Monday, March 31, 2014

Finding Motivation to Write

by Patty Smith Hall

A few years back, I was totally frustrated with my writing career, or should I say, lack of one. Family and job responsibilities took up every available moment of my time, and that book I’d promised myself I’d finished stared up at me from it’s permanent perch at the far corner of my computer screen every time I got on the internet. I was ready to give up, had even gone as far as packed up my writing books and cleaned out my office when I heard one short sentence that changed the way I thought about my writing. It’s from Marlene Bagnull’s Bible study for writers, Write HIs Answer.

We are literature missionaries.

Such a profound statement! But how do we as writers put it into action? How do we find the motivation to keep traveling down this road to publication when all turns seem to lead us to nowhere land? We look where Christians should always look—to Christ!
  • Spend time in prayer--Jesus’s example shows us that the place we should begin every aspect of our lives is on our knees. If we try to write without going to Him in daily prayer, our stories will lack power. Prayer was essential to His ministry--so it should be important to ours as well.
  • Know what God’s word says and means--how can we write spiritual truths if we don’t immerse ourselves in scripture every day?
  • Have a vision--Proverbs 29:18 says that ‘where there is no vision, people will perish. Jesus had a plan for His future--one that would bring glory to God. How will we know we’ve arrived if we never made a plan for the trip?
  • Don’t cut yourself off from people and their needs--Jesus, though completely God, laid aside His power and glory, and became one of us. He laughed and cried. He felt what we feel.
  • Know your audience and find ways to reach them effectively--Jesus met people where they were at in their lives; used down to earth illustrations most folks could understand. We must trust the simple power in the message of the Cross rather than try to impress people with our vast knowledge of language and skill.
  • Learn to persist--we need to learn to handle rejection--Jesus knew rejection. It was a daily occurrence to him. Our rejections are just a book or a magazine article. His has eternal ramifications.  

Patty grew up just outside of Atlanta, hearing family stories of gallant men and gutsy ladies. Those early tales whetted her appetite for history and by the age of eleven, Patty had plowed through all the history books and biographies in the county library. It was about this time that she read her first romance novel and fell head long into a lifetime love affair with the genre. At age fifteen, Patty wrote her first novel, a satire of a gothic novel, for her tenth grade English class. She received an A plus, but even more, her teacher encouraged her to keep writing.
But writing doesn’t pay the bills. Patty received her degree in nursing from Kennesaw State University and worked in various areas such as research and high risk infant care. But even with her love of nursing, Patty still studied the craft of writing, listening to writing tapes during her daily commute. With the birth of her daughters, her attention shifted to her home life and raising two busy little girls. Between church activities, volunteer work and extended family, her life was full.
But that desire to write never wavered. In 2000, with her girls growing up and life settling into a routine, Patty started seriously studying the craft of writing. A founding member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, she served on the national board as well as various other regional positions. She first found publishing success with her short stories in the God Allows U-Turns series as well as Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul; a Second Dose and Guidepost magazine. Her debut novel, Hearts in Flight, won the 2008 American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis Award in historical romance and was picked by Publisher’s Weekly as a top inspirational read for the 2011 spring and summer season.
Patty lives with her husband of 28 years in suburban Atlanta and finds her greatest joy in spending time with her family and friends.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Top 20 Things to NEVER Say to a Writer!

by Edie Melson

Below is a list of comments I’ve received over the past years since I’ve come out as a writer. Following each is what I wanted to say. I’m happy to report that I’ve never (at least until now) given in to the temptation.

Top 20 Things to NEVER Say to a Writer!

1. Are you published? (I really don’t have the space here to get into this. I usually just do a mental eye-roll.)

2. I have an idea for something you should write about. We could split the profits. (yeah, I do all the work and you get half of almost nothing. Sounds like a deal to me…)

3. I wrote a book, can you contact your publisher/agent for me? (You really wouldn’t like what I had to say about you.)

4. Why don’t you take the day off, it’s not like you work for a living. (unprintable reply)

5. Can I read your manuscript? (Like I don’t have enough stress in my life already)

6. Writing must be the easiest job in the world. (If you like 20-hour days, pennies per hour, horrific critiques, and serving up your heart for others to chew on daily.)

7. Anyone can write a book, what else do you do? (see number 6)

8. You should get that published. (Really? Like I hadn’t thought of that.)

9. I’ve heard that if you….you’ll be a much better writer. (Nothing I like better than advice from someone who has no clue.)

10. Aren’t you finished with that yet? (I am, I just decided not to submit it.)

11. I hate reading, it’s such a waste of time. (unprintable reply)

12. Have you ever written anything I might have read? (Yes, if morons could read.)

13. Will you read my manuscript? (*running and screaming in the other direction*)

14. Are you still doing that writing thing? (Believe me, if I could quit, I would.)

15. When can I get your book for free? (What part of “I do this for a living” do you not understand?)

16. Can you edit/write my essay for me? (I write commercially, not academically. There is a difference.)

17. Will you make me a character? (Only if I can kill you.)

18. What do you do with all your spare time? (in the vein of number 17, why don’t you come over and find out…)

19. Writing, can you make a living at that?

20. Writing, it must be nice to make so much money for not doing anything.

I’d love for you all to share your experiences with funny responses as the people around you commented on your writing life.

Edie Melson is the Vice President or SC Writers ACFW and the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains ChristianWriters Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine, the Senior Editor for and Military Family blogger on Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, March 10, 2014

What is Christian Fiction? Is It Alive and Well? Part Three

by Elva Cobb Martin

How Alive or Well Is Christian Fiction?

Kim Moore, Senior Fiction Editor with Harvest House, recently shared with me:
“Christian fiction is rather fluid right now. Ebooks on digital devices are changing Christian fiction in rather dramatic ways, and authors, agents and publishers are working to meet those challenges.”

Dan Balow, literary agent with the Steve Laube Agency, lately wrote a blog titled “Is Christian Fiction Dying?” He writes, “Last year a couple of Christian publishers stopped publishing fiction. Others are nervous about and it and still others are excited about it.”

He cited some reasons he thinks Christian fiction is causing some publisher-confusion:

  Fiction is the segment of book publishing most affected by the sales of eBooks.

  The relatively small number of new Christian fiction titles published by the main ECPA publishers.

  The limited number of genres published.

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas CEO Eddie Jones has a little different take on the subject:

“I believe the general public is offended by the excessive cursing, gratuitous sex, and unnecessary violence, and yet, this is what passes for entertainment within the secular market. I also feel Christian Fiction has, for too long, catered to those readers who demanded a “come to Jesus” conversion ending in every story. 

Seems to me, there is an opportunity for book publishers to reach those readers who are offended by the word “Christ” but yet are drawn to themes of redemption, compassion, and sacrifice. I think the best fiction presents God’s truth without mentioning Him by name. When we allow God to work within the heart of a reader, they are moved not just by words, but by His Spirit, also.”

Lighthouse is a fast-paced and innovative traditional, royalty-paying publisher of eBooks and Print on Demand (POD) paperbacks. LPC embraces the new book publishing model that favors eBooks and Print on Demand over long press runs and warehouse inventories. They are excited about Christian fiction and over the next couple of years are launching five new imprints.

One writer has posed an interesting question for those wanting more “freedom of expression.” What if the Christian Booksellers Association morph’s into a quasi-ABA with more sex, violence, and coarse language, how many chomping at the bit to get there will be truly happy with the results?

On the other side of the coin are those who are content and feel called to “write for the choir” (and read the same type fiction). One agent recently blogged in defense of the choir. He quoted statistics that 200,000 new books are published in the United States each year from traditional publishers (not counting self-publishing), and that of those, only 10,000 would be Christian books from Christian publishers. He summed up by saying maybe we need more books with a blatant Christian message and worldview, as there seems to be enough books covering the other side. 

He’s got a point.

But for those maybe caught in the middle, how does a Christian writer who desires to deal realistically with the nitty-gritty hard issues people, including Christians, may face, and the Bible even covers, do so without offending?

Author Timothy Fish may have hit the proverbial nail on the head. He commented on Karen Ball’s blog that the Bible, for the most part, tells what happened in grisly situations without giving a blow by blow account. He uses as examples the story of the Levite in Judges 19 who cut up his raped and murdered concubine into twelve pieces and sent her to the twelve tribes to stir them to action. He also used the story of Ehud, a man God raised up to deliver Israel from Moab, who thrust a dagger into the Moab king’s gut and the fat closed up around it.

The key, Fish says, is that the Bible writers did not go into detail about what precisely was taking place, what it smelled like or what the blood felt like as these actions took place. He says many people have a blood lust to show things that it is sufficient to tell only.

He’s got a point, too.

In conclusion, some would quote the dismal lowering of morals in America as the reason Christian fiction is not selling as well as would be desired. A new report, 2014 State of Dating in America, published by the online dating sites Christian Mingle and JDate, revealed that 61 percent of Christians said they would have sex before marriage.

Should the demise of morality, book sales figures, or anything else cause us to waver writing in the Christian worldview, however that’s interpreted? Should we continue writing fiction that not only entertains but also shows Christianity and gaining God’s wisdom as the answer for an individual’s problems, even the grittiest ones? Or should we try to tread more softly with inspiring fiction that doesn’t mention the name of Christ but clearly shows themes of compassion, redemption, or sacrifice? Is there room on the book shelf for both to reach various groups?

Some believe we Christians and Christian writers, publishers, agents are wrestling in a true spiritual warfare with the forces of evil which are trying, and have tried all through history, to grasp the hearts and minds of man. MaryLu Tyndale is a prolific Christian romance author who shows evidence of this warfare in her well-written, exciting novels. Frank Perretti, with more than 15 million novels in print and often called America’s hottest Christian novelist, infused new life into Christian fiction when he introduced this kind of warfare in his first bestselling novel This Present Darkness.

Do you believe there are forces of evil Paul spoke about in Ephesians chapter 6 that are authoring books, movies and television programs? If so, how would you define Christian fiction and the direction it needs to go to win more victories and arise with new life?

We look forward to your comments!

If You Missed the previous blogs, links are below

Elva Cobb Martin is president of the South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a former school teacher and a graduate of Anderson University and Erskine College. Decision, Charisma, and Home Life have published her articles. She is currently polishing her second novel, an historical inspirational romance. A mother finally promoted to grandmother, Elva and her husband Dwayne, and a mini-dachshund Lucy reside in Anderson, South Carolina. Connect with her on her web site, her blog at on Twitter @Elvacobbmartin and on Facebook.