Friday, September 30, 2011

Will You Accept the Nehemiah Challenge?

When Hanani came to the citadel of Susa to visit his brother, Nehemiah, he announced, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province, are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire." What would you do if you heard that your hometown sat in ruins ninety years after it's destruction? Nehemiah sat down and wept. He mourned, fasted and prayed to the God of heaven.

I teach my Sunday school students that Nehemiah was a man of prayer, and they can remember his name by thinking "Knee-high-miah," because he was on his knees about everything that concerned him or his people. The day Hanani told him about his people living in the ruins of Jerusalem, Nehemiah began four months of fasting and praying for a solution.

What follows is not only great leadership training but includes nuggets we can use in our writing to inspire. Here are four things to remember as you hone your craft to serve our Lord:
  1. Realize our limitations. Only God can change a man's heart. Although Nehemiah was one of Israel's captives in Syria, he had a great job as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. A strange law in the land prohibited anyone from showing sadness before the king. So Nehemiah was careful not to show his grieving for Jerusalem. Yet, the king knew something was wrong and because God's hand was on Nehemiah, the opportunity he prayed for arose. As Christian writers, we know our limitations. Even though we write to change hearts for God, it is He alone who is able, not us.
  2. Turn to God by praying and waiting. Four months Nehemiah prayed and fasted. Praying over our projects is essential as we use our writing to speak of God's love and grace. As we submit to God in prayer, we might find, like Nehemiah, that the answers are not immediate. We might have to wait.
  3. Organize a plan of action while waiting for the right opportunities. Do you have a plan to accomplish your goals? A book a year? twenty-five articles? Determine what it will take. How many words to you have to write each day to accomplish your goal? How much research is involved? How many queries or submissions do you have to make? Nehemiah developed a detailed plan of what he needed for his building project. So when the opportunity came, he knew what to request of the king. Amazingly the king not only supplied what Nehemiah requested, he sent him with an army.
  4. Recognize the opposition. We each have a stinker who doesn't want us to accomplish any good thing for God. His name is Satan and he will use whatever people, circumstances, lies and discouragement are necessary to throw us off track. Nehemiah faced the opposition of the surrounding nations' leaders. They heckled him and used several obstacles to keep him from his work. Praise God, they didn't win. The people of Israel under Nehemiah's leadership finished the project in fifty-two days. Incredible, isn't it?
How do you stay focused? How do you meet your goals and deadlines?  How do you thwart discouragement? It would be great if you could share some encouragement with our writers.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Impact of Our Witness

Have you thought about the impact of your writing? A lost and hungry world is looking for answers in churches, books, bars, and the Internet. We have a great opportunity to share our story through fiction, non-fiction, devotional readings, and scripture exposition. God can use our past failures and shortcomings for His glory as we share how He worked in our lives.

Snippets of our stories or explaining what a verse means to us in a blog is vital. My most visited posts are those about the meaning of God's love, grace and scripture. In these troubling times, people want answers. Will you share what God's love and word mean to you? Someone's soul might be at stake.

Besides the things we write, people are looking to us--how do we handle grief, suffering, or loss. Our lives were redeemed on the cross at a great cost to God. Our response means something to Him and to  our world.

Lord Jesus, make me a beacon of your light and love in this dark world. Amen.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Seven Tips for Writing Personal Experience Stories

Do you blog or journal your experiences? Do you have a story to tell? Here are seven tips to follow as you develop your story for publication.

  1. Consider what magazine you would like to submit your story to. Get a copy or two and study its style, departments and columns so you can suggest how your article will fit into their periodical. Find their writer guidelines. Do they want queries first? Do they want submissions by U. S. Mail or e-mail?
  2. Think of an attention grabbing title.
  3. Start with a powerful hook--action, problem, or conflict.
  4. Use fiction techniques--show (don't tell), multiple scenes, plot, climax, dialogue, description.
  5. What is the point of your story? Make it your takeaway. Christian editors are looking for takeaways.
  6. Write your query or cover letter. This has to be every bit as good as your manuscript or better. Make the editor want your article.
  7. If the publisher sends you an assignment from your wonderful query letter, submit your story exactly as assigned and within the prescribed deadline. Sometimes assignments are on a speculation basis. Make your story excellent so it will be accepted and so you can get more assignments with this publisher and build a working relationship.
Here are some great books on writing:
Writers on Writing-Top Christian Authors Share Their Secrets
Writing for the Soul by Jerry B. Jenkins
On Writing Well by William Zinsser

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On Writing Memoirs

Many writers who attend workshops and critique groups are writing the stories of their lives. They want to share the wonderful things they have learned over the years so others can learn from their experience. My cyber friend, Terry Whalin, has an excellent article for you if this is your desire. Visit his blog, The Writing Life.

You can earn a little compensation along the journey of writing your book by taking time to write personal experience articles for magazines and posts for blogs. By doing these two exercises, your writing will become tighter and better. At the same time you'll build a platform for yourself.

The response I hear when I suggest this from my book writing friends is, "I just want to write what a want to write," and you can. I enjoy using my personal experience stories in articles and blog posts. These two avenues also give me the best opportunity I have of telling others about Jesus and His love for them. Try it and you'll see your blog traffic increase.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

 Learn how to edit yourself into print. Whether you write fiction or creative nonfiction, you will benefit from this workshop with exercises in characterization, point of view, dialogue, voice and much more. Sue Tornai will facilitate the workshop using Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. It begins September 15, 2011 and continues the first and third Thursdays of each month at Sunrise Community Church, 8321 Greenback Lane, Fair Oaks, CA 95628, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. in room B-107.