need to seriously consider before you think you can do this all on your own. Here are the pros and cons.

Pros: You can keep your copyright of your book, meaning that you have complete control and everything looks the way you want it to look. There are many places where you can now self-publish very easily and order books on demand instead of having tons of books sitting around your house. Websites like Lulu and Xlibris provide easy ways to make this happen. There are many other websites out there that provide similar services. All you have to do is search “publishing your own book” on google, and there you go!

Cons: You have to do a ton of work. You also have to do all of your own marketing. It’s hard to get into major book stores – or any book stores for that matter – without a recommendation. It generally won’t look as professional if you do it all by yourself, which means it won’t sell as much. It’s also more expensive to print books on demand instead of printing large bulk orders because they charge way more per book.

Small Publishers

Believe it or not, there are a lot of small publishing houses out there that will do a decent job with marketing and getting your book professional-looking and ready to sell! Here’s a link to a database I found by simply googling “small publishing houses.”

http://www.pw.org/small_presses?perpage=*

Pros: Generally with small publishing houses, you have a more personal relationship. You can be very involved in your book and not feel like you have no access to your publishers. They help with some marketing so you don’t have to do it all yourself. If keeping your copyright is important to you, your best bet is to probably go to a small publishing house. You still get to be the “face” of the book and get to do all the important, yet fun and time-consuming stuff while still interacting with your audience. Royalty fees will usually be a slightly bigger percentage when going with smaller publishing houses.

Cons: They won’t have as big of a reach as some bigger publishing houses, so your book might not get too far to start off with. It also requires more work from you than just handing your book off to some big publisher, but you get more control.

Big Publishers

Pros: They do a lot of the work for you. They will get your book out on the market and get it selling. They look professional and they know their stuff!

Cons: Getting into a big publisher can take years, especially if you’re a new writer. You have to fill out tons of query letters and know published authors to help you work up the ladder. And once you do work up the ladder, sometimes your book just gets dropped by the wayside. If you give your copyright to the publishing house, you’re basically trapped with them and not able to do anything at all. Most big publishing houses take your copyright from you, though there are some publishing houses that I’ve heard of (Bethany Publishing House for example) that won’t take your copyright. For some publishing houses, if they take your copyright they will give you a date and time when your book should be out. Be aware that you can lose a lot by giving up your copyright. You’ll lose control and the ability to do things in your timing. But… you might also have a bigger reach in the long-run. Also, you only get a very, very small percentage of royalties compared to self-publishing or even publishing with small companies. I’ve heard as little as 5% of the money made on a book goes back to the writer.

My Search and My Experience 

So what was my search and my experience?

Well, at the beginning, my dad had a contact with LifeWay and I was talking to them about the possibility of publishing my book. But I was still open and exploring other options, particularly Bethany Publishing House. I began to put query letters together and realized that I really needed an endorsement from some published authors or well-known writers. I asked Hal and Melanie Young of Great Waters Press to read my book to see if they could recommend it. They did. They not only loved my book, but they asked me if I would consider publishing with them!

After a lot of prayer, God made it clear that I was supposed to publish “A Cry From Egypt” with Great Waters Press, which is a smaller publishing house with a huge opportunity for personal ministry. That’s what I wanted. It’s been a lot of work, but it has been so rewarding! I’ve kept my copyright. I’ve been able to advertise my book and really be in charge of what happens to it and making it turn out the way I wanted it. But my publishers have given me a ton of great advice on marketing and publishing a book and have worked hard to get my name and the name of my book out into the homeschooling community and beyond. I have an incredibly dedicated team behind me making all of this stuff happen! I really don’t care that I might not get as much money as I would with a big publishing company. I know that my publishers care about the message of my book and getting it out to the world. That’s what really matters — sharing God’s message with everyone we meet and everyone who reads our work, not the money. It has truly been an amazing journey.

So there you have it! Please remember to email me any questions you may have that I’m not addressing at hope@hopefulstories.com. We’re almost to week 18, which is questions and answers week! So please don’t hesitate to send those questions in! :-)

Suggested Homework:

Now is when you need to be finishing up the first or second drafts of your story! Start putting what you’ve learned into action. Don’t worry about publishers now, but do think about which route sounds appealing to you and pray through where God wants you to be.