Writing the Short Story (Part 2)

Now write a synopsis of your story (whether it is true or fictional). Eventually this will form the body of your story. On the first draft, let it flow down on paper. Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, or phraseology. Just get your story down. If you think of small details as you go, include them. But don’t worry about your construction in this first rough draft. Leave yourself free from constraints so your creative juices can flow. After it is written, lay it aside and let it cool.

Now go on to work on another project. Have a file folder or a folder on your computer labeled with the name of each project you are working on. Keeping organized records is imperative. Every time you find something pertaining to that idea, place it in the file. You may prefer to keep your files and research material electronically on your computer, but I would always suggest you have a hard copy backup.

God inspires us to write; I’m convinced of that. But God doesn’t tell us the words will flow down on paper and settle in concrete. He is not going to do our work for us—He will only guide us along the way. Writing the first draft is the creative part. For me, this is the easiest part. The hard part is rewriting, and rewriting, and rewriting.

Remember that I told you to write a theme sentence and to make an outline before you began the actual writing. Then get as much down on paper as you can without worrying about the structure. Now let’s go back and put in the actual structure in the next blog.

 

Writing the Short Story (Part 1)

Currently, one of the fastest growing markets in all of Christian writing is fiction. However, if you are a beginning writer, I do not suggest you start with a novel. Instead, write a short story for a church school take-home paper or an online website. See The Christian Writers Market Guide for a list of markets.

The tips I give will work for fictional techniques in nonfiction pieces, such as personal experience stories, as well as for short anecdotal stories written within nonfiction articles and books.

An excellent definition of fiction is given by author Lee Roddy. “Creating characters in conflict culminating in crisis and change with commentary.”  The four key words are character, conflict, crisis, and change, called the “4 C’s of Fiction.”

A story is comprised of three elements: theme, plot, and character. Normally you can think of theme as the foundation on which the story sits. Your focus sentence will be based on the theme or main point you are trying to achieve. The story is either character-driven or plot-driven, depending on whether the main character is the most important element or whether the storyline is more important. These three qualities are always integral parts of your story, regardless of your emphasis. Think of them as forming a triangle with the theme as the base.

As in other writing, whether books, articles, or stories, form a focus sentence before you begin. This is the glue that holds the entire story together. The structure will be different for fiction than for nonfiction. Also, write a rough outline or a short running synopsis of the story. This may change as the story unfolds, but you need to have a plan in mind even though this may end differently.

Time Management Tips (Part 4)

Last week you were given Tips 7-9 for Time Management. Here are Tips 10-12 to help you manage your time, so you will be able to find more time for your writing.

  1. Keep Accurate Financial Records

Keep a ledger of expenses and income for your writing. Excel is an excellent computer program for keeping financial records. If you are making a serious attempt to run a business, you can write off the expenses on your tax return. Get receipts for your postage, office supplies, telephone calls, and dinners with editors. Also, if you drive to an interview or other job-related function, mileage can be deducted.

Keep track of your submissions—what is out in circulation, where you sent it, and when you e-mailed it.

  1. Avoid Procrastination

Have you heard people say, “I’ve always wanted to be an author. I’m going to write when the children grow up, when I retire, when my husband retires, etc. Someday, when I have the time, I’m going to…” If you are going to become a writer, you need to start right now.

  1. Touch the Lives of Others

Writing is 99 percent perspiration and one percent inspiration. It takes a little talent, a strong desire, and a lot of hard work. If you manage your time properly, you will find time to write. Remember what I said at the beginning: God gives us enough hours to do all that He wants us to do. We have 86,400 seconds every day. Let’s use this time to glorify God in all we do.

This concludes the series on Time Management Tips for Writers.

Time Management Tips (Part 3)

Here are tips 7-9 to help you manage your time, so you will be able to find more time for your writing.

  1. Find a Quiet Place to Concentrate

When you write to glorify God, He deserves all of your attention. You can’t concentrate if the TV is blaring, the phone is ringing, or children are screaming. You need to find a place that is free from interruptions.

  1. Keep Your Body as Well as Your Mind in Shape

If you eat properly, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly, your mind will be sharper and more creative. Also, go out and participate in activities. In order to pull information out of your mind, there has to be a storehouse from which to withdraw it. Have you ever experienced a time when you were pulling more out than you were putting in? Didn’t you feel drained? Read. Read for pleasure as well as things related to what you are writing. You should spend as many hours reading as you do writing.

  1. Organize Your Work

Keep your home-office looking professional. Organize each writing project in a file folder as well as on your computer and on and electronic backup. Label each folder as you obtain ideas for articles or books. What may start out as an article file on “Dealing with Stress” may turn into a book five years down the road. Place everything you find regarding that subject in your file folder and/or computer file.

Tips 10-12 will be given in next week’s blog.

Time Management Tips (Part 2)

Last week you were given Tips 1-3 for Time Management. Here are tips 4-6 to help you manage your time, so you will be able to find more time for your writing.

  1. Set Writing Goals

What do you want to accomplish in your writing? Dream big, and then break those ambitions into small goals that are specific and achievable. I do not recommend that beginners start with books. Writing a book is like eating an elephant, and you don’t want to end up with indigestion. Begin with articles or church school take-home papers.

Writing goals should include three things:

  1. They must be specific.
  2. They need to be measurable.
  3. They must have a time factor.

Perhaps a realistic goal for you would be an article a month. In a year, you would have 12 articles or stories.

Now for those of you who want to write books, at first the thought may seem overwhelming. Lee Roddy is a well-known fiction author and speaker who challenges you to write a page a day. If you do this, in a year you’ll have 365 pages, which is about two trade-size books. Of course, that doesn’t include the time needed for editing.

  1. Remain Flexible

What are your writing goals for the next five years? Remain flexible. Yet, stretch yourself so you will grow and learn. Step out in faith and allow God to work through you to accomplish goals that will glorify Him.

Sometimes circumstances change, and your goals must change also. Be willing to change. Unforeseen circumstances can creep into your life.

  1. Set Aside a Regular Time to Write Each Day

Pick a time when you are most creative and efficient. Writing takes a tremendous amount of energy. If you have small children, that might be nap time. If you have school-age children, write while they are gone. You’ll accomplish much more if the house is quiet. If you work, it will need to be in the evenings or early mornings. If you are a night owl, write when everyone else has gone to bed.

Tips 7-9 will be given in next week’s blog.

Time Management Tips (Part 1)

“To love life is to love time. Time is the stuff life is made of.” –Benjamin Franklin

What would you do if every morning a teller from your bank phoned and told you that your account had been credited with 86,400 pennies ($864)? But the bank had placed the stipulation on it that you had to spend it that day? No balance could be carried over to the next day. Think of the fantastic things you could do with such a gift!

God credits each of us with 86,400 seconds each day, but no balances are carried into the next day. Each night erases what we fail to use and what we use unwisely. No previous day’s time can be reclaimed.

  1. Pray Before You Begin

It’s easy to plunge into something without taking time to talk to God about it, but starting any project with prayer makes your time more productive. Before you begin to write, ask God for wisdom and guidance. If it is His desire that you become an author, He will help you find the necessary time it requires.

  1. Make a Time Commitment

In order to write, you need to plan ahead and set the necessary time aside for it. Perhaps you will decide to write an hour every day, or perhaps you will start with only fifteen minutes if you are a beginning writer. If you can’t write every day, try to select a certain day of the week and clear your calendar as best you can on that day.

  1. Use Your Time Wisely

If you want to be a serious writer, you must treat your hobby like a business. Don’t wait until the house is spotless and all the chores are done to start your daily writing. You’ll never begin!

You are doing some things now that fill the time you intend to use for writing. What can you eliminate? Now I’m not suggesting you neglect your family. It is important to invest time in those you love and in friendships. People are more important than things. If a friend calls with a problem, don’t tell her she’s interrupting your writing time. Say “no,” however, to anyone who starts a conversation with, “Since you’re a writer and don’t have to go to the office, I’m sure you’ll have time to bake a cake for the PTA, stuff envelopes, or head the new church committee.”

Tips 4-6 will be given in next week’s blog.

Writing for Children (Part 9)

Picture books have a definite format, and you must know this format to write them. The concept of doing a picture book can be difficult to form a mental image in your head. Think of the entire book starting out as an enormous sheet of paper, cut up in multiples of 8. Board books are 16 pages, 14 pages of text. Picture books are 24 (20 pages of text) or 32 pages (26-28 pages of text). Over half of all picture books are 32-page format.

Text and pictures are laid out in spreads. A spread is two pages that spread across the book when it is open. Sometimes there is text on one side of the spread and a picture on the other. Sometimes there is text and pictures on both sides. And occasionally the text goes across the top of two pages. If page 1 is the copyright page and page 2 is the title page, then page 3 is where the text begins. Pages 4 and 5 would then make up the first full spread. Spreads have equal pieces of writing on them. If you have 26 pages of text, you will have 13 or 14 spreads.

You can order my pamphlet on “How to Write a Picture Book” electronically on my website at www.christiancommunicator.com/critique-rates/how-to-pamphlets/.

Writing for Children (Part 8)

Now, let’s go through each age group and talk about the writing opportunities in children’s books.

Picture Books

The main market for preschoolers is picture books. These are usually 500-2,000 words. Most picture books that you will write for young children will be told in story form. They usually have beautiful, color illustrations that play a significant role in telling the story.

First you need a hook. Young children have short attention spans. You need a lead that will grab your reader’s interest immediately. Always have a theme sentence. Form this before you begin writing. Sometimes you won’t state the theme sentence as such in the body of your book, but it should be in your mind at all times. Don’t put anything in your book that doesn’t enhance your theme or is unnecessary. Every word must count. Write tightly.

The purpose of these books is for the parent to read them to the child, so keep in mind that you are selling to the parent. You have two to three seconds to hook that mom or dad. In the first paragraph, readers need to meet the main character who is doing something interesting. Every page must contain action. Each page usually contains an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. But occasionally you might have one word of text on a page for emphasis.

Then you will have either a list of topics to be covered, or a hint of what the book will contain. This is all general information. Then you need a transition. From here you move to the specifics of the points to be covered in the body of your book. Then back to the general with a summary and a strong ending. Be careful not to end the book abruptly. The child needs a concrete solution to the problem with a dynamic take-away message hidden inside.  Now write a catchy title.

 

Writing for Children (Part 7)

If you are beginning a writing career, I would not recommend starting with books. I started my writing career 40+ years ago by writing church school take-home papers. This is a wide open market. Most publishing houses use about 60% freelance material in their take-home papers. Many denominational as well as nondenominational houses publish take-home papers for every age. These come out weekly—fifty-two times a year. There are many opportunities here to get published and to continue to sell your material as reprint rights over and over once it has been published the first time.

There are many things you can sell to the take-home paper market. Children’s fiction, particularly for 4th-6th and junior high is very popular. These are normally about 1,000 words in length. How-to articles, nature and domestic animal stories, and paraphrased Bible stories are included here. These are shorter, about 500-800 words. Check the Christian Writer’s Market Guide for the correct length for the particular publication you have in mind. Also, crafts, puzzles, and activities find a market here. Many adult periodicals print children’s stories as well as children’s magazines. Most children’s materials will not require a query letter because the manuscripts are so short, but check your Writer’s Market. Some magazines will require a query, but rarely will a take-home paper. Also consider writing for the online publications for children.

Once you become successful at selling to these markets, you might consider moving into curriculum. Curriculum is usually done on assignment by publishers, but they often use freelancers to do the writing. Check your denomination and see if they publish curriculum. Normally you would be assigned a quarter’s worth of material.  It would be helpful to teach at the age level you are writing for and try out your material before submitting it for publication.

 

Writing for Children (Part 6)

For all your marketing ideas, I recommend the Christian Writer’s Market Guide. This can be purchased on www.Amazon.com/. This book lists over 1,200 Christian markets. Study the markets for children and then go on the various websites of the publishing houses to see their latest books and their guidelines.

Also, another way to learn what is selling in the children’s market is to go to your local Christian store and look at the books. Ask the owner or manager what books sell the best. This will help you to become familiar with your market. Also, you can obtain copies of children’s magazines and church school take-home papers by sending an e-mail, asking for their writers guidelines and a sample copy. For take-home papers ask for their theme list. However you should check their websites first to see how much of this information is listed there.