Saturday, February 9, 2019

Changing Writing Direction

Here we are well into 2019, with new-year goals either set or still in the making. But some of us make or amend goals whenever they're needed, and that's what's happened for me. 

In the more than seven years I’ve devoted real time to personal (not business) writing, my focus has been on devotional writing. My involvement with ACFW has stemmed primarily from my work as a fiction editor, not a fiction writer.

But recently I've decided to move fiction writing from the back burner where it's been too long. The desire to write fiction has stayed with me. So I'm making a switch, focusing the time I devote to writing solely to fiction, at least for a season.

This is quite a change, and it wasn't an easy decision. What if I was making a mistake? What if in this case desire and calling weren't the same thing and I just didn't get it? What if I was going to let someone down? What if I was being selfish and veering away from what God wanted?

Here are some questions I asked myself—questions you might want to ask if you’re considering changing the focus of your writing (from one genre to another, from nonfiction to fiction or vice versa, from writing less to writing more or from writing more to writing less).

·       Do I think God is leading me to make a change? Why?
·       If for a time I put one calling aside for another one, does that mean I might never return to the first? Is it over? How do I feel about that?
·       Do I know what genre or genres I want to write now? How?
·       What will I have to do to make this transition successfully? Will I need to devote more time to it? Will I have to sacrifice other pursuits or demands? Which ones?
·       Do I have a specific, realistic goal? What is it?

Answering these questions and exploring other thoughts that came as a result of asking them helped me reach a decision.

Do you feel a pull to make a change with your writing? Have you pushed it away, trying not to think about it because you’re too busy, too skittish, too concerned about making a mistake? In the past, I did.

Ask yourself some of these questions—and ones more specific to your situation. And, of course, pray about what's going on in your mind and heart. Someone knows all about your life, all about your desires, all about his plans for you. One way or another, if you let him, he’ll lead you to the right conclusions, goals, and steps to take. I know it.

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Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries (Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with more than thirty years of experience in the book publishing world. She is a regular contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, live in central Indiana. They have three children (plus two who married in) and five grandchildren.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

When to Let Your Child Go

My first book was going to be a work of perfection. I'd spent more than two years researching, writing, and rewriting it. That was the dawn of the personal computer age, so I did much of the work on index cards, handwritten notebooks, and typewritten pages that I cut apart, rearranged, and taped back together. (Can I get a witness?)

I was laboring over the typescript with correction fluid and transparent tape one day when I realized my late wife Judy was standing behind me. She peered over my shoulder and said, “Don’t you think it’s time to let this child go out and play in the street?”

She was right, of course. While it’s important to give readers our best work, if we insist on revising and polishing it to the nth degree, we'll never give it to them. As a panelist on the TV show “Shark Tank” recently said, “Perfection is the enemy of profitability.”

So how long have you been working on your work-in-progress? Check the computer’s date stamp on your earliest version of the manuscript (something I couldn’t do in the day of correction fluid and tape). Make your best guess about how much of the work you've completed. Now take a deep breath and honestly answer this question:

At the rate you’re going, when will you be ready to show your manuscript to an agent or publisher?

The answer may make you wince, but let me ask another: How many other books do you hope to write? Multiply that by the number of years you're taking to finish this one. That means you'll achieve your writing goals by what year? Hmmm.

Admittedly, it's difficult to know when your "child" is ready to go out and play in the street, but here are a few tests that might help you decide:

1. What do your critique partners say? Are they recommending major changes? Then your book probably isn't ready to release. Are they recommending minor tweaks? Then it's probably time to wrap it up. (This test assumes that you have objective, knowledgeable crit partners, of course.)

2. How do agents and editors respond to your pitch? Can they grasp the essence of your story? Are they able to discuss it intelligently with you? This indicates that the idea is well-formed in your mind, so you are likely to have well-focused manuscript.

3. Do you feel the book tells your story effectively? Notice I didn't say "flawlessly" because your editor will help you repair any flaws. But if the manuscript tells your story convincingly and with sufficient detail to convey your message, kiss it and send it into the big, wide world.

By the way, I heeded Judy’s comment. I stopped coddling my “baby” and sent it off to the publisher, who published it. The book is far from perfect, but it’s still in print 35 years later. If I had kept pursuing the elusive dream of perfection, I suspect it would still be that—just a dream.

Joe Allison writes both fiction and nonfiction, and has been a member of the Indiana chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. He lives in Anderson, IN, with his wife Maribeth and daughter Heather.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

"Because you say so"

I’ve been dealing with discouragement in my writing. The novel I’m working on is taking much longer than I intended and all I hear is how hard my genre is to sell. But I’ve also had this Bible passage that has been really encouraging through these months and I want to share it with you.

In Luke chapter five, Jesus borrows a boat from some fishermen who had just come in from a night out working. He takes the boat out into the water a bit and teaches the crowd, then comes back and tells the fishermen to go and put out their nets again.

Okay, these guys had worked all night with nothing to show for it. They’d cleaned their nets and they were ready to go home. I can imagine how tired they must have been, maybe frustrated. The thing that they were supposed to be good at wasn’t going so well.

Have you ever felt that way? It’s how I’ve been feeling for months. But you know what? The story doesn’t end with them laughing it off and heading home to sleep. Simon Peter knew the power of doing what God asks. He admitted he wasn’t sure it would go any better than the night they had, but he’d do it anyway. The Bible says in Luke 5:5, “Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’”

Even under the shared banner of fiction, we write different things, in different genres, with different perspectives. But one thing we have in common is that God has placed a love of words and stories in us. He’s called us to write. And when He says to do something, you can be sure it isn’t for nothing. Good will come out of it, even if it’s hard. Maybe we won’t achieve the world’s definition of success in a literary career, but there’s a reason God has brought each of us to write.

Those fishermen pulled in a catch they couldn’t believe. It wasn’t a normal night’s work and it wasn’t something they could take credit for. God had used their faith and willingness to step out and do what He asked. And I believe He’ll do the same for us. Even if your writing career isn’t going the way you thought it was supposed to, there’s definitely a reason to keep writing. God has something in store for you.

If you’ve been struggling in this area at all, I encourage you to look back at the last few posts here at Hoosier Ink, too. They are so good, with both practical tips and wonderful encouragement.

If you want to share, feel free to post ways you battle discouragement in your writing life!

Abbey Downey never expected her love for writing to turn into a career, but she’s thankful for the chance to write inspirational romance, with two books published under the name Mollie Campbell. A life-long Midwestern girl, Abbey lives in Central Indiana, where her family has roots back to the 1840s. She couldn’t be happier spending her days putting words on paper and hanging out with her husband, two kids, and a rather enthusiastic beagle.

You can check out Abbey’s books at

Monday, January 21, 2019

GET SMART in 2019!

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my jo, For auld lang syne.
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, For auld lang syne.
And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp! And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, For auld lang syne.

Yes, it is that time of year! New Year’s has arrived. Ushered in by the famous Scottish tune written by Robert Burns. His song written in 1788, always warms my heart as I remember friendships, past and present.  

But with the new year comes that dreaded word:  resolution. According to, a resolution is a decision or determination; a firmness of purpose.

Who wouldn’t want to start the new year off with a bang by writing down every firm decision they are determined to keep this year.

But when you look at research only half of the people who write resolutions actually keep them. The average life span of a resolution is two to three months.

What are some of the most popular resolutions going into 2019?
The top resolutions are exercise, lose weight, get organized, save money, spend less money, or spend more time with family and friends. 

Why do resolutions have a short shelf life? Are the dreams of a perfect life too lofty? Too difficult to maintain? Not really something a person wants?

I wonder if resolutions fail because they are too vague, which is why I made a resolution to get SMART in 2019.

SMART goals help you accomplish tasks by making them more manageable.  It chunks long-term goals into smaller ones.
What do I want to accomplish in 2019?
·         Write a book
·         Set up a website
·         Pitch my book at a conference
·         Learn more about the craft of fiction writing

To write a SMART goal use the acronym to help you:
S-specific and simple
M-Measurable so you can track your progress
A-Action-oriented by including necessary steps
R-Realistic; make it attainable with a little bit of a stretch
T-Time-bound-give yourself a deadline.

Sound simple enough? Let’s try it. 

Desired Accomplishment: Write a book.
SMART Goal: I want to complete my manuscript by the end of 2019, by writing one chapter per month of 6,000 words by setting aside two hours every Tuesday or Wednesday to focus on writing.
Now, I am not a full-time writer.  I have a day job and would like to keep it, so I have to think of what is realistic.  Even if it takes a little longer than I would like.  As a planner, I am aware that life happens. Which is why I give myself a choice either a Tuesday or a Wednesday.  That way I can plan according to life plans.

Desired Accomplishment: Learn more about the craft of writing.
SMART Goal: I want to develop my craft of writing by setting aside one hour each Wednesday or Thursday to listen to a podcast or read a book about the craft of writing.
I could include a podcast or book list, so I don’t waste time looking for the perfect one.  Instead of having book lists buried inside of conference notes, I have a quick and easily accessible one right at the bottom of my SMART goal.

Now, writing SMART goals are easy, but don’t forget accountability to make sure you accomplish them. 
Here is a list of ways you can build accountability into your SMART Goals:
·         Post your goals on a bulletin board
·         Bullet journal- track them each month
·         Share your SMART goals with your critique group
·         Block out time on your calendar- either before a month starts or before each week
·         Use boomerang for Gmail to set reminders
·         Use a task management app
·         Find an accountability partner
·         Dedicate time on your calendar to write

Finally, remember SMART goals are not set in stone for life. Review them often. It can be weekly, monthly, or quarterly.  Figure out what works best for you. 

Let’s strive to be in the group of people who achieve their goals in 2019!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Promises Yet to Be Kept

Some days I wonder if God will see me all the way through to publishing a novel. I’m sure He started me on this journey. He’s gifted me with joy in creating the story, joy in writing it down, joy in learning how to make my writing better and revising it as I learn. And yet…no promised reward.

The situation reminds me of a parallel in the lives of my little granddaughters.

The Christmas presents had all been opened. The debris of empty boxes, crumpled wrapping paper, and ribbons had been cleared away. The granddaughters had walked their baby dolls in the stroller, put together some puzzles, played catch with the giant ball, cooked dinner in their miniature kitchen, and scanned groceries into their cash register. Nona (me) was exhausted. The girls showed no signs of slowing down
“Nona, will you read this to us?”

The three-year-old slapped a book into my lap. Her two-year-old sister stood next to her with another selection of reading material.

I stared at a hundred puzzle pieces strewn across the carpet, the other toys scattered in various corners of the room.

“Okay. And after I read the stories, we’re going to clean up the puzzle pieces.”

By the end of both books, they seemed to have forgotten the agreement. “Play ‘Ashes Fall Down?’” the younger girl asked.

“When you clean up the puzzle pieces, we can play ‘Ashes Fall Down,’” I promised.

The girls stared at the daunting task before them. They knew their Nona kept her promises. After all, the promised Christmas presents showed up under the tree at just the right time. But my latest promise was conditional upon a given task, and they didn’t know where to begin.

I gave them a nudge. Picking up the empty bag that was supposed to hold the pieces, I directed them to pick up a few at a time and drop them in. They could do that. After several trips around the room, every puzzle piece arrived at its home in the bag.

Notice the order: 1) the girls made a request. 2) I answered with a promise conditional upon specific behaviors. 3) The girls completed their end of the bargain with a little assistance from me, BUT I did not do their work. 4) I kept my promise.

Doesn’t God do the same with us? We make a request. He answers with a promise, sometimes conditional, sometimes not. We have to follow through. He follows through.

As I make messes in my writing attempts, there are moments when I don’t know what to do to clean it up. I’m juggling so many tasks—writing, queries, proposals, conferences, writing courses, study materials—where do I start?

God gives me a nudge. He shows me the first step in the first task, and I think, “I can do that much.” And I do.

Once the girls accomplished their chore, we played  the promised “Ring Around the Rosy,” that age-old song-game that 21st century preschoolers still love to play. And once I accomplish the chores God has for me in writing, He will come through with His promise, too.

Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.
Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft. She still visits the school and teaches creative writing workshops.

Where Linda can be found on the web: