Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Changing Lanes on the Author's Highway




My writing journey started on a narrow, country lane. I meandered beside the gentle curves of my story line and enjoyed the scenery of my imagination. What would my heroine do next? How would she handle the villain? Once I reached the publisher's village, my book would be hot off the press in no time!


But as I entered the town, traffic became congested on the busy road. A lot of other writers were headed in the same direction. Disconcerting. However, my book was good. Its merits should sell itself.

Wrong. The traffic cop in town directed me to the nearest conference. I was to park there and network with possible agents and editors, and those people expected to see more than my book. They wanted to see my plan for publication. My plan? I thought they had the plans. I had the book.


They sent me, via a massive, eight-lane highway, to several shops where more detailed directions followed. Get your book edited. Join social media. Build an email list.  Blogging, vlogging, and newsletters will get you closer to the golden doors of the publisher. Make a marketing plan.

Every time I progressed from one of my stops to the next, I had to take the entrance ramp back on that highway where other writers whizzed past me at dizzying speeds. Lord, Take me back to that country road where I belong. (John Denver pun intended!)

As much as I may have wanted to quit, God put a passion in me to write, and I believe He wants me to share with more than an audience of One. I’m learning to maneuver the four lanes on my side of the highway. Ginny Yttrup made this analogy clear to me, and I’m sharing it with you.

Lane 1: Learn

Attend conferences. You learn from those further along on the publication road, and you begin to network with all kinds of people in the writing industry.

Take courses. Many are free and allow you to dip your toes in the shallows of a particular discipline. Others cost a bundle, and more should be expected from your teacher.

Join critique groups. Does this sound familiar? Fellow writers can help you see strengths and weaknesses in your own writing, and you can do the same for them.

Read. Read similar books to your preferred genre. Read outside your genre. Analyze other authors’ techniques. Right now, I’m in love with every Charles Martin novel that I’ve read.  I’m trying to figure out what he does that is so magical for me, the reader.


Lane 2: Write


Just do it. Sit your tush down in front of that computer or with pen and paper in hand.

Settle yourself with a prayer.

Face your fear. Writer’s block? God will inspire you with ideas. Not good enough? If God wants you to write, He’ll teach you how to improve. So, write, tear it apart, and put it back together with God’s help.

I seem to fall somewhere in between writer’s block and doubting my ability. I sit down, face that computer, pray, and still feel tense. I pray again--and then here’s my guilty secret—I sip from a sweet drink. It’s my pacifier. The sugar must put dopamine into my system while Jesus is filling my mind with exactly what I should write. Hopefully, I’ll outgrow the habit in much the same way my babies eventually tossed their pacifiers in the garbage.


Lane 3: Market

If you’re planning to sell your book, you need to connect to an audience.

Blogs can be helpful online.

Speaking engagements help you connect in person. Does public speaking terrify you? Me too. But it’s next on my list, now that I’ve figured out which people I would like to connect with, people who might benefit from my life experiences.

Swag. Often considered to be book marks and business cards, what else might you be able to use as free “stuff” as you get closer to publication? What angles are written into the story that you can use? . These are tools that serve your reader. I’ve considered cards that show the finger spelling alphabet for my World Without Sound series. 


Lane 4: Platform

Platform overlaps with marketing. Whereas marketing is a planning lane waiting for the “GO” sign, platform is the express lane where you and your readers and other writers carpool as you implement the plans above. Your street team is happy to help you spread the word about your ready-to-launch book.


So, how can you maneuver this crazy highway?

 How can you slide from lane to lane without crashing?

Currently, this is what’s working for me:

Four days of writing. Blogs, WIP (both write and revise), newsletters, queries, and proposals. While I have deadlines for blogs, I choose other tasks according to need. Until I have an offer, I try to query one agent or editor each week. Thanks to my critique groups, I must make time for the next chapter of my book at some point during the week.

Two days of marketing/platform-building. Practicing memes with Book Brush and PicMonkey, platform course work, small groups that focus on platform, public speaking outlines and rehearsals, social media posts—both mine and connecting with other writers and sharing their posts. This month, I’ll also be creating a one-sheet.

Once I have a book in publication  mode, I’ll probably add an extra day for platform which will take away from my writing days temporarily.

One day of learning.. Other than days dedicated to conferences, one hour on a Sunday to read about writing is a luxury.

Do I get every item done on all of those lists each day?

Of course not! But I have moved forward, and that’s what Ginny Yttrup stresses as we journey on the author’s highway.



Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She has completed a  middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister and is currently working on a women’s fiction series.

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, and grandmother to eight, 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:













Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Reflections on Being Together and On What's Ahead

What a fun and inspiring day 23 of us enjoyed together in Kokomo on June 25th, soaking up writerly vibes from each other and the four talented guest speakers who gave of their time to help sharpen our individual writing skills. The South Branch of the Kokomo Public Library System served our needs so well. And what better place for a group of enthusiastic writers to gather than at a library?

morning "Pitch Party" session with Cara Putnam

As Linda mentioned that day, our chapter is in need of some new/different leadership. The four of us have greatly enjoyed putting together programming and getting to know many of you better over the past several years. But it is time for some of us to move on and others to switch roles, so we are looking for people to step into leadership for this awesome and growing group of (mostly!) Hoosier writers.

Maybe at this point you are just interested in dipping your toes into the stream. You have an interest but are hesitant to jump into the deep end. If that’s the case, please let us know! We promise not to leave you on your own immediately, without a lifeguard. Others of you may be eager to race for the diving boards and make a big splash. Whatever your level of interest, we implore you to ask questions, ponder, pray, and get in contact with one of us—Linda, Jenny, Rebecca, Beth.

It's also time to check in with you about topics for future meetings. As general planning for next year is already underway, we need to hear from you. As you continue to grow in your journey as a writer—

·        What challenges are you facing?

·        What conundrums have you perplexed?

·        What areas pose the biggest headaches for you?

·        What could we do as a chapter that would be a shot in the arm for you as a writer?

Sharing your needs, ideas, and even your greatest discouragements will help next year’s programming be more effective and insightful. So, please, give some thought to what you need and would like to see on next year’s slate of events.

We are in this together, folks. And isn’t that great? No one understand better than a fellow writer the desire to put words to paper, to pen stories and poems and articles. That why it’s so beneficial when we make connections with other writers. Because let’s face it, “regular, normal” people don’t get it. They don’t understand the intense, burning, compelling need to write. But no explanations are necessary when sharing space—via online means or in person—with your writing peeps. Thank God for writing peeps!

We need to hear from you! About a leadership role AND about discussion/presentation topics for next year. Please comment below OR shoot an email to: acfwindianachapter@gmail.com


Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Current Events in Fiction

Story ideas are plentiful. A bit of conversation, an unusual act of kindness, a child’s innocent question—these and a thousand other things may spark stories in our imagination.

Current events also can be fertile ground for stories because we already share these experiences with our readers. We know the frustration and sorrow of a pandemic. We share the pain of war victims. We feel the despair of illegal aliens fleeing violence in their home countries. Any of these events could grow into meaningful stories of faith.

Think about how you might use a current event as the seed of a story. Suppose a family is divided by war. The mother and children make their way to a safe haven while the father stays behind to fight. You could tell about the trials and triumphs of the refugees, the heartache of the father, or the anguish of a young couple separated by the demands of patriotism.

How about a college freshman who contracts Covid 19 just before classes begin? Since she can’t attend class for the first two weeks, ­she loses her scholarship. Now she has the stress of being out of sync with her friends and having to pay several thousand dollars of tuition by herself. What might she learn about God’s provision through such an experience?

Many more ideas emerge from each day’s headlines, but they come with risks. The source of your story idea may disappear before your story can appear, which could make it obsolete. The pain associated with some events could make readers avoid them. Escapist readers want to read about anything but traumatic true happenings.

Yet there are good reasons to write a story based on current events. Your characters can demonstrate how to cope with problems that seem too difficult to handle. Your heroine can discover a meaningful, life-changing relationship with God. Your protagonists can realize that God is always with them, despite unexpected turns their lives may take.

Watch the evening news with a notepad. List the problems that threaten people in the news. How might God enable them to cope with these problems? That could be the start of your next novel.

Joe Allison writes both fiction and nonfiction, and has been a member of the Indiana chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. His most recent book is Hard Times (Warner Press: 2019). He lives in Anderson, IN, with his wife Maribeth.