Loch Success Monster

by Brenda K. Hendricks

While I ponder my next story, I drift into a subconscious state where I. Wanda Wright floats down the Genre River. Her fingers dance over the keyboard, and stuffing story after story into bottles, she launches them into the Sea of Prose.

Without warning, she hits the Rapids of Rejection. Not for us! No unsolicited manuscripts! Wanda clings to her computer. Similar material on hand. Does NOT meet our current needs. Wanda sighs. Barely noticing the rapids have calmed slightly, she opens the last letter. Please make indicated changes and resubmit.
“It looks like she sacrificed my work to some sort of pagan manuscript god.” Wanda says.
“Revise. Revise. Revise,” the wind of perseverance responds.
Perspiration saturates her back as she crops a huge hunk of well written, but unnecessary description. Finally, Wanda leans back and reads her manuscript.
“YES! This is much tighter and clearer. I’m going to revise them all.”
Within 48 hours, bottles of revised stories bobble toward new horizons. As Wanda sails beyond the Rapids of Rejection, her dinghy drifts near a sandbank.
“Look at those rocks.” A voice sails from Writers’ Block Isle.
Wanda stops typing to survey the island. In rowboats much like hers, two writers recline with arms folded.
“Hey, I’m Wanda Wright,” she calls and drifts closer.
“You’ll never make it.” One grimaces. “There are too many better writers and not enough publishers. You might as well stop here ‘cause you won’t get much farther.”
“Never mind Atti Tude. She’s so discouraging,” the other writer says. “Me? I love writing. Why, just yesterday I almost—would you look at those daffodils. I have to pick some. And then, I’ll gather and scrub some of these sparkly stones.” Climbing out of her boat, she meanders across the grass.
“What about writing?” Wanda calls, but the distracted writer is too far away to hear.
“Pfft.” Atti waves her hand. “Lotta Skewses never writes anything. Of course, it wouldn’t do her any good anyway. She’d sail directly into the rapids.”
Wanda turns to Atti and says, “The Rapids of Rejections are difficult, but they can be overcome.”
Atti’s hands perch on her hips. “Do you realize the rejections never end?”
“I don’t mind rejections. And I am making progress.”
“P-l-e-ase.” Atti clicks her tongue in disgust. “Your writing won’t change the course of the world, you know. Besides, people could misinterpret your message.”
“Maybe,” Wanda says. “Hey, why don’t we form a critique group? It would solve the misinterpretation issue. We could help each other with marketing, and—”
Atti huffs, wrinkles her nose, and turns her back on Wanda.
“Sorry to have bothered you. Farewell.” Wanda says. As her dinghy races over the water, she smiles. There are no bad experiences for a writer, just more writing material.
In the distance, an odd-shaped, dismal mound casts an eerie shadow across the sea. An I’m-being-watched feeling ceases Wanda. She rubs down the goose flesh on her arms and resumes writing. When she looks up, the image is gone.
“A mirage, without a doubt.”
A hot puff of air sends chills down her back, and she turns to face the Loch Success Monster.
He snorts. “What if success changes you?”
Wanda cringes and the monster expands.
“What if as you succeed, your editors become more demanding?” The fire from the monster’s nostrils almost singes Wanda’s hair. “You’ll be overworked and never be able to write what you want, that’s what.”
Wanda freezes.
Suddenly, the words from her long-time friend and mentor, Emmon Author, pop into Wanda’s head. To build confidence, seek small assignments on familiar subjects.
Following the advice, Wanda casts a line to several publishers. She works diligently and completes the first project two weeks ahead of schedule.
With a groan, the monster shrinks.
As confidence builds, Wanda accepts assignments on topics she’d like to learn more about. With the completion of each project, the Loch Success Monster shrivels and his voice mutes. At long last, the winds of perseverance blow him away.
As the current eases I. Wanda Wright across the Sea of Prose, I drift back to consciousness eager to launch my next manuscript.

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Writing Guidelines

Pray

As writers, we are all familiar with the importance of following guidelines. Every periodical and publishing house has their own unique standards they expect to be followed to the T. Word count, double spacing, one-inch margins, age appropriate top the list. Add to that what they publish and what they do NOT do. It all ends up to be quite a cumbersome task. But, if we hope to be published, we oblige.

However as Christians, we have an even higher standard to follow. Whether we are called to write for children or adults, fiction or non-fiction, prose or poetry, the Bible specifies guidelines for us to follow starting with

What to write on

  1. The ground

    —cards and emails seem to be at the ground level of writing. If that’s your area of expertise, rejoice, Jesus wrote on the ground causing conviction on many legalistic people.

  2. A stick

    —letters to the editor perhaps rank at this level, but are nonetheless significant if you’ve been commissioned by God to be the active voice of His people. Write on.

  3. A rock

    —newsletter for your church or for the company where you work or a newspaper column provide an outlet for the message God has place on some of your hearts.

  4. Tablets

    —remember the day of the pen and paper? Now, young people think laptop computer at the mention of the word tablet. Still, we are called to write our message on tablets. What’s in your hand? A magazine, a book?

  5. Bill Board

    —Perhaps you are into the computer scene—the World Wide Web is you bill board. Start a blog or website. Join Facebook, Tweeter, or another community based site and contribute something worthwhile every day. I have a connection with a man who writes a beautiful Bible study on Facebook every day. He has a following of over 4500 people, and his goal is to become the largest group on Facebook. That’s quite a goal, but he’s taking God’s commission to publish His word seriously.

  6. Regardless of your avenue, we are all called to write it on the hearts of others and to do so for the glory of God.

Target Audience

Moses wrote to God’s chosen nation. Paul wrote to fellow believers, young preachers, and elders, John wrote to “dear children” and “brothers in Christ”, Jesus wrote to the hypocrites. Others wrote to those with little understanding, those with higher education, even to their enemies.

How to write

And the Lord answered me and said, Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may [be able to] read [it easily and quickly] as he hastens by (Habakkuk 2:2).

What to write

Encouragement, sound doctrine, the truth. We don’t have to mention God on every page to be a Christian writer. In fact, we don’t have to mention Him at all. In the Bible, the book of Esther never mentions God, but we know He provided the means of escape for  the Hebrew children through the queen. Write wholesome, pure, worthy-to-be-read books, articles, newspaper columns, newsletters, emails and God will be seen in your writing and will receive the glory.

Why write?

The world needs to hear what is faithful and true. We write because we have been created for the task and given a gift to use for building the kingdom of God.

Hone your craft. Go from here a different way, refreshed, prepared, and eager to publish the word God has given you by the means He has established for you.

And all of God’s children said, “Yes and amen.”

Overcoming the Fear of Submission:

 What You May Not Know About Rejection

by: Frances Gregory Pasch

As the leader of a Christian writers’ group for the past 20 years, I find that most writers love putting words on paper, but many of their finished pieces remain in their desk drawers

Mailing or e-mailing my work has always been a fun experience. When I submit regularly, waiting for a response is a highlight of my day. When my mailbox or my inbox is filled only with advertisements, bills or junk mail, I know I haven’t been using my writing gift.

I’ve had over two hundred devotions and poems published and have resubmitted many of them as reprints. But I still get rejections.

No one likes being turned down, but I’ve learned that a large percentage of all submissions will be rejected. Here are some of the reasons:

The magazine just printed a similar article.

Your piece may be well written, but subscribers don’t want to read the same subject matter within the same year.

You didn’t follow the guidelines.

It’s important to send for a copy of the writers’ guidelines for each magazine and read through a few sample copies.

Your article needs to meet the criteria the editor expects: suitable topic, correct word count, right slant, etc.

Inaccurate Research

Be sure to double check your facts. You don’t want to lead your reader astray.

Wrong Format

An editor recognizes that you have done your homework when you submit your piece following the standard format used by writers. If you don’t know how to send in your manuscript, check your local bookstore or library for material to learn the proper procedure. Writing classes and conferences are also great places for learning.

One of the best investments you can make is “Sally Stuart’s Christian Market Guide,” published yearly by Shaw Books. Visit Sally’s website at http://www.stuartmarket.com.

1. Sally’s guide lists magazines by type of market, i.e. women, children, teens, general adult, etc., and their needs. There is also a topical index.

2. Editor’s names, addresses and e-mail addresses are included so you can get guidelines and a sample copy.

3. Sally lists the circulation of each magazine, whether or not the market pays, and what rights it buys. She also states whether the editor prefers submissions by regular mail or e-mail.

4. The guide contains locations and contacts for writers’ groups, workshops, and conferences in each state. Getting together with other writers is a great motivator. If you can’t attend any of these groups, you can meet other writers on line or consider starting a group of your own.

5. Sally lists other resources: editorial services, book publishers, correspondence courses, websites geared to writers, writing instruction on tape, and more.

Locating a suitable market for your polished piece will take time, but when you find one, immediately send your manuscript, along with a short cover letter. If submitting by regular mail, enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE).

If you are sending poems, devotions, or short pieces, I suggest including more than one. That gives you a better chance of acceptance.

Keeping track of your submissions is an important part of the process. Record the name of each piece you submit, the date you sent it, and the rights you are offering. Be sure to note the results when you receive an answer. If the publication cannot use your piece, state why. If accepted, jot down when it will be published and what they will pay. Some magazines pay on acceptance, others on publication.

I still keep track of my submissions on index cards. You may find it easier to use a notebook or set up a computer file. Whatever method you choose, be consistent. Many publications take at least ninety days or longer to respond, so while you are waiting., start on your next piece.

Editors are looking for good writers like you and me. Don’t be afraid of them. We just need to use our God-given writing gift to the best of our ability for His glory.

I believe that if you take advantage of these tools and follow these rules, one day you will see your name in print.

Three Keys to Creativity

By: Brenda K. Hendricks

Writers and Illustrators belong to the Odd Duck Society

Throughout my trek as a writer/illustrator, I have discovered there are keys that propel our vehicle forward.

1)  Surrender unlocks opportunities to improve.

Surrender to the demands of hours of solitude. As writers/illustrators, our lives are not our own. We have audiences who deserve the very best we have to offer.

Surrender to research. Authenticity is a must whether we’re writing non-fiction or fiction, children’s books or adult literature, curricula or short stories, articles, essays, or poems. The more we understand about our topic of interest, the richer our writings will be.

Surrender to the fact that we are just one piece of the puzzle. There are others like editors, publishers, and agents who are vital to the production and circulation of our work. Let everyone add their piece of the puzzle, and the picture will turn out exactly right.

Surrender to critiques from other writers, illustrators, and readers who are willing to tell you the truth. The ability to cast our thoughts onto the page and project them into the minds of our readers doesn’t come naturally, at least not for most of us. Guess what! Not everyone thinks alike. What appears clear to us may not be that obvious to our readers. We all have “blind” spots when reading our own prose therefore, an extra set of eyes is essential.

Surrender to revisions, rewrites, and manuscript mutilation. As rose bushes bloom better through regular pruning, manuscripts flourish through serious rewrites. It’s inevitable. Our babies are NOT perfect at the moment of creation. They need to be shaped, trimmed, and polished.

Surrender to rejection without accepting defeat. Not everyone is going to want to print our work. Rejection is a useful tool to the serious writer. It forces us to examine our work more intently, to search the market more diligently, and to strive for excellence.

2)  Concentrate on our craft. It’s the secret of every successful person, whether their area of expertise is science, finances, sports, music, or the arts. Deep thinking goes into every experiment, every calculation, every play, every performance, and every stroke of the brush until the very act of concentration is ingrained in the subconscious.

Concentration opens the door to adventure.

Writers perform their duties at their day jobs, thinking about their next manuscript. While their spouses snore beside them in bed, writers lie on their backs plotting their next novel or organizing their next how to article. Muse isn’t always easy to come by nor does it always show up at opportune times, but it does come. And when it does, it compels us to write.

Many great writers remain mediocre because they refuse to commit to the needed practice of concentration. And who can blame them for being reluctant? Exercising concentration can cause temporary insanity. We are caught talking out loud to ourselves and even laughing at a private joke in the bathroom. We answer questions with irrelevant tidbits of information or we don’t hear the question at all. We leave notes all over the house so we don’t lose those really important thoughts. Or worse, those of us who write novels leave notes to our characters on the table, vanity, and counter.

3)  Fascinate, not our audience but ourselves with the process of writing. According to the dictionary, it means to hold one spellbound by some irresistible charm. How long to do we stay with anything that doesn’t fascinate us? People lose all track of time surfing the Internet. Body builders work out six to eight hours a day. Skydivers jump out of airplanes. Why? Those pastimes captivate the participant.

Likewise, the process of painting a picture with words holds writers spellbound. The correct word placed properly in the sentence, strategically located in the paragraph, and positioned just so in the article written on the blank page fascinates us. If it didn’t, we’d be Internet surfers, weightlifters, or skydivers.

Fascination releases a child-like curiosity that inspires us to continue on the journey.

While there may be others on our key ring, these keys are essential to the writer’s and/or illustrator’s odyssey. As we utilize them, may every opportunity unlock powerful improvements, every assignment open doors to adventure, and every child-like curiosity release inspiration not only for us but for our audiences as well.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Author/illustrator of the Bumbly Bee Books

PUGS Tips for Odd Ducks

By: Kathy Ide

Words and punctuation marks are the tools of a writer’s trade. To be good writers and illustrators , we need to know how to use our tools effectively. While content is important, of course, proper Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling (what I call “PUGS”) can mean the difference between rejection and acceptance from a commercial publisher. It also reflects positively on you in your self-published works.

 
It’s important to use the industry-standard references. Book publishers (and many popular magazines) use The Chicago Manual of Style and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Newspaper and journalistic-style magazines use The Associated Press Stylebook and Webster’s New World College Dictionary. Christian publishers also use The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style. Be sure to get the most recent editions so you’re using what the publishers are using.

 
As a full-time freelance editor, I see a lot of PUGS errors. Here are a few of the most common ones I see in the manuscripts I edit. In parentheses after each heading, I’ll give the rule numbers or page numbers for the reference books so you can look up the rules if you want more details.

PUNCTUATION

1. Serial Commas

The “serial comma” is the comma that comes before a conjunction in a series of three or more elements (“his, hers, [comma here] and ours”).
For books, always use a comma before the conjunction. (CMS #6.19 and CWMS page 151.) For newspaper articles, leave out the serial comma unless doing so would cause confusion or ambiguity. (AP pages 329–330.)

2. Restrictive vs. nonrestrictive clauses

A word or phrase that restates a noun or pronoun in different words should be set off by commas. If the word or phrase identifies the noun more specifically, it should not be set off by commas.
For example: “My husband, Richard, took me out to dinner when I sold my first article.” But “My son Michael was born eight years after his brother.” From the context, you know I have more than one son, and “Michael” identifies which one is being referred to.

3. Capitalization of Family Relationships (CMS #8.39 and AP pages 91-92)

“Kinship names” (father, brother, etc.) are lowercased when used generically (“the youngest mother in the group”) or when preceded by a modifier (“my mom”). When used before a proper name, or alone in place of the name, kinship names are capitalized.

4. Terms of Endearment

Terms of affection (honey, sweetheart) are lowercased. (CMS #8.39 and CWMS page 112.)

5. Quotation Marks with Other Punctuation (CMS #6.8–6.9 and pages 344–345)

Closing quotation marks always come after a comma or period. For example:
Placement with question marks and exclamation points depends on whether the punctuation is part of the sentence as a whole or part of the quotation in particular. Examples:
Candy asked, “Do you know the way?”
How can we motivate teenagers who continually say, “I don’t care”?
Tiffany shouted, “Fire!”
I can’t believe he said, “Your story is boring”!

USAGE

1. any more/anymore

any more (adjective) means “any additional.”
“I don’t want to hear any more backtalk from you!”

anymore (adverb) means “any longer.”
“I don’t want to listen to you anymore.”

2. a while/awhile
a while (noun) means “a period of time.”
“Marilynn spent a while editing her manuscript.”

awhile (adverb) means “for a period of time.”
“Mallory asked me to stay awhile.”

GRAMMAR

Dangling Modifiers
When you start a sentence with a modifying word or phrase, the subject (usually the next thing in the sentence) is what must be modified by that word or phrase. A “dangling modifier” is a phrase that does not clearly and sensibly modify the appropriate word. For example, “Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, the Mustang seemed to run better.” A Mustang cannot change its own oil. So you’d want to rewrite that as something like, “Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, Sandra found she got much better gas mileage.”

SPELLING

acknowledgment (no e between the d and the g)
by-product
good-bye
mind-set

Incorporating the PUGS is important for writers and illustrators alike. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. For more, check out my book Polishing the PUGS: Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling. It’s available through my Web site, www.KathyIde.com.

To Brand or Not to Brand

By: Beth Shriver

 

Writers and Illustrators belong to the Odd Duck Society

As I navigate through this publishing industry, I’ve learned many things: voice, pacing, motivation, characterization, and internal/external conflict, to name a few. But there is one aspect that I still have a problem with…branding. Although I understand the concept that as a writer or illustrator, to label yourself into a certain genre and style of writing and the reason for doing so is to develop a following of readers who know what to expect from your writing, I’ve had a considerable amount of difficulty doing so.
 
When I started writing eight years ago, the only published author I knew well enough to contact was a romance writer, Shelley Galloway, who informed me that romance is the biggest-selling genre. Although I’d never read a romance, with Shelley’s encouragement, I did. After studying how to put a story together, I wrote a young adult romance, Love at First Flight. Then I wrote a romantic suspense, A Case of the Heart, and another Reclaiming Faith. Two were published, which gave me the motivation to write still another romance, Love is a Rose. But through this process, I realized romance wasn’t what I truly wanted to write. I like a romance as a subplot, but it seemed to leave out so much of the characters lives about which I wanted to write.
 
I decided to try my hand at a historical fiction with strong romantic elements, Remnant of the Fall. This gave me an opportunity to tell more about the first-century Palestine setting and to show what it was like for Christians during that era. I liked the balance, and the romance seemed more real being a part of the story instead of the entire story. My next project, Annie’s Truth, was a women’s fiction. I thought I’d finally found my genre, until a speculative fiction idea, Fear of Falling, came bounding into my head that just poured out of me. Although my manuscript has been requested and has gone to the publishing board a couple of times, the Christian market is still warming up to this new genre in the CBA. So I left my niche and wrote another woman’s fiction, Funeral Hopper,/em>. My agent loved it, and so far it has been well received by editors.
 
Are you dizzy yet? I know my agent is, but she’s wonderfully and patiently waiting for me to settle down so she can brand me. I commend her for doing so. I sometimes feel like a rebellious teenager not wanting to follow the rules of the literary industry, which brings me to the next genre, none other than non-fiction. Yep, you heard me. My absolutely-God-given devotional, Peace for Parents of Teens, was released in May. Inspired by the difficulties my teen went through, I poured out my heart onto the keyboard with the desire to aide other parents struggling with teen issues. I’d never, ever planned to write non-fiction, but He had different plans for me and my writing.
 
After all that you ask, what exactly is a “brand?” Your brand should say something about you. One needs to learn how to create and reflect the brand that you want readers to know about you. Know how to build, to communicate, and to maintain (my weakness) a personal brand. The following steps may help you with this:
 
1. Develop a vision for your brand.
2. Position your brand in order to differentiate yourself from competitors as well as building one’s image using the media as a vehicle.
3. Create a personality for your brand.
4. Articulate the benefits your brand delivers to customers.

5. Define the values your brand represents.
 
It seems there is always something new to learn about the writing industry, and branding has become an important one, one that you and I, as writers and illustrators, need to settle into and find out where we’re comfortable. And that will be where God makes us comfortable, where he wants us to be.

HOW TO SUCCEED AS AN ILLUSTRATOR WITHOUT REALLY TRYING


(and Other Misperceptions)

by Martha Pineno-Hess

 
 
Choosing to be an artist was a decision, not a dream. I wasn’t born with drawing and painting ability. There’s NO talent here, just a decision based on interest and the guidance and support of my parents. My first interest in art came late in Junior High. Art classes in High School and summer art camps gave me the skills requisite for an art career.
 
I first trained to be an art teacher. Four years, two summers of art study in college gave me that opportunity. I’m a late blooming illustrator. But I believe my years as an elementary art instructor gave me insight into how young persons’ minds work and what would get the picture across. I needed to motivate children to learn new concepts with stimulating projects both in medium and idea.
 

When starting an illustration project

, where do I start? For accuracy, I ask the author what she prefers. Then do visual research. People have pre-conceived ideas about what something may be. For example, given the task to paint a dog one conjures up at least a dozen images of various breeds. So the image needs to be narrowed to one concept. Then elaboration can begin.
 
Doodle on scratch paper. Create thumbnail sketches. Ideas don’t just pop and picture themselves on paper. Read the text, letting an idea emerge into a cartoon type image. Then start sequencing. Put the ideas in order to match the script. If working with an author who is receptive to ideas, one might even suggest simpler text, easier to illustrate in a more active manner.
 

Inspiration?

Ideas are everywhere. Observe. Research online. I actually have to shut off my creative mind in order to get daily tasks completed. I constantly look forward to future projects, trying to find ways to fit illustrating into 24-hour days.
 

What keeps me motivated?

I’m self-motivated, but being paid for a project gives me extra energy. I’m also concerned about pleasing persons for whom I’m illustrating. I need verification they’re content with my work. I never assume all my work is great. Small suggestions for improvement are welcome but I become annoyed if something requires repainting mostly because of the additional time it will take to correct. However, being somewhat a perfectionist, getting things just right takes precedence over my feelings.
 

My favorite illustrated book?

Talented Tabby because it focused on one character, Leo. I had more time to complete it and fewer distractions.

Second favorite?

The Coffee Connection, a compilation of my designs and paintings created over a 25-year span. I find hand-done illustrating more satisfying than computer art.
 

Medium choice?

Watercolor, acrylics, oils, pen & ink, cut paper, photography. Sometimes the illustrating process is determined by the medium. In general watercolor has a soft, fluid, spontaneous look. For an Early Reader my first illustrated book (watercolor) appeared delicate. Adding ink enhanced detail. Varying medium makes subsequent books unique beyond just text.
 

What inspires my illustrations?

Characters. But story determines background. Photos help with characters and accuracy in motion. I often combine several photos to create one illustrated page.
 

Lifeless illustrations?

Not mine! Paint’s naturally intrinsic motion by the brush lends flowing attention to detail. My years of painting, particularly people and animals, serve me well.
 

Challenges and Suggestions?

Designing entire books. Planning page turns. Blocks around art? Word placement? Title and Signing pages? Page number to meet publishing/printing costs? To stimulate mind pictures early on, divide manuscript into sections. Then focus on one action or detail. Readers can picture the rest. Since each page must relate to previous and next page of story art, illustrating is probably harder than painting complex individual artworks. Working with someone else’s idea can be difficult when it isn’t something you’d choose to paint.

Key advice?

PRACTICE and PERSEVERE