Friday, December 30, 2011

God in Our Writing

When you write do you consider God? Is God part of what you write? If so what part does He play, is He integral to your story?

I have done both non-fiction and fiction writing. I try to put a message of hope and love and God’s plan of salvation in everything I write. Though how I do it is different depending on what I am writing.

When I write non-fiction, which are mainly devotionals I obviously pick a scriptural reference. A verse that goes with what I am saying or have learnt. So when I am writing them I ask God to give me the message that needs to be said. To have it be received in the way it needs to be.

If is different when I write fiction. How much do I include God in my writing? Do I make my characters Christian or do have them struggling with the idea of following God? I generally write romances and I want them to be Christian and follow Christian values.

But you may ask where does God fit in? When I write I don’t like to be preachy which I know can turn people off. I might explain a few things, using the Bible or I may have my character struggle with something in the Bible. I hope that what I write shows others, the readers, things that they may not have thought of.

I like to think God gave me the talent and the gift to be able to write. He also has given me the love and message of His plan for our lives. I believe the plan for my life is to write, whether it be fiction or non-fiction.

I always ask God to bless my writing. If I bring out a Christian value let it be something that others may deal with. I think we all write pieces that may be slightly biographical. I know I have and through my characters learning things, so do I.

So I don’t mean just thinking about God in your writing. We need to ask God to be with us and guide us in our writing. It is only by His grace that we are here and doing what we love, writing.

I don’t always ask God to help me with my writing but I always remember Him as I use Him in my stories at some point.

Maybe the characters were brought up as Christian and have gone away. Maybe the person didn’t have Jesus fully living in their heart. Maybe the person has never heard the story of salvation. Maybe someone is dealing with how being a Christian meshes with their life.

If I can touch just one person’s life with my writing. If just one person finds a deeper understanding and relationship with God it will all be worth it.

Melanie Carter Winkler

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

I am reading 'In Celebration of Simplicity' by Penelope Wilcock. A couple of weeks ago I read 'The 100 Thing Challenge' by Dave Bruno (if you are intrigued check out his Facebook page). Both books are on simple living. I just love how books can inspire and inform you, how they point you in the way you should go. These writers have listened to God's call on their lives and have each agreed to be a pen in God's hand. Isn't this what we all want to be? 

As someone who aspires to live simply I need, more than anything, the encouragement that there are others out there who feel called to the same way of life. And so in turn I have been blogging about this topic at astalander.blogspot.com. I have been surprised by comments left there, and on Facebook, by those I know and those I don't know. I have even made some new friends: the mother of a young friend (former work colleague), and a simple liver in San Diego. And a happy coincidence- or Godincidence - is that they are also animal lovers like me. 

Now that we are getting ready to step over the threshold and into 2012 I am again considering how I might live more simply. I feel for too long I have spoken about it, but not much has reflected my words. But now I have a deep conviction, one that has been noticed by the ones I live with, and know me the best. Someone asked me what had happened - she was surprised that I was giving things away so freely - things that I have absolutely treasured. My daughter agreed that it was most unusual. She could even remember when it all started, just a couple of weeks ago. All I can say is that perhaps it is impossible to live this way unless you are called and unless God convicts you, and maybe it is a gentle process. It may seem to have started only a couple of weeks ago but I have been thinking and praying about this for years and years. 

 Yes I have re-gifted many loved items. Yes this is the year we thrived through a mostly no present Christmas day. Yes I am now unavailable for work on Mondays and Fridays so that I can focus on writing and other creative endeavours at home. Yes I am cutting back on my wardrobe (weirder and weirder). We have made space in our home and hearts for a rescued greyhound. (How is that simple living? It is making way for what is important in my life.) And the boldest thing I have done is to stop hiding behind make up! 

  I love this spacious place, the end of the year - this time of rest. What a gift it is. I sit and read and jot down notes and play in my visual journal. I sit on the floor next to my placid, handsome dog cutting out images, articles, words from magazines and creating a picture of how I might live in 2012. I feel nothing but gratitude for the abundance in my life and the wonderful, wonderful gift of words and those who write them down. 

I wonder what 2012 might hold for us. May we faithfully write the words our Lord has stirring in our hearts - you just never know what affect they will have. 

Asta x




Friday, December 23, 2011

And the Word Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, 
the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 
(John 1:1&14)


As writers we are wordsmiths; we work with words in order to communicate. And then these words take shape in the minds and imaginations of our readers and leave an impression. Have you ever considered that even in this sense we carry the image of our Creator?

He is the Chief Communicator, and as the Word of God He took up residence in this world. The Word became flesh and was given the name Jeshua, meaning 'Jehovah is Salvation'. He left an impression on everyone who met Him, and still today He changes lives.

If we want to reflect Him in this world and leave an impression of Him on others, our hearts and minds need continual bathing in the Word of God. Only then can we become effective ambassadors for Christ (Rom.12:2) and achieve His purpose. 

And along this line of thought, here's the perfect Christmas gift for you: once the festivities settle down, visit www.e-sword.net and download their off-line bible study and research tool. It's the best I've ever come across, and it's FREE!  And no, I don’t get a commission :) 

Expecting that none of you will have time to read a long post today, I've kept it short and sweet. Enjoy the festive season as you remember the reason for this season, and all the best for the coming year! It's been a pleasure meeting you all and being part of this blog.

Read more about Margaret Lepke's work and ministry at www.DrLepke.com.au.    

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WORDS Words words

Yesterday, I did some gardening. Trimmed palms. Planted out some choy sum. Tied up and tidied up my tomato bushes. Pulled weeds. Swept paths. Spread around snail pellets. Put liquid organic fish emulsion in my watering can and watered everything.

And then I realised that I’d done the last two jobs in the wrong order.

I’m sure the pellets will still work, but they won’t be as powerful because the instructions say that they’re best put out after rain and, therefore, after watering.

I had the right tools and provisions to do the job perfectly but the order mattered to get the best benefit.

As a writer, the same thing happens.

Words are my tools, just like a hammer, chisel and nails are tools for a carpenter, or snail pellets and fertilizer are for a gardener. And if I find a word to use and put it next to another word, then I’m building a story. But what if I chose the wrong words or put them in the wrong order? Or what if I chose a word that’s just ok, and put it in a ‘just ok’ order? I guess the story will be just ok.

Some time ago, I read (and I wish I could remember where) about a published author who was asked by a writer on how to edit a book. The author’s advice? ‘Read the first word of the manuscript. If it’s right, read the next one. Keep going until you’ve finished the book. Get every word right.'


So now I start a sentence with two words. I try to make sure those two words are the best words I can find. Then I write the next word. And now I’m learning but I’m not getting it all right yet.

But it’s important because, whether words are in a book, a song, a sentence spoken by a friend, a movie, or even a thought, they have the potential for power. And they also have potential to flit away on the breeze and make no impact.

Well, now it’s nearly Christmas and what an amazing time! But it’s not always good for everyone. Three years ago, two days before Christmas, I lost my mum to a very quick dose of cancer. Our family had a terrible Christmas that year, waiting for the small country town near where my parents lived to wake up after the Christmas break so we could have the funeral. No one could even buy flowers. Christmas will never be the same. The pain morphs a little each year and casts a shadow over Christmas for my family and I.

But, what I love about this time of the year is that it makes it ok for songs of worship to be played everywhere for weeks on end. And people, even many who don’t believe, sing ‘O Come Let Us Adore Him’, ‘O Holy Night’ and ‘Away in a Manger’ - and so they sing of Jesus.

I believe that when even non-believers sing these songs they’re speaking powerful words to themselves, and I pray that these amazing words will speak to each person’s spirit and break into their lives and, even after this season is over, that the power of the Word, our Christ, will bring salvation to each one.

Because... Jesus is called the Word. And it’s because of the amazing power of words that we can use words for His glory in the most subtle ways in our writing. We only need to get the right words in the right order. (For more information on the power of words see Genesis chapter 1 and John chapter 1.)

Jackie Randall is an English Aussie, raised in WA and living in NSW, and trying to find the right order for words in order to begin the change in readers' lives.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Routine

Packing, packing, packing. I'm in the busy process of packing up 7 years of work and family to move to a new home and job in Redcliffe Qld. It's been sad to leave north Qld, a place that has embraced us and been very fruitful in our lives and ministry. All ten of my publications have taken place while up here! We do look forward to the new phase of our life and what God has in store for us.

Perhaps the hardest bit for me these past 4 months is being out of routine. I don't want to sound like an anal kinda person, but being out of routine has been unsettling. I find the simple routine of having a purpose and direction and working towards that each day and week grounds me. With a move on the horizon the vision has an ending and a new beginning, a new beginning you can't properly start till after the move.

Everything is 'up in the air'. Things ending, things beginning. I couldn't sit in my groove [not rut] and work and write as efficiently and carelessly as before. So one of the things I am looking forward to is being settled, and getting back into routine.

What has this to do with writing? My writing needs routine! I've been writing less, feeling less motivated to write and having less ideas. I'm actually also anticipating the opportunity to get into a new routine where writing is a more prominent feature of my week.

I'm in the privileged position of being in a 'writing' occupation as a minister - meaning I have to write something inspiring each week - it's expected so I'm given the time for this. This is a fantastic thing [apart from the fact that I'm passionate about the good news] it means I am constantly developing my writing, thinking and ideas.

But while sermon writing is part of my routine, other writing has been squeezed in. Now, with the blessing of my new congregation, my other writing will be given time in my routine. Wow, what a blessing!

At the early stages of my writing I would wait for the inspiration to flow and then sit down and write. But with writing a big part of my occupation I can't sit and wait for the 'inspiration' which sometimes is really just 'feeling like it'. I don't have the luxury of 'feeling like it' - I've got an every week deadline, publishers, magazines, kids and radio looking for stuff. Now I find that it's the other way. I need to sit at my desk, work at my prayer, research, thinking, dreaming, and often simply start writing, get some thoughts and words down, and then the inspiration flows. [I still do get up at 5am or midnight to write from inspiration from time to time, or file these ideas in my head for a later time when I'm awake!]

I would encourage you to develop a routine where you write regularly, not just on times of inspiration. Agatha Christie reflected that her first few novels were a delight, a hobby, a joy - after that it was work. [I'm sure work she enjoyed and delighted in, but work.]

As an aside it's like falling in love. At first all the emotions flood you so that you love your husband or wife by opening doors, saying nice things, spending time with them. After a time the emotions reduce, so you can fail to do all these things for your spouse. But if you work on it, if you choose to do the love actions even if you don't feel like it, suddenly all the love emotions come flooding back.

Pack, pack, clean. We are now entering the cleaning phase - M-day is less than 2 weeks away! While the move has put me out of routine, it has given me a forced holiday from many things, so I anticipate arriving in Redcliffe, fresh, feeling good and with lots of energy to get back in routine and go!

Cheers everyone and have a great Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2011

A New WritingTool

In my writing, organistion has been one of the biggest challenges I've had to face. When I first started writing articles it was easy to find what I was looking for in the one to three thousand word documents. However, when it came to writing an 80,000 word novel I had to rethink the way I wrote and organised my notes and research.
When I started writing novels I used to just write and continue until the work was done. However, half way through I'd lose track of where I was heading with the work. I'd get sidetracked and then confused as I realised the work wasn't coming together.
To remedy this I decided to plan my novel by doing a short outline and build this outline like Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method of writing. This was terrific until I'd become lost once again and have to find a thread I needed to develop way back in chapter two or when I was at the end of the work I needed to look back in the middle of the work to find where the action took place. The frustration was overwhelming!
I prayed for patience! Wrong move, now God brings me situations to be patient with in my work every day. This is good for me, I need to learn patience! In the end I arranged my manuscript on the floor and with a marking pen went through and wrote the major turning points on the top of the pages. I prayed, 'Lord, this is more than I can handle, please give me discipline to get the work organised from the beginning of the project or give me a tool to keep me organised.'
God is good! He answered my prayer and I thank Him every time I sit down to write. The tool he gave me was Scrivener, a program that was once only designed for Mac users. However, in the last couple of months Scrivener has come out in PC form and it has been the best $37 I've ever spent.
Scrivener has the ability to save your research including links to the web pages you used for your research. This would have been invaluable when I wrote African Hearts. I had two binders of reasearch for that novel.
With Scrivener, the binder down the left hand side has a short description of each scene of your draft so that you can find the scene you want to add to or refer back to to find what the character was doing then. Character profiles and settings are easily referred to by clicking the profile on the binder to check you are consistent with the eye and hair colour etc. Also the order of the scenes can be shuffled and re-shuffled to any order you want.
If you're the kind of person who likes to arrange your ideas more visually, there's a cork board feature, too. Another great feature is the ability to complete a short synopsis of each scene and make notes for follow up in a later scene. There's a general data area that enables you to state whether it's a scene or sequel and what draft number it is. You can change these status headings to whatever you like as well. There's also the ability to easily retrieve work you've deleted, eg., if you write a scene in one character's point of view and decide it might be stronger written in another's point of view, the first draft can be saved to be retrieved later if you change your mind.
At the end of the project the work is compiled to make a full document in Microsoft Word so that the final editing can be done to the work as a whole. I've imported my latest project into Scrivener and am merrily working away, so I haven't gotten to the compilation stage.
Already I can see my productivity has increased and my creativity flows more freely because I'm not wondering where in the manuscript Dusty had that argument with Alex. Instead I'm focussed on the interaction and motivation of my characters.
Download time for the program was only a few minutes and it took me an afternoon to learn the basics of this program. As I become more familiar with the program I'm finding more useful tips to make my writing life easier. It's been worth the investment of time and money.
So if you've been like me, lost in the organisation of your mansucript take a look at Scrivener and see if it will help you manage your work and take the tyranny of organisation out of your day.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Waiting on me?

Writing is a waiting game:
Waiting for inspiration to write - or a great new idea.
Waiting for time to write (around distractions - finding just one hour to sit still!)
Waiting for an editor or appraiser to get back to you
Waiting for a publisher (yes we can take ages!)
If you get a contract now you wait again - wait for the next lot of edits, the cover preparation, to get it proofread, to get it printed and so on and so on.

But despite it being a waiting game sometimes I find it amazing that most of the time I am waiting on myself.
Waiting for the inspiration to write is a funny one. We writers almost always have a good idea – or at least an idea that we can get started with. So most of the time I am waiting on myself; to simply get into it – to write it down.
Then finding time to write. We all have 1000s of distractions – other work, kids, husbands (or wives for those male writers!!!) friends, the TV, or another good book to read. But really if we want to write we can find time. Even if it is half an hour before everyone else is up or after everyone else goes to bed. So am I really waiting for time to write?
While we wait on an editor, appraiser or publisher we can start something new. We don’t have to be waiting. And then when we wait for publication we can be preparing for that publication. Getting ready for speaking engagements, promotion, launches, book signing and so much more.
So why am I always waiting?
Where is my motivation? I think what makes me think like I am waiting is my motivation to get moving is lacking. So why is it lacking? Am I not really a writer? Do I want someone to tell me what to do? Am I giving up before I have even started?
I have been thinking about this for a while and I think what I rely on is God. My inspiration and passion is God inspired. Sometimes however I get so caught up with life – the busy-ness of it, the adventure of writing, the chaos of life – I forget to ask God what he wants. And I forget that God can steer me, but if I am not moving it is hard to be steered (you know the old analogy that a car that isn’t moving can’t change direction but if you are moving you can be directed). So I am returning to God. Returning my motivation for writing to what God wants. And I am going to keep moving in faith.
Whenever I am waiting on will reflect on this. Who am I waiting on – myself or someone else? And if it is someone else what can I be doing instead to keep up my motivation and passion?
If this is just me I am glad, but if anyone else knows where I am coming from let’s find our inspiration and remember who inspires us each day.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Wise Words


Apparently Ecclesiastes is the flavour of the month. Nicole Watson stimulated my interest once again through her ‘nothing new under the sun.’ Then Carol Preston’s ‘A time for everything in Season’ got me swaying to its beat. I had chosen a section out of this Old Testament book for my blog and hope it has some morsel for your writer’s heart.

The preacher, as he is called, concluded his insights to life and his testimony with incisive words for all writers, especially Christian ones. ‘The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true. The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly imbedded nails — given by one Shepherd.’ Ecclesiastes 12:10-11.

Whether we write fiction or non-fiction in any genre may our words have in them some goads and nails. As the reader journeys with us through the story, let us hope and pray something written goads them. Such a reaction may well produce a quickened conscience, a u-turn in behaviour, an awakening to a greater understanding of our Lord and His call upon their lives.

Apparently in the days of the Preacher you needed to insert any nails where you wanted them as you built the wall. This was due to the fact that such structures were either too hard or fragile to have nails hammered in. Be that as it may, when applied to our writing the principle is correct. The penetrating force of our words is woven into the story, not something simply attached later.

Being bookish type people we know the quote, ‘Of making many books there is no end and much study wearies the body.’ Eccl.12:12b. Your shelves probably echo “Amen!” However if my understanding is correct this statement is actually a warning. For in the preceding verses he is highlighting the words, proverbs and sayings of the one Shepherd. By my understanding that is a significant term for our Lord.

Therefore as the writer of Ecclesiastes concludes his own insights, he calls for the recognition of priorities for writers and readers. There will always be new books and reprints on the market to capture our time, hearts and minds. Just make sure you do not neglect the most important, the most stimulating and the most spiritually enriching book for all time. That is, the book written by the Shepherd through the life experiences of His ‘pens’, the prophets, priests, apostles and faithful servants.

I tend to believe that when His book is our priority, then our writings will be upright and true, laced with goads and nails as well as food and drink for the soul.

Ray Hawkins.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Anyone suffer from cold feet?

It seemed simple at the time. 
A quick signature and, unlike that picture, I was committed. 
The manuscript must be with the publisher by 1 April.
Though The Bud Be Bruised will be published next year.
But within an hour, reality slammed into my thinking. Everyone will be able to read it! 


Isn't that what I've wanted? Didn't I write and rewrite, edit, check and edit again so that people would read it? Haven't I always wanted it to be a book people want to share?
But what if they don't like it? What if they reject my best efforts? 
But besides that, this book contains me. It is more than a fiction; it is a faction. It tells my story, masked by different characters, locations and conversations, but still my story.
Why would I do such a thing? 
Why make myself so vulnerable?
What if my friends take offence? 
What if they think I've misrepresented them, even if I haven't included them? What if they feel rejected if they can't find themselves on the pages?


I wonder - did Jesus have any second thoughts after He stood in the temple and read from Isaiah sixty-one. From that day on He was misunderstood and persecuted, talked about and judged. 
Will I be misunderstood?
In the last few months, I've met several friends who were part of my life in the era of the book. As we've chatted, it has become obvious they aren't acquainted with the circumstances. They don't know of the deep grief and trauma we have suffered. Why? Because some events are not talked about. For those people, this book will be a shocking read. 
Please, Lord? What have I done?


       The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)
God's light has shone in our lives. Sometimes it seemed weaker than a single birthday-cake candle. But never was it snuffed out. 
Now it is time to turn up the light, to shine the torchlight of the power of God into the dark places. It's time for light and truth to overcome darkness.
My excitement returns. Everyone who takes the time to read my book will know what my God has done. I can share the amazing lessons I learned in the deep dark places, to shine the light for others, to help them avoid pitfalls. 
And if am misunderstood, rejected and laughed at, so be it. For every person that rejects my story, others will know God a little better, walk a little closer to Him. That is enough for me.


Confessions of Jo Wanmer, a soon to be published writer! 
I wonder - Am I the only one who gets cold feet?
www.jo-wanmer.blogspot.com

Monday, December 5, 2011

Getting about the ‘Business’ of being published.

Here’s one thing I know for sure: Post published activity is every bit as important as pre-published activity.

As we all do, I worked hard on my manuscript. I edited and proofed until I was completely satisfied that my book would be the very best work I could produce. When it was launched I wasn't quite sure what came next. I know that my publisher worked hard to sell the book and used every avenue available to ‘get it out there’ (she still works tirelessly at this job – thank you Rochelle). But the business woman in me also knew that it was my job to do what I could to sell, not only the book, but myself as an author.

The plan I came up with was to explore every promotional avenue that came into my head. Then pray like mad for the Lord to work. I wanted what He had for me, because,( truth be known), I knew He had a place for my work, I just wasn't entirely certain where that was. So I e-mailed, cold called and offered my newly published book to a variety of outlets, both Christian and mainstream.

The response astounded me. What came back to me was overwhelming. It was also surprising. The avenues I had thought would open up didn't, and the excitement and interest came from unusual sources. For a second I became a little despondent. What was going on? Then I remembered my prayers; that the Lord would bring back everything He wanted and assign His place for me.

I suddenly started to rejoice in, not only the incredible things He gave to me, but also for the things He did not.

I also realised another very important factor. You have to work. All the time I spent on pursuing the avenues that did not yield a return was still time well spent. I know my work is where the Lord wants it to be, where He can utilise it to His glory, and where I will reap the most joy.

So my conclusions are: Work hard. Do all that you can. Explore EVERY avenue. Don’t sit back and wait for direction – just do it. Then leave it to God.

And finally: Rejoice in the wonders of His work.


Rose Dee's first novel 'Back to Resolution' was launched in November at The Word Writers Fair in Brisbane last month. A 'Public Launch' will take place next Saturday in Mackay North Queensland. Visit Rose at: www.rosedee.com

Saturday, December 3, 2011

FORGIVE OUR HIDDEN FAULTS

I was reading on Facebook recently, the following quote by Albert Edward Day

{Methodist minister, died 1973}

God is nearer to our minds than our own thoughts; nearer to our hearts than our own feelings, more intimate with our wills than our most vigorous decisions….’

As I pondered these words I felt a sense of delight that God was closer to me than even any ideas that I had. Before I do any thinking, He is already there.

I then clearly sensed the Holy Spirit opening my mind to the realization that for many decades, I had subconsciously taken pride in any thoughts that I had that had been in any way wise or astute.

3 things then occurred:

  1. I immediately knew it to be true.
  2. I agreed with God that this certainly had happened many times and sought His forgiveness through Christ.
  3. God gave me a deep sense of thankfulness that His kindness extended to correcting me for sins that I had not even been aware of.

It reminded me of Psalm 19:12 – 14 where the psalmist asks God to forgive his hidden faults, to stop him from presumptuous sins so he can walk blamelessly before God.

Just like the chameleon in this photo hidden faults can blend into our lives and be almost impossible to recognize.

So I start this week with a new sense of awareness that:

  1. All good thoughts {of course our writing included} are from God, may He be praised.
  2. God is great in mercy and when we desire to please Him in every aspect of our lives. He has us covered and will indeed bring to mind those things that we need to repent of and allow our meditations to be acceptable in His sight. We can trust Him to do so.

May God bless you all this week, Jennifer Ann.

Bio –Jennifer Ann is the author of “Broken Pottery the life of an African girl” published by Ark House Press Australia. It is the fictional journey of an obstetric fistula sufferer.

For more information about Jennifer Ann or her book, please go to www.JenniferAnn.info