Get Serious! The Business of Writing

We creatives write for a number of reasons. A true writer writes because he or she has to. At times, our desire to create overrides our desire for food, drink, even human contact. Other reasons writers write:

  • I have a personal story to tell
  • I have a sermon I want to broadcast
  • I like to imagine fantasy worlds
  • I like making up stories
  • (Insert your own reason here)

I’d like to focus on the not-so-fun part of writing: the business side. Moving from unpublished writer to published author has given me a glimpse into how much work there is to do in addition to actually writing.

We want to cover our ears every time we hear blogs, newsletters, and workshops scream the words we love to hate: Build Your Platform! Use Social Media! Tweet! Blog! Go on Goodreads! Make Sure Your Website Is SEO’d!


If you’re writing to get published, you must think of your writing as a business, and you and your book are a product. The first step is to create a business plan. I like five-year goals, so I thought about where I’d like to be in five years. Then I created a year-by-year plan on how to get there. It looked like this:

Year one:

  • Finish MS #1
  • Increase Twitter followers to 500
  • Start outline for MS #2
  • Write 2 articles and submit to magazines
  • Attend 2 writer’s conferences

Year two:

  • Query agents/editors for MS #1
  • Increase Twitter followers to 1,000
  • Finish MS #2
  • Publish MS #1
  • Query agents/editors for MS #2
  • Blog weekly

You get the picture. I didn’t reach every goal in the first two years, so I adjusted the following years’ goals to reflect the changes.

The second step is to break your goal into small steps. Do you want to be published in two years? How will you get there? Maybe it’s as simple as finishing an article and submitting it to a magazine. You’ll get a tremendous thrill when you receive your first check as payment for a well-written article or story.

Next, focus on your plan. Don’t be distracted by the publishing industry’s latest shiny object. If blogging isn’t your thing, don’t blog. If you hate social media, find one outlet where you can connect with others. Post your plan on a bulletin board or somewhere you can review it often.

Finally, pray. Remember, the God of the universe is your ultimate audience. If you are diligent, He will bring it to pass. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)


Jane Daly’s first book, Because of Grace released in January 2015. In it, Jane shares her inspirational journey through her son’s cancer diagnosis and eventual death. It is a hope-filled look at how God helps us through our darkest hour — through his grace.  Her current project, The Caregiving Season: Finding Grace to Parent Your Elderly Parent, will be released in 2016 by Focus on the Family.

You can connect with Jane on Facebook, Twitter (@queenjanedaly) or on


Supercharge Your Writing Using Cinematic Techniques

It’s time to Get Inspired!

susanne lakin

Our guest speaker for this month’s Get Inspired workshop is award-winning author, Susanne Lakin. Susanne will teach fiction and nonfiction writers how to use cinematic techniques to enhance our writing. Join us for this informative and fun workshop! Free for Inspire members. Non-members pay only $15 at the door.
shoot your novel

Join us for the Get Inspired Workshop

Saturday, October 17th

9:30am to Noon

Oasis Christian Mission Center

10255 Old Placerville Rd #1, Sacramento, CA 95827

Step Away from the Vacuum

35702215_s“It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.” — Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Do you have days when you can’t make yourself sit in your chair to write? I sure do. The solitude of writing at home can be productive, but some days, household chores and an endless to-do list distract me.

Shortly after a cross-country move last December, I connected with Inspire Christian Writers and met founder Beth Thompson through email. She invited me to her home for Friday morning writing sessions. Different than a critique group, this weekly gathering offered a sanctuary for writing with others.

Friday morning writing is now one of my most important calendar items. About the time each week, Dee Aspin says, “I like having writing time set aside on my calendar. It brings a sense of ‘going to work.’ By leaving my house to write, I see writing as work rather than a hobby.”

Knowing I have the writing appointment forces me to prepare ahead of time. I put my notebook and favorite pen on the kitchen counter Thursday evenings, but even before that, there’s work I must do. What resource materials will I need? Will I need my Bible? My iPad?

More important than the prep work is the knowledge that even if I fail to sit down to write earlier in the week, I will get words on paper Friday morning. Writer Joanne Butterfield says, “During the week, whether I have written as much as I could have, I know that I can spend the two hours doing what I might have avoided all week: writing.”

Butterfield and I are both new to the area and have enjoyed getting to know other writers through the writing group. Plus, working together on our own projects creates a companionable quiet time that fuels and energizes us.

The silence may be unsettling at first. Chrissy Drzewiecki says, “We all went about our business of writing. No talking. Just writing. This was hard for me at first. I like to talk about writing. But soon I realized what an awesome time it was just to write.”

Want to form your own writing group? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Reach out to writing friends in your community to form a group. Not sure where to look? Facebook, the Inspire site, and Twitter are all great resources for finding your local writing community. Sacramento Meet Up also has writing groups. You may also put up flyers at coffee shops.
  • Pick a time, day, and location to meet. My group meets Friday morning, usually at one of the member’s homes. If you don’t feel comfortable hosting each other at home, try a coffee shop or library where you can write together without too many outside distractions.
  • Decide whether you will have food. Will there be coffee? Snacks? A meal? Who will provide these? Our hostess usually prepares coffee, tea, and light snacks to get us going. After two hours of writing, we share a light lunch together.
  • Build in time for socializing. Decide whether to chat first and then write or catch up after your writing session. Dedicating a time to talk with one another will make the quiet time easier to maintain. My group usually opens with prayer, gets straight to writing, and then talks nonstop during lunch.
  • Enforce expectations, but also be flexible. If you have trouble focusing and staying quiet, be prepared with a gentle reminder (to yourself or others). Aspin says, “If we have too much fun talking, it distracts from the writing time. Everyone in the group has to be intentional, or it becomes something other than what it is intended for.”

Also decide whether you will share any of what you’ve written for feedback. I’m in a separate critique group, and having the two unique groups removes any anxiety I might otherwise feel on my writing days. Not that your critique group shouldn’t feel safe, but a writing-only group can be the safest of places to get words on paper or screen without worrying about what readers may think.

Nothing feels better after battling a vacuum of solitary days or the lure of the vacuum cleaner and a dirty carpet than to sit down with friends and accomplish God-ordained work. The promise is true in writing groups, too: “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20, NASB).

Do you have tips for a writing group or other ideas for escaping the vacuum? Please share them in the comments below.


Hope SquiresHope Squires is the author of The Flourishing Tree (Lulu, 2014). She and her husband are adjusting to life in California after living in the Southeast their entire lives. They and their exuberant dog are learning to deal with skunks, rattlesnakes, and “a dry heat.” Hope blogs about nature, faith, and the flourishing life at

Becoming Known Part 4: Guest Blogging

by Carol Peterson


If Jesus is your Senior Editor, He expects you to get your writing to the people who need to hear the message He’s leading you to share. Becoming known is one part of reaching those people.

Writers are often advised to blog as part of their process of becoming known. But not everyone has the inclination or the time or technical ability to set up a blog and keep it going. The blogosphere, however is still open to you. Even if you already have a blog, you should still consider expanding beyond the cyber boundaries of your own little URL.

One way to expand your world is to guest post on other folks’ blogs. Unless you’re a New York Times bestseller, you might not snag a spot at the hottest blog on the web. But chances are, you will still be able to find guest posting opportunities that will allow you to get your message (and your name) in front of others.

  1. Look at blogs you read. Would a message you have to share be a fit with that site? Check to see if the author has submission guidelines for guest postings. If not, she might still welcome them. Send an email or leave a comment with an idea for a post you might contribute.
  1. Look at sites in the genre you write. If you write Christian novels for women, find sites that have blogs for those readers. If your novel is set in a particular locale, is there a blogger who focuses on that location? If your protagonist rides horses, are there Christian cowboy church blogs that might like to hear from you? Brainstorm and Google ideas where what you have to say might be welcomed.
  1. Look at your personal associations and memberships. Does your church online newsletter post articles from its members? Does your writing association have a blog or newsletter that is looking for articles from its members? (Hint: for Inspire Christian Writers, the answer is “yes” for both the blog and newsletter).

When you find a blog where you would like to guest post, write up a one or two sentence summary of your message; indicate a word count and when you would be able to submit your piece. Make sure you follow the blogs guidelines for guest posts. Then…ask.

Managing a blog is time-consuming. Many bloggers welcome a guest post that will give them a break in their blogging schedule. The key from your end is to think how you can be helpful to others in a way that not only provides something of value to them and their readers but also helps you practice your craft and inches you out into the world.

Work to become known in your own little sphere and then make your sphere bigger.

This series on becoming known has looked at:

Why becoming known as an author follows the example of Jesus.

How to tackle the technical aspects of creating an Amazon book review.

How doing book reviews for other writers can help you become known, too.


Carol Pecarol_petersonterson is a Christian woman who can’t stop writing about God, His great big, beautiful world and our place in it. Carol writes for women and children and blogs at:

She writes to educate, entertain and inspire–children, their teachers and parents, other writers, and readers of all genres.


5 Steps to Stronger Point of View

34178310_sPOV – Point of View. Three little letters are the bane of every new writer’s journey. If we were writers forty or more years ago—now that would have been a completely different story. In the ‘good ol’ days’ we could write from everyone’s point of view at any time. Now—it is a big No-no.

Readers want you to pick a character and crawl in their skin, their thoughts, their motives, and their goals. You are allowed to change your POV character—but not without appropriate warning to the reader. Start a new chapter or create a scene break so readers will know you’re switching points of view.

So how do you do it? How do you keep in one POV consistently? Fellow Inspire writer, Loretta Sinclair describes it this way:

“If I am a character in your story and a fly lands on the back of my head, I can’t know it.”


1. The POV character can’t know anything that happens while she is not present until someone tells her about it. If she doesn’t know it, you can’t write it.

First Draft: She didn’t know he was in the room until he spoke.

Final Draft: When he said hello, she jumped off the couch with a yelp.

Let’s practice:

Example: King Edmund threw his tankard across the room, not knowing Mariamne had slipped into the room.

If he didn’t know it your reader can’t either. Try this instead:

King Edmund threw his tankard across the room.


He spun—heart pounding, hand on the hilt of his sword.

(With the second version, you have pulled your reader in and have them turning the next page to see who yelped and why, and what’s going to happen next.)


2. Stay in only one character’s POV at a time. Otherwise, you’re head-hopping and it’s not considered good writing. Your reader needs to be in only one character’s head at a time in order to relate to the character. 

First Draft: A shiver ran down Jane’s back when she realized Greg had been spying on her. That made him feel awful.

Final Draft: A shiver ran down Jane’s back. “You’ve been spying on me haven’t you?”

Greg looked at his feet and said nothing.

Let’s practice:

Example: Shawn glared at Meg. She hated him. His stomach knotted as she plotted his demise.

Try this instead: Shawn glared at Meg. Her lips were drawn in a thin line, and her breath rasped through her throat. Her finger flexed and moved toward the axe leaning against the wall.


Ready to go deeper?


3. Your characters can only experience life through their own senses. You can’t see your own face (or back) without a mirror, so neither can your POV character. They can’t know if their mascara is running, whether their tears are making muddy trails in their face, the look in their own eyes, or what color their face is turning.

First Draft: Alexis’s face flamed as bright as a fire engine. Her eyes flashed with rage at the detective.

Final Draft: Alexis narrowed her gaze on the detective blocking her path. Heat crept up her neck and pooled in her cheeks. She held his stare unblinking, fisting her hands until her nails dug into her palms.


4. Alert your readers when you’re changing POV characters in the middle of a chapter.

First Draft: Aria rose with slow purpose and left the king with his steward. She wandered to the outer bailey, letting the clop of her boots on the paving stones drive all thought from her head.

The king turned to his steward rubbing his hand over his neck, trying to work the knot free. “Should we keep her secret?”

(There is no way Aria, the POV character, can know what is happening in the king’s chamber. If you insert a POV shift (* * * or ####) between the above paragraphs and remain in the king’s for a while this works fine.)

Final Draft: Aria rose with slow purpose and left the king with his steward. She wandered to the outer bailey, letting the clop of her boots on the paving stones drive all thought from her head.


The king turned to his steward rubbing his hand over his neck, trying to work the knot free. “Should we keep her secret?”


5. Don’t tell your readers what your character is doing, just have him do it.

First Draft: Drew wondered what Alexis would do if she knew he had been in her apartment.

Final Draft: What would Alexis do if she knew he’d broken into her apartment?

Let’s Practice:

Example: She felt scared.

Try this instead: A floorboard squeaked behind her. She clenched her breath, her heart pounding in her ears.

Tip: Do a search for the following words: thought, knew, wondered, realized, speculated, decided, wished, felt, saw, and other similar words. These words are all telling the reader what your POV character is feeling for thinking. Instead show the reader these same things in deeper POV. Draw your reader in—and don’t let them go.

Be patient as you master POV, it won’t happen overnight. With practice, you’ll get it.

Here are a few sentences with POV violations for you to fix:

  1. Rachel waited for Bryce to knock on her door, but he was busy tying his shoes.
  2. Max felt powerful surf threaten to overturn his boat. Jackson gulped hard on the shore, fearful for his friend.
  3. Roxy stepped out of the ladies’ room, toilet paper trailing from her left shoe.
  4. “I’m sorry Dillon, but it’s over.” Marissa punched the button on her phone. Dillon was frantic, punching her number as fast as his thumbs would fly.
  5. Justin felt angry.

Add your favorite fix(es) in the comments below for a chance to win Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View, by Jill Elizabeth Nelson.

michelle_murrayMichelle Janene  writes Christian Fantasy and Bible curriculum for students and adults. She teaches Middle School and leads a thriving Inspire Christian Writers critique group. She’s passionate about the Word of God and medieval history. In the summer of 2014 she founded Strong Tower Press to publish her own works with the first novella coming soon!

Michelle also serves as the Inspire Anthology Coordinator and oversees the selection, editing and distribution of our annual anthologies.

How Writing Is Like Exercising


The cell phone alarm beeps me into consciousness at 5:20 am. Yes, it’s o-dark-thirty and I’m waking up to go to spin class. Why? That’s a great question. Every day I ask myself the same thing.

Spinning is the equivalent of being forced to walk uphill for sixty miles, through the two feet of snow, barefoot.

Circuit training is on the days when I don’t spin. Lifting weights is like, well, lifting weights. They’re heavy. ‘Nuff said.

Writing is a lot like working out. I love it, and I hate it. It’s difficult to get started, but I feel much better when I’ve done it. Like exercising, writing is a discipline.

Here are some things I’ve discovered through my writing journey:

It takes time. When I began writing in 2008, I didn’t know ‘come here’ from ‘sic-em.’ I needed to learn the craft, study, and practice. Getting better is a long discipline. As in life, I didn’t put on the twenty-five pounds overnight, so they aren’t going to burn away in a year.

It takes a tribe. There’s a core group of women who go to the same gym I do. We encourage each other when we’re flagging, we nag each other into coming back, we follow up when someone has missed more than a couple of days. A few years ago, I discovered the Inspire Christian Writers critique group that meets in Sacramento. We not only help spur one another to be better writers, we’ve become close friends.

It takes discipline. Some writers like word count goals, others page or chapter goals. I write a little differently. I sit down at my computer almost every night, setting my timer for twenty minutes. When the timer dings, I get up and stretch, or get a snack. Then I set the timer for another twenty minutes. Often I’ll find myself ignoring the timer. When I feel like I’m done for the night, I’m done. Sometimes I only write for that first twenty minutes. It’s the same with working out. Without the drive to get healthy, lose weight, or stay fit, it doesn’t happen with discipline.

It takes a good instructor. My spin and workout instructor tells me when I’m lifting incorrectly. He helps me make subtle adjustments to my posture. He reminds me to keep my shoulders down when I’m on the spin bike. In writing, it’s crucial to read books on the craft. Writing conferences are a fabulous place to learn from the best of the best. Take notes, make one-on-one appointments, and make the adjustments so that you can improve and grow.

How do you stay motivated to write every day? Join the conversation in our comments section.

JaneJane Daly is the author of Because of Grace (Hallway Publishing, Feb. 2015). She lives in Citrus Heights with her husband, Mike, and a very spoiled cat named Phoebe. Jane writes fiction and nonfiction.


It Takes a Village to Lead Inspire

35226387_sIn 1996, Hillary Clinton published her book, It Takes a Village, and Other Lessons Children Teach Us. Since then, the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” has been widely quoted and misquoted by political and news pundits.

The words, however, are true. Anything we as humans undertake requires the involvement of others. Your place of work, then, becomes your village, as you labor together with your co-workers. The church you attend is another village, as the saints gather to do the work of God.

Even writers, though their work is solitary, need others to encourage, guide, and critique.

As Inspire Christian Writers members, you are part of a village of like-minded men and women, seeking to glorify God with your words. That’s a powerful force. Together, our members touch unsaved lives.

Your Inspire board is a tiny village in the larger member group. We need to expand our village by bringing on new board members. The recognition is minimal, the pay is nonexistent, but you’ll be helping to inspire our members, and from there, reach others with the gospel.

Here is a brief description of each of the board openings:

Communications Director:

The Director of Communications oversees all online and print communication from Inspire with the goal of promoting the values and activities of Inspire to the public and among our members.

Qualifications: We’re looking for someone with strong social media and marketing skills. Must write in clear, friendly way. Able to meet deadlines and juggle multiple projects. Organized and detail-oriented. Able to lead a small team.

Events Director:

The Events Director oversees the planning and implementation of events (workshops, training, parties, book launches, etc.) for the edification of our members.

Qualifications: We’re looking for someone who enjoys planning events. The ideal candidate will have experience in coordinating the efforts of volunteers, training and providing feedback for a small team. This person must be able to manage multiple projects and have good delegation skills.

Membership Director:

The Membership Director oversees a team that will shepherd Inspire members through the process of joining and getting plugged in. The membership team will help members access all member benefits.

Qualifications: We’re looking for someone with strong administrative skills who enjoys working with people as well as databases and spreadsheets. The ideal candidate has quick email/phone response times. He or she is warm and friendly and can communicate the values of Inspire to our new members.

Spiritual Care Director:

The Spiritual Care Director will serve Inspire members by ensuring that spiritual development and support opportunities are a part of the routine benefits of membership.

Qualifications: We’re looking for someone who demonstrates a passion for spiritual growth. Our ideal candidate has prior experience and spiritual gifting in the areas of intercessory prayer and shepherding, great people skills and compassion. This person also needs to possess good communication skills and the ability to recruit and train a team.


Benefits of Serving:

  1. Close contact with an experienced, engaged nonprofit board.
  2. Behind the scenes experience running a nonprofit.
  3. Fun & friendship.
  4. Leadership training and experience.
  5. Opportunity to mentor new writers and encourage experienced writers.
  6. Cutting edge industry information.
  7. Annual board retreat.


Won’t you consider serving on the Inspire Christian Writer’s board? We meet the first Monday of every month from 11:00 – 1:00 at First Covenant Church in Rancho Cordova. Please take some time and ask God if your talents can be used to help us grow. If you’re interested in serving as director in any of these roles, please contact Beth Thompson by leaving your information below:

We appreciate your interest in serving on the Inspire board! If you’re not interested, we’d be grateful for your prayers as we get to know each candidate and choose those who will serve you in these roles. We’ll announce our new board members once they’re selected.

So, You Think You Can Make Readers Laugh?

Interview with Author Erin Taylor Young

Erin Taylor Young and Henry - Author Photo - June 2015 Writing humor isn’t for cowards. Like comedians onstage at the Improv, humor writers don’t really know if their audience will laugh in all the right places, chuckle at just the right time, smile and nod in agreement, or scratch their heads in confusion.

Award winning author Erin Taylor Young tickles funny bones with ease as she shares her faith one giggle at a time. Her debut book, Surviving Henry, was chosen as the Nonfiction Book of the Month by the The Book Club Network’s Readers’ Choice Awards and is a finalist in the Published Memoir category in the 2015 Oregon Christian Writers Cascade Awards.

Please join me in welcoming Erin as she shares her insight on writing humor.

Xochi: Congratulations on the release of Surviving Henry, Erin. Please tell us how you came to write about your hilarious experiences with your adorable Boxer.

Erin:  Early in Henry’s ludicrous string of near-death fiascoes, I remember thinking: Oh. My. Gosh. People will never believe the stuff this dog does. I oughta be writing it down…

Like that would prove it really happened or something?

So I guess in part I just wanted to have a record of it. But I don’t think that alone would’ve been sufficient to make me torture myself at the keyboard day after day, trying to turn words into coherent sentences. I think it really boiled down to a nudge from God. He gave me the most ridiculous and difficult dog in maybe the whole wide world, and there came a point where I couldn’t not write about it.

And when readers tell me their trials and escapades, and how much the book helped them to know they’re not alone with their crazy—and sometimes very hard—pet struggles, well, then I’m really glad I wrote it all down.

Xochi: Have you always considered yourself a humor writer?

Erin: I never saw myself turning into a writer, let alone a humor writer. I wanted to be a composer, but God had other ideas. Which is good, because it turns out that I’m not a very talented musician.

What I do have is a life filled with “Oh, sure, it’s funny now” stories—the kind you wish happened to other people instead of you. Writing about them feels like a natural consequence, like I’m just playing the hand I’ve been dealt.

Xochi: How can writers determine if they have the knack for writing humor?

Erin: If people laugh at what you write, that’s a pretty good tip-off. And I mean laugh in a funny ha-ha way, not in a “bless your heart that’s terrible” way.

Xochi: What are the pros and cons of identifying yourself as a humor writer?

Erin Taylor Young - Surviving Henry Book Cover - June 2015

Surviving Henry: Adventures in Loving a Canine Catastrophe

Erin: You know, in the case of humor branding, I think it’s better to let that label happen naturally.

I can say anything I want about my writing, but it won’t mean much if readers, editors, and other industry professionals don’t agree.

I wrote a guest post for The Steve Laube Agency Blog about this very thing. And yes, it’s an “Oh sure, it’s funny now” story involving the first time I met Steve Laube and how I didn’t know I was a humor writer.

Xochi: What are your top tips for humor writers?


1. Don’t let anyone change your voice. It’s the most important tool you have. That doesn’t mean you avoid being edited, it means you know yourself well enough to know when your voice is getting stripped away.

2. Find a critique partner who gets you and your humor, and who’s willing to always push you toward excellence.

3. Be natural, but deliberate. Pay attention to how humor works, and the beauty of the unexpected. Make every word and every punctuation mark work for its place.

Xochi: What pitfalls should aspiring humor writers avoid?

Erin: There will be people out there who just don’t get your humor. Be okay with that.

I don’t love every comic out there, or every humor writer—even some that other people laugh at like crazy. So it’s reasonable to expect some people won’t like me. It doesn’t mean I’m a lousy humor writer. Even the greatest baseball players never bat a thousand. Humor writers don’t either. Not with individual jokes, and not with their writing as a whole.

Work on pleasing the readers who get your humor, and don’t feel bad about those who don’t.

Xochi: What would you like to say to those brave souls who may be on the verge calling themselves humor writers?

Erin: If you’ve had multiple people (and not just your mom or your best friend) identify and confirm this gift in you, then go for it!

Be strong and courageous. You have a unique, fun, creative perspective on life, and it’s time to unleash it on the world!

Xochi: Thanks for inspiring us with your contagious joy and charming sense of humor, Erin.

Erin: Thanks for inviting me, Xochi!


You can enjoy a faith-filled life with a laugh when you connect with Erin on Facebook, Twitter, on her website, or by subscribing to her blog.


Are you a humorous writer? Join the conversation by leaving a comment or question below.

Xochi DixonWith a heart for loving God, loving people, and nurturing spiritual growth, Xochi (so-she) E. Dixon encourages and equips women to experience the fragrance of God’s presence through prayerful study and application of His Holy Word at