You May Be a Fiction Writer

I always thought it would be fun to write fiction. After all, it’s just made-up stories, right? So, I started writing, and I enjoyed it immensely. Well, until I realized my stories needed a plot to make sense, and some sort of structure and plan. I needed to learn the basics of fiction writing.

Off to the bookstore I went, to find a couple of self-help books. But, I’m more of a hands-on learner. I closed the books, and put those principles into practice. All right, I was onto something. It was looking good. Until I sent my first chapter to a critique group. I was so embarrassed by all the corrections, and the not-so-gentle suggestion, “…you really need to polish this more before you send it in…”

Maybe fiction writing wasn’t as easy as I thought.

How do you know you’re a fiction writer? What clues you in?

Here’s what led me to believe I may be destined to write fiction:

  • My mother. She called me a storyteller a long time ago. It wasn’t a compliment.
  • Years of living in my imagination–my “happy place”–creating stories in my head.
  • Reading my way through the fiction shelves at the local library. While reading, I was figuring out a better way to tell that story.

You might be a fiction writer. But–brace yourself–it’s not easy. Matter of fact, it’s a lot of hard work. You not only have to begin a story, but end it, and the ending, or “denouement” needs to make sense, and satisfy the reader. Quite the challenge, especially in this age of instant books, when writers crank out multiple novels a year. Their loyal readers devour those novels as quickly as they appear. How did they do that? Let’s dissect the thing and find out.

Write. Sit down and write. There’s no substitute for it. Tell your story, as only you can. And, while you’re at it, learn the craft. Read, study, follow blogs, take classes, attend conferences. Fellowship with other writers. Find a good critique group–this last one is essential–truly the best way to learn. Notice I said, GOOD critique group. Find a group, either in person or online, that will challenge you and help you grow as a writer. As Sara Turnquist said in Back to Basics – How to Start, choose a group that has at least one published author.

A good work of fiction includes…Even in fiction, facts are not only welcome, but necessary. What makes a really good story? It’s believable. It could really happen. It mirrors real life.

Like the house built on sand, a story with no foundation will quickly wash away, and its writer will look very foolish. Include a factual foundation, such as, basing a story in a real place, or using everyday articles that might be found in someone’s home. Sometimes, good characters and engaging dialogue are enough to ground the story. Think of the best scenes in your favorite movies. Don’t they usually include dialogue and interaction between the characters? They become real in those moments, and you become part of the scene. That’s great fiction.

Showing … not telling–One of the greatest commandments of fiction writing! Fiction is a finely-crafted work of art. A really good story doesn’t just tell you what’s going on, it shows you. You get so wrapped up in the story, you feel what the character feels, see what he sees. You’re emotionally involved. I read an excellent blog post on this subject, written by Cindy Sproles, on The Write Conversation. You can access that article here: Writing With Emotion.

Read good fiction. Find writers whose books you love, and read. I use the following list of questions as I read:

  • How does the writer make me want to turn the page?
  • What draws me to the lead character?
  • When are the stakes raised?
  • How does the writer integrate minor characters?
  • What makes a scene work?
  • What’s the key to the conflict?
  • How does the writer handle dialogue?

These questions also work with television shows and movies. The answers can be very revealing. What are the author’s strong points? What are his shortcomings? What’s your takeaway? Challenge your own writing in this way, and you’re bound to improve.

I don’t claim to know it all, because I don’t think it’s possible to learn all there is to know about writing. It’s an ever-changing scene that needs to be edited and updated, molded to fit genres and themes. And there’s no way I can tell you all you need to know in 750 words or less. But, if you really want to learn, and you want to excel at the craft, or at least develop your personal style and voice, you can achieve that.

Click to Tweet: I jumped in, feet first, and guess what I learned? It really is fun to write fiction.


Writing Prompt: Your main character (Jill) has just moved to a new city, where she’s taken a job. Jill accepts a coworker’s invitation to an informal gathering. As she steps inside the room, describe the scene, using conversation between Jill and the coworker.

Journaling: A Good Practice – Part 2

bible.jpgIn Part 1, we looked at the types of things to include in your journal. Today, I want to share my biblical reasons for journaling.

The Bible is filled with passages telling us to recall or remember who God is, two of these are: This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope (Lamentations 3:21 ESV) and Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth. (1 Chronicles 16:11-12 ESV).

In the Old Testament, people built altars to signify and remind them of God’s work in their lives or the lives of His people. In addition to the Bible, my journal serves as a reminder of God’s work in my life and the lives of my family and friends. Numerous times throughout the year, and before stepping into a major new beginning, it is my practice to read through my journal entries.

These entries remind me of God’s faithfulness, mercy, grace, and love that has enabled me to walk through every situation I encountered.

Page after page of entries are filled with the names of new and long-time friends who have blessed my life in so many ways. Many of the entries mark the passing of a dear loved one from this life to everlasting life with the Lord. Sadly, other entries mark the passing of a dear loved one whom I am not certain knew the Lord as his or her Savior. Those entries always serve as an impetus to be more faithful in sharing the Gospel with people. While reading these entries is sobering in so many ways, they always remind and encourage me of how the Lord answered my prayers and how He provided for my every need—often before I even knew I had the need!

From time-to-time, I come across tear-stained pages with words that express my sadness, loneliness, hurt, brokenness, or depression. These entries also express the cries of my heart for the Lord to give me a passion to know Him, a heart to serve Him, and eyes of love to view people.

By far, the most difficult entries for me to read are those that remind me of my grievous sins of omission and commission. They reveal my selfishness, anger, failure, greed, and so many other sins. Yet, most of them have been marked with references to later entries that describe how the Lord forgave and restored me. There are, however, some entries with no such reference, which means I must stop to repent and ask the Lord to forgive me for that sin.

Each year’s journal is a continuation of the story of God’s redemption of and faithfulness to His people and to me.

God is not faithful to us because of anything we do or have done, but because of His great mercy and love for us (Ephesians 2:4).

Reading through these entries also brings to mind the parable about the faithful servant and the evil servant in Luke 12 (NKJV). This parable ends with verse 48, to whom much is given, from him much will be required. This verse reminds us that God will hold us accountable to use the gifts, talents, abilities, experiences, knowledge, and understanding He has given us.

Some entries remind me of ideas or illustrations for teaching, counseling, or writing. Other entries remind me of people I need to check on or for whom I need to continue praying.

Thankfully, you and I do not have to depend upon ourselves and our own strength to accomplish the things God sets before us, because as Christ-followers we can rely absolutely upon Him to equip and enable us to serve.

Writing Prompt: Take time to prayerfully consider the ministry opportunities, which include writing, the Lord has placed in your life, and how you can use your God-given gifts, talents, abilities, experiences, knowledge, and understanding to serve Him.

Click to Tweet: Each year’s journal is a continuation of the story of God’s redemption of and faithfulness to His people and to me. #WritingPrompts #journaling

Journaling: A Good Practice – Part 1

journaling.jpgJournals take a myriad of forms these days. For some, their social media posts are their journals. Some prefer handwriting their journal entries, others prefer to type them. I have an elderly friend who can no longer see well enough to write or type, so her grandson set her up to make voice recorded journal entries.

Journaling is a must for those who aspire to be writers—recreationally or professionally.

My dad, a Navy Corpsman attached to the 3rd Marine Division on Iwo Jima and Guam during WWII, kept a journal of names, injuries, scene descriptions, sketches of the islands, and stories that he used as a basis for a book he wrote over 40 years later.

I have kept a journal since my late teens and strongly encourage those I know to journal, particularly when they are in the midst of major changes and/or struggles. We always think we will remember the details, but we don’t. Most of the devotionals and blogs I have written are based on my journal entries.

I was encouraging one of my counselees to journal, she replied, “Journaling isn’t for me! I don’t have the patience, time, or inclination to learn how to do something new!”

I responded,

“Make your own rules! Your unique personality will shine brightly through entries that reflect the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical aspects of your life.”

Writing Prompt: I was at the grocery story and over heard a lady say …

Following are some of the things I shared with my young friend about my current journaling practices.

Recording the following in my journal during my daily morning quiet time:

  • Prayers confessing my sin with notations of Scripture referencing an aspect of God’s character.
  • My feelings: anxiety, fear, sadness, excitement, happiness, depression, ambivalence.
  • At least three things for which I am thankful—these often surface while reading past entries that remind me of God’s mercy, grace, faithfulness, and love that has enabled me to walk through every situation.
  • Scripture I read in my quiet time. Any words or phrases that stand out to me and related passages that come to mind. Ideas for further study, teaching, counseling, and writing.
  • Prayer requests—my own and for others. Leave a little space to record how and when the request is answered.
  • Spiritual, emotional, mental and physical areas in which I need to improve.

Throughout the day as thoughts and ideas come to mind, I may record some of the following:

  • All sorts of things that happen.
  • I try to record related Scriptures. (Writers, these are good fodder for devotionals, articles, and even books!)
  • Ideas for study, teaching, and writing.
  • Add to my “want to read” list.
  • Names of people and ways to encourage them.
  • Decision-making charts.
  • Ministry evaluation.
  • New people I meet and pertinent facts about them.
  • Goals, plans, dreams.
  • Brain download of random thoughts, ideas from the day.

Before I go to bed, I pull all the things I have written, emailed and texted to myself into my journal. And, I usually think of things I need to add!

Don’t get bogged down with how you journal or what you put in your journal—just start journaling!

Don’t miss Pt. 2! Find it here tomorrow morning.

Click to Tweet: Make your own rules! Your unique personality will shine brightly through entries that reflect the spiritual, emotional, mental, and phsycial aspects of your life. –Shirley Crowder on Journaling: A Good Practice (Part 1) #InspiredPrompt #journaling

3 Questions Wednesday with Gail Johnson

Gail Johnson

It is my sincere pleasure to welcome fellow Inspired Prompt crew member, Gail Johnson to 3 Questions Wednesday. Gail recently released her memoir, Treasures of Hope, Discovering the Beautiful Truth Beneath My Painful Past.

First question–

 Can you describe yourself in three words?

Overcomer, Encourager, Resilient

I love that. Those are all such positive words. Next question–

Someone offers you a fully-paid writing research trip to any place you desire to go. Where would it be and why?

I didn’t have to think about this one. Medieval hill towns, walled cities, picturesque scenery, and mouth-watering cuisine. It would have to be Italy. Remember, Roman Holiday or Letters to Juliette? How can you watch those movies and not want to visit? Who knows, while I’m there, I may find a small out-of-the-way village and get lost forever. 😉

Letters to Juliette is one of my all-time favorite stories! Italy is on my bucket list, for sure. Now–

If someone made a movie of your life, what would be the theme song?

As a musician and music lover, this was an impossible task. A theme song depends on the seasons and struggles I’m experiencing at the time.  So I decided for the purpose of this interview, I’d go with a song my daughter, Lindsay, chose for me years ago. Can’t Live A Day by Avalon. The truth contained in the stanzas have been my heart’s cry for years. Without Beloved, I have no hope. He alone is my hope. I can face anything as long as I have Him.

I think it’s so precious your daughter chose that for you. Readers, if you’re not familiar with this song, I urge you to Google it and read the lyrics. It is a lovely song.

Thanks, Gail, for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions and help your readers get to know you better.

Readers, Gail is offering a print copy of her new memoir Treasures of Hope: Discovering the Beautiful Truth Beneath My Painful Past to one commenter. So, leave her a comment, or ask her a question, and your name will go into the drawing for the book.

Click to Tweet: Gail Johnson, author of Treasures of Hope, Discovering the Beautiful Truth Beneath My Painful Past, is our guest today at 3 Questions Wednesday. #InspiredPrompt #Interview #memoir


Gail Johnson enjoys sharing her passion for life and Christ through the power of the written word. Whether it’s through stories, articles, or songs, she invites her reader and listener to “taste and see” the hope she has found in a faithful God and loving Savior. She is the author of Treasures of Hope, Discovering the Beautiful Truth Beneath My Painful Past, a memoir. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), she writes fiction, non-fiction, and songs. Her Southern Gospel song “Less of Me and More of You” came in the top 5 runners-up in the 2010 Singing News/Solid Gospel Songwriters Search.

Born and raised in Georgia, she is a wife and mother of two adult children. She enjoys lots of family time, good music, maple pecan ice cream, and southern living.

Connect with Gail at Facebook, FB Page, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Amazon


TreasuresofHopeFrontFinalWhen long-buried memories of abuse resurface, Gail faces a choice: continue ignoring the implications of her nightmares and remain a captive of fear and shame, or dare to remove the painful chains binding her present to her past.

Unearthing the sorrows of her past would not be easy and distressing questions would arise along the way to challenge her faith.

Why would a God of both love and justice allow this abuse? Why does He expect me to forgive my abuser? If He let this happen, does He truly love me at all?

In her memoir, Treasures of Hope: Discovering the Beautiful Truth Beneath My Painful Past, Gail Johnson shares the truths she uncovered while studying earlier daughters of both harm and hope. As she became better acquainted with women of the Bible like Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Rahab, Tamar, and Esther, their stories spoke truth into her own, mining the jewels of Identity and Purpose, Intimacy, Incomparability, Courage, Peace, and Victory. With each new discovery, Gail traded a length of chain for a balm of gold . . . and unearthed treasures that would sever the past’s stranglehold on her life, allowing her to live joyously in the present and anticipate the future with emboldened hope.

Back to Basics: Types of Classes for Writers

By Jennifer Hallmark

So you want to be a writer. You’ve heard the stories about writer’s block, low pay, long hours, little feedback on blogs, and book sales you can count on your fingers. But you aren’t deterred and excited about your future anyway.

My number one piece of advice?

Learn. Study the craft. Dissect books and movies. Gain knowledge on publishing, editing, and your computer. Immerse yourself in what goes on in the writing world.

There are many classes you can find in schools, groups, and on the Internet about the basics of writing, advanced courses on the craft, and all about publishing, marketing, and online ventures. I’ll make a list below. It’s by no means exhaustive, but I’ve learned a lot with a smaller amount of money than you’d think.

Education-If you’re still in school, there are high school writing courses. College offers writing classes and majors such as professional writing, technical writing, journalism, business writing, creative writing, publishing, and communications. You can also find community education classes through your local Board of Education or college. Many of these run for six weeks or so and can jump-start your career. My adventure in writing began with a six-week writing course at our local Board of Education.

Blogs and/or Websites-For years, I’ve followed blogs and websites that teach an aspect of writing I’d like to study. For social media, I go to Edie Melson’s The Write Conversation.  I read and write for the Southern Writers Magazine author’s blog. The Write Life is helpful for freelance writers. I also follow the Positive Writers and here’s their list of the top writing blogs in 2017. Check them out for the ones that can help you.

Conferences-I love to attend writing conferences to learn, network, and just hang out with other like-minded people. Workshops are offered as one-time learning experiences.

Practicums are smaller classes with hands-on experience offered. Continuing classes are usually a series of studies held throughout the conference where each day expands more on the topic of study.

Writer’s Groups-I belong to two types of writer’s groups. One meets in person monthly, the other is online. I enjoy each group for different reasons. Beside local groups, here are a few national ones: ACFW, RWA,  Word Weavers, and Poets.org.

Writing Coaches or Mentors-During my twelve-year career, I have had some wonderful people mentor me. It’s great to have someone show you the ropes to avoid the pitfalls you can find in writing. Writing coaches can also be helpful, but it’s easy to pay too much with little improvement to someone who says they can help. Research coaches and mentors, looking for testimonials from people or groups you know.

I hope this quick overview of classes will help you find your way through the maze that is a writing career. Come back and visit our blog throughout the year to read about first-hand experiences in writing, marketing, social media, and other subjects of interest.

Click to tweet: My number one piece of advice for writers? Learn. Study the craft. Immerse yourself in what goes on in the writing world. @InspiredPrompt #amwriting #writing

Maze

Remember: Here at the Inspired Prompt blog, our goal is to educate and inform writers, with an emphasis on new and Indie writers. We offer clear, basic information in four areas: how-to, marketing, encouragement, and our “signature” prompts, thoughts, and ideas. We hope to inspire writers/authors to reach for and attain their personal best.

We want to see you have a “significant” career in what you love to do…

WRITE.

Writing Prompt: Sue stopped in front of the cold, metal door and took a deep breath. Her first class and…