Sunday, March 30, 2008

Celebrity Photo Opps ;-)

Wow, I'm bushed! After a whirlwind trip to Denver last week, catch up this week, and a speech contest...I need a day of rest!

I had to go on business to Denver. So for Easter break, I took my Japanese exchange son, hubby, and my own son with me. We wanted to show as much of our country as we could while the opportunity existed.

Easter was awesome. We attended church with friends and then explored the Red Rocks before driving halfway home that night. The Easter Bunny happened to put in an appearance at the Red Rock Visitor Center, lol. We couldn't pass up a photo with such a celebrity!

So now one week later, I am planning a bit of a relaxed Sunday. Church and a family dinner tonight. NO heavy plans during the day. It sounds blissful to me! Just a nice quiet day with a laugh filled evening.

I'd love to hear your relaxing ideas.

PS Come visit over at God Uses Broken Vessels for my daily blog.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fiction Writing 101: Lesson # 8

Action Verbs
By Molly Noble Bull

Strong verbs produce strong writing. For example, the verb walked is an action verb. However, it is considered one of the weakest verbs one can choose to describe the act of walking because it produces a weak mental picture of what is going on in the story.

The verbs below produce better mental pictures.
For example, staggered.
What does staggered mean to you. Could the word describe a person who is drunk? Sick? Injured? Drugged? Elderly?

How about raced? Ambled? Strolled? Skipped? Hiked? Trekked? Trudged? Hobbled? Limped? Hopped? What mental pictures do these words place in your mind?

Look up all the words above in the dictionary and write down the synonyms for each. Make a list of all the words you can find that mean walked and write them down. Then do the same with other action words. Looked.

Action verbs describe an action. Look up the action verbs below and make a list of them as well as their synonyms. Nodded. Waved. Sighed. Gasped. Giggled. Laughed. Cried. Wept. Trembled. Wiggled. Danced. Sang. Hummed.

Scan novels you read for pleasure, underline the action words and add them to your list.

I do a search of certain words before sending a manuscript to an editor. Some of these are: Was, Were, Just, and Even.
An early draft of one of my manuscripts might say –
Jim was tired and wanted to go to bed.

Before sending my manuscript to an editor, I would rewrite the sentence above and leave out WAS.

I might write,
Jim fell across the bed—clothes and all.

Can you see how removing was and inserting an action verb produced a better mental picture of how Jim felt?

Jim was tired and wanted to go to bed is what we call “telling.”
Jim fell across the bed—clothes and all is “showing.”

This seems like a simple lesson to complete, and yet if done correctly, it could improve your writing skills. Nobody can get a story or novel right the first time. Published authors rewrite their manuscripts again and again and again until they get them right. Try to get in the habit of rewriting or revision everything you write before sending it to an editor, and add some action verbs to vitalize you weak sentences.

This will be the last lesson in this series. But I will still be posting info on writing every Wednesday. Stay tuned.
Molly Noble Bull

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fiction Writing 101: Lesson # 7

The Short Story

by Molly Noble Bull

If you missed lessons one through six, you can read them—one after the other—at my new blog called Writers Walk. Here is the address.


Below are the elements of a scene as described in Dwight Swain’s book, Techniques of the Selling Writers.

The elements of a sequel:

Today’s Lesson:

Unlike a novel that can be the story of somebody’s entire life or several generations of a family, the short story takes place in a very short period of time—one or two days–several hours–five minutes—or less.

All good fiction begins with a hook. Like a baited hook used to catch a fish, a hook in fiction writing is a device designed to grab the interest of the reader. Here are three examples of beginning hooks. Choose the one that captures your interest and makes you want to read more.

*The moon cast beams of silver on the quiet lake.

*The woman staggered across the street as if she hadn’t even noticed the five o’clock traffic.

*The swollen river rolled on toward the bay as if it had a mind of its own.

All three of these are examples of good writing. But in my opinion, only one of them should be used as a beginning hook. Can you guess which one? Tell why you selected the one you chose?

I think the opening hook about the woman was the most interesting. It paints a picture in my mind and causes me to want to learn what happened next. Though the openings about the moon and the river sound good, they did not hook me and cause me to want to read more.

There are other reasons why the opening about the woman is better.
First, it introduces a character at the very beginning of the story.
Second, it presents a problem.
Think about the possible repercussions when you write about events in a short story or a novel.

Here are the elements or guidelines I use when I write a short story.
A title:
A beginning hook
A main character with a first and last name
A goal for the main character
A problem
Conflict for the main character in reaching his or her goal

You will want to begin your short story with a hook and a problem for the main character. You will want to end your short story with a conclusion that answers all reader questions, ties all the loose ends together and makes the reader feel satisfied.


Turn the story outline below into a short story.

Hook and character name:
Jim Browning stands on the curb next to an elderly woman that smells like she just spent several hours in a tub filled with liquor.
Jim’s goal:
He is on his way to an important meeting, and he cannot be late.
Before the light turns green, the woman steps off the curb and staggers across the street as if in a daze.
She stumbles and falls.
(How does this short story end?)

Using these same guidelines, write another outline. Then write the short story from your outline. Be creative. Your two stories should be as long as they need to be. But one to three pages might be best.

A Writing Contest!

Hey gang! Want to do something fun?
Rachelle Gardner is having a contest.
Hop on over to her agent blog and check it out!
Good luck!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Feeling snowy?

My writers’ group met last weekend, and our speaker taught us about Randy Ingermanson’s “Snowflake Method” for novel writing. The topic turned out to be very appropriate, considering we actually had a few snow flurries that morning (which is highly unusual for us Georgia folks at any time, but especially considering we were enjoying the sunny 60s just a few days beforehand)! We figured it showed once again that God does have a sense of humor. J

Anyway … I’d heard a lot about Snowflaking since dipping into the fiction writing world and had read Randy’s info before, but haven’t taken the time to go this route with any of my WIPs. I know it would probably save me time in the long run, but it’s hard to step back and work on all these “big picture” things when I just want to jump in and write!

But now that I’ve had a good look at it again, working through the process makes a lot of sense. I’m a list-making, check-off-box-loving kind of girl, so I already lean more toward the camp of plotters than seat-of-the-pants’ers. Not that I plot out every detail, mind you – it’s fun to have surprises pop up along the way as I write. Plotting just helps give me a framework for those surprises to happen in.

So here’s my question for those of you who are much further along the road to fiction publication than I am: do you Snowflake your WIPs, or have you ever tried it in the past? If so, what did you see as the pros and cons? How long did it take? And did you ever try it again, assuming you survived the first time?

I like the idea and might give it a whirl … I just want to be sure my Snowflake doesn’t become an out-of-control blizzard!

PS – If some of you readers are wondering what in the world I’m talking about, visit Randy’s site at for details on what the Snowflake Method of plotting is and how you go through it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fiction 101: Lesson # 6

Scenes, Sequels, And Scenes Without Dialogue
by Molly Noble Bull

We learned that scenes often contain dialogue. But not all scenes have dialogue. Action scenes are filled with emotions and action verbs like raced, jumped, grabbed, slammed, rolled, socked, darted, nodded, danced, laughed, frowned and many more, but action scenes contain little or no dialogue. Nevertheless, they are still called scenes if they contain the three elements listed here.

Below is a scene without dialogue that came from my novel, The Winter Pearl. The novel takes place in Colorado in 1988.
The main character, Honor McCall, ran away from her abusive uncle, Lucus, after the death of her aunt. However, she is afraid Lucus will find her and force her to return to the farm.

Underline the goal of the main character in this scene and mark it in your margin. In this case, Honor has several goals. Mark all of them. Then underline the conflict which might include several sentences and mark it. Finally, underline the disaster in the scene and mark it. Study this scene well so you can write a scene without dialogue.

Honor still wore her best dress, the tan one she’d worn to the burial. When she’d wrapped her shoulders in her brown woolen shawl and pulled on her brown and yellow print bonnet, she snatched the vegetable basket from the shelf by the back door. Without another glance at Lucas, she went out.
The root cellar was to the right of the garden. If he was watching now, when his mind cleared Lucas would remember that she had turned in the opposite direction. Honor prayed he wouldn’t notice. Walking, then running, toward the wooded area behind the house, she discarded the basket as she fled.
The cool October air smelled of nuts and pinecones. The wind murmured through the bare branches of the trees, tossing the soft curls around her face. Below her bonnet, her long auburn hair blew every which way.
Honor darted a fearful glance behind her. Nothing moved. She slowed her pace, tying the ends of her knit shawl in a knot. The soft garment did little to shield her from the slicing breeze, but it was better than no covering at all.

By the time Honor reached the turn off that led into town, her breath was coming in deep gasps. She knew better than to stay on the road. If Uncle Lucas had a shred of wits about him, he would look for her there first. Besides, she couldn’t take the chance of being spotted. Travelers moved along the road all the time. Her best bet, she decided, was to follow a line of trees.
Darkness had painted the sky a grayish black by the time she arrived in Falling Rock. The bare trees looked like skeletons in the dim light of three street lamps. It was late enough that all proper folk were off the streets. The only men and women in public now would be those inside the Silver Nugget Saloon on the corner—or those standing outside that establishment. Honor skirted around and behind the saloon, making her way toward the church. Her aunt had told her that the building was kept open day and night. She would be safe there.
Honor hoped that by now Lucas would have passed out. Her best chance for escape hinged on his not coming after her until morning—and on her not being seen by anyone else. There were plenty of men around who thought like Lucas, and a young woman of barely nineteen years would be a quick target for them. Her aunt had cautioned her that such men were always out there.
As soon as she entered the church, Honor found a pew toward the middle of the chapel, and stretched out on it. Anyone who came in would not be likely to see her. She couldn’t afford to fall asleep, but it was nice to rest her bones.
A sudden growl of hunger rumbled from her belly, loud enough to be heard if a stranger stood nearby.
Sometimes scenes are separated from the paragraphs above and below them by blank spaces. This makes scenes easy to locate when reading a novel. Unfortunately, not all novels are written that way.

In Fiction, what Dwight Swain calls a sequel comes immediately after a scene.

What is the purpose of a sequel? A sequel comes immediately after a scene, giving the main character the opportunity to reflect on what just happened in the story. A sequel also provides the reader with the opportunity to rest before going on to another scene.

The elements of a sequel are ---

Reaction Defined:

The first part of a sequel takes up where the scene left off because sequels begin with the main character’s thoughts and reactions to what took place in the scene.

Dilemma Defined:

The dilemma for the main character in a sequel is deciding what to do next in order reach his or her goal, and there are often several options.

Decision Defined:

After all the options have been carefully considered, the main character makes the decision, selects one of the options and follows it.

Sequels are written in the narrative, and unlike scenes, they tell more than they show.

In fiction, all characters should be different. In this segment, you will learn how to write a proper reaction to a scene depending on the character you are writing about. You will also learn how to write a scene based on a sequel. Remember, a bold and outgoing character will act differently from a shy, frightened one.

Let us say that you just finished reading a scene where Jane breaks up with her boyfriend, Bob, after a big argument. Jane goes up to her room in a huff, leaving Bob behind. What might she be thinking as she climbs the stairs? And what would her reaction to their fight be a little later after she has had time to think about it?

Write a sequel based on the scene I just described and include the viewpoint character’s reaction to what just happened in the scene, her problem or dilemma, and her final decision as to what she will do next.

Then write a new scene that is at least three pages long that includes dialogue that is based on the information found in the sequel you just wrote about Jane.

Below are two possible scenes. Choose one of them, and write a scene that is at least three pages long based on the information below and include dialogue and action in your scene. Then write a sequel after the scene you wrote. Your sequel should be one page in length or a little less. After you have written your sequel, write another scene based on the information in your sequel, and make that scene at least three pages long as well.

Scene/Selection One:

Goal: Peggy was invited by her friend, Grace Brown, to go skiing in Colorado with the Brown family during Christmas vacation, and she very much wanted to go.
Conflict: Her mother thought Peggy should stay home to catch up on a school assignment she was behind in. Peggy cried and argued and threw a fit. She even tried to get her father to go against her mother’s decision. But Mom and then Daddy still said no.
Disaster: Peggy told the Browns that she had permission to go to Colorado when she knew she didn’t. Early on the morning they were scheduled to leave, Peggy was sneaking out of the house when her mother caught her. And what was her punishment? She was grounded for the entire Christmas holidays.

# #

Scene/Selection Two:

Goal: Roger needed money for a down payment if he hoped to go to baseball camp with his friends in the neighborhood next summer.
Conflict: But his mom refused to give him the money. Money was tight since his dad died, and they needed every penny Mom earned to support Roger and his little sister, Gale.
Roger got an after-school job sacking groceries at a grocery store and earned eighty-five dollars. On the day he planned to make his down payment, Gale fell and broke her ankle while roller-skating. And after Roger warned her to be careful, too.
Disaster: Mom needed seventy-five dollars to pay for setting Gale’s ankle, and she wouldn’t get a paycheck for another week.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Q & A!

I thought it might make for an interesting exercise if we asked a few published authors and aspiring authors to share a few thoughts on their path to publication. Here's what some of them had to say.
A special thanks to our two featured authors, Deb Raney and Susan May Warren, for taking the time to participate!
They both have new books out, be sure to check out their websites!

Deborah Raney - Author

1.At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
I think I first heard the call at 11 or 12, but later, as a young mom, I knew the Lord was saying "not yet." At 38, with our oldest headed for college and a 3-year-old I desperately wanted to stay home with, I knew I had the go-ahead to begin writing in earnest. So far, He hasn't said "stop" and I'll keep writing until He does!
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
I guess I'd classify this season as one of steady work, turning into a career as my youngest leaves home in the next year and a half. For now, God has said, "keep writing" in the form of a new 4-book contract. I'm thrilled about that, but where I used to say "I hope to be writing till the day I die," I now feel that there may come a day--hopefully many years from now--when the Lord may say "I have something else in mind for you now." I could see myself as an editor, because of how much I've enjoyed doing critiques, both for my critique partner, Tamera Alexander and at conferences. I remember my shock when LaVyrle Spencer retired from writing. But now that I'm a grandmother, I understand her decision a little better, and I can foresee a day when I might do the same. But again, I hope it's a long ways away. I still have a lot of stories to get out of my head. ; )
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey?
You know, I'd be lying if I told you I'd had many obstacles. The journey to being published has been fairly trouble-free for me, and by comparison, I can't complain about many rejections. I'm certainly not bragging about that. It's just the way things have gone. Maybe the Lord knows how weak I am, and how easily crushed I could be by rejection? If I had to name one time when I really struggled, it would be three-fourths of the way through writing A Nest of Sparrows, when I literally fell to my knees and said "Lord, I can not finish this book! It's too hard. There are too many obstacles with the research, and with all the other people and things needing my attention right now." But of course, as soon as I cried out to him and started looking in the right direction for my help, things came together much more smoothly, and that book ended up being winning or being a finalist for several awards.
4. What is your greatest joy?
If you mean in the world of writing, then it's a tie between hearing from readers and teaching at writers conferences. Both are incredibly rewarding. If you mean, in my life, it's being wife to Ken, mom to our four children, daughter to my parents, and now "Mimi" to our two little grandsons. I can't imagine anything more joy-bringing than the incredible family with which God has blessed me.
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Don't rush God. Wait for His timing. It may not be the same as yours, but it will be worth the wait. I guarantee it! While you wait, study the craft, read excellent books, read the kind of books you wish to write. Save up and invest in writers conferences and research trips and whatever else will help you become more skillful. Yes, being a writer involves a God-given talent, but it also involves good stewardship of the gift, which sometimes requires great sacrifice on our part.

Susan May Warren - Author

1. At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
I always loved to write, and considered it one of the gifts God had given me, that I needed to be a good steward of. I started by writing newsletters as a missionary, determining (and praying) to write the best newsletter I could, for His glory. Then, I felt the nudge to write devotionals, then magazine articles, and then, one day, God put it in my heart to write novels. I didn’t know what I was doing, so I asked Him to train me. It wasn’t until He moved us stateside, and I had a number of publishing contracts that I realized He was changing my focus from overseas missionary, to the ministry of writing.
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
I’m discovering that I can’t look at the other “runners” – that I need to keep my eyes focused on God, and listen to His voice. I have never felt competitive about this career, but I do want to write the best stories I can, for His glory, so I spend a lot of time in self-analysis, still asking God to grow me as a writer. Sometimes He leads me into different genres (like the Josey books – first person funny), or deeper stories (Taming Rafe – the story within the story). Now, I’m writing a funny mystery/suspense series. I am thrilled that He’s always got something waiting for me, and I love discovering that. When I trust the Lord for my writing journey, I don’t panic about trends or craft, I can just keep enjoying the journey.
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey?
I constantly have new ideas! I love writing – but I always want to write the NEXT story idea and I sometimes get frustrated that I don’t have time to pursue it. But, a great story takes time and focus, and putting new ideas on the backburner is a discipline I’ve learned. (as excruciating as it is sometimes!) However, again, I have to trust God for even my story ideas – that if they are ones He wants me to use, then they will be there when I hae time to write them!
4. What is your greatest joy?
Seeing my children read one of my books, and laughing out loud. Or better yet, having them get something out of my books that grows their faith. Second to that is seeing readers blessed by my books.
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Don’t get discouraged with the learning curve and the output of the publishing world. Dive into an abundant life with Christ, knowing that He’ll teach you what you need for each step of the journey, and that you’re relationship with Him is the most important part of your writing journey.

Terry Burns - Agent for Hartline Literary and Author.
1. At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
I was writing, but not sure I was being called to do it for the Lord. I went to the Glorieta Christian Writing conference with the express mission of deciding whether it was a calling or not. If someone would like to see what happened there my writing testimony is at
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
A big turn came for me when my agent recruited me to start working as an agent for her. After much prayer I decided I could serve the Lord better by helping get a number of people's words out where they would serve HIm rather than me doing a couple of books a year. I still try to write, but it is very much subordinated to the other role now.
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey?
Getting initially published in fiction. (see number 5) Keeping the faith and continuing to grow in my craft until it paid off.
4. What is your greatest joy?
Getting a letter that reading one of my offerings led a person to find or reclaim their faith. Hasn't heppened often, but it doesn't take many to make it all worthwhile.
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Never give up. If life was fair it would all be about the writing. The truth is the harder part is finding the right door at exactly the right time that our work will fit in that door. The majority of people do not substantially publish, but nobody tells them to quit, they get discouraged and quit trying or quit learning. The average for getting a first book published is six years, and far too many people give up before they have done what it takes to get there, to get to the point where it IS all about the writing. Unfortunately, persistence and dedication has much more to do with getting started in publishing than talent does. But once we get that break, the talent has to be there.

1. At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
7th grade
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
On the cusp of breaking out
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey?
Myself. Every time I’ve pushed out in my writing I’ve found success unusually quickly. My greatest obstacle has been pushing past the fear and risking. Risking rejection, failure, etc.
4. What is your greatest joy?
My wife and boys. Oh, you mean writing related: Sitting alone writing feels like I’m at the center of the universe. Much joy.
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Never give up. Ever. Ever.

Leigh DeLozier - Author and Contributor on Writers' Rest.
1. At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
I wrote and illustrated my first "book" for my mom when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade, so I've always been a writer. I didn't feel God specifically calling me to write until 1999, after our son was born. I was just beginning to try working from home and was praying about what to write and where to try and find work while I rocked the baby. God answered me as clearly as if He were standing right beside me and said the words -- write devotionals for moms who work from home. I was floored because I'd never heard directions so distinctly. The shock had worn off by the time Jonathan woke up from his nap and I hauled out the stroller to take him for a walk. I prayed about it almost the whole time -- Did you really tell me to do something? Because that's really cool, but I don't know what to write. If you want me to do this you'll have to give me ideas. Then ideas (mostly connections between my new life as a mom, my relationship with God, and working from home) began popping in my head almost quicker than I could think. I scribbled down as many as I could as soon as we got back home, but know I still forgot some. The ideas kept coming and I started writing. 31 of those devotionals became my first book. :-) And God still dumps just as many ideas in my head, it's just that now some are fiction and some are non-fiction.
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
In many ways I feel at a bit of a crossroads because I have so many ideas/choices and enjoy so many things. I love to write devotionals, curriculum, Bible studies, fiction. I love to speak to women's and girls' groups. I love to teach. I love to market and promote books. I've prayed quite a bit since January about whether God wants me to concentrate more on my writing (and even with that, on fiction on NF) or my speaking, or if He wants me to get more involved with helping others. He hasn't put a sign in my yard or yelled any directions to me yet so I'm still just working on what feels right at the moment. That means gearing up to promote my girls' devotional book, promoting my speaking ministry, and plugging away at my fiction WIP.
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey?
Waiting for my devotional book to arrive on my doorstep! The printing was delayed so the book I was scheduled to receive at the end of April didn't come until the middle of June. It was a huge lesson in patience and moving past frustration. In terms of the actual writing, my hardest times come when a project is rejected and Satan starts pushing those internal buttons that claim I'm a nobody, there's no way God could want to share a message through me, I'll never get anywhere with these projects. My own insecurities were an obstacle early on. I'd written tons of devotionals but hadn't shown them to anyone -- they were something special and private between God and me. Choosing a few to print out and show my husband for the first time was a huge step; actually submitting a few to a publisher was tremendous.
4. What is your greatest joy?
Writing or speaking for God, no matter what the topic is, who the audience might be or what format it's in. If it's a message He's laid on my heart, I want to get it out to someone. For a long time I've had what I consider my "real writing" that helps feed my children and my "God writing" that helps feed my soul. A couple of years ago Cec Murphey was the main speaker at one of my local writing group's conferences (he lives outside Atlanta so is incredibly gracious about coming to see us). He asked all about my work, and I told him I'd just gotten a rejection letter from AMG for a Bible study, though it had gone to committee. He looked at me with those intense eyes like only he can and asked, "What is your PASSION?" Before I could think, the words that popped out of my mouth were, "My God writing." It was true then, and it's true now. My greatest passion and joy, some of my happiest times and times of feeling closest to God are when I'm writing for Him. I have no idea whether He'll use those words for someone else or if He's just teaching a 1-on-1 lesson, but that time is never wasted.
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Always remember why we're here on this earth -- to glorify God and bring Him joy. Some people are able to make a living as a Christian author or speaker, but many, many others aren't. Maybe you'll be the next bestselling author; maybe you'll only share things with a few friends. Either way is OK, as long as God's at the center of it. If you're using the gifts He gave you in a way that glorifies Him, you'll receive your "pay" in ways you could never imagine.

Andee Davis
1. At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
As a college senior, He put a vision for writing fiction into my heart. He also showed me it would be a little later in life.
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
I am finding that what I thought was a long hallway of blank walls has many doors, and some of them are unlocking for me! I'm published but not yet in novels.
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey?
Walking down a long hall and finding the doors locked. I think that season is over.
4. What is your greatest joy?
As a writer, finding that what I have written in unrelated bits and pieces, early in my plotting and characterization, all begins to work together in ways that I never dreamed of. That's when I see that God has His fingerprints on my work.
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Never stop trying.

Jenness Walker - Contributor for Writers' Rest
1. At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
I guess I never had a specific moment when God whispered in my ear--you are a writer. I just have always had stories in my head and wanted to get them out. At first it was through Barbies and acting out stuff with my friends. (I once got in trouble for waking my parents up at 2 a.m., using a box of blinds as a sword. Not on them, of course.) Then I started writing stuff down and dreamed of being a writer. That dream just won't die. :-)
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
I have an agent, I just finished my third novel, and I'm doing some spring cleaning (um, well, that's what I'm supposed to be doing) before I dive into a new project. I see myself doing this the rest of my life--I have enough ideas for that, anyway. God...I hope He's leading me to publication. Soon. Because I really need a new car. And a bigger house. And... :-)
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey?
A couple years ago I really wanted an agent for Christmas, and it looked like that might happen. It didn't, and I cried--I think that's the only time I've cried over a rejection. Then I heard the Casting Crowns song, Praise You In This Storm (love that song), and that helped me get through it.
4. What is your greatest joy?
Coming up with the ideas. Seeing how the words spill on paper (or the screen, actually) and being surprised later at what I wrote. Watching as loose ends come together in ways I didn't even plan. Experiencing the "God things" that happen and the "God moments" when things suddenly click and the message in the story relates to my life. There are so many joys in the writing journey. I guess it's obvious I can't narrow it down. :-)
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Don't do it. :-) Quit right now. Unless, of course, you can't even imagine not writing. If that's the case, keep at it, never give up, and allow God to direct your path.

Jude Urbanksi - Author
1. At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
I've known intuitively most of my life that I was a writer.
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
I've only one book and a small smattering of articles published. I thought inspirational romance was my whole genre, but I think God is leading me also to nonfiction stuff too. I'm praying lots these days. I have just finished my first novel and am looking for a home and have started my second romance.
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey?
Taking or makig the time is one of my hardest obstacles for so much gets in the way even with the somewhat disciplined approach that I have. At times I feel it is a very selfish occupation, because of what it takes. (Then I remember my son in law saying his choice to be a physican was selfish also).
4. What is your greatest joy?
Creating words that give joy or help to readers.
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Read, read, read-in your genre, out of your genre and on your craft. Take it 'bird by bird' as Anne Lamont says.

Tiffany (Amber Miller) Stockton - Author
1. At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
My journey began many years ago. I wrote my first short story in 5th grade with several accolades from both my teacher and my fellow students. It was even entered into a ‘Young Writers of America’ contest and placed but didn’t get selected for publication. Ever since I learned to read at age 3-1/2, I’ve been telling stories, and I could often easily keep a captive audience. Writing seemed to be a natural progression from the verbal.
I wrote often, but it wasn’t until I was a Senior in high school that I got the ‘bug’ to write. My English teacher saw potential, and as an author herself, she encouraged me to pursue the talent further. However, I became more focused on finishing my education and getting my degree, so my writing took up residence on the back burner.
It wasn’t until 1997 when I wrote my first fan fiction and received a lot of encouragement and feedback that I realized I might be able to make something of this God-given talent. It took me another 5 years and encouragement from Tracie Peterson (one of my favorite authors) before I finally listened to that still, small voice and took the step professionally to begin a career by joining a national organization called ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), then known as ACRW (American Christian Romance Writers).
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
I have sold 4 books with the promise of 2 more and 2 anthology collection repackagings of those 6 novels. By the end of 2009, I'll have 8 books in print. This year, I'm working on finding an agent so I can present my books to a variety of publishers and diversify a little more. I also have felt God leading me toward writing for children and possibly young teens, so I recently completed a correspondence course and received my diploma. I'll begin targeting publishers for young readers and starting with articles or short stories.
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey?
For me, it’s often the lack of description of the surroundings and setting the scene that causes holes in my stories. Dialogue always comes easy as does the progression of a scene. But establishing unique descriptions or characteristics for my characters to make them individuals in their own right and not cookie-cutter or two-dimensional continues to vex me.
4. What is your greatest joy?
That would be completing my first book, because not only did it prove to me that I could finish one, but it also provided me the confirmation that I was in fact a writer. I learned so much in the writing of that first book. Although it has yet to see a contract attached to it, I believe it taught me a lot about myself, about my goals, and about where I want to go in my career. It also confirmed my talents that God has given me and showed me that I can use them successfully.
The second joy would be getting word that I had *sold* my first book and knowing this gift of words would now be able to touch other lives through the message in the stories.
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Writing is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of hard work, determination, patience, perseverance and faith. And it won’t happen overnight. You have to maintain a teachable spirit and be open to constructive criticism, no matter how far along in your writing journey you get. In the end, the rewards far outweigh all the sweat and tears you shed along the way. Most importantly, if you feel this is the path for you, never give up!

Deborah Vogts

1. At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
The first time I felt writing was the path God wanted me on was a few years ago when I received a special scholarship to attend the Nashville ACFW conference. That summer, he dropped two stories in my lap, allowed me to attend the conference where I met an agent that soon took me on as a client. At long last, I felt CALLED.
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
Since that conference, I've had several ups and downs, and now I'm up again. I am finally working on a project that has been stirring in my mind since Nashville and have a new agent to represent me.
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey? When I lost my first agent. :) She had taken me on for a project, but when we couldn't sell it, she let me go. That year was really hard, both the waiting, and then the eventual let down of not seeing a dream fulfilled. After I was let go, I felt like I was back at the starting gate and all those horrible doubts came drifting back--God, am I really called to do this???
4. What is your greatest joy?
Writing is fun anytime. But I think it is especially thrilling when you feel God is backing the story. It's as though he's giving you the words and you're the pen.What could produce more joy than that?
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Stay the course. Getting published is very difficult, and there are never any guarantees. But if you continue to hone the craft and learn, your chances are greater than if you quit. I may never be published, and I'm finally okay with that, but as long as there are stories in my head, I'll continue to persevere.

There you have it, folks. What a wealth of wisdom. Thank you so much to you all for sharing your heart and soul, and your passion for the craft we all love.
I hope you picked up on the one thing everybody touched on - don't give up! If this is the journey you know God has called you on, don't give up. Use all resources available to you. Learn, grow and keep writing. And never, ever, give up.
You will achieve those dreams in God's time!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

When was your last vacation?

It always surprises me that some people actually don't take vacations. When was your last one?

Rest revives you for your weekly grind. But a vacation revives you for the year.

I know several people that work 2 full time jobs! And no, they are not as competent as they would be with only one.

I'm sure there are various reasons from financial necessity to an overly stressed lack of security. But when you do this long term, everything suffers.

There's a chemical in your brain that will cause you to gain weight from fatigue. Shocked?

It's real. Your body is able to recognize the signs of fatigue. Fatigue signals a need for energy.

Think about it. If your body thinks you need energy because it's losing gumption, what will you do naturally? Of course, eat.

So what are you to do?

Give your fatigued body the break it needs! Take a vacation.

Let's say you aren't used to going anywhere. And what if you aren't confident or comfortable planning travel?

Pick something that fascinates you. For example: The photo above is of a ghost town mansion that's been restored in Nevada City, MT. I adore ghost towns. I'm drawn into the mystery of history. I explore to my heart's content.

What fascinates you?

Indulge in healthy fascination and revive your creativity, sense of peace, and lower the confusion caused by fatigue. Get out and explore, even if you just start with one day at a nearby place you've always wondered about.

PS Come visit me over at God Uses Broken Vessels

Friday, March 7, 2008

Introducing Susan May Warren

One of my all-time favorite authors is Susan May Warren. She’s also a former missionary, an awesome teacher, an incredible brainstormer, and just an amazing person all around. When I grow up, I want to be like her. J Her newest book, Taming Rafe, has just hit the shelves. To read my review, check it out under the books link at
I asked Susan just a few questions to go along with the rest of the goodies from her blog tour, so, without further ado, let me introduce the incredible Susan May Warren.
JW: As an author still trying to decide which genre is my favorite to write in, I find it interesting to see what the big wigs do. So far, you’ve written in a couple different genres. Do you have a favorite? And are there any others you’d like to branch out to eventually?
SW: I’ve written in Romantic Suspense and Chick Lit. Next year, I’m branching out into more of mystery/thriller series with a PI named PJ Sugar, although it will have all the elements of a SMW novel – a strong heroine, a romance or two, suspense, intrigue and of course strong spiritual elements. I love writing Romantic suspense, so all my books will have varying degrees of suspense in them, even if it’s not the main theme.
JW: Tell me about your writing space and routine.
SW: I have my own office, overlooking our beautiful property in the north woods. I start work about 8am, and work until around 4pm, when the kids come home from school. I usually do email and other projects in the am, and write in the afternoon. And, I’m always listening to music – usually XM radio, the cinemagic station, or the message (Christian music).
JW: I can understand about doing other projects in the morning. My brain doesn’t wake up until lunch. Speaking of food…what are some of your favorites? Food, hobby, verse, whatever.
SW: Let’s see: Hot buttered popcorn topped with parmesan cheese, Romans 15:13, favorite phrase: “Lord, let me make a difference for you that is totally disproportionate to who I am” (John Piper). Hobby: Reading? *grin* Favorite current TV show: Friday Night Lights
JW: Okay, I know you’re swamped, so just one more question for now. Or two, depending on how you look at it. Could you give us some words of advice—one writing related, one not?
SW: This world is not our home. It was never meant to satisfy us completely, but rather give us a foretaste of what is to come – heaven, eternity, joy. If you can spend your time on earth doing what you love to do, for the one you love, that’s an awesome thing. But even if you can’t, remembering that everything that happens is meant to push us into the arms of our Savior will help us not only stay upright, but run the race with focus and hope.
JW: Thanks so much, Susan. I appreciate the messages in each of your books and look forward to reading whatever you put out next!
If you haven’t read Susan’s books, put them on your must-read list! I have almost all of them if you want to borrow them, but if I were you, I’d just go ahead and buy a few. You can find them at or CBD. You won’t be sorry.
To learn more about Susan, check out her website at She’s hosting a contest, so make sure to enter! Rafe has his own blog, so check it out at where you can read the first chapter, watch the book trailer, etc. And if you’re an aspiring writer, check out Susan’s writing blog at

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Fiction Writing 101: Lesson # 5

Scenes and How to Find Them In Novels

by Molly Noble Bull

Whether a scene contains dialogue or is a pure action scene where nobody talks, a scene must contain the three elements listed below to be a scene at all. If a paragraph or a group of paragraphs does not contain the three elements, it is not a scene but what we call an incident. To be able to identify a scene when you see one, you must first know the three elements that all scenes must have.

Review: What are the elements of a scene?


Goals Defined:
A scene goal is whatever the main character in that scene wants to have or to accomplish. Dwight Swain says that well thought-out goals are something physical that you can take a picture of with a camera.
For example, you can take a picture of a plate with Mexican food on it. But you can’t take a picture of being hungry. So, the character goal in this scene must include the main character’s desire for Mom’s Mexican food.

A goal like that might be written this way.

Jim could practically smell as well as taste tacos, Spanish rice and refried beans as he hurried down the concrete steps of the school building. Today was Tuesday, and Mom always cooked Mexican food on Tuesday night.

From this, we can conclude that Jim’s goal is a plate of Mexican food for supper.

Other Examples :

A goal for one character in a scene might be to reach home safely during a thunderstorm.

The goal in another scene might be to steal a cookie from a cookie jar.

The goal of a young girl might be to become a cheerleader.

For a boy, a goal might be to make the football team or win first place at the science fair.

Conflict Defined:
In a novel, conflict is the element that keeps the main character from reaching his or her goal, and this element can be a person, an animal, an object or a situation.

Here is an example of a story conflict:

Goal: Jim could practically smell as well as taste tacos, Spanish rice and refried beans as he hurried down the concrete steps of the school building. Today was Tuesday, and Mom always cooked Mexican food on Tuesday night.

Conflict: But when he arrived home, he saw his mother in the car and driving away. She didn’t even see him.

From this narrative, you can see that Jim might not reach his goal of a Mexican supper because there is a conflict. Mom is driving away instead of in the kitchen cooking Mexican food.

Disaster Defined:

In a scene, the disaster proves that the main character was unable to resolve the conflict and was therefore unable to reach his or her scene goal, and to be a scene at all, every scene must end in disaster for the main character. However, not all scene disasters include a death, a hurricane or the bad guys killing the good guys. A disaster for the main character would merely mean that he or she didn’t reach his or her scene goal.

Example of a scene outline:

Goal: Mexican food for supper
Jim could practically smell as well as taste tacos, Spanish rice and refried beans as he hurried down the concrete steps of the school building. Today was Tuesday, and Mom always cooked Mexican food on Tuesday night.

Conflict: Mom is driving away
But when he arrived home, he saw his mother in the car and driving away. She didn’t even see him.
Maybe she forgot some of the fixings and went to the store to buy them, he thought.
Jim went into the house and headed straight for the kitchen, hoping to smell spicy food cooking.

Disaster: He will be eating tuna fish for supper
Instead, he found a note from his mom on the cabinet and propped up against the sugar bowl. The note stated that Mom had a school board meeting that night and that she’d almost forgotten about it. She left milk and a tune salad sandwich in the refrigerator for Jim’s supper.

Jim didn’t reach his goal of a Mexican supper; so for him, this was a disaster.

What I wrote above was incomplete. It was a scene outline. The finished produce might include what happened on the school steps and what happened on his way home from school. It could include dialogues.

“Hey Jim,” his friend Monty called. “Want to go over to my house and throw a few? I got a new football for my birthday, and I’ve been wanting to try it out.”
“Thanks. But I gotta get home. We’re having Mexican food tonight.”

Homework: Write one sentence for each as I did above—scene, conflict, disaster. Using your three sentences as an outline, write a scene or a short story that contains all three elements.

Molly Noble Bull

Monday, March 3, 2008

How are we different?

Our pastor’s sermon yesterday was about a real turning point in the Israelites’ lives: whether to follow the advice of Caleb and Joshua and proceed with taking the land of Canaan (as God had promised it to them) or follow the advice of 10 other spies who were scared and said, “There’s no way we can attack these people and win!”

One of my favorite verses in the story is Numbers 14:24 (and this is the Lord talking): “But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendents will inherit it.”

I wonder how Caleb was different from the other people around him, what gave him a “different spirit”? Scripture doesn’t mention Caleb very often, but it always says that he followed God and stood for what God wanted them to do. I think that relationship and the fact that he followed God “wholeheartedly” is what set Caleb apart.

The question then becomes: How am I different? That question addresses every area of life, but we’ll just think about it from a writing perspective. Many of us who write books for the Christian market know that our secular counterparts make lots more money than we ever might – and that’s how the world assigns our worth. We might wonder how we have the audacity to believe that God could have a message to share with the world through us – because we’re just a ‘nobody.’

Even if we write for the secular market, how are we different from all those other writers? How do we find ways for God to shine through our words and our work no matter who the audience is? Can we bring Him glory even if we’re just writing sports articles for the local newspaper or a brochure promoting a local business?

Sure we can! Our God is sovereign … omnipotent … creative … compassionate … and we’re here to bring Him glory. How do you find ways to do that in your writing, whether you’re by yourself plotting out a novel or in the middle of an office writing brochures or websites? I’d love to learn what works for you because I’m always looking for encouragement myself. :-)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Resting in Fellowship

Some days just feel like we've been swamped, snowed in, or overwhelmed by things outside of our control. Definitely, it can affect our writing and our sense of inner peace.

Then in comes the calvary to help plow you out and make a way for you to keep going forward.

Sometimes the most important thing we can do, when our hearts are buried under a ton of snow, is call in the snow plows. Friends that listen and help us find our way back. People that meet us where we are and lead us to where we need to be.

It might still be cloudy out...but you start to see the beauty in them and the beauty of the road before you.

That's what resting in fellowship is and why we need to connect with other friends who understand.

Just sharing a deep heartfelt need, stress, or pain helps us to find a little bit of hope. Hope that can help us get a little further down off the frozen mountain of aloneness.

Are you deluged?

Call in the snow plows to start digging out.

PS Come visit me often over at God Uses Broken Vessels.