alpsCropped CLIMB THAT MOUNTAIN IN 2020!

Kay DiBianca

December 30, 2019


People occasionally ask why I have a banner with a photograph of mountains on my website and on my personal Facebook page. Am I a mountain-climber? No. But there’s something about that picture that symbolizes for me the challenge of writing.

After all, we authors know what it’s like to look up at a goal that seems unrealistically far away and wonder if we’re up to the task. We share the doubts and fears climbers have when taking on a major quest. Am I willing to push myself beyond my shortcomings? Suppose I don’t have the talent to succeed? I’m not sure I can make it to the top. What if I fail? With so many things in common, maybe we can learn something from the way our mountaineering friends prepare to start their adventure.

So, what do you think? Ready for a literary workout in 2020? You don’t even have to buy an expensive plane ticket and travel to the other side of the world. Just grab your laptop and join the expedition.

  • Decide which mountain you want to climb. Whether It’s a short story, a novel, mystery or romance, choose your goal. Read books in the same genre to get an idea of what’s selling in today’s marketplace.
  • Get a guide. There are tons of books and blogs that address the “how to” of writing. I’m running a series on my own blog entitled “The Craft of Writing” to equip and encourage new authors. Make use of all of the expert guidance available.
  • Gather your gear. Fortunately, we don’t need backpacks, climbing boots, ropes and picks! A good laptop and word processor are enough. But there are plenty of other tools to help the aspiring writer along the way. Scrivener, Grammarly, and Reedsy are just a few. Research and grab the equipment you feel will help you in your climb.
  • Train. Many of the experts I’ve interviewed say the same thing: if you want to write, you have to spend time writing. Give yourself a daily or weekly word quota. If you don’t practice climbing the small hills, you won’t be able to take on a full mountain.
  • Join an expedition. Attend a writer’s conference and meet editors, publishers, and other writers who can help you up the mountain. Network through email groups, comment on blogs, and post to social media.

Most of all, let’s accept the challenge in 2020 to go beyond our comfort zones. And let’s support our fellow climbers through the ups and downs of trekking to the mountaintop.

I’m setting up my tent at base camp now with a continuation of my website blog series “The Craft of Writing”, where I plan to alternate monthly blog posts between craft experts and new authors. Be sure to join the discussion on January 13 when H.R. D’Costa will be my guest, and we’ll take a look at her craft book “Story Stakes.” In February, my guest will be L.K. Simonds whose first novel, ALL IN, was released in 2019. Don’t miss the opportunity to interact with these two. They have a lot of good information to share.

2020 is almost here. Come on over, and let’s climb that mountain together.

Do you have a writing goal you’re targeting for 2020?

What new challenge are you taking on in the new year?

What advice do you have for fellow writers?



Kay DiBianca

November 18, 2019

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise” – Proverbs 13:20a

Six times in 2019 we had the opportunity to walk with the wise, experts in various areas of writing and publication. It was a great pleasure and privilege to have welcomed these folks to my blog: James Scott Bell, Kathy Ide, Steve Laube, Randy Ingermanson, Renni Browne, Dave King, and K.M. Weiland.

I encourage you to read or re-read the complete interviews and their comments.  Here’s a sample of the responses each person gave when I asked what single piece of advice they would give to new authors.

James Scott Bell (Plot & Structure) “It’s the same answer every time: write to a quota. Get in the habit of writing a certain number of words every week, week in and week out. You have to practice what you learn in craft books and classes. You have to exercise your imagination. You have to produce the pages if you want to make it in this game.”

Kathy Ide (Proofreading Secrets of Best-selling Authors) “View what God has called you to write as a calling—every bit as important as if He had called you to be a pastor or serve on the mission field.”

Steve Laube (The Christian Writers Market Guide) “To quote a line from the movie “Galaxy Quest”: Never give up. Never Surrender. Seriously. This is an industry that demands excellence. Few writers are born as a perfect writer. Instead, most writers are marked by a dogged determination to improve their craft, learn the industry, build relationships, and create great ideas.”

Randy Ingermanson (How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method) “Create a habit of writing every day. You can analyze author success mathematically, and there are four crucial factors. One of the factors of a successful career is production. A habit of writing every day drives production. One of the other factors is quality. A habit of writing every day builds quality. So write every day. Every single day.”

Renni Browne (Self-editing for Fiction Writers) “Don’t self-edit your first draft. Let the story pour out, unimpeded by self-editing points, grammar, anything you’ve read or heard from famous writers, and so on. Story first, style later.”

Dave King (Self-editing for Fiction Writers) “Writing is hard.  It doesn’t take long to learn the basics of writing well enough to write competently, especially if you have the help of a professional editor (ADVT).  But to really develop the writer’s gifts – the insight into people you need to create layered characters, the awareness of how your readers will react to your story, the ability to make all the different aspects of your novel work together – takes time to develop.”

K.M. Weiland (Creating Character Arcs) “Find the process that works best for you. Explore and experiment and figure out what best unleashes your creativity. For example, outlines aren’t one size fits all. My outline won’t look anything like someone else’s outline. So just because one outlining approach doesn’t do it for you, don’t give up right away. Play around and see if you can find the right blend of tools and techniques for you.”

That’s a lot of great information! And there’s so much more in each of the interviews.

Now it’s your turn.

What did you enjoy about these interviews and comments?

Would you like to see more Craft of Writing blog posts in 2020?

Would you like to hear from new authors as well as experts?

Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for the blog for the coming year?


I look forward to hearing from you and continuing this blog as we grow together to become great writers!


The Craft of Writing – Part 6

Creating Character Arcs


What My Horse Taught Me About Character Arcs

 by Kay DiBianca



It was a day for speed. A wind-at-your-back, smile-on-your-face day when a youthful gallop overruled frumpy caution, so we barreled down the dirt trail into the park and around a blind turn. As the bushes on our right gave way and the road ahead came into view, a terrifying specter suddenly loomed up in the middle of the trail, no more than fifty yards in front of us.

Dixie, my high-strung, prone-to-panic filly, slammed on the brakes. I had no idea a horse could stop like that. Two stiff-legged hops – thump, thump — to a dead halt.

I went straight over her head. Turns out an English forward seat saddle is particularly ill-suited to sudden deer sightings.

As I was flying through the air, anticipating an unpleasant reacquaintance with the earth, Dixie began some kind of crazy cha-cha in reverse, trying to flee the tiny deer creature. I was still holding on to the reins, however, so she couldn’t turn and run. Instead, she made a determined dart backward, dragging me along in her wake.

You might be wondering why I didn’t just let go of the reins and save myself from a mouthful of dirt and a painful awareness of my sudden change in circumstances. I’ll be honest with you. I would have let my horse drag me into the next county before I allowed her to return riderless to the barn. I have my pride, you know.

Body-surfing down a dirt trail at the whim of a frightened animal is an excellent way to focus one’s mind.  I’m older now, but sometimes I still get that urge to gallop furiously into the next adventure, no matter what form it takes. But when I recall that day in the park, the awful taste of grit in my mouth, the look of terror in Dixie’s eyes, and the acrid scent of fear in the air, I pull back the reins on my emotions and proceed at a deliberate trot.


Whether dramatic or not, we each have a set of experiences that have transformed the way we view the world. We all know the characters we write about must change from the beginning of the story to the end, and the change must be meaningful. But how do we accomplish this metamorphosis in a way that will grab our readers?

This is the essence of K.M. Weiland’s Creating Character Arcs. Ms. Weiland argues that structure, plot, and character development are dependent on each other and must work together as an integrated whole to create the novel. She goes on to describe different character arcs and how to create them.

In the “Craft of Writing” blog series, we’ve talked about plot & structure, editing techniques, aids to finding publishing information, and overall outlining techniques. This conversation with K.M. Weiland is an excellent way to gain insight into another part of the writing and publishing world: character development.


K.M. Weiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally published author of acclaimed writing guides, as well as the Gaslamp fantasy Wayfarer, the historical/dieselpunk adventure Stormingthe portal fantasy Dreamlander, the medieval epic Behold the Dawn, and the western A Man Called OutlawWhen she’s not making things up, she’s busy mentoring other authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors. She makes her home in western Nebraska.


Welcome, K.M, and thank you for joining us!

How did you get interested in writing?

Stories have always been my mode of interpreting and communicating with the world around me. I made up characters and told myself stories from a very young age, but I didn’t start writing them down until I was about twelve. During high school, I edited and published a small newsletter that featured short stories and informative articles. From there, it was a natural progression to novels.

Stories are like breathing. Life without a story in my head is one-dimensional, stagnant, vapid. I love the life God has given me, but I think I love it better because I’m able to live out so many other lives on the page. I’m more content to be who I am because I’m not trapped in that identity. When I sit down at my computer and put my fingers on the keys, I can be anyone or anything, at any time in history. I write because it’s freedom.

What made you decide to write books on the craft of writing?

I kind of stumbled into it. I was just publishing my first novel and all the marketing gurus were telling writers we needed to have a blog if we were going to build a readership. Like so many other writers, the only thing I felt qualified to blog about was writing. I started chronicling my writing journey as an effort to sell fiction, and it ended up becoming an adventure all its own.

What prompted you to write Creating Character Arcs?

For me, the crystallization of the thematic dichotomy between the Truth and the Lie the Character Believes is what suddenly made the concept of character arc click on an applicable level.

It was while working on Jane Eyre: A Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic and charting Jane’s Positive Change Arc—which is just so perfect and so powerful—that I gelled my own understanding of how inextricable plot and character are from one another. Character arcs and plot structure are intertwined at every beat of the story.

I can’t say it was unexpected, but it was explosively eye-opening. Creating Character Arcs grew out of that experience.

What single piece of advice would you give to new authors?

Find the process that works best for you. Explore and experiment and figure out what best unleashes your creativity. For example, outlines aren’t one size fits all. My outline won’t look anything like someone else’s outline. So just because one outlining approach doesn’t do it for you, don’t give up right away. Play around and see if you can find the right blend of tools and techniques for you.

Besides your own books, what book on the craft of writing would you recommend?

Hmm. It’s hard to narrow them down. I’m going to have to go with three:

  • The Anatomy of Story by John Truby.
  • Write Away by Elizabeth George
  • Story by Robert McKee

The first and the third are aimed more at screenwriters, but their take on structure and story theory are insane. Absolutely insane. (In all the most awesome ways.)

Where can we find out more about you and your work?

I’d love to have you visit me at


Thank you, K.M., for sharing your expertise with us!


The Craft of Writing – Part 5




What the Book of Proverbs taught me about SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS.

 by Kay DiBianca

Every morning I sit down with my bowl of oatmeal and cup of coffee and read a chapter in the Book of Proverbs. I can’t remember when I started doing this. Maybe somebody recommended it to me, or maybe I just came up with the idea on my own.

Now, I’m all about doing things the easy way, so since there are thirty-one chapters in Proverbs, I read the chapter whose number corresponds with the date. Therefore, I go through the entire book each month. (Okay, chapter 31 doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves, but it’s still a pretty good system.)

The thing about the Book of Proverbs that interests me is the wealth of wisdom found in its pages. Practical wisdom. A soul-searching, character-changing experience in less than five minutes every morning.

 “Good sense makes one slow to anger,
    and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” – Proverbs 19:11

 “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches” – Proverbs 22:1a

 “Pride goes before destruction,
    and a haughty spirit before a fall.” – Proverbs 16:18

 “A dishonest man spreads strife,
    and a whisperer separates close friends.” – Proverbs 16:28

I could go on, but you get the idea. The Book of Proverbs is surely self-editing for the soul.


I may not remember exactly when I started reading the Proverbs every morning, but I remember precisely where I was when I first heard about Self-editing for Fiction Writers. I was attending a panel discussion for new authors at my first writers conference. The subject was how to improve your writing, and one of the speakers said the book Self-editing for Fiction Writers was an essential addition to any writer’s library. So I bought a copy and started reading.

Talk about practical wisdom!

“To write exposition at length … is to engage your readers’ intellects. What you want to do is to engage their emotions.” – Chapter One, “Show and Tell”

“When you make the point of view clear at the beginning of a scene, you get your readers involved right away and let them get used to inhabiting your viewpoint character’s head.” – Chapter Three, “Point of View”

“Don’t open a paragraph of dialogue with the speaker attribution. Instead, start a paragraph with dialogue and place the speaker attribution at the first natural break in the first sentence.” — Chapter Five, “Dialogue Mechanics”

“The greatest advantage of self-editing … is the kind of attention you have to pay to your own work while you’re doing the self-editing. It demands that you revise again and again until what you’ve written rings true. Until you can believe it.” – Chapter Twelve, “Voice”

This was the kind of advice I needed to self-edit my manuscript before I sent it off to a professional editor. If you’re reviewing your work, take the time to get familiar with the lessons in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. You’ll be glad you did.


Renni Browne

Renni Browne has been editing fiction and nonfiction for over 50 years. Before she became an editor for Scribner’s in 1966, she was a copyeditor for Time-Life Books, co-author of a novel, and assistant fiction editor for Woman’s Day. When she left Scribner’s, she worked part-time for a paperback publisher and a literary agent while reviewing books for Kirkus, Library Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly.

In 1968 she became senior editor at Stein & Day, where a number of books she acquired and edited over her seven years there landed on the New York Times bestseller list. She next became a senior editor at William Morrow, where she was encouraged to spend a great deal of time helping market her titles and cultivating relationships with literary agents but very little time editing the manuscripts she acquired—a trend, she realized, that was beginning to pervade the industry.

She left mainstream publishing in 1978 and in 1980 founded The Editorial Department, so named because it provided the services publishers had once routinely provided. In 1991 she and Dave King wrote Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, still the bestselling title on editing, now in its fifth printing and second edition from HarperCollins.




In addition to having co-authored Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Dave King enjoys editing everything from YA to harrowing memoirs, with romance, mysteries, and historicals in between. An independent editor since 1987, Dave is a former contributing editor at Writer’s Digest. Many of his magazine pieces on the art of writing have been anthologized in The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing and in The Writer’s Digest Writing Clinic.

He’s also the organist at a local church, which gives him the chance to explore the connections between writing and baroque music. The independent musical voices of a fugue act in much the same way as the characters in a novel — intertwining to produce an artistic whole. Being able to hold several musical threads in his head at the same time has helped him untangle more than one complicated plot.


Welcome, Renni and Dave, and thank you for joining us!

DAVE:  Thank you for having us.  And for your introduction.  It’s not often I get compared to Solomon.

How did you get interested in book editing and publishing?

RENNI:  I started editing in college. I typed students’ papers for extra money and if I saw a phrase or word that could easily be made far more effective if it was already good or good if it wasn’t, I put a suggested change in the margin. I didn’t do this often and I did it only on papers where I felt the student was a good writer to begin with. I loved doing it.

DAVE:  From the time I was about twelve, I developed the habit of rereading favorite books several times.  I was also a habitual tinkerer from an early age, taking apart model trains and lawnmowers to see how they worked.  I found that, on my third or fourth pass through a book, I started taking apart the story to understand how the writer created the moments I loved so much.

Then I rented an apartment in Renni’s home.  At the time, I was writing science fiction short stories, which she was editing in return for yard work and repairs to the washing machine.  (I was still a tinkerer.)  She handed me a science fiction novel to read to see if it was worth working on.  I wrote three single-spaced pages on how the writer could improve his plot.  That’s when she began training me as an editor. 

What made you decide to write Self-Editing for Fiction Writers?

RENNI:  Literary agent Carol Abel saw me give a self-editing workshop in Manhattan and said, “Renni. That’s a book!”  I was eager to do it once Dave King agreed to coauthor. He was a brilliant editor for The Editorial Department, he had the kind of mind that could turn SELF-EDITING into a self-help book (which I couldn’t have done in a zillion years), and he was a fine writer. Dave made massive creative contributions to every chapter in a voice so like mine I don’t think the writing style would help anybody (including me) figure out who wrote what.

DAVE:  Self-Editing started life as a two-page workshop handout, covering the twelve most common stylistic mistakes that beginning writers make.  I was actually brought into the project after the decision was made.

What was the most difficult thing about developing the book?

RENNI:  Making fresh what would be obvious to many of our readers. Take our first chapter: Showing and Telling.  I doubt there are many fiction writers who haven’t read show-don’t-tell hundreds of times. We had to write the chapter, even start off with it, because it’s so important. Of course, we were going to begin by showing. Dave backwards-edited a scene from Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, showed it to the reader, then showed the scene the way Fitzgerald wrote it. Point made. Brilliantly, in my opinion.

DAVE:  There really wasn’t anything really difficult about developing the book.  It just came together nicely.

You’ve both been in the editing / publishing business for a long time. How has it changed over the years?

RENNI:  The most obvious change was the invention of the computer, which made the physical process of writing a novel easier. Writers could move a scene from chapter seven to chapter three, or make all sorts of changes without having to do a little retyping—or a whole lot of retyping if this was the final draft. But the biggest change to me is more interesting. The first big publisher to hire me was Scribner’s, where authors had editors because Scribner’s (like most publishers) had an editorial department. That was fifty-plus years ago. Over many decades I saw the withering of editorial departments at publishing houses, followed by their virtual disappearance. There are exceptions, like Farrar, Strauss, but most publishers do very little if any editing. Yet writers need editing just as much now as they ever did, and many fine editors had left publishers. And so, in 1980, I founded a book-editing company and named it The Editorial Department.

DAVE:  The most obvious answer is the rise of e-publishing, but I suspect that’s just a symptom of something deeper.  Major publishers used to maintain a solid midlist – writers who weren’t blockbusters, but who sold enough books to turn a comfortable profit.  The search for good midlisters meant acquisitions editors were willing to take a risk on a new voice.  It also made them the gatekeepers, who stopped books that weren’t yet ready for print.

Then the big publishers decided that there was more money in buying a book from an established writer for a million dollars, putting another million into promotion, and making five million in sales.   It’s not bad as a business model, but it leaves midlist and beginning writers with no good platforms to launch their careers.  There are still respectable smaller presses looking for the midlist guys, but they’re often understaffed and underfunded.  Then there’s e-publishers, who are drawing in beginning writers with the promise of an instant book, for just a couple of hundred dollars down.

I understand the temptation e-publishing offers – your book is out in the world!  The problem is, there are no gatekeepers.  So the market is flooded with books that aren’t yet at their best.  So a lot of writers e-publish, then spend immense amounts of time and money promoting their books and only selling a couple of hundred copies.  It’s a frustrating system.

What single piece of advice would you give to new authors?

RENNI:  Don’t self-edit your first draft. Let the story pour out, unimpeded by self-editing points, grammar, anything you’ve read or heard from famous writers, and so on. Story first, style later. 

DAVE:  Writing is hard.  It doesn’t take long to learn the basics of writing well enough to write competently, especially if you have the help of a professional editor (ADVT).  But to really develop the writer’s gifts – the insight into people you need to create layered characters, the awareness of how your readers will react to your story, the ability to make all the different aspects of your novel work together – takes time to develop.  It’s probably not going to happen with your first manuscript, and maybe not with your second or third.  Again, a professional editor can help, but it still involves a lot of work.

Other than your own books, what book on the craft of writing would you recommend to our readers?


DAVE:  Actually, I don’t read other writers on the craft of writing fiction.  I’m a little concerned about getting into an echo chamber, where what I write reflects what other writers on writing think is important.  (I think there’s currently too much emphasis placed on the first five pages, for instance.)  So the writing books I draw the most inspiration from are about non-fiction, starting with The Elements of Style.   I rely on my work with clients to understand what writers need most.

What are some of your favorite works of fiction?

RENNI:  Oh dear. I love murder mysteries and so many of them nowadays are well written and have terrific characters–I read so many I can’t remember their names. I also read a lot of southern literature–I’m particularly fond of Lee Smith. And last year I reread Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady.

DAVE:  The Nero Wolfe books, if only for the dialogue.  (“You’re Wolfe’s Archie Goodwin.”  “No, I’m my Archie Goodwin.  I work for Mr. Wolfe.”)  C. J. Cherryh is brilliant at dropping readers into the middle of a complicated world, explaining nothing, and yet making things clear.  And Sue Grafton is always fun.

I’ve read some of your blog posts. Which one would you recommend to readers of this blog?

RENNI:  Can’t help you here. I don’t remember my blog posts.

DAVE:  Just one?  Hmmm.

I still find this one the most fun to read.  And to write.  Incidentally, that Poul Anderson example is going to show up in the next edition of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

Okay, just one more.  This one was also fun to do.  And the Stephen King example is going into the book I’m currently working on.

What do you do when you want to get away from writing and editing?

RENNI:  Take walks, play with my cats, or—most often—read a novel I picked up somewhere that looked appealing.

DAVE:  Garden.  We’ve got a 50’ by 50’ kitchen garden, where I grow most of the vegetables we use during the year.  I’ve also put a gallon of wild blueberries in the freezer so far.

My pleasure reading is also a little offbeat.  C. S. Lewis once said that, if you want to understand humanity, read great writers.  If you want to understand a particular era, read the second-rate guys, especially those who were popular at the time and are now forgotten.  The idea is that second-tier writers were popular because they fit their times perfectly.

Years ago, I found that you can purchase seventeenth and eighteenth century collections of essays or sermons fairly cheaply – I picked up six volumes of The Spectator, published in 1756, for about $5 each.  Reading one of these books is like time travel, taking you back to an era when people thought very differently than we do today.  And the second-tier writers are often interesting people.  So when I want to relax, I pick up one of these books and settle back into Stewart or Queen Anne England for a while.  My current reading is a collection by Jeremy Taylor, once chaplain to Charles I, who was known in his day as “The Shakespeare of preachers.”  This when there were still people alive who could remember the Shakespeare of theater.

Actually, I’ve written a blog post on this, as well.

Where can we find out more about you and your work?


DAVE:  My website,  I also write a column the third Tuesday of every month for Writer Unboxed.  (

Thank you, Renni and Dave, for sharing your expertise with us!


The Craft of Writing – Part 4





How I worked my way up to THE SNOWFLAKE METHOD

by Kay DiBianca



When our son was a pre-schooler, he and I would make weekly visits to the local library where he would pick out a bunch of books to take home. Many of my fondest memories of those years were of the two of us reading together before his naptime.

I suggested one day that our son write a book of his own even though he was only three years old. His job was to make up the story and my job was to write it down and illustrate it. This led to a short series of “books” written on packing paper, illustrated with crayons, and taped together with scotch tape about a main character named Andy.

Over the years, and several major moves later, most of those books have gone missing, but I recently found a couple of them stashed away in a chest of drawers. Although I didn’t find the first Andy book, this is my best recollection of that story:

Page 1 — “Andy went outside to play.”

Page 2 — “He fell in a puddle.”

Page 3 — “Then he went home and took a nap.”

Brilliant! A perfect three-act plot. Part One introduces the main character and shows him in action. Part two suggests tension and conflict. Part three is the resolution with a peaceful ending. If only I could write like that!


I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to produce a novel with such an elegant structure. But I have learned a lot about the methodology of novel-writing from an entertaining and informative book entitled How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson.

Randy has come up with a way to produce a novel in ten steps. It’s a logical progression from a one-sentence description of the story to a full-blown novel. This process keeps the author focused on the next step to add detail to the plot and create believable characters.

Combining the Snowflake Method with what we’ve learned about plot and structure will give us an advantage in constructing interesting stories that can be delivered in a reasonable time frame.

Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method is a book you’ll want to consider.




I am delighted to welcome Randy Ingermanson as our guest for this article on the craft of writing. Randy earned a PhD in theoretical physics from UC Berkeley, but left that field after a few years to follow his dream of writing. Along with his books of instruction on writing fiction, he is himself the author of award-winning novels including the City of God series, Oxygen, The Fifth Man, and Double Vision.



Welcome, Randy, and thank you for joining us!

Thanks for having me on your blog!


What made you want to become an author of fiction?

I’ve been a voracious reader since I was four years old. At some point along the way, I fell into the delusion that writing a novel must be easy, since it’s so easy to read one. So I decided I was going to write a novel someday. About the same time, I got interested in the world of first-century Jerusalem and did a lot of research to learn what that world was like. I decided that I wanted to write novels set in first-century Jerusalem. After I actually started writing fiction, I realized it wasn’t so easy, but that just made it a challenge. And I like to tackle tough challenges.


Does your background in physics help you in your fiction writing?

It certainly helps me write novels about physicists. But it’s not all that helpful in any other aspect of fiction writing.


How and when did you come up with the idea for the Snowflake Method?

I got the core of the idea in seventh grade when our English teacher taught us how to write “one good paragraph.” The key idea is what problem-solvers everywhere call “divide and conquer.” You break the problem down into smaller pieces and then solve each piece separately.

When it came time to write my PhD thesis, I used this idea to write my thesis very quickly. I wrote out the key idea of the thesis, expanded that to a few parts, expanded each of those to a few chapters, expanded each of those to a few paragraphs, and then used that skeleton to write the thesis.

At the time, it seemed like the obvious way to get the job done. Years later when I had learned all the skills to write fiction, I used a similar process to design my novel before I wrote it. And that process is just the Snowflake Method.

To my utter astonishment, the Snowflake Method has become wildly popular all around the world. Tens of thousands of novelists have used it to design their novels. I hear from writers all the time whose brains are wired to love the Snowflake. Of course, it’s not for everybody. But I am thrilled that it works so well for so many people.


I understand you still have a regular job. How do you find time to work and write?

I make time to work because I have to eat. Then I make time to write because I want to create. Then with whatever time is left over, I deal with everything else in my life, and of course there’s never enough time to do it all. Every writer who ever published a book has had to solve this problem, and they all solve it in pretty much the same way. It usually means that something else in your life doesn’t get done. I know there are plenty of things in my life that don’t get done, but I don’t see a simple solution.


Of all your fiction books, which is your favorite?

Tough question. That’s like asking which of my kids I love best. I love them all.

Every time I finish a book, it’s the best work I’m capable of doing at that time. Looking back on my books, I can see things I would do differently if I were publishing them today. But I did the best I could at the time, and the book I’m working on right now is the best I can do today.


What one piece of advice would you give to new authors?

Create a habit of writing every day. You can analyze author success mathematically, and there are four crucial factors. One of the factors of a successful career is production. A habit of writing every day drives production. One of the other factors is quality. A habit of writing every day builds quality.

So write every day. Every single day.


Do you have any books coming out soon?

Yes, I’m planning to release a novel soon on the life of Jesus of Nazareth. I’ve been working on this book for a long time and it’s the best I can do. My perfectionist nature keeps whispering in my ear that the book would be even better if I wait another year, but I think it’s time to launch this book and move on to the next.


Other than your own books, what book on the craft of writing would you recommend to our readers?

I learned how to write fiction from Dwight Swain’s classic book Techniques of the Selling Writer. Chapters 3 and 4 were especially crucial for me in learning how to make fiction work.


What do you do when you want to get away from writing?

I go out in the yard and work. I’m not particularly good at yard work, but my wife tells me what needs doing, and I do it. We have about 2.5 acres of land in the Pacific Northwest, where it rains a lot and things grow like crazy. So I spend a lot of time every summer fighting a hopeless battle against weeds and entropy. It keeps me somewhat fit, and it puts my mind in a completely different gear, and I come back to the house ready to create.


Where can we find out more about you and your work?

If you’re interested in learning how to write fiction, I have a website dedicated to teaching that at

If you’re interested in the novels I’ve written, I have a website that tells all about them at


Thank you, Randy, for sharing your expertise with us!






IT TAKES A NEIGHBORHOOD or What my neighbors taught me about The Christian Writers Market Guide

 by Kay DiBianca

Do you remember the neighborhood you grew up in? My family lived on an unpaved street with only eight houses on the block. There was little traffic to worry about, so we children were free to roam about, and all the neighbors watched out for us.

The Grays lived next door. When I played with their children, Mrs. Gray would always invite me in and treat me to a slice of toast lathered with apple butter. She said she wanted us to have plenty of energy.

Across the street lived the Poolers. Mrs. Pooler spent a lot of time tending her flowers in front of the house. One day when there was no one around to play with, I decided to see how many times I could run up and down the street until I wore myself out. After a few circuits on a hot, dusty afternoon, Mrs. Pooler noticed my huffing, red-faced effort as I passed her, and she invited me in for a cool glass of lemonade and a little advice on pacing.

On down the block lived the Stanfields. I used to babysit their daughter when she was small. The Stanfields were very organized and always left me a thorough list with all the information I would need while they were out: where they were going, how to reach them, what time Debbie should be in bed, etc. They were never late returning home, and they always paid me well.

Judge and Mrs. Tomasson lived on the corner. They didn’t have children, but their backyard was filled with trees, and they let us play there whenever we wanted. We became Robin Hoods or Tarzans and lived out our exciting adventures in their woods.

This semi-fictionalized account of my neighborhood is pretty accurate. The kind people who lived there nourished me, advised me, provided a safe environment for me to play in, and became role models without knowing it. I understand now how fortunate I was to have grown up there.


I was also fortunate when I finished the draft of my novel, The Watch on the Fencepost, to have picked up a copy of The Christian Writers Market Guide. I found myself in the midst of a neighborhood of publishers, agents, editors, and other services, all in support of Christian authors. The book overflows with useful information.

For example, I was looking for an editor/mentor. The Market Guide lists each editor’s name, address, contact information, services provided, types of manuscripts, charges, and credentials / experience. That was just the information I needed to narrow my search. After phone conversations with seven or eight possible choices, I found the person who would provide the kind of leadership and editorial services I was looking for.

The section on book publishers likewise has subsections to outline the publisher’s name, contact information, submissions guidelines, and other critical data. I found my publisher within the pages of The Christian Writers Market Guide also.

If you’re looking for services within the Christian writing community, check out The Christian Writers Market Guide. You’re in the right neighborhood!



I am honored to welcome Steve Laube, president and founder of The Steve Laube Agency, a veteran of the bookselling industry with nearly 40 years of experience.

Steve is the President of The Christian Writers Institute and  publishes the annual Christian Writers Market Guide (also available online) and Book Proposal Tips and Tricks.

In addition, he is the owner and President of Enclave Publishing one of the premier publishers of Christian fantasy and science fiction.

Welcome, Steve, and thank you for joining us!

When did you get interested in the publishing industry?

I began as a part-time shelf duster at a local Christian bookstore located next to the campus where I was in college. Very quickly I was bitten by the “retail bug.” I loved working among the books and Bibles and helping customers find the right one for their needs.

When did you decide to publish the Christian Writers Market Guide?

The Guide has been around for a long time. First created by Sally Stuart. Then in 2012 Jerry Jenkins took over. In 2016 I heard that Jerry was looking to sell the rights to it. I stepped in and took over. In 2017 we released our first annual edition, completely redesigned. Plus we put the contents online so that it could be accessible year-round with current information (updated every couple weeks throughout the year).

Can you describe some of the sections in the Christian Writers Market Guide?

The main sections include Book Publishers, Independent Publishers, Periodical Publishers, Specialty Markets, and Support for Writers.

What benefits can a writer gain from using the guide?

Many writers make the mistake that the only worthy writing is writing a book. They miss the golden opportunity to write for magazines, both online and print. The reach of a periodical is significant compared to the reach of a book. For example, writing for The Upper Room means your devotional will be distributed to five million people around the world. 

The support for writers section is chock full of listings for freelance editors, writers conferences (by location), writers groups, publicity firms, and literary agents.

Sure, one can dig around the internet and find similar information….if you know what you are looking for. The difference is our material is curated. The internet is not necessarily curated but is driven by “search engine optmization” which means a smart programmer can get their company in front of you, whether or not it is the best one for your needs.

How do you manage to juggle a busy schedule of heading up an agency with attending conferences and advising writers?

I’m not afraid of hard work. Been doing this a long time. 

What one piece of advice would you give to new authors?

To quote a line from the movie “Galaxy Quest”: Never give up. Never Surrender. Seriously. This is an industry that demands excellence. Few writers are born as a perfect writer. Instead most writers are marked by a dogged determination to improve their craft, learn the industry, build relationships, and create great ideas.

Other than The Christian Writers Market Guide, what book on the craft of writing would you recommend to our readers?

For fiction, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King is a go-to book for all novelists.

For all writing Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer is tremendous book on style, grammar, and all the little things that can make writing communicate clearly.

What do you do when you want to get away from all your responsibilities in the publishing world?

I read. <grin>

I’m serious. It is how I relax. We don’t have a TV plugged in inside our home. My wife and I prefer to read as our relaxation.

Where can we find out more about you and your agency?

We can be found at Please subscribe to our blog. We post every day of the week. I take Monday. We have a podcast “The Christian Publishing Show” on Tuesday. Bob Hostetler is Wednesday. Tamela Hancock Murray is Thursday. And we do something fun each Friday. There are over 2,000 posts in our archives available to anyone at anytime.

In addition don’t forget to check out The Christian Writers Institute ( which is designed as resource for every writer to expand their learning opportunities…at a reasonable price (some classes are only $4).

Thank you, Steve, for sharing your expertise with us.

Thank you for having me.




The Valley of Elah or The little things that make Proofreading Secrets of  Best-Selling Authors valuable to writers 

by Kay DiBianca

I bent down to pick up the little stone. It was round and flat and smooth in my hand. Such a small thing, hardly important among the thousands of similar stones that lay in the dry creek bed.

I stood and our guide led my husband and me through the valley where gentle hills shielded us on either side. Alone in that idyllic place, we were captivated by the peace, the shalom, of our surroundings, and I found it hard to believe we were standing on the site of one of the most famous battles in history, the Valley of Elah, where David fought Goliath.

We’re all familiar with the story: “Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:40

I’m not sure I appreciated the magnitude of David’s task until I picked up that stone and realized how small it was. And yet one of those stones, slung more than three thousand years ago, saved the young nation of Israel and changed the world.

The lesson is clear: little things can make a big difference.


When I sent my manuscript of The Watch on the Fencepost to my newly acquired editor, I was pretty confident I had found all the obvious errors. But when she sent the corrected copy back to me, there was so much red ink I thought I should offer to buy her a new printer cartridge! The errors were small, but they added up to a manuscript that looked amateurish.

Since my editor was Kathy Ide, I figured it might be wise to pick up a copy of her book, Proofreading Secrets of Best-selling Authors and skip the embarrassment of sending her an updated document with a bunch of errors again.

Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors is a concise reference guide to issues of punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling (which she calls “PUGS”), using The Chicago Manual of Style as its basis. It explains, for example, when to use “blond” vs. “blonde.” And when to spell out a number instead of using a numeral. And when you should use an apostrophe and an s or just an apostrophe when forming a possessive. These may be small things, but a knowledgeable reader may toss your book aside if she sees too many of these errors.

Like those little stones we found in the Valley of Elah, Kathy’s book provides lots of ammunition to help writers conquer the “PUGS” giant. Little things really do make a big difference.


kathyideI am delighted to welcome Kathy Ide as the guest for my second article on the craft of writing. Along with her numerous activities in writing, editing, and mentoring, Kathy serves as director of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference. She is also owner of the Christian Editor Network LLC, the parent company of four divisions for aspiring and established freelance editors and proofreaders. In addition to Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, Kathy has written the Capitalization Dictionary. She is also the compiler and editor of a four-book series of Fiction Lovers Devotional books, including 21 Days of Grace, 21 Days of Love, 21 Days of Joy, and 21 Days of Christmas.


Welcome, Kathy, and thank you for joining us!

Thank you, Kay!

What made you want to become an author?

I’ve been an avid book lover since I was a little girl—reading under the covers with a flashlight when I was supposed to be sleeping. In my thirties, a friend from church asked me to help her prepare for a writers’ conference she was directing, then invited me to attend. I went mainly to meet people whose names were on the covers of books I had at home—celebrities in my eyes! At that conference, I discovered that authors are “real people” and that most write in their spare time. I decided to give it a try. I scooped up one of everything on the freebie table, including sample magazines and writers’ guidelines. I wrote an article for a magazine I’d never heard of. When they sent me a check for $100, I was hooked!

Why did you decide to write Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors?

After I’d been writing for a few years, I started doing some proofreading book manuscripts for Moody Publishers. If I thought a word was misspelled or a punctuation mark was wrong, I had to write the dictionary page number or the Chicago Manual of Style rule in the margin to prove it. When I realized I was looking up the same words and rules over and over, I began a “cheat sheet.” Over time, it grew long enough that I put it in a three-ring folder. When my fellow authors, editors, and proofreaders saw it, they wanted it a copy. And they asked me to add other issues they struggled with. I eventually self-published it as Polishing the PUGS: Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling. That caught on, and I kept adding more sections that my colleagues requested. When I was offered a contract with a traditional publisher, they wanted to change the title—so people wouldn’t think the book was about dog grooming! When a colleague came up with Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, I loved it. So I gathered tips from the authors I’d met through years of writers’ conferences to add to the book.

How do you manage to juggle a busy schedule of writing, editing, mentoring and all your other responsibilities?

Good question! It truly is a “one day at a time” thing. I start each morning asking God what He wants me to do that day. And I seek His direction throughout the day as well. At the end of the day, I choose to trust that whatever I didn’t manage to accomplish must not have been what God wanted me to get done that day.

In addition to daily guidance, I regularly ask God if there’s anything I’m doing that I need to either stop doing, find someone else to do, or get more help with. When I feel stretched too thin, unable to accomplish well all the things God has called me to do, I consider my priority list. What items on that list are things that only I can do—being a good wife to my husband, a good mom to my boys (even though they’re adults now), a good godmother to my sweet little girl? Which things can I get more help with (even if I already have an excellent team working with me)? Are there things that God called me to do at one time that He wants someone else to take over now?

What one piece of advice would you give to new authors?

View what God has called you to write as a calling—every bit as important as if He had called you to be a pastor or serve on the mission field. He knows who He wants to reach with what He’s put a passion in your heart to write. And He knows the exact moment when that person is going to need to read it. So pursue this vital calling by learning the craft of writing, polishing your work through critique partners and professional editors, make connections with fellow writers and other industry professionals at writers’ conferences. When “life happens” and you get distracted from your writing goals, or when you get rejected by the agent or publisher you were sure was the right choice for you, don’t get discouraged. God knows about the circuitous journey from idea to publication. Trust His timing. And don’t give up.

Do you have any books coming out soon?

In 2020, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas will be releasing the long-awaited sequel to Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors. I’ve combined the information in the flyers I give to my editing clients with tips from multi-published writers I know to create Editing Secrets of Best-Selling Authors.

Other than your own books, what book on the craft of writing would you recommend to our readers?

Most of my favorite craft books are about writing fiction—not just because that’s what I enjoy reading most, but because nonfiction books can be so much better if they include anecdotes that use fiction-writing techniques. And narrative nonfiction (especially memoirs) can truly come to life when written with these techniques.

I’ve most enjoyed Story by Robert McKee, The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maas, Getting into Character by Brandilyn Collins, and Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.

What do you do when you want to get away from all your responsibilities in the publishing world?

Vacation with my husband! Rick is exceptionally patient, understanding, and supportive with my crazy schedule. So I make a point of spending focused time with him when I can. A few years ago, we bought an RV and jet skis (used, but new to us!). One of our favorite vacations involves getting together with family members and renting a houseboat for a week on Lake Powell. Rick and I are out on the jet skis all day, exploring the many coves and inlets of the lake with their massive rock walls so similar to the Grand Canyon, then spend relaxing evenings chatting with the rest of the group, hearing how they enjoyed the motorboat, kayak, or traveling slowly down the lake and enjoying the scenery.

Where can we find out more about you and your work?

My website,

Mount Hermon writers conference,

SoCal writers conference,

Christian Editor Network LLC,

Thank you, Kathy, for sharing your expertise with us!

Thank you, Kay!



PlotAndStructureFlying Blind or How I found Plot & Structure by Kay DiBianca

I was learning to fly! In the initial stages of earning my private pilot’s license, I had mastered the basics of flight, all flown with an instructor under visual flight rules (VFR), which means I only flew in good weather where I could see the ground and the horizon. Although I had learned how to read the various gauges on the instrument panel, my flying skills depended on what I could see outside the cockpit. This is known as “flying by the seat of your pants.”

While my instructor and I were out for a training session one afternoon, he suggested I get a little practice in instrument conditions. I knew I would eventually want to master instrument flying, so I happily agreed to his suggestion to ascend into a cloud bank that was a couple of thousand feet above us. He contacted Air Traffic Control and got us cleared into that airspace, and I started the climb.

As we approached the base of the clouds, little gray tendrils of cloud stuff began to glide by the windscreen. That was no big deal – I could still see the ground clearly. But then suddenly, in the time it would take to say, “Houston, we have a problem,” there was no ground, no sky, and no horizon.  We were in the clouds, enveloped in a gray mass of a swirling cotton candy-like substance, and all the visual reference points I relied on were gone.

I can still recall the feeling of a knot in my stomach when I realized I didn’t have the skill to fly the plane in those conditions. I wanted to drop down out of those clouds and get back to the comfortable world of VFR. But my instructor wasn’t buying it. “Looking out the window isn’t going to help you, Kay,” he said. “You know how to read the instruments. Use them to fly the plane.” All the information I needed was right in front of me: the altimeter, the attitude indicator, the heading indicator, the airspeed indicator, the turn coordinator, and the vertical speed indicator. Refocusing my attention wasn’t easy, but when I concentrated on flying by the instruments, I learned to control the aircraft in that murky world of water vapor. A half hour later, we ascended out of the clouds into clear blue sky, wings level, and safe.

I learned a lot that day – and not just about flying.

When I sat down to write a novel, I was having a great time. Maybe we could call it a “writing by the seat of your pants” experience. The story flowed out of me. Characters materialized, scenes developed, and every day was a new writing adventure. But after I finished a rough first draft, I realized I had a story, but not a novel, and I doubted I had the “talent” to make that happen. I needed the equivalent of instrument training to instruct me on the tools to craft my first effort and make it interesting to readers. Fortunately for me, an editor suggested Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell.

When I read the Introduction in the book, I knew I had come to the right place. James Scott Bell dismisses the “lie” that you have to have a special talent to write well. In the first two pages, he convinced me that writing was a craft that could be learned by hard work and discipline. My journey was just beginning, and I had found the right guide.

Plot & Structure is a field manual for excellent writing. Mr. Bell outlines a list of essential elements to learn how to plot. The book covers fundamentals of structure, character development, dialogue, and scene selection. And that’s just in Chapter One! The rest of the book adds meat to the bones, along with writing exercises, tips and tools, and cures for common plotting problems.

I was able to identify the type of plot I was shooting for (a quest) and move elements of the story around to fit a logical flow. When I finished the next version, I still had a lot of work to do, but there was a structure to hang the story on. I had found the instruments to write with.

If you’re interested in improving your writing in order to craft a dynamite story, take a look at Plot & Structure and see what it can do for you.


JSB Author Photo 2015I am thrilled to welcome James Scott Bell as my special guest to this first blog post on the craft of writing. Mr. Bell is a winner of the International Thriller Writers Award and the author of the #1 bestseller for writers, Plot & Structure (Writer’s Digest Books). His thrillers include Romeo’s Rules, Romeo’s Way and Romeo’s Hammer (the Mike Romeo thriller series); Try Dying, Try Darkness and Try Fear (the Ty Buchanan legal thriller series); and stand-alones including Your Son Is Alive and Final Witness (which won the first Christy Award for Suspense). He served as the fiction columnist for Writer’s Digest magazine and has written several popular writing books, including Just Write, Conflict & Suspense, and The Art of War for Writers (all from Writer’s Digest Books). He’s also published How to Write Dazzling DialogueWrite Your Novel From the Middle, Super Structureand How to Make a Living as a Writer.


Welcome James Scott Bell and thank you for joining us!

Thanks for having me!

You were trained as an attorney, right? Why did you decide to switch careers and become an author?

I always wanted to be a writer. I didn’t really think about becoming a lawyer until I was about to get married. By that time I’d been convinced by others that you couldn’t learn to write fiction. So I went to law school and started in the profession. It wasn’t until about ten years later, when the desire to write hit me again, that I decided I would try to prove them all wrong, to see if I could learn this craft. When I discovered I could, I kept at it and eventually got published. I kept practicing law, though, for a long time, until eventually the writing overtook it. It was more a steady transition than a “switch.”

Of all the books you’ve written, which is your favorite?

That’s always a hard one for an author. Among the craft books I’d say Write Your Novel From the Middle, because it’s an angle no one had come up with before, that I found on my own and which proved helpful in my own writing. To see that it has helped so many other writers in the same way is extremely gratifying.

Among my thrillers, Try Dying was particularly satisfying to write, and turned out to be the start of a trilogy that has, in Book 2 (Try Darkness) my favorite opening line: The nun hit me in the mouth and said get out of my house. And in Book 3 (Try Fear) is the most perfect ending I’ve ever written. Many people have asked me if I’d write another in this series, and I’m always saying no because I don’t want to mess with that ending.

Which of your books was the most difficult to write? Why?

Glimpses of Paradise, because it was the longest novel I’ve written and involved a ton of historical research. But the end result was extremely satisfying.

When did you start writing books about the craft of writing?

I started to write articles for Writer’s Digest and teach workshops on the craft. Since I’d learned taught myself to write commercial fiction, I was excited to teach others how to do it. I was approached by Writer’s Digest Books to see if I’d be interested in writing a book on plotting for a new series they were doing called Write Great Fiction. That was right in my wheelhouse. It came out in 2004 and is still in print. That led to other books for WD, and then several books I’ve done on my own tightly focused on important topics, like dialogue and voice.

 What one piece of advice would you give to new writers?

It’s the same answer every time: write to a quota. Get in the habit of writing a certain number of words every week, week in and week out. You have to practice what you learn in craft books and classes. You have to exercise your imagination. You have to produce the pages if you want to make it in this game.

Figure out how many words you can comfortably produce in a normal week. Then up that by 10% and shoot for that weekly goal. Break it down into days and write each day if you can. I write six days a week and take Sunday off for recharging. My average has been 6,000 words a week for nearly twenty years. Not every word has been published, of course, but no words have been wasted. It all goes toward learning the craft.

I understand you have a course about fiction writing through the Great Courses curriculum. Can you tell us about it?

The Great Courses is a fantastic company. It started by recording some of the best college professors, serving the market for continuing education. They’ve expanded into all sorts of subjects since. Top quality and production values. I was honored to be invited to be their professor for a course on writing bestselling fiction. It’s a a 24-lecture series, available on DVD or streaming.

Do you have any new books coming out soon?

I’m always at work, so it’s always “soon.” I’ve got three books in the works—fiction, nonfiction, and memoir. Not sure of the release dates yet, except to say, like Orson Welles in those old wine commercials, we will sell no book before its time. For those who want to keep up with what I’m doing—and get a free novella besides—they can go to: 


What do you do when you’re not writing?

Read philosophy and theology and the occasional novel. Watch film noir. Do L.A. things with my wife. 

Who was the most influential person in your writing career?

My high school English teacher, Mrs. Bruce, thought I had talent, and expanded my world. I kept in touch with her until her death at age 90. She got to see me become a published writer.

Other than your own books, what one book about the craft of writing would you recommend?

The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass.

Where can we find out more about you and your work?

Thank you for sharing your expertise with us on this blog post today!

BRING ME WHAT YOU DO HAVE by Lori Altebaumer

I’m so pleased to present this article from my new friend, Lori Altebaumer. Enjoy Lori’s insight on the challenges and triumphs of the writing journey.




To say I enjoy traveling would be a very misleading statement. I do sometimes enjoy the actual journey, but not always. What I enjoy is seeing new places. The traveling to get there is often more an ordeal I’m willing to endure as a necessary evil in order to get there.

I get car sick on winding roads, cantankerous at airport delays, and I’m scared of heights. But in the end, these are usually small prices to pay in order to experience things such as walking on the Via Sacra in Rome or viewing Jungfrau in the Swiss Alps.

If I want to experience something monumental—perhaps even have a mountain top moment—I know there is a price I must pay to get there. Whether it is eating airport food for three straight days or agonizing over another rejection letter for my manuscript, there will be parts of the journey that I simply won’t enjoy. I long for the mountain top moment, but I must pay the price to get there.

But what about the parts that I tell myself I can’t do because I don’t have the skill, knowledge, talent, or time?

The Israelites, on their journey out of Egypt and into the Promised Land—the land God gave them—let this kind of thinking keep them wandering in the desert for forty years.

In Numbers 13 we read the account of the spies who were sent into Canaan to scout out this land of milk and honey. They returned reporting it was everything they had been told it would be.

Yes, the land is beautiful and bountiful—but the people are giants, but the cities are fortified, but they look at us like we are grasshoppers.

Of those sent to spy, all but Joshua and Caleb, focused on the reasons why taking possession of the land God promised them just wasn’t possible.

Instead of pressing on into the bountiful land God had called them to, they spent the next forty years wandering in the wilderness. And not just wandering, but going around the same mountain year after year, passing the exact same sights and landmarks. They may have been the first people to understand the saying ‘stuck in a rut.’

God could have swooped in and wiped out the enemies of the Israelites, but in his divine wisdom that’s not what he did.

I love writing, I love spending time with God creating and exploring thoughts and stories, choosing just the right telling of the words he gives me. I think of this love of writing—not necessarily the ability to write well, but the passion for writing and the delight it gives me as a gift from God—my Land of Milk and Honey.

But…I’m fifty-one years old and that’s kinda old to be starting this.

But I don’t have any formal training in writing or communication.

But I’m not as good as….. (so many names to choose from here!)

But they tell me I need to have a platform. I must market and use social media.

God could swoop in an remove these obstacles for me, but in his divine wisdom, that’s not what he has done.

Perhaps if the Israelites could have heard the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand their trip to the Promised Land might have ended differently. Matthew tells the account of Jesus feeding the crowd of five thousand (see Matthew 14:16-18). When Jesus told his disciples to feed the people, the disciples focused on what they didn’t have. They didn’t have enough food for that many people. They also didn’t have anywhere they could go to get more, and probably not enough money to complete the transaction if they could have found a place to purchase food. Jesus told them to feed the people and they responded with a reason why they couldn’t.

But Jesus wasn’t limited by their lack. Not their lack of fish, funds, or faith. Instead, he told them to bring him what they did have. Five loaves of bread and two fish.

And he took it, multiplying it until it was more than enough.

In my writer’s journey, as in any journey, I can choose to tell God why I can’t or give him a list of all that I need but don’t have—as if he doesn’t already know.

Or I can bring him what I do have.

And then trust that if God doesn’t remove the obstacles in my path it may be because he plans to use them as stepping stones in my faith.

What challenges or obstacles do you wish God would remove from your path? How might God be using them as stepping stones in your relationship with him?



Fifty years ago. I watched as the Apollo 11 spacecraft lifted off its launch pad on July 16, 1969. And like most of the people on earth, I watched the lunar module land on the moon a few days later.  Many of us will never forget the names of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, the astronauts who flew that mission.

But the incredible achievement of putting a man on the moon extended far beyond the efforts of those three brave men. It took an enormous team effort of 400,000 scientists, engineers, and technicians to accomplish the moon landings.

I’ve thought about the meaning of the term “teamwork” a lot during this past week as we prepared for the “launch” of The Watch on the Fencepost on February 22, 2019. Although I’ve always considered the book the product of my own creativity, now I realize it really is the result of the work of many people who contributed to the story, the publication, and the marketing. I’d like to thank a few of them here.

My husband, Frank, read every version of the manuscript and gave many suggestions of ways to improve the plot and the writing. Other friends and family members read early versions and provided positive feedback and encouragement.

Professional editors Jennifer Pooley, Rachel Hills, and Kathy Ide led me through multiple revisions of the plot and writing. Other professionals in the literary world including Beth Lottig, Mel Hughes, and Barbara Curtis provided their constructive expertise and support.

I had the good fortune to be offered a contract with CrossLink Publishing. Rick Bates, the Managing Editor of CrossLink, gave me the guidance and assistance I needed at every step in the publishing process. David Welday supplied essential marketing know-how.

I requested and received endorsements from authors, editors, ministers, and executives. Their kind words about the book that appear on my website, on the back cover of the book, and on Amazon’s book page, have helped stimulate interest in the novel.

Frank and I have attended writers’ conferences where we’ve met novice writers and experienced authors, all of whom have been generous with their help and advice.

I’ve been invited to write guest articles on several blogs, giving me additional exposure to the reading community. I participated in a Facebook Party recently hosted by Tamera Lynn Kraft which introduced me to new friends who share an interest in good books.

The people in charge of events at several local venues have been hospitable in hosting book signings and talks. These include the Germantown Public Library, Novel Bookstore, Barnes & Noble stores, and the McWherter Senior Center. The Cherryhill Book Club is hosting a book signing and the McWherter Center Writing group has been very supportive in many ways.

Celebrate Lit will conduct a blog tour from March 2 – 15 so the book will be featured by twenty-seven different book reviewers on their blogs which reach thousands of readers.

A lot of folks signed up for my newsletter, and we had fun with a puzzle contest, so now I’m preparing for the next puzzle and looking for more ways to engage this great group.

Friends have bought books, come to book signings, commented on blogs, and helped out in a host of ways that I can never repay. And I’ve found a whole new group of friends in the writing community, where I continue to receive enormous encouragement and valuable information about the craft of writing.

All these people are part of the reason that The Watch on the Fencepost made it to the launch pad. And if you’re reading this blog post, you’re a part of it, too.

Now it’s time to BLAST OFF. So fasten your safety belts and join me in the cockpit. The trip has only just begun!


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