Saturday, November 2, 2019

"He Entered His Novel"


In a masterful article on Notre Dame Cathedral, Ken Follett shares an account from Victor Hugo’s wife about how that French poet began work on an epic novel about the cathedral in 1830. “He bought himself a bottle of ink and a huge gray knitted shawl, which covered him from head to foot,” Mme. Hugo recalled. Then he “locked away his formal clothes, so that he would not be tempted to go out, and entered his novel as if it were a prison.”

Hugo finished his 180,000-word masterwork four and a half months later. Publishers of the English edition gave it the title we know today: The Huchback of Notre Dame.

I’m struck by her statement that Hugo “entered his novel as if it were a prison.” I believe she saw something more than an obsessive work habit, though he certainly had that. (Let’s see, if he wrote 180,000 words in 20 weeks, that was 9,000 per week or about 1,400 per day. Every day. Seven days a week. Without a computer or even a typewriter. We might call that the “hard labor” typical of prison.)

But I sense something more in her comment. By cutting himself off from social engagements, Hugo immersed himself in the book he was writing. He took up residence in its world and would not leave until its story was fully told. Such single-minded devotion produces great literature. It also produces the best Christian fiction, regardless of its genre or length.

How about it? Have you entered your novel as if it were a prison?

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Go Down Swinging: That’s a “Well-Done”


In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus gave the illustration of three servants who were given money to invest. Two of them earned good returns. With the World Series coming up, you could say the first servant hit a home run and the second had an RBI double.

“Well done,” said their master/manager.

The third servant in the parable was scared to make a wrong move so he made sure he didn’t lose the money. You could say he refused to swing the bat, hoping for a walk, and was called out on strikes. The coach was not happy.

I’ve always wished Jesus had introduced a fourth servant. What about a guy who invests the money and loses it? He swings with all his might but strikes out. Does the master say, “Poorly done, good and faithful servant?”



I’ve been mulling that one over. Maybe Jesus didn’t include the servant who tries and fails because He’ll make sure there is a return of some sort on our investment. Maybe He congratulates us on the fact that we gathered the courage to act. Maybe he’s telling us that if we make the effort to step out in faith and use our talents for Him, our willingness to serve contributes to eternal victories.

God gives us all kinds of abilities, and He wants us to use them for His glory. Those of us in ACFW were born to communicate through story. We may never sell a blockbuster novel, but we pour words into our stories and blogs, striving to honor Jesus.

Some agents and editors will love our work. Some won’t. Our readers let us know what they like and what they don’t.

When readers tell me how I’ve encouraged them, that’s like a “Well done, good and faithful servant.” 
By faith, I invest time and labor in my God-given talent to write. He is the one who makes my writing profitable—for someone. I step up to the plate, swing the bat, and I either…

·         Hit a home run with a blockbuster novel,
·         Or sacrifice fly for an RBI as I review and praise others’ books,
·         Or strike out--swinging--with a flop, according to my critics.

Jesus sees every word I write for Him. I do it for His glory. If the world doesn’t buy it, that’s okay. As long as it’s for His glory it’s “well done.”



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.
A wife, mother of three, grandmother to seven, Linda regales the youngest grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!
Where Linda can be found on the web:





Tuesday, October 8, 2019

A Writing Challenge


I’m not a fan of poetry. Never have been and I feel most certain I never will be. Too often I struggle to understand it, as in I haven’t a clue what it’s about. Anyway, in a moment of either weakness or great wisdom—I’m not sure which—I decided to write notes to my absentee high school Sunday School students in the form of a poem.

Good practice, I asserted. Way to stretch and hopefully strengthen my writing muscles. Mm hmm.

The weekly task proved to be a chore that I didn’t have the time or inclination to endure as my poetry-composing skills required a chunk of time for even a semi-passing result.

So, I shelved the weekly poetry challenge, pulling out the weak poetry-writing skills only for a special occasion here or there. I composed a poem when our pastoral family left, to commemorate our time spent journeying together. I loved the end result, feeling that it really captured the occasion. If I could find it, I’d share it with you, but too many computers have come and gone since I crafted the sentimental verse. I fear it’s gone forever.

Years later I came upon a job opportunity writing web content for businesses. While I had less than zero interest in such a proposition, it sounded perfect for my friend Rhonda. She agreed, applied, and received a job offer which she quickly accepted. While I was happy for Rhonda, I couldn’t help but audibly groan at the type of writing the position called for. I barely silenced the blechs, yucks, and ewws crawling up my throat when she offered me some assignments. I managed a sufficiently polite, “No thank you.”

Jump forward a year. My part-time job had become a bit more part-time than in the past, making money a little tighter than usual. Gritting my teeth just a bit, I asked Rhonda if she by chance needed another writer. Seems the company had just taken on a new client. “You may have them if you want,” she announced.

I’m pretty sure want did not describe my mental or emotional state at the time, still, I accepted. Rhonda passed along a detailed (ahem . . . boring) set of instructions for writing four to five blog posts per month. I sloughed my way through the first couple of months, racking up far too much time staring woefully at the computer screen. But I managed to produce presentable content that the client approved. Soon one client became two. And then without any warning, my shrinking part-time job ceased.

By now I knew I could produce business-related short articles and e-newsletters. It still wasn’t the type of writing I yearned to immerse myself in, but it was writing. And the success I’d achieved produced a satisfying sense of accomplishment. I took on the challenge of more clients, more complex subject matters, and dug into topics I never dreamed of researching let alone writing about. My writing skills expanded and deepened, the “muscles” bulked up, and my confidence grew.

This month marks five years of “business writing” with over 600 hundred completed assignments under my belt. Some days I actually like what I’m writing about. I’ve learned so much through the required research, many things that have proven helpful to my journey as an indie author. I still send up a cheer each month as I send off the last assignment, but I spend far less time dreading the work and almost no time staring at a blank screen.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a poem. But if asked to do so tomorrow, I’d deem the task an adventure and tackle the assignment without one yuck.

Between now and Christmas, I challenge you to write something out of your comfort zone. Something as different from your normal word content as possible. Serious or silly, whimsical, complex, or poetic, choose a genre or format that will challenge your writing skills. An be sure to save it in multiple places, for future reference, as you never know when it will come in handy as either inspiration or a teachable moment.

Beth connects with the YA crowd via substitute teaching and through her “back booth” office at the local fast food joint, and by reading YA fiction.

She's a "cheerleader" for saving sex for marriage and for "renewed waiting" because it's never too late to make wiser choices. She writes and speaks about her experiences as a "foundling" who located her birth parents and is making up for lost time with her biological family. Find her at BethSteury.com and on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

A True Confession


When did you fall in love with good books?

It happened to me in the fifth grade when a teacher put me in charge of the school library. I attended a small rural school whose library operated on the honor system, so everything was a mess: books without library cards and cards without books, shelves with books stacked every which way and books piled on the floor, text blocks without covers and covers without text. My teacher explained the shelving scheme and card system, then gave me an hour a day to set things right.

That assignment immersed me in the world of books for the first time. I read dozens of books during that stint, including the “Hardy Boys” series by Franklin W. Dixon. Those books transported me to times and places quite different from my own, and I relished each new adventure.

In high school, I learned that Franklin W. Dixon was a pen name used by various authors who wrote the “Hardy Boy” books. Likewise, Nancy Drew was a pen name that a variety of authors used to write detective books for adolescent girls. I wanted to do that, too.

I had another pivotal encounter during my high-school years. During my junior year, I felt God calling me to ministry. I supposed that meant I had to abandon my love of writing. I met with my pastor to admit my dilemma.

He smiled and said, "I don't see why you have to choose. I do both." With that, he opened a file drawer and showed me tear sheets from dozens of magazines that had published articles he had written. "When I preach, I'm able to share the truth with a few hundred people," he said. "But when I put that message in a magazine article, I reach thousands--perhaps tens of thousands. So I do both."

That day, I answered God's call to become a Christian writer.

The eagerness to write adventurous stories comes back to me every time I read a good novel, regardless of the genre, so I confess I’m still smitten. And I'm still answering God's call. What about you? When did you fall in love with good books? What won your heart? And how does that affect the writing you do?

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.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Next Up!



ACFW Conference. Nanowrimo. Elections

ACFW Indiana has a lot activity coming up.

While we won’t send out a ballot until early December, our board elections hold top priority on the to-do list. After several years, Michele Harper is stepping down from the treasurer position to devote more time to her writing career and publishing business, L2L2. So…we need a new treasurer. The treasurer collects dues, manages the checking account, and pays any fees related to our meetings. Michele plans to pass on her knowledge to whomever accepts the position and will remain available for questions.

PLEASE email me if you are interested in serving ACFW Indiana in this capacity. The same goes if you are interested in running for president, vice president, or secretary. We take nominations for all board positions when it comes to elections.

With National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) in November, we’re turning our November meeting into several meetings—by region. If you are interested in hosting a meeting in your area, again, email me. I will be sending ideas to host/hostess volunteers on activities you can do with your small group. It doesn’t matter if your meeting contains two members, or five, or ten. If you have ever been part of a Nanowrimo group, things can get zany. Nanowrimers meet for the main purpose of writing, but three hours plus of concentrating on a computer screen or a pad of paper will bring on a headache if you don’t have some entertaining breaks!

This could also be a meeting where we can invite non-member writers, kind of an unofficial meeting. A time to get to know other Christian writers. An encouragement to join ACFW in 2020.
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Finally, the ACFW Conference starts next week in San Antonio. I am so envious of those of you who get to attend. (But I’m aiming for next year in St. Louis!) If, like me, your schedule or finances couldn’t get you to Texas, ACFW has been advertising the at-home conference, which I heartily recommend. No, you won’t be there, but you’ll be able to participate in some online workshops, watch the gala mainstreamed, and join the Facebook group. And you can do all that for free.

Our three official meetings this year were so beneficial: Hallee Bridgeman’s fabulous presentation on newsletters, our panel of agents who critiqued our work, and a panel of authors in all different stages of their writing journeys who shared successes and setbacks with their queries and proposals. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can come up with for next year that will be just as beneficial.



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.
A wife, mother of three, grandmother to seven, Linda regales the youngest grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!

Where Linda can be found on the web: