Writing Tips

A number of people have contacted me with questions about writing. The following are tips I have learned during my years as a writer.

The craft of writing can be learned.
If you have the strong desire to write, I believe God has given you talent. Your job will be to learn how to write. Study the craft. First, learn from THE MASTER (daily reading of Scripture). Then, learn from the masters – great writers, classics, Pulitzers, etc. Read everything analytically. Take classes. Attend a writers’ conference. Join a critique group. Start a book club. Practice what you learn. Keep on practicing. There is always more to learn, always room for improvement. I am still an apprentice after thirty years.

The following are books to get you started:
STEIN ON WRITING by Sol Stein
THE WRITERS’S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler
CHARACTERS MAKES YOUR STORY by Maren Elwood
STORY by Robert McKee
HOW TO GROW A NOVEL by Sol Stein
WRITING FOR THE SOUL by Jerry Jenkins

Are going to be a “Christian writer” or a Christian who writes?
What’s the difference? A Christian who writes may weave Christian principles into the story, but the work can stand when those elements are removed. A Christian writer is called to present a story that is all about Jesus. The Lord is the foundation, the structure, and Scripture has everything to do with the creation and development of the characters in the story. Jesus is central to the theme. If you remove Jesus and Biblical principles from the novel, it collapses.

If you are going to be a Christian writer,
it is essential to study Scripture. Immerse yourself in God’s Word, and the Scriptures will flow naturally into your work. The Bible is filled with God’s wisdom, and His Word will transform you as a person and as a writer. The goal is to have the reader experience God’s Truth through story – to challenge, convict, encourage. The purpose of Christian fiction is to whet readers’ appetite for a close relationship with Jesus.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
All of my novels, since becoming a Christian, have started with a question – with the exception of REDEEMING LOVE which was an allegory about God’s love. When you ask your question, watch for the Lord to answer. Don’t be discouraged if the answers are slow in coming. Seldom do I have the answer before the end of the project; and sometimes after the project is finished. The Holy Spirit will speak to you through God’s Word. Trust Jesus to keep His Word. Yes, you will have long, dark times while writing. You may wonder if the Lord hears your prayers. Memorize James 1:5-6. If you start with a question, you will have to draw closer to Jesus and depend on Him for the answer. There will be times when you will feel as though you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Rest assured. God will be with you.

It is possible to work “a day job” and write.
It takes self-discipline and determination. Keep your priorities in order: God, family, writing.

Be involved in church, Bible studies, community work, join a book club.
Don’t allow your writing to isolate and insulate you. We can’t write about all kinds of people and views realistically if we close ourselves off from people. Remember, too, that you aren’t just in church to feed your soul. You are there to encourage others. They need you as much as you need them.

Write a little each day.
Even if you only do a paragraph, you will have a body of work by the end of year. One page a day means 365 pages in a year.

Carry a notebook and pen or pencil wherever you go.
Ideas can come anytime and anyplace. Keep a notebook, pen, and flashlight in your bedside table!

Use times of “writer’s block” to refuel –
read and study Scripture, watch movies, take a walk, read good books, play golf, sit in a mall and watch people.

Keep an idea file.
Sometimes a myriad of ideas don’t seem to make sense until you spread them out and then find they have something in common that leads to the bigger story God is calling you to write.

Build a reference library over time:
books on writing; different versions of the Bible; books on your particular area of interest.

Don’t give up!
Let writing become another way to worship the Lord. Give all of yourself to God as a thank offering.