Monday, March 19, 2012

Pray for Rain

“Ask rain from the Lord in the season of the spring rain, from the Lord who makes the storm clouds, and he will give them showers of rain, to everyone the vegetation in the field” (Zechariah 10:1).

Have you ever heard the maxim, “Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it”? When I read this verse, that’s the first thing that came to mind. I have prayed for life’s rain. I have prayed for change, for growth, for a richer walk with God. I have prayed fervently for that rain and then I have watched the storm clouds gather.

I have to tell you, sometimes the rain comes in with awful force. I’ve been terrified by tempest gales. I’ve been blinded by striking light. I’ve been pelted by icy stones. You see, sometimes more than a gentle shower is needed to cleanse the grime. Sometimes that topsoil needs to be washed away to reveal fresh, rich soil beneath, soil that’s cultivated to feed seeds.

We are told in Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful and multiply.” I always thought those two terms went together, instructing humankind to reproduce. However, I learned today that the “fruitful” part may mean to develop the fruit of the Spirit. (“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).) You know what? Fruit cannot grow without a “season of spring rain.”

In your writing, that season of rain may bring rejection letters, harsh critiques, or low sales figures. Do not be afraid when the raindrops fall. Spread your arms wide open and receive God’s healing rain!

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Monday, March 12, 2012

It Falls Apart

I was reading along just fine. I was the heroine, head over heels in love with my hero. I felt the gritty wind of the trail and shivered under twinkling stars, periodically glancing over my shoulder to see if the villain had caught up to us yet. Then, whoa! I was thrown from my thoroughbred into the land of first drafts.

What happened? I was deeply involved in a published novel, one that was written fairly well…until Chapter 15. In my opinion, the author could have neatly disposed of the villain and wrapped everything up into a happy ending within one, maybe two more chapters, but no, the hero had to go traipsing off on another unnecessary adventure and get himself shot. The writing got noticeably sloppy from that point on as well, relying very heavily on dialog and hitting the reader over the head with religion to resolve all the conflicts. What had been smooth and subtle in the first half blew like tumbleweeds in the second.

Now, I don’t know what really happened during the creation of that book, but it felt like the writer got tired of telling her tale and hurried to wrap it up. The closing pages read like first drafts. I think it is imperative that all writers have a peer group of trusted advisors, a handful of friends who will read your material with fresh eyes and let you know where the glitches are. If you don’t have a support group like that, start one yourself! Find a few friends who tell it like it is. Be prepared to take constructive criticism. Encourage one another, but maintain some sensitivity. (Remember your goal is to refine each other’s writing, not spotlight each other’s mistakes!) And let’s all avoid falling apart at Chapter 15.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Keeping Dialect in Check

He sat a spell, chompin’ on chaw an’ whittlin’ a chunk ‘o hick’ry into a fine set of longhorns.


Quick! What can you tell about the character of the above sentence? I would guess he is likely an American who resides in a rural part of Texas, perhaps an aging cowboy on a ranch somewhere in the hill country. He didn’t describe the house, but I imagine him in a rocker on the porch of a faded white clapboard farmhouse overlooking land that’s been in his family for generations. I can even hear cattle lowing in the distance and see a vivid orange-pink-blue sunset ablaze on the horizon. All that from one sentence spoken in rich dialect.

Adding dialect to your fiction expands the imagery without “telling” your reader what you see in your head. It paints a picture without using adjectives. It authenticates not only the setting but also the personalities of your characters. If your reader can “hear” the speaker’s and/or the characters’ voices, he will be pulled right into the story and won’t want to leave the action until he turns the final page.

Dialect can be overdone, though. Imagine reading an entire book written like that opening sentence. The thought of it hurts my eyes! I recently read a novel set in 16th century Scotland that was almost as heavy with Scottish brogue as that line is with Texas twang. The author did a marvelous job keeping consistency throughout, and the dialect did accentuate the setting and the characters. However, I found it distracting to have the entire novel in an altered language. I found myself skimming words that were difficult to pronounce and rolling my eyes at some character interactions. I really wanted to like the book, but too much dialect knocked my opinion down several notches.

Writing dialect is tricky. Keep it in check!

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Puppy Clumsy

We have a seven-month-old miniature dachshund named Slinky. He’s absolutely adorable! He loves to romp and wrestle and chew. Our other two dogs have gotten a lot more exercise since he arrived, and when the three of them play together, it’s quite amusing to watch.

Slinky is puppy clumsy. He bats his big ole paws and nudges his velvety nose at his playmates, then tromps right over top of them until they nip back. He rolls over them, scoots under them, jabs at their ears. Doesn’t matter if there’s an obstacle (or a person) in the way; he charges right across. Long drop from the sofa? No problem, he slinks right down like his namesake toy.

Slinky is all play with no inhibition.

Don’t you long to be that way when you write? I sure do! No holding back. I just want to let thoughts flow freely from the creative recesses of my mind. I want stories to nudge me and tromp through my thoughts until I nab them. I want the words to roll over my mind, scoot under the internal editor, and jab my listening ear. I want those ideas to charge right out and slink onto the blank page. I want to be puppy clumsy!

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Monday, February 13, 2012

The Writer

If you are reading this blog, you are not normal. Nope. Not at all. Because you are a writer. Please allow me to introduce you to, well, you.

You hear voices. Characters whisper in your ear. You see them too. The intricate beadwork on her gown, the plush velvet cape, those pearls…his killer blue eyes. They tease you with tidbits and tales until you relent to recording their rendezvous.

You organize. OK, to some people that might look like one big mess, but all those Post-It Notes stuck on the wall are really an intricate storyboard detailing each plot and scheme.

You persevere. You must. You cannot stop until you’ve written every last detail. If you leave your characters hanging, they may, like Pirandello's Six Characters, seek out another storyteller.

You obsess. You could edit to infinity. This verb is stronger than that one. Show, don’t tell! Torque, morph, develop, improve. Master. Submit.

You bite your nails. You sweat. Waiting to hear from that editor or agent, you’ve paced a rut in your hardwood floor.

You have tough skin. More than one rejection has taught you this publishing game’s not personal. “Your piece doesn’t fit our market.” “That subject just isn’t selling right now.” “This is very well written, but…” You send it out again.

You come back for more. Again and again. You get knocked down, but you get up again and you keep on going, because you know you have a message to deliver to someone out there, and you are the one who’s been called to task.

No, there’s nothing normal about you. And I pray that never changes, my friend.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

This Sums It Up

I saw this on Facebook last week and literally laughed out loud! Yes, yes, yes! These rules are so simple, yet so frequently broken that it’s really not a laughing matter. I’m very active in the world of blogging, and honestly, when I see poorly written material, I can’t get off that site fast enough. How unprofessional! If you’re going to write for publication—any type of publication—you should present not only your most thought-out material, but also your most correctly written work. A lack of grammatical correctness shows a lack of respect for the reader.

The peeves mentioned certainly are not the comprehensive guidelines of writing in the English (US) language, but I beg of you, please take note of those 10 rules. Learn them. Memorize them. Above all, put them into practice! To do otherwise renders communication ineffectual.

…Aim for perfection… 2 Corinthians 13:11

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Of Noble Character

I read a very good book the other day. The characters were so well developed that after I finished the book, I wondered what they were doing now. That’s quality writing!

My old college professor once reduced fiction to this: something happens to someone. He emphasized that the someone is the key to the story. It’s the someone about whom your reader cares. It’s the someone to whom your reader relates. It’s the someone feeling, affecting, becoming that your reader watches, feels for, worries about…and loves, or loves to hate.

Developing fictional characters requires dedication, especially if you write Christian fiction. You want not only to entertain, but also to make the reading worth the reader’s time. Have you created someone the reader would recognize if he bumped into him in real life? Have you made your hero someone your reader would be proud to know, or your villain someone the reader would be terrified to meet on the street?

Discipleship Tools tells us, “Character is a spiritual Fruit that is built from our real, godly relationship and commitment to Christ as LORD. It is the fiber of our moral center that stretches throughout our being, embracing and holding together our relationships when it is sealed as a choice and commitment, and not just a feeling or a personality.” Many character traits are discussed in Galatians 5:22-23, and dozens of others are found throughout the Bible. So when you’re creating someones for your readers to love (or loathe), keep these traits in mind:

  • Love will enable us to appreciate our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and, of course, our family, and others around us.
  • Joy will allow us to enjoy His creation, others, and our circumstances with an expression of delight and real, authentic happiness from and with harmony with God and others.
  • Peace is surrendering and yielding to the Lord’s control, for He is our ultimate peace!
  • Patience is showing tolerance and fortitude to others, and even accepting difficult situations from them and God without making demands and conditions.
  • Kindness is practicing benevolence and a loving attitude towards others.
  • Goodness displays integrity, honesty, and compassion to others, and allows us to do the right thing.
  • Faithfulness is the “gluing” fruit that will preserve our faith and the other characters of the Spirit as well as identify God's Will so we can be dependable and trusting to God and others.
  • Gentleness is the character that will show calmness, personal care, and tenderness in meeting the needs of others.
  • Self-Control will allow us to have discipline, and restraint with obedience to God and others. (via Discipleship Tools; more can be found here)

Believe it or not, villains often start out as noble characters and at a critical point in the plot either choose ignoble desires or have their true, evil intentions revealed. While the fruits of the Spirit and other biblical character qualities may not seem to apply to all someones, they are still useful for developing characters fully, even if it means looking to them to develop completely opposite traits. And remember, it’s not the something that’s so important in a story, as much as it is the someone to whom it happens.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

The M.O.M. Initiative

I have joined with some wonderful ladies in a great new ministry called The M.O.M. Initiative. I am really quite honored, and to be honest, humbled, to be included in such an amazing group of women who love the Lord so dearly and give of themselves so freely. 

We are officially launching the new website today and invite you to check it out. You will find many encouraging articles and helpful resources online, and a supplemental workbook is forthcoming. Learn more about The M.O.M. Initiative below, and let us know how we can serve you!

What’s The M.O.M. Initiative?

While many women dream of being the perfect mom who has all the right answers, never raises her voice and never has to count to three, we all know it’s not always easy being a mom. Those sweet little bundles of joy don’t come packaged with instruction manuals or warning labels and moms are often left to figure it out on their own.

The M.O.M. Initiative is an acrostic for Mothers On a Mission to Mentor Other Mothers. It exists as a group of moms and a package of resources to equip, enable and support women as they experience Titus 2 in real life. We want to help moms become the best moms they can possibly be.

The Website:

The M.O.M. Initiative website offers virtual encouragement for real life moms. The website exists as safe place to grow as a mother, to gain a better understanding of what a mother is and what a mother does and to foster and support mentor/mentee relationships.

Along with practical tips, helpful tools, godly wisdom and informative insight on current issues, The M.O.M. Initaitive website also offers a private chat room where a mom can connect with a ‘virtual’ mentor and find help in times of need. The website offers help for the mentor as well as the mentee.

The articles on The M.O.M. Initiative website are provided by a wonderful group of moms who are passionate about ministering to the hearts of mothers. Some are writers, speakers, counselors, nurses or experts in their fields, yet they all devote much time and effort to serving other mothers in whatever season of life they find themselves.

The Workbook:

The M.O.M. Initiative workbook is being developed to serve as a tool in the hands of Christian moms to help foster mentoring relationships beyond the four walls of the church and take Titus 2 to the streets. It will be an eight week study containing five lessons per week. Each day the mentee will be presented with biblical truths as well as mental, emotional, physical, spiritual and developmental needs of a child. She will also gain insight through thought provoking questions encouraging her to implement proactive mothering techniques.

The workbook will also provide a M.O.M. mentor guide and a missional planning guide in the back of the book.

Summed up, The M.O.M. Initiative is a missional mentoring package of resources that will give Christian mothers an easy, hands on approach to passionately pursue mentor relationships with younger mothers and mothers-to-be, and ultimately impact the next generation for Christ.

How Did The M.O.M. Initiative Get Started?

The M.O.M. Initiative was birthed from founder, Stephanie Shott’s own story. At the age of nineteen, she was a single mom. Without Christ and without a mentor, she made a series of serious choices that affected her precious young son. After becoming a Christian five years later she learned being a mom is much more than a three letter word and a handful of sacrifices. She also realize the significance of Titus 2:4-5.

What’s the Vision for The M.O.M. Initiative?

We believe that if the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, then the church that mentors those hands will win it.

The primary vision for The M.O.M. Initiative is that it not only be limited to those who enter the four walls of the church, but that it also be used to facilitate mentor relationships in homes for unwed mothers, in low income housing projects, apartment complexes, homeless shelters, prisons, juvenile shelters, schools, hospitals, the mission field and anywhere young mothers can be found. (Planning guides for each of these venues will be available in the back of the book.)

We are mothers on a mission to mentor other mothers and we really want to change the world one mom at a time! Won’t you join us?!

The M.O.M. Initiative is not just a book. It’s not just a website. IT’S A REVOLUTION!

To join the revolution and become a M.O.M. Mentor, please click the link:

To learn more about The M.O.M. Initiative, you can visit our website at:

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Does That Make Sense?

In any language, whether spoken or written, there exists a structured syntax, a set of grammar rules to regulate sentence construction. Without such organization, language would be ineffectual, right? Random words gestured haphazardly make no sense.

Even made-up languages maintain structure. Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky of Through the Looking Glass is sheer nonsense. Or is it?

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

The poem’s theme may not be immediately evident, but it has rhythm and rhyme and structure and some sort of imagery of which main character Alice herself says, “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don’t know exactly what they are!”

What about languages long since outdated and archaic? Take this piece of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in Middle English, for example:

But ye that holden this tale a folye,
As of a fox, or of a cok and hen,
Taketh the moralitee, goode men.
For Seint Paul seith that al that written is,
To our doctrine it is y-write, y-wis.
Taketh the fruyt, and lat the chaf be stille.

Indeed a message can be discerned without the benefit of a translator. Well-written material with proper structure—grammar, syntax, punctuation, formatting—can leave quite an impact on the reader. It is effective communication that can leave quite an impression, even when the words are not completely understood.

So learn the language in which you write. Know its rules and know how to break them correctly. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV), because “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33) and neither should you be.

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

Can you believe it’s 2012? It’s common custom to assess life at the turn of a new year. We look back on where we’ve been and speculate what is to come. We plan, strategize, budget and organize. Of course, to certain degrees that is necessary. We need to have some direction, some goal for which to strive.

Writing is no exception. I have relinquished some responsibilities in order to take on some new assignments. I am hopeful in anticipation of the potential growth those new prospects will bring. To be honest, I’m filled with excitement about the things I’ve penciled onto my calendar.


Soothsayers predict the world will end this year. Are you gearing up for that? According to NASA, “The story started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth. This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012. Then these two fables were linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012—hence the predicted doomsday date of December 21, 2012.” (By the way, the Mayan calendar does not end. It merely rolls over to a new long-period cycle, just as our own calendar rolls over from December to January each year.) By scientific measures, it is highly unlikely any catastrophe is due Earth in 2012.


The Bible tells us we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Let me ask you again, are you gearing up for that? Of course, I am not advising you “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die!” But I’d like you to consider James 4:13-15: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”

If it is the Lord’s will…

“You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath” (Psalm 39:5). A breath. A mist. A vapor. The very next verse describes man as a phantom in his finite brevity. Make your resolutions. Set those goals. But remember it is “not my will but thine,”  and make this ever your constant plea: Lord, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” (Psalm 90:12).

May 2012 bring you rich blessings as you live according to His will.

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This sums it up ;)

This sums it up ;)