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Lessons Learned While Writing: Hero of My Story

After years of verbal abuse, I finally realized I had lapsed into helplessness and hopelessness. A friend once said to me, “Susan, you need hope.” I loved and served and prayed to Jesus and believed He was fully capable of rescuing me from my prison of pain.

During this time, I lead our church’s women’s ministry, and spent time encouraging other women and teaching them.

But I was stuck. I began to realize I was thinking and acting like a victim. A powerless victim. The more I read and understood about verbal abuse (which includes financial abuse and neglect and more), the more I began to seek the help I needed to grow and thrive even in the midst of my difficulty. Oh, I still cried, but I grew in my confidence and my ability to find the good in the midst of the pain.

I still struggled for hope that I would ever one day be released. The wonderful news is by the time I was, I was ready for the new life God had in store for me. The fears from the past had melted away. The belief that I was inadequate and unable to stand on my own, was gone. When God opened that door, freeing me, I was ready to walk into my new life without fear. He provided for me every step along the way and looking back I can only say it was by His grace that I made it, because on paper, I should never have been able to.

By God’s grace, I became a hero, a protagonist in my own story, not a pathetic byline. Now ultimately Jesus is the real hero. It was He who saved me at 15 years of age and has walked me through all of this. What a wonder that He could give me hope – in HIM and blessings beyond what I could have ever wished for.

In what ways do you perhaps feel a victim in your life? Look to Jesus for your hope. Change doesn’t take place overnight but He can move you and use you for HIS glory in the midst of your pain and in the future use that experience to bless others. Hold on, dear friend.

Lessons Learned While Writing: Relationships Are Important

Writing is an isolated task. Even if an author writes in a busy place like an IHop or a coffee shop, we still ultimately do the work alone. As a Christian I believe God is part of that process so “alone” in terms of human interaction is what I’m referring to.

Getting a book published takes a lot of people—beta readers, critiques, editors, marketing, cover art, and eventually readers and reviewers. Writers need people, even if most of us are introverts.

We need relationships. Prayer. Accountability. We need to be reaching out to help others because that’s where we stay engaged in the human race. We need to live life so our characters can be real on the page.

I have found, after coming out of an abusive relationship, that good friendships are a treasure. I can write and it can be cathartic, but I need to do life with others, enjoy a cup of chai or a meal, do something fun, or sit and cry together. This is important to my spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical well-being. I need to keep growing as an individual if I hope to write characters that will also grow through the stories I try to put on the page.

I also need time to play. Whether it’s tug-of-war with my dog, crafting of some kind, a concert, mini-golf with my husband, or a rip-roaring game of Uno. Playing doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. For me playing and decompressing even takes place on my zero-turn lawnmower which my husband has graciously allowed me to do. It’s fun! Sitting and reading a book because I can, not because I need to is a gift as well. Whatever it is, we need to live our own lives fully in this one and only life we have, not just write imaginary stories for others. These experiences give our writing more depth.

It is in one-on-one connection where we grow and are challenged and encouraged. I want my life to count. I pray my words in my stories can encourage and bring hope and maybe even healing to the reader. But if I neglect my husband, kids, and friends, or those I meet at a craft fair, or a writer’s conference, I’m limiting the ways God can use me. Now if I’m unable to go anywhere the writing is great, but it’s still good to have a connection. It keeps me grounded and hopefully helps me avoid some of the sins that can beset creative people.

Lessons Learned While Writing: Two Kinds of Writers

Before I started writing my first novel I had heard about people outlining their books but had no concept of what that could possibly be about. I just started writing…and kept writing…and 21 days later had a book that was way too long!

When I write a non-fiction piece of work, whether a talk I’m going to give or a book, I do outline. But I find an outline restrictive to the creative process for me as a writer when I’m writing fiction. People who outline struggle to believe there’s another acceptable way to write.

So I learned there are two kinds of writers. Actually—there are two extremes. Pantsters who have no idea what there are doing and wing it and planners or plotters who outline their books, do in-depth character interviews, understand the motivations, story arc, and plot points.

The funny things is, I do some of that now, but not as much as a pure plotter would do. I’m co-authoring a series with a plotter. The first book we did together was torture for me trying to make sense of this story arc and the characters and there were timing issues that I needed to fix. That was primarily because it was handed to me to start the rough draft. I did manage it and the story is wonderful, but it was challenging on so many levels.

My plotter friend, DeeDee, and I now do much of that work together. She comes up with the main stuff and we wrestle through plot points and we talk it out quite often. I give her stuff to write as well so I’m not the only one putting original words on the page. For me getting to know the characters well has been huge for this. Plot points are suggestions and sometimes I come up with fun surprises. I figure if she reads it kind of knowing what is going to happen and I can surprise her, then I can surprise the reader too! It’s a balance that so far seems to be working for us.

Either end of the spectrum is fine. Pantsters want some love too and maybe some of that is personality or part of the unique creative soul some of us have, but it’s OK and no way of writing is right or wrong as long as the writer, in the end, produces a great piece of fiction.

If you are a writer, where do you fall on the pantster-plotter spectrum?

Writer Wednesday: Cathy Krafve

Today I welcome author Cathy Krafve as she shares a little bit about her writing.

When did you decide you would be an author? Was it something you fell into, felt called to…?

I call myself an accidental everything. Podcaster, speaker, comedienne, you name it. But really, from the beginning I knew I wanted three things, to write, to pray, and to be a mom.  Those last two go together well, don’t they?

What’s your pet peeve?

I try to control myself about double standards and hypocrisy. Politicians tend to make me a little crazy, for example. Yep, I have to dial it down. But seriously, hypocrisy is dangerous for the hypocrite, and we’ve all been there. That’s why Jesus called hypocrisy out with so much strength and love.

What was your most embarrassing moment as a writer?

Since my books came out I find myself on stage a lot more. I’m kinda klutzy. Klutziness is a gift; the gift of humility. Recently, I stumbled and my friend jumped up from the pew to catch me. I announced into the mic, “See, God is just like my friend. He knows we’ll stumble and He’s ready to catch us!” Tripping is pretty inevitable, so I just try to roll with it, sometimes literally!

What has been your most difficult challenge as an author?

Not bragging about how great the books turned out. People don’t realize how surprised I am. But I had amazing teams of people helping me on both books. My editors and publishers are super-stars!

How do you process rejections and/or negative reviews?

The reviews have amazed me. If I have negative reviews, I don’t know it. I’m too busy pedaling so my life stays upright. Besides, my books are not for everybody. After the first person told me the first book helped them figure out some stuff, I quit worrying about reviews. One person helped is enough for me. But so many people tell us they’re sharing our books with their friends. We hear their sacred stories and we rejoice!

What do you feel is the best success so far in your writing career?

Beyond success, we feel blessed! My whole family joins me in feeling like God is blessing us all in this process. We see Him in action. Plus, we do so many of our tasks as a family; jumping in and helping each other. For example, Anna, our oldest daughter is a frequent co-host of Fireside Talk Radio and we just finished the manuscript for a book together. Family conversations on Sunday at lunch are energetic and hilarious!

What is your current work in process?

Right now, I’ve been focused on getting the word out about Marriage Conversations: from co-existing to cherished. Mainly because we notice a need for women to feel they have options when it comes to rebooting stagnant marriages. A lot of women feel lonely in their life. We’ve all had those isolated moments. The Well: the art of drawing out authentic conversations focuses on moving from isolation to influence in our communities. So the books are very different, but complementary. I am writing the sequels for both this year. Plus, Anna and I are working on the next book in our series of character/communication building for moms and teachers of elementary-age children.

Bio:

Queen of Fun and Coffee Cup Philosopher Cathy Krafve puts a snappy spin on deeply spiritual truths. Host of Fireside Talk Radio and author of books about communication, Cathy understands life is about companionship and community. Truth with a Texas twang spoken here!

Website: CathyKrafve.com

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Amazon Page: amazon.com/author/cathykrafve

Latest book release: Marriage Conversations: from co-existing to cherished

Lessons Learned While Writing: The Necessity of “Tough Stuff”

A story that is all sunshine and happy times doesn’t keep the reader engaged. As an author I need to find an inciting incident to start my story. A disturbance of some sort to draw the reader in and make them want to take this journey with me. Obstacles need to be faced because this forces my character to make choices and face consequences—good and bad—for those decisions. Without conflict, the story would be boring. Without challenges the character doesn’t grow and change to become a better person emotionally and spiritually.

The challenge of living in this world filled with sin is we face conflict regularly in real life and sometimes that can be a royal pain. Sometimes we create our own conflict. Sometimes events happen over which we have no control and we are forced to deal with and react to them. Every choice leads us down a path filled with more choices.

The darkness in this world, the grief and heartache we face, serves to remind us of how human we really are. How far from heaven we’ve fallen due to the ongoing and exponentially growing prevalence of sin in the world. But the ups and downs of this life also help us appreciate the good times, the happy moments, the blessings that come along as well.

The stars don’t cease to twinkle when the sun is shining, even though we can’t see them. When darkness falls and we are way from city lights, the stars sparkle in the heavens. So too when life is dark do we sometimes see things clearer. The harshness of death, expands the depth of love. The threat of a terminal illness makes us cling to what really matters. 

Without the difficulties of life it would be, well, boring. At least on a page of a book. We don’t want to read about everything always going great on social media, do we? It’s not real. Everyone has some heartache and challenges they face from within or without. Maybe they won’t share it but it’s there. Sometimes we only get the highlight reel.

It makes me wonder how Heaven in all its glory will compare to this world filled with tears and sorrows, gains and losses, pain and healing. We will be awestruck. We will have work to do as we worship the King of kings and Lord of lords. But there won’t be the struggle, the pain, or the tears.

If you are struggling, hang on. It won’t last forever because we have something wonderful to look forward to.

Lessons Learned While Writing: God Never Forgets Me

A few years back I was writing the book Whitney’s Vow, which released last summer. I was in the middle of a scene where I had my character, Whitney, hanging off the edge of a cliff. I ran out of time and needed to get to church for a ministry obligation I had.

The entire time I was doing my task at church I kept thinking about poor Whitney! I was worried about what was going to happen next (because unlike God I don’t know what I write until after I’ve written it). I had a concept and a plan but due to my obligations, I couldn’t write it until the next day. So, Whitney, albeit a fictional character, was stranded on the side of a cliff for a long time.

God in greater fashion than me, cannot forget. He is always aware of where I am even if He is waiting for His perfect plan to unfold. While I’ve not been stranded on the side of a cliff like my character, I have waited for years for rescue from a painful situation I was in. All the while my writing has reminded me that God was fully aware of my circumstances and pain during that time. And all the time.

He will never forget me. He created me, called me to be His child, and while He remarkably also never forgets anyone else, He remembers me and my challenges, pains, and yes, joys.

What a blessed gift that even in the process of writing a story that hopefully people will enjoy, I’m reminded that God doesn’t forget me. He won’t forget You either.

What other ways are you reminded that God is present and aware of your circumstances?

Lessons Learned While Writing: God Led Me Down a New Career Path

When I started my writing journey, I was a stay-at-home mom with a master’s degree in counseling psychology leading a ministry to women at my church. I didn’t anticipate going back to work for a few more years as I firmly believed in being there for my kids, even though it involved steep emotional and financial sacrifices. Not need to dredge that all up here.

I wrote a book. Gothic Regency Romance. I wondered if I could write contemporary and tried it. Then I wrote another Regency. Then a contemporary and on and on it went. Flip-flopping back and forth and trying to keep my language straight: not putting modern words in a story taking place in the early 1800’s and not putting Regency-era language in a modern romance. Then, of course, cultural differences. And I was enjoying myself immensely. And learning more and more about the craft and editing.

I fell into editing because a friend suggested a position to me. I applied and after much prayer accepted the offer. I could work from home. I set my own hours. Oh, but I only got paid when the books sold and based on the book’s sales. It wasn’t much but I was learning more and more with every novel I not only wrote but edited. And then I started teaching on faculty at Christian Writer’s Conferences as well as meeting with and encouraging other authors who were where I was not that long ago. Again, not a huge financial boon to my family, but I was making an eternal impact in the lives of my readers, my authors, and those who read those books.

I’ve added teaching a continuing education class at my local state university and that’s been well received. And I keep writing.

I don’t know what I thought I’d be doing by the time my kids left the proverbial nest, but writing is perfect for me as my retired but very busy husband likes that I’m home, and travels with me when I speak. He understands the bigger picture of what I do and supports that endeavor regardless of how much, or little, money I might make.

I may not have gone to school to become a writer, but writing well is what allowed me to succeed in school and in my first career. I still use those skills more than you might think. None of that degree was wasted. And the Hard Knock School of Writing doesn’t give out degrees until you’re dead so I’ll keep plugging away at it.

Have you seen God take you down a different career path from what you originally intended or went to school for? What happened? Please share!

The Most Important Thing: The Gospel

I was getting ready for a craft fair and decided to include an excerpt from one of my novellas inside my brochure that lists all my books and contact information. Why? Because whether someone likes my stories or not, the most important thing is their relationship with God. Hopefully, all my stories have some thread or truth of the Gospel in them without being preachy it is usually covert. In my novella Slam-Dunk Christmas, I had a more overt moment, so this is the excerpt I took from that story.

“So tell me what’s on your mind.”

How did he know? “I think God is trying to get my attention.”

Blake grinned. “He’s been trying that for a long time, Sam.”

“Maybe so. I was too busy to listen. I guess I want to make sure I’m not heading down a wrong path. I’m trying to pray…”

“That’s a good start. Let me ask you a few questions.”

Sam nodded. “Go ahead.”

“Do you realize that you are a sinner who can in no way match up to God’s holiness?”

“Duh. Of course. I’ve done and thought unconscionable things. I’m sure every day I screw up in some way in spite of my best of intentions.”

“Do you believe that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again as the perfect solution to your sin problem?”

“Huh?

“Maybe I’m doing this wrong. Hold on.” Blake rose and left the room, returning with his Bible. “Here we go. Romans 3:23 says, ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ Do you agree with that?”

“Of course, after all the evil we’ve seen on this planet, it would be hard for anyone to deny that.”

“Romans 6:23 says, ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’”

“I’ve seen enough of death,” Sam said. “I want to know more about that life part.”

“Great. Romans 5:8 says, ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’”

“So like a criminal who is convicted of a crime, Jesus has taken my death sentence upon himself.  Interesting. A substitution.” Sam marveled. He’d read stories about Jesus, but he’d never really studied the Bible or its tenets.

“Exactly. In Romans 10: 9-10 it says: ‘If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.’”

“So, I just need to accept the gift. Believe and state it out loud, much like we professed our commitment to the military once upon a time?”

“Correct. Verse 13 states, ‘For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ And when we look back at chapter 8:38-30 we see a wonderful promise, ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’”

“Whoa. That’s amazingly all-encompassing. So the punishment for my sin is gone, I can live a life with Jesus forever?”

Blake nodded.

“I want that.”

“Would you like me to pray with you?”

“I think I need to do this myself. Thank you, Blake. Can I borrow your Bible?”

“You can keep it. I have several, and the verses are underlined in here.”

“Thank you.”

“Let me know how it goes.”

Sam nodded, took the book, and his coffee and headed to his room. Once he was inside, he closed the door. How did someone do this? He placed the book on the bed and knelt on the rug that was there, leaning against the mattress he folded his hands. He hadn’t read that this was important but he’d seen images of people praying that way so he figured it wouldn’t hurt.

“OK, God. You’ve been trying to get my attention and I’m ready. I know I’ve made some big mistakes. What did Blake call it? Oh, yeah, I sinned. I am a sinner, and desperately need You to rescue me from that. You’ve already done that, and I need to accept the gift You graciously offer me. So Jesus, I proclaim You to be the Lord and my Savior. My rescuer. My salvation. I desperately need You to help me live the rest of my life in a way that would honor you, my Commander-in-Chief. Thank you for dying for me, rising again, and finding me, calling me, to be Yours. Amen.”

How about you? Where do you stand with God? HE is the greatest gift of all. Let me know if you’ve taken that step. I’m praying for you!

Writer Wednesday: Lindsey Bell

I’d love you to welcome author Lindsey Bell to Writer Wednesday! I really do enjoy hearing how unique each author’s journey is. Be blessed.

When did you decide you would be an author? Was it something you fell into, felt called to…?

I have loved writing for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t actually take it seriously until a college professor urged me to send in an article I had written. That article was accepted for publication, and that’s when I thought, “Maybe I’m not too bad at this!” That first article gave me the courage to send in another. And then another. And then another. And that eventually led me to write books as well.

One quote that stuck with me that I read years ago was from Kaci Calvaresi. She said, “God can’t use a redemptive story that you’re not willing to tell.” THAT, for me, is why I write…so that God can use my story to help others.

What’s your pet peeve?

I think my pet peeve -which is completely unrelated to writing – is when people don’t do what they say they are going to do.

What was your most embarrassing moment as a writer?

My most embarrassing moment as a writer..that’s a tough one. I’m a people-pleaser and I don’t like conflict, so I think my most embarrassing moment as a writer was when I wrote something that faced criticism. It was difficult to NOT take it personally.

What has been your most difficult challenge as an author?

There are two aspects of being an author that are especially challenging for me: facing criticism and building an audience. I’ve always struggled with self-promotion, especially as a Christian author. It’s challenging to find that sweet spot between sharing God’s story and sharing your own…shining the light on Him versus shining the light on yourself.

How do you process rejections and/or negative reviews?

Not well, lol 🙂 In my head, I know it’s not personal, but in my heart, that is sometimes hard to accept. The best thing I can tell myself is that this particular person was not my target audience. My message must be meant for someone else. It’s also important to learn from the negative reviews that offer helpful feedback. I have a sticky note on my computer that reads, “Mistakes are evidence that you tried.” This note helps remind me that failure (or negative reviews, in this case) can also be helpful, and, if nothing else, they show that I tried…that I put myself out there…that I gave it my best effort.

What do you feel is the best success so far in your writing career?

My books for sure, especially Unbeaten. That is my heart on the page…God’s story in my life.

What is your current work in process?

I’m at the very beginning brainstorming process of my next book, so I’m actually not sure.

Bio:

Lindsey Bell is the author of Unbeaten and Searching for Sanity. She’s passionate about her two silly boys, her husband Keith, books of all kinds, and delicious dark chocolate. Her desire is to inspire and encourage other believers through honest dialogue about faith, family, and learning to love the life she’s been given. As a woman who has lost four babies to miscarriage, Lindsey loves helping others find God in the midst of heartache. Find Lindsey online at www.lindseymbell.com.

Website: www.lindseymbell.com

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Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLindseyBell

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Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Lindsey-Bell/e/B00H9NQETM

Latest book release: Unbeaten https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MXZG3CZ/

Lessons Learned While Writing: I’m Not As Good As I Think I Am (aka Humility)

I had started writing in a way many in that genre write, from an omniscient narrator perspective which meant I’d hop from one character’s thoughts and experiences to another without pause. Well, if older writers could do it, why not me?

Oh, how wonderful I thought my first book was, until I began to get the critiques back. What was head-hopping? What do you mean I have too may points of view? What is a point of view anyway?

Because that was then and this is now. I read, and got feedback and I rewrote the book taking out one character as it was too long. Then I rewrote it again with only two points of view. I revised it another time sparsely adding the point of view a villain who appears in subsequent books to give it a darker, more suspenseful tone. Instead of writing a lighthearted Regency-era romance, my novels were more Gothic!

Every time I write a story there is a mixture of pride and fear mixed into the process. Will it be good enough? Will the story resonate with readers?

Sometimes I wonder if big sales have eluded me because I’m poor at marketing or because God is protecting me from pride—that erroneous belief that I wrote those books and I’m wonderful.

I did write them—with God’s help and that of others. And I am wonderful, as a child of God which means I’m also a flawed human being.

Every round of edits can bring up fears of not being good enough. But in reality, I’ll never be good enough. I can only hope to grow to be better than the last book I wrote.

My daughter told me not to worry: “You’ll be famous when you’re dead.” I laughed. Guess I’m not in a hurry to be famous then because I have a lot more living to do should the Lord allow me to remain here.

Sometimes I wonder when it will end. Writers don’t really “retire,” so as long as I have the ability and the imagination, I suppose I’ll keep writing, and leave fame in the hands of God.

What projects do you struggle with to find humility? What works for you to keep you from wallowing in self-pity or puffing yourself up too much?