This piece originally appeared on the ACFW blog on June 22, 2017.
I’ve been thinking a lot about hope lately in relation to writing, and how we can forget to cultivate hope in our quest for publication, sales, and reaching readers. When our hope buckets are empty or nearly so, we find ourselves fighting discouragement, resentment, envy, and jealousy. We lose our contentment where God has us and wallow in self-pity and despair.
Hope is the antidote to those ugly emotions that sap us of our creativity and our joy in writing. But hope can be tough to hold onto in the midst of lackluster sales, no contracts or awards, and low readership. Hope is easy when the accolades and contracts and publications mount up, isn’t it? It’s a breeze to feel hopeful when your agent calls to tell you about a new book contract, but it’s harder when publishers don’t respond to your proposals or your work is languishing in no-man’s land of an agent’s manuscript pile.
Without hope that someone will read our books, we wouldn’t write a single word. It’s hope that spurs us to put our thoughts onto a page and turn that page into a novel. It’s also hope that separates the would-be writers from the real writers because real writers press on even when hope seems like a tiny flame instead of a roaring bonfire.
Real writers see hope in the little things: a great descriptive line, the plot that came together, the story that made you cry as you wrote it, and the love between a man and woman. Real writers feel hope as their stories take shape, knowing that the One for whom they write is pleased with their efforts…even if those efforts don’t see the light of day. Real writers feed that hope by honing their skills, encouraging other writers, and becoming better writers.
How do you keep hold of hope when your circumstances seem to dictate otherwise? Here are a few suggestions.
Mentor a new writer. I’ve found my own hope renewed by talking about writing with my two young teens and a few of their teenage friends. They’ve asked me to run a writing club again this summer, where we meet a few times to talk about writing and they work on stories together. Seeing their enthusiasm and teaching them a bit about how to write fiction can be so encouraging.
Attend a writer’s group or conference. Learning about your craft and meeting fellow writers can be wonderfully restorative to one’s own hope. Hearing about someone’s success can make you believe that your own success will come in God’s perfect time.
Write. Keep writing, keep striving, keep using your gift to put words on paper. Being able to weave stories is a gift, so don’t hide it under a bushel—let it shine on the page.
We all feel discouraged at times no matter where we are in our writing careers, but remember to keep hold of your hope even in the midst of disheartening situations or a downturn in your writing. Hope not in vain, but in the knowledge that somehow, through your writing, God will be glorified.
This piece originally appeared on the ACFW blog on June 7, 2016.
Are you a writer? If you answered yes, do you believe, deep down inside, that you are indeed a writer?
Too many times, we say we’re writers but our actions say another thing. For example, you meet someone for the first time and are asked what you do. Do you…
Say you’re a writer?
Say you’re a writer but________________(haven’t been published, don’t have an agent, aren’t as good as X author, or whatever other qualifiers that negate the statement).
If you write—published or not, paid or not—you’re a writer. Period. No qualifiers, no excuses. I know it’s scary to call yourself a writer when you don’t feel like a “real” writer. Proclaiming you’re a writer is the first step toward becoming a writer. Writing, like most things, is an action—it’s not passive. You can’t say you write if you actually don’t, um, write.
Calling yourself a writer means you have something to live up to, and that’s where the actions of writing come into play. If you’re a writer, you should act like a writer by…
Taking writing seriously. So many times, writers hem and haw about their writing in conversation to others, making excuses about their lack of publishing success or their small publishing numbers. Stop. Just stop dithering and say with confidence, “I am a writer.”
Carving time to write. Writers who are serious about writing make time to write and guard that time jealously. That means that you should turn off your phone, close your email, and concentrate on putting words on the page during the time you’ve scheduled for writing. And it also means giving yourself permission to say no to those who request pieces of your writing time for other, worthy things. Yes, sometimes, life dictates a detour from writing, but writers should have a plan on getting back on track.
Honing your writing craft. Take writing classes, both in-person and online. Join writing groups like ACFW. Be active in smaller groups, like online critique cells or local chapters. Pass along your knowledge to other writers. All of these things help make us better writers.
Being open to criticism. Whether from an agent, editor, contest judge or critique partner, we need to be able to read criticism, not as a slap down of our writing ability, but as part of the process toward making our writing better. Remember, no writer is perfect!
Reading books. Read your genre and read other genres. Read fiction and nonfiction. Read books that challenge you as a writer. Reading other authors exposes us to new ideas and thoughts, as well as help us see where the market is heading.
Encouraging other writers. Whether through leaving a comment on a blog, emailing an author directly or having a face-to-face conversation, encouraging other writers in their journey is good for you as a writer. Focusing on other writers can also be a great antidote to being pessimistic about our own writing status.
Repeat after me: I’m a writer. Now go forth and write!
Engaged by Julie Arduini — Trish Maxwell returns to Speculator Falls with egg on her face and apologies to make as she tries to determine what’s next, especially when around paramedic Wayne Peterson. (Contemporary Romance from Surrendered Scribe Media)
Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter — When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down. But when Josephine drives out to Noah’s North Georgia cottage to deliver the corrected papers, they are trapped there during a snowstorm. Things couldn’t get worse…until they are forced out into the storm and must rely on one another to survive. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Zondervan])
Then There Was You by Kara Isaac — Would you give up everything for a life you hate with the person you love? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
An Encore for Estelle by Kimberly Rose Johnson — A former A-list actress seeks to redeem herself in the most unlikely of places—a children’s theater. The writer/director didn’t anticipate a famous actress would ever show interest in his musical much less him. Will their pasts pull them apart or join them together? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
The Cowboy’s Baby Blessing by Deb Kastner — When Ex-soldier Seth Howell suddenly becomes guardian of a two-year-old, he needs Rachel Perez’s help. Though she is gun-shy about relationships, this handsome cowboy and his adorable son break through. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Finding Love by Toni Shiloh — Delaney Jones is putting her life back together after widowhood when in walks Army soldier, Luke Robinson. Luke had a part in the death of Delaney’s husband–will his secrets widen the gulf in their relationship or will he finally find absolution? (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit)
The Copper Box by Suzanne Bratcher — When antiques expert Marty Greenlaw comes to Jerome, Arizona to search for a copper box she believes will unlock the secrets of her past, deadly accidents begin to happen: someone else wants the copper box, someone willing to kill for it. (Cozy Mystery from Mantle Rock Publishing)
Katie’s Quest by Lee Carver — Katie Dennis hopes for fulfillment as a single missionary nurse after the death of her fiancé. She trusts God for a new direction, but she’ll never fall for a pilot again. (General Contemporary, Independently Published)
A Sweetwater River Romance by Misty M. Beller — Rocky Ridge Stage Stop Manager Ezra Reid is put in a difficult situation when two ladies show up on his remote doorstep seeking refuge, one of them being Tori Boyd, the mysterious correspondence partner writing him letters for over a year now. Tori refuses the most proper solution to their circumstance—marriage. But when danger follows, it will take a lot more than luck to ensure Ezra’s heart is the sole casualty. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)
High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin — In German-occupied Brussels, a WWI nurse struggles to keep two life-threatening secrets. She’s in league with the British Secret Service, and she’s harboring a wounded British pilot. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])
The Captain’s Daughter by Jennifer Delamere — When a series of circumstances beyond her control leave Rosalyn Bernay alone and penniless in London, she chances upon a job backstage at a theater that is presenting the most popular show in London. A talented musician and singer, she feels immediately at home and soon becomes enthralled with the idea of pursuing a career on the stage. A hand injury during a skirmish in India has forced Nate Moran out of the army until he recovers. Filling his time at a stable of horses for hire in London, he has also spent the past two months working nights as a stagehand, filling in for his injured brother. Although he’s glad he can help his family through a tough time, he is counting the days until he can rejoin his regiment. London holds bitter memories for him that he is anxious to escape. But then he meets the beautiful woman who has found a new lease on life in the very place Nate can’t wait to leave behind. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)
Grounded Hearts by Jeanne M. Dickson — Set in WWII, an Irish woman must choose between her heart and her freedom when she finds a downed combatant pilot. (Historical Romance from Waterfall Press)
Mail Order Sweetheart by Christine Johnson — Singer Fiona O’Keefe must make a wealthy match to support her orphaned niece. Musically talented Sawyer Evans is a self-made, but not wealthy, sawmill-manager. Unwilling to live off his father’s railroad fortune, can Sawyer prove to Fiona he’s the man she needs when she’s already determined to mail-order a rich husband? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Freedom’s Price by Christine Johnson — On a quest to find her mother’s family in Louisiana, Englishwoman Catherine Haynes enlists a dashing Key West man seeking revenge for his own family. When an incredible secret comes to light, she and Tom will face a choice. Can they relinquish their dreams to step forward in faith? (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])
Sutter’s Landing by Betty Thomason Owens — Still reeling from tragic losses, Connie and Annabelle Cross face life with their signature humor and grace, until fresh hope arrives on their doorstep. (Historical Romance from Write Integrity Press)
Hidden Legacy by Lynn Huggins Blackburn — When someone threatens the baby she’s adopting, Caroline Harrison must rely on Detective Jason Drake, the man who once broke her heart, to figure out why. If Jason wants a chance at a future with with Caroline and her son, he’ll first have to help them outrun a hit man. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Weaver’s Needle by Robin Caroll — Pitted against each other to recover a map to the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, two recovery specialists follow the trail to Arizona. But someone doesn’t want them to find the map. . .or the mine. They must work together despite their mistrust and growing attraction, to save themselves. (Romantic Suspense from Barbour Publishing)
The Revisionary by Kristen Hogrefe — Revisionary or Rogue? To rescue her brother, Portia might have to break every rule in the book she set out to rewrite. (Speculative from Write Integrity Press)
Redemption’s Whisper by Kathleen Friesen — Desperate to escape her past, a suicidal young woman flies from Toronto to a Saskatoon pastor’s home, the only people who may be able to help her. If only someone could love her, in spite of all she’s done. On the flight, she meets a young man torn between seeking affirmation in the big city and helping his parents in Saskatoon. Can these two troubled souls gain the peace they need—and in the process, find love? (Women’s Contemporary from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])
All Things Now Living by Rondi Bauer Olson — Her whole life Amy has been taught the people of New Lithisle deserve to die, but when she falls for Daniel, she determines to save him. (Young Adult from Written World Communications)
Here in Northern Virginia, the weather is warming up (sometimes too quickly!) and we can see the lazy, hazy days of summer right around the corner. Thinking about summer always brings to my mind what books I’ll read and where I might like to read them. Here are some of my favorite places to curl up with a book and lose myself for a few minutes (or, if I’m lucky, hours!).
My reading chair in our bedroom. Nice lighting, comfy seat–what could be better?
On our screened-in back porch. I need to get some floor lamps to make reading after the sun goes down easier.
In our screen room while camping. We have some of those really nice gravity chairs that make reading very cozy away from home.
Pretty much anywhere when on vacation. Since we’re less connected to our regular life, I have more opportunities to slip into another world.
Where are some of your favorite places to crack open a book?
This piece originally appeared on the ACFW blog on April 14, 2016.
The idea comes to you in a flash of brilliance. The plot, the setting, the characters all jumble together like a kaleidoscope of words just waiting to be brought into focus by you. You eagerly sit down in front of the computer, fingers poised over the keyboard and a fresh, blank document open on the screen.
Is there anything better than starting a new story? All of that promise just waiting to be realized fills a writer’s heart with joy.
But what happens all too frequently is that the new idea comes knocking at the door when you’re in the middle of your current work-in-progress (WIP). It’s hard to keep plodding on the manuscript you’re with when a new love comes to town.
When that great story idea bursts upon your consciousness, here are five tips to stay you focused on the WIP—and not alienate completely the seed of perhaps your next novel.
Remember that the grass is always greener. The story you haven’t started will inevitably appeal to you more than the story with which you might be wrestling. The new story doesn’t have any flaws or hiccups—it’s pristine and beautiful to the behold, while the current manuscript might have bogged down in the middle, had an ending change or character flaws.
Remember that all stories have to grow up. The new idea is only in its infancy, in which it is cute, cuddly and without many of the problems or pitfalls a fully grown story will have. Yes, it appears quite charming now, but give it time to grow up and it will resemble your current WIP.
Remember that ideas come and ideas go. The idea you think is fantastic now might fall apart after the first couple of chapters. Sometimes, stories sound better in our heads than they do on paper.
Remember that putting the idea on paper looses its power. Take half an hour to jot down enough details to capture the essence of the idea. Once you have written down the storyline or plot points, you will be free to return to your WIP with a clear head.
Remember that finishing will help you start. The more we leave manuscripts unfinished to start a new story, the harder it is to bring any story to its denouement. Having the fortitude to finish the story—even if it’s one that will never see the light of publication—will help you become a better writer.
By allowing the idea to flourish in its proper place, you will be able to concentrate on your current WIP. And remember that the storyline will wait for you as long as it takes. That’s the beauty of ideas—they can be very patient things.