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.

Are You Stretching Yourself?

By Dave Fessenden

 
There are many times in my ministry as a Christian writer in which I feel like I’m becoming stagnant, like I’m writing with my eyes closed. When I feel that way, I try to counteract it by delving into a genre of writing with which I am unfamiliar. Though this is hard, it can be a great growing experience.
 

No, I don’t always come up with something publishable that way

, but that’s OK; the purpose of the exercise is not necessarily to produce great writing, but to retrain your writing muscles in a new way — to stretch yourself.
 
For me, the stretching often takes the form of switching from non-fiction to fiction. I’ve published three nonfiction books, dozens of articles and hundreds of newspaper stories. So I consider myself something of an expert in the nonfiction area. But when I switch from nonfiction to fiction, I’m really just a rank amateur; it’s good practice for me to wrestle with a short story or novel.
 
I was thinking for instance, of how we often use the passage about Jesus standing at the door and knocking (Rev. 3:20) in an evangelistic sense, calling people to open the door of their heart to the Lord. But the interesting thing is that John was writing to /Christians/! I wanted to write something about how we crowd our Lord out of our lives with so many selfish things that He has to knock on the door and ask to be let in. I was stuck on how to express it in nonfiction, so I switched to fiction, creating a flash fiction piece entitled “A Knock on the Door.” (Which points up another reason for stretching yourself into unfamiliar genres — it’s a sure-fire cure for writer’s block.)
 
Stretching myself is also good for my soul. Anytime I start thinking I’m pretty hot stuff, I just look at my fiction, and it knocks me down a peg or two. Humility is one of those virtues that only seems to come the hard way. When a piece of steel gets heated up, it turns a bright cherry red and glows proudly, but that’s the point at which the blacksmith dunks it into the water and returns it to its true color — a dull gray. It may seem cruel, but it’s the only way to temper the metal.
 

Be Specialized, But Not Petrified

 
Even when I stay in the nonfiction realm, I find that there are particular genres that I am less experienced at, and so it is helpful for me to delve into those areas once in a while, as a change of pace. Many of us get into a particular specialization in our writing, and that is a fine approach. But by all means, do something outside your expertise occasionally. Are you good at devotionals? Try your hand at a how-to article. Do you specialize in biographies? How about writing a Bible study?
 
It may also reveal a hidden talent for a certain type of writing that you never realized you had. Joy Jacobs was a devotional writer with a very poetic style. But she was also a counselor, with a strong burden for the problems of single women. Her publisher encouraged her to team up with an editor, Deborah Strubel, to write /Single, Whole and Holy/, a Christian living book that had a profound ministry in the lives of many women. And all because she dared to try something different.
 
So go ahead — stretch yourself. Step out in faith and let God teach you something new!

Never Give Up!

Writers and Illustrators belong to the Odd Duck Society

By
Fran Fernandez

 
 
When you’ve sent your manuscript the rounds and received rejection after rejection, don’t give up. Check it again, tighten it up, and then see if, perhaps, there’s another slant you could give for a different market.
 
Rejection is always a good time to remember the famous words of Winston Churchill, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never, in nothing, great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”*
 
I had sent an essay around seventeen times—and received seventeen rejections. I think writer’s insanity hit, and I decided—one more time. I took out the fact that I was a mother with children (which didn’t change the point of the essay at all) and tightened it up some.
The incident about which the essay was written had happened on a college campus, so instead of sending it to another woman’s magazine (if there was another left), I sent it to a Christian singles magazine.
 
It sold!
 
Even Pearl Buck’s, The Good Earth, went around over thirty times until a publisher picked it up. It became a best seller, and now is a classic.
 
Bryan Davis, the bestselling author of the Dragon in Our Midst series was told time and again that Christian fantasy doesn’t, and won’t sell, and “No thank you, we are not interested.” At the Montrose Christian Writers Conference in July, he showed his audience a big folder stuffed with rejection slips, which Bryan viewed as proof that he was writing. But, Bryan never gave up. Because he didn’t give up, he not only got a contract, his books are selling great worldwide, and going strong. Did you get Bryan’s title – bestselling author? You don’t become a bestselling author by quitting.
 
If you believe in your manuscript—don’t give up.
 
My first book, The Best Is Yet To Come, was published 26 years after I started to write. And I now have four proposals making the rounds—and until there is no place left to send them—I’ll keep on keeping on. Each time one comes back, I make some changes and send it out again. I believe one day each one will find a home. Meanwhile I keep honing my craft.
 
Hey, when each manuscript gets published it will be that much the better for my having tweaked them after each rejection.
 
In His precious Word, God tells us, Let us not grow weary while doing good (as in to keep on writing and sending around no matter how many rejections you receive), for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. (Galatians 6:9 NKJV)
 
It took from 1981 to 2007 until I got my first book contract and an agent. I now have in my hands a beautiful book and a wonderful agent. What if I had given up writing in March of 2007 and said, “Why bother?” What if I had decided not to go once again to Montrose? I would have missed what God had waiting for me, my Christmas in July that year.
 
Whatever God has put on your heart as a writer, illustrator, or artist, He will bring it to pass unless you give up. God will do it—just be patient. (Yes, patience. Now that’s the hard part).
Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. (Psalm 37:4-54 NKJV)
 
Tyler Perry the Christian actor, writer, and producer knew God had given him a dream. Ninety days before selling his first play that took off, Perry had been living in his car and sleeping in a motel only when he had enough money. Because Perry didn’t give up and followed his God-dream, from 2007 to 2009 his personal earnings were 125 million dollars and growing. He was an African-American writer who was told he’d never make it. But with God, and Perry’s faith in his dream, he kept on writing and trusting God to bring it to pass.
Stir up your dream again to touch the world with your words. Get passionate about the ministry God has given you and don’t give up!
Looking forward to seeing your byline soon.
 
*Part of address given as Prime Minister of England on Oct. 29th 1941 at Harrow School

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