Encouraging Parents – Post #3

“My Story Doesn’t Bring Glory to God”

Earlier in this series of posts, I mentioned that I spoke at a homeschool conference in May and shared some scripture verses about doing everything – including writing – for the glory of God. After my session, I was down at the Great Waters Press booth selling my book and talking to some amazing young writers. One young lady came up to me. She said her name was Sarah, and she was really shy. I could tell she was almost scared to talk to me, but yet she wanted to talk to me so desperately. She told me that she didn’t have a network of people who helped her with her writing, and she really wanted to tell me about some of her ideas for books. I tried to be as warm and welcoming as I could and help put this young lady at ease. Sarah started telling me about her idea, and I felt my heart sink. Sarah obviously had talent, but she was writing a ghost story. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to crush her hopes and dreams, but I knew that I couldn’t remain silent in this area. Sarah finished telling me her idea, but before I could say anything, she told me this:

“But, as I was listening to your talk and those Bible verses, I realized that my story doesn’t bring glory to God. So, I decided that I wasn’t going to work on that story any more, and instead, I have an idea for a girl who’s going to public school who has a really hard time, but in the end learns about God and ministers to kids in her school. What do you think?”

What did I think? I was ecstatic! The Word of God had pierced this young homeschooler’s heart. One day I hope this book will be on shelves in bookstores everywhere because it would have such a big appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike. While I could tell that it was hard for Sarah to lay down her ghost story, she was still excited for the future and what God has in store for her. In the end, I know that she will feel more fulfilled and joyful and be more in love with Christ than ever before because of her decision.

Encouraging Parents – Post #2

Encouraging Your Children In Their Writing

While I am not a homeschooling parent, my parents have homeschooled me from the beginning. My dad taught me that the only way to improve in my writing was by writing a lot, getting edits, and then writing again. For my book, “A Cry From Egypt,” I did over ten drafts of the book to get it to where it is today. My dad told me that when he was in school, his writing teachers didn’t tell him how to write. They didn’t explain to him how to make an outline, make his papers have a point and a consistent flow, or how important revision was. Instead, they simply corrected grammar and gave him low grades. He didn’t get any constructive criticism until college when he had a professor who taught him the importance of editing and re-writing. Constructive criticism, focusing on the main goals and ideas over the perfect grammar or spelling, is what will help your children succeed in their writing.

While your children need support and constructive criticism, you also need to encourage them to write for a purpose that brings glory to God. As parents, give them support. Be genuinely interested in their writing and in their stories. If they veer off of their theme and towards another direction, help them get back on track. Encourage good morals and strong, scripturally-based truths.

The last, but probably the most important point, is to help them to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ. My parents helped fuel my relationship with Christ and kept me sheltered from worldly or sinful atmospheres and thoughts. They encouraged me to be in the Bible every single day and to do my personal quiet time in the mornings. They did family devotions with my little brothers and me every night. They gave me books to read with a Biblical worldview. Books from Vision Forum, Mantle Ministries, Grace and Truth books, and biographies showed me what living for Christ really meant. My mom read the entire Elsie Dinsmore series aloud to me when I was younger. But we didn’t just read books. We discussed them. My dad read the entire Chronicles of Narnia series aloud to us. We talked about the allegories that were found in the books and the spiritual truths. We also talked about C.S. Lewis’s theology and searched the scriptures to see where he was accurate and where the scriptures had other things to say.

When our parents gave us opportunities to watch movies or read books that had less-than-Biblical morals or lessons in them, we saw the negative lessons and steered away from them. We held those books and movies up to Scripture instead of the world’s standards and reviewed them critically and with discernment. Now granted, it takes a long time to cultivate wisdom and discernment in your kids. But the younger you start, the easier it becomes. When my dad and I were talking about my blog post this week, he was talking about all the ways he and my mom encouraged me to develop a Biblical worldview. I’ve been surrounded by it for so long that I didn’t even realize how deliberately my parents were discipling me and pointing me towards Christ.

This may seem like quite the uphill battle. But I promise you this – your children are hungry for the Word of God. They want to live upright and pleasing lives. They have the capability to take back the medium of writing for God’s glory!

Check back Monday for the last installment with an inspiring story on how God’s word changes the lives of our homeschooled children!

Encouraging Parents – Post #1

We Need Homeschooled Writers! 

God can use your homeschooled children to take back the medium of writing for His glory!

How do I know this? I’ve seen it! And I’ve seen the overwhelming need for good, spiritually solid Christian books to fill the shelves of bookstores all across the nation and all across the world.

When I was about sixteen or seventeen, I was finishing up my sixth or seventh draft of my book, “A Cry From Egypt,” which is now published. I went shopping with my mom one day, and we ended up in a Christian book store. I hurried over to the young adult section, dreaming of the day when my book might be on those shelves. But I was very discouraged. Many of these so-called Christian books didn’t appear to be Christian in the least! They were filled with boys and romance, as well as disrespect to parents. God might be mentioned occasionally, but it was only when the characters were so desperate and far away from God that they would turn back to Him for a few moments. The teenage years are some of the most important and formative years. We shouldn’t be filling boys and girls’ heads with garbage and relationship drama. Instead, we need to be pointing them towards Christ and His Word and His commands.

I realized that there aren’t many excellent books out there for young people that are written with a solidly Christian worldview. They’re either not written well, or are very light and fluffy theologically, or are preachy and the readers can’t relate to the characters and end up being discouraged instead of challenged. My goal in writing became to take back the medium of writing for God’s glory. He’s the one who blessed us with the ability to write and create stories that can captivate the world. Why do we not write books that lead people to Him? Why don’t we write books with heavenly values instead of earthly values?

You may be wondering, “How does this apply to my home-schooled children?” Homeschoolers have some huge advantages when it comes to writing and publishing books. They have the time and creative energy to work on honing their craft. And in many cases, they have a solid Biblical foundation which is what turns a great book into a life-giving book.

It’s amazing the responses I’ve gotten from budding young authors when I talk about writing, and in particular writing for God’s glory. Young adults and teens come up to me after my sessions with some of the most amazing story ideas I’ve ever heard! There’s so much talent and excitement coming from our youth! But there is also something that concerns me. While many young writers are incredible talented, some don’t really have a point to their writing. They may have an amazing plot and characters and a good moral to the story. But their chief end is not to glorify God, but to glorify man. This has truly grieved me. Our Christian young people need to be separated from the world in all areas of life, not conformed to it, especially in writing! There is such a need! It saddens me to see this amazing talent not being channeled in a way that will yield eternal benefits to the world.

At a conference I spoke at in May, I quoted Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” I also read 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether, then, you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

How do we encourage our homeschooled young adults to write great stories and books as unto the Lord?

Check back on Saturday for more advice to parents!

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.”

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.

Week 14, Step 14: “Is There Such A Thing As Being Too Humble?”

Actually… Yes there is.

Let me explain.

Last week we talked about pride. We talked about how pride is the root of all evil and how it can cause so many issues in the lives of Christians, young people, and writers. But here’s something I did that is almost just as bad. After I realized how prideful I was, I almost became too humble. You’re probably thinking, “How is that even possible?” Oh it’s possible! Let me show you.

If you’re a perfectionist (like me) then you can sometimes take things to the opposite extreme. For example, when I realized that I was being prideful and overly critical of others and what they were saying about my story, I started to buy every little comment they gave me to make my writing better. I started catering to what everyone said and became fearful of man instead of fearing God. Thank goodness none of my editors pointed me away from Christ. But there were things that were suggested that would’ve taken away from the story.
I was a part of a writing group for several years. Everyone else in the group was writing fantasy that was geared towards older teens and young adults. Their writing was awesome, suspenseful, gripping, and very action-packed. Then…. There was my book. “A Cry From Egypt” is geared more towards 8-16 year olds, though I’ve had 4 and 5 year olds all the way up to college students and adults like it! But my friends who were fantasy writers didn’t really love to read my story because it wasn’t as exhilarating and exciting as all the other stories that were being passed around in our circles. They read it and enjoyed it and helped me work through it. But they kept saying it needed to be more suspenseful. I started to worry that my book was too bland and that people wouldn’t enjoy it.

However…

When I brought my worries to my dad he told me, “Look, your stuff is exciting. It’s right from God’s word. That is what makes it exciting. Not the fact that there are people about to die in every chapter. Not about how action-packed it is. Not how much you can relate to different characters or put them in near-death situations. It’s about God’s word and His story. If you add any more action and mystery you will be taking away from God’s word and the message that people need to learn through the ten plagues.”

And boy was he right! I’m so thankful that I listened to him and stayed as close to the Biblical account as I could. Now, I did add some suspense and adventure and excitement. After all, what’s a good book without some moments where you’re holding your breath and dying to know what’s happening next? But action isn’t the main theme of my story. God is. And the funny thing is, lots of people who have reviewed my book now that it’s published thought there was almost too much violence and action in it! Good thing I didn’t add any more! :-)

I also had two editors who I loved very much give me some very radical suggestions. They suggested that I combine “The Promised Land Series” into one giant book. They also suggested that I cut out some character entirely from the story. Wow. That was pretty wild! But these were people I trusted and who knew me and who knew my goals for the story. So, I prayed. I tried to use what little wisdom God had given me. And I talked with my dad. My dad and I agreed that we shouldn’t turn my series of four books into one giant book. But we did realize that the characters my editors mentioned were in the way. However, I couldn’t just get rid of them. I had to think long and hard, but I was able to minimize their importance in the story so that I can pull them out when I need them, but they weren’t distracting from the story any more. If I had taken their suggestions hook, line, and sinker, there would be no book entitled “A Cry From Egypt”! But if I didn’t listen, the book “A Cry From Egypt” wouldn’t be as good as it is today, by God’s grace. :-)

So to summarize what we’ve said over the last two weeks and give you your homework….

1. Be humble! Be a listener and be teachable in all of life, not just your writing.
2. Pray for wisdom and use discernment when evaluating feedback.
3. Fear God rather than man.
4. Remember that other people are prideful, too, and they will want to write your story for you.
5. Listen carefully to suggestions you receive for radical changes (my dad and I just talked about some big changes for book 2!). You don’t always have to take them, but be prayerful and think it through and find the root or source of the big problem in your writing.

Happy Writing! Be sure to email me any questions you have that I haven’t answered so far in the series! It’s only 4 more weeks until the final blog post! Come back next week to learn about the different publishing routes you could take as a budding author!

Week 13, Step 13, “What Will Keep You From Becoming a Published Author”

Now I want to share with you the one main thing that will keep you from becoming a published author. Actually, this blog post isn’t just for authors. It’s for every single person in all of the world. And it’s something that most people don’t really talk about today, particularly in Christian circles. You ready to know what that one thing is? It is…. (drum role please!….)

Pride.

Now you’re probably thinking right now, “What? Pride? That’s it? I’m not prideful! No problem for me!” Well… If you thought that – or anything close to that – you just became prideful.


I’m going to open my heart up to you here. Up until the last year, I was a very, very, VERY prideful and judgmental person. I didn’t realize it. Whenever I heard about pride I just assumed that everyone else struggled with it. I didn’t think it was my issue. But then I started a Bible study called “Seeking Him” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss in preparation for a play I was in about the life of Jesus. We got to the pride chapter and I thought I would just whiz through. But each page and Bible verse that I read stripped the blinders from my eyes. I saw that when I compared people to myself and put them down that that was pride. I saw that my defensive spirit and desire for everyone to see me as the “perfect child” was pride. I saw that my desire to do well was not to please God, but was centered around the praises of men. I found myself crying my eyes out in my office, absolutely devastated that I was so entrenched in my sin. I now realized how it had affected my relationship with my family, my friends, and most importantly, it was hindering my growth in my relationship with God. God hates pride. He abhors it. Pride is the root of all evil. Pride is the sin that got Satan kicked out of heaven and started all of the sin in the world.

I’m not saying that I have mastered this area of my life. Pride is still a struggle with me each and every day. A bunch of reviews came in for my book this week and I had to be very careful as I read them that I would not get a big head or start to become prideful in my capabilities. I know now that it’s only because of Christ that I have the ability to write at all!

I’ve noticed that many Christian young people today, just like me, can be kind of closed off from other Christians and even the world because we think, “Oh, we’re Christians. We’re better than them. We have God and our lives are in great shape.” We also think that we as Christians have to show people our good side. But… As soon as we think that, we’re falling into pride. I’m saying this to you to help you. Please, don’t grow up prideful and judgmental. Not only will it affect your writing but it will affect your walk with God and your relationship with all other believers. You will be a dead Christian if you’re filled with pride.

But how does this apply to your writing? Well, unfortunately, many authors are prideful. They think that they are awesome writers, that they have all the answers, that they can do it all without God or without the help of editors and readers. But we can’t! We have to seek help from others. We don’t have all the answers. God put people in our lives to help us as iron sharpening iron. If you don’t let others look at your book, read it, and critique it, your writing will stink. You need help. It’s really hard but with God’s help, you can do it. You can seek help. You can write something wonderful and powerful for God’s glory. But you must empty yourself and let God fill you with Himself and His spirit.

I’ve met many, many budding authors who wouldn’t accept help at all. And, unfortunately, their writing really wasn’t good. Either that or they had a great talent, but when I pointed out errors they wouldn’t listen. People like that aren’t going to become published authors, or at least they won’t have the impact and the reach that they could have if they had humbled themselves and developed their full potential. Publishers also know when someone is not being humble and teachable. They are much less likely to work with you and publish your book if you aren’t willing to make necessary changes. Don’t go for the easy way out! Here’s some hypothetical examples of what a prideful writer could look like. NOTE: These aren’t actual people or circumstances, but are very loosely based off of general problems I’ve seen or heard about in beginning writers.

Helen has always enjoyed writing and had a good idea that brought glory to God’s name and showed evil for what it really was. She began writing and shared her story with some of her friends. Her friends loved her theme, her characters, and her writing style. But as Helen sent out more and more chapters, her friends began to feel lost. It felt like the characters were wandering aimlessly and not making it closer to the goal that had been presented in the first two chapters. Actually… The goal wasn’t being talked about at all any more! A whole new goal had been introduced. But that one also wasn’t being advanced correctly, either. Helen’s friends pointed this out to her. They said, “You’re a great writer! We love your characters and your story. But you’re losing the plot and trying to do too many things at once.” Unfortunately, Helen didn’t listen to them or agree. She continued writing, but her book didn’t get any better. Slowly, very slowly, her friends lost interest in her book. A great writer and a great theme that showed how terrible and cunning darkness is was wasted.

Eric is a very fun-loving guy who has won prizes for his book reports and short creative stories. He started to develop a new book that was several chapters long. He wanted it to be a character-driven, fast-paced fantasy. All his friends in co-op loved his ideas and begged to read each new chapter. Then one girl name Melanie came up to him one day. “Hey Eric, I love your book. I really do. But your two main characters… They argue all the time. And it was funny to start off with. Now it’s just kind of old. I think your humor is great! I just think that you need to pull back the arguing. It isn’t uplifting, and it’s starting to take away from all the other awesome things in your story. Several of the other kids and even Mrs. Beven, the literature teacher, agree.” But Eric didn’t listen. He thought that the comedy was better left in. And it ended up ruining the story.

Meredith wasn’t the best writer ever, but she had an idea for a medieval story that she and her best friend, Connie, really enjoyed. Meredith wrote out the first two chapters and gave them to some of her friends at church who were really good at writing. When her friends gave her back the two chapters, Meredith was discouraged to see that they were covered in red ink. Grammatical and spelling errors abounded. Several things were unrealistic. But at the end of the 15 pages everyone had written something like, “You have a good story! The theme of forgiveness is something that everyone needs to hear. If you just learn these grammatical rules you’ll be off to a great start!” But by this point Meredith was so upset that she discarded her story and never worked on it again. The world missed out on a story that would have been convicting and challenging.

Mark had written stories ever since he was nine years old. He joined a writing group at his local library when he turned fifteen and started a historical fiction based in the Civil War. But soon he got a lot of edits and started to get a bit disheartened. He started another story based on World War II. But he only got a few chapters into that before starting another historical fiction that took place in Rome during the 1st century. His writing group started to pressure him to finish one of the books and not keep adding more. He was a good writer! He just needed to finish what he’d begun. Mark is now twenty-five years old with six or seven story ideas that he’s never finished.

You see, we must listen. We must pray. We must evaluate our attitudes and our actions and accept the advice others give us.

I was a part of a writing group for a period of time. I’m blessed that since I’m writing Biblical historical fiction I never really get writer’s block or get stuck because my plot-line is already written! It’s the Bible! But there were plenty of times that I wrote something very cheesy, especially when I tried to describe the plagues. You should’ve read my first version of the plague of darkness! When I would get stuck or hate a section of my story, my writing group would throw out random ideas. They really, really helped me. Some of the best ideas or parts in my book were suggestions from other people. Bryan Davis, the writer of the “Dragons in our midst” series and the “Oracles of fire” series gave me an idea for a plot-line to go through all four of my books! If you’re not open you could miss some very important ideas and critiques.

In closing, here are some scripture verses from Proverbs (the book of the Bible that I’m studying now) about pride and its dangers. Be sure to check back next week for a blog post about humility, and how extreme humility can also cause issues to yourself as a writer.

Proverbs 8:13, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.”

Proverbs 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.”

Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”

Proverbs 29:23, “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.”

Suggested Homework:

1. Pray and ask God to cultivate a spirit of humility in you.

2. Look at some of the edits that you’ve gotten back for your story and start fixing it.