The Craft of Writing: Resources for the Journey

By Jennifer Hallmark

Learning the craft, or making our work readable, is one of the more important ways to sell books, gain a readership, and be taken seriously in the writing world. But how do we do that?

College, online courses, or conferences can be a great place to start. But maybe they’re not in your budget or timeframe at the moment. Where else can we find resources for our author journey?

I’m so glad you asked. 🙂 The Crew and I want to share our personal favorites:

 Gail Johnson

Bonita Y. McCoy

Tammy Trail

Kristy Robinson Horine

  • Anything by KM Weiland is useful. Not only is there a blog, and books, she has a podcast that she transcribes so readers can listen or read.

    Brandilyn Collins has some great books out on characters, plot twists, why stories work, etc.  Steven James has a podcast called The Story Blender. It’s pretty good.

Jennifer Hallmark: I’ve read tons of books on craft in the past, but now I tend to read more blogs and listen to podcasts. Here are some of the best (IMHO):

And don’t forget about Inspired Prompt and our resources. Here are three links:

We want to see you become the best writer that you possibly can be. There’s no magic formula. As you study, learn, read, and write, your voice will emerge and your skills will increase. It has worked for our Inspired Prompt Crew and it will work for you.

Click to tweet: Learning the craft, or making our work readable, is one of the more important ways to sell books, gain a readership, and be taken seriously in the #writing world.  #pubtip

Writing Prompt: Commit to either reading a writing craft book, one blog post a week, or listen to a podcast a week to strengthen your writing.

The Importance of Sharpening Your Grammar and Punctuation Skills

By Fay Lamb

True story: I once had a favorite New York Times Bestselling author. I met her once at a book signing in which I traveled 600 miles to see her. Yes, I was a fan. Then one day, she responded to a comment I made on Facebook about the importance of editing well.

In very clear diva-style she said that her publisher paid people to edit her books. Her job was only to write the story. The editors would clean it up. My first thought was, “Aren’t you fortunate to be so beloved that you’ve gotten to the point where editors clamor to clean up your mess.” My second thought was “I’d hate to be your editor.”

Then she switched tracks in her career to an entirely new genre based upon a new interest. She’d gotten involved in a sport and had written two books involving it. However, her New York publishers weren’t interested in taking the risk. She found a small publisher in the South where her new interest is enjoyed by millions of people. This never-heard-of publisher jumped at the opportunity to publish a book by this well-known author. And publish they did.

I read the book.

I suppose this particular publisher assumed the author had a command of punctuation and grammar.

They assumed incorrectly, and if she read the galley, she proved that very well.

Oh, she could tell a story, but she could not spell or place a comma or determine where a sentence ended. And forget those misplaced modifiers or the split infinitives.

In the world of best sellers where this author came from, I’m sure that the editors were paid well to do what they did for her. I can attest. They did a fine job.

Editors who work for small publishers also work hard at bringing out the best manuscript possible, but I’m here as both a writer and an editor to tell you that mistakes happen. It is impossible to catch every mistake that will be made in a manuscript. Oh, I try. Believe me. I try. This is the best reason I can tell you for learning the basics of your craft. Those basics are spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

As a writer, it helps that I do know my stuff. I probably forget half of what I know in the process, but I do know it. When an editor has made a mistake, I can state with specificity why it is a mistake. On the other hand, when the editor calls me on a mistake, I am also able to understand what I’ve done incorrectly.

As an editor, it helps for me to be able to explain to an author why a comma should not go after a conjunction that starts a sentence or why I would use a comma in that instance on occasion. I can also explain to an author why some sentences can start with a conjunction and others should not.

Do you know the answer?

If not, you might want to learn the basics before you become a New York Bestseller and someone takes that privilege away from you.

Click to tweet: The Importance of Sharpening Your Grammar and Punctuation Skills by Fay Lamb.  Learn the basics. #self-edit #amwriting

Writing Prompt: Cecilia couldn’t believe her eyes. On the front page of their town’s daily newspaper…

The Importance of the Craft of Writing

By Jennifer Hallmark

Hi! This month, the Inspired Prompt Crew will be sharing articles about different aspects of the craft of writing.

Why?

Because knowing craft is imperative if you want to sell your book. If you don’t believe me, read a sample of ten self-published books on Amazon with less-than-stellar covers. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Oh, good. You’re back. See what I mean? I do understand that not all books with bad covers are badly written but if you don’t take the time or spend money on the appearance, how much time and money did you put into learning about sentence structure, self-editing, and typos?

You need both art and craft in a book. We want to hear your voice, your art, your creativity. But if you don’t have craft or structure, the real you is lost amidst errors, awkward wording, and bad grammar.

I see you cover your face and wail. “What can I do to learn more about craft?”

(((Hugs))) Don’t fret. Our Crew is here to help with articles on revision and editing, honing the craft, sharpening your skills, even great resources in books, blogs, and podcasts to make your journey a little easier.

There. Now, don’t you feel better? I’ll kick off the month by recommending one of my favorite books on the craft of writing.

Drum roll, please…

Writing the Breakout Novel: Insider Advice for Taking Your Fiction to the Next Level

by Donald Maass

In fact, I recommend any of his books. Here’s his Amazon page. 

Enjoy the month and let us know in the comments any questions or concerns you may have. We love to be helpful!

Click to tweet: The Importance of the Craft of Writing. @InspiredPrompt Crew can help with articles on #revision, editing, honing the craft, sharpening your skills, even great resources in books, blogs, and podcasts to make your journey a little easier. #authorslife

Writing Prompt: Determine to read one book this month on the craft of writing. Then read another. Study, read, learn, and practice. Repeat.

The Instant Pot: A Writer’s Best Friend

By Jennifer Hallmark

Have you ever had one of those days? You kept snoozing the clock, and couldn’t get going. After almost being late, the day dragged along and then the drive home crawled with backed up traffic. You arrived home ready to unwind with a good movie and popcorn but you haven’t cooked supper. What’s quick to fix?

Now pretend you’re an at-home writer. You’re at the house all day. No traffic. You can stay in your pajamas if you like. You get up, check emails as you eat your cereal, and then work on that manuscript, three blog posts, and an upgrade on your website. You glance at the clock and gasp. It’s time for supper.

No matter if you work at home or somewhere else, we’d like an easy recipe at the end of the day that tastes good and is simple to make. Sometimes, I use my trusty crockpot but my new best friend is an Instant Pot. It cooks fast and seals in the juices for great flavor no matter what you cook.

And recipes? I have several for days like this but my favorite is Jennifer’s Beef Stew. How can stew be fast? You cook it in the Instant Pot. I love the way it tenders the meat and is super quick. Try it for yourself. I’d love to know what you think. To make it even easier to prepare, buy already sliced carrots and celery and frozen diced onions. 😊

Jennifer’s Beef Stew (Instant Pot)

2 lbs. beef stew meat

1 cup sliced carrots

3-4 cups diced potatoes (not too small)

3 stalks of celery, sliced

1 small onion, diced

32 oz. beef broth

1 packet of beef stew mix

salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

Pour a small amount of olive oil in the bottom of your Instant Pot, add meat and onions and saute for 9 minutes, stirring until meat is pretty brown. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Cook on high pressure for 22 minutes. Let steam release naturally for 10 minutes, then bleed off steam completely. Stir again and it’s ready to serve.

And there you have it. Easy and delicious. Do you have a go-to recipe? Share it below in the comments. I’d love to add it to my cookbook. 😊

Click to tweet: Want an easy and delicious meal prepared in a short time? Jennifer’s Beef Stew in an Instant Pot on @InspiredPrompt. #recipes #recipeideas

Writing Prompt: Write a short story from the photo below…

3 Questions Wednesday with Phee Paradise

Happy Wednesday! Today the Inspired Prompt welcomes author, Phee Paradise. We’re so happy you could join us. First question:

Who is your favorite author?

Phee: What reader can answer that easily? Of course, it depends on the genre and my stage in life. But my all-time favorite since I was a child is Rudyard Kipling. He’s a master story teller and the way he uses words always delights me. The only one of his writings I didn’t like was The Light that Failed because it has a very disappointing ending. When I read it, I wanted to break up with him, but . . . his words delight me.

Wonderful author! I enjoy a good classic.  Next question…

 If you could write about anyone or anything fiction/nonfiction who or what would you write about?

Phee: Now that I have a taste of writing biography, I would love to write about my mother. She was the most influential person in my life, and I can honestly say no one knew me like she did. But that’s not enough to make an interesting story for someone else. She also had a fascinating life. She was raised in China as a missionary kid and lived most of her adult life in Guatemala as a missionary. Lots of drama, lots of love and lots of character. But I don’t know if I have enough material sources to do her life justice. Maybe a novel or a memoir . . .

She sounds like a wonderful and influential person. 🙂 Last question:

If you could spend time with a character from your book or another book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Phee:  My book is a biography of my grandfather, whom I didn’t know very well. While reading his letters researching for the book, I fell in love with him. So I would spend a day with him in China, where he served as a missionary for 25 years. I’d ride a bike with him out to one of the villages where he had a church and let him tell me stories about China, the people he loved and the experiences he had. He had a great sense of humor and I think we would laugh a lot and maybe cry a bit too.

What a great way to spend a day. Thanks so much for dropping by!

Click to tweet: Author Phee Paradise talks about writing and a giveaway.  #amwriting #AuthorsLife

Phee is offering a print copy of her book to one blessed reader. Please leave a comment to be entered…


A Sincere Heart: One Mission-Minded Man Serving His Utmost in China

You don’t know John Bickford. He’s one of the thousands of Christians you also don’t know, who gave their lives to missions in the twentieth century. The ones who learned new languages made friends of foreigners and raised their families in remote places so strangers could know the truth about their Savior. John took his pregnant wife to China in 1920 and came back to America for good in 1948, leaving a tiny grave in an obscure town in a Communist country. He oversaw five growing churches in little villages with pride in his Chinese colleagues while agonizing over his own shortcomings. His family often fled political unrest and civil war, but they always returned to the people he loved.

During the World War, he spent two years under Japanese confinement, patiently trusting God while he longed to be with his beloved wife and children who escaped to America. He cheerfully accepted his own physical suffering, but his heart broke over his son’s looming blindness. He was an ordinary missionary and this is his story, the story of God at work through a man with a sincere heart.


Phee Paradise was blessed to be a missionary kid and loves to share that experience in her writing. In Miracles at Midnight, I edited her father’s stories about his years on the mission field where he saw God change lives for the Kingdom. Her latest book, A Sincere Heart, is a biography of her grandfather who was a missionary in China. Phee has also contributed to several books, including A Ruby Christmas, A Dozen Apologies, Unlikely Merger and Trials and Triumphs. She prays that God will use her work to His glory.