Writing from the Heart (Part 4)

Here is an example of how I made myself vulnerable in a story from my book, Wounded by Words, titled “The Accident.”

“Richard, what happened?” I gasped as the front door opened, and my oldest son walked in. His head was bleeding, and he had a petrified look on his face.

His brother Mike followed and said, “If you think he looks bad, wait until you see the car!”

“I don’t care about the car. I care about you two. What happened?” I asked again.

“We dropped off a couple of the guys after water polo practice. Dave was hanging out the window, so I reached over and pulled him back in,” said Richard.

“And the car rolled forward and hit a tree,” added Mike. “Richard had unfastened his seatbelt, so when the car stopped, he hit the windshield. I think he did more damage to the car than the tree did.”

I saw that the cut on Richard’s forehead was minor, so I cleaned it up and put a Band-Aid on it. “Do you hurt anywhere? Do you feel dizzy?”

“My neck hurts,” Richard said, rubbing the back of his neck.”

“We’d better get that checked out at the emergency room,” I said. I opened the front door and looked at the car. The front window was shattered. “Oh, no! We probably shouldn’t drive that car. I’ll call Dad at work. It’s 7:00 P.M. Surely he can come home and take us to the hospital.”

I dialed my husband’s office number. When he answered I said, “Richard’s been in a car accident. His head broke the windshield, and his neck is injured.” My voice sounded on the edge of hysteria. “He drove home after the accident, but I’m afraid to drive him to the hospital with the windshield broken. Can you please come home right away and take us?”

“No, I’m in a business meeting,” was his curt reply.“We really need you to drive us to the hospital!” I pleaded.

“I said no! You deal with it!” he shouted. Then he hung up on me.

Acid churned in my stomach, but I said in a resigned voice, “Come on, Richard. I’ll take you to the emergency room.” Fighting back tears, I slowly drove the damaged station wagon to the hospital, which thankfully was nearby.

I was careful to use Richard’s words, to run the story by him, and to ask his permission to publish it.

Writing from the Heart (Part 3)

Next, to get in touch with your readers and touch their hearts, you need to be willing to step out in faith and share yourself. Be open and honest in your writing and willing to reveal your innermost thoughts. I’ll warn you—it will make you transparent and vulnerable.

You need to be willing to take a risk. Don’t be afraid to be honest with your audience. Look at stories in the Bible: David, Joseph, and Paul, for example. We know of their weaknesses as well as their strengths by the accounts told of them. People cannot relate to someone who is not vulnerable. Be careful not to make your characters (real or imaginary) too perfect. On the other hand, don’t air your dirty laundry or anyone else’s. If your material is sensitive, you might consider writing under a pseudonym.

We can help others through our shortcomings, our mistakes, and our failures. We can share the lessons we’ve learned. We can say, “I don’t walk in your shoes, but this is what I’ve been through, and this is how I coped.” We must appear real to our audience to be of value to them. This is what I try to do in all my writing. In my book, Wounded by Words, I made myself vulnerable and showed how I had been verbally abused as did one of my co-authors. Our third co-author is a family therapist who provides counseling and encouragement in the book to those wounded by words. We also gathered many other people’s stories to add credibility to the book.

Writing from the Heart (Part 2)

The tips and techniques I will give for writing from the heart will work for articles, personal experience stories, devotionals, and even fiction. I use all these techniques in my nonfiction books also.

Now, how do we write from the heart?

First, be in tune with your audience. To write effectively you need to spend time talking to your audience and understanding their needs. It helps to be actively involved with them in church groups or wherever they are.

For a year I was editor of a children’s magazine, Trails ‘N’ Treasures, and I also taught Sunday school for eight years. Plus, I have a build in critique staff of 12 grandchildren. I carefully listen to their opinions. We can’t write what we want them to read; we have to write what appeals to them, or they won’t read it.

For example: When I was writing an early reader book, I wrote: “The monkey reached for the rope.” My granddaughter stopped me and said, “Grandma, ‘reached for’ is boring! The monkey ‘grabbed’ the rope.” She was right. “Grabbed” made it sound much more exciting.

We need to: Stop. Listen. And then Write!

Writing from the Heart (Part 1)

This is Part 1 of a nine part series on Writing from the Heart.

We can only write what God lays on our hearts if we write in His strength, rather than our own. When we open our mouths, pick up a pen, or type on our computers and let words flow, it allows other individuals to gain a glimpse into our souls. Hopefully, they will find God’s love there, because often, we are the only contact people will have with Him. We should always pray before we begin writing, so that we will be in tune with God’s will.

Let me quote 2 Corinthians 3:3 from the Tyndale Living Bible that speaks of Writing from the Heart. “They can see that you are a letter from Christ, written by us. It is not a letter written with pen and ink, but by the Spirit of the living God, not one carved on stone, but in human hearts.”

To be effective, our writing must be carved on our own hearts in order for us to reach the hearts of our audience.


Rights (Part 3)

Rights (Part 3)

If you sell “all rights” to your manuscript, then the publisher owns your work, and you cannot print it elsewhere without getting written permission from them. Try not to sell all rights if possible unless you are signing a work-for-hire contract. You normally receive a flat fee for these, and the publisher retains all rights, and the copyright is in the name of the publishing house. Sometimes your financial state may dictate that it would be worthwhile to do some pay-for-hire work. Once you turn in the completed work, you are normally paid in full within 30 days.

“Book rights,” however, are different from other rights. When you sign a contract to write a book, the document is normally 12-14 pages, and the publisher holds your rights on that book as long as it stays in print. You may only use the amount of material that falls under “Fair Use” when quoting material from your own books. If you want to excerpt articles or stories though from one of your books in print, normally the legal department of your publishing house will give you permission. After all, the publicity is good for the publishing house. As I previously mentioned, if you are selling an article or story to be included in someone else’s book, I’d recommend selling one-time rights.

This concludes the series on ‘Rights.”


Rights (Part 2)

If your article or story has not been published, I recommend you sell “first rights,” rather than simultaneous rights. Many editors will not show interest if you are shot gunning your material to a number of publications at once when the piece has never been published. Plus, you will usually be paid more for first rights.

However, once your article is published for the first time, by all means feel free to sell “reprint rights,” sometimes called second rights, on it. You will probably earn a third to a half as much for reprint rights. Nevertheless reprint rights are an excellent way to earn extra money by selling your manuscripts over and over.

“One-time rights” give a publisher the opportunity to print your material one time. Use this terminology when selling a piece for a book compilation since books take a long time to come out in print. In the meantime, you can resell reprint rights on the piece. Also, one-time rights may be confusing to the editor, who may wonder whether or not your material has been published before. As a result you may be paid a lower amount than first rights would be given. Also, you can offer one-time rights to publications in other countries, particularly in the Third World, on material for which you own the copyright.

Rights (Part 1)

Rights are different than copyright. Be careful not to confuse them. When you sell “First Rights” to a publication, you are offering one-time rights to publish your material before you send it to another publication. Sometimes these are called First North American Rights, which includes the U.S. and Canada, or First North American Serial Rights if it is a serial publication.

Once your manuscript is printed by the publication to which you sold First Rights, you may then sell “Reprint Rights,” often called second rights. When you sell Reprint Rights, your duplicate manuscripts can be sent out simultaneously to many different publications. Try to avoid selling to two publications with overlapping audiences, however, such as two periodicals or take-home papers published by the same company or denomination.

When you sell First Rights or Reprint Rights, you still own the rights to that work. After it is printed, the rights revert back to you. Selling reprint rights doesn’t affect your rights in any way. Someday you may want to put that material in a book.

Fair Use

Fair Use is defined as the right to use copyrighted work without permission or without making payment to the owner. Copyright law provides for the fair use of another’s work without infringing on their copyright. How much can you copy from a source and stay within fair use?

The law is designed to be vague. If you are copying a magazine article, you can probably copy a paragraph or two. Also, you can probably copy several paragraphs from a book without infringing on copyright law. Be careful though not to copy the essence of something in the book. Poems and songs can only be copied without paying a high fee if they are in public domain. If a song is currently popular, use only the title. Titles are not copyrightable, but if a book is in print, you cannot title a new one by that name. Capitalize trademarks (Xerox, Kleenex) to avoid problems there or, better yet, use the words “photocopy” or “tissue” instead. For detailed information on copyright law, see my previous blog series on copyright law.

Always give the authors you are quoting credit for their material, even if you are within fair use and aren’t required to obtain their permission to use it. Cite your source within the text of your article or book or in an endnote.


Copyright Law (Part 3)

The copyright registration is effective on the date of the receipt in the Copyright Office. For the material written after January 1, 1978, your copyright lasts for seventy years after your death. For manuscripts you wrote before that date, your copyright is for twenty-eight years plus a renewal for forty-seven more for a total of seventy-five years.

Once a copyright expires, the work goes into public domain. The public may use it at no cost at that point as long as the copyright isn’t picked up and re-registered by your heirs.

Also, public domain only applies to the original work. If material is revised or updated, it may not be in public domain. So be sure to check your sources before quoting information.

If you need information or guidance on legal matters, such as disputes over the ownership of a copyright, suits against possible infringers, the procedure for getting a work published, or the method of obtaining royalty payments, it may be necessary to consult an attorney—although the Copyright Office may be able to answer your questions. See previous blog for telephone numbers.


However if you are publishing a book with a publishing house, whether royalty-based or self-published, they will obtain your copyright information for you. It is important that the material you submit to Washington DC, for any of your writing, is your final copy. This concludes our series on copyright law.


Copyright Law (Part 2)

Most magazines are copyrighted, and their copyright doubly protects your personal copyright. Newspapers are seldom copyrighted, although syndicated columns are protected. Government publications are not copyrighted either. If you write a book, the publisher will register your copyright; but make sure they register it in your name, not the name of the publishing house.

An application for copyright registration contains three essential elements: A completed application form, a nonrefundable filing fee, and a nonreturnable copy or copies of work or works being registered and “deposited” with the Copyright Office. You can register as many of your articles, stories, and poems as you like under the same copyright, as long as all the material is sent to the Copyright Office at the same time.

Here are the options for registering your copyright, beginning with the fastest and most cost-effective method. Option 1 – Online Registration: through the electronic Copyright Office (eCO) is the preferred way to register literary works. The filing fee is $35.  See www.copyright.gov and select register a copyright.

Option 2: You can register using fill-in forms, and the charge is $85.

The hotline number to request forms or information is 202-287-8700.

For copyright claim forms call 202-287-9100 and leave a message.