What if your word for the year is something you don’t like?‎

by David Rawlings, @DavidJRawlings

Everyone seems to be doing a “word for the year.”

Last year I decided to do it too. Being the thinking overachiever that I am, I decided that my word for 2017 would be Published.

It felt right. This was my goal, and it made sense that I would have a word that would lead me there.

Then God stepped in.  As I was praying about it, I felt strongly that He had something else in mind, and wanted me to focus on something else.  In fact, He wanted me to focus on two something elses.

And God has a sense of humor. The fun thing was that both of those words started with P as well, but they were Patience and Production.

I wasn’t really that thrilled with it.

I’d already spent a year approaching agents and publishers with my first manuscript. I’d built my platform and connected with other writers. I’d already been productive. And I certainly didn’t want to know that I just needed to be more patient.

So I settled into 2017 somewhat reluctantly, with those two words clunking around the back of my head. But I kept bringing them back to God, and those words came to fit. I settled into Production, developing my second manuscript and working with a mentor – Jim Rubart – on ideas to build my profile and  platform.  Patience was a harder fit, but I kept working as I waited – on God, on publishers and on agents.

June rolled around. My Patience was tested with no answers. But I kept leaning into Production.

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No surprise, but a few months later in the year God was proven right. My second manuscript – developed because I was being Productive while being Patient – was the one that interested Steve Laube, who is now my agent.

And Steve said two things to me when he submitted my novel to publishers on my behalf: now we wait, so get busy on manuscript number three.

Those two words again.

So my third novel is now well underway, and I finished 2017 with my chosen word – Published – nowhere in sight. But if I’d ignored those other two words, I wouldn’t have written the novel that landed an agent and that publishers are now interested in.

I’ve since been thinking about a word for 2018, and decided that I should probably learn my lesson and pray about it first.

My word for 2018 also starts with the letter P.  God must love alliteration as much as I do.

That word is Present.

There are two ways it applies to 2018: God needs to be present in my writing.  For me to do justice to the story He’s entrusted me with, He needs to be a part of it, as I write it.

I also need to be living in the present when it comes to my writing.   This will be the bigger challenge: because I’m pushing ahead trying to float my work past industry (well, my agent is … thanks Steve           !) I need to stop thinking about that moment when the manuscript will hit the right publisher at the right time.

That’s not the present.

I will also be pushing back on encroaching thoughts about finalist nominations from last year.. I need to stop replaying those conversations where someone validated my writing and, in turn, me.

That’s not the present.

What is the present?  Writing the next paragraph. Answering the next character question. Crafting and culling my word count as the story ebbs and flows.

It’s writing this blog post.

That’s the present.

And that will be my challenge. To let that word both guide and inspire my writing from the first days of 2018, not when I eventually get comfortable with it.

So, if I could be so bold, is there a word you need to accept to guide your writing in 2018?  And if so, what is it?

Based in South Australia, David Rawlings is a sports-mad father-of-three with his own copywriting business who reads everything within an arm’s reach.  He has published in the non-fiction arena and is now focused on writing contemporary Christian stories for those who want to dive deeper into life. His manuscripts have finaled in competitions for ACFW and OCW and he is currently represented by The Steve Laube Agency.

The Power of a Word

by Patty Smith Hall, @pattywrites

It’s the first of the year, a time when people make resolutions and goals for the coming twelve months. They start exercising or eating healthier, or maybe they decide to simplify by cleaning out all the clutter in their house.

It’s also that time when people pop up on Facebook with their ‘word’ of the year. Some are about lifestyle changes while others deal with spiritual growth or personal goals. I like having a word to focus on, probably because I’m a very goal oriented person but even I was surprised by the starkness of my word.

My word for 2018 is ‘NO.’

A small word, yet so powerful if used correctly and with diligence. So how can you use a ‘no’ to reach your writing goals for this year? Here are three ways:

1) Decide what is important to you

A few years ago, I had a friend who was caught up in a whirlwind of activities. If she wasn’t doing something for her church, she was on some city committee or running a book club. Now all that’s well and good, but she was frustrated that her writing career had stalled. With all her social obligations, she didn’t have the time to give attention to her writing.

When you’re a ‘yes’ person, everything feels important and you want to help in any way you can. But the truth is you can’t, and make any kind of difference. You’ll stretch yourself so thin, there’ll be nothing left for what matters to you!

Ask yourself this question—if you had one week to do the one thing you wanted to do most in this world, what would it be? Volunteering at the kids’ school? Getting ahead in your job? Writing the first draft of your novel? Is your ministry teaching Sunday school or writing devotionals? This is your opportunity to decide what you want to do, no one’s else’s agenda but yours. Once you’ve narrowed your focus down to one or two choices, you know what you want to give your ‘yes’ too.

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2) Give up those activities that steal your time

Now that you’ve narrowed your focus down to one or two things, it’s time to cut those other activities out of your life. I’m not going to lie to you—this is difficult, not just for you but for those people that’s come to rely on your ‘yes.’ They may say things like ‘how will we ever get along without you?’ The guilt is hard to handle—I know this firsthand. Years ago, when I first started writing, I was substitute-teaching. Both my husband and I agreed that I should quit and focus on my writing, but the school where I worked pushed back on the idea. How would they get along without me? When I told my husband this, his reply was priceless—‘I don’t know, but they’re going to find out starting tomorrow!’

I love what my pastor once shared with me. We all want to be a part of good things, but God wants us to take part in the great. Are you too busy doing the good that you’re ignoring God’s great for you?

3) Say No to Time Suckers

We all can agree the internet is entertaining and intellectually stimulating and a number of other things. It’s also a black hole that eats up precious moments of our writing time. Looking up a document at the Library of Congress can turn into an hour long political discussion on Facebook! And by the time you’ve finished, you not only alienated potential readers, you’ve forgotten what you were researching in the first place!

Say no to the madness now! Guard your writing time like a bulldog with his bone. Employ apps like Liberate and Freedom which restricts your use of the web while you’re writing. Make a pact with an accountability partner. Set a word count and make it before you can check your email.

One of the most useful things I learned in school was a limerick my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Payne taught me. It goes like this:

Sixty seconds in a minute, didn’t take it, didn’t chose it but it’s up to me to use it.

Use your time, and your ‘no’ wisely.

Seven Brides for Seven Mail-Order Husbands Romance Collection

Seven women seek husbands to help them rebuild a Kansas town.

Meet seven of Turtle Springs, Kansas’, finest women who are determined to revive their small town after the War Between the States took most of its men. . .and didn’t return them. The ladies decide to advertise for husbands and devise a plan for weeding out the riff raff. But how can they make the best practical choices when their hearts cry out to be loved?

Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published, award-winning author with Love Inspired Historical/Heartsong and currently serves as president of the ACFW-Atlanta chapter. She currently lives in North Georgia with her husband of 30+ years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters and a future son-in-love. Her next release, New Hope Sweethearts will
be available in July on Amazon.

Filling Up Your Well

by Katherine Reay, @Katherine_Reay

Writers are readers. There is no way around that. To created deep and meaningful stories, to create fun and fast stories, to create any stories – one needs to read lots of stories. When pushed up against a deadline, it’s are hard to read many or even any books – and I will admit that during those last frenetic days, other writer’s books go away as I get deeper into my own. However, the minute my manuscript is handed in, I’m empty. There isn’t a shred of creativity left…

And that when what I call the “well of good stories” must be refilled. I dig into the world and words of others, relishing their creativity and getting excitement about my own – when it returns.

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Here are a few favorites I’ve come across recently. This list is by no means exhaustive; it’s more of a tasting of good books I’ve read:

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (Death is fascinating!)

Did you Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg (Incredible narrative voices and so many of them)

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Multigenerational tale with multiple POVs)

The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge (Delightful retelling/sequel to a beloved classic)

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (Wonderful setting and cadence of language)

Please in the comments add your favorites. We should share because reading is an essential aspect to writing. And winter is a wonderful time to curl up with a good book.



The Austen Escape

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues – particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.
But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.
Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.

Katherine Reay is the award-winning author of Dear Mr. Knightley, Lizzy& Jane and The Bronte Plot, an ALA Notable Book Award Finalist. Her latest novel, A Portrait of Emily Price, released in November 2016 and received Starred Reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and a Romantic Times TOP PICK!All Katherine’s novels are contemporary stories with a bit of classical flair. She holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University and is a wife, mother, rehabbing runner, former marketer, and avid chocolate consumer. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine now happily resides outside Chicago, IL.

The Necessity of Mental Layovers in Your Writing Career

by Lisa Jordan, @lisajordan

This past September I flew to Dallas, Texas for the annual ACFW Conference. I didn’t have a direct flight and found myself spending several hours during a layover in a different airport. As I waited for my flight, I used the public Wi-Fi and caught up on social media, sorted through email, people watched, and enjoyed reading a new book. I needed that time for a mental layover to simply relax.

The months leading up to the conference had been full of changes. I’d left a nineteen-year career to become the Operations Manager for My Book Therapy and then our oldest son moved to a new city three hours from us to start a new career. While these were fantastic changes, they took a lot of planning, training, and mental energy, leaving me feeling fatigued and needing a break.

As I relaxed in that padded chair, I realized the importance of mental layovers in our lives. Direct flights are great timesavers—one flight saves you the hassle of deplaning, waiting, and boarding a different flight to reach your final destination. However, they aren’t always available, so planes must land to let off passengers, then refuel for the next flight. Layovers allow passengers a chance to stretch their legs, catch their breath and maybe grab something to eat.

Writers need mental layovers in their lives. When we’re juggling family, church, work, friends, sporting activities, school functions and trying to meet deadlines, we can become exhausted very quickly.

We need to schedule layovers in our daily planning so we can refuel our bodies and our minds. We need to learn to delegate, say no and prioritize our commitments. We need to take time to enjoy our surroundings and reflect.

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However, that’s very difficult to do, especially when busy holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas fall in the middle of our deadlines. So, how are writers supposed to find time for a mental layover?

Here are my three suggestions:

  1. Intentional planning. Write in all of your commitments on your calendar, and then figure out your daily to-do lists, deadlines, daily word count goals, etc. Look for blocks of white space and schedule in a mental layover. That intentional planning could be something as simple as a twenty-minute cat nap, reading the paper or good book with a favorite cup of coffee or tea, journaling, or even watching a favorite TV show. Whatever it is, make it intentional—something that gives your body and spirit time to rest.
  2. Nourish your body. Are you so busy that you’re grabbing a cup of coffee and calling it breakfast? Maybe dinner is grabbing something from the drive-thru on your way to your next obligation. When you’re in a constant rush and not giving your body the necessary nourishment and exercise it requires, you’re going to wear down much faster. Even though it may seem like “one more thing,” take time to plan healthy meals that will give you more clarity and more energy. Walking fifteen minutes a day will provide purposeful exercise for your body and your spirit. Taking care of yourself allows you the ability to care for others.
  3. Re-evaluate your commitments. During an airport layover, you’re confined to the terminals and limited to doing what’s around you or what you may have carried on the plane with you—reading, using your computer, visiting the airport shops, eating, people watching, or even napping if that’s your pleasure. Before the New Year approaches, review your schedule for the past year. Determine your priorities such as family and your career. Write in the deadlines. Create a word count schedule. Release unnecessary obligations in order to create a necessary daily mental layover in your schedule.

When you schedule intentional mental layovers for yourself, you’re taking time to rest and refuel so you can reach the finish line of your goals with better mental clarity and a renewed purpose.

Lakeside Romance

A Recipe for Romance

Sarah Sullivan will do whatever it takes to make her summer youth program permanent. But when she’s tasked to teach the teens basic kitchen skills, her hope goes up in flames. Not knowing the first thing about cooking, Sarah needs help. Smelling the delicious aromas coming from her neighbor’s apartment one night, she thinks she’s found her answer. Alec Seaver might know his way around pots and pans, but the lone-wolf widower doesn’t want anything to do with the free-spirited beauty next door. But after he becomes Sarah’s reluctant partner, Alec realizes that she might just be the key ingredient missing from his life.

Heart, home, and faith have always been important to Lisa Jordan, so writing stories with those elements come naturally. Represented by Rachelle Gardner, Lisa is an award-winning author for Love Inspired, writing contemporary Christian romances that promise hope and happily ever after. She is the Operations Manager for Novel.Academy, powered by My Book Therapy. Happily married to her own real-life hero for almost thirty years, Lisa and her husband have two grown sons. When she isn’t writing, Lisa enjoys family time, kayaking, good books, and playing in her craft room with friends. Visit her at lisajordanbooks.com.