Help! I’m a Writer, NOT a Speaker

by: Shirley Crowder

At writers’ conferences, I often hear people say, “I’m a writer, not a speaker!” That statement is followed by an explanation of why they aren’t a speaker that usually includes them being afraid of public speaking.

© Can Stock Photo / theblackrhino

I’m sure most of us can relate to that sentiment! We are very comfortable sitting alone and writing. Yet, if we want people to know us and be familiar with our books and our name, we need to seek opportunities to speak.

Speaking engagements can generate income through paid events and book sales at the event. It enables you to connect one-to-one with people and get a clearer understanding of what interests them most about your writing. You receive free publicity because those attending will post it on their social media and tell all their friends about you and your books. And, it only costs you time.

Here are fifteen things that help me stand in front of a group and speak without fainting or getting sick to my stomach.

PRAY – Ask the Lord to help you learn to be a good speaker.

BREATHE – Remember to breathe deeply and often.

GO TO THE RESTROOM AND DON’T DRINK TOO MUCH BEFORE YOU SPEAK – I don’t think an explanation is needed here, right?

LEARN TO SPEAK WELL – Find three-to-four people whom you think are good speakers. Listen to them and make note of the things you like and don’t like about their speaking. I’m not talking about content here—I’m talking about delivery. Listen for techniques to learn, not things to mimic. We use critique partners for writing; why not use them for our speaking also?

BE YOURSELF – Don’t try to be someone else. Let your own personality shine through when you speak.

STAND UP STRAIGHT – Not only is standing up straight good posture, but it will also help open your lungs up so oxygen flows easily to your brain and you have enough breath so you can speak an entire sentence without taking a breath. Hold your head up high and make eye contact.

DON’T WEAR NEW SHOES – Be sure your shoes are broken in and comfortable to stand for the period of time you will speak and answer questions. It’s hard to concentrate on what you want to say when your feet are throbbing with pain.

DON’T STAND IN ONE PLACE – I don’t mean pace around so much that you make your audience dizzy as they try to watch you. Even if you have a fixed-position mic on a stand you can move to the left and right. This will help you not be so tense, and the movement will help your audience focus on what you’re saying.

SPEAK SLOWLY – Speak slower than you normally speak in casual conversations. Enunciate clearly.

CHANGE YOUR VOLUME AND TONE – Be sure to emphasize certain words or fluctuate your volume, as appropriate and mix up your tone of voice. This will help keep the listeners’ attention. Even the most mundane information, when delivered with fluctuating voice volume and tone can grab peoples’ attention.

GET RID OF “FILLER” WORDS AND SOUNDS – I heard an author speak at our local public library recently. In the first eight minutes of his talk, he said, “Uhhhhh ….” 63 times—and yes, I did count! In the same way, our editors tell us to be concise in our writing, be concise in your speaking.

DOUBLE-CHECK YOUR NOTES – Make sure you have everything and that it is in the correct order in time to get everything ready.

HAVE WATER CLOSE AT-HAND – Even if you’re like me and talk a lot all time, your mouth can get dry. Keep water where you can take a sip if needed. The more formal speaking the setting, the drier my mouth gets. It’s hard to speak clearly when your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth.

DO NOT MAKE SELF-DEROGATORY REMARKS OR APOLOGIZE – I heard a speaker begin her talk saying, “Sorry they couldn’t get a good speaker and you’re stuck with me—I don’t know anything.” If I had not been the next person to speak, I would have left at that moment. Why in the world would I want to stay and hear someone speak for forty-five minutes when they don’t know anything?

ACKNOWLEDGE AUDIENCE RESPONSES – If the audience claps or laughs during your talk, give that time to die down before you continue, otherwise, people may not hear the next thing you have to say.

HUMBLY ACCEPT COMPLIMENTS – When people are moved by or like what you said, they will be excited to tell you how great or meaningful your talk was. Do not deflate their excitement by not accepting the compliment. “Thank you” is always an appropriate response. I usually respond with something like, “Thank you. I’m grateful the Lord enabled me to speak and share with you.”

With prayer and practice, you can go from a scared speaker to a confident speaker.

© Can Stock Photo / Aleutie

I’ll end with what for Christ-followers is the foundational principle on which we stand for everything: When God calls us to do something, he prepares, equips, and enables us to do it! Remember Moses?

Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” So the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”

(Exodus 4:10-11 NKJV)

Click to tweet: When God calls us to do something, he prepares, equips, and enables us to do it! Remember Moses? #Public Speaking

Writing Prompt: Fiction writers: Prepare a two-minute talk about one of your fictional characters. Non-fiction writers: Prepare a two-minute talk about a topic in your book.

Writing a Bible Study

by Shirley Crowder

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

I love studying the Bible as well as helping others study the Bible. I hope the following will not only help those who want to write Bible studies, but that it will give a grid through which those who desire to delve into personal Bible studies can study the Bible.

I usually have an idea of what type Bible study I want to write/do: topical or book/passage. Sometimes as I study passages, it becomes clear that the other type study is what would best cover the things I want to include. Both types of studies are valuable in helping Christ-followers grow in our knowledge and understanding of the Bible and how to apply its commands and principles in our daily lives.

There are three basic steps:

  1. Study the Scripture passage.
  2.  Make notes as you study.
  3.  Organize your notes and write the Bible study.

I recently had the opportunity while traveling home from a conference to ask my dear brother in Christ, Dr. Howard Eyrich, “What makes a good Bible study?” I love his three points because they provided the structure for the things I consider as I develop a Bible study.

The most important thing to do when you want to start writing a Bible study is to pray! Ask the Lord to lead you as you study and determine the shape of your Bible study.

As you are reading, studying, contemplating, and meditating on the Scripture passage, make notes of important truths, themes, and words. I usually make bullet point notes of things that I can ask questions about.

Dr. Eyrich’s three points:

  1. Don’t start with a premise and determination to prove your premise.
  2. Inductively study the passage.
  3. Theologically evaluate the deductive conclusions.

Don’t start with a premise and then set out with determination to prove your premise.

I have been in and read so many Bible studies where it is obvious that the leader/writer began with a premise and set out with determination to prove that premise. They have everything in the Bible study “prove” their premise—often by using poor Bible study techniques. These studies often do not teach the verse or passage in the context of the chapter, book, and testament in which it appears.

Inductively study the passage.

Inductively studying the passage means the Bible is your source or textbook so that every session focuses on reading and understanding the Word of God. Asking questions leads you and others to discover the answers from the Bible.

I suggest staying away from “What do you think this means?” or “What does this mean to you?” questions. Always point people to study the passage for what it says in its context and the biblical principles you can extrapolate. I suggest reading Scripture with this question in mind, “What does this passage say about WHO God is?” Then ponder “Based on what this passage says about WHO God is, what am I required to do in response?”

Inductively studying the passage leads you to study carefully as you: Observe, Interpret, and Apply the Word to your life.

  • Observation is asking, “What does the passage say?”
  • Interpretation is asking, “What does the passage mean?”
  • Application is asking, “Based on what the passage says and means, how do I apply it to my life?

Theologically evaluate the deductive conclusions.

Once you have the results of your inductive study, you need to look at each result and evaluate it theologically or biblically through the lens of Scripture, making sure your results are biblically/theologically accurate.

Dr. Eyrich encourages us to not be satisfied with just the application—how to apply the Scripture or biblical principle in my life. He encourages us to consider the implication—if I apply these principles in my life, what things would follow or what affect would that have on me and my life.

Check other Scripture passages that pertain to your topic and make note of the cross-references you can use throughout your Bible study.

Decide how many chapters the Bible study will contain. How many days or weeks will the study last? At this point, you decide whether to have one lesson for the week or divide each lesson into daily portions to be studied.

For topical studies, your topic will help you determine what to cover each week. For instance, if you do a study on “The Fruit of the Spirit” you may decide to have eleven chapters:

Chapter 1: Overview/Introduction to “The Fruit of the Spirit”
Chapters 2 – 10: Each chapter covers one of the Fruit of the Spirit.
Chapter 11: Wrap-up

Read through the book or passage numerous times to find the important topics for each chapter. If you choose Psalm 1 for your Bible study, you could compare or contrast the way of the righteous man and the way of the unrighteous man.

Start writing and organizing.

As you write, you will also need to take the role of teacher/leader, making certain you supply background, definitions of words and phrases, and the context of the passage.

Many folks will have thirty questions for the week—six questions per day. However, instead of staying to a formulaic approach, I prefer to have a mix of quick short-answer questions and some that take more research, study, and contemplation to answer, so my Bible studies have varying numbers of questions per day/week.

Review, Rewrite, Refine

In this step you want to make sure the questions make sense and actually ask what you thought you were asking.

This is a good time to ask a friend or two to work through the study and help you identify anything that needs clarifying or that needs to be rewritten.

Writing Prompt: For a topical Bible study on “Trusting God,” what Scripture passages would you use and what questions would you ask?

Click to Tweet: I suggest reading Scripture with this question in mind, “What does this passage say about WHO God is?” Then ponder, “Based on what this passage says about WHO God is, what am I required to do in response?” #WritingBibleStudies

Collaborative Creations

by Shirley Crowder

From time-to-time someone will comment on how difficult it must be to collaborate with another writer to create a book.

Guess what? It isn’t!

In addition to the collaborative efforts with my life-long friend, Harriet E. Michael, I have collaborated with another writer on one book and a different writer on a chapter in a book. The process of working together has been great!

The next thing people want to know is how we work together when you and the collaborator do not live in the same city.

For my first collaborative creation, my collaborator was in New York, I was in Alabama. Harriet lives in Louisville and I live in Birmingham. Although Dr. Howard Eyrich lives in Birmingham, when we did the bulk of the writing for our collaboration, he was in New Zealand for an extended period of time.

Email and shared documents are a great way to collaborate. Just be sure you work out the system and you both understand how to work in and save documents. Telephone calls can help also. Harriet and I usually see each other at least twice a year at the Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference and our annual Nigeria Mission Reunion. With our first collaboration, we met in Nashville for a weekend when we were getting close to completing the manuscript.

There are several essentials when considering collaborating. Both writers:

  1. must be Christ-followers.
  2. need to share very similar theological beliefs and understanding. If these are too dissimilar, the final manuscript may be choppy, inconsistent, and confusing in its presentation of biblical truth throughout the book.
  3. must pack away their ego and ask the Lord to give them a teachable, humble heart.

For Christ-followers it is important to remember—whether writing alone or collaboratively—the ultimate goal for our writing is to glorify God.

Practically speaking, there are a few things that help make the collaboration process work well.

  • Pray for each other.
  • Agree in advance who will write what portions.
  • Leave your pride behind.
  • Have the person with the most expertise in Word compile, make changes in, and maintain the combined document.
  • Be sure to turn on “tracking” so it is easy to see what edits the other person made.
  • Defend/explain why you think something you wrote should not be changed. If a disagreement in the interpretation or application of a passage arises, each of you take time to pray asking the Lord to help you understand and apply the passage as you study it again. This is one of the places that sharing similar theological beliefs comes into play. This is also where a humble and teachable heart comes into play.
  • Pack away your ego—again.
  • Explain why you think something the other person wrote should be changed.
  • Speak the truth in love.
  • Pack away your ego—again.
  • Be flexible—be prepared for rewrites, edits, and delays. It is often difficult for a writer to see that his or her explanation or description is confusing, misleading, or inaccurate. That’s why having a collaborator is so helpful. They can point out these things and help you with rewording and rewriting

Based on my experiences of collaboratively creating a book, I’ve come up with a basic process that you may find helpful in your own collaborative creations.

1. Be sure the essentials mentioned early in this blog are in place.
2. Determine the structure. For devotionals, how many chapters and how many devotionals per chapter.
3. Toss around ideas for the overall series theme and then a sub-theme for each devotional book.
4. Determine who has the most expertise in combining everything into one master document.
5. Choose who will write what.
6. Combine each collaborator’s writing into the master document.
7. Write and add all the other parts of the book: Copyright page, Dedication, Introduction or Preface, Table of Contents, Chapter Title Pages, make notations of illustration placement if there will be any, Indexes and Appendices as needed, Collaborator Bios, and listing other other books by the authors.
NOTE: If you are self-publishing you will need to create the copyright page. If you have a publisher, they usually create this page. However, you will need to provide them with information on the versions of the Bible you have quoted.
8. Before sending the collaborative creation to your publisher, I suggest you have someone read through the entire manuscript and help catch needed edits and rewrites.
9. Both collaborators then need to go through the entire manuscript cover-to-cover and make comments, edits, and suggestions throughout. Then each collaborator will make changes or rewrites on their portion of the document. As you work together, you read and edit each other’s work. The changes you each make in the other person’s writing will help give the book a more consistent writing style and presentation.
10. Make the final edits in the master document and send the manuscript to the publisher.
11. Both collaborators need to gather other information the publisher needs for the book.
12. When galleys are received, both collaborators need to go through the manuscript and make notes of needed edits. This is where Harriet and I often find things in our own writing or the other person’s writing that we communicate about and determine the best edit or rewrite to make.

Admittedly, there are portions of this process that can be tedious, like galley corrections. When you get stuck, your collaborator can help make suggestions that jump start your thought processes and make completion easier.

AND it is exciting to see collaborative creations come together! For me, the best parts of collaborative writing is having someone to work through the difficulties, share the excitement of seeing your collaborative creation come together, and share the celebrations of all the blessings you receive!

Have fun and don’t forget to laugh at yourself!

Click to Tweet: the best parts of collaborative writing is having someone to work through the difficulties, share the excitement of seeing your collaborative creation come together, and share the celebrations of all the blessings you receive! #CollaborativeWriting #CoAuthoring

Hands border image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
The Essentials image by kmicican from Pixabay
Arrows image by kmicican from Pixabay

Pros and Cons of Self-Editing

by: Shirley Crowder

Long before I began writing for anything other than my journal or notes for teaching Bible studies, I was helping friends by editing their writing. I enjoy helping people fine-tune their writing so that their ideas come across clearly to the readers of their work.

Once I began writing for others to read, I realized the importance of having someone else edit my writing. Following, I’ll share my perceptions of some pros and cons of self-editing. In my experience, each aspect I’ve considered can be a pro and a con.

PROS of Self-Editing

1.   You wrote the story and know what you want it to say.
This is your story to tell in your own words, using your own expressions. Sometimes an editor wants you to change your words.

2.   You can polish your ideas as you go.
As you write you can rewrite and correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.

3.   You can save money.
Self-editing will cost your time but there will be no out-of-pocket money spent.

4.   You can use a good software program to help you check spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
There are many good editing programs, some are included with programs like Microsoft Word (which I use) and some are add-on programs that will help you with spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Some programs allow you to choose by which style manual (APA, Chicago, etc.) they will make recommendations.

CONS of Self-Editing

1.   You wrote the story (manuscript) and know what you want it to say.
Since you wrote the story and know precisely what you want it to say, you may well overlook mistakes in the manuscript because you are so familiar with the content that your eyes will read what you know you meant it to say, not what you actually wrote.

2.   You can polish your ideas as you go.
Editing and polishing as you go can often lead to your getting bogged down trying to figure out how to rewrite that one idea that is pertinent to the story. Self-editing as you go will not only slow down your process of getting your story committed to paper (or computer), it may well interrupt the flow of creative ideas as you make a conscious effort to focus on just one aspect of your story.

3.   You can save money.
Your goal is to have your manuscript consistent, easy to read, and have no glaring errors or inconsistencies, so, whatever monies you expend hiring an editor will help make your manuscript ready for publication.

4.   You can use a good software program to help you check spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
These software programs can be helpful, but you cannot always just take their suggestions. Sometimes they suggest a comma where one is not needed, or a spelling that is not the correct word you want to use.

I suggest you self-edit and hire an editor. Once your manuscript is completed, set it aside for several weeks and then go back through the manuscript to self-edit. Then I recommend you find a good editor to go through your manuscript and check for spelling, grammar, punctuation issues as well as inconsistencies. Even though it may be difficult for us to hear, it is very helpful to receive an honest critique of the manuscript.

Writing Prompt challenge – How would you edit the following? (Put your answer in the comments.)
One of the customs in Nigeria and many other parts of the world when a loved one dies is for mourners often paid professional mourners to be at the home of the deceased to wail and cry loudly and continually.

Click to Tweet: I suggest you self-edit and hire an editor. Even though it may be difficult for us to hear, it is very helpful to receive an honest critique of the manuscript. #amwriting #writerslife #editor