Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tipful Tuesday-Francine Rivers



Days are booked by the second it seems. We rush here and rush there. We barely have time to work out questions we wrestle with, important questions that are unique to us. Only God's word and meditation can help us through this time. 

The same principle is used when writing solid stories. One of the reasons why Francine Rivers' stories are so compelling is because they dig deep into thee heart wrenching issues. She pours every dimension of feeling into every word and directs characters the way she herself was. Readers can't help but feel impacted by her stories. 

Why is this?

Because she starts her work by spending time in personal Bible study. In addition to her own need to be fed by God, she sets her writing projects to center on a question she wrestles with. Studying the Bible is essential to her writing. "And God gives me the scriptures, daily that speak to the question with which I am struggling." Rivers.

What questions are you struggling with today? Pray and ask God for the Scriptures that will guide you to His wisdom. Then, use this in your story. Better yet, center the story around this issue like Francine. THIS is how to become a successful writer/author.


Photo by Mary Vee

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Author's Most Important Job

What is an author's most important job? To sit down every day and put words on the page? To pen beautiful prose that makes the heart sing? Or how about to edit and rewrite until your story bursts with life?

Those are all great jobs of a writer, true, but there is one job that surpasses in its importance.

I attended the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of ACFW this past weekend and we were asked a couple of questions that really made me think.

Who is your reader? - and - Do you love your reader?

This gave me pause. Do I even know who my reader is? I write historical romance so I assume my reader is middle age to older women. Okay, so then what?

How do you love your reader? If my readers are mid-to-older women, then many of them will be married or have been married. Many will have children or grand-children. They probably value you family. Since they are older, they may long for romance or and the spark of first love that they have experienced in the past.

Do I love these women? Does my heart ache to give them stories that can bring hope and joy in the midst of daily life? Do I want to share the truths of God's kingdom with these women who might need to be encouraged in their faith? Does my heart yearn to give them a story that was co-written by God?

This is something I haven't thought about before...loving the reader.

I've read The Story of With by Allen Arnold and it is a book that encourages the reader to come to a place where you co-write with God. This is a place where you have become so intimate with Him that He speaks into your creativity and emboldens you to write the story He has for you to write. It's the journey with Him that matters, not the final outcome  -  though if you are co-writing with Him, then it is sure to be a great story!

I understand this idea of partnering with God, but loving the reader and pouring your heart out for them? It's a new concept for me and one that is rather hard for me to grasp. But what a beautiful thing it would be to love God enough to co-write a story with Him, and then love the reader enough to write what they need.

Love God and love others...the greatest job of a writer.

You can see how tapestry woven by threads of love - for God and for your readers - would create a masterpiece of beauty, goodness, and love.

What about you? Have you ever thought about loving the reader being something of importance to your writing? 

*Photo credit: StockSnap at Pixabay

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Tipful Tuesday: Charlotte Bronte


Life is bulldozing its way across my timeline and I am clutching my knees trying to gather some breath. What in the world am I thinking--trying to squeeze writing time into my real time of pouring into a family? How can I be so selfish?

What I have come to find though, is that it's not a selfish act at all. It's a sure way to sort out myself. It's an outpour of my heart, mangled as it might be with hammered-in expectations, missteps, and questions, and doubts. Especially because of my life's craze, writing is inevitable. When my shoulders are heavy with the stuff of living, my words just pour out as a sure way of peace to my soul. I don't write because I always want to. I write because I need to. I write because I cannot help it. Thank you to my favorite author, Ms. Bronte, for giving me words for my word lifestyle.

Have you ever felt like writing was the only sure next step, even amidst the busyness?

Join us every Tuesday at www.facebook.com/thewritersalleyblog for #TipfulTuesday

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Angie Dicken credits her love of story to reading British literature during life as a military kid in Cambridgeshire, England. Now living in the U.S., she's an ACFW member, a blog contributor to the Writer's Alley, a baseball mom, and a self-proclaimed foodie. Two of her historical romance novels comprise her Fall 2017 debut: The Outlaws Second Chance, Love Inspired Historical, and My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah, Barbour. 

Connect with Angie at www.angiedicken.com

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Should You Write Time-slip?

Hi, friends! Ashley here. So, a couple years ago now, I got this crazy nudge to try writing my WIP at the time from two different points in history— modern, and Preservation Era Charleston. Now, let me just say, I never in a million years planned to write split-time novels. I just felt like two time periods were the only way to do justice to the story. So I gave it a shot, and low and behold, I found a whole new dynamic in my writing. I STINKING LOVE writing time-slip. So while I’m by no means an expert, today I thought I’d chat with you about a few key things I’ve noticed in successful time-slip stories.

Ever since split-time sort of took off as a trend in CBA, I’ve seen sooooo many people describe their WIP that way. And can I be honest? I love this structure so much that it makes me a little nervous some people are hoping to cash in on it as a trend versus as a framework that really suits their writing style. Meanwhile, others may be sitting back, a little nervous about the idea of writing a storyline outside their comfort zone (whether you’re typical a historical writer or a contemporary one). I know I was in the latter position for a while. What if I couldn’t find my voice in both time periods?

So, how do you know if your story may be suited for time-slip?

Here are a few questions to ask.

1) Does the plot contain complex secrets that span decades? If so, your story maybe suited for time-slip. The structure tends to work very, very well when a big event or secret in the past can become a catalyst for the modern storyline. Think The Butterfly and The Violin, for example. If the story itself doesn’t organically span those periods of time, you may not need the secondary time period.

2) Does the story NEED two time periods to be told well? Think This Is Us— but try to do it without crying 😂 — for the story to be effective, we must see the then-and-now growth of the characters. If the story was completely set when the family on the show is still young, think of all we would miss. If, on the other hand, the bulk of your story all happens in one time period, then split-time may not be for you. Write the story when and where the STORY needs to happen, rather than worrying over forcing it into a particular framework.

3) Do my characters in the two periods learn something from each other? The beauty of split-time novels is the coming-together-ness of persons across time (and perhaps even across cultures). Readers crave growth in your modern characters— ideally, a growth that comes from the lessons of the past. And isn’t it beautiful when a past we thought gone rises up to tell its story? Can you tell how much I love this? 😂 There’s something so redemptive at stake in the process.

4) Is my portrayal of one time period stronger than the other? On the one hand, the obvious answer is WELL YEAH because we all have a natural bend and passion that comes through in our writing voice. But if your critique partners/reader friends/gut instincts are all telling you that one portion of the story is by far stronger, consider whether or not that’s where the REAL story is happening, and whether you should stick to that timeframe. Do consider that it’s important to hear from other people... I was absolutely convinced my historical threads were lacking because I’m such a fish out of water when it comes to historical, but to my shock, everyone who’s read my WIP has told me the historical part was their favorite! So, an insecurity on your part does not necessarily equal an inadequacy.

I hope these questions help you work through whether split-time is write for your novel! It’s such a really cool structure to read and to write when used effectively, and I hope to see a lot more of it in CBA. If you’ve never read split-time before, I’d recommend you start with Kristy Cambron, Rachel Hauck, Susan Meissner, and Heidi Chiavaroli — all of whom are amazing.

Tell me in the comments— what are some of your favorite split time novels?






Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.

The Edit Letter: A Writer's Perspective

 This may sound crazy, but I got the best email last month. It was my edit letter on my next book. Delayed Justice will release later in 2018, and I've been on pins and needles since I sent the book in to my publisher and new editor in November. The holidays and life has the edit coming back to me now.

An edit letter.

Opening them can be nerve-wrecking.

Has my editor decided she should never have wanted to work with me? Has she discovered I can't write after all? Does the plot stink? Are the characters weak? Is there anything we can salvage in this story?

It's so easy to let my internal worrier take off and leave me with knots in my stomach. I've learned though to take a deep breath and try to adopt my friend Colleen Coble's approach.

Edits are great. They are a chance to make my story stronger. To put the characters and plot in the strongest position possible before I turn them over to you, my readers. It's a time to pull out deeper themes and threads. To dig deep for the gold that's lying hidden in the pages and words.

And isn't Delayed Justice's cover amazing? I think it's the best I've had yet with the Hidden Justice series. They've all been good, but this one pops!

Do you have questions about the writing life? If so, let me know! I'd love to answer your questions in future posts!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Tales from the Creative Wilderness


Have you ever been through a creative wilderness? Where your art feels more like an uninspired chore than a joyful passion? It's a place of wandering, a land of haven't-we-passed-that-dead-tree-39-times? The act of showing up over and over again can get a little angsty. The mind games may even tempt us to quit.

My name is Laurie Tomlinson, and that was my 2017.

My pastor did an extensive sermon series on Exodus, talking about a people group God freed after years of slavery. But instead of going straight to the promised land flowing with milk and honey, they spent forty years wandering, trying to find their own way out, worshipping other gods, even wishing they could go back to the predictable, familiar misery of slavery.

I wish I could give you a foolproof, five-step plan for getting out of the creative wilderness, but I can tell you what I learned keeps us from getting out: 

Being too far into our own head. It can be a season where real-life circumstances prevail over our creative work, but more than likely, it's the result of too much navel-gazing. So much good work is sabotaged by overthinking, and the wilderness is a faulty mind contraption that converts our biggest lies to truths and beliefs we govern our lives by: I'll never be enough. I'm not prepared to do this. Beliefs that don't line up with the promises of God or His call on our lives. Beliefs that give us too much credit in a bigger story that isn't ours to write. This can also look like focusing so much on the bad things happening around us that we numb the parts of ourselves that are vital to creativity. While we shouldn't turn a blind eye to what's going on in the world, we cannot allow it to keep us from bringing good to our corner of it.

Comparing ourselves to others and wishing we were on their level. Sometimes that faulty mind contraption shifts our focus to others. Instead of celebrating their successes, cheering them on, praying for them, and seeing how we can serve them in our mutual calling, we measure ourselves against a ruler that's designed uniquely for them. If resentment ensues, that resentment does nothing but hinder our own progress and keep us in the wilderness.

Focusing on the business side, the whys and what-ifs. Ironically, my wilderness 2017 was the year my first book released. While it's important not to neglect the business side, the wilderness looks like dwelling so much on what we think will sell and what the experts tell us we should be doing that we neglect the beautiful, specific orders God whispered in our souls that got us started in the first place and have kept us going to this point.

Allowing fear to sabotage our work time. The wilderness can have two common denominators: a lot of procrastination and a lot of wondering where to go next. But often that itching feeling of unrest is rooted in fears that are custom-tailored to derail us. What if I'm doing the wrong thing? What does my voice have to offer in a sea of so many good books and talent? Why do this work when there's a likelihood that it won't make any difference? You know the ones. They lose their power when they're named, rooted out, and replaced with the narrative of truth.

In the wilderness, we focus on productivity instead of obedience. We work from a place of guilt instead of a place of worship. 

Some of us have these arbitrary numbers engrained in our minds of where we should be, how much we should have to show for a given period of time, a set of results that constitutes success. But our creative work should first be an act of worship governed by a close relationship with our Father, a familiarity with His voice, and a willingness to change course--and even set our work aside for a while--as He leads.

That's not to say we shouldn't have goals and deadlines; God honors those and helps us with them. Sometimes our wilderness seasons are simply because He wants us in a different place for a time, and we have to be obedient to that. But I can tell you this: when we focus on obedience instead of this picture of how things should be, whatever the Lord calls us to do will ultimately strengthen and better equip us to do our work. Always.

To those who are reading this knowing you've been obedient and your heart is truly in a place of worship when you do your work, I would encourage you not to allow a season of creative unrest to challenge your picture of God's goodness. He isn't an angry god in the sky dangling our creativity over us like a carrot or holding it hostage for a certain ransom. His goodness never changes, and His intention for our lives is not for us to wander.

We, like the Israelites in the Old Testament, may have walked into the freedom He offers, but embracing it and living accordingly is a separate process. The control and familiarity we had before are so tempting and sometimes even comforting, but freedom is better. We don't have to rely on our own devices or carry our fears around like heavy idols. He's constant, He's with us, and He's still good every step of the way.

I can identify the moment I came out of my wilderness. 

There was a morning I was so frustrated and writing felt like such a burden, occupying so much of my brain space that I told the Lord, "I will give this up and walk away if you ask me to." But He didn't ask me to. All He wanted was for me to surrender control and instead, work in His lavish joy and freedom. From the other side, I recognize that I learned how close God really is to us. I'm much better acquainted with the sound of His voice and the fullness of His presence.

I never, ever thought I'd say this, but I'm so thankful for that season of wandering and hope this story encourages you wherever you are. You are always welcome to reach out to one of us when you need to.
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Laurie Tomlinson is an award-winning contemporary romance author and cheerleader for creatives. She believes that God's love is unfailing, anything can be accomplished with a good to-do list, and that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles. 

Previously a full-time book publicist, Laurie now serves as a virtual assistant and runs a freelance editing and PR consulting business called 1624 Communications

She lives with her husband and two small children in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her debut contemporary romance novel, With No Reservations, is now available wherever books are sold from Harlequin Heartwarming.

You can connect with Laurie on her website, Facebook page, and Twitter

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Tuning Out Distractions


Ever feel like you keep chasing down the time to write? Just whenever you get a brilliant idea, your toddler interrupts, or maybe you glance up at the clock and realize you're late for something.

There's probably little you can do about the amount of time you currently have available for writing. But there's probably a lot you can do about the quality of that time. Let me explain.

I've got a Lularoe addition. 😀  I'm kidding... erm... sort of. 😀   But for real, I was just telling the Alley Cats the other day that whenever I get free time, I'm so bad about consignment shopping on apps like Poshmark. Leggings and secondhand Anthropologie are my weakness, y'all! And while there's nothing wrong with the occasional distraction, if I'm not careful, browsing pretty things can become my go-to stress reliever.

Distractions can take on some really surprising forms. Maybe for you, it's sports. Or a television show. The Design Home app (can I get an "amen"?). I don't mean "distractions" in the nefarious super sinful sense here... although those clearly apply as well. I mean distractions that are just that. Distractions. From our calling.

We get pulled in so many directions on a daily basis. We wake up daily to a new promise of God's grace and provision for our day, but everything from news headlines to dead car batteries can pull from our emotional reserves. And before we know it, we may find ourselves with the time to write but with nothing to actually write about.

Can I just encourage you today to guard your heart? As Proverbs says, it's the wellspring of life. If you've allowed yourself to become depleted by the distractions that abound, it's time for a tuneup. Are you giving your emotional resources to the things that matter, or are you waisting your energy on time-suckers and Facebook headlines?

But you guys-- may God give us a vision to see how meaningful, and how vast, and how holy the call to write really is. May we take it seriously, even in its ministry to ourselves. Maybe you've been asking God for emotional healing or hope or a promise from Him... have you considered investing that energy into your story? I know I've written some books that were solely for God to teach me what the heroine was discovering.

The Lord has a tendency to whisper. Have you noticed it? Let me ask you... how loud is the rest of your life? If you practice tuning out those other voices clamoring for your attention, you may just find what you've been looking for... a new sense of depth in your story, and in your life.


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Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.