Called to be a Writer: How to Know For Sure

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“I’m going to be a writer one day.”

“I’m going to write a book and get rich.”

“Writing’s easy. I think I’ll become an author.”

Oh, how many times have I heard people tell me such things! Throughout my long writing career, that’s for sure. Well, that’s great. But once I start explaining all the work that goes into it most, but not all of them, back away. At other times when people tell me they want to become a writer, I just nod and smile unless they ask for advice. Why? Because I’m waiting to see how serious they are, to see if God has truly called them.

Let’s face it. Writing professionally isn’t for the fainthearted, nor is it for the lonely. Like any ministry, if a person isn’t called to write, I don’t recommend doing it. I wouldn’t recommend myself to be a choir director, either, because frogs sing better than I do.

Do you feel called to be a writer? Here are three things to consider to help you know for sure:

.Psalm 37: 4  “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” (KJV)

This verse doesn’t mean we can desire anything and the Lord will give it. Rather, it means that if we delight in Him and put Him first in our lives, He’ll put His desires in our heart. So, if we follow this pattern, delighting in God first, and if He’s called us to be a writer, He’ll plant that literary dream within us. It will grow into a passion, and the passion will become so strong we’ll refuse to quit no matter what or who may try to hinder us.

John 10:10   “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I   am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more   abundantly.” (KJV)

Eric Liddell

Our Lord and Savior has called us to an abundant life, one that overflows with joy and fulfillment. If we’re called, we’ll experience that joy while we write. Like Eric Liddell said in the movie Chariots of Fire: he felt God’s pleasure when he ran. If we’re called to write, we’ll also feel God’s pleasure.

1 Samuel 17:35 “Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this  uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the  armies of the living God.” (KJV)

Before David accepted Goliath’s challenge, God had prepared him by teaching him how to fight lions and bears. Likewise, God prepares us for whatever He’s called us to do. Just as He enabled David to kill Goliath, so He’ll enable called writers to succeed. Not fame and fortune, necessarily. Few writers have this. But they will reach the skill level where they can sell their work. It may not happen overnight, and usually doesn’t, but through hard work and study (preparation), and a little bit of talent, God will bring on and bless the bylines.

Has God called you to be a writer? If so, never quit pursuing your dream.

Pantser/No Pantser Writing

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Are you a panster or a no pantser? Or, are you somewhere in- between like me?

Pantsers, writers who don’t use outlines, write “by the seat of their pants.” Other writers, the no pantsers, use outlines. Each way of writing has its own advantages and disadvantages.

ADVANTAGES OF A PANTSER

  1. Writing is livelier.
  2. Characters “take over” the story and move it in unexpected directions, which can          surprise the writer and delight readers.
  3. New character POVs can appear, along with new, and surprising plots.

DISADVANTAGES OF A PANTSER

  1. The plot is liable to have holes in it, requiring lots of revision as the writer works out plot problems.
  2. Writing will often be too wordy. This means lots of cutting back on unnecessary adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases.
  3. Some scenes may appear in the initial draft that may have to be deleted later. Also, some plot angles and unbelievable storylines may have to be cut–more work, more revision.

ADVANTAGES OF A NO PANTSER

  1. The writer knows every detail of where his/her story is going.
  2. Plot problems have been worked out before the story is written. This saves time for the writer and helps him/her write faster.

DISADVANTAGES OF A NO PANSTER

  1. Writers are locked into their outline, limiting other plot options.
  2. If the writer isn’t careful, outlined writing can sound stiff.

THE IN-BETWEEN

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As I mentioned earlier, some writers are like me: in-between the two methods. What do I mean by this? How I wrote my Southern Sons-Dixie Daughters series will explain.

As I sat at my laptop to begin my first book in the series, I knew how the series would begin and how it would end. However, I had no idea what would happen in the middle.

Then, after I wrote my first few chapters, the story “got legs” and took off. New characters popped up along the way, new subplots and plot complications arose. It was great fun, releasing my characters to do whatever they wanted.

One character, though, proved stubborn—a Creole fellow named Philippe. I tried hard to enlist him in the Confederate Navy. I even wrote his navy scenes. With every writing, though, Philippe kept screaming at me: “Army! Put me in the Army!” When I finally listened to him, his story took off like a cannon shot across a ship’s bow.

The outlining came in when I wrote the novel’s chronology. I needed to be sure that my characters “did their thing” within the right historical time frame. Their stories revolved around the historical events they experienced. I didn’t tell them what to do, they told me what they wanted to do and how they wanted to respond to these events.

So, are you a pantser, a no pantser, or somewhere in-between? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Feel free to share them in the comments.

Guilt-Free Writing

WRITER ON BREAK. WILL BE BACK LATER.

For many years during my writing career, I suffered from guilt whenever I took time off from writing. I needed to be at my typewriter (laptop) pecking away at the keys. What was I accomplishing in a literary sense if I wasn’t? On the other hand, what was I accomplishing by staring at my typewriter paper or my laptop screen all day, struggling after ideas and stories ? Nothing, nothing at all.

I’ve since learned that little breaks are great for writers, that they’re not a waste of time. It’s how we recharge and get fresh ideas. Many a day I’ve walked away from my desk, my mental activity exhausted. Whenever I reach this point I know it’s time to do something different. Go for a drive, go for a walk, or take an entire day or weekend off. Get up from your work every ninety minutes or so instead of writing long hours on end. Nothing wrong with doing that, and I recommend it.

So, don’t feel guilty about the times you don’t write. Look at it this way: even when we’re resting, we’re working. Why? Because proper rest contributes to greater productivity. Your writer’s brain will be forever grateful.

Till next time, friends!

19th Century Equine Health Tips

For a horse who suffered from fits, where he jerked his head and fell down but then got up again and seemed fine, the following remedy was offered in 1855:

“Give the animal two ounces of the tincture of asafoetida every morning for ten days. Tie the gum on his bit and wear it for six or eight days. He will never have a fit after the first dose.”

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For a horse who suffered a chronic cough, it was recommended that the animal’s owner take:

“…powdered squills one ounce, ginger two ounces, cream of tartar one ounce, mix well, and give a spoonful every morning and evening in wet bran. This is good after hard riding or driving. It cures all coughs and colds, and will prevent the lungs from swelling.”

Source

The Horse. G.W. M’Coy’s catalogue of practical receipts, for curing the different diseases of the horse. Enered according to the Library of Congress, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty-five by George W. McCoy…Indianapolis. Printed by Cameron & McNeely (1855). https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.019005ba/

Writing the Personal Experience Article

Enjoying my favorite fishing spot–Horn Island, off the Mississippi Gulf Coast in Mississippi Sound. I have lots of personal experiences from this place!

One of the best ways to begin a professional writing career in the Christian industry is through personal experience articles. This is how I started. Such articles require little if any research and teach lessons the writer learned from his/her experience.

            Here are four rules for writing them.

1.         The experience must be true. We may not remember our experience’s every detail, but we must try to be as accurate as possible. If others accompanied us during our experience,  we can always ask them questions to refresh our memories. If we teach a negative lesson through our experience (what not to do), we must be the one who learned it. We writers must be secure enough to be vulnerable, which means having a willingness to expose our   shortcomings and mistakes to the world.

2.         The article must have a strong opening. If we don’t hook our readers in the first sentence,  or at least the first paragraph, readers will probably set aside our work and go on to other  things.

3.         The article must use fiction techniques. When we write a personal experience article we’re also telling a story. Like any other story, it must include action, conflict, dialogue, description… all the basic elements fiction requires. If we can’t recall exactly what a person said during our experience, at least write the essence of it. That’s all we can do.

4.         The article must teach a lesson without being preachy. What is preachiness? It’s moralizing on and on, as though lecturing(or preaching) to our readers. Instead of  doing this, let the story itself teach the lesson. At the end of the article, use a short takeaway message and/or Bible verse to reinforce our main point. “Short” is the key word here.     

Well, these are some thoughts on writing the personal experience article. Give it a try!

Till next week, keep tapping those laptop keys!