Thursday, April 27, 2017

Best of the ICFW Archives ~ Killing your darlings

By Rita Galieh

How would you describe these expressions? My take is Shock - Horror - and Consternation. 

Sigh, I empathize with these poor hounds. For right now I am in the midst of polishing a manuscript. Well, all we authors do that regularly so what's so bad about it? 

Then let me explain. I am changing the multi Point of View of a romance novel into what is acceptable for a publisher's expections of said novel.

Read more at the following link:

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Maze of a Writing Journey

By Morgan Tarpley Smith

Leeds Castle
Leeds Castle in southeastern England is one of my absolute favorite places in the world. The castle is beautiful and unforgettable in its own right, but what stood out to me the most during my visit was the hedge maze. (So much so it’s featured in my latest novel but more about that in a minute.)

Thinking of this truly memorable maze brought to mind an interesting parallel to my writing. You see, my fiction writing journey resembles that maze.

My actual foray into novel writing began about seven years ago in Young Adult fiction with the birth of two very different book series. The problem was that two years later I still hadn’t completed a single book, and today they remain unfinished. Therefore, this maze path led to a dead end.

In the meantime, I turned from it and headed in another direction, a completely different pathway—a very long and winding one that has lasted the past five years with many more writing conferences, numerous writing critiques, writing research and the completion of my first novel manuscript—except this one was in the adult inspirational genre.

Maze at Leeds Castle
The problem was it truly wasn’t finished and was in desperate need of extensive and involved rewriting to start resembling a publishable manuscript. For many reasons, it remains unfinished today; though, I know it I will finish it one day, but I have way more to learn about myself and writing before that time.

So, that path isn’t a dead end per say but more of a “I’m going in another direction at the moment.” And, right now, that’s where I am—maze path #3 of Middle Grade fiction.

For many years now, I’ve been quite passionate and intentional about fostering imagination and self-confidence in young children. As a trained journalist and through my work with our local newspaper, I’ve had many amazing opportunities to share in classrooms about my job and writing in general—including my dream to be a published author. A few years ago, an idea sprouted in my mind to merge these passions—and, viola, my MG series was born.

Middle Grade Research!! How fun is this?!
The books follow a ten-year-old girl and her twin brother who travel through Europe one summer with their aunt and grandmother while their aunt completes various photography assignments for travel magazines. The girl dreams of being a writer, but she needs encouragement and direction—therefore her aunt steps in and enrolls her in a young writers’ class in London that gives her the tools and the confidence to start writing stories inspired by each country they visit that summer.

And, guess what, I recently completed Book One in the series which is set at Leeds Castle and features the maze in a big way. I’ve already begun the next book set in Ireland. With this series, I feel completely prepared to write compelling characters and enticing story arcs after all my years of research and practice. I am, in no way, saying that these books are simple and basic, but they are much less challenging for me to write than that adult novel that right now is still way over my head.

The end of the maze
But I’ve finished a book, and it’s still complete after thorough editing and polishing. This maze path has led me closer to my goal, closer to the end of the maze prize. All those maze paths that seemed like they led absolutely nowhere are all part of the experience, the learning process, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I continue to learn so much and it all makes getting to THE END so much sweeter.

Is your writing journey a maze too? Have you switched genres? If yes, was it easy for you? Did you have dead ends? I’d love to hear from you!

Also, are there any middle grade authors out there? I’d love to meet you and join the MG party! 😊

Morgan Tarpley Smith is an award-winning newspaper reporter and photographer in Louisiana. She is also an aspiring inspirational novelist. Besides writing and traveling to over a dozen countries, her interests include acting in her local theater, genealogy, photography, and singing. She resides in Louisiana with her husband. For more information about Morgan, connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Goodreads. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

How (Not) to Sabotage Yourself as a Writer

By Kristen Young

So you’ve found it: that one, perfect idea for the next international best seller. But no matter how hard you try, you just really, really struggle. You might have a mental image of the ‘ideal writer’ - an arty type sipping lattes and pounding away on their laptop in a cafe, or a prim and well-dressed woman sitting at her window, looking out over her immaculate garden as she produces reams of romantic prose. But life isn’t like that at all. How on earth do people actually get this stuff written?

From distraction to perfectionism, we authorly types have a million ways to sabotage ourselves.

So how can we avoid the pitfalls, and get those burning ideas from our heads to the page?

1. Writing, like faith, requires discipline.

For my faith to keep growing and maturing, I need Christian disciplines like reading my Bible, meeting up with fellow believers, praying, and so on. It’s not always easy. I’m easily distracted by the important little tasks that need to be done. But if I want to nurture my understanding and faith in Jesus, then I need to be disciplined in how I learn from him and grow.

In a similar way, writing won’t just ‘happen’. It’s one thing to wait for inspiration to strike. But if we only write when we feel like it, we’re never going to get anywhere. Like all disciplines, it needs a commitment. A commitment to get it done. A commitment to do it well. A humble commitment to learn and grow where needed.

2. Set times for your writing, and give yourself space

For most of us, writing is something we achieve around the edges of real life. In between kids, work, housework, appointments, somehow we still have that desire to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

It’s better to get 50 words done rather than none, but if you’re going to finish that project, you’ll have to set aside specific time to write. It might be 5:30am before the kids get up. It might be that lunch break on Tuesdays when your co-workers go out. It doesn’t have to be an entire day. But if you really want to finish, you will need to turn down other commitments. Wear noise-cancelling headphones if you have to. Use those half-hours of peace to scribble down as many words as you can.

3. Start thinking about it the night before.

If you don’t have entire weeks blocked out to write that project, it helps to ‘prime’ your brain before you sit down. Start thinking about your writing hours or even the day before you actually write. Work out the kinks and roadblocks in your head. You could have conversations with yourself:

  • “If my protagonist does this, what will happen?”
  • “What is the big idea of this chapter? What do I want to say?”
  • “Who is going to step in at this point?”

Doing this is a great way to get your brain in gear before you put those words on paper. I’ve had much better writing times when I’ve thought through the chapter the night before I sit down. It’s so much easier than looking at that blank page and freaking out.

4. When you finish, walk away for a LONG time.

Trust me on this one. Please.

Writing an entire book is a marathon effort. So you deserve to celebrate when you type THE END. But the way to celebrate is *not* by sending off that manuscript to dozens of agents and publishers, or by instantly uploading it to Amazon.

Yes, it’s the most brilliant thing you’ve ever written, and yes, you are just overjoyed to have an actual book in your hot little hands. But please, back away slowly from that Submit button. You’ll thank me later.

Here’s the bit that might be hard to take: Put it aside for at least a couple of months.

Yes, you heard me. What do you do for those months? Write something else. Write a sequel. Write a completely different story. Load up the next draft in your arsenal. But DO NOT SUBMIT STRAIGHT AWAY.

You need to come back to that manuscript with the eyes of a stranger. Right now, you’re too caught up in your own plot to be able to see what you’re missing:

  • The flat spots in the action. 
  • Fractured descriptions. 
  • Flowery language that should never see the light of day. 

Come back to that manuscript when you’ve forgotten it a little bit, and you can be a much better judge of your own work.

Then hone it. Get it edited by an objective editor. Work that baby until it’s so finely tuned it grips the readers from page 1. Only then do you submit it to your heart’s content. You might actually get a more positive response when you do. Better indie book sales. Better responses from agents and publishers.

Believe me. I’ve learned that one the hard way.

5. Things take a lot longer than you think they will.

In our instant society, we expect everything to happen yesterday. But the writing world isn’t like that.

Things go slowly - especially if you’re aiming for a traditional publishing career. The publishing cycle is like an ancient clockwork beast that takes a long time to wind up. Be prepared that it will take you more than three months to be a bestseller. Not only does it take a while to produce a good traditionally published book, the reading public is hesitant to pick up on new readers. It may take until the third or fourth book before they sit up and take notice.

Being an indie writer is a great career choice, and a lot of writing I love comes from indie writers. But I’ve also read some stuff with massive plot jumps and completely incomprehensible paragraphs. Or should I say, ‘tried to read, and dropped at the first chapter’. I wanted to like it. Really, I did.

Just like we don’t re-visit a restaurant with dodgy cuisine, readers won’t revisit a writer who hasn’t taken the time to develop a good quality product. Now I’m not talking about the occasional typo here. Typos are common - even in traditionally published best sellers - so don’t freak out too much. But when a story has been rushed to market, it’s more likely to contain some hasty errors that could have been eliminated with a slowly-slowly approach.

Ask advice from others (not just your family). Does this writing work? Is it interesting? Where can I improve? You are your own boss, which means you’re creating your own brand. Make it a quality brand, and you’ll have a long-term career. But remember that creating trust in your readers is a slow process. It takes time to build and hone.

6. Don’t give up.

Please don’t. Books change lives. They inspire, challenge, thrill and transform us. A well-written book is so worth the pain of giving it birth. So don’t give up. It may take longer than you expect. It might come through painful feedback and struggle. But the end result can be better than you ever dreamed.

You will be rejected. You will have moments of anger. You will experience those dark clouds that tell you that you are the worst writer ever. Don’t listen to them. If God really has given you those books to write, then he’ll help you get them out there.

Struggle through those fantastic ideas. Improve them. Shape them. Then unleash them on the world when they’re the best they can possibly be. Those writers who were rejected multiple times didn’t just keep sending the same old Manuscript to other agents. They improved them. They reshaped them.

Eventually, someone listened. And we’re so glad they did.

About Kristen Young 

Kristen Young is the author of devotions and non-fiction books for youth, published through Fervr and Youthworks press. “What if? Dealing with Doubt” was shortlisted for the 2105 Sparklit prize for best Australian Christian publication. Her YA speculative fiction series is currently in development.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Letter from Beyond the Grave

The written word can be a scary thing. When you send a book out into the world you never know where it will wind up or how it will affect people. 

I was reminded of this recently as I am preparing a new edition of the 2011 release of To Dust You Shall Return, book 3 in my Lord Danvers Investigates series. This is a Victorian true-crime series with each book featuring an actual mid-Victorian murder with a fictional one wove around it.

The true crime I recount in this book is the brutal murder of frail, 80-year-old Catherine Bacon in Chatham, near Canterbury. The 2011 book was itself a re-release of the 1995 original edition. Imagine my surprise when I received, nearly a year later, a letter from the great, great, great granddaughter of Catherine Bacon.

Jane, the descendent of my murder victim, was seeking information that would help her locate her ancestor’s grave. Unfortunately, I was unable to help her, as I had researched no further than accounts of the murder itself and the subsequent trial.

Jane, however, was able to fill in several holes in my research, especially the fact that Catherine Bacon and her husband had four sons. Jane was descended from the second son.

In an interview for my blog, I asked Jane how she felt about reading of her ancestress’s murder in a novel. She replied: Had I not been aware of Catherine's murder, I suspect that I would have been mildly irritated that the name of an ancestress of mine had been used as the victim of what appeared to be a fictional crime! However, as I had read nearly one hundred newspaper articles about the crime and trial, I was simply eager to see if the author's research added anything to the knowledge I had already gained.

Jane also said that she appreciated the opportunity to share on my blog because it gave her a chance to share with you my thoughts about the case and a platform to put right some of the incorrect information that appears on the internet. Only too frequently, supposition is placed online and then treated as fact. In these times when amateur genealogy is such a popular pastime and the internet is so often used as a primary source, mistakes are made and perpetuated.

An example of an oft-repeated mistake that she was able to correct was the idea of Charles Dickens family living in my great-great-great-grandmother's house. She explained that, indeed, Dickens had lived in Ordnance Terrace, a had Catherine Bacon, but the house numbers had changed since that time. Fortunately, I had not made that mistake in my book.

One I had made, though, was the identity of Catherine Bacon’s husband. I had mistakenly identified her as the Catherine Bacon married to Colonel Bacon, a hero of The Battle of Waterloo. Jane Explained that there were two other ladies named Catherine Bacon in that area at that time. The one married to an army officer was part of the Unitarian Gaskell family (into which the authoress Mrs Gaskell married) who are ancestors of my husband's family!). However, my Catherine was married to an Engineer who when younger had been personal private assistant to Sir Marc Brunel (you may well know him to be the father of the more famous Isambard K Brunel).

How wonderful to find my character connected, even tangentially, to such luminaries. You can be quite certain I have corrected my error in the up-coming new edition.

In all this I am reminded of the Biblical injunction in Ecclesiastes to “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.” That is certainly what happened in my account of the Catherine Bacon story. And how wonderful that, through the wonders of electronic publication, I now have the opportunity to correct my earlier mistake.

You can read the entire interview here where Jane also recounts the fascinating story of how she was contacted by a descendant of her great, great, great, grandmother’s murderer.

And see the newly released first book in the series here.

Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 3 mystery series. You can read more about them and see pictures from her research trips here

Sunday, April 23, 2017


Coming Up This Week 


Donna Fletcher Crow: A Letter from Beyond the Grave


Kristen Young: How (Not) to Sabotage Yourself as a Writer


Morgan Tarpley Smith


Best of ICFW Archives

Friday Devotion 

Leila Halawe: A Seat at the Table



Kara Isaac's debut novel Close to You (Howard Books, 2016) is a double finalist in the 2017 Romance Writers of America RITA Award in the Best First Book category and Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements category. Congratulations Kara! 


New Releases

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense, Pursued, is an April 2017 release from Revell.


Upcoming Releases

Patricia Beal's debut contemporary women’s fiction set in Germany and in the United States, A Season to Dance, will be a May 2017 release from Bling! Romance / Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Sprouts of Love, Book 1 in her new Garden Grown Romance series (part of Arcadia Valley Romance multi-author series), releases independently in May 2017.

Carolyn Miller's regency romance set in England, The Captivating Lady Charlotte, Book 2 in her Regency Brides series, will be a June 2017 release from Kregel.

Kara Isaac's contemporary romance set in Australia and New Zealand, Then There Was You, releases independently in June 2017.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Memories of Mist, Book 3 in her Urban Farm Fresh Romance series, releases independently in July 2017.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense set in Italy, Fatal Cover-Up, will be a July 2017 release from Love Inspired Suspense.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Better Than a Crown, Book 3 in her Christmas in Montana Romance series, releases independently in October 2017.

Carolyn Miller's regency romance set in England, The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, Book 3 in her Regency Brides series, will be an October 2017 release from Kregel.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Rooted in Love, Book 2 in her new Garden Grown Romance series (part of Arcadia Valley Romance multi-author series) releases independently in November 2017.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense set in USA, Vanishing Point: A Nikki Boyd Novel, will be a November 2017 release from Revell.

To find more International Christian Fiction books, please visit our 2013 - 2016 Book Releases page and Backlist Titles.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The WHY and WHERE of Writing. (And I'm not talking about laptops, coffee shops and bank deposits)

We all write for different reasons. I write mostly because I want my words to shift things inside of my readers. I want them to think differently after reading my books. I have a deep desire to see people made whole, restored and reconnected to the God who loves them.

The longer I spend time churning out work, the more I realize that my puny words alone can never accomplish any of this. Like a cake with no baking powder, my words minus Holy Spirit will fall flat every time. It may be edible, but it won't bring anyone back for seconds and it most certainly won't affect them for eternity.

With this in mind, I have discovered my new favourite writing spot... close to Father with my ear glued to His chest. I want to hear what moves His heart and I want to write those things. It is the only way to produce words that will make a difference.

So what does this mean practically? If I could go crawl up onto God's lap and plaster myself to Him, I would. But I'm stuck in an earth-suit, so for now I'll wallow in Word and Spirit. Listen and write and listen again. I'll co-author, not try write solo. And in all of this, if my readers get a glimpse of His heart towards them, I will have nailed it.

I'd love to hear from you. Why do you write? How do you listen and hear from God?

Dianne J. Wilson writes novels from her hometown in East London, South Africa, where she lives with her husband and three daughters. She has just signed a three book contract for a YA series, Spirit Walker, with Pelican / Watershed.

Finding Mia is available from AmazonPelican / Harbourlight, Barnes & Noble and other bookstores.

Shackles is available as a free ebook from Amazon & Smashwords.

Find her on FacebookTwitter and her sporadic blog Doodles.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Back to Training Wheels

Photo courtesy of
The Lord placed on my heart the state of men in the church a couple of years ago. Increasingly as I went about my life I struggled to find lay-men (ie, those not employed by churches or similar) who inspired me in their Jesus journey.
Very slowly it began to dawn on me that there might be a writing project involved. Then I had a lighning bolt moment at ACFW last year when my current publisher asked me if I had any interest in writing non-fiction. As I got back up of the floor (this is a fiction writing event isn’t it?) I pitched him an idea. It was terrible, hey, I had only begun to start bouncing a few ideas around on my journey over the Pacific. So I suggested I’d get back to him with a proposal at a later date.
As I chatted with some dear and wise friends over the course of the Conference my confidence grew that indeed I had something to work on.
On getting home I started to draft a proposal plus the first chapter and soon realised I really didn’t have much except for an overall premise. But I received some tremendous counsel from someone whom I greatly respect that gave me another lightning bolt moment.
It should be my story. Not in a memoir or autobiographical sort of way but my search for the attributes of men who have developed an intimate walk with the Lord. Certainly, we’re all aware of the great men in the Bible and others of yesteryear whom we admire but I want to meet the everyday regular guy who is living a surrendered life to Jesus.
I’ve received enthusiastic responses from everyone I’ve shared my vision for the project with: men and women, Christians and non-Christians. As an aside, it’s been fascinating the response I’ve had from non-Christians. It’s been a wonderful way of sharing about Jesus.
I’m presently in interview mode, really to both validate my premise (hey, I might just live a sheltered life and these types of blokes are all around) and to discover men’s opinions on intimacy with God.
Even though a lot of my life’s writing has been non-fiction of sorts (business, blogging, etc) I’ve struggled with the transition from fiction to non-fiction. I also read far more non-fiction than I do fiction including books similar to what I’m writing. Yes, it’s still story telling but I can’t just make up stuff; I don’t have these crazy characters running around in my head telling me what they’re going to do or not do.
A boss shared some wisdom with me when I was in my 20’s: you can’t always tell people what you think they need to do or know; rather you have to allow them to self-discover it. I’m thinking writing non-fiction is a bit like that. 
Enjoy the process
Jim Rubart only reminded me of the importance of this in his excellent Novel Rocket post this week: “the journey and who you’re becoming on the journey is the prize.”
Often when I start out on a new adventure I head off on my own. I step out knowing God is in it but start without actively engaging Him in the process. Silly me. Again, Ian?
Maybe this is why He has me doing this project: so I wouldn’t just find men who have the answer (or some of it) but rather that I’d self-discover what intimacy with Him is!
I can’t do this project without having Him front and centre.
And that’s my greatest desire!
What’s something you’ve self-discovered through your writing journey?

Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Angelguard was recognised with the 2014 Selah Award for Speculative Fiction.You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter