Loving God First

A Writer’s Prayer

Lord, thank You for the privilege and responsibility of writing for Your glory.

We often declare our love for reading and writing. We’re quick to rattle off a long list of books we love, projects we’d love to write, and goals we’d love to reach.

In our longing to write words that readers love, we can easily forget the gifts You’ve given us are purposed to share Your love and to express our love for You. In our efforts to be good stewards, working tirelessly to develop our craft and meet deadlines, we can sometimes allow You to be neglected, as we tuck You conveniently into the margins of our lives.

Realizing the responsibilities we have as Christian writers, we can get so caught up in guarding our writing time that we willingly sacrifice our time with You.

Please protect us from these temptations, Lord.

Overwhelm us with the endless depth of Your great love for us. Give us such a yearning to know You more that we can’t even fathom writing one word without first being nourished by Your God-breathed words.

Whether we’re writing for the Christian or the secular markets, please help our words resonate with Your truth, Your love, and Your limitless grace.

We do love You, Jesus!

Please help us to be so enraptured by Your love for us, that we have no desire greater than loving You first.

In Jesus’s name, Amen


Xochitl (soh-cheel) E. Dixon encourages women and teens to embrace God’s grace and grow deeper in their personal relationships with Christ and others. Her devotions will be featured in Our Daily Bread, starting in 2017. Married to her best friend since 1994, she enjoys being a wife and mom, traveling, photography, and sharing God’s Word through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and her blog.

A Writing Coach’s Secret Formula

An Author/Writing Coach Interview with Lorraine Pintus

Lorraine Pintus is an international speaker, author, and writing coach known for her bold teaching on women’s issues such as sex, hormones, parenting, marriage, and intimacy with God. She has been a guest on hundreds of radio and TV programs and is the author of six best-selling books, including Jump off the Hormone Swing , Intimate Issues, and Intimacy Ignited.

Today, we’re focusing on Lorraine’s role as a writing coach who helps other writers craft their message and discover their voice.

Please help me welcome, Lorraine, as she shares encouraging insights for Inspire writers from a coach’s perspective.

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Thanks for joining me, Lorraine. Why did you decide to coach writers?

I never set out to be a writing coach. God just sort of eased me into it. As God graciously gave me increased success in the publishing arena, wanna-be authors asked me if I had a secret formula. “Yes,” I said. “It’s the three W’s: Worship, Wait, Write.”

They asked, “Can you tell me more?”

And, voila! My coaching practice was born.

 

What are the benefits for someone hiring a writing coach? 

The first benefit is improved writing skills. A good coach will help you craft your words and take your writing to the next level by explaining on each page how your work can be improved by using writing tools such as pacing, grouping, building, sensory imagery, story-telling, or more dynamic transitions.

Second, you gain objectivity. No writer can be 100% objective about her own work—she needs a trained eye to reveal what she cannot see.

Third, the writer gains resources. I’ve worked with five major Christian publishers. My contacts become my client’s contacts, as well as my list of cover designers, typesetters, and editors.

Fourth, you gain accountability. A coach helps you set realistic goals and requests concrete assignments to help you move your project forward at a quicker pace.

Finally, and most importantly, you gain a skilled advocate who believes in you as a person and who will cheer you on in your work. Because a coach is “sunk down” into your message and trained in the craft, that person can provide insights that your best friend cannot.

 

What can I expect from you as a coach?

My style, which is probably different from other coaches, is to be up close and personal. I invite my clients for intensive writing retreats in my home. Our home is quiet and at the base of the Colorado mountains. My clients have their own living space and access to a library as well as a hot tub. I find taking writers away from their distracted environments and giving them a serene place where I can work 24/7 with them for a short period of time is the most effective way to move a book project forward. The other format I use is a monthly or bi-monthly skype call. My client emails material for me to edit prior to the call. During the call I explain my edits and we talk over goals and assignments for the next meeting. Most of my clients are writing books. Therefore, prior to accepting a new client, I would want a synopsis, Table of Contents, and at least 5,000 words written before we’d consider a partnership.

 

What’s the number one stumbling block that you’ve noticed among writers? What advice do you give them?

The number one stumbling block I see is the destructive habit of comparison. I hear, “I just can’t write like so-and-so.” Or, “why did she get published and no one will look at my work?” Or, “how can that author pop out a best-seller every year while I’ve been working on this book idea for three years?” The downward spiral of negative comparison results in a defeatist attitude: “There are already books out there on my topic. Why bother?” Why bother? I’ll tell you why bother. Because no one has your story and no one can tell it through your voice and heart! If you refuse to write your story, the body of Christ misses out, and you miss out.

 

What do you tell writers who get discouraged and want to give up?

I tell them, “Writing can be agonizing, grueling work. Go ahead and quit.” This shocks them, then I say what I mean with all my heart: “But if God has called you to this project, do not quit under any circumstance. This is about obedience to God, not about getting published.”

 

I notice you pray before you write. Tell us why including prayer is imperative before our fingers hit the key pad.

Prayer punctuates everything I do with my clients. We start our time in prayer, end in prayer, and if we’re in the middle of something and lack clarity, we stop and pray. Jesus told his Heavenly Father, “Apart from You, I can do nothing.” How much more true is this for us? How can we not pray?

 

I imagine writers open up to you about their writing journey, and not just the craft.

It’s my job as a coach to pull words out of my clients. So yes, they open up. I weep with my clients, laugh with them, and they share things with me they’ve never told a soul. Because it’s so intimate, I don’t coach men (although a writing couple is fine). If I can’t work with them in an honest and spirit driven way, then we agree it’s best they find someone else.

 

You’ve co-authored several books. Did you find it easier or more difficult than writing a book by yourself?

I love the energy that explodes when you write with a like-minded collaborator. My co-author situations couldn’t have been more wonderful! In truth, I never write alone. God is my co-author and the Holy Spirit my editor.

 

What is your opinion of self-publishing for aspiring writers?

I’ve worked with five of the largest Christian publishers and have enjoyed what I learned from them and appreciate the help they gave me. But the publishing world has turned upside down in the last 15 years and the truth is this: if you do not have a speaking, media, and/or social media platform, you may not have the option of a traditional publisher because publishers are asking far more of their writers in terms of selling the book themselves than they were a decade ago. Self-publishing is a wonderful option and I highly recommend it. Don’t feel less than—remember, obedience to God is your goal, not a certain publisher.

 

Thanks, Lorraine, for sharing your insights and your secret formula: “Worship, Wait, Write.”

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Check out Lorraine’s website: www.lorrainepintus.com  and see how God is using her speaking/writing ministry. You can also leave comments and questions below.

karen foster

Karen Foster is a speaker for women’s events and a nonfiction writer. She has written devotionals for The Upper Room and The Secret Place. She also writes first-person narrative stories about God’s love and grace in people’s lives such as her ghostwritten story: Inside Job that recently appeared in Bible Advocate’s ezine: Now What?

Cultivating Online Communities

A Brave Blogger Interview with Denise J. Hughes

Some critics claim genuine relationships and authentic fellowship are impossible to obtain in the world of social media. After being housebound for over four years, as I undergo and recover from multiple surgical procedures, I’ve learned those critics are wrong. Many of my most authentic, supportive, and loving relationships are with people I met through Facebook and in the comment sections of a few of my favorite blogs. I have yet to meet most of these genuine friends in person, though we pray for one another and encourage each other daily.

Denise J. Hughes, author of Word Writers Philippians, Ephesians, and James, is the founder of Deeper Waters Ministries and serves as Editorial Coordinator for the incourage.me blog. Through these two well-established blogs and her personal blog, Embracing Grace and Truth, Denise cultivates online communities while equipping and encouraging women to dive deeper into the Bible and draw closer to God and others.

Please help me welcome Denise as she celebrates the launch of her third Word Writers Bible study and shares the rewards and challenges of nurturing community in the blogosphere.

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Congratulations on the consecutive releases of the Word Writers series, Denise. Please share how Deeper Waters began and how God has been growing this thriving online community.

For years my favorite author has been C.S. Lewis, and I love that he didn’t work in isolation. He started a group of writers. They called themselves the Inklings. J.R.R. Tolkein and many other well-known writers were part of this group. Their group is a testimony to the fact that we can accomplish more when we’re working together, supporting each other’s ministry and calling.

Deeper Waters Ministry was birthed out of my desire to bring women together. To dive deeper into the Word. To learn from each other. To share our stories. The easiest way to describe Deeper Waters Ministry is that it’s women’s ministry for the global church.

The internet has provided the means for connecting with other members of the global body of Christ. The online home for Deeper Waters is the place we gather and study God’s Word together. We follow the same Bible reading plan and then come together online to discuss what we studied. Then we have an annual retreat, where we can meet, face to face, with our sisters in Christ.

 

What are the most important things that you do to nurture a genuine sense of community through Deeper Waters?

The most important thing is to be clear about our purpose for gathering. At Deeper Waters, our desire is to dive deeper into God’s Word, to encourage one another, and build one another up (1Thessalonians 5:11). Genuine friendships are birthed and fostered from there. Another key factor is to make sure that it’s not about me. It’s not about my voice, it’s about sharing many voices, from all different seasons of life. Because God speaks through His Word. And it’s always encouraging to hear how the Lord is working in a friend’s life.

 

How do you encourage reader participation through the comment sections of your blogs?

Reader participation happens through connection. That can happen when a writer responds individually to a comment—with something more than just a “Thanks for sharing!” kind of comment. But I’ve found that reader participation heightens when a group of friends commit to read through a book of the Bible together. That creates accountability, and accountability creates participation.

 

What obstacles have you faced when building these online communities?

The main obstacle with building an online community is that resources are finite, which is a natural part of life. There’s only so much time in a day, only so many dollars in an account. We do what we can with what we have, and trust God with it all.

 

What has encouraged you toward persevering faith as you trust God through the process of community building, which requires much commitment and patience?

The most encouraging factors for me have been the women who have come alongside me. These women have made sacrifices to get on airplanes and fly across the country to be together once a year. That’s an incredibly humbling reality. The blessing of these genuine relationships can’t be matched. They’ve helped shape my own walk with the Lord, and I’m so grateful for them.

 

In what ways has God showed you that He’s using the blog communities to minister to your readers?

It’s the emails. Every time I receive another email from a reader, sharing how a devotion has touched her in some way, I am reminded why we do what we do. It’s to reach the hearts of women with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

 

How does having multiple writers contributing to your blogs expand your readership and deepen the richness of relationships?

I love inviting more writers to share their voices. It’s so encouraging to hear how God is moving in people’s lives all over the world. We’re accepting submissions after February 14, 2017 for a spring series on the Gospel of John. You can find the submission guidelines on the Deeper Waters website. (Please note this link will not be live until February 14, 2017.)

 

Please share your top tips for writers who would like to build genuine relationships with readers through their blogs.

Genuine relationships happen the same way everywhere—both online and offline. It requires showing up. Regularly. It requires being open and honest about the things we’ve gone through in the past, or may be going through right now. It’s wise to use discretion, especially when sharing things online, but we can still cultivate a community of authenticity by being who we really are. Relationships are never built on a polished image; they’re built on truth.

 

Thanks for inspiring us to use technology to develop deeper relationships, Denise. What final word of encouragement would you like to share with writers as they invest in cultivating authentic community relationships in the blogosphere?

This might sound paradoxical, but the best advice I can give—for cultivating authentic relationships online—is not to feel pressured to follow all of the advice we find online. There’s this online pressure to have a presence in every sphere of social media, to be everywhere all the time. But only God is omnipresent. Authentic community happens best when we choose the one or two or three places we most enjoy interacting online, and invest ourselves there.

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You can connect with Denise on Twitter, visit her Facebook Author Page, or join in the discussions that are leading to real relationship building moments through Deeper Waters, incourage.me, and Embracing Grace and Truth.

Denise will be dropping in throughout the day, so please encourage her and post your questions in the comment section below this post.


Xochitl (soh-cheel) E. Dixon encourages women and teens to embrace God’s grace and grow deeper in their personal relationships with Christ and others. Her devotions will be featured in Our Daily Bread, starting in 2017. Married to her best friend since 1994, she enjoys being a wife and mom, traveling, photography, and sharing God’s Word through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and her blog.

Too smart for my own good

by Michelle Janene

Not that anyone would ever accuse me of being too smart, but I have been doing some reflecting on my recent writing struggles. I participated in my fourth NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. Love challenging myself this way and I’ve succeeded in the past so I went into it with great expectations. But getting the words on the pages this time around was like slogging through an alligator infested swamp.

49756985 - girl with laptop in the hand in comic style. woman with notebook . girl showing the laptop. girl in glasses. hipster girl. sexy blue hair girl with laptop.I had a project in mind. Had been mapping it out and mentally filming it for a couple of months. I couldn’t wait for November 1st to stike on the clock. The goal to complete the challenge is 1,667 words pre-day. Day one saw not quite a thousand, and each day that followed saw few and fewer. The weekends I couldn’t seem to catch up. What was the matter with me? Honestly, the creation part is the most fun. I love starting a project. Hate ending one. So what was going on?

As it turned out, in stalling for the beginning of NaNo, I filled my spare time by studying some craft. That doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but it ended up getting me stuck.

James Scott Bell advised in his book Elements of Writing – Conflict and Suspense, that every scene needs an element of internal or external conflict. There also needs to be questions and suspense built in.

Did that have conflict? Delete, try again. Maybe more suspense here? Or maybe here? Delete. How many words have I written today?

Jerry Jenkins also says that in editing you need to cut out the obvious. “He crossed his arms over his chest.” Where else does one cross their arms? Jerry asks. Write seven words delete three. Going nowhere fast. “She stomped her foot on the floor.” As apposed to stomping on the ceiling? Delete three more.

Jerry also says to not bore the reader with “On-the-Nose writing.” A writer’s propensity is to explain every action. “She rose early in the morning, yawned, stretched and slid her feet out of the warm covers. The icy floor made her toes tingle as she pulled her jeans from the top dresser drawer and her favorite green silk blouse from a hanger. The satiny fabric caressed her skin as she slid in her right arm then her left and buttoned each tiny button.” Yawn. “The cold floor bit at her toes as she dressed in her favorite silk blouse.” Tighter, better, and oh yeah, minus forty-nine words. Yikes, no wonder I was struggling to reach my goal each day.39582993 - closeup portrait of unhappy guy sad thoughtful young business man thinking daydreaming deeply bothered by mistakes hand on head looking up isolated on white background. negative emotions

I kept trying to remind myself of Jodi Picoult’s wise words. “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” My problem was I wasn’t waiting to edit.

For whatever reason starting NaNo this year I just couldn’t turn off the inner editor and just write the story that had been burning inside me for months. What had been a joy became a drudgery. Fun was now work.

So did I complete NaNo successfully again this year? You better believe it. A day early even. About half way through I started consciously refusing to edit any words until it was finished. It wasn’t easy, but the longer I forbid myself to dwell on the correctness, the style, the have-to’s and should-do’s, the easier the words came. Am I going to go back now and fix everything according to the expert’s advice? New Years Resolution #1: edit all my ‘bad’ writing done in 2016. Happy writing and then happy editing everyone.

 

Michelle Janene Murray blissfully exists in the medieval creations of her mind most days. She published Mission: Mistaken Identity in 2015, helps edit the Inspire anthologies, and is working to expand her personal press to publish other authors.