Archive for the ‘Inspiration for the Writer’s Heart’ Category

I’ve been long obsessed with living the writing life, with being a writer. I’ve read books by writers such as Annie Dillard, Stephen King, William Zinsser and others, and have picked up on some of their ideas. I’ve tried to insulate myself from real life in order to dedicate myself more completely to my private writing world. It’s been a selfish attempt on my part, but it was the only way I knew to attack it.

Over the Christmas season, I had to put my writing aside for a time in order to concentrate on family, food and celebration. I enjoyed it, of course, but it was difficult to re-enter my writing world. I had no ideas, no passion, no enthusiasm. Had I not applied myself enough to my writing world? Had I been too long in the real world, neglecting my writing life?

My daughter, me, my mom

My daughter, me, my mom

In my musings about this conundrum, I realized something: my real life is the one I need to live. My grandchildren, some living only a mile away, are growing quickly, and I want to spend more time with them. I need to keep up with my friends and the rest of my family. My 94-year old mother needs my attention. Even though her assisted living suite is lovely, she is a province away from her children and very lonely. We have a roomy house with only the two of us living in it, so we’ve invited her to move in with us.

What will happen to my writing life? I can’t say for sure, but I’m expecting it will be fine. As I move forward in my real life, investing myself in the lives of others, I find my motivation for writing more focused, my enthusiasm growing, and my ideas flowing. I don’t want to live in two worlds anymore.

One thing I know, I’ll certainly have more experiences to write about, and maybe I’ll learn to use my time more efficiently.


I don’t want to live in two worlds anymore.

I want to invest in the lives of others.

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During the first week of January, I received an email from a dear writer friend. She admitted to having trouble getting back into the groove after taking time off from her writing during the Christmas season. She said, “Sometimes I just want to quit.”



Have you ever felt that way? Yeah. So have I. Considering my experience, you’d think I would offer a verbal pat on the shoulder and encourage her to persevere. Offer to pray for her.

But I didn’t. Not right away. Instead, what popped onto the return email page was, “Go ahead and quit! See how long you last.”

I said this because, like my writing-weary friend, I’ve been there. There are times I just want to go shopping with my daughter without thinking about deadlines and edits, or clean out the closet without thinking about how many blogs are waiting to be written. Or even just read a book or watch a movie without guilt. I haven’t ever completely quit because I’m a finisher by nature, but I have certainly slacked off.

However, if I’m away from my computer for too long, I get itchy fingers. I need to get back to recording my ideas, to reviewing that great book I just read, to sharing some writerly bit of information with those who are kind enough to read my blog.

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by life and not zealous about writing, or underwhelmed by the process of creating fiction, don’t despair. Take a break, be good to yourself, talk to a friend who understands. And then, when your fingers start to itch for the keys or the ideas begin to tumble through your mind as you’re cleaning the closet, run back to your computer and write.

If you need someone to pray you through it, let me know. I pray for my friend daily, and she knows it. There are many of us who understand. We’re in your corner. And so is the dear God who uses our words to do His work.

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One of the absolute most important phases of creating a piece of fiction is editing.

To edit is to change, improve, re-consider, revise, correct, refine. In my experience as a writer, there is no end to editing. When reading to an audience from one of my published books, I will invariably change words or phrases as I read.

First truth of editing:

It’s not that my published material is bad, but there’s always room for improvement.

Second truth of editing:

It hurts. It’s a bit like having someone tell you that although your child is not bad looking, they could use some plastic surgery. Sometimes I have to cut out bits that are special to me but have no effect on the story. Other times I need to change direction, or make dialogue more realistic, or…the possibilities are endless.

As in writing, so in life.

A quote from Nancy Thayer says it well:

“It’s never too late, in fiction or in life, to revise.”

—Nancy Thayer

Just as our stories are always editable, so are our lives.

I don’t know about you, but I constantly run through areas of my life that need tweaking. Not that my life is bad, but there’s always room for improvement. And it often hurts. There are times when I have to apologize for a hasty word, or admit my guilt in judging, or ask the Lord to pick up my wounded heart and set me on the road again.

Thankfully, I am a child of the God who is Redeemer of lost time, Renewer of strength, Restorer of purpose and confidence and passion. Thankfully, He doesn’t give up on me. He will tweak and revise and refine until my dying day…as long as I allow Him access to my soul.

Instead of being good enough, I’d rather be the best I can be, through Christ who strengthens me.

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Theme is a topic, idea or motif that is central to a story. I believe theme is something that evolves organically in our fiction as characters move through their particular conflict and respond to it. As writers, we have to be careful not to manipulate a theme to convey our values. Our heart-theme will emerge if we write honestly.

Why do we write what we write, and how do we incorporate our values into our stories without being conspicuous? I would suggest it takes practice in releasing theme, and allowing the Lord to bring out truths in our stories that will positively influence our readers.

Theme is also an aspect of our lives that develops as we learn and grow and mature. It comes from who we are, what our values are, and how we live them out. Sometimes other people see our life-theme better than we do.

If a theme is organic, that means it stems from our responses to circumstances in our lives.

I’ll be honest. I have trouble maintaining a smoothly-flowing passion for life. When things go well—my relationships are healthy, finances are manageable, plans seem to be following through—then I love life and it spills over into my writing. But when things go less than lovely, which is to be expected in this life, I tend to question my reasons for doing what I do. Thankfully, I know I am forgiven when I fall or fail, and my God is all about redemption and renewal.

So I’m thinking that everything I believe and do must be based on something solid and sure. James 1:17 (NKJV) says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

God does not change, nor can He be manipulated. We can lean on Him, rely on Him, depend on Him because of those invariable truths. If we base our theme on God and consider the good gifts He gives us, we should be able, with His divine help, to live at peace with whatever circumstance we find ourselves in, whether in our writing life or in our personal life.

I pray that the theme of my life, my commitment to Jesus Christ, would be organic, influencing other lives toward Him.

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work-985543_960_720What is the difference between voice and style in fiction? Simply put, voice is who we are, our hearts on paper or screen; style is how we express that identity. My writing will never be the same as yours, even if the topic and genre are similar.

In the spiritual realm, we are called upon to live according to Scripture, to pattern our lives after Christ, to strive for holiness. We are unique in who we are in Christ, and so we will be unique in how we express that individuality.

We are not called upon to be alike as followers of Christ (we are, however, called to be united in spirit). God has created us distinct from one another. He has a plan for each of us. We don’t all have the same calling, the same goal, the same mission.

God asks and expects us to be the best we can be. The only way to do that is to match our style to His, to be unique in Him.

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amplification-1294300_960_720Voice can be a problematic element in fiction writing. What is voice? Is it something we are or something we learn? Can it be honed and perfected? Can it be copied? (For a more in-depth look at Voice, check out my blog from October 15, 2015.)

I believe voice in fiction is who we are. Yes, it can change and grow and mature, but it essentially reflects our inner selves. I think our writing voice develops as we use it, just as a child learns to speak by listening and speaking.

Voice can also be a spiritual puzzle. Can we really hear God’s voice? What does it sound like? How do we know if what we hear is genuine?

I think when we begin a relationship with Jesus Christ, we hear His voice as it calls to us. If we practice listening, we become constantly more in tune with His Words. And if we take the next step—obedience to God’s voice—we become more confident in voice recognition. On the other hand, if we block out or ignore the voice of God, we lose touch with how He sounds, what He asks of us.

As we write, let’s consider not only our author voice, but also, and much more importantly, the voice of God’s Spirit within us.

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question-mark-1019820_960_720It takes a long time to master the art of dialogue in fiction writing. The actual keying in of quotation marks and placement of other punctuation can be daunting and interfere with the flow of conversation. But if we keep practicing, we will eventually get the hang of it. It will become second nature.

It takes a long time to master the art of dialoguing with God. Sometimes I catch myself thinking of the Lord as a genie in the sky, waiting to grant me my requests. Other times I talk at God as if prayer were a monologue. It isn’t meant to be one-sided or difficult. It’s meant as the communication link between Creator and creature. A lifeline, really.prayer-1269776_960_720

Prayer is and will continue to be an enigmatic issue for me. I love the Lord, I praise His name and His greatness, I realize His power, and maybe because of all this, I don’t know how to address Him properly.

But God says, “Talk with me.” He created us for communion, and that is not one-sided.

As we craft our fictional dialogues, let’s remind ourselves to take time to practice our spiritual conversation as well. One great benefit is that with prayer, we don’t have to worry about punctuation placement.

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