Closing story arcs is a vital part of our stories.
What do I mean by that?
Here’s an example:
A girl moves with her dad to a new town after her mum dies. She has an adventure in her new town, and the adventure is resolved by the end of the story. The main story arc is therefore neatly closed…
BUT: do we find out why her mum died? Do we find out why she moved to a new town in the first place? If mini story arcs have been opened, they also need to be closed. Because there’s a story behind these two elements, for sure, and readers will be wondering about them.
You may have chosen to have the girl move to a new town with her dad because it suited the story. But you have to give your readers a good reason, or it will seem odd.
Don’t leave your readers guessing – they will want to know!
You may say, I’m planning on telling them in a sequel. If you are, make sure they’re not so frustrated at not finding out, and cross with you for not ending the story properly, that they don’t even want to read the sequel!
Usually, it’s just that you’ve been so engrossed in the new adventure, that you’ve forgotten that you have raised questions in your readers’ minds, that need resolving.
So make sure you tie up all your loose ends. Sometimes it’s difficult to see these things yourself (we all have blind spots!), so get yourself a writing buddy, or get a professional manuscript criticism, or join us in Writers for a Reason Unite.
Quick caveat: If you are planning to write a sequel, and want to leave on a note of intrigue at the very end of your novel about the next move, that’s different. Simply tie up the old ends before you start on a new adventure. 🙂
Here’s a quick tip to help you to stick to your goals, once you’ve set them…
Give yourself a reward!
Aren’t rewards for dogs? you might be asking. 🙂 Well yes, but listen to this:
Apparently, positive affirmation is also hugely helpful when WE want to stick to a new routine or goal.
So what we should do, when we do what we say we will do, every time, we should reward ourself.
You then start to look forward to doing what you said you would do, because you get a reward. That can be a cup of delicious coffee, a phone call with a friend, a game, an evening of watching your favourite TV series, a glass of something nice, your favourite takeaway sandwich, a luxury shower, reading time at the weekend…. or whatever does it for you.
And that means you’re more likely to stick to your goals.
Maybe we’re not so different from dogs! Anyway, I think you deserve a reward for pressing on. Many people think about writing, but just by reading this, you have already made a big step forward.
Which is great!
So keep writing and rewarding yourself, because, as you know because I’m always telling you, if you have been called to write, someone, somewhere, is waiting for your story.
Happy New Year! Sorry to be slightly late in this greeting. Unfortunately, along with a huge number of other people, I’ve had some kind of virus – I didn’t feel so well last week. But here I am again, still a bit hoarse, but ready to go!
Hope you are keeping well.
Do you have any writing aims for this year? Want to start a novel, finish a novel, edit a manuscript?
Here’s a suggestion: take time aside with your writing journal to consider your aims. Dream big! What would you like to have accomplished in the next five or ten years, as well as this year? Be bold – children need your stories! Write it all down, and pray as you write.
Then, when you have your big aims set, come back down to today and tomorrow, and the rest of the week. What is realistically achievable?
Don’t make your daily/weekly goal so big that you will fail!
But don’t make it too small that it doesn’t stretch you a tiny bit.
When you’ve decided on a goal that you know you can achieve, get some accountability. Let someone know! Someone kind, but who will check up on you and make sure you are fulfilling your dream, one small step at a time.
Because that’s what success is, isn’t it? It’s being faithful, day by day, and the new year is a great time to stop and take stock.
The new year is also a good time to consider if you need some extra help. If you feel you could do with learning/reminding yourself of all the basics you need to write engaging stories, why not join the Write for a Reason Academy? You’ll love it! This online course will give you everything you need to write excellent, relevant, fun novels. And it’s great fun! You can learn at your own pace in your own time, one module at a time. Don’t risk making mistakes with characters, plot, theme, narrative voice and other novice errors (including weaving in your Christian message). I wrote the course because I see the same mistakes in manuscripts by new authors over and over again, that are learnable skills – don’t let that be you. You will learn things you didn’t even know you didn’t know!!! That’s a promise – in fact, it’s a guarantee. If you’re not finding it helpful by the end of the first couple of modules, I will give you your money back.
Sorry to go on a bit, but I do feel really passionate about the course – it’s so frustrating when stories have so much potential, but the author has missed simple things like story arcs aren’t closed, or there are errors with narrative voice that a novice may not notice, but will leave questions in readers’ minds. And there’s a monthly pay feature, to make it a bit easier on the finances. And you’ll only need to do it once and you’ll have all the material at your fingertips… I’d better stop there! Here’s the link to take a closer look. In fact, let me give you a coupon code for 50% off, to help you in these tough times: hang on while I set it up…. there! The code is newyear2023 and is valid for the first 10 people who join, so if you’re interested, don’t delay. I do hope it helps. Any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
If the course isn’t for you, but you’d like a writing buddy group to help you get your novel done, for regular honest but friendly feedback, fellowship and accountability, join Writers for a Reason Unite. It’s brilliant! This isn’t a course, but regular meetings on Zoom with other writers just like you, who write fiction for children. We had meetings yesterday, and it was great. You can also ask me questions. A couple we had yesterday were about copyright and if a character is going to die, should they have a ‘speaking part’? You can check the group out here. I’d love you to join us. 🙂
And, of course, I’m really delighted to be able to keep sending out these emails regularly. Do tell your friends and spread the word – this is all free, and it’s for you, because I’m passionate about helping authors fill their potential and get more brilliant books into more young hands.
Until next time, may the Lord bless you and keep you, and inspire you with your writing!
The snow reminded me of something that will definitely help your novel with atmosphere – make sure you talk about the weather!
You don’t have to be obsessive about it, like us Brits, hehe. But bringing in the warmth of the sun on your protagonist’s face, the wind whipping their hair, the silence of the snow, the crunch of walking in fallen leaves in the park in the autumn… all these add atmosphere and therefore add to your readers’ engagement and enjoyment of the story.
So bring in that weather!
Take a look at your manuscript and see where you can add in a little bit of weather… enjoy!
I don’t know what it is about the dark evenings and long nights that makes me think of secrets…
I’ve taken this week’s writing tip from our November Writing Challenge. (If you want to do the last couple of weeks, feel free – sign up here.)
I hope you find it useful!
Children love secrets. A secret island, a secret friend, a secret garden, a secret passage… all these make wonderful additions to children’s/teens’ stories.
Another type of secret could be a super power – perhaps one of your characters can fly, see in the dark, or anticipate disasters… but nobody else knows. Maybe someone knows where the treasure is hidden, why mum cries at night, or where grandpa hides his magic lantern. The secret can be good or bad… The possibilities are endless, and they will all add something extra to your story! Could you add a secret to your story?
It’s time to set your imagination free! If you’re working on a manuscript: Consider how you could add a secret to your story, and write it in. It could be a big secret or a little secret – it’s up to you. If you’re writing for fun: Write a mini story about a character with a secret. Maybe it’s even biographical! Enjoy, my friends, and I’ll see you here again soon. 🙂
Today, instead of a writing tip, I have a ten-minute writing exercise for you. 🙂
The idea is to describe what your protagonist is wearing at the beginning of your story. (Or if you haven’t got a story right now, make up a character.)
Include lots of detail. Why are they wearing this outfit? What’s special about each item? Did they choose the clothes themselves, or are they hand-me-downs or gifts? Is the clothing old and worn out, or brand new? What about colour?
Is their any significance to what they are wearing? What is the image they want to portray? What about jewellery and make up? Does any piece have special significance?
How does their outfit make them feel? Grown-up, embarrassed, important, significant, cared for or neglected?
This fun little exercise need only take ten minutes – so instead of scrolling through Instagram once today, grab a pen and paper or your phone, and do this instead!
By the end of the assignment, you will have got to know your protagonist a little better – so you can make him/her more real for your readers as you write. And that’s a great thing, because the more engaging your characters, the more engaging your novel will be. 🙂
There are lots more exercises like this in the November Challenge (I’ve had lots of fun planning them for you!). If you’d like to join us, this is the link to sign up.
Have a great weekend,
P.S. Thanks to those of you who have already signed up. You’re in for a treat! The Challenge starts on Tuesday, so if you are thinking about joining, don’t leave it too long. And if you’ve missed all the info about it, simply click on the link for more info. Hope to see you there!
Here’s a writing tip that came up a couple of weeks ago when I was running a writing workshop in Hungary, with an international group of writers. (It was such fun!).
Somebody asked, how many secondary characters should we have in our stories for children?
I asked the others: What do you think? One of the ladies immediately told us that she had read a series of novels as a child, but there were so many characters, she didn’t really get to know any of them very well. Hmm. Worth thinking about that!
We decided that the best number of secondary characters is as many as you need, but not more.
How many secondary characters do you have? Would your novel be helped by having fewer characters? Does your protagonist need three best friends, or would one do? Does he or she need a large extended family, or would a dad and a gran cover it?
Some children will binge-read your book – they will start it and finish it as soon as they possibly can. Others might read one chapter at a time. Will the latter be able to remember who is who, if they read your story over a period of two or three weeks?
Here are the dangers of too many secondary characters: they can slow the story down, complicate issues and distract from your protagonist.
It’s worth thinking about these things, and making changes if you need to.
If you’re not sure about your novel, and would like some help, Writers for a Reason Unite is just about to open up again (Thursday) for new members. We’d love to have you join us! One of the biggest and most wonderful things about our Unite groups are the way writers-for-a-reason help and support each other. In small writing buddy groups, everyone has time in the ‘hot seat’ to get input about anything they want help with – like how many secondary characters to include in their story!
If you’d like any further info about the groups, check out this page, and do feel free to get in touch. Our groups really are helping writers get their novels done:-)
Have a wonderful day,
P.S. This is the link to the join an email list, to make sure you get all the information about our Unite group. There’s no obligation to join – it just means you get all the info so you can decide if it’s for you. Hope to see you there!
What we wear is an outward expression of what we are like inside – culture, family, personal likes and dislikes, how we feel about ourselves… and lots more.
So take ten minutes or so to write a description of what your protagonist is wearing.
Is the school skirt rolled up? Are the jeans the right length? Are the clothes clean or dirty? Posh and fancy, or ill fitting and old? Don’t forget colour and texture! And don’t forget accessories – was the necklace a gift from a granny or a best friend? What about their clothes makes them stand out or fit in?
Enjoy getting to know your protagonist a bit better in this exercise, so that ultimately your readers will be able to engage with them at a deeper level. 🙂
As we go further into advent, there is still so much uncertainty, worldwide, about covid and its spread.
I just wanted to send you a short message of encouragement today, that no matter what happens, the Lord is with us. The God of Jacob is our defender. Even if the earth shakes, even if the mountains quake as the oceans roar and foam, our trust is in the Lord, our God.
So keep writing! Children are so desperate to hear good news. They need fun stories to entertain, thrill… and that will also be a cup of water to a thirsty soul. To bring light, hope and joy – and share the love of God.
Don’t give up – someone, somewhere needs to read your story.
May the Lord encourage and strengthen you to persevere in your writing!
And don’t let’s forget to pray for each other. Together we can make a difference. Politicians are talking about a tsunami of covid – let’s make a tsunami of good news stories for kids!
I’ll be sending out more information in due course, when I’ve finalised everything, but I wanted to give you the heads up so you can get it in your diary, buy yourself a nice pen and writing journal, and get excited!
Details to be finalised, but I will set daily ten-minute tasks, we’ll have a weekly Zoom meeting where we can chat over all things write-for-a-reason (writing fiction for kids and teens from a Christian perspective) – and maybe set up some extra facebook rooms too, for Q and A. (We do these with Write for a Reason Academy students. They are great fun and soooo encouraging!)
The ‘why’ is to learn and be encouraged together – to be inspired to write to the very best of our ability and get our stories done and into children’s hands.
If we are writing anything that might encourage children to walk with Jesus, we are stepping into enemy territory. There’s a fight on for our children’s lives. The enemy wants to steal their joy, their faith and their very lives.
Stories can give readers a perspective on life that they had never considered before – Christian books can have an enormous impact. Books change lives. Well, the Lord’s the one who changes lives, but he does use us, which is an amazing privilege and an awesome responsibility.
And it seems to me that fighting together is better than fighting alone!
So, the October Write for a Reason Writing Challenge – are you up for it? 🙂
Feel free to pass it on the link to your writer friends and in your writing groups. I have a feeling that Zoom will only allow 100 people in a meeting (at the level I’ve paid for) so there may be a limit on places.
Hello and thanks for coming over! I hope you find this video training useful in beating writer’s block. 🙂
Simply click below to watch the video, or if you prefer, read the transcript underneath.
Today I thought I would take a step aside from the actual writing process and look at the whole issue of writer’s block.
Surely every writer suffers from writer’s block at some time in their writing lives. After all, none of us are robots! This feared and dreaded affliction is a part of the creative process – ditch diggers don’t get ditch digger’s block, carpet layers don’t get carpet layer’s block, but writer’s block (all joking aside) can be a very real problem. And there are levels of it, because writing is creative – it’s an art, not a science.
Any creative process, if we are not following a definite pattern or blueprint, means that we have to think, to come up with something new and dynamic, something unique.
No other species of animal can create like we can. Squirrels build dreys, birds build nests according to their kinds, foxes live in holes, beavers in dams. But people build castles, huts, caravans, terraces, yurts, mansions, cottages, boat houses, houses on stilts, blocks of flats, bungalows and follies. And that’s just homes! Think of the amazing variety of works of art we are able to create: paintings, sculptures, interior décor, garden design, edible creations, computer programmes, and so much more. The creativity of mankind is truly awesome. We can only use the materials the Lord has provided, but still, we are able to both create and appreciate beautiful things.
If we want to write, we can’t just weigh out the ingredients, stir them together and out will come a delicious novel! Writing is one of the amazing ways which shows we have been made in the image of our Creator God. After all, the Bible is full of stories!
Stories have the ability to make readers laugh, smile, cry and dream. Stories can take our readers far away to new worlds limited only by imagination. . . . and for those of us who write for the reason of sharing the good news of Jesus, our stories also have an eternal perspective.
But with all that awesomeness in mind, it’s no surprise, really, that in our humanity the creative process sometimes fails us for a while.
So What Is Writer’s Block?
There are various definitions of the term writer’s block, but for me it’s simply:
The temporary inability to write creatively.
“Temporary” is the key word. Some writers can find themselves stuck for an hour or two, others for years. And it can come and go like the waves of the sea!
Understanding our humanity (and our reliance on God) can be the first step, I believe, in accepting the fact that sometimes it will take time for us to gain the inspiration we need to either begin to write, or to move our story forward. If we can rest in the process of getting back to being creative again, rather than getting frustrated and fighting against it, we are more likely to get back on track.
Getting tense and stressed won’t help!
What Causes Writer’s Block?
Let’s first have a look at some different symptoms of writer’s block, because if we can get a diagnosis, it will be easier to find a ‘cure’.
We are stuck with a plot issue
Our minds are distracted with other things
We are afraid of starting or continuing in case our story fails to live up to expectations
We have no definite goal or deadline
A physical or emotional condition is wiping out our creativity
We have a perfectionist attitude
Recognise any of these? 🙂 I think I have probably suffered most of these at various times in my life!
So What Can We Do?
I’m going to go over all of the above causes one by one, with some suggestions as to how to get over the problem. As we are all different, some you may find helpful, some not, but I hope that you might find an idea or two to inspire you to get writing again at just the time you need it. 🙂
We Are Stuck With A Plot Issue
We may be in the middle of writing a novel when we get stuck with a plot issue. This is a frustrating problem, especially when we have set time aside to write and the time is being eaten away with nothing to show for it!
Here are some ideas that might help:
Have a change of scenery. Do something completely different for a while.
Talk to an encouraging friend (avoid the negative one who will drag you down). Tell them all about your plot problem – just talking it over can bring a solution to mind.
Move! Studies have shown that the brain works better after exercise, so go for a walk, run, swim or cycle ride, do some press-ups or dance around the room!
Allow yourself time to think. Go for a drive, sketch your protagonist, mow the lawn, wander round a garden centre – whatever does it for you.
Eat something healthy. Maybe you just need something nutritious to get your brain to function!
Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is known to cause lack of concentration.
Our Minds Are Distracted With Other Things
Most of us lead busy lives. We have to balance work and/or voluntary activities with family, church and other responsibilities. We can have so much on our minds that when we sit down to write our minds are so full we are unable to concentrate.
Here are my suggestions for getting that story finished:
Pray before you start, and leave everything that is concerning you with the Lord. If a thought about the shopping list, your elderly mother or school visit pops into your head, remind yourself that you have already left that one with the Lord!
Make a list of everything else you need to get done later in the day, so it’s no longer on your mind (and avoid the temptation to keep looking at the list!).
Do anything essential before sitting down to write. If you’re worrying about forgetting to tax your car, being creative is going to be hard. 🙂
Turn off distractions. Turn off emails, the phone, and anything else you may be tempted to ‘quickly check’.
Create a pleasant writing space. If you like a muddle, make sure it’s a muddle that makes you smile. If you like order, have everything in place, so your working environment is not distracting you, however tiny it is! I started Dernier Publishing in a corner of my dining room. 🙂
We Are Afraid Of Writing In Case Our Story Is Rubbish
This is a common, and often subconscious, reason for writer’s block. Here’s the biggest symptom:
If, at a time you have set apart to write, you can think of all sorts of things you could do or should do, and do those things instead of writing, fear is probably at the bottom of it all.
Let’s face it, when cleaning the oven seems more appealing than writing, something is definitely not right!
We all want to do well. None of us wants to do something badly. Suppose our story is rubbish? Suppose we give it to people to read and they don’t like it? None of us want to be ‘rejected’ by agents and publishers, and what’s more, we don’t want to waste our time.
If such doubts about our writing are lurking at the back of our minds, how easy is it going to be to sit down and do our very best? Writer’s block could be the result.
So how do we get over our fear?
Recognise that starting any new creative process is always going to be scary. It’s fine to be afraid! Courage is being afraid but going ahead anyway.
Don’t give your story to all and sundry to read for their comments, especially before it’s the best it can possibly be. If you do need feedback, choose your readers carefully. Avoid the scoffers and mockers, those who put you down. Choose someone who knows what they are talking about, but will be encouraging.
Keep going. Grit your teeth and persevere, no matter what. Give yourself a pat on the back if you have finished anything – you’re streets ahead of most people, who never even start!
So what if your story isn’t all that good? The next one will be better! The first few attempts at anything new will be a learning curve.
Get some training. Determine to get better at your craft. Knowing you are doing things properly will help you overcome your fear. If you haven’t done the Write for a Reason courseyet, why not give it a go?
Take small steps. Did you do the writing challenge earlier this year? A great way to get over fear is to take small steps on the way to a bigger goal, e.g. writing a short story before launching into a full length novel.
Remember the parable of the talents? Some people were given ten talents, some five, some one. Never mind how many you have, you have to use them, because the Master is coming back one day and he wants interest on what he has given you. That’s a serious responsibility.
Develop a thick skin. There will always be haters, scoffers and mockers, people who give bad reviews. It’s discouraging, but we should be more afraid of what will happen if we don’t write than if we do.
Suppose beloved authors gave up writing because one of one or two people didn’t like their stories? To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of the most popular books ever, but here’s what one reviewer says, “If I could give this no stars, I would. This is possibly one of my least favorite books in the world, one that I would happily take off of shelves and stow in dark corners where no one would ever have to read it again.”
Look up the reviews for a handful of your favourite books on Amazon. You will find some bad reviews among the good ones!
We Have No Definite Goal Or Deadline
This can be a crusher. If we have no particular aim or deadline to reach, it’s easy to play games, check emails and twitter, upload photos, update facebook and browse for hours on end instead of concentrating on our writing.
Without a time deadline we can easily lose the plot (sorry!).
So if this is a problem for you, what can you do?
Set yourself a realistic deadline. Could you finish the first draft by the end of the summer?
Break your final deadline up into smaller goals. If you’re going to finish your first draft in twelve weeks, will that mean a chapter a week, 500 words a day? Having a definite daily or weekly deadline is an excellent way to get momentum.
Write down you goal and tell someone who will hold you accountable.
Celebrate every time you reach a goal. Could you keep a chocolate bar in the cupboard, a beer in the fridge, plan an outing when the first draft is complete? 🙂
A Physical Or Emotional ConditionIs Wiping OutOurCreativity
There are times when we just can’t seem to write anything creative due to an emotional, mental or physical condition. Grief, illness, depression – they can all weigh heavily on us. Writer’s block can be the result. Mercifully, these times can pass quickly, as in the case of a cold or a touch of ‘flu. In some cases they can last much longer – some of you will know exactly what I mean.
So is there anything we can do?
Set your writing aside for a while. Sometimes we have no choice but to be reasonable and set our writing to one side until we feel better. This can be frustrating, but there is a time for everything under the sun.
Try jotting down ideas for stories when you feel up to it. Work on some character sketches, scenes, interesting plots. You may be able to use these at a later date. Even if you can’t, you’ll have kept your hand in. 🙂
Take on smaller writing tasks. How about writing a journal, writing letters, writing a blog or poetry, if the process of writing stories is too taxing?
Get some rest and relaxation. We all go through times in our life when we need some ‘r and r’. We can’t be creative on empty. We get tired, or dull. If you need a change of scenery, take one. Don’t sit at your computer feeling frustrated. Go out if you can, or if that’s not an option, at least close up your computer and read a book, or take a nap if you need one. We’re not robots!
Pray. And don’t feel guilty. The Lord understands our human frailty. He knows if we are skiving off or genuinely needing a break!
We Have A Perfectionist Attitude
Wanting to get everything right is laudable, but striving too hard after perfection can be a killer! It can be linked with the fear of not being good enough. The three biggest symptoms of this type of writer’s block are:
The inability to actually start writing a story you have in your head.
Editing the same few sentences over and over again.
Giving up on a story you haven’t completed, and starting something new. Then repeating the process.
What might have been a good story may never see the light of day if you insist on everything being perfect.
So how can you get over this type of writer’s block?
Recognise that there’s no such thing as the perfect story. Recognise that your first story may not be a masterpiece – that doesn’t mean that readers won’t enjoy it!
Force yourself to finish a story you have begun. Learning any skill takes time and practice – the more practice you get, the better your stories will become.
Set yourself a deadline for finishing your story. Persevere and don’t give up.
Do not allow yourself to begin editing until you have completed the first draft. I mean that!
Some of us are perhaps lazier than others and more prone to doing what’s easy instead of what we really should be doing. At the first hurdle, we give up because we’re not used to pushing through when the going gets tough. And let’s face it, writing can be hard work at times! Sometimes we need to j.u.s.t k.e.e.p g.o.i.n.g. 🙂
So here are some tips if procrastination is causing your writer’s block:
Don’t wait for the muse to strike. Just write.
Put your butt in your seat and write. Every time your mind begins to wander or you are tempted to check facebook, get firm with yourself and get back to work!
Write at the best time for you. Set time aside to write when you are at your best, whether that’s morning, afternoon, evening or the middle of the night. You are less likely to procrastinate if you are feeling in the mood.
Set yourself a reasonable, sensible target every time you sit down to write, and don’t get up until you have reached it. A number of words can be better than a number of hours for procrastinators, as you could just sit dreaming or doodling for two hours. (Not telling how I know that!)
Persevere. If you need treats to motivate yourself, do it!
Preventing Writer’s Block
Wouldn’t it be so much better if we could actually prevent writer’s block in the first place? Of course that’s impossible all the time, but still, there are some things we can do to help.
Here are some tips:
Plan your story carefully. We go into plotting and planning in the Write for a Reason course. If you have thought through your plot and what happens at each step of the way, you’re less likely to reach that point of ‘now what?’.
Make sure you have a strong enough reason to write. If you are feeling positive about your writing and your purpose, you are less likely to hit the black wall. Imagine children reading your book!
Look after yourself. Eat well, get enough sleep and enough exercise. Your physical needs are not separate from your mind – they are interconnected. If you know you are going to spend time writing, get an early night, have a good breakfast and drink plenty of water.
Are you trying to do too much? At times we ask too much of ourselves, or other people ask too much of us! Sometimes we may have to say no to things, be true to our calling. Maybe we have a gift for writing, but need to set it aside for a while to care for a sick relative, for example. Most of us could probably delegate household tasks to stop ourselves feeling overwhelmed! Could someone else cook the dinner or clean the car while you write? Or perhaps you have said yes to too many things and need to cut back? Pray for guidance.
Join a writer’s group for inspiration. Keep the writer’s block at bay with some regular encouragement!
Phone a friend. Have a trusted friend you can phone (someone who gets the whole writing thing) and ask them to pray for you when you start to feel that block approaching.
Get some writing software. If you know you jump about instead of concentrating on one thing at a time, you may find specialised writing software, such as WriteMonkey or Scrivener, useful for keeping yourself focused and organised. Google a few options, see if any might be right for you.
Get some help quickly. Feel the block approaching? Go for that walk, talk to someone, do whatever you need to do, but do it fast.
PRAY every day, before you start. And get someone else to pray with you and for you. If you are writing with the aim of reaching children and young people with the good news of Jesus, you are going to need some prayer support.
So there you go, some thoughts on writer’s block. I hope you have found that helpful. You will have to find out what works for you, but why not read back over all the ideas and find two or three that really hit home for you?
Write down the three or four reasons you most often get writer’s block, and what you are going to do from now on to be able to get back on track.
And let me know what those things are – putting it in writing and telling someone else will help you achieve your goal. 🙂
Hello again, and welcome to the latest Write for a Reason writing tip, on how to end chapters in the best way possible.
A writer for a reason recently asked me this excellent question:
“Does every chapter need to finish on a cliffhanger?”
Although my answer was a tentative, well, you do need to end on a note of tension, I knew there was more to it than that, so after some careful reflection, here are some thoughts.
1. Do not answer all your readers’ questions at the end of every chapter – make sure you give them some new issues to think about, so they need to read on. Chapters can be neat ‘folders’ for a piece of action, but one should lead on to the next. You need to build intrigue at the end of each one, to entice your readers on to the next.
2. A hook of some sort is therefore needed. This can be:
A moment of tension/drama
A moment of high emotion
Some new information coming to light
Introduction of a new character
A new ‘happening’
A question arising
Anything else relevant that will hook your reader in!
3. Ring the changes in style and degree – let some hooks be stronger than others. Don’t become guessable!
4. Be sensitive to your readers. If your book is obviously deliciously horrible, and your readers revel in all that is gross and scary, feel free to make your hooks as horrid as you like. But if your book is for younger/more sensitive readers, take care not to send your readers to bed with scary thoughts that might stop them sleeping.
Here’s a clip (unedited) from the end of a chapter of a story I’m currently working on. (N.B. Lance lives in an apartment block, and Noah is staying in the room above):
“The following morning, Lance woke up late. He had tossed and turned for ages before dropping off to sleep the night before, and had slept badly. Thoughts and dreams had got mixed up, and were still whirling round his head when he began to stir. He could hear the usual morning noises – his mum clattering in the kitchen, and the sound of a praise song on the radio, but then his ears tuned in to another noise. Suddenly realising what it was, Lance threw off the duvet and grabbed his ruler from his desk – Noah was tapping on his ceiling! He started to tap back, then heard another unusual noise – this time, outside his bedroom window. He ran over, pulled the curtains back and stared in astonishment. A bright blue water bottle, tied to a string, was hanging outside!”
I could have finished the chapter after the previous paragraph, when Lance went to bed the night before. However, I added this bit from the next morning, so I could open a new story loop, and a new chapter. I’m hoping that readers will want to keep on reading. 🙂
Right, bless you all – I hope, as always, you found this tip helpful. If you did, would you share it in a writing group you belong to? This is the link.
As last week’s writing tip seemed to resonate with many of you, about juggling various different writing projects or sticking to one (and I was speaking to myself as much as to you!), I thought, this week, this would be a good topic:
Get to grips with your distractions.
When I started Dernier Publishing, the family PC stood in the corner of our dining room, so writing had to happen there. Our two adopted cats, Casper and Murphy, would come and drape themselves round my neck and sit on the keyboard… people would be walking in and out… kids would need attention. I’m sure you know the kind of thing!
Now my kids have all grown up and the animals are no more… but in my experience, distractions never go away – they just morph into other things!
Here’s what I do now to avoid distactions:
We have a laptop in the house, but I go out to the office to write, because I work best alone
I turn off the WiFi. So much more writing gets done that way.
I write at the same time every day (straight after the evening meal). That way I can’t stop to think if I feel like it or not. I just do it. Some days I can’t, of course – but all the days I can, I do.
Now it’s your turn.
Your assignment for this week, should you choose to accept it:
Write down three things that distract you from writing.
Decide how you can overcome each one. Don’t let those distractions get you!
Imagine getting your story done in half the time; how wonderful that would be. You can – but you need to spot the distractions, and find ways to avoid them.
Trust you find that helpful.
P.S. Students from the Write for a Reason Academy met up yesterday evening for a Q and A session. It was a really good time, with lots of great questions! If you’d like to join the Academy, you will also have access to future online meetings. We’d love to welcome you in! 🙂 Click here to get access.
Whatever you are going through right now – whatever difficulties and trials, stresses and problems of every sort – be assured that the Lord is with you. He will never let you endure beyond what you can bear, even if it doesn’t seem like it sometimes. (You are stronger than you probably think you are, with the Lord on your side.)
Thinking about not being given more than we can bear reminds me of something I’ve been meaning to talk about for a while:
Becoming overwhelmed with too many writing projects at one time.
Best to have just one.
Here’s the truth: Keeping one writing ball in the air can be tricky enough. Keeping two writing balls in the air is even more tricky. Three or more, and, well, you’d better be good at juggling!
The thing is, however many writing projects we have on the go, we only have the same amount of time. So three hours on one project will move it forward. One hour on each of three projects, by the time you’ve made your coffee, found your file and got into the flow will mean that each project will only move forward at a snail’s pace.
The result? You will get discouraged. And you know where that leads… a bad place!
So, my recommendation, if you are currently trying to keep more than one project alive, is to pick one and finish it.
Yes, that means you will have to put something else aside. Yes, you will have to persevere with that awful bit in the middle of the story you’ve chosen, although everything in you screams for a break and it would seem sooooo much easier to lay it aside and put your hand to something else.
Don’t give in to the temptation! Finish the project you picked. Then start the next one, and see that one through to completion, too.
Is this tip for you, today? If it is, let me know. It’s always lovely to hear from you!
May the Lord give you the wisdom and perseverance you need to finish your story!
P.S. We are going to have a live online Q and A session with all students from the Write for a Reason Academy next week. If you are a student, or a former student, you are welcome to come and join us. Or if you join the Academy between now and then, we’d love to have you join us, too. 🙂 Let me know if you’d like the details!
What fabulous sunshine we’ve had in the south of England this last week! That’s all very nice for us, but sunny weather and everything going swimmingly doesn’t make for a good story.
Every good story needs a problem – some kind of conflict. And goodness, there are so many desperate situations you could make a story out of. I’m sure you don’t need reminding.
Suppose it’s a lovely sunny day, and William and Izzy go with their family to the beach. If they have fun making sandcastles, enjoy swimming in the sea, searching rock pools for crabs, have a delicious ice-cream, then go home happy, readers might feel cheated.
There was no problem for the characters to solve.
Now let’s suppose William and Izzy go with their family to the beach. While they are making sandcastles, their dog gets lost. Now you have a story! You can bring in a baddy, a rock fall and a scary cave before the children find their dog, if you like. How exciting/scary you make it depends on the age of your readers, of course, but even small children can understand looking for a lost dog, and be delighted when he’s found, safe and sound.
It doesn’t matter if the problem is an earthquake, a monster, dragons, pirates, stolen clothes, poisonous jellyfish or a shipwreck… but you have to give your characters a problem, and/or a dangerous quest.
Is your story too ‘nice’? You may have to get mean!
Hope that helps!
See you next week,
P.S. We look at conflicts and your story plan in detail in the Write for a Reason Academy. If this has whetted your appetite, come on over and join us!
As you probably know, I write as well as publish. I just love to write!
Right now I am writing about a lad called Lance, who needs to respond to a message in a bottle which has been lowered on a piece of string outside his bedroom window (what fun writing is!), and thought you might be interested to see how a few strong words can completely transform a sentence.
Draft: Lance went to his desk, took a page out of a notebook and picked up a pen from his bedside table.
Edited version: Lance ran to his desk, ripped a page out of a notebook and snatched a pen from his bedside table.
Joanne wrote: I’d love to hear the opposite too and imagine the scenario behind it – Lance meandered over to his desk, thumbed through a notebook for an empty page and wondered where he might find a pen…
Just for fun: Lance crawled over to his desk, pulled down his notebook, scrabbled for an empty page and located a broken pencil the only thing left in his room…
Gotta love all the creativity!
Now it’s time for you to get to work to add atmosphere and emotion in your own work:
Let those examples sink in for a minute or two, and feel how different they are to the first (boring!) draft.
Go through your current work in progress, and see if there are any changes you could make, to add more atmosphere and emotion – with a few strong words.
You may have heard the saying ‘kill your darlings’. It sounds pretty awful, and not something that Christian writers would do!
But… sometimes we may have to.
What does it mean?
Even if we have written a careful story plan, we may sometimes find that a plot point, or a character, a scene, or a paragraph of dialogue, does not need to be there. It hurts… but it may need to be CUT (killed, even though we’ve grown fond of it, having spent hours writing it ). Ouch!
Why should you do it?
Every word in your story should be there for a reason. If it’s not:
moving the story forward
helping readers get to know the characters
serving a useful function
it should GO.
When you should do it?
Sometimes, as writers, we can get carried away with an idea for a scene, or think adding a particular character would be fun. But why? The big question is, are we adding this because we’re enjoying writing it, or because our readers will love it and need it to make sense of the story? If it adds nothing to the novel, it needs to DIE. Sorry!
Think of it as clearing your garden. All the weeds and brambles need to be dug up. Some of them may have attractive flowers, but they shouldn’t be there. We need to get rid of everything that is in the way of seeing the beautifully kept garden.
Do you have any darlings you need to kill? Sometimes the job just has to be done, however painful!
My son and his wife are expecting their first child in the summer, and we have been discussing names – what fun!
When you are writing your stories, you also have the privilege of choosing names for all your characters. This can be a bit of a headache, and you don’t necessarily have nine months to mull over your choices! I’ve previously written about how to choose names, so I won’t repeat myself, but here’s an idea to help you choose:
Online, you can search for the top most popular names from the previous year. This is a brilliant way to choose a name for your protagonist that will be liked by the most people right now!
In 2020, the most popular names for girls were Olivia, Amelia and Isla. For boys, the most popular names were Oliver, George and Noah.
Many countries have their own official data, which is hugely helpful, and some also allow you to search by region/state.
Here’s another thing: If your characters (and therefore your readers) are ten years old, you can search for what the favourite names were ten years ago in the country where your story is set. If her little brother is five years old, or an older sibling 20 years old, you can find popular names for those years, too!
You can even go back decades to peruse a list of popular names – how useful is that, for parents, grandparents or the names of neighbours and family friends? You may not be surprised to know that the top three names for girls in 1960 in the UK were Susan, Julie and Karen. The top boys names for the same year were David, Paul and Andrew. 🙂
You can check back to any year you wish, or you can even go further and search for the rarest names, or names that are inspired by flowers, or popular Italian names… there are so many lists out there, all ready to help you!
Trust that helps you in your search for names,
P.S. Let me know if you give this a go, and which websites you found most helpful!
Another week has flown by, and here we are again, with another creative writing tip. 🙂
Thanks to everyone who responded with their thoughts on last week’s ideas on listening to music while you write. It seems that everyone finds something different helpful! Which just goes to show how unique we all are… and how essential it is that you write your stories, because no one can write them, but you.
Right, on to this week’s writing tip. This is something I talk about a lot, because I see it too often in manuscripts I am sent – characters who are either too nice, or too nasty. If you’re writing a pantomime, or a cartoon, or a fairytale, you can get away with caricatures, but if you’re writing a story that is relevant for today’s readers, you need to make your characters at least seem real. This really is vital.
All characters need to be ’rounded’, especially your protagonist. Of course, they need to be inspirational, but they also need to have flaws and issues. They need to get despondent when things go badly – or even get to the point of despair. They shouldn’t always be cheerful, always kind to everyone, or always helpful, especially to people who are treating them badly. Equally, they shouldn’t be always nasty or vicious!
Readers need to read about characters who, like them, want to do their best but sometimes struggle. Or even, sometimes, seek revenge! Who, when life throws them a curved ball, get upset. Who, when tragedy strikes, are filled with grief – and sometimes take it out on the people they love the most. These characters will be engaging, because readers will recognise something of themselves in them.
If your characters are courageous despite the difficulties, they will inspire. But make sure the struggle is real, and triumph not too easy –a hero is not a hero unless he or she has passed through a fight to win through.
Hope that helps! We spend a whole module looking at your protagonist in the Write for a Reason Academy, which you can now join any time to suit you. Katy, a writer-for-a-reason, started the course in January, and finished the course last week! Due to having children at home, she took longer than the ten weeks, but kept going. She told me:
“I finished the course last week!!! Such a wonderful moment. Really excited about the plan I’ve created and so much more confident and encouraged than when I started. Thank you Janet for pursuing this part of your calling to encourage others to write for Jesus, for modelling stepping out in courage and faith, and for all your effort in putting together this incredibly helpful course. It’s brilliant. x”
If you want to be where Katy is in a few weeks, with a full story plan, great characters and the confidence to get your story done, you can join the course here. Any queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I set up the course to help anyone who writes Christian fiction for children and teens… because if you feel called to write, you need to get your story done – and we all need help to hone our gifts!
Have a wonderful Easter, celebrating the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have so much good news to share!
Well, I know exactly where yesterday went; I spent almost the whole day looking up a piece of music, so we could buy the rights to use it in a video trailer we’re doing for a book.
That brought me on to thinking about the best music for writing.
Do you listen to music while you write? I’ve found that when I do, my productivity goes up!
Here’s what works best for me:
Upbeat music (nothing too slow or depressing!)…
That moves me emotionally…
That goes with whatever I am writing.
At the moment I’m listening to epic movie themes, because I’ve reached the part in my latest story where everything is going wrong for the characters (four friends from a church youth club). There’s a sense of battle and the need to overcome… and the movie music is perfect.
Why not give music a go, while you are writing? It stirs the soul and helps you dig deep. Or perhaps you already have a playlist? If you do, let me know what you listen to, so I can share it with your fellow writers. 🙂
P.S. Caveat: don’t spend so long choosing your music that you run out of time to write! 🙂
I watched a film at the weekend. Nothing particularly unusual about that! But this film left me feeling… I’m struggling for the right word… troubled. There was no hope! Everyone in the film was trying to get one up on the others. I know that’s what human nature is like… but in Christ Jesus there is hope for fallen, sinful man. We can be redeemed! We are loved, and therefore we can love in return.
Yesterday I attended a funeral (via webcast). In contrast to the film, I came away with hope! Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and there is hope in Him – wonderful, eternal, joyful hope!
This world so badly needs to hear this message of hope, so let’s keep writing, my friends. Stories are a brilliant way to share good news – they can touch not just the children we write for, but whole families in a gentle and respectful way.
So don’t give up! I know it’s difficult right now to be creative. I know some of you are going through tough times, but here’s an idea: do one small thing every day towards getting your story done. Read a book your target audience enjoy, to be inspired. Write out a list of characters. Buy my e-book of writing tips, and read one every day. Draw a map of your setting. Write a synopsis of each chapter… there are so many small things you could do, daily, to keep your story alive!
There’s nothing wrong with small steps – every journey starts with a step. But every step will bring you closer to your destination.
Reaching the new generation with the love of Jesus can be tricky in this political climate, but stories are a brilliant way to spread the word in a non-threatening and respectful way.
Who knows how long we will have to be able to spread the good news of Jesus in stories for our children in the UK? As part of our sales strategy at Dernier, we contact schools – many, as soon as they hear the words ‘Christian books’ can’t get off the phone fast enough. (So we’re reaching out to Christian teachers, instead. If you know one, please do give them this link, for free books and the opportunity to buy more books at discount.)
Let’s shine our light!
In some countries, giving a Christian book to a child could get you into a lot of trouble. Maybe you live in one of these places now. When I wanted to visit a country in SE Asia a couple of years ago, I had to write and sign a note declaring that I wouldn’t take part in any media or publishing activities while in the country, in order to obtain my visa.
Right now, in the west, we are still relatively free (although some hot topics might already be sliding out of limits!).
So don’t delay with your story. Whether you write for teens, pre-teens or younger children, remember that your story has the potential to share something of the gospel with readers who might not otherwise hear it. And once the books are out there, they can be on bookshelves for years, so have the potential to reach whole families and even generations of families, or library readers! Faith, hope, love, answered prayer, light, life… these are wonderful themes that money can’t buy.
Don’t waste your opportunity. Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste your gift.
We need to flood the world with great books while we can!
It takes boldness, determination, effort and time to get to the end and get your book out into the world, but it’s worth it, and if you’ve been called to write, YOU CAN DO IT.
So write the very best book you can. Don’t be the one who never finished your story. Someone’s waiting for it!
Dialogue is an essential part of every story, and readers need to know who is speaking! Of course we have dialogue tags to help us (e.g. he said; she replied), but there are other ways to help readers differentiate between our characters…Watch this video to give you some tips!
Should you ask your family to look at your manuscript for you? Check out this video for some clarity (and by the way, massive congratulations if you have a finished manuscript… many people think of writing a book, some start but don’t finish… if you’ve finished you are in the minority!)
Brilliant Beginnings – here’s a writing exercise for you to do! We’ve already looked at the elements you need to include in the beginning of your novel for children (here’s the link so you can check it out), but here’s a bit of practice for you… a two-step assignment to help you with your own gripping beginnings.
(If you haven’t done the free Gripping Beginnings course, sign up below and get started! :-))
Today’s quick video talks about your characters… check it out and share with your writer friends! This is probably something you knew anyway, but there’s never any harm in making sure you’re getting this right! 🙂
Should you start posting about your writing on social media as soon as you start writing?
The answer is YES!
I know, it is a huge step!
Even if you have only just begun your story, you can begin to put up little posts. If creating an author profile seems too much of a huge step right now, begin to mention your new idea to your family and friends.
Why? Here are four excellent reasons:
Once you have written down your intentions, you are more likely to keep going (you can’t lose face now, can you!)
It makes your novel more real in your own mind. Yes, you really are writing a novel!
Once you get your book out into the world, all the people who have been following your progress will want to buy you book. 🙂
You can ask for prayer support!
Happy posting! Don’t forget to let me know how it goes over on our facebook community page. Did you get some immediate feedback? How did it make you feel?
P.S. If you don’t yet belong to our facebook writing community, ask to join and I’ll let you in! And do invite all your writer friends – everyone needs encouragement. 🙂
I do hope you are keeping well in these difficult times.
Many writers are struggling to be creative right now, so here’s a fun idea to kick-start your creativity with a group of writers or family members. Writer-for-a-Reason Jan sent in this excellent game, which you could easily adapt to do with a group on Zoom/Teams/WhatsApp:
“A fun game we played at Christmas might appeal to your readers. Each player writes on 2 slips of paper a first line and an unconnected last line of a story which are then distributed, one of each, to all players. Armed with these random beginnings and endings – write your story! (any length). Needless to say the results can be quite surprising!
A time limit could be useful – perhaps 10–15 minutes.”
What do you think? It’s also a brilliant way to get your children involved with creative writing, if they are getting bored at home – maybe they could do this with their friends?
Let me know how you get on. If you have any other ideas to pass on, please do pass them my way! And as always, please do share/forward/subscribe. 🙂 Sharing is caring!
Here’s your creative writing tip for the week! Except it’s not so much a writing tip as an encouragement…
I usually sit down around the beginning of the year and prayerfully consider some things I’d like to work towards/achieve. This year I didn’t do that.
How can we plan, when everything is in such a turmoil? When we really do not know what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone next month?
So, instead of planning, I’m working on some daily goals. This includes an hour or writing every day, at least five days a week.
May I suggest you think about a realistic daily or weekly goal for your writing? Nothing too long-term, but something that will keep your story moving forward?
Books of hope are desperately needed right now.
If you have been called to write, someone, somewhere, is waiting for your story. Children are feeling anxious and afraid. Some of them have lost loved ones. They have all had freedoms taken away. They miss their friends, their support networks, their churches and youth groups. They miss their sporting events, their clubs, their hobbies… but reading is at an all time high!
So even though it’s tough to get motivated, even though your emotions swing, even though creativity might be at a low ebb, please can I encourage you to write anyway. Even if you only write three times a week, your story will creep forward. And maybe, by the end of the year, your story will be ready to build faith and hope in someone’s life!
Can I suggest that you:
1. Pray about and write out your goal before you close this email? 2. Let me know what you’ve planned? 3. Start today.
Doing these three steps will help you towards success!
Grace and peace to you for 2021, Janet
P.S. Please pass these writing tips on to your writer friends and encourage them to subscribe. Let’s make this year count. 🙂
I do hope you are well. What a strange Christmas this is going to be. So much loss on every side. And yet, despite our heavy hearts, we have good news to share. What better way to do it than through story?
We need to keep writing, because children are starved of company: books can be good friends you can happily spend hours with.
Children’s mental health is a concern: good stories can bring hope and perspective.
Children are short of spiritual input: many of their usual church activities are scaled back, at present. And many are hungry for good news: Christian books can bring good news of great joy, even in dark places.
So this week I want to give you all the information about the Write for a Reason Academy, which will be starting in a couple of weeks. This ten week online course is for Christians who write novels for children/teens… or who would like to have a go at doing so.
If you feel you have been given a gift to write novels for children, but are struggling with the process of actually getting exciting stories finished and out into the world…
It’s time to join up.
Most people who write stories in order to share their faith face one or more obstacles that prevent their dream from becoming a reality.
Do you suffer from any of the following?
* You feel like you need to keep constantly learning, so you read books and blogs and keep learning ‘how to’ rather than actually getting your novel started, let alone finished…
* Or the opposite… you feel you could do with some training in writing fiction for kids, because you’ve never done any!
* Maybe you feel pressured/guilty, because you know you have been called to write, but struggle to find the time… then when you do finally sit at your desk, you can’t concentrate!
* Or perhaps you get stuck because of the fear of judgement and rejection that comes from doubting your writing is good enough…
This course will help you address all these issues, so you can be set free to enjoy your gift!
IN THIS COURSE YOU WILL DISCOVER:
Exactly who you are writing for, and why
How to create characters to engage and inspire your readers
How best to include your message/theme
How to plot and plan for tension and pace
How to write gripping beginnings and satisfying endings (what you need to include, and what to leave out)
How to find your narrative voice
Why nobody else can write your novel but you…
And lots more!
These are all ESSENTIALS for good stories.
Every module will bring you closer to your goal of writing exciting, relevant, fun novels for your target readers.
Every module includes:
lessons (videos and written teaching)
reading and writing exercises
lots of encouragement!
By the end of the course you will be buzzing with exciting ways to breathe life into your stories… PLUS you will have a complete story plan for your next novel!
If you are writing to share the good news of Jesus in some way, your novel will already be extra special, because it has eternal value. But it stands to reason that the better written it is, the more children will read it and enjoy it – wouldn’t you agree?
In the parable of the talents, the servants who received the gifts had to put them to WORK… the servant who buried his talent got into trouble – don’t let that be you!
It’s time to get to work.
“I was surprised at how much the course taught me. I didn’t know as much as I thought I did!! The presentation was clear and easy to follow and the teaching was clear and well thought out. I would happily recommend the course to a friend.” – Nicolette
This online course is for you if:
You want to make sure your story is the best it can be
You realise that having some training will help you
You’re willing to invest time and money to put your talent to work
You don’t want to procrastinate any longer
You need to get past the self-doubt (you can do it)
You want to get your story into children’s hands as soon as possible
“Thank you for taking the time to educate those of us who feel we have a story just waiting to erupt from the depths of our souls.” – Leilanie
In my role as a publisher, I have learnt a few things about great novels. I would love to pass on my knowledge to you, to help you make your stories the very best they can be!
I am a Christian, and this course reflects that, but whatever your beliefs, you will find plenty to help you in your own writing journey.
When you sign up for the Academy, you will gain IMMEDIATE access to the pre-course runway, which I’ve designed to help you get ready for the weeks ahead (this includes some fun writing prompts!). The Modules will then be released to you week by week, beginning 4th January.
I hope you will join me in the Write for a Reason Academy. I would count it a privilege to help you in the next step of your writing journey.
The ultimate goal of every aspiring writer-for-a-reason is to reach more readers with the good news of Jesus through story. I hope you will allow me to help you to do just that.
Registration for the Academy is open until December 31st.
With the right knowledge, support and encouragement, you can take your writing to the next level, then go on to inspire your readers.
So don’t waste any more time – nobody can write your story but you, and if you’ve been called to write, it’s for a reason. Someone, somewhere, is waiting for your story.
The 10 Modules
The Pre-Course Runway Purpose: To get ready for the weeks ahead.
Module One: Reaching Your Target Audience Purpose: To know who you are writing for, and to get to know their world.
Module Two: Creating Your Protagonist Purpose: To create a protagonist (main character) your readers will love and be inspired by.
Module Three: Creating Secondary Characters Purpose: To create engaging secondary characters. We need them!
Module Four: Choosing Your Narrative Voice Purpose: To consider all the options and choose your narrative voice for your next story.
Module Five: Weaving in Your Theme Purpose: To know what your theme is, and how to make your “message” work in the context of your story.
Module Six: Creating the Perfect Setting Purpose: To choose a great setting for your story, and build your fictional world.
Module Seven: Gripping Beginnings Purpose: To work on a gripping beginning for your story, to draw your readers in.
Module Eight: Satisfying Endings Purpose: To work out a satisfactory conclusion for your story, that your readers will love.
Module Nine: Conflicts and Resolutions Purpose: Work out all the terrible things that are going to happen to your characters between your beginning and ending. Eek!
Module Ten: Your Complete Story Plan Purpose: To have a complete story plan in your hands, ready to begin writing your novel in full.
One module will be released to you every week, from 4th January. Each module will include a mixture of videos, teaching and practical assignments. And they’re fun!
Is it time for you to invest in your writing?
Because of the terrible times we are going through, I have halved the price of the course:
Whichever way you choose to pay, you will receive exactly the same material:
Ten teaching modules (40 lessons)
Writing exercises and assignments
Membership in a private Facebook group
Some FAQs: How much time will I need to complete the course?Good question! I suggest you set aside two evenings a week, but if you don’t get all the assignments done then, no worries – you have permanent access to the course, so you can take as long as you like. Will there be any individual teaching? No, sorry. This course is the best way to help as many people as I can. However, I’m always around for any queries, and love interacting with students. We have a private Facebook group, which is a great place to ask questions and discuss your progress.
I have never written anything before. Will this course be too advanced? Not at all. Beginners are warmly welcome. The course follows a simple step-by-step format. You will be amazed how much you will learn in ten weeks!
I have written stories, but I’m not sure if they’re good enough.If you have any doubts about your writing, you need to join the course. Even if you know the basics, you will learn lots of ways to improve your stories, and gain confidence in your ability. Guaranteed (see below). I’d love to do the course, but I can’t afford it/am busy right now. Will you be running it again? Another great question! I hope I will run the course again, but I can not guarantee it, especially in these uncertain times. If your issue is time, I suggest investing in the course now, then doing the work as and when you can fit it in.
What if I miss a week?
The modules are released every week, so if you work better with a deadline, you will get it done! However, you have access to the course for its lifetime, so you are free to go at your own pace.
Guarantee: I hope you will enjoy every minute of your time in the Academy, but if you don’t think it’s for you by Module Three, I will refund your money in full. So why not give it a try, risk free? (Nobody has ever yet asked for a refund, but I want to help you, and if I’m not helping, I don’t want your money.)
So that’s the Write for a Reason Academy! If you have any further queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Writer-for-a-Reason Serena wrote in with a lovely encouragement last week, and a question at the end, which you might be able to identify with:
“Since I’ve taken your advice to read, read and read, my writing has started to improve.
I’ve been following your writing tips nearly every morning and it’s now part of my daily routine.
I will also be hoping to start the course next week.
One thing I find difficult is how to understand what I’ve written as my writing can be a bit untidy with lots of mistakes and scribbling out. Is there any advice on this?”
I would suggest the following process for anyone who’s getting cross with themselves:
Make a list of as many ideas as you can think of, that you could do to help yourself. This list will be different for everyone! Serena’s list might include writing slower, using paper with wider lines, using a better pen, using a neat line to cross things out, typing instead of handwriting…
When you have a good list (don’t stop at one or two ideas – the best ones will come later down the list), choose one to start with, get to grips with it, then gradually include any other improvements you’d like to see.
This will help you be your best self!
But this is my best advice of all:BE YOURSELF.
Everyone is different, when it comes to writing stories, and there’s no right or wrong about how to go about your first draft. Some people will write loads of notes. Others won’t. Some will be tidy. Some won’t. Some will write on paper first. Others will go straight to the keyboard.
The important thing is to have a great story at the end! How you get there is up to you.
I write a first draft very quickly after writing chapter synopses, then spend months and months editing the draft. I also add pictures in the text and remove them later, if I want to see something in my mind, to be able to describe it properly.
Other writers will come at the whole thing very differently. It doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that you END UP with a gripping, thrilling, relevant story for your readers.
For some reason, we all think we must be going about the whole thing wrong, and that ‘other writers’ have it all sussed out. We don’t! Nobody does! Every one of us is unique, so embrace your gift, write like you, and don’t let anything stop you using your gift, your way. Don’t forget, only you can write your story, and someone’s waiting for it.
Trust that helps,
P.S. I keep meaning to write a bit more about the Write for a Reason Academy, and still haven’t got round to it. In the meantime, if you’d like to know more, click here. (We start again in January.) The course will help you make sure you are getting all the basics right. I have received too many unsolicited manuscripts that have potential, but things that aren’t quite right. It might be issues with characters, plot, narrative voice, the beginning, the ending… you will be looking at all these on the course, at your own pace. (This is why I set up the course – to help beginners write great stories their readers will love.) If you love writing novels for children/teens, or have that gnawing feeling that you have a gift, but need to get it to work, this course is for you. Over the ten weeks of the Academy you will gain all the confidence and the skills you need to write a brilliant story your readers will love! Hope to see you there.
Good morning from a still-dark London! Well, it might not be dark by the time you read this. 🙂
Apologies for being a day late with this writing tip – I took a day off yesterday to see a friend (sitting outside a café with a coffee in December – who would have thought it!)… plus I took a walk in a local park. As you see, it was misty! It was cold, but beautiful.
It was good to take time off. I was going to write to you today about narrative voice, but actually I’m going to write to you about refreshment, because I think it’s important.
Sometimes we get stale. This year we have lacked variety in our lives, haven’t we? Most of us have been at home pretty much constantly, with the same people, doing all the same things…
Let me encourage you to take time to do something different this week to nourish your body, soul and spirit. This will mean different things for different people. Here are some ideas:
Create something beautiful
Have a group chat with friends
Walk somewhere different
Read a brilliantly-written book
Try out some new recipes
Take up a challenge
Stop right now, decide what you are going to do, and commit to doing it. Not something you HAVE to do or OUGHT to do, but something which will bring YOU pleasure. 🙂
And you know what – your writing will be better for it.
Let me know what you plan to do!
Something else you can do, is enrol for the Write for a Reason course. Registration is now open for the January start. You can read more about it here. If you write fiction for older children and/or teens and want to make sure you’re getting all the basics right, I’d love to help you take the next step in your writing journey. A little bit of knowledge can make all the difference. Don’t waste any more time getting the basics wrong! Narrative voice, character arc, plot development… we go through all these and so much more. And it’s great fun! Hope to see you there.
P.S. Is there someone else you know who might like to join the course, or receive these free writing tips? Do feel free to pass on the information.
Hello and welcome to this week’s creative writing tip, which is a vital issue for Christians who write fiction for children and young people.
Recently, a writer-for-a-reason asked me:
– How do I capture the realistic tone and cadence of a modern UK teenager’s speech a little better than I have so far!?
What an excellent question!
This is VITAL to get right – writers ignore this issue at their peril. If a potential reader picks up the book and the language looks dated, they will automatically think:
“This isn’t for me. ” Noooooo!
There’s one BIG solution. Spend time in the presence of your potential readers.
This really is the very best way you can absorb the way your readers (and therefore your characters) speak. Watch out for:
1. The way they talk to different people (peers, parents, siblings etc.).
2. Their body language while they are saying what they say – this will tell you a lot!
3. What they talk about.
4. The vocabulary they use.
Also, while you’re in the zone, take a note of their clothing/hairstyles/jewellery/make-up, for descriptive purposes.
If you absolutely can’t do this right now (sigh), here’s an alternative:
Watch TV shows loved by the age group you are writing for – reality TV shoes and dramas with real-life scenarios are the best. (If you don’t know what to watch, ask your potential readers what they like.) Be prepared to be shocked! But hey, there’s no point writing from an ivory tower… and you will glean so much useful information.
Whatever you do, keep writing, because only you can write your story, and someone, somewhere, is waiting for it.
P.S. Registration for the Write for a Reason Academy opens tomorrow, for the January intake. If you want to take your writing to the next level, and don’t want to waste any more time making easily-remedied mistakes (possibly that you don’t even know you are making), you will want to join. Click here for more info.
Hello and welcome to this week’s blog post! I hope you are keeping well in these difficult times, and that you are getting on well with your fun writing prompts – let me know how it’s going. One writer for a reason, Katy, said, “I ended up writing a seriously creepy version of Asda – something I don’t think I would have ever done off my own back. Thanks Janet – really loving having my creativity stretched alongside the useful tips.” In case you missed the email/blog post, you can find the writing prompts here. Enjoy!
Instead of a new writing tip this week (I’m guessing you still have some writing prompts left to do?), I’d really like your help.
I’d like to set up a Recommended Reading List for writers for a reason. What I want is recommendations, and the reason why you suggest writers of fiction for kids/teens should consider reading them.
For example, in our facebook community group, writer-for-a-reason Elaine suggested: “I recently read The Land of Neverendings by Kate Saunders and thought it was amazing and brilliant. It is probably mid-grade though adults would enjoy it too. She deals with the theme of grief but in such a unique way with toys coming to life (the stuff of childhood fantasy – well mine anyway). I can’t say enough about this book – the message is definitely Christian in direction and hope.”
If we can build a good Recommended Reading List, we will all benefit!
Also, if you have been through the Write for a Reason Academy, and have some books your ‘one reader’ loves, please include those. Thank you! I think this will be a useful resource to have available to share with everyone. 🙂
The books can be for the age group we are writing for, or for adults if there’s a particular reason you think it would be a useful read. Christian or secular. But let’s stick to novels! And please don’t include your own books or your friends’ books, so we can be completely objective.
Thank you for your help! See you next week,
P.S. Add your recommended books in the comments below, hop on over to our Write for a Reason Community Group (If you don’t yet belong, send a request), or get in touch with me via email. Thanks for your help!
Writing should be enjoyable, right? As there’s not so much fun around right now, here are 30 creative writing prompts for you to enjoy! They will also spark your imagination and release your creativity – what’s not to like? 🙂 Why not do one a day for the next 30 days? If you write stories from a Christian perspective for children/teens, you will love this!
These are the rules:
Pen and paper only. (Sorry, technophiles. This is so you can’t edit.) If you have a beautiful notebook waiting to be used, now’s the perfect time to fill those pages.
No editing. Just allow your creative side to run free.
If a topic doesn’t grab you, move on to the next one.
Write for as long or as short a time as you wish. Two minutes, or two hours – keep writing as long as you are enjoying it.
You have to have a nice coffee/glass of wine/favourite drink and a cookie/chocolate bar/bowl of cherries/cream doughnut/tub of ice-cream (insert your own delicious treat here!) by your side as you write. (If anyone asks why, tell them you’re just following the rules.)
Here are your topics:
You are in a spaceship headed for… because…
You have an exciting/terrible secret…
You find a message in a bottle washed up on the beach…
Digging in your garden, you find a bone…
Write about a book you have read recently, or a film you have watched. What can you learn from it, for your own writing?
Write a prayer for the children of the world.
Your least favourite person in the world is coming for dinner…
During a walk in the park, a dog runs up and speaks to you… (you weren’t expecting THAT – or maybe you were…)
You have won a prize! Yay! What for, and what have you won?
You are on a boat. After drifting off to sleep, you wake up and find yourself alone…
Everyone in your family has a super power…
An article all about you appears in the national press! What’s it all about?
Massive flying beasts have taken over your local supermarket…
Suddenly you are ten years old again (or the age of your intended readers)…
Give the titles of ten novels you’d like to write before you die (take hold of the life that is truly life).
If you could change one thing in your world, what would it be?
Oh no, the panic buyers are at it again…
There’s been a natural disaster, and you’re off to help…
You’ve been invited to be an extra in your favourite TV show, but something goes wrong…
You’ve just found out the ghastly vase you inherited is worth a fortune, and nobody knows but you…
Everything has gone wrong today…
Everything has gone right today…
You are in solitary confinement, writing to your family…
What are you bad at?
What are you good at? (Come on, there are loads of things!)
Oh my word – you can fly!
Community. What does that mean to you these days?
What do you fear?
What do you love? Write a list, and expand if you wish.
Every night you turn into a white cat…
Enjoy! These should take you pretty much through the new month of lockdown, in you are in the UK. If not, they should take you through the next 30 days or so. 🙂
If you would like to download these as a downloadable, printable pdf, please click here:
We are going through a difficult time, but there’s no reason not to have a bit of light-hearted fun. Do come over to the Write for a Reason Community Facebook group and share your writing, and share this page with your friends in writing groups so they can have some fun, too. Let’s encourage each other!
P.S. People have been asking about the next Write for a Reason Academy. God willing, I will open registration in December for a January start. I hope that will suit you. Do let your friends know. 🙂
Good morning. Welcome from a rather dull London, where things are as unsettled from Covid-19 as they ever were. Where will the next spike in virus cases be? Will we have to go up to Tier Three? What will the regulations be by Christmas? Will we be able to spend time with family?
When we are unsettled, it’s difficult to be productive. Our restless thoughts flit to and fro, wandering, wondering. Focussed thought is difficult – we are constantly going back to the same unanswerable questions. Plus, of course, there are our concerns for loved ones affected by the virus.
That’s not much good when we have a book to write! Many writers I know are struggling to be creative right now, even if they have the time to set aside. Does that include you? It certainly includes me!
But this morning I have a productivity tip for you (and me!).
Just do it.
Set the time aside and sit down, and even if progress is slow, even if you struggle, even if it seems like a waste of time… j u s t k e e p g o i n g.
Put times in your calendar for writing, and make sure you are sitting at your desk when you have said you would.
Two things will happen:
You will feel better because you are doing what you said you would do
Your book will get written.
True, it will take longer. True, your thoughts may wander more than they used to. True, it may feel exhausting.
How do I know? Because I’m doing it myself. I can tell you for sure, though, that it’s worth the effort, because little by little, my story is taking shape. So can yours!
So many children are struggling right now. They need to hear the good news you and I are planning to share.
So keep writing, my friends, keep writing for the glory of God. Don’t worry if it takes longer than normal – longer is better than not at all.
Have a great writing week, and let me know how you get on. If you want to send me your writing times, for some accountability, feel free. I always love to hear from you. 🙂
P.S. If your church is thinking of buying Christian books for church kids or children from your community this Christmas, Dernier Publishing has a 20% discount coupon code for churches and charities. Let me know if you’d like it. (Click here to sign up for Dernier news)
Morning everyone. Hope you are keeping safe. I get the feeling that in these strange times, some writers are finding it more difficult to write creatively. With newer, tougher Covid-19 restrictions facing some of us, I suspect this could get worse.
So this week I have a fun exercise we can all participate in – because writing should be fun! Plus I hope that it will also help to build our writing community, so we don’t feel quite so alone with our desk and our keyboard…
A couple of weeks ago I put up this picture on the blog. One writer-for-a-reason asked me why. Well, I thought she looked like she is waiting to tell us her story – don’t you think?
So here’s the idea: this week, let’s make up her story together!
I’ll start. She’s wearing her rich friend’s designer glasses for this photo, because she thinks her plain ones make her look ugly.
Now it’s your turn! Come over to the Write for a Reason Community Facebook group, and add your own comment – a bit of back-story, family background, issues she faces, a trial she has to overcome, how she is going to do it, and who with. Let’s give this young lady a story worth writing about. 🙂
See you there,
P.S. If you don’t belong to the group, ask to join, and I’ll let you in. Tell your friends, too – let’s have some fun!
Good morning and welcome to this week’s writing tip. Actually, it’s not so much of a tip, as an encouragement.
See my boot full of boxes of books? This morning, early, I delivered 400 copies of Nobody’s Dog to central London. From here they will be sent to prisoners’ children this Christmas, through Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree programme. How wonderful is that? The author, Eleanor Watkins, is delighted, of course! Nobody’s Dog is a fun story about a boy and a dog… and faith, hope and trust. It’s a book full of seeds, some of which will land in good ground and bear fruit.
But what does this have to do with you? Well, perhaps it’s time for you to dream a little. How far could your books go, if you kept writing? Could your story also touch young hearts?
The answer is YES, OF COURSE! You have been given your gift of writing for a reason.
Overnight success, however, is rare. If you want to be successful, you have to put in the work FIRST.
Keep working on your skills. Keep praying. Keep writing. Faithfully put your talent to work. Then who knows what the Lord will do?
Perhaps one day your novels will bring joy, hope, light and life in dark places. 🙂
Never give up, my friends! Nobody can write your novel but you, and someone’s waiting for it.
P.S. If you have been sent this by a friend and would like to sign up for weekly writing tips and encouragement, you can do so here.
Interview your main character. Ask about their life – what they like and dislike, their home, their family, their friends, their upbringing. What are their strengths and weaknesses – their gifts, and the things they struggle with. What happened in their past to bring them to this place? What will they hope happens in the future? If they could wish for anything, what would it be? What might happen if they don’t act?
You can probably think of lots more questions to ask! This exercise will help you get to know your protagonist well, and therefore make him or her all the more real to readers. The better your readers know your character (as long as they like him or her!) the more they will need to keep reading to make sure everything goes well for them and that they win through at the end of the story…
Let me know if you do this! I’d love to hear from you. 🙂
While I’m here, this is the last call if you’d like to join the last Write for a Reason Academy of 2020. We spend a whole week looking at your protagonist, so you can have the perfect character to engage and delight your readers. I hope to do the course again next year, but I can’t guarantee it, so if you’ve been thinking about it, perhaps now is the time to just do it? I’d love to help you with your writing – you will learn more than you can imagine, and who knows what next year will bring? Maybe now is your time. Here’s the link, anyway – do take a look. And if it’s not for you right now, could you pass it on to a friend?
Blessings to you and yours,
P.S. I hopped on to facebook to do a quick ‘live’ on the topic of interviewing your protagonist – please find it below. 🙂
But for those of you who suffer from the I‘d rather sit on the sofa than get up and switch on my computersyndrome from time to time, even if you’d really quite like to write, and feel guilty if you don’t… this is for you!
Here’s the crunch – you need to get some momentum going.
So, this is what you need to do when you’re slobbing on the sofa with the remote, feeling lazy and thinking you should be writing…
You promise yourself you will write for just 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes you can go back to doing whatever.
You get up, without stopping to argue with yourself, and walk straight over to your computer.
You switch it on and start work, again without stopping to argue with yourself.
You start, remembering you promised yourself you can stop after 20 minutes.
You do as much as you can in those 20 minutes.
You keep going if you want to, or stop if you don’t.
Then you do the same the next day. Just 20 minutes.
This is what will happen:
You will start to enjoy your 20 minutes.
You may go on longer sometimes.
Your novel will start to take shape.
Then you will look forward to writing… and your laziness will drop away as you begin to see the end in sight.
You can do this! It’s time to defeat that lazy enemy!
Hope that helps – this is something that has worked for me. The big keys are to not give yourself time to argue with your lazy side, and keep the momentum going.
Can you think of someone else who might find it useful? If so, perhaps you would be kind enough to share? 🙂
See you next week,
P.S. We’re going to squeeze one more Write for a Reason Academy into 2020. It’s been a strange year, and we’re nothing like out of Covid yet. I want to help as many writers as I can, while I can… who knows what next year will bring? I’ll be telling you more about it in due course, but if it’s something you’ve been thinking of doing, pray about it. Maybe now is your time.
Apologies to any of you not in the UK who might have been expecting a writing tip yesterday: we had yet another Bank Holiday!
I’m interrupting our series of writing tips on defeating enemies, with a quick tip sent in by writer-for-a-reason Jan Godfrey (you can find her beautiful books for children in Christian bookshops).
Jan said, “I came across this recent quotation from author Joanne Harris the other day and thought it worth sharing with other writers…
‘… keep thinking about what’s most important in your story. Is it a character, an incident, a relationship? Whatever it is, it should feature in your story’s opening. You’re taking the reader on a journey. You should at least hint at where you’re going.’”
This is excellent advice, which I hope will help you with your opening scene. 🙂
Hope all is well with you where you are. We are mindful that although things are improving for us here in the UK as regards the Covid-19 pandemic, there are people who are experiencing great suffering. If this is you, please be assured of our prayers.
Every blessing as you continue to write for the glory of God,
P.S. Just in case you’re looking for a good Christian book for a child/family on your heart, Dernier Publishing (my main job!) is about to release a brilliant book called Nobody’s Dog. It’s all about a boy who befriends a stray dog – the themes of trust, faith and answers to prayer run through the story. It’s a lovely family bedtime story, or for 6-8s to read alone. There’s a competition, too: one person who pre-orders the book will win a whole selection box of books! Didn’t want you to miss out. 🙂 (Sorry it’s currently only available to people in the UK.) This is the link.
I hope you find this week’s writing tip useful – the third in our series on defeating Writing Enemies. If you missed how to beat self-doubt and imposter syndrome, click on the links to catch up. 🙂
Distractions. We live in an age of endless distraction. Each time our phone pings we receive a rush of endorphins as we go to answer it. What will it be? Will it be a message from a friend, or another email from an airline with amazing deals to anywhere in Europe (um, not right now, thanks!)?
And there are endless other distractions, too – the Amazon parcel arriving, dinner to prepare, the old lady down the road who’s ill, the kids who need help with their homework (hats off to all you parents out there who have done the most amazing job over the last few months!), Zoom meetings to plan for… and that’s not counting work, housework, the garden and all the paperwork that fills life…
How does anyone ever get any writing done, ever???????
Here are a few tips if you have seemingly endless distractions:
Make writing part of your daily (or at least weekly) routine.This is the biggest and best tip I can give you. If you always write on Tuesday evenings, or from 6-7am every day, or during your lunch break at work, it will soon become a habit, and you won’t have to think about it – you’ll just do it. Everyone around you will expect you to do it, too, which will help!
2. Make it easy for yourself. Work on a computer that does not have internet access (a grim WiFi spot might do it!) and leave your phone in another room. Put a do ‘not disturb sign’ on the door, grab a drink before you get stuck in so you’ve no excuse to get up, put the cute kittens in another room. Do it fast, so your brain doesn’t get a chance to argue. (Aw, those kittens! I know, but they will still be there when you finish writing. And think how amazing you will feel when you come out later with your next chapter outlined! Yay!)
3. Talk to yourself as if you were your best friend.You don’t have to check if you’re on the prayer meeting rota now, do you? Really? Come on, Janet, get a grip, girl!
4. Get excited. Look forward to your writing time! Tell your brain that your writing time is a privilege, a responsibility and also the most wonderful joy. It’s going to be GOOD! So when washing the kitchen floor or mending the jug handle that was broken several weeks ago seems more appealing, remember how much you love writing!
5. Accept that life happens. There will be days/times when none of that works. Hey-ho! Just get back up, smile and get back to plan as soon as you can. You’re only defeated when you give up. And you’re not going to do that, are you? 🙂
So wherever the distractions come from – inside, outside or every which way, it’s time to give them the boot. When you feel them coming on, pray, take a deep breath, say 5,4,3,2,1, get up and just do it.
What’s your best tip for avoiding the inevitable distractions that stack up against you? Did you find any of these helpful? Write a comment below, or send me an email so I can pass it on. Let’s encourage each other!
Every blessing with your stories,
P.S. If you found this helpful, please share with your friends – it might be exactly what they need to hear right now.
Good morning! Today we’re going to continue with our “Defeating Our Enemies” series, with a quick but hopefully helpful look at self-doubt.
Today’s is not a creative writing tip in the purest sense of the word, because we’re not discussing narrative voice, characters, plot or any actual writing processes. However, self-doubt can stop us writing good stories, so it’s still a writing tip!
Self-doubt is an enemy we all have to face from time to time. The writer-for-a-reason who mentioned self-doubt in a list of enemies he faced actually called it crippling self-doubt. Ooh, that’s a nasty beast!
Crippling self-doubt can be an ugly giant standing between us and getting our story done.
Who has not felt the mocking voice of self-doubt in our heads, telling us to give up, we’re useless, our writing is rubbish, why bother?
I’m not going to go into why we doubt our abilities. Whole books have been written on that!
However, I would like to suggest seven nice round stones you can use to sling at your self-doubt giant when he starts to laugh at you and make you quake:
1. Acknowledge the truth. You may not be brilliant right now, and that’s OK! Be at peace with your current ability, knowing that you will get better. If you’re reading this, it proves that you are doing something to improve! Keep learning, keep practising. I have no doubt that even the most amazing artists once drew pictures of people that were a couple of circles with sticks for legs and arms. No one is born with all the skills you need – you have to learn them and hone them. This is a normal process.
2. Set an immediate, small goal. This can be as simple as deciding on names for your characters, writing a paragraph to summarise your next story idea, draw a map of your island setting… anything, really – just one small step towards success. Do that one step straight away! Then do one small thing every day to move towards your goal. Self-doubt will have to move out of the way as you see yourself getting your story written. Momentum is a wonderful thing. Keep it going!
3. Write down your mission statement. This is a statement of faith – in what the Lord has given you to do. Who are you writing for? Why? Believe me, God can use you. If he can use me, he can use you. There aren’t any “super people” about, so he has to use us!
4. Stop worrying about what others think/comparing yourself with others. There will be people who mock, even kindly. Are you the next J. K. Rowling then? We’ve all been given unique gifts, and we all have a different writing journey. Looking round at what everyone else is doing and saying isn’t helpful. You are you. God made you unique! Be you.
5. Learn from past successes and failures. Didn’t manage to finish your last story? Why not? Children loved the story you wrote for them? What about it was good?
6. Stay close to God. Even when we are weak, we are strong. We have the Spirit of God dwelling in us. Pray about your writing, read his word. Let his words lead and guide you, and encourage you.
7. Surround yourself with other encouraging people/writers. Remember you are not alone in your self-doubt – it’s an enemy we all face from time to time. It’s not fussy, anyone will do – you, me, all of us! But we can defeat it. (You can request to join our Write for a Reason Facebook group here – we’d love to have you!)
So don’t let self-doubt get in your way. Collect these stones and start throwing!
Trust that helps. If it does, please would you pass it on to at least one other person who might find it useful in their writing journey? Thank you!
I was reading from the Psalms this morning, and it struck me how many enemies surround us on all sides. Of course our fight is not against flesh and blood. Our enemies are not Moabites and Ammonites, but we still do have enemies, who would love to stop us writing Christian books for children!
Over the next few weeks I thought I might mention a few, and how we can defeat them.
This week, I’d like to talk about Imposter Syndrome.
You may or may not have heard of it, but it is a real thing – and many of us suffer from it (my confession is below).
Do you suffer from imposter syndrome with your writing?
If you get nagging feelings of doubt in your ability, and wonder if your label (writer) is really a delusion of grandeur, you may be living with imposter syndrome.
Here’s another clue that you are suffering from imposter syndrome: you live with the fear that sooner or later someone’s going to find out that you really shouldn’t be a writer at all. You feel unworthy; insecure; a fraud.
You might be thinking:
I’m wasting my time
I’m not good enough
I’m too old, too young, too something else
There are so many people better at this than me!
People who tell me my story is good are just being kind
One day people are going to realise that I’m rubbish. (Part of Imposter Syndrome is worrying about being found out!)
The Big Problem
Here’s the big problem: If we allow ourselves to be defeated by Imposter Syndrome, our stories won’t get written.
Who then misses out? Your readers. My readers. All our readers.
Just imagine for a minute that you are an enemy, wanting to stop children reading Christian stories to encourage and inspire them in their faith. Sowing imposter syndrome seeds in the minds of writers would be pretty devastating, wouldn’t it?
So how are we going to fight back? How can we defeat this sneaky enemy?
1. Speak the truth.
I suggest you write out two or three positive statements in your writing journal, in capital letters if you need to! You might like to use these, or feel free to use your own:
I have been called to write by God.
Children will miss out if I don’t finish my story.
I need to use my gift
This leads me on to:
We may never be able to completely banish all thoughts of what we conceive to be our inability, but we shouldn’t let that stop us doing our very best. It may feel to us as if we’re writing rubbish, but it probably isn’t. It might be just what a child needs to read. And even if it’s not the best writing ever, we all have to start somewhere – we can only improve by practising!
Pray and don’t give up – for you, for me, and for everyone in the Write for a Reason community. Prayer is powerful. Well, God is powerful, and he answers our prayers!
4. Get Support.
Please come over to our Facebook group for support (you can ask to join here). Fighting alone is hard. If you don’t do Facebook, get some support from family, friends and church family.
I still struggle with imposter syndrome sometimes. Aren’t there people so much more accomplished than me who could write, teach and publish?
Do you know what I have come to realise? There will always be people who write better stories than me.There will always be people who can teach better than me. There will always be people with more experience than me in publishing.
But the Holy Spirit is using me because I have been willing to step out in faith.
There are many flowers in the world – make sure yours blooms! We have a good reason for writing. We mustn’t let our enemies triumph over us.
May the Lord do more in and through us than we can ask for or even imagine!
P.S. What is your worst enemy when it comes to your writing? Please leave a comment wherever you are reading this, or ping me an email. You might get featured in the next blog post. 🙂
Today I have a very important creative writing tip for you, if you write novels for older children/teens.
Don’t try to be too clever at the expense of CLARITY.
Being CLEAR is one of the most important rules of a good novel for children. Lack of a clear picture is annoying!
Your readers will vary in their ability to read, and also in their ability to take in information they are reading.
It’s therefore rarely a good idea to hold back information, in the hope of creating an air of mystery. You have to be really careful not to confuse. Children/young people need to know what’s going on, so they can be right there with the characters in the story.
If they’re not sure what’s going on, and why, they’re more likely to put the book down than try to work things out.
Of course you need an element of mystery in your plot, but your readers need to know:
what your characters are thinking
why they are there,
what they are hoping to achieve
what the stakes are if they fail.
For example, if you have a scene where your characters are hunting wild boar in a forest, make sure your readers know who is involved, why they are included, what the hunt is about, how many boar they are aiming to kill, how the boar are going to be killed, what your characters feel about that, how the hunt is expected to pan out, and so on.*
Also include details like the type of weapons, the ease of use, the dress, description of the forest, how long the hunt is likely to take… if you have included all these details, your readers will be able to ‘see’ the scene. (Make sure, of course, you use lots of show-not-tell descriptions, and all the senses. What does the forest smell like? How heavy are the weapons? What can they hear?)
Then when something starts to go wrong (which it will, I’m sure!), readers’ hearts will start to thump. Well that’s the aim, anyway!
So make sure that clarity triumphs. Then your readers will be right there, rooting for your characters’ success.
Hope that’s useful. If it is, would you be kind enough to share with at least one friend who would benefit? Many thanks!
See you next week,
*I use this example because we have a historical novel with a wild boar hunt coming soon at Dernier Publishing, called The Dove Stone, by writer-for-a-reason Pam Daunton!)
Some things in life change; some stay the same – even laws, at the moment!
What has this to do with writing? Well, there are rules to writing fiction that do not change. Just as there are rules for drawing. I’ve been learning to draw recently – this is me practising the one-point perspective. 🙂
Before starting the drawing course, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a vanishing perspective! It was a revelation (apologies for my ignorance!).
Here’s an equivalent-ish rule for writing fiction: always keep the end in mind. Whatever happens in the story, keep the end in view. All your scenes and characters and ‘things that happen along the way’ must all be working towards that final point.
Hope you find that reminder helpful! If you have anything to add (or any writing tips for me!), please come on over to our Facebook Community group (if you don’t belong, you can request to join here – we’d love to have you).
Blessings to you all. Stay safe (and remember, following the rules will help!),
Apologies for missing a week – I had a last minute opportunity to get away for a few days – so I took it – to the south downs not too far from Brighton. Lovely! Hope I’m not making you too envious. 🙂
Right, back to writing!
Here’s something a writer-for-a-reason, Kathleen, said to me recently in an email:
“I wrote a book of stories for my granddaughter. It was a tradition in my home to give “love gifts” for Christmas. For a number of years I dedicated a story to my granddaughter. The story was read at the Christmas Eve dinner. Everyone seemed to look forward to the Christmas story about a green unicorn named Spearmint who was born in a snowstorm on Christmas Eve night. I enjoyed writing it.”
Isn’t that wonderful? Could you do that?
Why not take some time aside to consider what would success look like for you (in regard to your writing). A story for your godson? A story for your grandaughter? A story for your Sunday School children who are about to go up to secondary school/middle school/next grade?
I know we shouldn’t really be talking about Christmas in July (eek!), but could you write a story for Christmas for a child on your heart? 🙂
We all have a unique calling and a different writing journey. What’s your next step?
You have to work hard to describe settings your readers won’t recognise – three different kinds of settings in particular:
1. Stories set in the past. Suppose you are writing your story set in the UK in the second world war, and children are being evacuated. You will have to describe the station platform in a way you wouldn’t have to if your story is set in the present day. You may have seen images of children waiting on platforms in London to be evacuated to the countryside, but your readers might not have any idea what it will be like. You will need to describe the noise of the engine, the smell of the steam, the atmosphere, the dirt, the clothing (mothers in hats, for example), and so on.
2. Stories set in a fantasy world. You may be able to see your fantasy world in your own mind’s eye, but you need to make sure you can describe it well to your readers. Don’t forget to bring in all the senses – not just what it looks like, but the sounds, the smells, the temperature, the ambience… and anything else relevant.
3. Stories set in another region/country/situation which won’t be familiar to your readers. Will they have seen a Buddhist temple? Will they have smelled the incense, heard the chanting, seen the brightly painted images of gods? What about the sea? Will they know what it’s like to dip their toes in the ocean?
If you’re not sure about a place you have written about in your current work in progress, go back over and see if you have described your scene well enough to take your readers there with you. Do you need to add anything? A sound, a smell, a feeling?
Trust that helps! If it does, and you find value in these writing tips, would you share Write for a Reason with a friend? Thank you! Perhaps you might know someone who would like to do the free ‘Gripping Beginnings’ course? Let’s spread the word together.
Starting to write a novel without some kind of outline can be a mistake.
I’ll be honest – I’m not naturally a planner. I love to leap right into things and make a start!
However, I have learned from experience that taking the time to write a story plan gives me a huge advantage when it comes to actually writing the novel.
Many years ago I started writing a sequel to my first novel, London’s Gone, but I began writing with nothing but some good ideas. Result? I lost the plot, started again, then lost the plot again. And that book is still sitting in a Word document, unfinished. (One day I’ll get it out, dust it off, make a plan, and start again… please remind me!)
Making things up as you go along sounds like it’s freeing; being able to take the characters wherever they want to go is part of the creative process, surely?… well, actually they’re more likely to get lost along the way. It would be like a worship leader turning up to church on Sunday without a song list!
Here are some of the reasons I now always begin a new story with a plan, and suggest you do, too: (if you have any further thoughts, please add them in the comments!):
Pace. If you know exactly where you’re going, you won’t be wandering around with unnecessary scenes which detract from the plot and slow it down.
Tension. If you have carefully plotted your conflicts, you will build tension. So your reader will need to read on, to see what happens next!
The beginning. Have you heard the expression “begin with the end in mind”? If you know what’s going to be happening at the end of your story, you will know what you need at the beginning.
The end. So you need to plan the end!
Rounded characters. Knowing your characters well in advance of writing will help them seem real to you – and thus you can make them real for your readers.
Theme. If you have a story plan, you can keep your theme running like a golden thread all the way through. As we are writing for a reason, our theme is important, whether it’s God’s love, the power of prayer, the importance of community, justice and forgiveness…
Confidence. Having a complete story plan helps avoid overwhelm when you sit down to write. And that’s so important to getting your story not just started, but finished!
I never write, now, without having an outline. Sometimes I change things – add a spy, a twist, a scene. But the bones are there. And I suggest you do the same thing.
In the Write for a Reason Academy we work, step-by-step, week by week, on a story plan. It’s a new element of the course I introduced last year, as I realised that students were finishing the course not always sure of the next step. Now, at the end of the ten weeks, not only will you have built on your writing skills, but you will have a complete story plan ready to write. Or if you don’t like the one you’ve been working on, you can dump it and start again – but you’ll know what to do. You’ll know what you need to include, what you need to leave out, and you will know exactly where you’re going with it.
Let me know what you think! We have a Facebook group for anyone determined to get their story finished. Let me know if you’d like to join and I’ll let you in – we will be discussing this topic over there! 🙂
Every blessing to you all,
P.S. If you’re not interested in joining the Write for a Reason Academy, skip this. If you think you might be interested, here’s a little bit of information:
The next course will begin on Monday 6th July. Registration is open now. It’s a ten week online course you can access from anywhere in the world. If you are new to writing Christian fiction for children, I designed this course for you, so you can become the novelist you dream of being and inspire children with your stories. If you know you have been given a gift, but understand you need to put that gift to work, this is for you.
Because of the difficulties we are currently facing with the global pandemic, I have made the course half price. This will probably be the last time I will do that, as lockdown begins to ease.
For further information, please click here, or don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any particular questions. 🙂
Good morning! Looks like it’s going to be a sunny day today, hurray! (Sorry, we English really do have a thing about the weather. :-))
I was going to talk about story plans today, because registration for the Write for a Reason Academy is open, and as part of the course, you will be writing your own story plan. But this morning I decided to encourage you to write about the recent crisis instead, before the moment passes.
If you haven’t already been keeping a diary, why not spend an hour writing about everything that’s happened since we first heard about Covid-19, and how it has affected you?
What were your first reactions? What were your second, as the crisis began to bite? What scared you? Do you know people who caught the virus? How did that make you feel?
What were the worst things about lockdown, for you? What did you miss most?
How, if at all, have your relationships changed with God, your family, your friends, your church family, your neighbours?
What good has come out of it for you? What have your learned?
Writing down all these things could be a useful cathartic exercise, to help get it all out of your head and on to paper. It could also be useful material for future stories. It could also be fascinating reading material for future generations! Plus, of course, any writing is excellent practice.
It doesn’t have to be neat. You don’t need to edit it if you don’t want to. Just sit down and write, and let your thoughts take over your pen/fingers on the keyboard. You need to be raw, and real. I suggest a real pen and journal for that reason – it allows the creative side of your brain to take over.
For me, the first time I went to the supermarket and had to queue to get in was a shocking moment. Then hearing that my son’s fiancé was going to be working on a specially set up Covid-19 ward brought dread to my heart – she was going to be close up to the disease for hours at a time, with limited protective equipment. (She has stayed well, praise the Lord!) And there’s so much more I could say about how we set up our Bible study group, managed to keep working, the daily exercise routine, the lack of planes, our church days of prayer…
So let me leave that with you. And maybe next week I’ll talk about story plans!
Stay safe (whatever anyone else does around you), and may God bless you.
P.S. More about the Write for a Reason Academy here, as we start again soon, for the last time at half price. I’d love to help you with your stories. I probably should have told you more about it this week, but if you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to contact me. And if you know anyone else who might be interested, please do pass the info on to them. Thank you!
Part of the way through you realise you are starting to ramble
Then you’re not sure how it’s all going to end
And there are bits you’re not happy with
So you try to change them
Then it all gets a bit overwhelming
And you get stuck.
But you have another great idea for a story with some fun characters
So you start a new story…
It’s a bit like throwing ingredients together, hoping the end result will be good.
If you are nodding your head at this point, what you need for your next story is an excellent, helpful STORY PLAN. You know what they say: failing to plan is planning to fail!
Strangely, new writers sometimes think that a good writer will be able to sit down and just write. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Having a carefully thought out story plan on paper (or in a document!) will:
Help prevent you from getting stuck part of the way through your story
Help keep your writing tight (no waffling!)
Get you to the end.
And that will save you a lot of time, not to say headaches.
Here are some elements it’s useful to plan in advance:
Characters – goodies and baddies
Narrative voice – whose perspective will you be writing from?
Setting – having a map/plan on paper will help with descriptions
Plot – beginning, middle and end
Theme – make sure your reason for writing is clear
Plus it’s really useful to know exactly who you are writing for!
The better you plan, the easier that first draft will be to write.
If you’d like some help with your story plan, do take a look at the Write for a Reason Academy (registration is open for a few more days, and is half price at the moment). As we go through the ten modules, you will gradually build up your own story plan. You could have your novel written by Christmas! 🙂 You can read more here.
Hope to see you there so I can help you make your stories the very best they can be!
Blessings to you all,
P.S. Due to the unprecedented times, the Academy is half price right now. Click here for more info.
Good morning! I hope this writing tip finds you well. Here we are, still under lockdown. How is this affecting your writing? Are you getting less done, or more? Do keep in contact, and if there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know.
Right, on to today’s writing tip, which comes to you as a result of yesterday’s daily lockdown exercise. 🙂 I am fortunate to be able to walk out of our house into country lanes. With the roads being quiet, it allows for reflection. Yesterday, as I was passing through an area of woodland, I did this exercise, and I recommend it to you, even if you are only able to do it in your living room or garden.
Stop and take in the scene. Listen to the sounds. What can you hear? The wind rustling the bushes; the swoosh of a cyclist passing by; birds calling? I could hear a woodpecker (which was what made me stop in the first place) and the distant sound of traffic on the M25, despite the ‘essential travel’ guidelines!
Take a good look at the scene. What three words would you use to describe the big picture? Timeless, green, growing? Take in a detail or two – ivy strangling a twisted tree trunk, a flattened coke can in the verge, rays of sun streaming through the trees. What about colours? Anything that stands out – perhaps one dandelion in a sea of green?
What can you smell? Damp earth, bluebells, smoke from a bonfire?
Does something happen as you stand there? A squirrel running up a tree? A runner in all the gear saying ‘good morning’ as she passes?
Close your eyes and feel the sun, or the wind on your face. Breathe in the atmosphere. Pull the scene together in your mind and find a word or two to describe how you feel right at that moment.
Now it’s time to go home and take one of your characters there! An exercise like this can bring life to your descriptions.
Enjoy your writing this week. Remember, no one can write your story but you.
P.S. I am planning to go live on our main Write for a Reason Facebook page at 5pm tomorrow evening (Tuesday 12th), to discuss ‘Choosing Your Theme’, suggested by writer-for-a-reason Ijeoma, who isn’t sure how much Christian content to include in her novel. Come along and bring your questions! I’m still getting used to doing this, so I hope it all works! Be lovely to see you there. 🙂
Have you ever frowned, when reading a novel, and thought, Really?
Quick writing tip for today: be careful that you don’t puzzle or annoy readers without meaning to, by not giving them the facts they need.
I recently read a children’s novel which was written in the first person, and it wasn’t until several pages in that I realised the character was a boy, not a girl. The author is female, so I unwittingly assumed the character was a girl. Because the character was saying me and I, (instead of a narrator saying he or she), I couldn’t see he was a boy until he met a friend who addressed him by name – and it was a boy’s name. Hmm.
The thing is, as authors, we are so familiar with our setting and our characters, we can assume things unintentionally.
Perhaps our animals can talk, but we haven’t thought to tell our readers. Perhaps the reader assumes the action is taking place on earth until a spaceship arrives from Russia! Perhaps your protagonist is a redhead, but you don’t mention this fact early on, so readers picture her differently.
Readers feel cheated if they suddenly find out some fact they feel they should have known earlier, and have to change the picture in their heads.
Clarity is key!
I’m not talking about information you are deliberately keeping from your readers, or allowing them in on bit by bit. Some facts are good to keep back – the treasure is fake, the girl is a spy, the man who said he was an uncle isn’t related to them at all…
It’s great to have a twist!
I’m talking about facts your readers should have known but you haven’t thought to tell them.
So writing tip of the week is: beware of confusing/annoying your readers.
Hope that helps! If it does, please share with your writer friends!
P.S. I’m going to go live on our Facebook page today, at 5pm (Monday 4th May), to discuss writing dialogue (as requested by writer-for-a-reason, Pam). I hope you can come and join me! This is the link to the facebook live. Feel free to bring any writing questions. Hope to see you there! (Quick warning, I need a haircut, so don’t look too closely. :-))
Good morning. I hope you and yours are well. It now seems that at last the Covid virus is loosening its grip a little. I’m delighted to tell you that our minister’s wife is starting to feel better, and the dad in our church who was in intensive care is making good progress. I know some of you will have lost loved ones – if you have, please accept my sincere condolences at this difficult time, and if you’re not able to write right now, tuck this thought away for the future. There’s a time for everything under the sun.
As children’s writers, we need to know our target readers’ interests, likes and dislikes, fears, hopes and dreams, so we can make sure our stories are relevant for them.
So I have a quick, but important writing tip for you today.
At a suitable time, ask some of your target readers how they feel/felt about the virus and the crisis.
The simplest way right now would be to ask friends/family with children, if they would ask your questions for you, such as: what were the best and the worst things? What were they afraid of, and what helped them cope? How did they spend their time during the lockdown?
Not only will this help young people feel heard, but their thoughts and feelings may be useful for future character development in your stories, so you can bring hope to a new generation of readers.
Trust that help!
See you next week,
P.S. If you’d like to join our closed facebook group for people who are determined to write their stories for children, let me know and I’ll let you in! 🙂
I hope you don’t mind – I’m copying this from my Dernier Publishing newsletter, because it involves us all:
“Security is a basic human need. We all need to know where our next meal is coming from; that we are safe from the enemy – if we don’t have these things, we are not at peace.
In the very depths of our souls we all long to feel safe and settled. We have jobs so we can provide for our family and locks on our doors to keep out intruders. The idea of ‘living peacefully under our own fig tree and vine’ is more than a bit appealing – we long for this at the very heart of our being and do our best to make it a reality.
As Christians we know that our safety and security lie in knowing Christ, our Rock, rather than relying on our circumstances. Some of us will have been saying it for years, and believing it. But right now, the carpet is being swept from under our collective feet – we are all being tested together.
Where does our security really lie? On what are we really depending? What gives us peace?
All of us have been touched by Covid-19 in one way or another – and it’s unsettling. We don’t know who will be next to succumb to the virus. We don’t know what our long term future will be.
Our children are also in this with us. They are on lockdown, cut off from their friends, not knowing when they will be able to go back to their school, sports, church and groups. They are watching the news. They don’t know who will be the next victim – will it be a loved member of the family?
Even as I write, the dad of a teenage girl in our church is in the high dependency unit of our local hospital. Our hearts ache for them, and for all the thousands of families who are touched by what is for them, more than news on a screen.
We need to find our security in Jesus, because we need to know that He has all things in His hands. That He is our peace. That underneath everything are the everlasting arms of the Almighty.
Our childrenneed to know this every bit as much as we do.“
With all this in mind, may I make two suggestions, if you write for a reason?
1. Write how you honestly feel in a journal, about your own safety and security, and that of your loved ones.
2. Get over the lethargy that comes from uncertainty, and write your novel. Don’t put it off. We all need Jesus – your readers need Jesus. Children need safety and security as much as any of us – if your hope is in God, you can help them find hope, too.
If you have found this helpful, please pass it on.
Yours in Christ,
P.S. A couple of weeks ago I gave nine tips for overcoming problems with concentration. You can read them here. And here are some ideas how to beat imposter syndrome. If you have been called to write, make sure you don’t bury your talent, my friend. Somebody needs your story.
Almost all of us will find ourselves with a change in lifestyle right now, and have had to alter plans. Some of us will have more time than we had a few weeks ago; some less.
Our Easter celebrations will be very different this year, that’s for sure – even though the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection doesn’t change!
Can I suggest in these strange times, that you grab a quiet moment, pray and take stock of your writing?
What do you feel the Lord is calling you to write, right now? Do you need to carry on as you were, or change direction?
Spend some time in prayer, and ask the Lord to show you. Don’t rush away. When you know what you need to do, tell someone who will keep you accountable, then make a start (feel free to contact me – I’d love to hear from you!). Or perhaps you need to concentrate on your family right now. There’s a time for everything under the sun.
Time is precious – no one knows how long we have in this world. Let’s use it wisely!
Do hope you and all yours are well. I’d appreciate your prayers for my youngest son’s fiancée, (their wedding was to take place in June, but they have had to postpone), who qualified as a nurse six months ago. She has just been seconded to the adult high dependency unit for Covid-19 patients in the hospital where she works. Her name is Chloe. Thank you.
May the peace of God guard our hearts, and use our writing for his glory.
P.S. With Dernier Publishing I have set up some fun competitions and activities for 7-12s to do at home. You can find out more here, in case that may be of interest! Feel free to pass the info on. 🙂
Hello and welcome to the video of a facebook live I did this morning, on the topic of editing your manuscript. The screen freezes part of the way through, but you can still listen! Sorry for the tech issues, but hope you find the content useful. 🙂
Good morning, and welcome to this week’s Write for a Reason creative writing tip. I hope you are well, and coping with the lockdown, wherever you are in the world. Strange times, aren’t they? We ‘met’ with our Bible study group yesterday on a facebook live – we’re getting used to it, but it’s not the same as a church service, for sure!
I have a quick creative writing tip for you today, followed by a writing exercise:
Writing tip: Remember that every story needs plenty of emotion. You can have a lovely idea for a story where a character goes through a series of adventures, but if there’s little emotion, you won’t engage your readers. Readers need to feel deeply for your character, as well as go with them on their journey from the beginning of the story to the end.
Writing exercise: We are living in a time of uncertainty; a time of fear. Grab a piece of paper and a pen, and for the next ten minutes, write your darkest fears at this present time. Perhaps your concerns are for elderly parents, for employment, or for vulnerable people you love. Perhaps you have a son or daughter on the front line in health care. Perhaps you fear the world as we know it will never be the same again…
are you really concerned about deep down?
is that gnawing anxiety you are trying not to dwell on?
the time to express these fears in words.
Why? Gulp! It may not sound like an encouraging exercise, but being able to plum the depths of your own emotions will help you include them in your stories… which will help your readers with their own emotions.
To finish: Now you have acknowledged the truth about how you really feel (which is what the psalmists did!), it’s time to pray, and put your fears and concerns into the Lord’s hands. May He keep your minds in perfect peace as you trust in Him!
Please pray all the right people will join this course – the more stories that share good news, and the better written they are, the more children (and even whole families) can be reached with the love of Jesus. Please do share the link with any friends who might be interested, especially anyone who is ‘on furlough’ from their current employment. Thank you!
the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make his face to shine
upon you, and may he give you his peace.
Good morning from a beautiful, sunny morning in London, where everything looks the same, but so much has changed. At least we know our Lord does not change. His mercies are new every morning, and his faithfulness will never end.
He is our Rock in times of trouble.
Many writer friends are saying how difficult it is to concentrate on writing right now. I would therefore like to offer a few quick tips:
Be kind to yourself. There is a time for everything, and these are
extraordinary times. Don’t get cross with yourself if your mind
wanders and you don’t get as much done as you’d like… but equally,
don’t allow yourself to play sudoku when you have sat down to write!
Try to keep a regular writing time. This may have to fit in with your
new circumstances – be creative and make a realistic plan. Better
decide to write for half an hour three times a week and achieve
it/exceed it, than promise yourself you will write for three hours a
day, then beat yourself up because other things need your attention.
Keep close to the Lord. Read your Bible and pray before writing. Rest
when you can/need to. Everything in its proper place.
Keep your purpose in mind. If you have done the Write
for a Reason course, you will be writing for your one reader.
Keep praying for them, and writing for them. Who knows how much
they will need your story in the days ahead?
Exercise outside if possible – taking a walk in creation brings
fresh perspective and fresh creativity.
Eat well and drink plenty of water. A healthy snack and a glass of
water before you sit down to write will help you concentrate.
7. If you find writing your novel too overwhelming right now, write something parallel. For example, write a letter from your protagonist to another character, write a snatch of dialogue that comes to mind (even if it’s not in the chapter you’re writing), write a prayer for your one reader… anything you can accomplish quickly, but still relevant.
9. Keep learning. Registration for the online Write for a Reason Academy is now open for our April start – could there be a better time to do an online course? 🙂 If you join us, by the end of June you will have a complete story plan and all the skills you need to finish your novel! Due to the current crisis I’ve cut the price of the course in half, because I want as many people as possible to benefit, but if that’s not for you, why not swot up with some writing tips?
I hope you will find at least one of these tips useful. If you do, would you be kind enough to share this post with a friend? We all need each other right now… don’t let’s give up, but let’s keep the fire burning and the light shining!
Wherever in the world, I hope you are well in body, soul and spirit. May you know the peace of God which passes all understanding, whatever the circumstances you are currently facing.
Jesus, our hope,
P.S. If you have a friend who writes novels for children, but could do with a bit of help/support/training/encouragement, would you consider buying the Write for a Reason Academy for them? It could result in lots more children reading Christian books and hearing the good news of Jesus! Any queries, please don’t hesitate to contact me. 🙂
Good morning and welcome to the Write for a Reason blog.
With so much of the world talking about Covid-19, I can’t ignore it and sit here and talk about writing stories as if nothing was happening.
If you’re anything like me, you are grateful for the life we have in Christ, and are even more determined to share the sure and certain hope we have in Jesus through story. “How can they hear, if no one tells them?“
So today, in these strange times, I have been thinking about how I can most help you, and have decided to set three writing exercises:
1. Write deeply from your heart, of your darkest fears. This could be a cathartic exercise for you, but as well as that, being able to write honestly from your own experience will help you bring emotion into your stories. There is nothing quite like reading a book and feeling understood, perhaps for the first time.
2. Write a prayer for our time, to share with friends on social media, your family, or perhaps your children’s church group. Some don’t have the gift of words, so this week, why not use your gift to help others to pray?
3. Write a psalm of thanks and praise for today. Every day is a new day, and God’s mercies are new every morning. Circumstances change, but He doesn’t.
Before I go, I’d like to invite you to join me in a live Zoom meeting where I will be talking about Creating Engaging Characters, next Monday (23rd March) at 7pm UK time. Contact me for the link to register. It’s material I prepared for a writing workshop in Eastbourne, and decided I might as well make use of again (there’s no charge) and I hope it will help you!
Any questions, as always, please don’t hesitate to contact me. See you next week if not before,
P.S. You do need to register for the Zoom meeting, so please contact me if you’d like to join in.
Hello and welcome to the Write for a Reason blog! Thanks for joining us.
My family is now out of self-isolation. Two weeks after returning from China my son and daughter-in-law are well and we can now all sit and eat at the same table! Thank you so much if you prayed for us. It was a strange experience, and all the time there was uncertainty in the air: would either of them go down with the coronavirus? Or would we? I’m so grateful none of us had even a hint of fever. 🙂
There’s no doubt we are living in unusual times; the spread of the coronavirus is suddenly affecting us all. A friend from Belgium told me this morning that they no longer greet friends with a kiss! Shops have sanitising gel on the counters and supermarkets have empty shelves as people stock up.
some of us the virus is unsettling… for others, it is a tragedy of
immense proportions. The truth is that suddenly none of us are immune
and fear is in the air.
Children have vivid imaginations, and pick up on the worries and fears around them as they hear the news, listen to conversations, see frightening images. A book that brings hope can be a beacon in a dark place. If you have been thinking one day I’ll write that book, perhaps this is your one day?
Fortunately for us, as Christians, our hope is beyond any hope this world can offer. This really is good news to share for young and old – and stories are a great way to share it. 🙂
Talking of which, I have once again opened up registration for the Write for a Reason Academy. The next course will start on Monday 6th April. Do take a look! The idea behind the course is to give you everything you need to write a successful novel for children/teens (story structure, characters, theme, setting, narrative voice, etc). Throughout the course you will build on an outline for a story (maybe that one that has been mulling around in your head? :-)), so by the end of the course you will have a complete story framework, and your novel all ready to write – overwhelm beaten!
There are assignments to do and teaching to digest. The course is online, so you can access it 24/7 and go at your own pace. There are ten modules, so if you do one module per week, by the end of June you will have your story plan completed and ready to write in the summer…
pray about it.
Each time I open the course people ask if I will be running the course again, because they’d like to do it, but not necessarily right now. Here’s the honest answer: I hope to run the course again many times, but I’d hate to guarantee it, so if you know you want to do it, it would be better not to put it off. I have included an option for you to pay monthly instead of a one-off fee, which I hope will help.
here for more detailed information, and to join up if you should
wish to do so. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to
contact me. I am passionate about getting good stories into
children’s hands, and if I can help guide you with your novel,
I would consider it a privilege.
better get on – I didn’t mean to write that much!
you next week,
P.S. Please share news about the Academy with writer friends. More successful writers = more successful stories = more children enjoying good books. 🙂
Good morning! I’m currently writing with my son and his wife in self-isolation after returning home from China. These are strange times, aren’t they?
I picked them up from the airport, so I, too have been avoiding meeting up with people, just in case.
There is so much terrible news at the moment – it almost feels overwhelming. The heart-rending plight of the people in Wuhan and the spread of the coronavirus, the devastating bush fires in Australia, the destructive plague of locusts in eastern Africa, the continuing war in Syria and the plight of the refugees, the floods in Britain… each one of these disasters impacting millions of people. People dying, jobs lost, homes lost, livelihood lost, family lost. And I’ve just picked a few of the current top stories – in your head you may have been adding other terrible news reports of your own.
these disasters affect children, too.
“How lovely are the feet of him who brings good news.”
One of our Write for a Reason Academy students, Martin, has written the following poem which I asked his permission to share with you, because I think it sums up so much of what Write for a Reason is all about, and he kindly agreed.
By Martin F. Smith
As a writer may my words make a difference to the world
Of my target audience made up of boys and girls.
If I choose them carefully then they’ll surely want to read,
Keen to discover where the story’s going to lead.
Perhaps it will be funny, even crazy can be good,
When characters do what you thought they never would.
Excitement is important, like a roller-coaster ride,
Making the readers tense, feeling nervous inside.
Oh, and don’t forget the end needs to have a surprise,
So they exclaim, ‘I don’t believe my eyes!’
Yet all this won’t matter if the message isn’t heard,
Or if the story’s theme is just a little too absurd.
For I started writing my thoughts to convey,
Hoping some seeds will be spread along the way.
A difference might be made, either big or small,
Then I’ll have been faithful in obeying God’s call.
If you are nodding your head, or jumping up and yelling YES!, would you need/like to:
Join a group for encouragement? (We have a community group on facebook – if you’re serious about writing your story, we’d love you to join us.)
Start writing? If you haven’t picked up a pen/keyboard for a while, this might help.
Whatever it is you need to do, don’t put it off. If it’s tuition you need, I plan to run a webinar on characters in the next few weeks (when I’ve worked out how to do it!), then I will open the Write for a Reason Academy again in April (this is a ten week online course for Christians who write for children) – more details about both of these in due course. Make sure you sign up for email updates, if you don’t already subscribe, so you won’t miss out. There’s a form below.
For now, keep writing, my friends. Take the next step. Persevere. If you have been called to write, a child who needs to hear good news is waiting for your story.
you next week if not before,
If you found Martin’s poem inspiring, please send me your comments,
and I will pass them on to him. Thank you!
Earlier this month I ran a writing workshop at the Eastbourne Christian Resources Centre, on the south coast of England. It was lovely to meet up with four enthusiastic writers, all in different stages in their writing journey. The weather was terrible a few days before and after, with high winds and heavy rainfall, but we were blessed with a bit of sunshine!
discussed CHARACTERS, because one thing we all need to
remember, whatever we write, and whoever for, is that our
characters must be compelling. I know I talk about this a
lot, but think back to the last novel you read. My guess is that the
more you engaged with the main character,
the more you engaged with the story.
if we want to grip our readers, we must make sure they:
Believe in our characters
Care what happens to them.
Just a thought: If I ran a free half-hour webinar on the subject of characters; would you be interested? If enough people would find it useful, I’ll dig out my notes. You can contact me through the contact form, message me or email me. Or leave a comment below. Don’t forget to let your friends know. 🙂
Oh, and if you would like to join our closed facebook community group, let me know about that too and I’ll let you in. (It’s for you if you’re writing a Christian book for kids, serious about getting it done, and feel you’d like some support and encouragement.)
See you next week, or in the facebook group,
P.S. Are there any other subjects you’d like me to cover? I’m here to help!
Apologies for the lateness of this week’s writing tip… I took a week off work last week to paint the bathroom, and now have lots to catch up on. 🙂
Plus this website was hacked… life is full of challenges!
I hope you survived the recent storms – we had a leak in our spare room and a fence down by our front door, which has made it difficult getting in and out of our house!
We’re not complaining, after seeing the awful flooding some people have had to endure. I am also watching the news closely as I have a son in China (not Wuhan, but the virus affects life for everyone), and felt the grief as we heard the news that Caroline Flack had taken her own life. Our humanity binds us together as we see the suffering of others – rich or poor, famous or forgotten, known or unknown, on the other side of the world or close to home.
May our writing bring good news – hope to the despairing, light in the darkness, grace to those who long to be loved and forgiven. If you’ve been putting off writing, determine to get going (or get going again if you’ve started and stalled!). If you have been called to write, at least one young person is waiting for your story. They will miss out if you don’t, but who knows what the Lord might do through your obedience?
Right, on to this week’s writing tip, which actually comes from writer-for-a-reason Donald Smith (thank you Donald!), who commented after a recent writing tip: “One of my favourite authors is Odo Hirsch. The protagonist, usually a child, has a mission. He or she has to use personal qualities to overcome obstacles, and then attains the goal. In his Bartlett stories, Hirsch even mentions the three virtues that his protagonist lives by: Ingenuity, Perseverance and Desperation.”
Brilliant! How does your protagonist match up? Do you think every protagonist needs these three keys? Let me know what you think!
you next week,
P.S. Over the last week I’ve had time to do some thinking – I’d like to set up a closed facebook group for any writers-for-a-reason who are serious about getting their stories done. It will be a place where members can chat with and encourage each other, ask for advice, and generally encourage each other. If you would like to join in, let me know. I will be involved in the group, but am hoping for a community feel. Writing can be lonely – I’d like this to be a safe space where we can pray for each other, share struggles and joys, ask questions, offer advice, and maybe even find writing buddies! Be lovely to get to know you a bit better. Just let me know if you’d like to join. 🙂
Good morning and welcome to this week’s writing tip. I hope you are well and enjoying the slightly longer mornings and evenings – spring is surely nearly here!
Today’s writing tip is vital for the pace of your story.
Why doesn’t Cinderella, as well as wanting to go to the ball, also need to save a rare flower, search for a long-lost auntie and lose weight?
Because protagonists should have one main aim.
This aim can be anything: to save the rainforest, destroy the weapons, find the treasure, get to safety, discover the identity of the thief, bring the prodigal home, reach the moon, win the football game… but there should only be ONE main aim.
Along the way your characters may battle beasts, bullies, thieves, hurricanes, dragons, aliens and face all manner of difficulties… but all the struggles should be because they are fighting to reach their one goal.
Here’s the problem: if your characters go through situations that have nothing to do with the main aim, you risk diluting your story, reducing tension, and making your story long-winded (and boring… noooooo!).
You need to decide: What is my protagonist’s main aim?
When you have decided what the goal is, think of this aim as a thread running through the story. Anything that does not hang on this thread needs to be cut (you can always save ideas for the sequel! :-)).
Does this make sense?
The Cinderella story works because there is one aim – for her to win the prince’s heart. Everything in the story is there so she can achieve that aim.
One MAIN story loop is enough for each story. You can have side plots, but they still need to feed in to the main aim. And if you’re writing for younger children, keep it simple – stick to the one main aim.
In the beginning you open it, at the end you close it. And the middle is the struggle to reach it.
Does this makes sense? Why not pause for a moment and think back to the last story you read, or film you watched. What was the protagonist’s main aim? Was everything in the story working towards the character/s reaching this aim?
Any comments or queries, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I always love to hear from you!
See you next week,
P.S. I am running a FREE writing workshop at the Eastbourne Christian Bookshop next Saturday morning (8th Feb), as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations. If you’d like to go, you need to book with them. If you’re anywhere near, do come – it would be wonderful to meet you!
On the same day, in the afternoon I will be speaking at the Hand in Hand Children’s Ministry Conference, also in Eastbourne. The title of my session is Exploring and discussing faith at home though children’s books. Sharing our faith with our children is a priority, but it’s not always easy. In this session we’ll be looking at three easy ways to use books to start discussions. I will be giving out a free goodie bag of books for every attendee, so come along if you can!
Have you heard of imposter
syndrome? It is a real thing!
Here are some of the signs you are suffering from it: you feel you’re not good enough, can’t do it, don’t belong there, shouldn’t be there… you feel a fraud, and that people will judge you. In your head you hear people saying, Who is he to be doing that? Who does she think she is?
It’s very common!
I suffered from imposter syndrome when I set up Dernier Publishing (I still struggle with it at times). I was a nobody – a stay-at-home-mum who did a bit of freelance writing. Who was I to set up any company? Or do anything ‘important’?
In the early days, when people asked me what I did, I was embarrassed to admit I had set up my own business – it felt like delusions of grandeur. Who was I to think I could set up a publishing company? I had no background in business, sales or publishing. I had no contacts, no knowledge of how the world of business works – no wonder I felt that imposter syndrome digging in its claws!
But the truth is, the Lord often uses the weak. So be encouraged if you are feeling inadequate right now in regard to your writing!
Here are 5 Imposter Syndrome Beating Ideas:
1. We need to consider what is really true.Did the Lord really say that to you? Do you feel the Lord has called you to write stories for children, to share the good news? If so, write your calling down on a small card and keep it in your purse or wallet. When the doubting voices come in, read it out loud.
2. So you’re not very good? A few writers will be brilliant from the first word they write, but most of us have to learn our craft (have you been through the Write for a Reason Academy?) and get in plenty of practice. You may feel like the new kid on the block, but as long as you are continuing to learn, and keep putting your talent to work, you can tell the imposter voices to leave you alone – you’re on a journey. Everyone has to start somewhere. 🙂
3. Instead of listening to the doubting voices (including your own!), talk to a trusted friend who will encourage you. Ignore everyone else (including the imaginary voices that only exist in your head).
4. People won’t always understand – but in the end it doesn’t matter what other people think or say – what does matter is being obedient to our calling. I am responsible, before God, for myself. You are responsible for you. The important thing is that we are faithful to what we feel we have been called to do, not matter what others think or say.
5. Keep your purpose in mind all the time. Christian children’s books are touching hearts and lives all over the world because I didn’t give in to those imposter syndrome voices. I still get them, and I still don’t give in or give up. I’m tempted to, sometimes! But I haven’t yet.
Imagine what might not get done if YOU give in to those imposter syndrome voices in your head. What stories might not be written? What children might not hear the good news?
But imagine the joy in heaven if your story touches a child, or maybe two or three… or a hundred, or even a thousand… or more? Dare to dream that the Lord could use YOU.
Don’t let imposter syndrome keep you from using your talents.
Bit of a deeper ‘writing tip’ this week, but I hope you have found that helpful.
I’ve been asking around social media recently – “Do you use a thesaurus?”
It turns out that some writers use it a lot, some a little, and some not at all.
If you don’t, can I recommend it to you? There’s a fabulous online version – you just put your word in the search, and it will give you a whole list of synonyms. Plus a selection of antonyms… and a definition to boot!
Whether you’re looking for just the right word, or a stronger version of a word, why not give it a go?
This week I have a slightly different type of exercise for you, to do with goal setting. Setting concrete goals is an excellent thing to do, because goals help us stay on track. Even if we don’t achieve everything on our list, we will probably have accomplished more by the end of the year than if we didn’t set any goals! So now is the time to get out a pen and paper and have a think…
What are your writing goals for 2020? Don’t forget to pray as you
What might prevent you from achieving your goals? Time pressure?
Procrastination? Fear of what people may think or say? Fear of
failure? Lack of clarity with your story? Fear that your writing is
not good enough? Be honest here, and write down anything that might
hold you back. You don’t have to show anyone!
What will help you counteract the issues you face, and go on to
achieve your goals? Could you call on a friend to hold you
accountable? Could you set aside regular time in your calendar for
your writing? Do you need to say no to something else? Do you need to
overcome your fear and do it anyway? Do you need to join a course to
hone your writing skills, or join a writing group for encouragement?
I’m just about to
set my goals myself, so I will be working with you. Let’s pray for
and encourage each other as we work towards using the gifts the Lord
has given us for building up the church.
May the Lord lead
and guide! And may I take this opportunity to wish you a blessed new
year, full of joy. If you have any questions about any of the
exercises, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
P.S. Write for a
Reason Academy starts next week! Please pray for our new students.
Registration has closed, but if you’re thinking you would like to
have joined us, let
me know and I’ll make sure you know if/when I run the course
I’m guessing that many of you won’t have time to work on your novel over the next few days… but here are a couple of quick, fun writing exercises for you to do when you have half an hour to spare. Perhaps when Grandad has fallen asleep in the afternoon, in the quiet of the morning before the rush, or when everyone else is watching a film you’ve seen before? (I spent an hour in a queue waiting to get out of Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Two car park last Friday – I could have done one of these then, if I’d have thought about it!).
1. Write the Christmas story from the point of view of an unnamed character. One of the animals, a neighbour, a shepherd, a child, a robin… the choice is yours. Don’t spend too long thinking about the story – write it from your heart as quickly as you can. It doesn’t have to be polished – real is what we’re looking for. It’s surprising what you can come up with when you just write.
2. What do you enjoy most about the Christmas celebrations? (What a wonderful gift to celebrate – Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us!) Is it the decorations, the tree, the lights, the food, the music and carols, having the neighbours in, seeing family, buying or receiving gifts and cards, the school nativity play, the time off, the office party, the church services, the games and silliness? Whatever you choose, write from your heart. 🙂 Perhaps Christmas is a difficult time for you this year, for one reason or another. Add that in – it’s important to express how you really feel. The Psalmists did… the Lord understands.
I hope you enjoy
doing these two exercises. You could even do them with your family
and friends – get everyone writing! Send me your finished pieces –
I’d love to read them.
And don’t forget, if you’d like to join the Write for a Reason Academy, you have two days left to register for our January start. I’d love to help you with your writing, if you feel you need training, support or encouragement. Or all three!
Whether you join the
course or not, make 2020 the year you use the gift you have been
given. Don’t bury it again because it’s too hard to do, or try to do
it alone if you need help. Write for a Reason helps fund the sending
of Christian books to needy children, so if you do decide to join the
course, you will also be helping a great cause (and there’s a monthly
payment option, if that helps).
Whatever you decide
to do, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. May the Lord fill your
life with light, life, hope, peace and an abundance of joy!
P.S. Do you love instagram? I’m @janetfromwriteforareason if you’d like to connect. 🙂
You only have a few days left to sign up for the course which starts in the new year.
As soon as you join, you will gain IMMEDIATE access to the
pre-course runway, which I’ve designed to help you
get ready for the weeks ahead (this includes some fun writing
prompts, so you can get to work straight away!). The Modules will
then be released to you week by week for ten weeks, starting Monday
I would count it a privilege to help you in the
next step of your writing journey.
In this course
you will learn everything you need to write a successful novel for
…and by the time we finish, in March, you will have a complete story plan for your next novel, with all the elements in place!
This time next year, you could be looking at putting the final
touches to your novel – imagine that!
From a testimonial: “I am not scared of failing any more and
I need to give myself the chance to actually produce this ‘baby’
which has been gestating for far too long.”
Here’s a quick run down of what we will be looking at together in the course:
Module One: Reaching Your Target Audience Purpose: Looking at different age groups and demographics, and what they need. (N.B. This is an essential foundation!)
Module Two: Creating Your Protagonist Purpose: To learn what is needed to create an engaging and inspiring protagonist (main character).
Module Three: Creating Secondary Characters Purpose: This week we will look at what’s needed in your secondary characters, including ‘baddies’ if you have them.
Module Four: A Look at Narrative Voice Purpose: To consider all the options, then choose what works best for you and your next story.
Module Five: Weaving in Your Theme Purpose: To learn how to make your “message” work in the context of your story.
Module Six: Creating the Perfect Setting Purpose: To learn about different settings, and what is needed for each.
Module Seven: Gripping Beginnings Purpose: To learn all the elements you need to craft a gripping beginning to your story.
Module Eight: Satisfying Endings Purpose: To learn everything you need to include for the perfect ending.
Module Nine: Conflicts and Resolutions Purpose: To learn how to plot your story to build tension and pace in the ‘middle’.
Module Ten: Your Complete Story Plan Purpose: By the end of this week, you will have a complete story plan in your hands, ready to begin writing your novel in full!
Each module will include a mixture of teaching, reading and practical assignments. And they’re fun! Yay!
Don’t miss out for another year! Someone’s waiting for the
story the Lord has put on your heart.
I do hope you will consider joining the course if you are serious
about your writing, because I know I can help you.
Let 2020 be the year when you set out to become the novelist you
dream of being, and inspire the children on your heart with your
My passion is reaching children with the good news of Jesus
through excellent, relevant, fun stories. I would count it a
privilege to help you reach the children on your heart
through your stories. I long to see a world where every
child has access to stories to inspire and encourage them to walk
We all need each other’s gifts
in the body of Christ. Together we can make a difference.
P.S. The course includes teaching, assignments, reading, and access to a private facebook group (so you can join other writers in the Write for a Reason community, ask questions and make comments). The course is hard work as well as lots of fun! Be prepared for a deep dive, to learn loads, and to put it all into practice. The course is online, so you have access to it 24/7, wherever you are in the world.
Do you set goals? Yesterday I was talking to a friend from church who is a recovering alcoholic. The process of setting goals has been instrumental in his journey. Short term goals help him to persevere day by day. Long term goals (such as restoring his relationship with his children) give him hope for the future, and something to aim for when times get tough.
His long term goals help him to stick to his daily goals.
I am currently looking at the goals we have for Dernier Publishing next year – it’s a great thing to do, so we’re not aimlessly wandering from project to project (know what I mean?). 🙂
Now it’s your turn! Over the next couple of weeks, set yourself a long term writing goal. Where would you like to be this time next year with your story? Try to make your goal realistic but inspirational!
Once you have set that goal, split your progress down into monthly or weekly goals – whichever suits you best, and let us know what you are planning…
This will help you get your story DONE!
you next week,
P.S. The hardest part of anything can be starting (going through those gates…). If you want to make sure your story is the best it can be (plus finally feel like you’re not alone!), it’s not too late to join the Write for a Reason Academy. We start in January, and you will come out with a complete story plan with great characters, an exciting plot and you will know exactly who you are writing for. I’m really looking forward to the course, and do hope you will join me. More details here.
From a previous course student: “I am not scared of failing anymore and I need to give myself the chance to actually produce this ‘baby’ which has been gestating for far too long. Just wanted to let you know, because without your kind words this would still be way off in the future for me. Thank you :)”
Christmas is a brilliant time for having some fun with your writing.
Here’s an idea:
Write down the names of everyone who will be with you on Christmas Day or Boxing Day. Write a Christmas story involving all these people, to read out after lunch or tea. 🙂
This is brilliant practice in making your writing sharp and precise – you need to keep your story short, exciting and funny, or Grandma will drop asleep and the children will fidget! Could you include a gospel message? Jesus’ incarnation is good news to share!
Isn’t this what Write for a Reason is all about? Sharing the good news of Jesus through story?
Go on, you can do it!
If you have children with you, make them the heroes of the story – they will love it… and from that time on they will be waiting for you to finish your novel! What more encouragement could you need than that? 🙂 Oh, and include pets – they will probably be the favourite characters…
While I’m here, I’d like to remind you that registration for the Write for a Reason Academy is open for just three more weeks, for the January start.
Who is the course for?
This course is for Christians who feel they have been called to write novels for children/teens, but realise they could do with some training and encouragement as they hone their natural talent and story-writing skills. If you want to go through all the essentials you need for a successful novel in a clear, step-by-step way, Write for a Reason Academy is for you. One writer who completed the course said, “I was surprised at how much the course taught me. I didn’t know as much as I thought I did!! The presentation was clear and easy to follow and theteaching was clear and well thought out.”
Here’s the truth: you can do anything God has called you to do, with a bit of help. That’s what the body of Christ is all about – each of us using our talents to support and help each other. One of our students, Mark, has published two novels for 8-11s, has a third on the way, and has also gone on to produce a series of Bible study guides. He told me, “the course gave me the skills and confidence I needed.”
We all need help to develop our gifts, whatever they are. A few years ago I did a course in business French, because although I speak everyday French, I didn’t know the specialised business language. I have also signed up for a safeguarding course in March, because as part of the safeguarding team at church, I need to keep my knowledge sharp. I need to keep up with my job, too. The last professional development course I did cost me £1,200. I’m not charging anything like that for Write for a Reason Academy – I have set the price at 1/4 of that, even though the amount of content is about the same! I am here to serve you.
If cost is an issue, I have set up a six month payment plan, so you can pay monthly. If you feel the Lord is calling you to this, pray about it. There’s always a way when the Lord is in it. Sometimes there’s a really simple way forward… if you currently spend £3 on a coffee five days a week, and take your own instead, you could save £60 a month – which would more than cover the cost of the course and give you a bit extra!
I love getting to know students, and I will be with you in an exclusive Facebook group, going over each week’s training, answering questions, supporting and encouraging you. Even if there are only two or three people on the course, I will be there. You have access to the course at any time, so as long as you have internet access, and a notepad (digital or paper!) you can study.
If you like writing, this course is so much fun! Click here to check out the details.
Right, I think I’ve done enough talking. Any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. And let me know how you get on with your Christmas stories!
Hello again writer friends! Last week we looked at how important it is to make writing a habit. This week, as promised, I have brought you some thoughts from published authors about their writing habits.
Rather than pick out ideas, I give you their comments in full – you’ll be inspired by the wonderful variety and their collective wisdom! (They all belong to the UK Association of Christian Writers. If you’d like to know more about any of the authors, click on their name to go to their Amazon Author Biography.)
“I write any time, any place anywhere. I use every means available – computer, phone, iPad, digital voice recorder, notebook and pen. I utilise every spare minute I can, so I have written whilst waiting for hospital and doctors appointments, waiting at a railway crossing when in the car (using DVR not taking my hands off the steering wheel) and in trains and planes, at airports, railway stations and when doing book signings. Write whenever and wherever you can.” – Wendy Jones
“My writing regime begins with prayer. I have a set time for that, then later in the day if I’m feeling okay I will do a little writing or jotting down of ideas, but mostly I wait till the evening because that is the only time I’m ever really well enough. I mention the prayer because if I didn’t spend time with God I don’t think I’d have much to say. Contemplative and listening prayer are where I get most of my ideas. Having said that, when it comes to children’s books, that can be a little different, as mine tend to have quite a bit of silliness in them. I think God enjoys silliness as much as we do! So I will jot down ideas, character names, book titles, and write bits as they gradually formulate into stories. I am motivated but not the least bit disciplined. The actual putting words to screen is fairly erratic, but seems to somehow get done. As I spend most of my life in bed, that’s where I sit up to write.” – Keren Dibbens-Wyatt
“I treat it as a job (because I’m hoping that one day it will pay me a salary!) so this helps me to avoid the distractions of housework and other jobs while I’m writing, because I know I’ll get to those in the evenings/weekends. (Or, in the case of housework, not at all…)” – Lucy Rycroft
“I’m with Lucy, treating it as a job and trying not to leave my desk while the children are at school. I like to have several projects on the go at different stages, so that if editing project A is turning my brain to porridge, I can spend an hour on the dreaming stage of project B. I give myself deadlines if they don’t exist externally, because I’m no good at writing without them. When I have a lot of work on, or I’m in the must-produce-a-chapter-a-day stage of a book, I try to get up early to get started. I find the early morning, before anyone else is awake, the best time to write; and I love that it helps me feel productive and ahead of the game for the rest of the day. However, I don’t find that a sustainable habit, so I only use it for certain seasons of a book.” – Amy Robinson
“I try to write whenever I can – I get a good hour in on Monday nights while the children are at gymnastics, for example, and while waiting for appointments. I too try to treat school days as work days, and I will always have lots of different writing jobs on. I try to mix up paid for writing (freelance Christian work) with speculative fiction writing and blogs so that my brain is kept as lively as possible. I also find that jotting down ideas which I then come back to is good. Writing away from home inspires me – sitting in a gallery with gymnastics parents, overhearing snippets of conversation and people watching often puts ideas in my head. For me, the key is to have my ears and eyes open in every situation I find myself in (the school run, doctors’ with my elderly parents, various clubs for children) and weave all that into my writing. Life is copy. I hope this is helpful.” – Ruth Leigh
“My main writing sessions are in the evening. Consistency is important for me. I usually write at my desk but I often use train trips to draft story and article ideas out via an app on my phone. I get quite a bit done that way. I am always working on flash fiction or standard length short stories but have bigger projects on the go too. For those I use weekend afternoons to make progress. When I get the odd half an hour during the day, I draft or edit something. I’ve got better over time at judging how I can make the most of the time I’ve got. I blog for an online magazine every week so plan my writing work around that. I try to get this done as early in the week as possible, then I switch to fiction writing, before preparing the following week’s blog. What I do know is I can always use any writing time available!” – Allison Symes
“I write when the kids are at school (but not as disciplined as I should be!). I only write during term time as I know I would get cranky with the kids if I tried to write with them at home. I write one book at a time. In planning stage I need to be in a creative place, so either in the garden in the summer, or in my bedroom (with a lovely view) in the winter. Planning is done with notepad and pen. I’ll then sit in my study and type up the book on my computer. I’ll also make notes on my phone’s note app when I’m away from my computer.” – Caroline Johnston
“After 20+ years always researching and writing sitting alone in silence at my desktop computer in my study (latterly at the bottom of the garden) for maybe 20 hours a week, increasingly over the last 10 years I write in nice warm comfortable coffee shops surrounded by music and people typically for 3 stints of 3 hours at a time in a week. In that I achieve 5000-7000 words a week. A luxury – but worth it.” – Peter Thomas
“I write one book at a time. The others are in holding patterns above my head, ready to be netted like butterflies. I give myself targets for finishing MSS first draft then for revisions and then for sending to my editor (yes, I pay for editing before I even start pitching). As for the actual writing which follows the planning (not cast in stone by any means), I plan for a week ahead. Invariably, I am a disappointment to myself. Even knowing that I am overoptimistic and reining back my expectations, I still fall short of my targets.” – Bobbie Cole
“I write in the evening if I can, sat on my sofa, snack nearby for afterwards (can’t eat and type, no multitasking…). Then I bash away till the chapter is done. I hate reading a book and stopping in the middle of a chapter, writing one is the same...” – Maressa Mortimer
“I have to be really disciplined about my writing, as I do it during the kids’ school hours. Often I find that motivates me though to simply get my head down and get going, avoiding as many distractions as possible. I have to say at the start of a project, or if I’m finding a section tricky, procrastination does rear its ugly head! And it is a struggle to down tools when I’m in a good flow (why does that always seem to happen about half an hour before school pick up time?!)” – Claire Musters
What a lot of wonderful variety! I do hope you found these honest comments helpful, and are encouraged that, whatever YOUR lifestyle, YOU CAN DO THIS!
If you have your own writing habit organised, share your wisdom in the comments below – perhaps you could encourage someone else? If not, be inspired to start your own writing habit – one that suits YOU. 🙂 Oh, and if you didn’t pick up your free 21 Day Writing Challenge last week and would like to have a go, you can do so here. It will start you off in the writing habit!
Have a lovely week, as we begin Advent and look forward to celebrating the birth of our precious Saviour,
P.S. Apologies in advance – I may be a day late again next week, as I might take the day off and go Christmas shopping!
P.P.S. That reminds me, if any of you are looking for Christian books for children/teens for Christmas, try dernierpublishing.com. This is where I work most of the day, when I’m not here with you. 🙂 Any queries about any of the books, please don’t hesitate to contact me – I’d love to help you choose!
Many of us lead busy lives, full of home, family, work, church and other commitments. How can we fit writing into our schedule?
The best way is to make writing a habit.
The dictionary definition of a habit is: “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” Like cleaning your teeth twice a day, exercise (for some!), kissing your spouse goodbye when you leave the house, emptying the dishwasher before you go to work, chocolate on Fridays or (insert your own habits here).
Anything that is a habit GETS DONE.
If you want to write novels for children or young teens, but haven’t yet made writing a part of your life, this 21 day creative writing challenge will help you make writing an enjoyable daily habit… then once you’re in the habit you can go on to get your story DONE!
I have designed the challenge for Christians who write fiction for children/teens, so lots of imagination is needed! It is completely FREE, and you can start TODAY.
Hello and welcome to this creative writing tip. Janet here on the edge of London, on a beautiful November day. Well, it was raining earlier, but the sun has now come out. 🙂 And as it is November, every hour of sunshine is welcome!
Which reminds me of tension – we need it in our novels, as much as we need the rain in winter, but there has to be an ebb and flow. Because we need the sunshine, too!
Are you good at building up tension in your story, then letting your readers relax again? It’s an important skill for story writers. It’s like stretching a piece of elastic… just when it’s about to snap, you let it go. Phew! This process helps to build engagement in your story, making it exciting and fun to read.
Here’s a writing exercise for you, for a bit of sneaky practice (similar to one we do in one of our Write for a Reason mini-courses*).
to get out your writing journal!
1. A group of children suspect one of their school teachers is stealing school supplies. Write a scene where the children are spying on the suspect. Try to build up some tension. Something is surely going to go wrong!
2. Just at the wrong moment, one of the children sneezes. Write what happens. Try to include some humour. The children will, of course, win through!
*For a short time only, The Write for a Reason “Easy but Brilliant Ways to Make Your Story Fun” mini-course costs £1 with coupon code “winter19”. (Usual price £9.99.) If you are called to write stories for children from a Christian perspective, you will love this course, where you will have fun and improve your writing skills at the same time! Click here to join in. 🙂
The Lord can do awesome things through prayer… but if we don’t ask, we won’t receive!
If you are writing stories with the intention of reaching children with the good news of Jesus, you need to pray, because what you are doing is vital. I don’t need to labour this point, but the world is a dark place, and becoming increasingly more so for our children. You only have to think of the last two or three news items you heard, to know this is true.
need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as we write, because He
knows what our children need. Prayer can keep us on track. I am
writing a YA novel in my spare time (I love writing!)… and my
heart’s desire is that it touches many young people, because if I
have been given a gift, it’s to serve others. So I need to pray.
also have a group of people who pray for me, and I strongly suggest
you do the same. Do you have a trusted friend or two who will stand
with you in prayer? Why not ask
them right now,
before the moment passes? 🙂
pray for you, even though I don’t know most of you! And I’d be
grateful for your prayers for me, too, as I seek to serve writers for
a reason – thank you!
you are a writer for a reason, here’s a prayer you can use:
Dear Father God,
You are the giver of all good gifts, but sometimes we are tempted to bury the talents you have given us, because we doubt our ability and fear failure. We’re sorry for the times we have failed you. Please help us to be bold and courageous in the face of every obstacle, so we can use our gift of writing for your glory.
Inspire us to write excellent, relevant, fun stories, through which you can touch hearts and lives. May we write boldly and sensitively on issues our young people face, so they feel understood, and to help them make good choices.
Help us to set aside time to fulfil this good work that you have given us to do. Help us to persevere and to stay close to you, so we can hear your voice and pass on what you would have us say.
Lord, we are writing for your precious children, and we acknowledge that we need your help. We can’t bring our children to you in person, and only you can change lives, but we want to bring those we love, and many more we don’t know, to you through our novels. We long for them to know you and walk in your ways. Please use us! Please use our stories to sow seeds and touch hearts.
In Jesus’ name we pray, for your glory,
praying, keep working! Done together they are a combination hard to
to you all,
P.S. Registration for the January Write for a Reason Academy is now open. I would love you to join me! If you are a Christian and you write novels for young people, you will love this course. If you don’t, I’ll be happy to refund your money. It costs just ¼ of the price I paid for a business online course last year, so it’s excellent value – I wanted to make sure it’s available to as many new writers as possible. I have poured hours and hours into the course to make it the best Write for a Reason course ever, because I want to help you get excellent, relevant, fun novels into more young people’s hands than I can alone! I promise you, even if you’ve done writing courses before, you will learn so much, and come out with a brilliant story plan with the first paragraph already written. I will support you on your writing journey in a Facebook group, where you can ask questions and help other writers. (For example, if you need a name for a character, we can all help you choose! Or if you’re stuck with your narrative voice, you can get some advice.) We’re all in this together. Imagine, if, all over the world, we have a group united in our common aim to encourage and inspire our children and teens to walk with God, caring for and supporting each other. Imagine what we can achieve if we pray for each other! 🙂
only intended to write a sentence to let you know the Write for a
Reason Academy is open, but got carried away, hehe! Anyway, any
questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. 🙂
Hello again my writer friends, and yes, it’s Monday again, so time for a new creative writing tip! This week I wanted to write about something which will help you with your stories, so I picked a topic which is essential.
You may know this, but when writing novels for children, it’s the young characters themselves who must save the day.
all means have a ‘Yoda’ style older character who can advise, but
‘Luke’ (insert your own character’s name here!) needs to win the
battle alone. Or Luke and his friends, if there are a group of young
heroes in your story.
protagonists need to use their own wits, strength and
ingenuity to defeat the enemy.
They need to think up the plan, make their own decisions, make mistakes and get up again before reaching their goal. Alone.
I know you wouldn’t normally place children in danger, but in your stories you safely can!
worry about it being a tough fight – the tougher the better (as
long as it’s age appropriate). The greater the struggle and the
battle, the greater the defeat of the foe, and the greater the
Do not have an adult stepping in to save the day.
Assignment: This week, I have a writing exercise for you! Find three books popular with your target readers. Read each of the stories thinking about how the main characters have fought and won through. In your writing journal (if you don’t have one, get one!) write down your thoughts, and how it can help you with your own stories.
hope this writing tip is helpful! May the Lord help and inspire you
as you write. 🙂
P.S. You must read books your target readers enjoy, if you want to write good stories they will love. It’s never to late to start! If you don’t have a collection, today’s the day to start one. Empty one of your bookshelves, and start to fill it. The books don’t have to be new! But you do have to read them.
Everyone hates rejection letters. Nobody likes being rejected! As a publisher, I hate writing rejection letters, because I know how much time and emotion an author has invested in their book, and I understand how tough it is to have your hopes dashed.
But what does a rejection letter mean? Does it meanyou have been rejected? That you are a terrible writer and you might as well give up now? It might feel like it when you first receive it, but that’s not what the letter is saying!
I recently listened to a speech by Bob Hartman. Bob writes mainly Bible stories for children. He was looking back to his first rejection letter – although the publisher said “not this time”, they did say keep writing, and he submitted several ideas before they finally took one on. Now Bob has a whole gamut of books in print with several publishers – you’ve probably seen them, or may even have some on your bookshelf!
Remember (I’m going to say it again, because it’s important), publishers aren’t rejecting you – just this story… and you will have a lot more where that one comes from! Plus you have to think that wasn’t the best place for my book. If the publishers gives you feedback, take it on board, because they know what they are talking about.
So why might your story have been rejected? Here are three reasons your proposal may have been turned down.
1. It may not be exactly what the publisher is looking for at this time. They may have a surfeit of books for girls – and yours is about princesses! They may have just commissioned a set of books set in a school… and yours is set in a school! Remember, publishers usually have a limited number of titles they will bring out, and a whole heap of proposals to choose from.
2. Your story might not fit with their publishing requirements. Did you do your research before submitting the manuscript? See last week’s writing tip about submitting your book proposal.
3. Your story isn’t written well enough. Have you done a writing course? If not, why not consider doing so? The investment will be worth every penny of your money, and every hour of your time. You may find out all sorts of things that you didn’t even know you need to know! You can join a local course, or go on a writing weekend. You might like to look at our own online Write for a Reason Academy, if you write novels for children/teens from a Christian perspective.
finished his talk by saying he’s glad his first efforts
weren’t published! As with all things in life, his writing got
better with time and training. So keep writing, my friends. If God
has called you to write, work at it with perseverance. One day you
will find the perfect way to get your stories into readers’ hands.
helps! If you feel called to write, don’t ever give up, because only
you can write your story, and someone, somewhere, is waiting for it.
abundant on your writing week,
P.S. In the Write for a Reason Academy, we look at various different ways you can get your first book out into the world – you don’t have to have a traditional publisher take your story on. For example, you might like to make it into a kindle book, have it spiral bound for your grandchildren/Sunday School, or self-publish. You can read more about the course here.
Hello and welcome to theWrite for a Reason blog! Today I want to take a look at sending book proposals (unsolicited manuscripts) to publishers. This is a topic I have covered before, but it’s something I’ve been asked about recently by a Write for a Reason student who has now finished her novel (way to go Pam!), so I thought it would be worth going over again.
This is quite a long post, in four
parts, so hang on!
We all know there’s no point wasting our time submitting a proposal for a picture book to publishers who don’t do children’s stories, or a YA novel to a publisher who only publishes adult fiction. And completely pointless if a publisher doesn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts at all!
But how do you go about finding a suitable publisher for your novel? Here are some suggestions:
Step One: Do some research on
foot. Go to your nearest Christian bookshop and take a good look at
the shelves with books in your genre for your target age range. Just
suppose your manuscript became a book, where would it fit? If your
book was on the shelf, which publishers could it be with?
Step Two: Buy a
good selection of books from different publishers closest to
yours in content and length, and for the same age of readers.
(While you’re there, encourage the bookshop, be generous, support
them in their outreach to the community!)
Step Three: Read the books. 🙂
Step Four: Check out the
publishers’ websites. Browse through all their titles, not just the
selection you found in the bookshop. By now you should have a good
idea which publisher you think your story would fit best with.
Step Five: Find the section on
your chosen publisher’s website with information for prospective
authors. Do they accept unsolicited manuscripts? If they do, you’ve
found where to send your proposal!
Going through all this research will take effort, but what worthwhile thing was ever easy? Skipping the research is likely to cause you a lot of wasted time, and rejection letters you could have avoided.
2. Your Proposal
Once you have chosen your publisher, you
need to follow their guidelines for submissions.
They may allow you to send an electronic submission, or they may require a hard copy sent in the post. Check on their website, and whatever they ask for, make sure you tailor your proposal to their requirements.
This is likely to include:
The first three chapters of your
A complete synopsis of the book.
A stamped SAE if you’re sending
by post and want your manuscript returned.
A simple covering letter with a
short author biography. This needs to include:
Your full name, email address and
Who the book is for (e.g. girls
aged 8-11), and why you have written it (briefly)
The final word count
Any previous writing
experience/qualifications you have
A bit about your Christian
background (if you are writing for a Christian publishing house)
Details of your author platform
(blog/website, email list, social media platforms, speaking
engagements you undertake, other marketing opportunities)
N.B. Don’t forget that publishing is business… money has to be made to pay staff including editors, illustrators and cover designers, proofreaders, reps, distributors, accountants… and of course the bookshops will take their cut, too. There are also overheads: ads, insurance, IT support, rent/rates, equipment/furniture, office supplies, postage/shipping… Plus there is the printing of the book!
These days authors are a large part
of the selling process – they need to be willing to do plenty
of promotion both before the book comes out, and afterwards. Just
3. The Practical Bit
Good presentation is important. You want
to make a good first impression!
Your proposal needs to be typed in a plain font (this isn’t the time to be creative!), on one side of white A4 paper with large margins: 3cm is fine. Use double line spacing, and number all your pages.
Use paper clips, not staples.
Type your name and the working title of your novel in a header on every page.
Include a title page before your three chapters. This needs to include the title of the proposed book, your name and contact details.
Number the pages of your first three chapters (and your synopsis, if more than one page).
Make sure your manuscript has the correct postage – publishers won’t be paying the excess! It’s entirely up to you if you wish to use a signed-for service or go for standard delivery.
If you want the publisher to return your proposal (should they not want it), put in a stamped, self-addressed envelope.
Phone or email the publisher, to ask the name of the commissioning editor, to whom you will send your proposal (optional, but it helps).
Don’t be in a rush. Publishers tend to be extremely busy. Some have certain times of the year set aside for looking at unsolicited manuscripts, so they may not look at your proposal for several weeks. If you haven’t heard within six weeks, feel free to chase them up, just in case your proposal hasn’t made it to their desk, but don’t make a nuisance of yourself!
4. Check, check, check!
Before you put your precious story into
the envelope, have you:
Been through everything over and
over again until you are certain you can not make it any better?
Read it out loud?
Printed it out and checked for
any errors? (It’s amazing what you see in black and white that you
don’t see on the screen!)
Left it alone for a week or two
before reading again?
Going through all these steps is time-consuming, but rushing the process might mean it’s not the very best you can do… and that would be a shame.
Finally, send your proposal and celebrate that you have done it! In due course you may be asked to send in the whole story… but even if this time you don’t get a yes, you will have learned a lot along the way, so well done!
Does that help? I hope so! Any queries,
please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Next week we will look at ‘rejection
letters’, and what they mean. If you don’t want to miss this, you can
In the meantime, if you are still
writing your story and all this seems overwhelming, just concentrate
on your writing – you can come back to this at any time.
You may not want to go through
all this process, anyway! You might want to make your story into
an ebook/kindle book, read it aloud, print it off and have it
spiral-bound, or go for self-publishing… there are so many
different ways to get your story into
There’s a place for publishing, but even
if your story reaches only one or two children, and their lives are
changed, wouldn’t all your hard work have been worth while? I think
May the Lord lead and guide you as your
write, and as you consider your next step.
Hello again my dedicated writer friends! This week’s creative writing tip is an idea on choosing theme for your next story.
Have you ever read a book and been surprised and delighted that the author (or one of their characters) seems to know exactly how you feel about something? That they put into words something you were thinking yourself?
If your readers feel heard, seen and understood, it will give them hope, bring light into tough situations, encourage them that there is a way through and assure them that they are not alone in their struggles.
In the Write for a Reason Academy we plan a story with one reader in mind. Just supposing you were writing a book for one reader, what issue would you want to address? (If you have any first-hand experience of any of these issues, that would be a great place to start.)
Living in the shadow of grief
Body image/eating disorders
Pressure to conform
… and there are (sadly) many more in this fallen world.
Of course you will be writing a fun story with lots of adventure, humour, a roller-coaster of emotions – and a spiritual issue, too. But in the background, if you can address one of these themes, you will be doing a wonderful thing.
If you have any thoughts, jot them in the comments below, or get in touch. It’s always lovely to hear from you!
Blessings to you all as you write,
P.S. Most of you will know I set up Dernier Publishing to produce Christian books for children and teens. Last week I attended the Christian Resources Together retreat in the UK. Dernier Publishing, to my surprise and delight, won the ‘Accessible and Inclusive’ award from Torch Trust, for our work in helping children with sight loss. If you would like to read more about the event and the award, you can do so on the Dernier Publishing blog. 🙂
We look at ‘show don’t tell’ a lot here at Write for a Reason, because it is an essential technique for writing engaging stories.
I have some practice for you (there’s nothing like a writing exercise
to help you remember something you have learned!).
let’s look at some examples.
Tell: The girl was angry. – This is a simple telling of the
Show: The girl’s face went red. She clenched her fists and stamped her foot. In this description, we are not told the girl is angry… we see it for ourselves. Or she could put her hands over her ears and scream!
Tell: The cat stalked the mouse.
The cat crouched low, swished her tail, then
crept towards the mouse.
Tell: The moon shone on the still lake.
Moonlight shimmered on the unblinking water.
do you think? These are only simple examples, but if you look through
your work in progress, you might find a few places where you could
change a simple telling of the facts into a descriptive ‘show’ to
take your readers right there to the scene with you.
OK, now it’s your turn! Here are three ‘tells’ to turn into ‘shows’:
The kitchen looked clean.
The boy felt afraid.
The birds flew slowly.
can put these little phrases into a bigger picture if you like, so
they make more sense, if that helps. 🙂
hope you enjoy this exercise, and it helps you with your writing.
you next week!
If you’d like to subscribe to my emails, so you don’t miss writing
tips, you can
do so here.
Someone’s waiting for your story, that only you can write! I’d love to be able to help you get your novels into the hands of readers. My passion is reaching children with the good news of Jesus through stories, and I know there are so many potential story-writers out there who just need a bit of teaching and encouragement… and so many children out there who so badly need inspiring stories to let them know Jesus loves them, that God answers prayer, that there is light in the darkness, that it’s fun to be a Christian… and so much more.
By the end of the Write for a Reason Academy you will not only have all the tools you need to write your best stories ever… but you will have a complete story plan so you can get straight to work on your next novel!
I set up Write for a Reason in response to requests from writers. This new updated course is the best yet, so I hope you will invest in your talent. Sorry, I’m getting carried away! (But if you’d like to read some testimonials you can do so here.) OK, let’s get on to this week’s writing tip:
As I have been working on the Write for a Reason Academy over the last few months, I have realised how essential it is that we have prayer support if we are writing stories for children from a Christian point of view.
So here are 3 Reasons You Need Prayer Support:
The Lord works through prayer. It’s a mystery, but He has chosen, for the most part, to act through the prayers of His people. How awesome is that? Prayer is a huge responsibility and an incredible privilege. If you are writing with the intention of reaching out to children with the good news of Jesus, what you are doing is vital. Creative writing is a wonderful hobby, but writing to share something of the good news of Jesus through stories takes everything to a different level.
Writers tend to be filled with doubt and overwhelm (tell me it’s not just me!)… so just knowing someone is praying for us is wonderful, and can help us stay on track when things get tough and we’d rather be doing something else. 🙂
We may have a specific difficulty we need help with – a scene that won’t go right, a character who seems a bit flat… or a million other things!
So ask a friend or two you can trust to stand with you in prayer as you write. There may be times when you really need it! Choose someone who won’t dig fun at you, or make jokes about you being the next J.K. Rowling. Choose someone who will support you, however long you take, and will take their role seriously.
And don’t forget to give them updates, so they know what to pray for! Is someone coming to mind? Get in touch with them now, so you don’t forget!
Trust that helps!
P.S. In case you skim read… the Write for a Reason Academy is now open, until Thursday.Click here to join (or just read more before you decide!). I’d love to be able to be your coach with your writing – to help you get over the doubt and overwhelm! There is so much to learn in story-writing, and I know I can help you. Hope to see you there.
All through the ages and all over the world people have shared stories in their families and communities. True stories; embellished stories; fictional stories – all these can instruct, inspire and encourage us, as well as entertain (sometimes long after the author is no longer with us!).
face it, we all love stories, whether they are told in person, in a
book, on the radio/audio, or in visual form on a screen.
are powerful – Jesus told stories!
Stories can do more than
entertain – they can make us think. In fact, everything we take in
affects the person we
why Christian stories for children are so important.
containing spiritual truths are
like seeds, with potential to bear fruit for
Not all seeds bear fruit, of
course. Some will end up on the path, on rocks and among weeds. But
some will grow into sturdy plants.
on the good news through
is a vital task. So
make sure you finish the
are working on right now,
and make it
the very best you can… perhaps
will be a part of your legacy. Perhaps
future generations of
your family will enjoy it
and benefit from the truth
Maybe even a wider audience? Who knows?
up to you to put in the work. Will you do it?
Hi, thanks for dropping by. I have an important creative writing tip for you today!
We’ve all heard the expression the stakes are high… but why do they need to be high in your novel? I don’t think I’ve ever written a blog post specifically about stakes (not steaks, hehe!) before… but stakes are a vital part of any story, so here are three things you really need to know:
1. At the beginning of your story you will have a character who needs to sort something out. If he doesn’t know about it from the start, he soon does… because something happens. That something might be a bully hurting a friend, the discovery of a treasure map, suspicious activity next door, an animal in distress… whatever it is, this thing that happens has to affect/impact your character in some way.
2. The ‘thing that happens‘ must be big enough to make your character ACT.
The pain of taking action has to be worth the effort: your character will have to weigh this up.
What will he stand to gain if he wins through and defeats the baddie/situation?
What will happen if he doesn’t?
are the stakes.
3. You need to make the stakes so high that your character MUST ACT despite the risks (or you won’t have much of a story!).
Once your character is motivated to action, you can send him on his way to conquer the baddies, put rights to wrong, get his mum to safety, destroy the ring of power… or whatever it is he needs to do… and, of course, grow as a person through the dreadful trials you will put him through before he gets the prize. 🙂
that all make sense? Perhaps an example would be useful.
a church youth club treasure hunt, Lance (my character) hears
strange noises in the back of a lorry – it sounds like there are
people shut up in there (something happens). What is going on?
Hmm. Lance has a choice. He can ignore it/explain it away, or he can
will happen if he doesn’t act? His conscience will bug him. If
people really are shut up in that lorry, what if nobody helps them?
What if he’s the only person who knows?
might happen if he does act? He might be in danger from the lorry
driver, but with God’s help he might be able to get the people out…
or at least solve the mystery of the strange noises.
Lance considers what to do (decide if the stakes are high enough
for him to act) he reads his Bible verse for the day which says
“do for others as you would like them to do for you.”
That’s it! The stakes are now sufficiently high to make Lance act, and he sets off on a real treasure hunt (taking his friends with him).
Stakes are important! Make sure the stakes in your story are as high as you can make them, while still being believable. This will make for a gripping story to keep your readers engaged right to the end. Will your character win through? They will need to keep reading to find out.
Hope that helps you with your stakes (and if you have steaks, enjoy!),
P.S. If you like the sound of Lance’s treasure hunt, you can read The Treasure Hunt pdf free by subscribing to emails from Dernier Publishing, order the paperback from our website or any bookshop, or the kindle or audiobook from anywhere in the world! We’ve had children say about this story, “This is the best book I’ve ever read.” I think it’s because they are so thrilled to find Christian characters in a book who have fun, go to church, and solve mysteries! Shows how vital Christian books are. So keep writing yours!
Like to subscribe to emails from Write for a Reason, to help you make your story the very best it can be? You can do so here.
new to writing novels sometimes think that the words should flow
straight out on to the page perfectly first time. This simply
isn’t the case.
is a normal part of the writing process. You might need to go through
your first draft several times before you show your work to anyone
will want to make sure everything makes sense. You might want to cut
unnecessary scenes, lengthen exciting parts, change
‘tells’ into ‘shows’, remove typos, improve grammar, flow,
dialogue and pace… All this is totally normal.
editing process might take longer than the initial draft!
it doesn’t matter if your draft needs three edits, thirty, or even a
hundred. What matters is that you finish, and make your story the
best it can be.
How will you know when to stop revising? When you realise if you change anything else, you are going to start spoiling it!
Relieved to know that you’re normal in needing to edit? Great! Raise your head, get that first draft down, then do as much editing as you need. It will be worth it! Someone is waiting for your story.
a great week,
Every so often when you are editing, copy the full story, and work
with a new version. Then if you don’t like some of the edits you have
made, all is not lost – you can go back to the old one!
Never miss another post! If you would like to receive email updates from Write for a Reason, to help you finish your story and get it out into the world, click here. 🙂
In today’s creative writing tip, I’d like to mention an issue that some of you may have noticed either in novels you have read, or perhaps TV programmes or films you have watched (stories of any sort).
The problem is being too clever.
Sometimes it’s a plot which is too complicated to follow (ever got to the end of a book/film and wondered huh?).
Sometimes it’s a small thing, like giving all your characters or places clever names (which perhaps mean something, but wouldn’t be true to life).
It can be a twist that disappoints because it’s just not believable. Noooo!
Or many other too clever things. 🙂
It’s good to have a brilliant plot, names that suit your characters, and a surprising twist. And it’s good to be clever. 🙂
The problem comes if you are so clever that what you are giving your readers/listeners detracts from your story. You want your readers to be gripped, not confused, critical or disappointed!
It’s fun to think of clever ideas, but we do need to think of our readers. The younger they are, the simpler things need to be.
Trust that helps!
Have a great writing week,
P.S. You can find further tips on naming your characters here and here. 🙂
If you would like to sign up to receive emails from Janet, click here.
If we want to get anything done, we have to do it one step at a time.
If we want to build a wall, there’s no other way than brick by brick. Or if you’re more into cakes than walls (I’m thinking of Roald Dahl’s Matilda), the only way to eat a chocolate cake is one bite at a time!
It can be a slow process, but you will get there in the end. ;-0
So what has this to do with writing? Well the whole process can feel overwhelming at times. We can all get stuck. The start, the plot, the characters… and how will it all end? OVERWHELM! We all know what it feels like – it’s normal. But how do we get out of ‘stuck mode’?
The best way to tackle overwhelm is to just take one bite or build one brick (I’ll take the cake, hehe!). Joking aside, if you’re feeling paralysed right now, because the whole novel-writing thing seems too big, you need to take the next step.
A small step is fine, because every small step will be taking you towards your final goal. In fact, every small step is a victory!
So what do you need to do next? Write the next paragraph? Plan the next chapter? Make a character list? Decide on your setting? Or get going again?
Over to you! Take out your journal, and make a list of things you need to do to make your story a reality. Then just do one thing! Or skip the list and just do something. 🙂
If you do that every day, bit by bit your novel will take shape.
It will! You can do it!
Have a good week, a moving on week.
Why not drop me a line to tell me what your next step will be? I’d love to hear from you. 🙂
Love to you all in Christ,
P.S. I wrote an ebook, years ago now, with lots of good writing tips and tricks to help you make your novel the best it can be.
I’ve kept the price low, because I want to make it accessible to as many writers as possible. It’s great value, and you can start putting the writing tips into practice immediately! I hope you enjoy it. 🙂
The most common thing new writers ask me when I’m talking about Write for a Reason is, “How do I know if my writing is good enough?”
Would you ask me that if I was in a room with you now? If so, let me tell you, in my firmest voice, there’s no such thing as “good enough”. Or not good enough.
Let me explain.
You have been called to write stories for children to share your faith in some way. Suppose, instead of thinking about how to get a publishing contract with a big company, you decide to write for your nephew? Or a child you know who is going through a tough time? And make that the very best story you can?
When I first started knitting dolls for refugees, I was a bit shaky with the pattern, but now I’ve got a lot better. Those first few dolls were less than perfect in different ways, but I’m sure they will be loved by the girls who receive them… they are good enough. Not good enough to sell in Harrods, but more than good enough for a little girl to love. And the more I make, the better I get!
If you are called to write, you can do it.Your writing is good enough. I can almost hear you say, but suppose I’ve made a mistake, and it’s all just in my head? Well, there’s only one way to find out!
It’s time to get to work, and I hope you will let me help. You can only get better!
May the Lord lead and guide you as you write,
P.S. If you join the new Write for a Reason course, you come out with a complete story plan. We will go through characters, setting, plot and loads more! I hope you will join me, because I’d love to help you make your stories the very best they can be. Registration isn’t open yet, but you can take a sneaky peak here. Don’t forget to tell your friends, and keep in touch!
In any good story, you need some kind of conflict.
If three little pigs built beautiful houses of different materials and lived in them happily ever after, there wouldn’t be much of a story to tell, would there? But suppose a big, bad wolf enters the scene, to huff and to puff and to blow houses down? Help! NOW we have a story.
In just the same way, we need some kind of conflict in our stories, that will be resolved in the end.
Some of you will be thinking – yes, of course! But the truth is, new writers can be tempted to write a series of interesting adventures… where nothing every really happens. Believe me, I’ve read stories like this. If you suspect this may be you, take a long, hard look at your plot. Would it benefit from some kind of conflict?
As Christians, we can want to make everything nice for our young readers, and of course we need an ending where all is beautifully resolved. Still, conflict is what makes a story, and will be so until the Lord returns. (Which will be our final, beautiful resolution!)
Let me know what you think in the comments below – it’s always lovely to hear from you. 🙂
Until next week, happy writing,
P.S. If you haven’t already, join me on instagram! @janetfromwriteforareason. Love to see you there. 🙂
P.P.S. If you don’t subscribe to emails from Write for a Reason and would like to, you can do so here. Every week I will send you an email to make sure you don’t miss writing tips like this, and keep you up to date with courses and events.
Historical novels bring in a whole new, fascinating dimension for readers. At Dernier Publishing we have a wonderful spy mystery novel for 8-11s called A Pennyworth of Peppermints, which is set in Dorset in the first world war. Mary Weeks Millard, the author, wasn’t there, of course! She had to do a lot of research into what life was like for families living in that place at that time. Kids love the book (actually, adults do, too!), so the effort was definitely worth it. Could you set your story in the past, in a era that particularly interests you? Stories set in Bible times also come in this category, of course.
Dystopian novels for young adults and children 10+ are popular, so setting your story in an imagined future is another option… this time, instead of doing some research, you’ll have to build yourself a whole new world.
Fairy land, talking beasts, dragons, inter-planetary travel, alternative worlds – these are all great fun. If you are planning on writing a fantasy novel, you will have to make up your own world – whether your story is based on a legend, or completely out of your own imagination. It’s definitely worth having a go if you fancy it.
I hope this writing tip and the last one will help you think through your setting. We go into much more detail about choosing and building the setting for your story in the new Write for a Reason course, coming soon! If you’d like more details, let me know and I’ll make sure to keep you up to date with progress.
Phew – lots to think about this week! See you next Monday,
P.S. One thing I can tell you about the new course is that students will come out at the end with a complete story plan, which will include the setting. It’s going to be fun!
As you know, Write for a Reason creative writing tips are all about helping you give your novel for children/teens that X factor, so you can grip your readers! This week’s writing tip is useful for whatever age group you write for, so do feel free to pass it on to friends who write fiction of any description.
Showing not telling is a great way to add X factor to your novels. We’ve discussed it before, but there’s no harm in mentioning it again, because if you can use the technique to your advantage, you will set yourself above the competition!
You probably “show not tell” sometimes without thinking, but there may be times when you get caught up in the “telling” and could do with a bit more “showing”. This might take a bit of extra work… but it’s worth it, because it will grip your readers and take them right into your story with you.
Suppose your protagonist enters a house, but no one is there. Let’s call her Andrea. Has the house been abandoned, or is it still inhabited? Hmm. What about if Andrea detects a faint smell of cooking when she walks in? This immediately lets Andrea know know people have been here not long before, and makes sure your readers are right there with her, smelling that cooking smell. Or Andrea may see fresh flowers in a vase, or run her fingers over a polished table to find there is no dust… the possibilities are endless!
If you use “showing” like this, you don’t have to write: “It looked like people had been there not long before.” You’ve shown your readers. They can feel the polished table, see the flowers in the vase, and can smell the cooking smell. (And the more of the five senses you use, the better!)
Why not read through your work in progress, and see if there are any places you could add a bit of “show not tell”? Let me know if you do – it’s always lovely to hear from you. 🙂
Trust that helps! Happy showing not telling. See you again next week. 🙂
P.S. I wrote about Show not tell in a previous post (from 2015 – can you believe we’ve been here that long?) – do check it out if you’re not exactly sure what showing not telling is. 🙂
Today I have a thought-provoking creative writing tip for you!
As you know, I’m always urging you to read. Well, following my own advice, last week I read Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier while on holiday in Cornwall. 🙂 Wonderful! If you haven’t read it, I thoroughly recommend it. You will be inspired!
Daphne du Maurier wrote this novel after a visit to Jamaica Inn. She was riding with a friend on Bodmin Moor one day when mist came down. They got lost and ended up staying in the inn. Having learnt about the history of smuggling in the area, she wrote her famous story!
Now here’s my point. Could you turn something that happens to you on your holiday into an idea for a story? A boat ride, a visit to dark caves, a folk festival? A local legend with wolves, dragons or bears? Could you write a short story of hope with a spiritual theme, to give to a child on your heart? Perhaps you could write about God’s love, his forgiveness, justice, mercy, good triumphing over evil, light shining in the darkness?
I look forward to hearing all your ideas!
Love to you all,
P.S. Anyone interested in a summer story competition? Let me know if you are, and if there’s enough interest I’ll set one up!
P.P.S. A few more photos, in case anyone is interested…
Writing should definitely be fun! If you have a gift for writing, it will at times flow out of you as if you were born to it, and make you smile. Of course, there will be days when you have to keep moving forward with grit and determination… but even then, when it’s over, you will look back on the experience as an enriching one. 🙂
Today I’d like to give you two writing prompts, just for fun… and to practice using the first and third person we’ve been looking at over the last couple of weeks!
So have a break from your work in progress, put down the sudoku, turn off the cricket and the tennis, and get yourself a pen and paper…
Writing prompt one (first person): You are hiding in a cave. Why are you there? Who are you hiding from?
Writing prompt two (third person): Your main character is a donkey, and his best friend is a bird. Write about an adventure they have together.
Feel free to write as much or as little as you like. Please send your writing – I’d love to see your stories. 🙂
Last week we considered five reasons we might choose to write our novel in the first person narrative voice (I, we, us.) If you’d like to go back and take a look at the post, you can find it here.
In that post I mentioned that stories are usually narrated either in the first person (I, me, we) or the third person (he, she, it, they). Neither is right or wrong; they are just different. You can choose!
However, there are certain situations that make writing from either one or the other a better choice. This week, we consider five reasons you might choose to write in the third person (he, she, they):
Reason 1: Writing in the first person can be restrictive. For example, your protagonist won’t be able to see someone following them. Impossible, right? You may not want them to know someone is following them… but you might want your readers to know, to build suspense. Which could be tricky if writing in the first person! So third would be a good choice.
Reason 2: If you have action happening in more than one place at once, writing in the third person is an obvious choice. No one can be in two places at once! 🙂
Reason 3: You can be more objective when writing in the third person. You are not bound by what your protagonist is thinking and feeling. The third person perspective is wider, and gives you, as the writer, more freedom. Your narrator can see things from any perspective you choose. Which can be useful.
Reason 4: I mentioned last week that if your protagonist is very much like your readers, writing from his or her point of view in the first person will help you get your readers to engage with them at a deep emotional level. But if you expect to have a wider readership – if your protagonist is a young lad, for example, but you are writing for boys and girls, the third person might be a better fit. Girls might get fed up with the boy’s thoughts and feelings… or vice versa.
Reason 5: You might simply find you tell your story better in the third person, and that’s fine! The story is yours, after all. 🙂
OK, here’s a writing exercise for you, just for fun: Your main character is visiting a zoo with friends, and becomes a giraffe. Write a paragraph or two in the first person, then switch to the third. Which comes more naturally? Enjoy!
P.S. If you’re not completely clear about the difference between first and third person narrative, let me know, and I’ll make that the next blog post. 🙂
Stories are usually narrated either in the first person (I, me, we) or the third person (he, she, it, they). Neither is right or wrong; they are just different. The choice is yours!
In this creative writing tip, we’re going to take a look at five reasons you might choose to write your story in the first person.
Reason 1: Your protagonist may have a particularly interesting voice. For example, Harper Lee wrote to Kill a Mockingbird from the viewpoint of a child. Scout has a fascinating viewpoint to share with readers, which has a big impact on the way the story comes over.
Reason 2: If you are writing a diary-style story, writing in the first person is the obvious choice. Louise Rennison wrote the extremely successful Confessions of Georgia Nicolson in the first person – Georgia is a strong character with plenty of opinions and shocking revelations, which she freely shares with readers. Readers can feel as if they are privileged confidants, which is great!
Reason 3: Writing in the first person can bring us much closer to the thoughts and feelings of your main character. If your readers are likely to strongly identify with your protagonist (age, sex, interests, background and so on), you might choose to write from the first person. This will bring your readers so close, they could almost be that person.
Reason 4: If your story has one main character who dominates your story (an action hero who saves the world single-handedly, for example), you might like to write the novel from their point of view in the first person. This can be good fun, especially if readers can ‘see’ beyond what the protagonist actually says!
Reason 5: We are used to telling stories from our own point of view, so writing in the first person can be a good choice for beginners. If you have never written a novel before, but keep a diary, or enjoy writing letters, writing in the first person might be an excellent starting point.
Trust that helps! See you next week, when we’ll take a look at some reasons you might wish to write your novel in the third person. 🙂
Few authors make big money with their writing, but that doesn’t mean to say you can’t be successful. It depends how you define success.
Yesterday I went to Hillsong Kids in London (the 7-11s group), to talk to them about books. It was great! I got to talk to some of the children individually as well as give a talk to the whole group. Several of them buzzed around me after my talk, thrilled and amazed to find books with Christian characters just like them (and two asked me if I’d publish the books they are writing!).
If you can write a book that encourages a child in their faith, wouldn’t that be the most awesome thing? Your book may not ever be a best seller, but there is no KPI (Key Performance Indicator) to show touched lives. (Maybe one day in heaven all will be revealed!) Of course we want our stories to be big sellers, and of course, the more you sell, the more lives you can touch, but every single child is precious.
If only one child read your story, and it changed the course of their life, would it be a success? YES! A HUGE success!
So if you feel you are called to write stories to share the good news of Jesus, keep writing. Who knows what the Lord might do?
Can I make a suggestion though? To make sure your story is the best it can be, invest in books about writing, and/or a writing course (ours will be open for enrolment soon), to make sure you have all the basic story elements right. (Characters, voice, structure, dialogue and so on.) Then you can let your imagination fly!
Have a great week, and if you have any questions about the Write for a Reason course, please don’t hesitate to contact me,
Ever heard this phrase? Now, I’m a great believer in spontaneity, but there are times when I do love a good plan. For example, I make lists. If I don’t, I forget things – I just do. When I was a child I’d leave my swimming things hanging in the changing room, forget to take important forms back to school, forget it was spelling day, forget to pack my lunch… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
Now I’m an adult I would still forget things if I didn’t make lists. I also plan things, or they’d never get done, and that includes my stories. So many times over the years I have started a story, then got part of the way through before losing the plot (sorry about the pun!). Overwhelm takes over when I’m not sure which way to go; enthusiasm and joy wanes, and I think of another exciting plot to begin! Ring any bells? Tell me I’m not the only one!
The stories I’ve finished, I’ve planned. Every one. So I’m a big believer in story plans. That’s why the course I’m working on right now incorporates writing a story plan (along with a lot of essential technical know-how). I hope you will join me! I’m not quite ready to open it up for sale yet, but will let you know when I do.
In the meantime, why not have a stab at summarising your current work in progress in a sentence or two? It will give you some clarity, so at least you’ll know the end as well as the beginning. 🙂
Have you already made a story plan? Do you like the idea? Let me know in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you.
Mark, a writer-for-a-reason, recently requested input on developing a writing style/voice as an author. This topic can cause anxiety, and it’s something I don’t think I’ve ever covered, so this week I’m really pleased to give you seven quick tips:
Read widely and be inspired, but don’t try to write like anyone else
Be yourself! Be honest, write from your heart, write like YOU
Don’t try too hard – relax, enjoy your writing! 🙂
Be confident that you have a unique voice, because you do!
Get in the flow – practice freewriting as much as you can
Write with one ideal reader in mind, as if you were talking to just him/her
Write, write and write some more!
Follow these seven pointers, and your voice will develop, all on its own, over time.
I trust that has been helpful? Please leave any comments, or further ideas of your own, in the comments below – let’s encourage each other!
Thanks, Mark, for this great suggestion for the blog. Do you have an idea for a writing tip – something you struggle with, or is puzzling you? Don’t hesitate to get in touch.
In the meantime, blessings abundant on your day,
P.S. If you want to go to the next level with your writing, the online Write for a Reason writing course might be for you. I run this course for Christians who want to write novels for kids and teens – or anyone who’s interested! You can find more information here.
Whatever we do, we have to start small. Babies babble, then say a word or two, then gradually their vocabulary increases. We were all there once!
It’s the same for everything we do – we have to start small, learn how to do it, and persevere. There’s no other way to get anything done! You can’t just sit down and play the piano, without those first few faltering attempts and lots of practice. Writing is no different. It takes time, patience, a willingness to learn, lots of effort – and a small beginning. You have to take the first step, then the next step… then keep going.
Sometimes that first (or next!) step can be scary, but it’s the only way to move forward.
I asked some fellow writers from the Association of Christian Writers how they started writing: guess what? They all had a small beginning.
Author, writer and speaker Veronica Zundel wrote a book review for the Baptist Times, which led to a feature article… which led to a career in writing. Fiona Veitch Smith wrote a play for a competition at school – now she writes picture books for children, and crime fiction for adults. One lady started with a devotional for her college newspaper… another chap wrote his testimony for a school magazine… everyone’s route into writing is different, but you need a small beginning!
What’s your next step?
Join a writing group?
Decide what you are going to write?
Take a writing course?
Something else? 🙂
Take courage, my writer friends – if you feel you have a gift for writing, determine to take the next step… who knows what it might lead to? Don’t bury your talent!
P.S. The new online Write for a Reason course (for anyone who wants to write novels for children/young people) will run for ten weeks through the summer. If you’re interested, let me know! It would be a privilege to help you put your talent to work.
I was talking about Easter yesterday, with my husband. Although we celebrate Easter once a year, don’t we live in the reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus every day of our lives?
Where would we be without Easter? Where would we be without the good news? Where would we be if someone hadn’t told us?
You know where I’m going with this, don’t you… someone needs to hear your story. If you feel called to write, don’t put it off any longer. Make a start. The brand new Write for a Reason course starts soon. Let me know if I can help you. Or just write – you can do it!
The latest Write for a Reason course has just come to an end… as always it’s been lots of fun, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know the students. One issue that has cropped up once again, as it often seems to, is the use of dialogue tags. I’ve mentioned this here before, but thought I’d bring it up again.
Dialogue tags are words like said, asked and replied, that are added to speech so we know who is doing the talking.
coming too,” said Mum.*
Now we know it’s Mum speaking this line. You can use other words – whispered, yelled, muttered, and a hundred and one other words, but simple tags such as said, replied and asked tend to become invisible, which is helpful if the conversation is supposed to be flowing quickly. There is a place for using more descriptive tags; just make sure they are carefully chosen, and you don’t overdo them.
brought you some wild flowers,” I said.
you,” she whispered.*
Warning: use even more sparingly tags that are action-related rather than speech-related (such as wept, hissed and gulped). You don’t have to leave them out; just be aware that they can get in the way of your dialogue rather than enhance it. Consider if there might be a way of showing the character doing the action, instead of saying it. It’s not wrong to use these action tags, but as is often the case, everything in moderation.
Here’s an example, which helps to build up a picture of the person speaking:
“They’re sly,” she hissed. “They’re scum.”*
can skip dialogue tags altogether if it’s obvious who is speaking.
the hell do you think you’re doing?”
only a sponge ball.”
sponge ball you in a minute.”*
You do need tags if there could be any doubt about who is talking, especially if the dialogue is between more than two people. There’s nothing more annoying for readers than having to go back and check who said what!
You can also use an action instead of a tag. For example:
sipped at his tea. “Is that what you really want?”*
We don’t need to add, “he said”; we know the man drinking the tea is speaking, so no tag is required.
Does that help? And if you’re not sure if you are getting your punctuation in the right place, go back over the previous lines and check you have all your ” and , . ! ? in the right place. 🙂
And don’t forget to start each new speech on a new line!
Please let me know in the comments if you found this post helpful, or if you’d be interested in joining the next course. Any feedback is great, to help me to help you!
This week, instead of a usual brief tip, I have a ten-page pdf for you to download, all about how to include humour (or humor if you prefer!) in your stories for children and teens… this is in response to a request to have some longer training, instead of little tips.
I have heard it said that the average four-year-old laughs 300 times a day, the average adult, less than twenty. Now this may be nothing more than an urban myth, or simple exaggeration, but we can’t deny the fact that children love to laugh.
And we all love hearing children laugh – the laughter of my little grandsons is priceless. 🙂 Laughter is a wonderful expression of joy – and every child should be able to experience joy. If we can help, as Christian writers, we will be doing a great job.
Writing comedy takes a particular set of skills which isn’t covered in the pdf, but we should all be able to add humour to our novels, whatever the genre.
If you’d like to download the pdf with six reasons to add humour to your novel, five tips how you can do it, three writing exercises for you to do, and some “don’ts” to avoid, please click here.
Hope it helps you with your writing!
Every blessing to you all,
P.S. If you’d like to make sure you hear about the writing course, please let me know.
We all know that if we want to be writers, we have to read. We can glean all sorts of things from other people’s stories – both good and bad.
Having recently read a stack of books I was sent to review, I’m going to share seven things that inspired me from the novels (mostly from Christian authors).
Here we go:
Writing for an international market. These days, the world is small. Where I live, on the outskirts of London, you can find people from all over the world. Discovering books where not all the children/characters were white Caucasian was a pleasure. We do need to make sure everyone is catered for.
Children with special needs. Occasionally I found a story with a well-developed character with special needs. Yay! Could you do that in your story? We need this.
Bringing a Christian message into the heart of the story. Some of the books I read had wonderful messages of hope, life, light, love and grace woven into the novel in a gentle, natural way. Inspiring!
Friends/siblings working together. There’s something special about friendship. If you can bring a strong bond between characters who are on a quest together, your readers will love it, because they would love to have that relationship themselves. And it beats constant bickering hands down (except, of course, where the sibling is the baddie)!
Humour. Every children’s novel needs lighter moments, even the most tragic of tales. (Perhaps especially the most tragic of tales.) The books that brought in a bit of joy were so much more enjoyable to read!
Good biblical theology. I don’t mean Bible passages, although that may be part of your story. I mean when truth is displayed.
Imagination. It’s always thrilling to find a book that transports you from the banal to something amazing. Love it! And there’s no limit to imagination – if you allow yours to soar, where will you take your readers?
What do you think? Which of these seven points spoke to you the most? Please share your thoughts in the comments below – love to hear from you. 🙂
Last week I mentioned seven writing issues I noticed when reading a stack of children’s novels, that I wanted to warn you about. Since then, I’ve found some more! So here they are (on to something more positive next week, I promise):
Horrid priest. A mature Christian writer called me up on this one, many years ago, when I had a story critiqued. And she was absolutely right. Priests, minister, pastors and vicars, in real life, are very rarely horrid. Most of them are honest, kind people, desperately trying to do an excellent job in difficult circumstances. If you really, really have to have a nasty priest (and of course in real life there is the odd one), please balance it out by adding a decent, caring one somewhere else in your story. If your readers go away with the impression that church ministers are surly and mean, it could rob them of a shepherd at a time of need.
Continuous bickering in families, that has nothing to do with the story. Stories where everyone is constantly getting on everyone else’s nerves are sooooooooo tedious to read… for adults at least. 🙂 So if you want parents to read to their children (and enjoy it!), by all means have the odd fight, or the odd person who is always nasty (if that’s part of the book), but please avoid the drip, drip nastiness that serves no purpose.
Long speeches. Dialogue is a bit of an art; some writers find it easier than others. But if you’re writing for children, you do need to keep the dialogue flowing at speed. The younger the child, the shorter the exchanges need to be, in general. I have a brief writing tip on dialogue which you can find in the archives, which might help.
So there you go, three more things to beware of (*creepy voice*). Next week, some lovely things to inspire you, I promise!
Over the last few months I have been reviewing books for a charity that puts Christian titles into libraries and other public places. So I have had the joy of having to read. 🙂 How about that for an excuse to read – sorry, can’t do that, I absolutely have to finish these books….!
You know I’m always saying, if you want to be a writer, you have to read? Well, it’s true! Some of the novels I was given to read were really well written, engaging and fun. But I also noticed a few things I thought I would pass on to you to beware of:
Being old-fashioned. Sausages, beans and chips with trifle for afters… really? In the 70s maybe. You must spend time with your target readers, and catch up with how life is for them now, or you risk being irrelevant (unless your book is set in the 70s, of course!).
Drifting along. You need a clear story arc, or it can all get really tedious. If your readers get to the end of the book and wonder what it was all about, they’re not going to buy the sequel or recommend the book to friends. You really do need a clear beginning, middle and end to your story, with lots of conflict in the middle. (Watch this space for a new course coming up. :-))
Stereotypes. Ginger-haired people are not fiery-tempered (well, they might be, but if they are, it won’t be anything to do with their hair colour). Not all doctors are men. Not all nurses are women. Not all baddies are ugly. And so on. Be bold. Give your readers something to think about.
Nice stories. Noooooooooooo! Forget NICE. Your story needs to be gripping, gritty; it needs some tension, with bad things happening. It needs some emotion. Please! As Christians, we can be terribly pleasant, but in our books, we need to be wild and real. Well, OK, always real, and sometimes wild. Hehe. And suitable for the age of your readers, of course.
Adverbs. (I used to use adverbs all the time, so I say this a bit sheepishly.) Learn to show not tell instead. I think there’s a writing tip somewhere here on the blog about showing not telling – yup, here’s the link. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you need to follow this one up. 🙂
The cover has to reflect the story. If the house in the story is on an estate in Manchester, don’t have a Mediterranean country villa on the cover. It might look fabulous, but it will leave readers feeling bewildered. Or tricked. If you are self-publishing, be warned.
Do not have your character (child) going off with a stranger. I don’t care what adventures they are going to be whizzed away to, or by whom. And you can’t get round it by your characters justifying it – I just knew it would be fine, She seemed such a genuine person… Just, NO. It’s not OK. Google ‘missing girl’ ‘missing boy’ or ‘missing teenager’ if you’re in any doubt. We are responsible for the message we are giving out. Simply find another way to take your characters to, well, wherever you want to take them. You can do it – you’re a writer. 🙂
Have you seen any of these? Or maybe notice that you do them yourself (eeek!)? Let us know in the comments below!
Until next week,
P.S. Keep reading – you can learn so much from books…
Jan Godfrey is an experienced writer for children with many published books, mostly Christian. (Although her first published work was a Camberwick Green annual!)
Jan and I have been in touch for some years now, and when I heard she had finished a completely different writing project, I thought I’d ask her for some writing tips to pass on to you. (Give you a change from my voice, hehe. :-))
* * *
Jan replied, “My recent writing-for-a-reason has been compiling a collection of my poems, Cyclamen, as promised to my husband Brian before his death in 2016, to be in aid of British Heart Foundation. This was not as straightforward as it seemed – any sparkle and enthusiasm for the task was soon to be replaced by discouragement and tedium.
“Was I wasting my time? Would anyone actually want to read it? Should I self–publish the poems? How does that work? What about costs?
“However, the following ‘P’s somehow broke into this lack of motivation.
Promise – to be kept – somehow.
Prayer – waiting on God… then getting on with it.
Persistence – working on the book at least one hour each dayhowever tedious(and not too many tea breaks…).
“And there was always one big P hanging around… Pitfalls – the biggest one being that tomorrow will do!
“The turning point – around the dreaded halfway – came when my daughter provided the artwork for the cover, my twin grand daughters cut out heart motifs, photos were located and the index prepared. Oh and in case you’re wondering, 52 poems eventually came up through the dark earth!”
Congratulations are due to Jan, on getting her book finished, even through the tough times. I think we can all learn something from those BIG ‘P’s. Which one resonated most with you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and I’ll be sure to let Jan know.
Jan’s poems are beautiful, thoughtful, and on all manner of topics. If you’d like a copy of Cyclamen, I can put you in touch with Jan. (And you can find Jan’s children’s books in any online bookshop.)
And that’s it for this week – enjoy working on your Ps! 🙂
Hello everyone! Here, as promised, are seven more prompts to get your creative juices flowing (and give you something to do while the evenings are still a bit long…).
Write about something that makes you angry. Like, really angry. Be honest and real. Think it’s not OK to be angry? I read this morning about Jesus overturning the tables of the sellers and money changers in the temple (John 2:14-16). Sometimes it’s right to be angry.
Describe yourself from the point of view of your pet, or an inanimate household object (e.g. your wardrobe). What do they think of you? Be as silly as you like! Children love a bit of humour in their stories. 🙂
What are you addicted to and how does it affect you/other people? Or, what is someone you love addicted to, and how does it affect you and them? (This could help you in your character profiles.)
If you could indulge in any hobby, what would it be? Like, absolutely anything, if you had the health, the wealth and all the time in the world. (Just for fun, put it in the comments below!)
Write a list of things/people you love, and say what it is you love about them/it in each case. Write as much as you like!
Write to a friend about something you would like to happen in the next 12 months, as if it had already happened. By that I mean, looking back, pretending it is a fait accompli.
You are digging a hole. Why? Make this into a story for the age group you usually (or would like to) write for.
And that’s it! We have come to the end of our season of writing prompts. Next week it will be March, and we will go on to something new… I look forward to seeing you next week. Please write something in the comments below if you’ve enjoyed the series!
Hello Writers! At last the days are getting a bit longer, bulbs are coming up, and buds are growing… it will soon be spring. 🙂
So, more writing prompts for this week, as promised. How are you getting on? Are you doing one a day, or the whole lot in one go? I hope you’re enjoying having something to do while the evenings are still long and cold!
Quick tip with these writing prompts: If we’re going to write excellent, relevant fiction for young people, we need to be ready to be vulnerable and honest. Imagine, if we’re writing about something that happened to us, from the depths of our own experience, and it touches a child’s heart, because they feel understood? How good would that be?
Right, on to this week’s creative writing prompts (if you missed the last two lots, you can find them somewhere on this page! 🙂
When you were a child, what were you afraid of? Go deep into how you felt, who was there (or not there), and why you were frightened.
You walk into a café and something incredible happens! Write the story.
Write to the manager of a shop where you were given bad service or a poor product, from the point of view of an obnoxious person. (If you’re going to write excellent fiction, you’ve got to be able to write dialogue from the point of view of every type of character!)
What could you do to change your life for the better? Pray as you write. You might be amazed at what you come up with!
Write a letter to your teenage self.
Describe your relationship with your earthly father, and your heavenly father.
Write about an embarrassing moment. (I can tell you one of mine. I was out walking in the Austrian Alps – right out in the mountains – not seen anyone for hours. There weren’t any toilets around, so I went behind a tree… I heard a clicking sound above me, and a CABLE CARE WENT OVER.)
I hope you enjoy these writing prompts – let me know how you get on in the comments below!
P.S. If you’d like to receive writing tips and tricks from me into your inbox every week, please click here.
Hello! How did you get on with last week’s writing prompts? (If you didn’t see them, scroll down to find them.) Hope you enjoyed doing a bit of writing for fun! If you learnt anything, jot your thoughts down in your writing journal. You never know when a little tip could turn out to be useful. Even just the act of writing something down means you are more likely to remember what you learn. It’s win/win!
So, now on to this week’s writing prompts. Again, you can do one a day (on the train, or while having breakfast?), or take an evening and do the whole lot in one go. However you do them, I hope you enjoy some writing for pleasure!
You are walking into a cave. Why? Who with? What’s it like?
2. Write about a person you don’t like. Feel free to be totally honest. You don’t have to show it to anyone. What are they like; what did/do they do to make you dislike them so much? Spit it all out. Your feelings may be useful when you come to write about a ‘baddie’ for a story.
3. Summarise a book, TV programme or film you read/watched recently that moved you. What was it about the characters you liked?
4. If you could blink and be somewhere else, where would you go? If you have time, make this into a mini story. 🙂
5. Someone asks you why you are, or are not, a Christian. Give an honest response.
6. Who would you like to meet for coffee, if you could? It could be a celebrity, a historical figure, a family member – even a fictional character if you like! Make your coffee meeting a mini story with a beginning, a middle and an end.
7. When was the last time you danced? If you can’t remember, simply pick a time you do remember dancing, and write about that. What was the occasion; who were you with; how did you feel?
I hope you enjoy these writing prompts, and find them useful. The more writing you do, the better you will get. 🙂
Have a great week, folks, and a lovely Valentine’s Day on 14th!
P.S. This is the very last chance to join the seven week online writing course I run. More info here. If you write stories for young people, are looking to improve your writing, be inspired, or finally get that novel done, it would be worth having a quick look. It’s the last time I will be running this course, and marking homework individually, so if you feel that would be valuable, now’s the time. 🙂 You can read more about the course here.
Hello everyone, and
welcome to this week’s writing tip… actually, it’s not a tip this
week, it’s a selection of seven writing prompts, just for a change,
to grow your writing muscles!
Last year I took up
running for the first time in my life, and have found muscles I
didn’t know I had, hehe! Talking about it won’t get the job done,
getting ideas won’t get the job done… we actually have to actually
do something. Starting small is great (I started
running one minute at a time), then you can build up (I now run for
So look on these writing exercises as good exercise, or a fun break from your work-in-progress. 🙂
We’re going to do
this for the whole of February, so you get loads
of writing practice/fun – I will be giving you 28 writing prompts
in all, so by the end of this month, your writing should be stronger
You can either do one of these prompts every day, or splurge and do them all in one go if you like. (N.B. Why not get yourself a ‘real’ journal and write with pen and paper for a change?)
Here are this week’s
If you suddenly found yourself a multimillionaire, how would your life change? Go deep!
A family of dragons is now living in your garden (yard). Yikes! Tell the story! Try to involve lots of emotion.
Tell a pen-friend from a different culture, about your childhood. Talk about how you felt about things, as well as descriptions of things you did, and how things were.
Which Bible story (or fairytale if you don’t know any) would you like to have been part of? Why? Write it in your own words as if you were there.
Choose a room in your home where something interesting/frightening/wonderful/dramatic happened. Write about that room, and the event that happened there.
Imagine you have twenty years of your life left! What books will you write, to leave behind as a legacy? Make a list, and a synopsis of each.
What would you like to be eating/drinking right now? Where? Who with?
So, there you go –
P.S. I am going to run the current Write for a Reason Writing Course for the very last time, starting on 13th February. I am planning a completely new and different course for later this year (I will send out details in due course). One thing I can tell you is that, due to the busy-ness of my day job with Dernier Publishing, this is the last time I will be personally marking homework, so if that’s something you would value, grab your place quick! The course covers:
Reaching your Target
Audience Theme and Setting Creating Engaging
Characters Plotting and Planning Beginnings and Endings Show
Not Tell Descriptions… and lots more!
If you’re anything like our family, we have Christmas cake left way beyond Christmas (have you still got any in a tin somewhere?). That’s not a problem, because fruit cake will last and last. But have you ever gone to a tin and found a bit of sponge cake that was a bit dry and stale? Stollen, maybe, or panettone, or the end of a Yule Log? Not good!
Sometimes you can get a bit stale with your writing… but don’t throw it away!
Here are seven ideas to add a bit of new zest to your novel:
1. Write a letter to your protagonist
2. Describe your opening setting from the point of view of a minor character
3. Make your protagonist angry: let them shout and scream
4. Think of the worst thing you could do to your protagonist, and take them there…
5. Write three alternative endings
6. Add an animal
7. Go for a walk – let your imagination fly.
You don’t have to do all of these, but try one or two, until you get your enthusiasm back…
Hope that helps! (By the way, dry panettone makes fantastic bread pudding, and why not put that swiss roll in a trifle?) 🙂
P.S. I’m going to be running the current Write for a Reason writing course for the last time, beginning Wednesday 13th February. This is a seven week online course for writers who would like to improve their writing skills, and check what they are doing is good! For the last time, I will be taking in homework at the end of every module and giving personal feedback. If you’d like to take the course, click here for more information. We will be covering characters, setting, plotting and planning, dialogue and lots more! You will learn a lot – I promise!
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