Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas, everyone! Your hostesses here at Seriously Write wanted to wish you the happiest of Christmas seasons and a blessed year ahead!
We'll be taking a week off to celebrate the holidays. In the meantime, if you're interested in reading great articles on writing craft, interviews, devotionals, or inspirational how-I-broke-into-publishing accounts, please check our archives. 

In the new year, you can expect more fantastic articles from more of your friends and fellow authors on this writing journey. We'll keep the inspiration and encouragement coming beginning again on January 2, 2012.

Have a great holiday week, dear friends. And God bless you!

Friday, December 23, 2011

By God’s Clock— Not Mine by Anne Mateer

The writing journey can be filled with ups and downs—small successes, followed by failures and discouragement. We dig in, we hope, we pray … and we strive to trust that God knows what he’s doing. Be encouraged, dear friends, by author Anne Mateer’s personal journey to publication. ~ Dawn

By God’s Clock— 
Not Mine
by Anne Mateer

Early in my girlhood, I dreamed of becoming an author. Then I fell in love. Got married. Had three babies. 

My babies grew. The last one traipsed off to kindergarten, leaving days free to write. A year later, I finished my first ever novel. The next year the Lord let me to a writers group. Year three took me to a national writers conference. I submitted the beginning of my novel— and got a request for the full manuscript from an agent!

This is it, I thought. But nothing happened.

I went to soccer games and class parties, basketball games and field trips. I wrote another novel. And another. I entered the Genesis contest— and reached the finals. 

This is it, I thought. 

I didn’t place. And though I sent it to a few agents, nothing happened.

I reevaluated my writing, my genre, drove endless rounds of school and music lessons, practices and games. I turned forty, battled with my oldest. I survived her driving a car, the boys reaching their teens. I enjoyed a bit of freedom.

Another novel flew from my fingertips. This one was good. I knew it was good. It reached the Genesis final round. An editor at the conference asked for the full manuscript.

This is it, I thought. It’s my time. But nothing happened. 

Nothing but rejection and tears and wondering if I’d wasted time and energy and money on something I was never meant to do. 

Start again, I heard. And He gave me the strength to obey.  

I wrote in the midst of the excitement and sorrow of my daughter’s senior year. Again, a Genesis entry. Again, a spot in the finals.

This is nothing, I thought. Nothing but a word of encouragement. We celebrated graduation, put my in-laws back on the plane home. And one of the judges requested my manuscript. 

This is exciting, I thought, but still no guarantee. We left our daughter at college. I incorporated revisions suggested by the editor. Resubmitted.

This is a great way to learn, I thought. My own private writing class. But it’s not a promise. Not a contract. 

At least it wasn’t until that editor called as we arrived at my daughter’s dorm room to bring her home for the summer. 

Looking back I see that all the times I thought This is it! would have resulted in disaster. I wasn’t ready— as a writer, as a person. Neither was my family. But I couldn’t see any of that at the time. Instead, the wait was frustrating. Sometimes it seemed pointless and unfair. But now I see purpose in the delay. I see how much I’ve grown in faith, in learning to trust God with the desires of my heart. How that has spilled over into my marriage, my parenting, my friendships. How much richer my life is for the waiting.

I’m so glad God measured the time by his clock instead of mine. 

Armed with a history degree and a vivid imagination, Anne Mateer combines a love of history with a love of story. After years of honing the craft of fiction, she finally realized her dream of publication with Wings of a Dream. Her second work of historical fiction, At Every Turn, will hit bookstores in September of 2012. Anne and her history-loving husband live in Dallas and are the parents of three young adults.

To find out more about Anne and her books, please visit:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

This and That Thursday: Three Lessons from a Carol

Welcome to This and That Thursday.

I thought a Christmas-themed post would be most appropriate, being as its three days till Christmas. Don't you think? The big day is coming fast, but to my kids, three more days seems like forever. We still have to wait, wait, wait ...

That’s what the Advent season is all about--reflecting on the coming King, remembering how long His people waited for the promised Messiah. With that in mind, I’ve been meditating on an Advent carol called, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.” Ah, it’s water to the soul. I love it for many spiritual reasons, but as a writer, I also love its rich images and emotional impact.

Just for fun, I’m going to take a look at a few of the awesome skills the author of this hymn used to make it magnificent. Many of the greatest writing lessons I’ve learned have been from simply studying the masters’ works, so hopefully this will provide useful tools for your journey.

Call it an Advent literary analysis. We'll look at one stanza at a time.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

What strikes me first is the cadence. In both my fiction and non-fiction, it’s easy to blurt out words without rhythm. But sculpting beautiful sound into my writing (or at least a purposeful sound) is like a gift to the readers’ inner voice. A pattern of beat also adds to the story’s depth. This poem rings of an almost eerie awe over the indescribable gift our eternal, almighty, holy God has given by descending to earth. The rhythm adds to that feel, draws us in, so we more clearly see the truth it conveys.

Lesson 1: Cadence enhances our points and makes reading our works delightful.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Repeated irony flows through this stanza.

The king of kings—born of Mary.
Lord of lords—human vesture
Give himself for heavenly food.

This teaches me the power of irony. The Christian life is riddled with the stuff! Love your enemies. The first will be last. Die to live. The culture would never tell you to love your enemies, be last to succeed, or give up your life for another. These truths are otherworldly. That’s why they are so powerful. As Christian authors we have the privilege of communicating these heavenly truths. And they resonate especially because they so contrast the world.

Lesson 2: The many ironies in the Christian faith provide great material for our uniquely Christian offerings.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

Concrete images! My college literature teacher drilled this into my head. Studying poetry, we discovered that the greatest poems don’t flow with theoretical truths, but rather utilize real images (or a single image) to show the truth. The author of this hymn does this with immaculate precision.

The image of the angelic host on its way to earth as Christ the Light is born visually impacts my imagination. Can’t you just see it? The use of precise words also shines. The angels come from heaven—“the realms of endless day.”

And then the powers of hell vanish as the Light clears the darkness away. Clear, compact, concise.

But more than just stirring the imagination, these masterfully etched images bring home the impact of Christ’s incarnation in ways a more straightforward telling could not.

Lesson 3: Concrete images! For greatest impact, use them whenever possible.

At His feet the six wingèd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High

I’ll leave this one for you to analyze. What lessons do you learn from this stanza or the others? Do you read the "greats" in order to enhance your writing skilss? Share your thoughts!

Merry Christmas, my writing friends!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ask O: How Do I Deliver a Tantalizing Opening? Part Two In Medias Res

Happy Wednesday before Christmas, my writing friends!

Today we finish our discussion on those muy importante opening scenes. Last week we covered a few things to avoid. Today we'll look at some examples of how to make your openings enticing.

In Medias Res
I wanted to look smart so I threw in a Latin phrase. What it means is, “in the middle of things.” And that’s a great spot for an opening should start. Whether the opening is quick-paced or slow or whether it focuses on character, setting, or plot, a reader loves jumping into something already zipping along. Examples:

Character: From the book Black by Christian author, Ed Decker.

Carlos Missirian was his name. One of his many names.
Born in Cyprus.
The man who sat at the opposite end of the long dining table, slowly cutting into a thick red steak, was Valborg Svensson. One of his many, many names.
Born in hell.

Feel the suspense? In just a few lines, the author has fashioned language and striking images (the “thick red steak”) to dump us into a room with a dangerous character. How will we get out? What’s Valborg going to do? We must keep reading to find out.

Setting: The delightful opening from Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place.

I jumped out of bed that morning with one question in my mind—sun or fog? Usually it was fog in January in Holland, dank, chill, and gray. But occasionally—on a rare and magic day—a white winter sun broke through.

We know by the title of this chapter that the character anticipates a birthday party. We feel her jumping out of bed. We seek the sky for the weather. We want to go to the party!

Plot: From Unnatural Death by Dorothy Sayers

“But if he thought the woman was being murdered—”
“My dear Charles,” said the young man with the monocle, “it doesn’t do for people, especially doctors, to go about ‘thinking’things. They may get into frightful trouble.”

If there was any doubt we were in a murder mystery, there’s not now.

The main goal of an opening is to drag your potential reader from her own humdrum existence into a world she can't resist. And that's just what plunging her into the middle of a well-crafted world does.

In closing, have fun with your openings. Create your best, most exciting opening possible ... then imagine how it could be even more enticing. And don't forget to avoid back story, flashbacks, and too much description.

Happy Writing and Merry Christmas, my writing friends.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

When in Doubt by Linda Condolora

The dreaded blank page - some days it is our nemesis, some days, a symbol of endless possibilities. Too many times, instead of fueling my creative juices, the blank page has filled me with doubt. I have found myself staring at the page as questions invaded my mind, one after another. What do you have to say that anyone could possibly want to read? Who are you to call yourself a writer? Why not just give up writing – life would be easier. Did God really call you to write? I’m learning to ignore those thoughts and remind myself of the importance of what we do as writers. If you ever find yourself doubting and questioning why you write, let me share with you some facts that help me and hopefully, will help you as well.

First and foremost, words matter to God. For example, He commands the Jews, in Exodus 20:7, not to misuse His name. And in Matthew 12:36-37, Jesus warns that we will have to give an account for the words we speak and be acquitted or condemned by them. Obviously, God cares about the spoken word. But what I find more interesting is how important the written word is to Him. Back to Exodus 20:7. This verse is part of what we call the Ten Commandments and the Jews call the Law. God did not depend only on word of mouth or prophecy to communicate with His people. He also used the written word. Here, He even did the writing Himself. Exodus 31:18 tells us, “he gave him (Moses) the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.” God used the written word to communicate His law to His people, and it was written in His own hand.

Second, God calls some from among His people to write. The entire Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit and penned by men of God, was written down and painstakingly copied – every jot and tittle – so we would have the very words of God in our hands today. God used His people then to write His word, and He is still using people to write down His message for everyone to read. At some point, you became aware of God’s call to write and you answered it. It is a difficult calling and can be lonely, but it is an important task to be undertaken.  Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, devotionals or Bible studies, God has chosen you to get His message out to the people.  

So, the next time you face the blank page and begin doubting the call, remind yourself of how highly God values the spoken and written word. Take some time to recall the moment you realized He had called you to write for Him. Remember, He chose you from among His people for this task, and God doesn’t make mistakes. Then write. Write with the passion of one who is called. Write for Him.
Linda Condolora is a writer of Christian non-fiction, a speaker and a teacher of Ladies’ Bible classes. She has had articles published in ChristianWoman Magazine, has been the keynote speaker at regional retreats and is currently working on her first book. She lives in central NY with her husband and enjoys studying the Word, scrapbooking and spending time with her family, including her new granddaughter.

To find out more about Linda, book her for your event or connect with her, please visit:

Twitter: @LindaCondolora

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Treats Series: Christmas at Barncastle Inn

For our final feature in our Christmas Treats series, Darlene Franklin (one of the authors of the compilation Christmas at Barncastle Inn), is here to share some behind-the-scenes info. Grab a chair next to the Christmas tree, light a cinnamon-scented candle, and enjoy!

How did this project come about?

Lynette Sowell and I roomed together at ACFW conference one year. We’re both native New Englanders (now living in the southwest) and loved the idea of a Vermont setting for a Christmas story. Lots of beautiful Christmas snow in the Green Mountains!

After Lynette and I chose the setting, we decided to make a bed and breakfast the tie-together theme for the collection. Susan Page Davis suggested the “Christmas any time” idea; guests at the Barncastle Inn chose a time period they wish re-created during their stay. (a touch of Fantasy Island).

If this book is a compilation, tell us about that process. Was there a lot of collaboration? Do the stories all overlap? Is it key to read the book from first novella through to the last, etc.? Any advice for writers who are collaborating on a project?

Four authors wrote four separate stories. There is some degree of overlap; the couple from the first book end up running the Inn, and Matt (as carpenter) and Alec (as vet) appear in some of the other stories. We also worked on the layout of the main building, and the building converted for use in staging plays.

Collaborating? Work with people whose writing you trust. Recognize that you will need to be available to answer questions (anything from what color are their eyes to how far it is to town or what is the name of the diner).

What is the theme of your novella? How did you tie Christmas into the story? How did you go about choosing a theme for this story?

The theme for my story is that God can make something beautiful, even out of our mistakes. Waverly had a child out of wedlock—an experience she shares with the Virgin Mary. And Alec, like Joseph, wonders if he can be a father to her child.

When we were discussing what historical periods we wanted to cover, the idea of an unmarried mother occurred to me as soon as I decided to write about the first Christmas. The other settings are medieval, World War II, and pirates!

What is your best advice for writers working on a seasonal novel or novella? Did you set a mood as you wrote in order to get into the Christmas spirit? Did you write it at Christmastime in past years, or during the hot summer months? ;)

Becky Germany contracts Christmas novellas in the early fall, and the manuscripts are due in February; so we get to write them over Christmas! I am currently working on my novella for next year’s anthology (Merry Christmas, With Love in Postmark: Christmas). It’s a great strategy!

Before I wrote my first Christmas story, I wondered how you could come up with different stories year after year. Now I have written five, and hope to write more! As with so much in writing, start with an idea that excites you. Two of my novellas have been based on the biblical Christmas story. Another focused on a Christmas blizzard and yet another on a town named Christmas. Now I’m working on another great idea for next year. You’ll have to pardon me for not sharing it . . .

What are you hoping readers take away from your story? How will your story minister to readers? How can writers help their readers glean the takeaway?

God can and will redeem the places in our lives where we stray from His will.

The takeaway should be an integral part of the story, not something added on. Frequently in writing I think of a biblical passage that reflects on what is happening in the story. I have my characters wrestle with the truth. In First Christmas, Alec and Waverly reflect on the ways their lives reflect the experiences of Joseph and Mary as they portray the well known Christmas story.

Thank you for visiting Seriously Write in December! We wish you all His best this Christmas season and always.

Thanks so much!


You can experience Christmas during the time period of your choice—if you rent the entire Barncastle Inn of Vermont for the whole week of Christmas. When they first decided to do this, Jayne Barncastle is determined to prove to her parents it will work. Will she overlook her own chance for romance in the process? Will a World War II era “White Christmas” re-create a scene of forgiveness for an embittered couple? Can a pirate’s lair be the place of fun-filled reunion for old lovers? When coworkers assist in recreating the first Christmas for the inn, will they discover romance?


Award-winning author and speaker Darlene Franklin lives in cowboy country—Oklahoma—near her son’s family. She recently signed the contract for her twentieth novel. She is also a prolific devotional author with over 200 devotions in print. Visit Darlene’s blog at

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Winding Way of Writing by Lisa Lickel

One of the wonderful things about writing in the Christian market is that authors are generous in sharing their knowledge and experience with other writers aspiring to be published. Today, author Lisa Lickel gives some helpful tips. If you look at her number 10 suggestion, you’ll see that she follows her own advice. Enjoy! ~ Dawn

The Winding Way of Writing
by Lisa Lickel

I am an historian. Really. I did my university studies in anthropology, geography, and world history. The closest I got to English was the history of the English language. Which I ended up quitting. When I moved into a historic home, helped start a local historical society and worked on press releases, articles and editing books, one of the members kindly told me, “You should be a writer.”
That comment stuck with me. I was gainfully employed at the time and took the Christian Writers Guild course and started selling my articles before I finished the two-year apprentice program. With the afore-mentioned nudge of encouragement, I began writing novels and a lot of other things in-between. The course was an excellent tool to show me what was important about writing and being professional at it. I learned a lot more about the ups and downs of writing partners, agents, contracts, public persona, and publishing connections when I joined larger writing communities, like American Christian Fiction Writers at the advice of a friend, and Wisconsin Writers Association. I diversified by learning to edit for others and picking up a couple of magazine gigs. I learned also that networking in person at conferences and making yourself available to speak and teach helps build name-recognition and a fan base, because, unlike Field of Dreams, the “if you write it, they will buy it” philosophy doesn’t work. Authors and publishers have to work hard to be heard in the great cacophony of the public market.

While writing may be a lonely business, it is a business. The bottom line is that being Published should not be a writer’s goal; being Read is your true goal. Whether hobby, career, or ministry, authors need readers, and friendship evangelism, or building relationships, is the key to making sure your gifts reach those who need them.  

Some lessons in a nutshell:

1. Professionalism starts at the very beginning. Patience is a virtue. Take neither rejection nor flattery personally.

2. Find mentors and critique partners who can work together consistently and competently.

3. If you can’t write every day, learn something new every day. Enjoy.

4. Networking is as important as coming up with a good story.

5. Support other authors in many ways, such as through reviews, interviews, press releases, attending signings.

6. Go where the readers are. You’re a reader too!

7. Learn and practice social networking.

8. Stand on a solid promotion platform and be adaptable.

9. Moderation in all things: scheduling your time, adverbs, clichés, promotion, word count, submissions, saying “yes” and saying “no.”

10. Give something back.

Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and sixty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she writes inspiring fiction. Her novels include mystery and romance, all with a twist of grace. She has penned dozens of feature newspaper stories, short stories, magazine articles and radio theater. She is the editor in chief of Creative Wisconsin Magazine and of OtherSheep, a Christian spec fiction/nonfiction magazine. She loves to encourage new authors. Find her at

Now available: Meander Scar, A Summer in Oakville (with Shellie Neumeier), Lavender Dreams 

Coming in April 2012, The Map Quilt

To find out more about Lisa and her books, please visit:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Five Ways to Make It Happen by Lisa Harris

It’s hard to believe that 2012 is right around the corner. I always look forward to the New Year, as it’s a fresh start with new dreams, ideas, and goals. One thing that I’ve been thinking about lately is what I want to accomplish in the coming year and how I can get there. What are my dreams in ministry, mothering, and writing?

Here are my five ways to make it happen. They might sound elementary, but for me it’s been a good reminder of how I can keep myself on track in following these dreams.

Start today, not tomorrow: I’ll let you in on a secret. You don’t have to wait until New Years Day to start working on your goal. Okay, I know you know that, but if you’re like me, it’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll try again next January 1st. After months of too much Mexican food and all the other yummy things I love to eat while in the US on furlough last year, we returned to Africa, but weeks went by, and I kept putting off getting back into my normal exercise routine. Trust me, I had a lot of excuses and I was busy, but one day I decided it was time to stop making those excuses and lose those extra unwanted pounds. And to stop putting it off. It would have been easy to just wait until January, but now, I’m so glad I didn’t keep waiting until tomorrow.

Take a leap of faith: Last year, Scott told me he wanted me to start a non-profit that would help fund many of the projects needed to help people’s physical needs. To be honest, I didn’t see myself running a non-profit. At all. But the need was great, and despite the fact that I felt ignorant on the subject I knew I needed to at least try. In looking back over the past first year, I’ve been amazed at how God has been so faithful, because it certainly wasn’t my brilliant marketing skills. To date, over $10,000 has been raised to build houses for the homeless, pay for medical care, fund micro-loans, distribute vitamins, pay for school supplies for those in need and much more. So even if something is outside your comfort zone or normal box, don't let that stop you. Take a leap of faith and watch God work!

Set small, daily goals: This is something I’ve learned to be essential in my writing. An entire 85,000-word novel is daunting…unless you tackle in small pieces. Set a goal for a week, a goal for each day. Give yourself some wiggle room, and then go for it…One day at a time.

If you get off track, don’t beat yourself up: Let’s be honest, how many of us start full speed on our goals in January, but by March we’re completely off track. So what do we do? We quit. (I know, I’ve been there!) But think about it, it doesn’t matter if it’s April or October, reset your goals, start moving toward them, and you’ll see progress. That progress is a huge motivation!

Find an accountability partner: It always helps to have someone cheering for you, and it’s even better if they are reaching toward the same goal. Blog about your journey, join a group or a ministry to get you started, find a prayer partner, tell a friend and in turn you will see your motivation grow.

The bottom line is that it’s never too late to follow that dream. I don’t care if you’re eighteen or eighty, God can use our talents, gifts and dreams. Just be willing to step out on faith and trust Him. 

"If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ."  I Peter 4:11

So what about you? What’s your dream? How can you start making it a reality today? I love to hear your thoughts as well as ways that have helped you make it happen!

Be blessed,


Lisa Harris is a wife, mom, teacher, author, dreamer, photographer, but most importantly a follower of Christ Jesus.

She currently live with her husband, Scott, and two of their children near the Indian Ocean in Mozambique as church-planting missionaries, while their oldest is loving his first year at a missionary boarding school.