Posts Tagged ‘writing’

I just downloaded the Better Books Manifesto by Jeff Goins. It’s short. It’s to the point and it’s right on. The idea is simple. There are so many people out there that will tell you to write a book, that you need to write a book, that the world need you o write a book. They say you can use the book as your business card and a whole lot of other things, but there’s a problem. In this age of information overload, the last thing we need is more information for the sake of information. No what we need is people with something important to say, creating works of importance. It’s not that we need more to read. It’s that we need more that’s worth reading.

What is your passion? What do you have in your life that the world needs to know? Who can you help? Write that, write it well and share it with the world. Back in the day, if you wanted to publish a book, you needed to get your work past a lot of people and only a few got picked. I’ve never been a fan of that and the internet has really leveled the playing field. The thing is, now any literate person with a computer can write a book, and many are. The world has changed, but there’s one thing that hasn’t. There are still only 24 hours in a day. Your audience only has so much time, and when they pick up your book, or click on your blog or open your media, they are entrusting some of their valuable, limited time to you. Our job as content creators is to create something that is worthy of their trust.

Am I writing this to discourage you? Not at all. No I’m writing this to challenge you create your best work to put out there for the world to read. I think that’s what Jeff is saying too.

True to form, Jeff Goins has a lot of great things to say to writers and other creatives. Check out this post. You can download the manifesto there, too!

Right here at the beginning, I am supposed to mention that I got this book free from the publisher in hopes that I would give it a review. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Have serious doubts that I am anywhere close to the demographic the author probably imagined as her audience. She’s a 20 something year old single woman a 56 year old happily married grandfather, but I have to tell you, I found this book thoroughly engaging. The book speaks of living in the presence and Kingdom of God. Zaldivar is a wonderful storyteller, who gives just enough of personal anecdotes to illustrate her points, yet often leaves them open-ended enough for the reader to draw his or her own conclusion. The book is powerful, challenging and very biblical.

Zaldivar subtitles her book Finding the Holy in the Here and Now and she delivers quite well on this. This book is about living for Jesus in the here and now with an eye toward eternity. This book is targeted to women, but I will tell you every one can gain something from reading it. This is her first full length book and my prayer is that she writes many more. This is one I fully intend on passing around. Pick it up and read it. You won’t be disappointed.

lightndarknessI wrote this for an advent reading for Christmas Eve at my church and thought it might be good to share here. If you’re from my church, you might want skip this one.

Imagine this room was totally dark. You couldn’t see a thing, but then someone lit a match, a candle, even a small spark. It might be small but in total darkness it’s the only then you would see and it would completely draw your attention. That’s the power of light. It makes darkness disappear. Even a tiny light overcomes the darkness.

Think about our world. Now imagine it in total darkness. In some ways it’s not terribly hard. War and terror and disease and pain and a whole bunch of other things that could make our lives and our world feel very dark. There are times when we might be tempted to look at God and ask “How could you let this happen?” What we need to remember is this is not the world as God intended. As a matter of fact the first words of God recorded in Scripture are “Let there be light.”

Having said this on the first day, He didn’t make our sources of light, the sun the moon and stars until the fourth day. Before that, He was the light. He is the light. 1 John 1:5 reminds us, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”

The darkness in the world is the result not of God’s will, but of the fall of man. If the world is dark, It’s our fault. Still God’s desire for us is not that we would walk in darkness, but that we would live in the light of His love, not just in this world, but forever, and so He set a plan in place to make it so. Isaiah 9 foretold it. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. 700 years before the birth of Christ, God proclaimed it, the light is coming. 2,000 years after that first Christmas night, the light is here. Can you see it? Can you see Him?

Jesus came to be so many things, Lord, Savior, King, Teacher, Perfect Example and yes Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. He is all those things and many more, but one of the big ones is found in John 8: When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” He came to be our light, to light our path through this life to eternity. No believer can deny that and yet we might ask “If that is the case, why is our world so dark.” Then you might read John 9:5 “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

So does that mean Jesus is no longer with us? No, remember the angel told us He would be Immanuel, God with us.” And He is with us. And maybe, just maybe that’s why in the Sermon on the mount, He pointed to us, His followers and said “You are the light of the world. “ The light has come and He gave His life and He lives in us, and we are called to shine with His light. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light and that light still shines. The question for us is will we shine? He is the light. Let Him shine through you!

5csLast night I was actually dreaming about writing a post about writing. I alone and decided I better write it down. Unfortunately, I fell back asleep but this is what I remember.

The first step in writing is creativity. Everyone has something to say, people are surrounded by messages. What is going to make your writing stand out from the crowd? How can you rise above the noise? You need to do more than just write words. You need to find a way to make those words connect with my heart, mind or soul. You need to make your work compelling and unavoidable. You need to get creative.

Writing is and always will be primarily about communication. You need to have something to say and someone to say it to. Writing without an audience is called journaling. If you don;t start your page with dear diary, you have to have me (your audience) in mind as you start to create. You can tell me a story. You can bring me joy. You can challenge me. You can even hurt me but what you can’t do is ignore me.

This may not have been the best word for this, but it starts with a C so I used it. When you’re writing, either fiction or nonfiction, if you want to keep me (the reader) engaged, one of the best ways is with a little misdirection. Maybe it’s a plot twist, a unique way of stating the facts, an example that will blow my mind. Don’t make it so confusing that I give up, but give me enough to keep me engaged and wondering what’s next.

The story must have a point and you need to get to the point. A huge word count is not necessary as long as I have all the information you wanted to convey. Have a beginning a middle and an end, say all you need to say and allow me to move forward to act on what I’ve read.

I tremble as I write this, because I know it will cause a typo, but your writing has to be correct. Unless you write colloquially or you write Chick-fil-A billboards, spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. crucial. If you don’t, it turns on my internal editor and I start to lose your point. By the way, every reader has an internal editor. Don’t let them lose your story. Have a couple read your work before you publish.

Can you think of any other C’s?

This one is not just for writers, but writers should really pay attention.

The speaker was awesome. He spoke on one of the most important issues facing the church in our time. I listened to him all day and at no point did my eyes “glaze over.” I was so enthralled with his presentation that at the end of the day, I went to his table and bought the most expensive book on his table. It set me back $30 and I bought the last one.

Now before you go any further, I should tell you that while I don’t claim to be a genius, neither will I claim stupidity. I would humbly say I’m fairly intelligent and leave it at that. I got the book home and cracked it open. The information in the book is vital. I will finish this book, but I can only read two or three pages at a time. The writing is so dense and scholarly that I can scarcely understand it. It reads more like a doctoral thesis than a book meant for sharing information. And it leads me to a question. What’s the point?

I mean the disconnect is uncanny. As I listened to him speak the message was so clear. He spoke in layman’s terms, injected lots of humor then I get to the book and it’s almost completely over my head.

Isn’t the point of communication and in particular, writing to be understood? I think it is. You may be the smartest person in the room, but if you want your message to truly succeed, your work should be comprehensible at least to some degree by everyone in the room.

Creatives, this message we have been entrusted with is too important for us to make it incomprehensible. Write (and communicate, and create) so people can understand.

I am trying to figure out my next resource. I want to create something that would help people who want to use their creative gifts to serve the Lord. I have a boat load of ideas and I am trying to nail down what I should do.

I am thinking about creating a Bible teaching resource using art as a teaching tool. I would have a video available and downloadable questions, ideas, projects, etc. The idea behind this would be to help people start arts groups and encourage people to use their gifts to serve the Lord.

I’m also thinking of a new book on building your creativity and overcoming creative blocks.

Also I have an idea for something called The Elephant Cookbook: Tackling Large Projects One “Bite” at a Time.

Another guided sketchbook to help people build their creativity. Similar to this one…

1001: A Sketch Odyssey: A 1001 items to draw, design, create and invent designed to build your art skills and expand your creativity

Which of these would me most useful to you? If none of the above, what else could you use?

My goal here is to create the most useful “products” I can create.

How can I help you?

Okay, so I’m not a huge fan of the cover art and the main reason I picked this up was I am interested in writing and it is was free. I am pleased to say this is a pretty great little book. Pitt interviews a series of writers who have been quite successful especially in the realm of e-publishing. The questions he asks are very well conceived and the answers are highly informative. This is a straight forward interview book that would be a great help for any writer, at least partly because it delves not only into the writing of a great book, but such things as marketing, pricing, publishing tips and more.

This book would be a good value at a much higher price, but right now it’s free. Go and pick it up. It’s a quick read packed with useful information.

The next speech I have to give at my local Toastmasters club is supposed to be a persuasive speech. This is a draft of that speech… I’d be curious what you think.

Why Believers Should Go to Church…

Let me start off by saying this is not an evangelistic message. If you’re not a believer, I’m not trying to beat you over the head with a Bible. If you have questions about God, Jesus, faith and more, I’d love to talk to you, but chances are I’m not going to be able to convince you to believe what I believe in 5-7 minutes so I decided to narrow it down. You see I’m of the belief that going to church, participating in regular worship is really important for everybody but especially for believers. No surprises there, I am a minister. I believe the benefits to gathering to worship are huge. What surprises me is how many believers disagree with this statement. They say things like, well I can worship God on the golf course and I suppose that’s true, but look, I’ve been on a golf course, I’ve observed golfers in action and what I can tell you is this, end up in one too many sand traps and you’ll be anything but worshipful.

Can you worship God in nature? Yes and you should. If you’re a believer, you should be living a life of worship so everything you do is an act of worship. I mean that’s the goal, right? That being said, there should still be a regular time to gather with other believers in a time and place of focused worship. I mean let’s face it, a life of worship is a great goal, but how many of us stay there all the time. In our media saturated world, distractions come at us every second, I know I can’t stay focused very long, how about you? I’m also the first one to admit that left to my own devices, temptations and thoughts and stresses and aggravations and worries, often take me out of a worshipful state. Sometimes I need to be in a place where the focus is on God, surrounded by other people focused on God or at least trying to be.

I know one reason people leave the church is because they’ve been hurt by the church. I get that. When I first started in ministry, someone said something to me that I have never forgotten. He said ministry is easy, except for the people. You laugh but it’s true. I mean we think that statement is funny because of course people are a main point of ministry. Let’s just be really honest, we in the church try to put on a brave face and act like we have it all together, but the truth is the church is like an airport. Everybody comes in carrying their own baggage, even you. Even the leaders. We all have our own imperfections, our own struggles, our own doubts, our own needs. Groucho Marx used to say, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” Well we all have our own baggage, even you, so join the club. At times, we’re a mess but isn’t that a big part of why we ended up seeking God in the first place? We come to the point of recognizing this life is bigger than us and that we need help to get us through. That help comes from God to be sure, but there is also a biblical command to bear one another’s burdens, to help each other. How can we help each other if we’re not together?

Of course at some point, our American sense of rugged individualism comes into play. I’m independent. I don’t need anybody. Come on who are you trying to kid? We weren’t made to be alone, we were made for community. None of us is truly independent rather we’re interdependent. We need each other and we need to be there for each other. Part of living in society is learning to get along, learning to care for others, learning to serve and help others, putting others first. All these things make us good neighbors and decent people to live with. For believers these are also great reasons to be part of a local church.

The final reason to go to church and to be a part of a local church for every believer is the simplest of all. God said so. Hebrews 10:25 says “let us not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” That’s pretty much the point. This life is tough. Following God in this world can be really tough. We need to come together and encourage each other, help each other and worship the God we follow together. At its best, that’s what going to church is, a bunch of imperfect people getting together to help each other, love each other, as we work together to follow and worship a perfect God who can help us make the world a better place. It’s worth it.

Every once in a while, pretty often actually because I am blessed, I get a reminder of why I do what I do. This past weekend was no exception. I spoke at two different places, sharing about this creative life I get to live by God’s grace. In the first I got to do a luncheon presentation to a group of writers in Northeast PA who call themselves the Odd Duck Society. The message was God and the Creative Process, based on an upcoming manifesto/book I’m writing. It was a really great time that I really enjoyed.

Then yesterday I got the opportunity to do A Night AMOK in the morning, opening a series of revival meetings for St. Thomas Independent Church of the Brethren in Mt. Pleasant Mills, PA. It was the first time I ever presented A Night AMOK as part of a morning worship service. At the end of the presentation, the pastor joined me in an altar call, asking people who wanted to come to Jesus or dedicate their lives to Jesus to raise their hands and pretty many hands went up. It was awesome.

Why do I share this? Am I being boastful? I pray that’s not the case. No, on the way home I started to think about my life and how far God has brought me and how blessed I am. I started to try to wrap my head around how all the things in my life have led to this point. I get to go out and paint pictures and tell my story and the story of the One who changed my story. I started to realize that were it not for some very hard times, I would not have that story and maybe God really is to be praised in EVERYTHING. I recognized that I get to encourage people in their gifts and talents and that I never could have arrived at that place without the times when I really needed encouragement. Then I had the realization that thanks to all these things, God may very well have allowed me to be a small part in someone else’s testimony, that He may have allowed me to help someone come a step closer to realizing their own God-given vision and maybe even help someone find his or her way to THE Way to eternal life. And then something else hit me. I get the privilege of doing all this and people see fit to bless me for it. I am blessed.

How could I ever want to do anything else? Be encouraged, your life matters to God and you matter to God. The things you go through build the story of your life and it is a story worth telling. Tell your story. God is good and faithful and no matter how much you trust in Him, He still has the power to do more than you can imagine. Prepare to be amazed.

Thanks to Brenda Hendricks for setting this up and to God for making it happen.

Vonda Skelton is an amazing writer/speaker I have had the privilege of knowing for a long time. She posted this amazing post to her blog and I thought it gave some great tips for creating a fictional story from real life. In looking for ways to tell a better story, this is a great place to start.

While traveling this weekend, I heard two amazing stories, stories that need to be told. “How do I do start?” one of the ladies asked. When I suggested she consider turning her story into a novel, her eyes lit up with possibility.

It seems everywhere I go, people approach me about their desire to write their story. Whether it’s their own memoir or that of someone in their family, they feel the need to share the mystery, intrigue, heartache, health, and drama of family. That can be a good thing.

But real life doesn’t have to be real.

Just for the record, a few years ago, I would have suggested writing anything but a memoir. Memoirs weren’t selling at the time, those-in-the-know said. But as we’ve seen, trends come and trends go, and—at least for now—there’s an upswing in memoirs. That trend, however, could change tomorrow.

But what doesn’t change is the need for compelling fiction. Whether you have a story you just have to tell, or one you haven’t yet developed, here are 5 steps to turning real life into real fiction:

1. Create a file of possible story lines. Think of the overarching stories and relationships within your family. Don’t worry about details, simply gather ideas from history. Was your great-great grandmother Native American? Did your mother have a favorite child? Did your cousin spend time in prison? Do you know someone who was raped? Do you have a chronic illness that seriously affects your life? Write them all down for later consideration.

2. Create a file of scenes. Before I wrote my first children’s mystery, I made a legal pad list of every memory I had as a child…the good, the bad, and the ugly. I listed the funny things, the sad things, and the oh-if-only-I-had-it-to-do-over things. Many of those scenes found their way into my fictional Bitsy Burroughs Mysteries for kids 8-12 years old.

Since then, I’ve begun compiling specific, detailed scenes of my own and my family members’ childhood, teenage, and adult years.

3. Create a file of characters. Most novelists admit that their characters are either based on specific people or are a compilation of people they know. Begin by listing the funny, interesting, quirky people in your family or circle of friends. Then mix and match details to develop a real/fictional bio of the characters with the most potential.

4. Evaluate what you’ve collected. The key to writing good fiction is to make it feel real, without compromising the trust of your family and friends. Take the time to review your files. Which story lines do you feel most passionate about? Which have the most potential? Is there a way to mix and match them, creating a deeper, more compelling story?

If the real-life main character was a teacher with an abusive husband, could you make her a fictional bank executive who is stalked and emotionally abused by an acquaintance? Could the stalker have a criminal past and spent time in prison? What if the kind, grandmotherly next-door neighbor was Native American and had been raped? Could she help the fictional bank executive understand what’s happening to her? Could the protagonist also be the caregiver for her own mother who has your chronic illness?

Or perhaps you can take a headline—not the story itself—and create a fictional world around that headline. After all, depending on who you read, experts say all stories fall into a handful of basic plots. That’s where you give freedom to the “What ifs” of life.

Suppose you read that a child has been missing for over a year and the parent won’t divulge where that child is now. You can take that headline and create your own multi-layered, fictional story with none of the true details. Your story could include some of those characters and scenes you’ve already developed.

5. Protect yourself, your family, and friends. Depending on the tone of your story, you may need to go to great lengths to protect yourself and those you love. If the negatives of the story are all yours, then you can decide how much you want to reveal and how much you want to alter.

But if family and friends are involved, be sure the facts are totally changed and untraceable. Another option would be to get written permission to include their part of the story.

Remember that fiction should be exactly that—fiction. As the sayings go, life is a stage and there’s nothing new under the sun, so a lot of our fiction will have happened somewhere to someone along the way. But to knowingly write real life into your fiction requires a healthy dose of grace, insight, and sensitivity.

Start with the real, add the fiction, and mix and match details…and you could have the best real-life fiction on the market today!

Here’s some info on Vonda from her website. Vonda says “As a freelance writer, my articles have appeared in Focus on the Family publications, HomeLife, Christian Single, New Man Magazine, Family Doctor Magazine, The Charlotte World newspaper,, and many others. I am a playwright and lyricist and have several screenplays running around in my head. Perhaps one day they’ll make it to the page.

I’m founder and co-director of, co-director of NCompass Writing Retreat, co-owner of SCW Productions, and co-director of the Intern Program at the Gideon Media Arts Conference & Film Festival.

South Carolina is still my home. My wonderful husband, Gary, and I are blessed with two beautiful daughters, two devoted sons-in-law, and four precious grandchildren. We’ve been married all our lives…and life is still good!” For more on Vonda, go to