Archive for the ‘Writing Fiction’ Category

Marlene BagnullColorado Christian Writers Conference updates . . . 

Neither rain nor snow, sleet nor ice . . . Well it goes something like this! While yesterday’s ice storm prevented us from picking up the brochures from the printer today as we had planned, I’m praising God for how preparations for the May 14-17 Colorado Christian Writers Conference are progressing.

If we have your USPS address, you should receive your brochure in a little over a week. Meanwhile, you can view it on the conference website.

Yesterday I uploaded photos, bios, and the editorial needs of our 18 Book Editors and representatives. Tomorrow, Lord willing, I’ll upload the page for the 11 Periodical Editors. Then I need to tackle the pages for the 18 Agents & Other Professionals and the 21 Authors. Whew! What a huge but joy-filled task. Thank You, Father, for the great faculty You have provided.

Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference Update

I’m still focused on updating the website for the May 14-17 Colorado Christian Writers Conference but soon, very soon I trust, I’ll be able to turn my attention to the Philly conference. I can tell you that so far we have 4 agents, 12 book editors or representatives, and 22 other professionals on faculty.

I think I already announced that Cec Murphey will be keynoting and teaching a continuing session on The Power of Story. “Stories,” Cec says, “are truth in human skin. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction stories and illustrations you need to impact your readers. You can learn to write original  stories, sustain suspense, intrigue readers, and provide satisfying endings.”

News you can use . . .

Grammar test – Take this quiz to see how sharp your grammar skills really are. Are you making common grammar mistakes?

Tips for tags – dialogue that is – A helpful article by James Scott Bell, an excellent author and teacher who has served on our faculty.

Are the words you speak and write pushing millenials away? – If you’ve not seen this onFaith November 7, 2013 article by Addie Zierman, and even if you have, it’s important to read and to read again. Father, please help us think before we speak and write – better still, to pray!

Joel Rosenberg’s Blog – In his January 29 blog, Joel writes about the importance of prayer and asks important questions. “Are we praying for our leaders at this time of crisis? Or are we sniping at them?”

Amen. Father help us to faithfully and prayerfully serve You.

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Mike dellosso

Guest Blog
Mike Dellosso

In 1959 Vince Lombardi took over the head coach position of the less-than-stellar Green Bay Packers. During one practice, Lombardi got so frustrated with the lackluster effort of the team he had them gather around him and he picked up a football. He said, “Let’s start at the beginning. This is a football.”

We all need to learn the fundamentals. Then we can branch out and try new things, break new ground, spread our wings and soar.

My passion is to teach writers the fundamentals of fiction writing and publishing. And then to teach them how to break the bounds of those fundamentals and create something unique and captivating. Something that will change lives and get people talking.

Please join me for the Not Yet Published Novelist Clinic at the July 31 – August 3 Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. I’ve published seven novels and one novella myself; I’ve taught numerous workshops and seminars in a variety of settings. I’ve coached writers to be the best they can be. I’d love to work with you on your novel and get it ready for publication, make it something editors and agents will want, even fight over. In the six hours we will work together you’ll learn new techniques you can use immediately to improve your writing, to bring it alive and make it jump off the page. We’ll have a blast.

If you’ve completed a manuscript or are currently working on a project or started one but can’t seem to get it going in the right direction this clinic is for you. But you’ll need to submit your application online no later than July 10 for the opportunity to be chosen as one of the six participants in this clinic. For more info and the application click here.

What others have said about Mike’s teaching:

I took a seminar class from Mike and was impressed with the level of both availability and expertise. Mike got down to the nuts and bolts challenging us to look beyond the norm to the “possible.” I felt stimulated to write more creatively, and outside my own box, seeing that the “possible” might just be deeper inside myself.  One of the big take-aways from his class was what impact our words have on our readers–how we can touch those deeper spots within each person–ultimately for the good. I recommend taking a class from Mike. I’m looking forward to gleaning more from this inspiring and inspired teacher. –Donnalynn D.

I loved Mike’s class. I learned so much from the workshop. I’m applying what he taught me in my critique group. One of things he taught was get into each character’s head.  I highly recommend his workshop!! –Deborah C.

Thanks, Mike, and congratulations on your latest contract with Tyndale.

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Yes, it’s been far too long since I blogged! I’ve been focused on mopping up the Colorado Christian Writers Conference (click here for a CD order form) and my garden and my house that are sorely neglected during conference season.

It’s time (okay, I admit past-time) to focus on the July 31 – August 3 Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference (GPCWC). Some “News You Can Use” whether or not you’re able to come to the conference (although I hope you’ll prayerfully consider coming):

Looking for an agent? – This year’s GPCWC has five agents on faculty! Two are new agents with established firms: Sally Apokedak with the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency and Ruth Samsel with William K. Jensen Literary. Now is a good time to check out the genres they are interested in representing before their stable of clients is filled. You’ll find info at http://philadelphia.writehisanswer.com/AgentsOthers.

Appointments – Of course, the very best way to land an agent is through meeting with them at a conference, and GPCWC offers more opportunities than most conferences for one-on-one appointments. And good news! Because we have such a large faculty this year, not just the first 75 conferees to register but the first 150 conferees will receive an additional appointment. Also, since I know it’s not possible for everyone to come to the entire conference, all who are among the first 150 to register will receive an additional appointment. That means:

One day conferees – Two appointments

Two day conferees – Three appointments

Three day conferees – In addition to the bonus appointment
for coming all three days (Thursday through Saturday),
will receive an additional appointment for a total of
FIVE 15-minute one-on-one appointments.

Keep in mind that the earlier you register, the better opportunity you have of getting your top picks. Bios and editorial needs for our 16 book editors and 13 periodical editors will be posted in the next few days. I’ll announce on the Facebook conference page when they are online.

CFOM June 2013

Encouragement and help for novelists – Check out the June issue of Bonnie Calhoun’s Christian Fiction Online Magazine. There is no charge to subscribe to this excellent resource that each month features 35+ columns by the best and brightest authors, publishers, and agents in Christian fiction. 

Bonnie’s “Publisher’s Choice” this month is yours truly with an article that highlights the opportunities for novelists at this year’s conference. From Dr. Ted Baehr’s “Breakthrough Scriptwriting” and Tim Shoemaker’s “Take Your Fiction to the Gym” continuing sessions, two clinics, and numerous workshops this year’s GPCWC offers more than ever for both beginning and advanced novelists.

Scholarships – GPCWC is offering two 50% off scholarships to readers of Christian Fiction Online Magazine. But scholarships are not limited to CFOM readers. If you need scholarship help, you’ll find the application at http://philadelphia.writehisanswer.com/Scholarships.

Teens Write – You’ve heard the question: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! This year’s Teens Write answers a similar question: How do you write a novel/article, devotion, screenplay? One Word at a Time! Pam Halter has done a fantastic job putting together an exciting program taught by nine authors and editors for teens ages 12-18. For more info on the Thursday, August 1, all-day Teens Write click here Please ask Father if there is a teen He wants you to encourage to come and to mentor.

Let Freedom Ring” in our Churches– Important thoughts from Mike Huckabee in a five-minute video. I’ve chosen never to seek tax exempt status because I don’t want to be muzzled from speaking or writing His answer. And although I pack both the Greater Philly and Colorado Christian Writers Conferences with an outstanding faculty and tons of learning and networking opportunities, I will continue to offer special sessions that are not about the craft of writing or of selling/marketing/promoting our work but that instead focus on the critical issues of our day. If you’re coming to the GPCWC, please prayerfully consider tithing your conference time by attending one of the following two-hour Thursday specials or order the CD.

Prepare for Persecution with C. Hope Flinchbaugh
A Culture in Peril with Rick Marschall
Compassion, Justice, Advocacy with Steven Lawson

Father, I feel such a sense of urgency to “write Your answer” NOW, while the doors to print and distribute Christian literature and take full advantage of the Internet are still open. Help us not to hide our light under a bushel but to effectively and faithfully write what You’re calling us to write whether fiction or nonfiction, stories or articles, poetry or screenplays. Use each one of us, Father, to make a difference in the lives of our readers.

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.
God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this,
as public as a city on a hill.
If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you
under a bucket, do you?
I’m putting you on a light stand.
Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine!

Matthew 5:14-15 MSG


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1.       To learn the craft of writing. Okay, maybe you’ve been writing for many years, but there is always more to learn. Master craftsmen will teach workshops and continuing sessions that, as one conferee said, are the equivalent of a semester college course in writing.  You’ll learn from authors like Bill Myers whose books and videos have sold over 8 million copies or Gayle Roper, an award-winning author of 45 books. And they are just two of the 55 authors, editors, agents, and publicists serving on this year’s faculty.

 2.       To learn the craft of marketing your work to potential publishers. If you’ve gotten more than your share of rejection slips or have yet to get your first rejection (I’m sorry, it goes with the territory of being a writer), CCWC’s track of six hour-long publishing workshops will provide practical help. In addition, Cindy Lambert is teaching a two-hour Wednesday early bird workshop on “Crafting a Winning Nonfiction Book Proposal.”  You also can choose Tim Shoemaker’s continuing session, “How to Get Published!” or Kim Bangs’ continuing session, “Nonfiction Books.”

3.       Face-to-face opportunities to pitch your work to editors and agentsAt CCWC you get FOUR 15-minute one-on-one appointments with the faculty of your choice. Because we have such a large faculty, there’s still a good possibility that you’ll get your top choices. On Thursday afternoon you’ll have the opportunity to sign up for additional appointments with faculty who still have openings. In today’s publishing world, the only way to connect with many agents and editors is through meeting them at a conference. Check out our helpful spreadsheets of their editorial needs. Our authors are also available for appointments. They can point out the strengths and weaknesses in your writing, answer questions, and provide helpful guidance.

4.       To learn the craft of marketing/promoting your published work. And yes, it’s a craft, and not one that comes naturally to most writers.  I’ve often said that the reason I quit Girl Scouts is because of the stress of trying to sell cookies.  Whether or not you like marketing, the fact is that you hold the key to the sales of your book.  But the good news is that it’s a craft that can be learned. Thomas Umstaddt’s continuing session, “Obscure No More,” will teach you how to build a powerful online platform. We’ve also got a track of six hour-long marketing workshops.

5.       Friendships with other writers. My closest friends are writers I’ve met at writers’ conferences. In amazing ways writers connect deeply with one another more quickly than I ever have in the chit-chat before and after Sunday morning worship services. And we need each other. A key verse for me that I’ve experienced and sought to follow is 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Encourage each other to build each other up” (TLB).

 6.       Inspiration and encouragement to keep on keeping on. Our general sessions and keynotes will challenge you not to give up. I’m especially looking forward to the closing keynote Saturday afternoon, “Finishing Strong,” that Tim Shoemaker has stepped in to give because Tim Baker had to cancel.

 “Often we can feel less and less equipped to cope with the battles of life,” Tim Shoemaker says. “Job problems. Medical issues. Financial concerns. Emotional wounds. All of these and more can make us feel like we’re past our prime. Whether it is feelings of fear, inadequacy, or feeling the best of life has passed us by, we can easily fall into a sense that we’re sidelined and that God doesn’t really have anything critical for us to do. We can get relaxed. Complacent. It is a surrender of sorts.  A neutralizing thing.

“First Corinthians 16:13-14 says ‘Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.’ These are great verses for many Christians today – men or women. I’d like to break down those verses a bit. And I’d like to encourage the people not to give up. Not to quit. Not to let down their guard. But instead, to finish strong. To keep fighting. To be an example to the next generation. To fight for the loved ones in the next generation. We do that through who we are, and as writers, we influence people through the words we put on paper.

“I’d like to recruit people to active duty to be in the fight – to be the person they should be and the example they should be. Some of the greatest works God does through people is not when they have money, influence, strength, or power. It is when those things are gone or greatly diminished from where they once were that God often uses a person.”

7.       Direction from the Lord. Each year, and this is my 17th year directing CCWC, God meets us on the mountain and changes lives. He has a plan for you and for your writing.  He is the One who makes the impossible possible.

So there are seven reasons you need to prayerfully consider coming to the May 15-18 Colorado Christian Writers Conference. I could easily list many more! Partial scholarships are still available if you need financial help to come that your family, friends, or church are unable to provide.

There’s still time to register and to request appointments. Housing is still available on the YMCA’s campus, and the YMCA will do roommate matching to lower the cost. None of the workshops or continuing sessions are filled because of the YMCA’s large classrooms. And there’s even still space in two of our clinics – the “Speakers’ Clinic” with KPOF’s Roy Hanschke and “Get Them Coming to Your Blog/Website” with Megan Breedlove whose website has held one of the top two spots in Google search terms for more than three years.

You’re welcome to contact me if you have questions at mbagnull@aol.com or 484-991-8581.

God bless you and your writing – Marlene


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Dina SleimanDonna Brennan
Faculty Member
Dina Sleiman

Author Dina Sleiman writes with the same flowing grace one could find in a song or a dance. If you’ve read her books, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she’s also a poet, a songwriter, and a worship dance choreographer, director, and dancer. Her novels, poetry, songs, and dancing all can be considered forms of worship.

Dina will be teaching a continuing session at the May 15 – 18 Colorado Christian Writers Conference on “The Inspiration and the Perspiration.” This course is designed to help Christian writers seek God for writing inspiration and also learn the skills needed to craft that inspiration into a fully publishable book. I got in touch with Dina to ask her a few questions about the session.

Q: How would you define Christian writing? Is being a “Christian writer” different from being a “Christian who writes”?

I have my own definition for Christian writing: “Any writing inspired by the Holy Spirit that advances the kingdom of God on earth.” I will explain why that is my definition, and we will discuss other definitions and examples of classic Christian writing as well. This is always an interesting topic, and I love to hear feedback from my students. I do think being a Christian writer can be different than being a Christian who writes, although that is a fairly subjective distinction.

Q: As a Christian I feel I should already know how to hear from God, but I admit sometimes I only hear silence. Will you be showing us methods for communicating with God so we can hear his voice? Will these methods help us only with our writing or with other issues in our lives as well?

I think every Christian wants to believe they can hear God’s voice, but the majority of us suffer a good bit of confusion in this area. This was a huge struggle for me throughout much of my life. A wonderful Christian brother told me recently that he tossed a coin to try to discern God’s voice. That’s just sad. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and should not have to resort to those sorts of Old Testament methods. Although I do not buy into overly simplified formulas, I have learned a number of techniques during my own quest that really help me to hone in on and hear God’s voice, and yes, I will be sharing all of these. In class we will be focusing on how to use these techniques for writing, but they will absolutely bless you in every area of your life. I remember one student receiving a powerful word from God during our in class prayer time that had nothing to do with writing at all, and it truly changed her.

Q: How can we tell if our inspiration comes from God or from or own imagination?

Again, I have a number of tips to share in this area, including checks and balances. But the most basic answer is that the Spirit of God is often referred to as a flowing river, so you want to tap into that sense of flow that comes from the kingdom of God deep within you.

Q: So once we get that inspiration—that lump of clay—now what?

Now the real work starts. LOL. Even the biblical writers spent extensive time crafting their writing into the best of ancient poetry. We’ll look at examples of how this worked with a number of poets and prophets.

Q: If our inspiration comes from God, that’s all we need, right? Why would we need to learn the writing craft—wouldn’t God just give us all the words, too?

I won’t deny that it is possible for God to give us precise words that are correct the first time, or to teach us to write through practice and adherence to his voice, but this is the rare exception rather than the rule, even among biblical writers. Habakkuk is the only real example of this. Of course, the deeper we can tap into the flow of the Holy Spirit, the better our writing will be the first time. But that is no excuse to be lazy or stubborn about revising and editing.

Q: Will the class be more about inspiration and hearing from God, or more about the perspiration and crafting we need to do to shape that lump of clay idea into a publishable book?

We will spend the first few hours learning about inspiration and transitioning to perspiration. The remainder of the class will be about the hard work needed to create that publishable book and all the steps of editing involved. I’ve actually considered calling the class “The Inspiration, The Perspiration, and The Commercialization” but I didn’t know how that would strike people. We will spend the last hour or so discussing the business side of writing, though, because it’s very important if you want anyone to read the message you’ve put so much work into.

Q: What are some of the crafting topics you’ll cover?

We will look at all the steps of editing that publishing houses use and learn to apply these to our own work. I will try to tailor the class to the genres of writing represented in the group. But in general we will look at a plan to start with major content editing and work through the process until every letter and punctuation mark is in place. Generally I end up teaching about plot, scene structure, and characterization for fiction and essay structure for nonfiction. Sometimes I get to teach a little about poetry and lyric essay as well, depending on my audience. Fortunately, my background covers all of these areas. I think my class is a great one for new writers who want to see the full process involved in writing a book, and also for writers who are having difficulties, but can’t seem to pinpoint why.

Q: Would strategic planning include outlines and plot summaries? What about for folks who call themselves pantsters?

By strategic planning, I primarily mean that you should pin down your genre, audience, and premise before you get too far into your writing. And I will explain why these are important. Beyond that, I believe that the writing process works differently for different writers. In basic nonfiction, it would be difficult to write without a plan. In fiction and narrative nonfiction, some writers plan the whole plot in advance. Some must experience the entire story along with their characters without much forethought. Many writers fall somewhere in between, using free writing to get them started before planning. But in order to have a strong story, at some point you must examine the structure. Every story must have the same basic “bones” as Angela Hunt puts it. And we will discuss those bones. For pantsters, this might mean extra editing once the first draft is finished.

Q: As acquisitions editor for WhiteFire Publishing, you’ll be taking appointments at both the May 15-18 Colorado and July 31-Augut 3 Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference. Is there any advice you care to share with folks planning to pitch to you?

I just want to get to know you as a person. What you write of course, but also your personality, passions, hopes, and dreams. I love a relaxed session with a lot of give and take. Don’t worry about preparing a long speech. A thirty second pitch is more than enough. And please, please, listen when I ask you questions—and answer them! Don’t just return to your script. You don’t have to sell me on anything. I just want to see if we’re a match. I rarely read sample writing during an appointment. I prefer to do that later via email. But I do appreciate if the author gives me a one sheet with their picture to help me remember them and our conversation.

Thanks Dina and Donna. Great questions and responses. “The Inspiration and the Perspiration” is going to be an exciting continuing session.

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Kaylie Hathaway

Interview with Teen Author
Kaylie Hathaway

Megan Breedlove

Kaylie Hathaway is the 16-year-old author of Beautiful Disorder and The Virus. She began attending the CCWC in 2011, where she received the Most Promising Teen award. In 2012 at the CCWC, OakTara acquired her books, and they were recently published. They are available through Kaylie’s website at KaylieHathaway.com.


BeautifulDisorderThe VirusOak2In this interview, Kaylie discusses her writing career and offers some advice to other aspiring writers.

Q: Tell us when you started writing and how you came to publish two books at only 16 years old.

I started writing when I was around 10 years old because I read a Nancy Drew book, and it really inspired me to want to become an author. So I started writing, and then you told me about the conference, and I was able to go. I had a 15-minute appointment with an editor, and that editor read the first chapter of my novel and told me I should talk with Ramona from OakTara Publishing. I did, and Ramona liked my writing, and the rest is history.

Q: What is unique about your books?

I think that they take a different perspective being written by a teen, for teens. They really express how teens feel, because I am a teen right now. But they also make a good point without being preachy.

Q: I’ve read your first book, and your characters are pretty realistic. How do you make them so believable?

I just try to think about what they would do in certain situations. I give them personalities, and I let them become like people that I know in certain ways, and unlike people that I know in other ways. And I give them their own distinct personalities in that sense.

Q: How do you know what to include in your stories?

For the first draft, I just write whatever comes to my mind, whether it’s good or bad, or whether it makes sense or doesn’t make sense, whether it goes along with the story or not. Then for the second draft, I go through and take out everything that just doesn’t work. I have to cut out a whole lot of stuff most of the time. Sometimes none of it works, but you just have to keep cutting it out and adding new stuff in to make it all flow right.

Q: What is your goal in writing?

One reason I write is to tell people stories and to encourage people, especially teen girls, that they can follow their dreams. Another reason is I also want them to know that reading can be fun and beneficial. My main reason is to point everyone I possibly can to Jesus Christ. My goal is to honor God with my writing.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wonders whether he or she has what it takes to be a writer?

I would say to get out there and meet people, make contacts, and just keep writing. Never stop writing. Ever. Always read, too. Read and write.

Q: What do you think is the best way to learn your craft as a fiction writer?

To read. To read all the time, and to listen to all the advice that other authors give. Even if the advice maybe doesn’t apply to your genre, you still want to listen to it and take it all in and apply it the best you can.

Q: Do you want to pursue writing as a full-time career?

I want to go into the editing world at some point in time. But no matter what I’m doing, I’ll still be writing. I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing books.

Kaylie is already registered for the May 15-18 Colorado Christian Writers Conference. She’ll be part of our author’s panel at the Thursday evening general session, “Write His Answer – And Give God the Glory!” She’ll also serve on the “Working with Editors” panel during Saturday’s Teens Write. I’m very proud of Kaylie and was delighted to give her book the following endorsement:

Kaylie Hathaway takes readers into the life of a teenage girl who has been convicted of a crime she did not commit. Sentenced to community service, Lux Richardson struggles with anger and unforgiveness. Beautiful Disorder is a page-turning novel for teens written by a teen. ~ Marlene Bagnull, CCWC Director

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Donna Brennan interviews
GPCWC faculty member
Tim Shoemaker

Is your writing strong enough the catch the attention of your intended reader? How can you avoid those weak beginnings, sagging middles, and limping endings? What are some ways to build up the plot, invigorate your characters, and create powerful scenes?

The answers to these and other questions can be found at the July 31 – August 3 Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference when Tim Shoemaker teaches the continuing session, Take Your Fiction to the Gym. During the course of this six-hour session, Tim will provide you with tips and techniques to strengthen your writing so it can compete in the real world of publishing.

I asked Tim some questions about this continuing session, and about his 2012 Zonderkidz novel, Code of Silence. (NOTE: The second book in the series, Back Before Dark, was released this month.) 

Question: You’re known for packing a lot of info and fun into your classes. You also have a reputation for using a lot of props to make your point. You’re not going to bring real gym equipment and make us do exercises are you?

Nope. But I’ll show you how to take your manuscript to the gym. And you won’t even have to get out of your chair to do it.

Question: How would you define “strong writing?”

Strong writing grips the reader and won’t let them go. Strong writing pulls the reader into the story and keeps them up at night thinking about it. Strong writing makes the reader laugh. Cry. Think. Strong writing raises an editor’s eyebrows-in a good way.

Question: Very often beginner and middle-level writers hear the adage “Show, don’t tell.” Are you going to tell us how to do this?

No. I’m not going to TELL you how to do it. I’m going to SHOW you how. We’ll spend plenty of time on this topic so that those attending get it . . . and their writing will improve immediately.

Question: If we’re not writing a suspense or thriller novel, do we still need conflict in our story?

Quick answer? Yes.

Conflict keeps the reader interested. It adds tension. It creates questions as to how things are going to work out for the characters in your story. There are four basic types of conflict-and good fiction probably has some form of conflict on every page.

Question: When we create dialogue, shouldn’t we just write it like we hear people speak it? Doesn’t that make it more realistic?

We want to create the illusion that our dialogue is just like the way we hear people speak-but good fiction dialogue is different. Real conversations are loaded with all sorts of boring elements. Good fiction dialogue cuts out all the boring parts. And that makes it stronger. Way stronger.

We’ll take a good look at how to write stronger dialogue-and to keep it sounding realistic at the same time.

Question: Should our fiction contain a life-message or lesson? Is that more important in Christian fiction than in general fiction?

Yes. Our fiction should contain a life-message or lesson-whether it is Christian or general fiction. It can be subtle-but it must be there. It is often a question that the story seems to ask. In my book, Code of Silence, the question has to do with honesty. Is there ever a time to lie? What should I do if it is easier, or better for me if I didn’t tell the truth?

Sometimes we don’t fully realize what that message is until we’re far into writing the book. Often our protagonist, our main character, has a very obvious goal. But there is a deeper need that eventually surfaces. Often our life-message is found there.

The message in Christian fiction certainly has all the potential to be incredibly important and life-changing. And that’s exactly what it should do. That may or may not be the case with general fiction.

Question: Code of Silence seems to have a guy-focus, but it works for girls. It also works for adults. Is it harder to write for boys than for girls? Why do you think Code of Silence has such a broad appeal?

I’m not sure if writing for boys is harder than writing for girls, but it is definitely different. There are certain things you need to avoid if you’re going to write for boys-and other things you’ll want to include.

Not all that many seem to write for boys-partly because they don’t think there’s a big enough market. But here’s the secret. Good writing for boys will also be enjoyed by girls-but it generally doesn’t work the other way around. So if you can write just for girls  –  that’s probably all you’ll get. If you write for boys-and do it well, you’ll get the girls, and often adults, too.

Question: In Code of Silence you really capture the action and feelings of teens. Will you be showing us how to do that in our own characters?

I definitely hope so. I’ll certainly get you pointed in the right direction. A big part of it has to do with Point-of-View and Show-don’t-tell  –  two areas we’ll hit in real detail. And there are other subtle things we’ll touch on that will help.


Thanks much, Donna and Tim. I’d love to take this continuing session but alas as the conference director I simply don’t have time. You can be sure, however, that I’ll listen to the CDs. To learn more about Tim go to his website: http://www.timshoemakersmashedtomatoes.com/

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More great questions from Donna Brennan and thoughtful answers from Gayle Roper. Thank you both!

Q: Getting published can seem like an impossible dream for so many of us. Even if we’ve been published before, that doesn’t guarantee we’ll get published again. Do you have any advice for those of us just starting out or hitting a roadblock?

Getting published has always been a challenge and staying published is just as bad. With today’s economy and its effects on the publishing industry, things are definitely dicey for new writers. On one hand publishers always want new, strong talent. One the other, the slots for this new talent are very limited. Certainly writing the best story ever is crucial but not a guarantee of publication. Self-publishing and e-publishing are options, but they are no guarantee of readers. Also such books are rarely picked up by traditional publishers unless they sell huge numbers. But since true writers can’t not write, we soldier on, honing our craft and attending writers conferences like Colorado CWC where we meet and talk face to face with agents and editors and freelancers, all of whom want to help the new writer achieve her dream.

Q: How important a role should faith or Scripture play in our books? How can we add a strong faith element without sounding like a Sunday sermon?

For many of us as Christians, writing an overt faith message is one of the reasons we write. But we can never forget that every story can only contain the weight of one major spiritual truth, and it’s not always the telling of the Gospel. And that’s okay. It’s the body of a writer’s work that shows the full picture of her faith. It’s in trying to stuff in too much that doesn’t really fit this particular story that we get the sermon-y feeling that always makes our shoulders itch as we read it. My feeling is that less is usually more. Writing spiritual content happens or should happen in much the same way writing touchy topics happens—through the hearts and mouths of the characters.

Q: I’m sure you enjoy writing, or you wouldn’t have written so many fiction and nonfiction books. But does it ever seem easy? Did writing certain books hold special challenges for you?

I do not find writing easy. Getting every word down on the page is work for me. But I love rewriting. That’s the fun part. There I get to enrich my characters, beef up the plot, choose better words, add humor—all the fun parts of making a book. So I agonize through the writing so I can get to the rewriting. And there’s nothing else I want to do in spite of the blood, sweat, toil, and tears. (Told you I was reading a WW II book.)


Q: Do you remember the first story you ever sold? What encouraged you to write it? What encouraged you to submit it?

The first thing I sold was a short story based on what had happened at the junior high where I had taught. I sold it to Young Ambassador, a long defunct teen magazine, for $10. I think I wrote it as a young mom at home with a baby because I was bored and wanted something to occupy my mind. I figured I’d submit it because why write it if no one read it?

Q: More and more these days, publishers expect authors to be involved in promoting their own books. But many of us have a strong aversion to self-promotion. Do you have any advice to offer for those who struggle in this area?

Self-promotion isn’t quite the big deal for novelists it is for non-fiction writers. I suggest picking a social network you’re comfortable with and establishing yourself there. Don’t promote yourself as much as become a person. Every so often you can mention writing and writing-related things, but mention what you did today, what stupid thing you or your kids said, where you went—things like this. Also look at your life and find a couple of things that are interesting, something that may not even be related to your novel, things an interviewer might find interesting (they tend to think novelists are bad interviews because they can’t talk about anything but the book—so not true). For example I’ve used my kids’ adoption and my one son’s meeting with his biological family. I also suggest that you come up with ten questions (and answers) about your book that a host could use to conduct an interview. That way you can talk about the theme of your book or the spiritual truth or the hard issue and all the knowledge you have beyond what fit in the book. Think about it ahead of time, but don’t worry about it. And don’t ask established writers to endorse your work before you have a contract and a manuscript.

I hope all this helps, and I look forward to meeting many of you in Colorado in a few months!

Gayle will be teaching a continuing session on “Fiction for Women.” Since women are the biggest readers of story, Fiction for Women means any kind of fiction out there. We’ll talk about the mechanics of fiction: character, plot, setting, theme – all the usual stuff. We’ll also talk about what makes story resonate with readers, how to build that emotional tension, and what makes women buy into a story world so she never quite forgets your work.

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Gayle Roper is a multi-award winning author and a popular conference presenter. Among the honors she has won are a RITA, a CAROL, three Holt Medallions, two Inspirational Readers Choice Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award, and she has finaled three times for a Christy. Gayle has won special recognition from numerous writers conferences for her work in training Christian writers. In addition to teaching at writers conferences, she speaks at women’s events across the nation and loves sharing the powerful truths of Scripture with humor and practicality. She is also one of my personal favorite writing teachers. Gayle will be teaching a continuing session at the May 15-18 Colorado Christian Writers Conference on “Fiction for Women.”


Q:   How does “fiction for women” differ from other fiction? Don’t women have a wide and diverse interest in books? Is there anything special we need to take into consideration when targeting the women’s market?

Yes, women read everything from romance to speculative fiction and all genres in between. We LOVE story in its many forms. We love rich characters and strong plots and most of us like happy and satisfying endings (probably because real life is often hard and beyond our control). We all like to read about strong women who face their problems with grit and who grow as they resolve whatever issues they face. The thing I love about fiction is that it models life for us as readers. We see what happens when choices are made, both good and bad, and we can learn how to avoid the pitfalls and make the good choices from reading what happens to fictional characters. Don’t tell my non-fiction writing and reading friends, but I think fiction does its teaching with more style than non-fiction with its pointed words of wisdom.

Q:   I’ve met characters in your books who struggle with hardships created by their own choices, or have a tough time recovering from one or more of life’s unexpected interruptions. Their behavior provides rich insight into their personality and makes them seem real. Will you help us find ways to add the same kind of depth to our characters?

We’re going to look at specific things we can do to make our characters as alive as the women down the street or those who work with us. Personality, problems, pressures, traits, quirks, warps, gifts, talents—all these work together to make real people, and we’ll work to use these same qualities to create our fictional people.

Q:  How can we integrate tough issues (unwed pregnancies, spousal abuse, etc.) into our stories without making it sound preachy? Will you show us examples of this in class?

Today we can write about any topic we choose—as long as all the information, actions, thoughts and reactions come out of the characters, not the author. Once the author inserts herself into the issue at hand, she’s killed the authenticity of the discussion. To talk about any hard topic in a novel means all sides of the issue, even the sides the author doesn’t agree with, have to be aired through the various characters. I’m reading a WW II story now in which IRA sympathizers present their reasons for hating the British and blowing up innocent people as passionately as the British authorities present theirs for bringing down the terrorists. Both sides are organic to the story.


Thanks Gayle and Donna. Watch for Part 2 next week.

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How long has it been since you checked out the earlybird workshops we’re offering this year at GPCWC? Maybe you haven’t even looked, thinking they were an extra expense and it wouldn’t be worth trying to arrive in time for the classes.  

I’m excited about the earlybird workshops we’re offering this year. There have been several changes since the brochure went out so check them out at http://www.writehisanswer.com/Philadelphia/earlybirds.htm   Let me highlight a few of the changes.

The first one is Hope Flinchbaugh’s class on “Common Mistakes that Make Fiction Editors Cringe.” She is unable to make the 1:30 time slot where we originally had her scheduled so we moved her workshop to the 5:00 slot. Hope writes and edits award-winning fiction, so if you’re a fiction writer, this is a class you don’t want to miss.  

To replace Hope’s time slot, we have Maurice M. Gray Jr. teaching “Why Do I Need an Editor?” The short answer to that is we all need editors—even editors. J As a freelance editor myself—as are several others on the faculty—I strongly recommend this class. If you’re having problems interesting a publisher with your book, I’m sure you would benefit from taking this class to learn how to make your work even stronger and more appealing in content. If you’re planning to self-publish, this class is a must.  

Another change in the lineup is the original E18, “More Than a Tale” taught by Mike Dellosso, that has been moved into the Thursday workshop schedule. Suzanne Kuhn is now teaching the E18 class entitled “Getting Social Back in Social Media”—a must for writers of any genre as social media is one of the best ways to market your work. Come and learn from a pro in the industry about how to effectively use social media. Suzanne assures that it is not a mechanics workshop. Instead, this workshop focuses on engagement, building true fans and readers through the process and becoming relevant to your audience.

Finally, are you ready with your pitch for the books, articles, or short stories you’re planning to present to editors or agents in the 15-minute appointments? Karen Whiting is teaching a class on “Practicing Your Pitch.” I’m amazed at her ability to get to the heart of someone’s project and pull out the important things you need to focus on during your appointments.  

Here’s what Janet Perez Eckles says: Karen is the queen of creativity, the master at innovative ideas, and an expert in transforming an insight into a tangible and powerful marketing tool. During a recent writers conference, I attended her marketing sessions. As we sat in a circle, she took the focus of each book, gave each author ideas, examples, and practical steps to market each book. They all evoked an  “Ah!” from the participants. The skill Karen has to craft a powerful marketing tool from a mere concept is a gift few possess.

It’s not too late to sign up for an earlybird (or two or three!), either in addition to the conference or as an earlybird only. Go to the website—http://www.writehisanswer.com/Philadelphia/earlybirds.htm—and check out the 19 classes we are offering Wednesday afternoon, August 1. And consider joining us for an early start to the conference.  

In Christ –

Marjorie Vawter
CCWC & GPCWC Assistant to the Director (www.writehisanswer.com)
Freelance Editor (www.shevetwritingservices.com)
The Writer’s Tool blog (

P.S. If you’ve already registered for an earlybird and need to make a change because of the changes we’ve had to make, please email me at shevetwrite@pcisys.net. We are waiving the price increase for Wednesday-only conference attendance. One workshop is $25, two workshops $40, and three workshops $55.


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