Be a Voice, Not an Echo

by Rachel Hauck

Writing in the Christian market pushes us to go beyond the realm of this life to find meaning and purpose for our characters. While we are not writing sermons and devotionals set in fictional places with fictional characters, we are imitating life.

For the Christian author, Jesus is very much a part of our every day life. We want to express Him in some way in our stories, through the lives of our characters. But often our stories sound hokey, canned, full of Christianese. How we talk in the foyer at church, or in Sunday school class does not translate into fiction.
Remember, our goal is to write great stories about great characters. Our goal is not agenda fiction where we pound the pulpit so to speak about some error of ways.

So how do we develop a convincing, authentic spiritual thread? A lot of prayer and pondering. Digging deep the translate those standard words like, “Is he a believer?” to something every one can understand. Like, “Does he believe in Jesus?” Here are three simple, straight forward steps to help non-Christians get it.

Avoid soap boxes. 
Don’t preach to the reader out of your own wounds or doctrinal passions. One, it’s obvious. Two, it’s boring. Find one truth that you’ve learned and weave it into your character’s being then let the words flow naturally. May in one or two scenes.

It’s not a Bible study. Don’t write and discuss long passages of scripture or quote noted Bible teachers. Have you characters quote a verse in a natural way, using his or her own words.


Express God in creative ways. 
In one of my books, God got the heroine’s attention with feathers appearing out of nowhere. In another, the heroine senses a strong fragrance.

But you can’t write about what you don’t have in yourself. The spiritual journey of a character is often the fragrance of God in and on the author. If you aren’t going deep in God, spending time at His feet, praying, worhshipping, fellowshipping with others, your spiritual message will be flat. Always. Your message will feel forces and tacked on.

But as you spend time in His presence, meditating on His Word, the spiritual thread becomes a part of you, a part of the character, a part of the whole book. And you may only have to mention Jesus once. But He’s everywhere unseen.

Don’t lead with doctrine. Lead with the Spirit. 

Don’t just repeat what others are saying. Get your own revelation and then back it up with the truth of the Word. Pray for a way to weave it into your character’s journey.

Be a Voice not an Echo.

TWEETABLES

New York Times, USA Today ​and Wall Street Journal best-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a past ACFW mentor of the year. A worship leader and Buckeye football fan, Rachel lives in Florida with her husband and ornery cat, Hepzibah. Read more about Rachel at www.rachelhauck.com.

What Are Your Priorities? What Are Mine?

by Michael Ehret

“Our life is the sum total of all the decisions we make every day, and those decisions are determined by our priorities.” Myles Munroe, 1959-2014, founded and led the Bahamas Faith Ministries International (BFMI)

There are so many things one can do. Many, many, many of them are good, prosperous, even inspirational. This post, my last for Novel Rocket, is about not doing any of those good, prosperous, and inspirational things.

Been thinking a lot about focus and priorities—and purpose. I’ve been given—and have developed—a certain skill set. The same is true for you.

But on top of that, God has gifted me with creativity and empathy, a combination that helps me see into the inner lives of people and develop scenarios that will, hopefully, not only entertain them but help them live better. My decisions have not always focused on using those gifts in the best ways—good ways, often, but not the best. It’s time to focus on using my gifts differently.

“I learned that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything … . So think of your priorities not in terms of what activities you do, but when you do them. Timing is everything.”  Dan Millman is a former world champion athlete, university coach, martial arts instructor, and college professor

My original intent for this post—now, don’t laugh—was to outline for the writers who read it how to focus their time and attention on the things that matter. But as I started writing, it occurred to me that this is clearly not a subject I know anything about.

I’m learning a little, perhaps, bit by bit (thank you, Allen), but am in no position to suggest to any of you how to do it. With one key exception.

Do it with God. Do it with God intentionally. Because, if you don’t, this world will lead you more away from your calling than toward it.

“Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.” (Romans 12:2, The Voice)

Implied in this Scripture, which I have claimed as my life verse since my salvation as an adult in 1981, is the fact that this world will attempt to mold me (and you) and that, as a child of God, it is my responsibility to resist that attempt by staying close to God and perceiving, through prayer and study, His will for me.

It only took me 35 years to begin seeing this verse in a more full manner.

Maybe that’s what I can leave with you. Maybe that’s your takeaway. Stay close to the Lover of Your Soul. And leave room in your life for Him to lead. Then follow. Follow.

TWEETABLES

What Are Your Priorities? What Are Mine? by Michael Ehret (Click to Tweet)


It’s time to focus on using my gifts differently~ Michael Ehret (Click to Tweet)

Do it with God intentionally~ Michael Ehret (Click to Tweet)

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Michael Ehret has accepted God’s invitation and is a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. In addition, he’s worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal at American Christian
Fiction Writers. He pays the bills as a
marketing communications writer and sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for
The Indianapolis
News and The Indianapolis Star.

Micro-Tools of Suspense

By Ronie Kendig

Microscopic. Micro-changes. Micro-expressions. They’re little pieces that cumulatively make a big difference. That is true of writing and of suspense as well—we have micro-tools for fine-tuning suspense (a scene or a whole novel). 

Suspense is not merely someone or some city in danger. There is more involved in creating suspense than putting a weapon in a villain’s hand or having the heroine fighting for her life. Outside the plot and your characters, suspense is nuanced throughout a story using many techniques, but we’ll focus on two: word choice & placement, sentence/paragraph length and pacing. 

Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. ~C. S. Lewis 

The point? Be intentional with your words. Word choices should: 

  1. Reflect the pace – the more general the word, the more benign the impact. Make them matter!
  2. Reflect your character – your characters should not all sound alike
  3. Reflect the mood – use more intentional words to mirror what your character is feeling of what’s being done to them. Our word choices change when we’re frustrated or angry; so should your character’s words. 

Consider word choice placement. In my “Mind Magic” workshop, we talk about “white/negative space,” a marketing/design concept that capitalizes on the negative (white) space of a design, letting the audience’s brain naturally fill in the rest. Also, speed readers are often taught to read the beginning and end of a sentence, and the beginning/end of a paragraph and then let their brains fill in the rest.

Negative Space forms face

By being intentional with word placement, writers can use the white/negative space concept to capitalize on what readers’ brains do naturally—fill in the rest—to create hooks. We’re taught to do this at scene and chapter breaks, but we should also be more intentional with word placement throughout our scenes and chapters. We have stronger words now that we don’t want to bury in the middle of a sentence or paragraph. If you have to, rearrange so the stronger words are more easily detected and a quick (often unconscious) first impression of what’s coming is engaging. 

Another topic in the “Mind Magic” workshop is length, which applies to blogs, articles (ahem), books, speeches, and so on. Ultimately, no matter if it’s a sentence or a paragraph, length determines viability and interest. Think about Twitter, which restricts tweets to 140 characters. Today’s society wants things faster, and we need to keep that in mind when writing scenes. Here are a few tips for brevity in writing:  

  1. Monitor Sentence/Paragraph Length – Make it as simple as possible for a reader to move through and enjoy your story. Sentences should be a natural length and there should be a variety of lengths as well. It’s a good idea to break narrative passages into smaller chunks and ensure that each is vital to the story.
  2. Fragments Are Our Friends (Sometimes) – it’s okay to cut a sentence short if it fits the character, pacing of a scene or chapter, or the mood (more suspenseful). Fragments are wonderful for creating a jarring presence, which is perfect for action or surprise. 
  3. Shorter Sentences Create Movement – Shorter sentences are read faster (obvious, huh?) paragraph and a sentence are great ways to increase the reading speed, giving the reader a sense of faster movement with the characters. 
  4. Longer Sentences Allow for Breathing – if you’ve amped up a scene and sliced/diced sentences, then draw it back down after with longer sentences that allow your readers’ breathing to slow. Think of it as the giddy (or nervous) exhale of relief after a roller-coaster ride.
Suspense nuances really ratchet up the tension and your reader’s heart rate! Were these tips helpful for you? Do you have a question for Ronie to address about writing suspense? Comment below! 

TWEETABLES

Micro Tools of Suspense by Ronie Kendig (Click to Tweet)

Be intentional with your words~ Ronie Kendig (Click to Tweet)

* * * * * 

Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author who grew up an Army brat. After twenty-five years of marriage, she and her hunky hero husband have a full life with their children and a retired military working dog in Northern Virginia. Ronie can be found at:
     Facebook (www.facebook.com/rapidfirefiction)
     Twitter (@roniekendig)
     Goodreads (www.goodreads.com/RonieK)
     Instagram (@kendigronie)
     Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/roniek/)!

DOWNLOAD Ronie’s newest release–the FREE digital prequel novella, THE WARRIOR’S SEAL! 

CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE (Tox Files #1) releases Dec 6th and was given 4.5 stars & named a TOP PICK by RT BookReviews!

“…fast-moving, roller-coaster thriller…” ~Booklist

Kendig keeps the tensions high and the pace lightning fast, with military action scenes worthy of Vince Flynn.” ~Publishers Weekly

Accountability? I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Accountability!

By Michael Ehret @writingfineline

“Accountability breeds response-ability.”—Stephen R. Covey

I fear accountability.

There, I’ve said it. I need it; but I avoid it. But it hasn’t always been so.
Early in my time at Bethel College (Indiana), I was invited to join a group called the Writers’ Accountability Network (WAN). Members of WAN began each month by sharing their goals for the next four weeks. At the end of that time, we all reported on our success—and where we didn’t quite measure up. In between, we encouraged each other.

I’ve never completed so much writing! In fact, while a member of that group I wrote the first draft of my novel.

What happened?

As I took on more responsibilities professionally—a good thing—I soon found myself over-committed—a bad thing—and left the group.

I’ve worked on the novel sporadically since then, never with the intensity and commitment of those days.

So I’ve learned something: I need accountability to be productive. As Proverbs 27:17 tells us: “In the same way that iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend.” (The Voice). That was the benefit WAN provided.

I need to make changes. I need to embrace, again, the power of being a good sheep. Here’s how I do it. Maybe it will help you.

Setting boundaries

The biblical idea of Jesus as our shepherd and us as His sheep has always resonated with me. I have sheepy tendencies. In WAN, we were all sheep within the same pen. The fences (goal-setting, accountability, encouragement, and reporting) helped us be good sheep together.

These are the fences I need to build now to get back some of that accountability.

  • Fence 1—Television: I can’t give up it up entirely, but I can cut back by at least an hour or two a week. (Can’t give up Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy—that’s good writer TV!)
  • Fence 2—Social media: It’s time to wrestle my e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter addictions to the ground. There’s an important place for social media, but too much of any good thing can be a problem.
  • Fence 3—Mornings: While in WAN I got up early to write for an hour before reporting to my job—and it worked. I completed the first draft. I’m not sure that will work with the job I have now, but how can I repair this hole in my fence?
  • Fence 4—Accountability: This is the gate to my sheep pen. I need writing partners, other sheep, who will make sure I do what I say I’m going to do—and who’ll cut me no slack when I don’t.

Speaking of accountability: Who are you accountable to? What is your favorite accountability tool?
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Michael Ehret has accepted God’s invitation and is a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. In addition, he’s worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal at American Christian
Fiction Writers. He pays the bills as a
marketing communications writer and sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for
The Indianapolis
News and The Indianapolis Star.