How to Spell Freelance

by Kristy Horine

He darted through the stream of folks flowing into the sanctuary.

Behind me, the pastor asked a deacon, “You ever see that man before?”

A stranger. Here. In the vestibule of our church.

Normal people would think, “Oh, how nice. A guest. Let’s go make him feel welcome.”

Not me. I’m a writer, with a hyperactive imagination. I breathed a prayer of protection and courage, fast-forwarded active shooter training in my head, then slipped into the sanctuary toward my usual second row seat, ready to worship, ready to move if necessary.

Moments later, the stranger appeared at the end of my pew.

“This seat taken?”

“If you sit in it, it will be.”

I smiled and prayed again. Hard. This was close-range business now. I extended my hand in his direction.

“I’m Kristy, and you are …?”

“John*.”

“Where you from, John?”

“Texas.”

“What brings you to Kentucky?”

“Fort Knox.”

That explained the high and tight hair and the clipped answers. I simply could not stop the interrogation at this point.

“You drove at least two hours this morning to come to church here?”

“No,” John admitted. “I’m going to the library to do some genealogical research.”

“So your family is from here? What’s the name?”

“Smith.”

Seriously. (*Even though I changed his name for anonymity, he did give me one of the top three most common surnames ever.)

The worship service started and the Lord helped to quiet my spirit, but not my curiosity. During the offertory hymn, I googled library hours and discovered the genealogy room was open on Sundays.  Maybe this close-lipped, corduroy-wearing Texan was telling the truth after all.

After service, I learned a little more. John served with a Texas Army ROTC Corps. He came to Fort Knox for training. He came to Paris because this place was the only known connection to his late grandfather. He had a date, he had a name , and he had a heart for his family story.

Story.

I breathed another prayer. Oh, Father, thank you for what you have written in our lives!

You see, over the past 25 years in my writing career, I have learned that you spell freelance like this: S-T-O-R-Y.

Freelance writing is kind of like renting versus buying. Renting gives shelter and opportunity, but without the permanency and obligations of ownership. There are pros and cons to each and I’ve lived under both roofs. No matter which writing house you choose to live in, there is deep responsibility on the writer’s part.

Yes, market research is important. Yes, request an editorial calendar and pay close attention to submission guidelines. Yes, write a query letter with all the excellence you can muster. But a writer’s responsibility is to the story. If you don’t have the story, what will people read?

When I breathed the prayer of gratitude for what God has written into our lives, I realized the wealth of story opportunity that came with meeting our mysterious Mr. Smith.

  • Personal Adventure – What does he find?
  • Genealogy in Kentucky – How do you learn who you really are? What are the best root sniffing places in Kentucky and where do you even begin?
  • The role of ROTC – What does it look like in the Commonwealth? Is there an anniversary coming up? Are there spin-off stories I can find by researching individual university ROTC programs?
  • Faith Over Fear – Does perfect love cast out fear? If so, how do we recover from current events? How do we approach daily life with faith no matter what might happen?
  • The Safe Church – A How-to article considering Nehemiah 4:18 and present day responsibilities in our houses of worship. What is the new role of parishioners, greeters, police in community, and how we are to move with faith in God’s protection?

The Lord gifted me with an inquiring heart and suited me for the gathering and telling of stories. I imagine that on Sunday, He snickered and said, “Oh, my child, trust me. Have I got a story to share with you … Now, go and tell somebody.”

Click to Tweet: The Lord gifted me with an inquiring heart and suited me for the gathering and telling of stories.–Kristy Horine via @InspiredPrompt  #amwriting #Freelance

Writing Prompt: Have a go at Mr. John Smith. What story does he find? What story does he write with his life after he finds it?

Research: The Inspired Prompt Way

Research. We’ve spent the month of March dissecting this topic from all angles. From how to start, to research on the road, and current events research, a way to gather information should be coming clear.

I’ve asked the Crew to share their go-to source when it comes to research. Here’s what they said:

Harriet Michael: As a Christian nonfiction writer who writes a lot of Biblical pieces—devotions and essays to a Biblical theme, my go-to resource is Bible Gateway where I can look up passages, do word searches, find commentaries, and find passages in all translations. Here is their link: https://www.biblegateway.com/

Jennifer Hallmark: Sometimes when I write, I just can’t think of the right word so I use an online thesaurus. Even if I don’t find what I need, it often gets my creativity flowing so I can move forward in my writing. Their link is http://www.thesaurus.com/

Kristy Horine: I find the Blue Letter Bible www.blueletterbible.org to be a great resource due to its interlinear concordance, cross references, language explanations, and access to commentaries. It has an app that is free that can be downloaded to your phone.  In addition, www.biblestudytools.com is helpful in the commentary area.

Another source is www.thoughtco.com. This is not a Christian-based resource, but it sure is fun for those strange and unusual questions like if brain cells regenerate, or the difference between racism and prejudice. It is based on the idea that we should be lifelong learners and seeks to teach just that. Plus, it has a really neat daily email you can sign up for. And, for numbers: www.barna.com and www.pewresearch.org

Betty Thomason Owens: I attended a class on researching at the Mid South Conference. The instructor gave us the Library of Congress website. It’s huge. You can find articles, photos, and lots of other interesting studies and stories and books. https://www.loc.gov/  I also love History.com  https://www.history.com/ and the Smithsonian.com https://www.smithsonianmag.com/.

Gail Johnson: I use the Bible, Webster’s dictionary, and the Strong’s Concordance. Also Bible Gateway and the online versions of the dictionary and thesaurus.

Bonita McCoy: I love  Biblehub.com because it gives you the verse in several translations. I use it for my Beautiful Pieces of Grace blog. Also the good old library for articles for the Inspired Prompt site and my Courageous Writers blog.

Fay Lamb: My research varies on what the subject happens to be. If it is medical, I will look up medical research on various sites, but I also look for journals of people who have undergone medical procedures. I also use slang dictionaries for slang for certain times. I even have a surfers’ slang dictionary.

Tammy Trail:  I tend to look for historical societies. There is a blog I like to catch up with too, Colonial Quills. Lots of historical information there for me. I use the Colonial Williamsburg website also. For writing related information, I love Seekerville.

Carlton Hughes:  Like others, my research varies depending on the subject. I’m mostly writing devotionals now, so usually I’m searching for a specific scripture on Bible Gateway. Blogs like Novel Rocket are good for general advice on fiction writing.

Shirley Crowder:  I use Blue Letter Bible — lots of commentaries, words studies, etc. https://www.blueletterbible.org/

Karen Jurgens: I use Google for whatever I need to know when I’m writing about Paris and other parts of the world. I study maps of the city, and I use reference books I’ve purchased while visiting. For example, I bought lots of historical books and maps of Cayman Island when I vacationed there a couple years ago. I always write about settings I know personally or have visited.

Cammi Woodall: Started in September of 1998, Google is the world’s largest search engine. You know how I know that? I googled it! When you can use your search engine name as a verb, you know you are doing something right. I love other sites like AskJeeves.com or Yahoo.com, but I always come back to Google. In one research session, l learned that the world’s oldest church is the Dura-Europos house church in Syria, arsenic poison will still show up in your fingernails 6 to 12 months after ingestion, and a ten-gallon hat really only holds three-quarters of a gallon. Who knew? Google did! And now I do, too.

Thank you, Inspired Prompt Crew! As you can see, there are research sites galore for the fiction and non-fiction writer. Do you have a go-to site that’s not listed above? In lieu of a writing prompt, we’re asking you to share that in the comments below…

Click to tweet: The Inspired Prompt Crew shares their go-to source when it comes to research for writers. #research #Google

Research on the Road – the Hideout Guest Ranch in Shell, Wyoming

By June Foster

My husband and I have traveled in our RV off and on for the last fifteen years. Beginning in 2010, I sensed the Lord calling me to write Christian fiction. I soon discovered traveling and writing fiction are best buddies. Every destination offers a setting for a book—one where I’ve actually walked the streets or roamed the countryside.

Last summer, I had the privilege of experiencing the most intriguing research on the road ever. We parked at Shell Campground in Wyoming at the base of the Big Horn Mountains for the entire summer. And most exciting, a very expensive, upscale guest ranch only a few miles away provided ample information.

So, the setting of my WIP is a Wyoming ranch I call Sunlight Peaks. The book, A Home For Fritz, will be out in May.

The owner of the exclusive guest ranch, The Hideout, was congenial and took me around the entire ranch in his open-air Jeep. (I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for a week’s stay at $3500.) I saw fields where his horses grazed, the barns and corral, the main complex that housed the elegant dining room and ranch offices, and guest quarters. He graciously showed me inside one of the guest rooms where, of course, my heroine stays during her visit.

But my research didn’t end there. I asked permission to interview the wranglers, which the owner granted. Since my hero is a wrangler, the chats were invaluable. I asked questions like: what do you like the most about your job? The least? Does management allow you to fraternize with the guests? Can you have a dog? Lots of others that related to the story.

Really exhilarating was the opportunity to visit the Big Horn Mountains. The entrance was only a five mile drive from the campground. In one of the mountain ranges is what the locals call the eye of the needle. It’s an opening in the rock which if you are at the pull-off on the mountain road at sunset, you have an exquisite view. Thus, I called my guest ranch Sunlight Peaks Guest Ranch. My hero and heroine fall in love as they witness the eye at sunset.

While in Wyoming, we attended a church in Greybull and got to know many of the locals. This was research in the sense that I based some of the characters on these delightful people. Not to mention the owners of the Shell Campground where we stayed.

The bottom line is: research on the road is the best, most effective type for an author. I lived the Wyoming life for three amazing months in 2017.

Click to tweet: June Foster: I soon discovered traveling and writing fiction are best buddies. #research #romance

Writing Prompt: Jed kicked at the dirt clod by his boot. Crazy woman. She’d be his or…


An award-winning author, June Foster is a retired teacher with a BA in education and MA in counseling. Her characters find themselves in tough situations but overcome through God’s power and the Word.

She writes edgy topics wrapped in a good story. To date, she’s seen sixteen contemporary romances and several short stories published. Find June online at junefoster.com.


June’s newest novel, A Home For Fritz, won’t release until May so she agreed to share with us a few of her newer books. 🙂

Letting Go

When Pastor Zack Lawrence loses his wife and unborn child, he can’t find the motivation to minister at his church in Oak Mountain, Alabama. Though Ell Russell has loved Zack since they were kids, she must abandon any hope for a life with him. Can Zack find love again or will he shred Ella’s heart once more?

Buy link: http://tinyurl.com/ybqmnc2v

 

Prescription for Romance

Though Scott Townsend made a commitment to the Lord, he can’t relinquish bitterness toward his younger brother after he squanders their parents’ money. When a beautiful, young pharmacist seeks affirmation and challenges Scott’s values, he must uphold his upbringing.   

Buy link:  http://tinyurl.com/y8jtqvuw 

Is it Possible for a Writer to Organize Their Research?

By Jennifer Hallmark

As a writer, one of the pesky problems I deal with is how to organize everything to do with writing, especially research. Whether it’s short stories, novels, articles, or blog posts, groundwork is involved and I need somewhere to store quotes, answered questions, photos, and fact-finding. Is it even possible to keep up with it all?

Yes.

The Inspired Prompt Crew has shared their thoughts this month on how to get started, historical research, current events research, TV and movie research, Biblical story retelling, and character research.

Now that you know how to research for your writing, you need ways to organize. I say ways because there are quite a few options and you need to experiment to find which one works for you. At the moment, I’m using a combination of the methods below. I’m working on the second book in my first series (Book one will release in June of 2019) and book series groundwork is a headache. But I am making my way down this overgrown trail…

(1) Microsoft Word files and documents. I do all my writing in Microsoft Word. I found it easiest to make a main file for my series, then sub-files for each book, and more sub-files within each book such as character birthdays, job information, research I’m keeping though I may not use it in the story, etc. All my groundwork is in separate sub-files that I can easily find. 

(2) Binders. I’m also experimenting with a binder containing only research. That way if I’m tired of sitting at the computer, I can take my binder with me and study, add or subtract notes, and keep the story fresh in my mind.

(3) Hanging folders. I haven’t tried this but my desk has a drawer equipped for hanging folders. This could be a good way to separate research you use in stories, novels, articles, etc.

(4) Scrivener. Scrivener is a word-processing program and outliner designed for authors. Scrivener provides a management system for documents, notes and metadata. I’ve actually bought this program but haven’t figured it out yet. I’m a visual learner so I’ll probably have to sit down with someone and learn hands-on. Many of my friends, especially the novelists, use it and say they wouldn’t keep up with research any other way.

(5) Evernote.  When you go to this site, it says, “Meet Evernote, your second brain. Capture, organize, and share notes from anywhere. Your best ideas are always with you and always in sync.” You can use it with your tablet or smartphone and it keeps up with everything. Again, this is something I’ve signed up for but haven’t used yet.

I hope these ideas will give you a place to start. A lot of my research starts here …

I write longhand in notebooks, run off facts, and pile information until I finally take a day, go through it all, and put it where it needs to go. 🙂

Whatever works for you. That’s the way you need to organize your research.

Click to tweetWhether it’s short stories, novels, articles, or blog posts, groundwork is involved and you need somewhere to store quotes, answered questions, photos, and fact-finding. Is it even possible to keep up with it all? #research #organize

Writing prompt: Instead of a prompt, take one step this week to better organize your research. Download software, buy a binder, or try hanging folders.

Character Research

How do we as writers get our characters out of our heads and into the hearts of our readers? How do we take them from being an idea to believable people who walk, talk, and feel?

listening-3079065_1920Every writer has his or her method. Today, I want to share a few of mine. Let’s start with eavesdropping.

Listening

My stories begin when characters appear out of nowhere and start talking. I get a “feel” for their personalities and the basic plot of the story as I follow them around in my mind. Sometimes, they even tell me their names.

True story: Recently, I was pondering the name of a child when my main character, the mother, began explaining herself to another character. “I had a choice. Protect myself, or protect Ethan.” Ethan. I liked it. It fit. With that comment, I also understood she was a strong woman. (Now if I can just figure out her name. 🙂 )

Observing

Thinking bubbleIf you have an overactive imagination like I do, pay close attention to the scene playing in your head. Did your character reach for a cup of coffee or tea? How are they dressed? Where is the scene taking place? Observation will garner you a harvest of information.

Analyzing

Have you ever read a story or watched a movie where a character did something that you  couldn’t believe?  Pushing cardboard characters around on the page will only make our readers frustrated. Unlike caricatures, our character’s actions/reactions must be plausible. So, how can we know what a specific person will or will not do in a particular situation? We can’t. But we can get an idea and keep that idea plausible with a little research.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality test. It will give you an idea how your character will process information and how he will react to that information. Another test is the Big Five Personality Test. There is also a personality series by Molly Owens on this subject.

Knowing your character’s personality will also help you decide his/her reaction to emotional situations. An ESTP will not react or show emotions like an INFJ. For more on how to describe feelings check out The Emotion Thesaurus.

Researching

There are plenty of books to help with characterization. Recently I discovered a new one while shopping in Hobby Lobby. When my daughter asked about a book on the display case, I suggested she read it to learn her love language. Of course, I knew her language. Curious, she bought the book. Meanwhile, the “write” side of my brain leaped into overdrive. If a person can have a love language, why not a character? Would it work? Apparently so. While researching the idea, I came across an article on the subject. You can read it here.

Click to Tweet: If a person can have a love language, why not a character?

Interviewing

Start with a list of questions. Don’t take the time to think. Give the first answer that pops in your mind. You’ll be surprised at how well you know your character.

I hope today’s suggestions will introduce you to a plethora of characters. Happy writing!

What method do you use to flesh out your characters? Leave me a comment and share your method with others.

Writing Prompt: Think of a character. Place her or him in a setting. What are they doing? How are they dressed? Create an action scene for them. How do they respond?