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I am honored to welcome Steve Laube back to the Craft of Writing blog today.

Steve is president and founder of The Steve Laube Agency and a veteran of the bookselling industry. As president of The Christian Writers Institute, he publishes the annual Christian Writers Market Guide (also available online).

He also wrote and published a must-have work for aspiring authors: Book Proposal Tips and Tricks. In addition, Steve is the owner and President of Enclave Publishing one of the premier publishers of Christian fantasy and science fiction.




Steve Laube, a literary agent and president of The Steve Laube Agency, has been in the book industry for 40 years, first as a bookstore manager where he was awarded the National Store of the Year by the Christian Booksellers Association. He then spent over a decade with Bethany House Publishers and was named the Editor of the Year. He later founded his own Literary Agency, has represented over 2,000 new books, and was named Agent of the Year. His office is in Phoenix, Arizona. In addition, he was inducted into the Grand Canyon University Alumni Hall-of-Fame by their Department of Theology.



A Conversation with Steve Laube Click To Tweet


Welcome Steve Laube and thank you for joining us!


Can you give us an update on the current state of the publishing industry?

Nothing has really changed in the last year. Great books are still being contracted.

The only pressure, especially in non-fiction, is the need for the author to have a substantial platform from which to launch the book.


The Christian Writers Market Guide is an enormously popular book for Christian authors. When did you decide to produce it?

It has been around for a long time. Originally put together by Sally Stuart, she sold it to Jerry Jenkins in 2010. Jerry produced it for five years, then in 2016 I approached him to see if I could take it over and fold it into The Christian Writers Institute. The timing was perfect. Jerry still provides a new foreword for the book each year.


Tell us a little about the different sections of The Christian Writers Market Guide and what benefits authors can gain from it.

Those sections change with the times. We have one section for traditional publishers and another for independent publishing. That way you can know which are designed for those who self-publish. We also added a section on podcasts that help writers.

There are about 70 pages worth of information on freelance editors who can help writers.

Someone said, “Can’t I just get all that info on Google.” My answer, “Do you trust Mr. Google to have your best interests in mind?” Hah! We, in essence, curate the best options for you so you don’t have to wade through those who spend money to get their listing ahead of someone else’s. We don’t charge to be listed in the Guide. That keeps that motivation out of the equation.

We also have an online version for only $10 a year. ( This site is everything you see in the print guide, but is updated throughout the year.


You are also president of Enclave Publishing. Can you tell us a little about that publishing company?

Enclave is a small press dedicated to publishing a dozen new hardcover releases a year. But we only do speculative fiction, meaning science fiction and fantasy.

We have a number of award winning authors who write for us. If you or anyone you know like this genre, ours is a place where you know you will find books from authors who have a Christian worldview.

Our guiding directive is “To publish out-of-this-world stories that are informed by a coherent theology.”


This year we’re looking at the role awards play in an author’s career. How concerned should new authors be about winning an award for their books?

Concerned? No. Happy if it happens? Yes.
The above mentioned Jerry Jenkins didn’t win a Christy award for best fiction for many years after the famous Left Behind books were published. A lack of a prestigious award didn’t hurt sales.


Are awards a way for a new author to be recognized?

It can help. I know I look at those who have won the top level of awards. There are so many that one should know if the award is from a local chapter of six writers who pick the best among their group every year or if it is a national award where the top books in the industry are judged against each other.


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

Keep learning.
If you think, “I don’t need to take another class on craft” you are probably wrong. Even veterans are looking for that tip that keeps their edge sharp.


If you could recommend one book other than your own on the craft of writing, what would it be?

One that isn’t about craft but is something just as crucial: The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman (University of Chicago Press: 2018)


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

Subscribe to our agency’s blog. We will put something in front of you nearly each day of the week. You’ll get at least 150 posts a year that you can read about various aspects of the industry and craft. And get to know the personalities of our agents in the agency.


Thanks again, Steve, for being with us.


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I’m excited that author David Rawlings appears on the Craft of Writing Blog this month for the first time.

David’s novel The Baggage Handler won the 2019 Christy First Novel Award. What better person to discuss writing and awards for new authors?

Note: Since David is in Australia, his responses to your questions and comments may not appear on the blog until late in the afternoon of April 5, so please be patient.





David Rawlings is a Christian author with books published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing in the USA.

He is the first Australian author to win the prestigious Christy Award for Christian fiction – Best First Novel of 2019 with The Baggage Handler. A writer of modern-day parables, David writes stories that take readers deeper into life, posing questions of them to explore their own values, faith and how they approach life.

David is a multiple finalist in the American Christian Fiction Awards and Oregon Christian Writers’ Cascade Awards. He is based in Adelaide, South Australia with 30 years experience in communication, ranging from journalism to the corporate sector. He has worked in Australia, South-East Asia and Hong Kong and has always paid the bills with words. He is also a sports-mad father-of-three who reads everything within an arm’s reach and always – always – makes sure his text messages are grammatically correct.


Who is The Baggage Handler? Click To Tweet





Welcome David Rawlings and thank you for joining us!

You’re welcome Kay, it’s a pleasure to join you all the way from Australia. I hope you can hear my accent coming out through my typing.


Have you always wanted to be a writer? Please tell us about your journey to becoming an author.

Yes. My Mum used to say that the minute I could hold a pen… I did. Ever since I was 6, I wanted to write for a living. Back then that meant a dream of being a journalist, working in sports, a gig that was my first job as a graduated journalist back in the 1990s.

Then as I moved into corporate copywriting, I put the dream of writing my own stories on the backburner until I had enough time, money, margin in my life – whatever. I thought I’d get to it one day, so I just stockpiled all the ideas I had until I had a folder with about 50 storylines in it.

That one day arrived in 2015 and I felt challenged by God to dust off the dream and trust Him for the rest. So I started writing fiction. The next year I submitted my first manuscript – a story about reality TV and churches – to a number of American writing competitions, confident that as I was doing what I was called to do, I should do well.

I didn’t even reach the semi-finalist stage.

It was a hard lesson, but an important one. The judges in the competitions wondered about my ability to write, with one judge posing the question that the school system had failed me. After writing for a living for 25 years in corporate Australia, that was a slap in the face. But I realized why they thought that: I was writing as an Australian (with our UK spelling, grammar and phrasing) for an American marketplace. So I took myself back to the drawing board and learned the US equivalent. I had to do more than type with an American accent.

Now reworked, my manuscript finaled in a number of competitions. And I didn’t win anything.

That was okay though. I wrote the next story that unveiled itself to me at 9pm one night. The Baggage Handler. Now that I had some kind of endorsement from finaling in these competitions, I signed with the Steve Laube Agency, and Steve found me a home with Thomas Nelson.

And I kept writing the stories that I’d been stockpiling all those years.

The Baggage Handler came out in March 2019, and was followed by The Camera Never Lies in December 2019 and Where the Road Bends in June 2020.


Can you give us a brief synopsis of The Baggage Handler?

Sure. Three people mix up their luggage at the airport, and at the baggage depot they discover there is far more in their baggage than they remember packing. And the Baggage Handler tells them they have to deal with it before they can leave.

I am writing modern-day parables, with truth presented in the form of stories that engage with readers because they are recognizable from their own world. The Baggage Handler is a modern-day parable about the power of releasing our baggage.


What made you decide to write that book?

The Baggage Handler itself was borne out of rejection. That first manuscript about reality TV and churches finaled in a range of fiction awards but I couldn’t get industry interested in it. Someone suggested for my next novel maybe I should focus on “life lesson” stories. I read a couple of stories like that, then at 9pm one night I was reading when The Baggage Handler arrived. It pretty much downloaded into my head. When I next checked the clock it was 1am, and I had the story, the characters, plot, twists, structure – almost everything. That hasn’t happened before or since with books 2 and 3, but I’m glad it did with The Baggage Handler. 


Why did you decide to enter your work into writing contests?

A number of reasons …

I’m based in Australia, so breaking into a marketplace like America is all-but impossible. I had to get known and make connections, so I thought being recognized through awards would help.

I also wanted feedback. I’m glad I did – as I mentioned earlier I learned a quick but important lesson about writing for the US market when I submitted to my first awards. Without that lesson, I don’t get published in the USA, it’s that simple.

Writing contests also gave me a deadline to work to. As this is secondary to my job, I find that it’s a constant juggle, and the thing without deadlines often is the first to slide back to the back burner. A writing contest makes it impossible to shift the deadline.

Lastly, I wanted to see if my work was good outside my head. My stories – like every author’s stories – bounce around internally with no idea if they’re going to work. This is one way to test it out.


How concerned should new authors be about winning an award for their books?

You shouldn’t be concerned with winning, just entering. There is a discipline around entering – polishing your work, submitting your ideas – that provide so much benefit. And awards can be subjective – The Baggage Handler won the Christy Award in 2019 as Best First Novel, but six months later didn’t win the next award it was listed in.

If you want to be concerned about awards as an author – focus on becoming a finalist. It gives you visibility.


Are awards a way for a new author to be recognized?

It’s one way, sure. It also helps you build a profile, and that Holy Grail of new authordom: platform.


There are an enormous number of writing contests available. Do you have any guidance on how an author should go about deciding which contests to enter?

Go for the contests in which the judges represent those groups you want to be in front of. Look for those that are within your financial means. Look for those that provide real feedback to make you a better writer (in fact, personally I avoid any competition that doesn’t give you feedback).


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

Enjoy your writing. This is hard, it’s likely to be unfinancial and if you want it to be and you’re still working you’ve just added a second job to your plate. So enjoy it! Writing is a heart pursuit driven by our head, so go back to the reason why you want to write. That can help you when times are tough or you hit a hurdle. And every author has those.


What are you working on now?

Novel #4 … which is that manuscript I wrote first up. It’s never been published! I’m updating it for 2021 and will then look to finding a home for it.

Soon-to-be-fired reality TV guru Randy Stone is out of ideas, and his last roll of the dice is a new show taking aim at churches: Pastor Swap.


Randy tricks a national denomination into participating by offering a national platform to help draw people back to church after the pandemic, and two of their pastors are thrown into the manipulative world of reality TV. Brad Shepherd leaves his tiny, elderly, suburban church, switching places with Jack Alexander, son of the city’s biggest megachurch pastor at New Heaven Cathedral. Brad and Jack believe this is a God-given opportunity to go on TV – Brad to save his dying church from real estate developers and Jack to prove himself to his controlling father.


But Randy already knows how churches will be portrayed on his show, because in the 21st century there is no god bigger than TV. Or him.


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

Web site =

Facebook =

Instagram =

Twitter =


Thanks again, David, for being with us.

My pleasure, thanks for the opportunity to chat to you.


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The Craft of Writing blog continues in 2021 with alternating monthly posts between craft experts and award-winning authors. Today I am thrilled to welcome craft expert and award-winning author Randy Ingermanson back to the blog.

Randy is probably best known for his wildly popular craft book How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method. However, he’s also an award-winning novelist. Transgression was the first book in his City of God series and won the 2001 Christy Award for best futuristic novel in Christian fiction.

Randy has been interviewed on this blog once before: in 2019, he discussed How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method. In today’s interview, I’d like to explore his follow up craft book How to Write a Dynamite Scene Using the Snowflake Method. Enjoy!




Randy Ingermanson wants to teach you how to write excellent fiction.
He’s been teaching for more than twenty years, and he’s known around the world as “the Snowflake Guy” in honor of his wildly popular Snowflake Method of writing a novel.
Randy is an award-winning novelist and publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine. He says that “Fiction Writing = Organization + Craft + Marketing,” so he focuses on those three topics in his e-zine.
He also blogs when the spirit moves him. He is trying to get the spirit to move him weekly, but the spirit gets touchy about schedules.
Randy lives in the Pacific Northwest and works as a manservant to two surly and demanding cats. Visit Randy at


Write a Dynamite Scene with Randy Ingermanson Click To Tweet




Welcome back to the Craft of Writing blog, Randy Ingermanson. Thank you for joining us!

Thanks for having me again, Kay!


Your book How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method is an enormously popular book on the subject of writing. Can you tell us how you came about writing that book?

If my memory is right, I was talking to an agent friend of mine, Steve Laube, at a writing conference in the spring of 2014. I’ve known Steve for nearly 30 years now, and he bought several of my novels when he was an editor, back when I was writing for traditional publishers. So we have a long history together and we make it a point to spend some time talking whenever we’re at the same conference.

Somehow or other, Steve and I got onto the topic of my Snowflake Method, and the amazing response it’s generated around the world. The Snowflake Method page on my website has been viewed more than 6 million times, and it’s made me famous.

And I mentioned to Steve that I had once tried to write a book on the Snowflake Method, but my agent at the time said he didn’t think he could sell it. Steve pointed out that I didn’t have an agent anymore, because I was publishing my work independently. And I decided it couldn’t hurt to try it on my own.

So I went home from the conference and started typing. Within four months, I published the book, and it’s now sold over 50,000 copies and is still going very strong.


How to Write a Dynamite Scene Using the Snowflake Method is a follow up to the first.  Why did you decide to write that book?

A few years after I published the first Snowflake book, I realized that it had incredible legs. It was still earning nearly as much money every year as it did the year it launched. And I was still getting a lot of email from people who loved the book.

And it occurred to me that there’s a lot more to writing than just the overall design of a novel. One of the most popular talks I teach at conferences is my talk on how to structure a scene, which happens to be Step 9 in my Snowflake Method.

It’s a very important step.

There are two scene structures that work. Only two. If you master those two structures, you’ve made a quantum leap forward in your writing skills. I remember back in the early 1990s when I was learning to write, and I discovered these two scene structures. Within months, my writing level had jumped up several notches. My critique buddies were astonished at how much better my writing got, month over month.

So I decided to write a book on just that—the simple secrets of structuring a scene that automatically gives your reader a powerful emotional experience. If you follow these two “design patterns,” you can’t help but write perfectly structured scenes.


Please give us a quick synopsis of How to Write a Dynamite Scene Using the Snowflake Method.

There is one thing your reader desperately wants from you, and you have the power to give it to them. Your reader desperately wants Story. And what is Story? Story is what happens when you walk through great danger in somebody else’s skin. There are two key elements to any Story—a character and a crucible. You put the character inside a crucible; and you put your reader inside the character. The fundamental thing you need to know about writing scenes is that every scene in your story must be a story in its own right. That is, a scene is a story-within-a-story. Every story needs a beginning, a middle, and end, and therefore every scene does too. Over all the centuries that writers have been writing fiction, two kinds of scenes have been found to work incredibly well as stories-within-a-story. One kind is called a Proactive Scene. The other kind is called a Reactive Scene. If you master the mechanics of these two types, you can’t help but write powerful scenes. Every time. The book covers these two kinds of scenes in extreme detail.


Do each of those craft books stand on its own, or does the reader have to read the first before the second?

They each stand alone. There are somewhere between six and twelve important skills that a novelist needs to learn. One of these is story design, and the book How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method teaches you one approach to that skill. Another skill is scene structure, and the book How to Write a Dynamite Scene Using the Snowflake Method teaches you that. Some writers are good at one of these skills but not the other. Some writers need to learn both skills.


You won a Christy Award for Transgression, the first book in your City of God series. Was Transgression your first work of fiction?

Transgression was the first novel I actually got published, but it wasn’t the first one I wrote.

I started writing on Easter Sunday in 1988 and I worked at my novel for a couple of years. Then a writer friend of mine pointed out a serious flaw in the story—it didn’t have one protagonist, it had eight. That was seven too many. The book simply had too big of a scope.

So I started a new book that trimmed it down a lot, with only one protagonist. But then I realized it was still too sweeping in scope. I was trying to cover too much history.

I junked that novel and started another–and actually finished it, four years after I first started writing. I never did get that third novel published, but maybe I will someday, if I rework it. It was good enough to get some requests to read by various agents, but not good enough to actually get published.

If I’m remembering right, Transgression was the sixth book I started, and I had a very strong hunch I was going to sell it. I just felt like I had learned enough of the skills of fiction writing to actually tell a story that would engage my reader’s emotions. I started it in the spring of 1996 and sold it in the spring of 1999. My publisher originally planned to release it on January 1, 2000, but that got pushed back a few months.


How concerned should new authors be about winning an award for their books?

Awards are good, and they definitely help validate you as an author. When I won a Christy award for Transgression, it was up against books by two very famous authors. Nobody thought it had a chance to win, because it was my debut novel, and at the time, no debut novel had yet won a Christy. At the awards ceremony, nobody even knew who I was, other than my editors and a couple of writer friends. My editors entered it figuring we had absolutely nothing to lose.

So when they called my name, that was a huge shock to everyone, including me and my editors. But overnight, it put me on the map in Christian fiction. After that, I quickly sold several more novels to other publishers, and I was on my way.

But it’s just a fact that there’s a huge element of luck in awards. Your book needs to be good, but there is no scale that measures “goodness,” and a lot depends on what the judges like. I got lucky, but I’m not going to complain.

I certainly encourage writers to enter their books in awards contests, because winning helps, and losing doesn’t harm your career. (It may harm your ego if you take the whole award game too seriously. Don’t.)

But I don’t think it’s wise to plan your career around winning awards. Plan your career based on the factors of the “Success Equation:” Write for a particular target audience that’s large enough to sell to. Focus relentlessly on improving the quality of your writing. Get your production level up to a strong, sustainable level. And when all those are working, build out a marketing machine that emphasizes automation and discoverability. (Please note: social media emphasizes neither.)

If you do that, in the long run, awards will be the tinsel on the tree.


There are an enormous number of writing contests available. Do you have any guidance on how an author should go about deciding which contests to enter?

I’m just now submitting my latest novel, Son of Mary, to several writing awards contests. These cost money to enter, so there’s a tradeoff here. I don’t think it makes sense to shotgun out applications to all the many contests.

Some of the awards are well-established and I think it would be great to win any one of those.

Some other awards look a little shady to me—maybe I’ve never heard of the award, or their past winners have terrible sales numbers on Amazon, or they have basic spelling and grammatical errors on their website. Maybe they just have too many categories, which suggests that their main interest is in collecting entry fees and passing out as many meaningless awards as possible.

In the end, I think you should go with your instincts and submit your work to awards you’d be proud to win. Then send it in and forget about it. If something good happens, that’s great. Otherwise, you have a life to live and books to write and a family that you need to spend time with while you have them.


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

Focus on quality above all else. If you nail the quality thing, everything else will follow. You’ll find agents and editors worth working with. You’ll get your books published. Your work will find readers. You’ll have something you feel good about marketing. Quality is Job 1 for any writer. Until you’ve got quality, nothing else really matters.

And the good news is that quality can be learned. We now know that “talent” is mostly a myth—quality really is about hard, focused work where you’re constantly trying to write just a little better.


What are you working on now?

I’m currently polishing up a novel titled Son of David, which is Book 2 in my Crown of Thorns series. This will be a four-book series of novels on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Last year around this time, I released Son of Mary, which is Book 1 in the series.

You might very reasonably ask if there’s anything new to be said about Jesus. Hasn’t the “greatest story ever told” been pretty much done to death? What could anyone possibly say that would be original?

If you’re asking that, then read what my reviewers say about Son of Mary.

I’ve been doing research on first-century Judea since the early 1980s. My personal library has a LOT of books. I’ve been to Israel five times and worked on archaeological digs in both Jerusalem and Magdala—the hometown of Mary Magdalene. I’ve read most of the Old Testament in Hebrew. My wife and I have driven all over Israel, just hanging out at sites, both famous and obscure.

I’ve connected the dots in a new way that my readers like, because it makes them feel like they’ve been traipsing around Galilee with Jesus. That’s all I want for these books.


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

If you want to learn more about how to write fiction, I have a website that focuses on just that one thing. I will teach you to write excellent fiction at

If you want to learn more about the fiction I actually write, I have an entirely separate website that focuses just on my novels. I will take you on an adventure to first-century Jerusalem at If you don’t want to go on an adventure to the time and place where Jesus walked, then don’t come to this website, because you’ll hate it. My novels are for people who would jump at the chance to buy a one-way ticket on a time-machine to first-century Jerusalem—and never look back.


Thank you, Randy, for being with us today.

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I’m excited that author James L. Rubart appears on the Craft of Writing Blog this month for the first time.

Jim Rubart is not just an award-winning author. He has won so many Christy awards that he’s been inducted into the Christy Awards Hall of Fame! What better person to learn from than someone who is incredibly successful?

Rather than pick one of his Christy Award-winning books, I’ve listed four of them here, and we’ll let Jim tell us about his favorite.





James L. Rubart is 28 years old, but lives trapped inside an older man’s body. He thinks he’s still young enough to water ski like a madman and dirt bike with his two grown sons, and loves to send readers on mind-bending journeys they’ll remember months after they finish one of his stories.

He’s the best-selling, Christy Book of the Year, Carol, INSPY, and RT Book Reviews award winning author of ten novels, co-owner of The Rubart Writing Academy, and an audio book narrator. He lives with his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington.




Welcome James L. Rubart and thank you for joining us!

Thanks much for the invitation!


Tell us about your journey to becoming an award-winning writer.

It started in seventh grade when my mom bought The Chronicles of Narnia for my sister and me for Christmas. I devoured the books and decided I wanted to someday try to do for others what Lewis had done for me. Open up new worlds and new ways of thinking and show them God in a way they might have never seen him before.

So in eighth grade I took journalism, fell in love with writing and at the end of the year tried out for the school paper. Didn’t get accepted. That rejection broke my little 12-year-old heart and I buried the writing dream for a long, long time. In my immaturity I thought that rejection was a clear message I had no talent for writing.

Fast forward to 2002. My wife went on a fast. When I asked her why she said she didn’t know, but the Spirit had definitely led her to do it. After 24 hours I asked her if she’d heard anything from God. Nope. After two days I said, “Remind me, why are you fasting?”

“To get the answer.”

“What’s the question?”

“I don’t know.”

Halfway through day three the Spirit spoke to me and said, “I’ve given you the desire to write and the ability. When are you going to step into your destiny?”

I turned to Darci and said, “I know why you’re fasting. I’m supposed to be a novelist.”

She frowned and said, “Wait a minute. I’ve been hungry for three days and YOU get the answer?”

It was pretty funny. The next day I got serious and started working on my first novel.

Four years later I finished that story, went to a writing conference (in 2006) and started meeting people in the industry and learning about publishing. And my first novel, Rooms, came out in the spring of 2010.


I listed four of your Christy award-winning books at the top of this post. Can you give us a brief synopsis of each of them?

Soul’s Gate – My first novel, Rooms, is the story of a man who inherits a home that turns out to be a physical manifestation of his soul and heart. I always thought someday I’d write a sequel and that’s kind of what Soul’s Gate is. Except instead of going inside your own soul, it’s the story of four spiritual warriors going inside other people’s souls to fight for their healing and freedom.

The Five Times I Met Myself – For a long time I’d wondered what I would say to my younger self if I had the chance. In this story my protagonist gets that opportunity. Through lucid dreaming he meets his younger self, tells him how he messed up and what he should have done differently. It’s cathartic in the moment, but then he wakes up to find his present day world has changed because of what he told himself in the dream.

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer – Such a fun story to write. When my sons were young we used to take them to the end of this lake in eastern Washington and swim through a huge swath of cattails and then push through thick trees to get to this open meadow. I’d tell the boys we’d entered a magical land where anything can happen. So Jake is about the search for a legendary lost corridor, that if you can find it, and get through the other side, you’ll get what you want most in the world.

The Man He Never Was – I was listening to a sermon by Tim Keller about Romans chapter 7 and he mentioned that Robert Lewis Stevenson’s father was a pastor, so he would well know about the evil inside each of us. Keller surmised that The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was likely influenced by that chapter in the Bible. It struck me like a flash of lightning. What if I were to take that story and modernize it and tell it from a Christian perspective? With that, The Man He Never Was, was born.


Which is your favorite? What made you write it? Please tell us about it.

Of those four I’d have to say The Five Times I Met Myself. Probably because it’s so personal. I was going through an incredibly challenging time during the writing of that story. A 130 foot 20,000 pound tree had crashed into our house earlier that year—almost killing my wife and youngest son—and the stress of that situation, Darci working through severe PTSD, dealing with the contractor, the insurance company, the bank, a son graduating from high school … it was a nightmare. And through the process the Lord showed me that too much of my worth came from being a bestselling, award winning author. He showed me that the only true validation is from Him. So that book is my story of learning that lesson. Like I said, very personal. I even use the story of how Darci and I met in the novel.


Why did you decide to enter your work into writing contests?

When I first got into writing, one of my early mentors was Randy Ingermanson. He’d won a Christy Award and I was dazzled by that. It was (and is) the Oscars of Christian Fiction and I was captured by the idea of someday winning one. In my heart of hearts I thought it was a pipe dream, but in the end I figured, “Why not try?” So to now be in the Christy Hall of Fame is quite surreal.


How concerned should new authors be about winning an award for their books?

It’s probably not fair for me to say this given the fact I’ve won a few, but I’m going to say it anyway. How concerned should authors be? Very little. Remember, contests are just a few people’s opinions, good or bad. I entered a contest before I was published and one judge gave me 97 points and the other gave me fifty-five. It’s subjective. What really matters is our readers. Are we giving them a powerful emotional experience? Are we making them laugh and cry and think deeply? That being said, it’s quite nice to win awards, I just don’t want authors to think it’s the end all.


Are awards a way for a new author to be recognized?

Yes. And that’s one of the best reasons to enter contests. Awards will get the attention of editors and agents. And that’s a good thing if you want to be traditionally published.


There are an enormous number of writing contests available. Do you have any guidance on how an author should go about deciding which contests to enter?

  1. Make sure they’re legit. There are scammers out there so go through the process of vetting the contest thoroughly.
  2. Decide why you’re entering the contest. Are you wanting feedback? Some give feedback. Some don’t. Are you wanting recognition? Make sure it’s a big enough contest that people will recognize it as significant.
  3. Is it for your ego? C’mon, let’s be honest. That’s why many writers enter a contest. And that’s okay. We writers are fragile, neurotic folks; getting recognition for a job well done, and gaining confidence from placing in, or winning a contest is a legitimate reason to enter.


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

If you can afford it, get a really good pair of running shoes. Put them on. Look writing the face. Say goodbye. Then turn and sprint as fast as you can in the opposite direction. I’m kidding. Kind of. I’d just want them to know writing is a challenging path. Why? Because you’re putting yourself on the page. I talk about Voice simply being an expression of your personality on the page. So when someone rejects our writing, it’s really hard not to think they’re rejecting us.

That being said, writing has been one the most rewarding journeys I’ve ever taken. So my heart-felt advice to beginning writers is very simple, but very powerful if taken deep into their soul. Do. Not. Give. Up.

I play guitar. I could entertain you for half an hour or so and at the end you’d probably say, “That was nice. I enjoyed that.” But there’s no way you’d buy any of my music. I’m just not that good. To get that good I’d have to work hard on my music for years.

Yet beginning writers think they can work on a story for a few years and be ready for publication. Nope. Just like the guitar analogy, it takes years of dedicated labor to bring our skill to the point where people will pay for our writing.

But that’s the good news. Most people aren’t willing to put in the time and effort. They give up. Which means there’s more room at the top than we realize.

I believe talent plays a role in becoming an author, but far less than we realize. The greatest characteristic of my successful authors friends is one thing: persistence.


What are you working on now?

A really fun project. It’s a series of six books called The True Lies of Rembrandt Stone. This series was a long time coming. Ages ago (probably around 2012) my friend Susan May Warren and I were on a short plane ride together from Asheville, NC to Atlanta. We started talking about someday writing a book together and our shared loved of time travel stories.

Then in mid 2016 Susie came up with the idea of Rembrandt Stone, called me asked, “Are you in?” I laughed and gave the only appropriate response: “Are you kidding?”

Susie asked her son David to join the team and in February of 2017 the three of us gathered at my home in eastern Washington (after Susie and David battled a Seattle and eastern Washington snowstorm) and brainstormed all six of the stories. So yes, it took a while from conception to release, but it turned out to be the perfect timing!

The first book in the series, Cast the First Stone, just released. You can check it out here. And I voiced the audio version which was great fun.


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

There are a number of places. The Rubart Writing Academy (click here) which my son and I own where we teach authors how to do what I’ve done, my website, where folks can sign up for my newsletter, and social media; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and MeWe.


Thanks again, Jim, for being with us.

Thanks so much for having me!


Check out the interview with Christy Hall-of-Fame novelist James L. Rubart today! Click To Tweet




I’m excited to begin a new year of the CRAFT OF WRITING blog. This year we will alternate monthly posts between craft experts and award-winning authors, and I am thrilled to welcome our first guest in the series since he is the perfect combination of craft expertise and award-winning fiction.

James Scott Bell is not only a best-selling author of books on the craft of writing. (I counted about twenty books, including the #1 Best-selling Plot and Structure). He is also an award-winning fiction author. Among other awards, his legal thriller Final Witness won the first Christy Award for suspense.

Mr. Bell has been interviewed on this blog twice before: in 2019 he discussed Plot and Structure, and in 2020 he talked about How to Make a Living as a Writer. In today’s interview, I’d like to explore his craft book Write Your Novel From the Middle because that book had substantial influence on me when I was writing my second novel.

So thanks to all of you for stopping by the Craft of Writing blog today. You have a great opportunity to learn from and interact with one of the masters of the craft.




James Scott 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!

Great to be here!


Your craft book Write Your Novel From the Middle had a profound impact on me when I was writing my second novel. Please tell us about the book.

I’m a structure guy, and always love digging into it. One area where I’ve found a lot of confusion is what some teachers call the “midpoint.” It’s usually described a scene in the middle of Act 2 that somehow changes the course of events. I found conflicting ideas here, and a kind of fuzziness, and that bothered me.

So several years ago I went on a quest to find out what’s going on in this midpoint. And when I did, I discovered something that had never been written about before. Like any explorer who discovers a new river or cave, I got to name it. I called it the “Mirror Moment.”


Write Your Novel From the Middle is the only craft book I’ve read that talks about the importance of life-and-death stakes at the midpoint of the book. How did you come up with that idea?

What I did was take out some well-known novels and movies and started looking around. I would turn to the exact physical middle of a book, and use my DVD slider to go to the middle of a movie. What I discovered knocked my socks off. Indeed, my house was littered with socks.

What I saw was that a true middle was not merely a scene; it was a MOMENT within the scene. I started calling this the “Mirror Moment,” because it is when a character is forced to look at himself—as if in a mirror—and take stock of his situation. It’s funny how often now I see and actual mirror in such a scene; my favorite example is when my wife and I were watching No Way Out, the Kevin Costner thriller, and I stopped the DVD and told my wife the mirror moment was about to happen (I hadn’t seen the film in years, but I sensed the set-up). She laughed and may even have rolled her eyes, but then I started the film up again and…boom…a minute later Kevin Costner is looking at himself in the mirror.

And what does this “look inside” mean? It’s one of two things. Either the character has seen himself and his major flaw in bold relief. Like Bogart in the middle of Casablanca after drunkenly insulting Ilsa. The question then become one of psychological life and death. Will Bogart recover his humanity or not?

The other kind of look is the character realizing, “I’m probably going to die!” Meaning physical death…because the odds are too great. You find this mostly in thrillers, like The Fugitive and The Hunger Games.


Does the book work for both plotters and pantsers?

Absolutely. The beauty of the Mirror Moment is that you can brainstorm it at any stage. I’m mostly an outliner, so I get to it quickly. A pantser who gets stuck might consider brainstorming it then. Or you can even go find it after a first draft. What’s so great about it is, once you find it, it illuminates the whole book for you, from beginning to end. It makes scene writing and revision more organic and connected.


You’ve won awards for both non-fiction and fiction. Do you have any favorites among your award-winners?

I’m most proud of winning the International Thriller Writers Award, for Romeo’s Way. This is a book in my Mike Romeo series, which I love writing.


How concerned should new authors be about winning an award for their books?

Do NOT get concerned at all. First, realize that an award has little to no effect on sales. It’s an ego stroke to have on your website or book covers, but potential buyers always judge by the pages your write, especially the opening pages.

And do NOT let lust grab you if you are a finalist for an award. I’ve been there, and when you “lose” it eats you up. When I was chosen a finalist for Romeo’s Way, and went to New York for the big ceremony, I made myself not think about it at all, not to have ANY expectations. When my name was called it was frosting on the cake. Had I not been called, I would have been all right.


Are awards a way for a new author to be recognized?

A well-regarded award, like the Carol Award in Christian fiction, could get the interest of an agent or a publisher. Not so much Bob’s Best Dang Book I’ve Read This Year Award.


There are an enormous number of writing contests available. Do you have any guidance on how an author should go about deciding which contests to enter?

I don’t, because I’ve never entered one.


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

Keep Calm and Type On.


Do you have plans to speak at any writing conferences in 2021?

No plans. Everything is Zoom now and up in the air.


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


Thank you, Jim, for being with us today.

You’re Welcome. Carpe Typem. Seize the Keyboard!


Write Your Novel from the Middle interview with James Scott Bell. Click To Tweet



Kay DiBianca

December 2020


Gift – noun – something bestowed or acquired without any particular effort by the recipient or without its being earned.


Lately, I’ve been reading a fascinating book, “The Lonely Man of Faith,” by the eminent Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. In reflecting on the two accounts of the creation of man in the book of Genesis, the rabbi has given me a great gift: he has caused me to think. Why would God feel it necessary to recount the story of Adam and Eve twice? If we accept the axiom that all scripture is inerrant, then there must be a reason for the two accounts.

Rabbi Soloveitchik refers to the first creation as “Adam the first” and the second as “Adam the second.” I will call them “Adam One” and “Adam Two” simply because it’s easy to read. Please understand I’m not concerned only with the human male. In my opinion, the attributes of creation belong to both men and women.

In Genesis chapter one, we are told that God created man and woman in His image, and He commands them to subdue the earth and have dominion over every living thing. Being made in the image of God, Adam One expresses himself through his creativity. Throughout history, he has obeyed God’s command to subdue the earth. He invents the wheel to conquer distance, the printing press to overcome illiteracy, medical advances to eradicate disease, and machines to provide convenience, power, and even light. Adam One is majestic in his influence over nature.

But then there’s the second account of creation in Genesis chapter two. In this story, man is created from the dust of the ground. He does not become a living creature until God breathes the breath of life into him. God places Adam Two in the Garden of Eden and orders him not to conquer it, but to keep it. Then God establishes the first human relationship when Eve is created from Adam.

Where Adam One is dominant and triumphant, Adam Two is more introspective and concerned with his relationship with his wife and his relationship with God. He longs to understand his place in the universe while Adam One wants to control it. If Adam One is a creator, Adam Two knows himself to be the created. Adam One is defined by power. Adam Two is defined by humility and awe.

In our culture, we applaud the accomplished, successful Adam One, a scientifically-minded individual who looks at the world as a set of practical problems to solve and realities to conquer. However, Adam Two may offer the world something equally as important, but more subtle. Adam Two knows that we are not in total control of our own destiny. Perhaps we can dominate for a period of time, but in the end, each of us will return to dust. Adam Two seeks to understand the meaning of it all, and he senses the need for redemption.

Perhaps the two accounts in Genesis are the essence of one of God’s gifts to us. It’s easy to see that each of us has the nature and conflict of both Adam One and Adam Two within us. While we have an instinctive need to create, we know that we are the creation. While we have a notion to control, we long for understanding. Perhaps God intended us to wrestle with this dichotomy and establish a harmony between our two natures.

Using this knowledge, the writer can fashion his or her own gift to the world. The ability to hone our craft in order to capture the heart and mind of the reader is our Adam One. But we have the further responsibility to provide substance with our entertainment. Our Adam Two wants the reader to think while enjoying a well-crafted story. If we can blend these two parts of our nature and our writing into one, we will have taken our gift and multiplied it to a needy world.


How will you use your gifts in 2021?



One of my favorite quotes is from Sir Francis Bacon:

“Reading maketh a full man;

Conference a ready man;

And writing an exact man.”

Over the course of our lives, we all have thoughts, conversations, and experiences that shape our minds and refine our beliefs, but sharing one’s understanding of this world with the rest of humanity is an awesome undertaking, and one not to be taken lightly. In order to attain that “exact man” (or woman) status, we may need some guidance.

Normally, this blog is dedicated to the craft of novel writing, but as we approach the end of this unusual year, some of you may be thinking of putting your reflections of 2020 in writing. So I think it would be edifying to look at the craft of writing non-fiction today, and I’m happy to welcome David Fessenden to the blog.

Dave’s book, Writing the Christian Non-fiction Book, Concept to Contract, walks the author through the process of getting his/her ideas down on paper and then getting them published. Much of the process is the same for fiction writing, so this will be a chance to cover a lot of ground in one interview.




In addition to being an author of both fiction and non-fiction books, Dave Fessenden is also a literary agent with WordWise Media Services and an independent publishing consultant with degrees in journalism and theology, and over 30 years of experience in writing and editing.

He has served in editorial management positions for Christian book publishers and was regional editor for the largest Protestant weekly newspaper in the country.



Welcome, Dave!


Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get interested in writing?

As I neared the end of high school, it was obvious I had to make some decision about a career. After fumbling around with several ideas, I finally prayed about what God wanted me to be (which is of course the first thing I should have done!). And I sensed God saying, How about a writer? Later, I looked back on my years of school and realized the assignments I most enjoyed and was most successful at involved writing. I went to college and got my BA in journalism.

What made you decide to write Writing the Christian Non-fiction Book?

When I decided to write my first book, Father to Nobody’s Children: The Story of Thomas Barnardo, I looked around for a book on “how to write a book” — and was shocked when I couldn’t really find one! Of course, there were many books on writing, but no place could I find any kind of step-by-step process for a nonfiction book — especially not from a Christian perspective.  I figured the Lord was giving me my next writing assignment! But it was quite a few years, a few more books under my belt, before it all came to fruition.

I noticed in your book that you list eight steps in the process of writing. Can you fill us in on what those are?

Sure — but be warned that these steps are often done out of order, and sometimes  simultaneously:

  1. Brainstorming — getting everything down in note form as to what you know about the topic (or, if you’d rather be cynical about it, pooling your ignorance).
  2. Researching — reading, interviewing, etc. to add to your knowledge, and discover other aspects of the topic that you may have forgotten in your notes — back to brainstorming!
  3. Outlining — developing a writing plan, a blueprint, a skeleton for the book. Such an exercise often sparks new ideas — back to brainstorming and researching!
  4. Preparing the Proposal — notice you haven’t necessarily written word one of the book yet? No problem! Prepare a book proposal, while the concept of the book is hot in your mind. The book proposal may force you to answer some tough questions about your book idea, and make you focus and clarify the concept — leading you back to brainstorming, researching, and outlining! (Notice the pattern of cycling back to previous steps? That’s important!)
  5. Writing the Rough Draft — with an emphasis on rough! You spew out on the page all the material you’ve gathered through the previous steps, and try to put together sort of a caricature of what you want the book to look like. Want to write in the worst way? Here’s your chance!
  6. Revising — Now you’re going to whip this baby into shape. Here is where the real writing begins. You fill in the holes, clean up the sloppy parts, and generally make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. And when you get frustrated, go back to brainstorming, researching, etc. Don’t be surprised if two chapters are merged into one, or some other major change happens — just be sure the changes are reflected in the book proposal.
  7. Fine-tuning the Manuscript — Prepare the manuscript for submission by doing things like proofreading, checking endnotes, getting permissions, adding appendices (if needed), and other nit-picky details. (It may sound unimportant, but failure to take care with these little things is one major reason for rejection.)
  8. Getting the Contract — Send that book proposal around to publishers. If you’re feeling like publishing houses are locked and barred to you, I share some methods for storming the gates.

Describe your path to publication. Should new authors consider self-publishing their work? Or is it better to go with a traditional publisher?

I have published seven books with traditional publishers. Each one had a unique path to publication. But each one also had some form of a book proposal — a presentation of what the book is about, why people will want to buy it, and why I (the author) was qualified to write it. Even when Sonfire Media asked me — unsolicited — to write a book (ironically, on how to write a book proposal!), the first thing they wanted me to do was prepare a book proposal. And every book I wrote was a daunting task — I began each one with the feeling that I was in over my head.

A new author probably should not consider self-publishing, in the same way a first-year med student probably should not be asked to do abdominal surgery. At one publishing house I worked for, one of our fledgling editors decided to prepare a list of all the necessary steps involved in publishing a book — she came up with over 50, and it was still incomplete. Can a first-time author be expected to know every step involved in publishing — editorial, legal, marketing, distribution — and accomplish all of them successfully? Of course, you can pay professionals to do all these steps you don’t know how to do, but the entire process is still being coordinated by an amateur.

Many new authors want to write a book — a major journalistic task — as their very first writing project. Maybe they’ve never written an article, a blog post, or a short story before, but now they want to write a book (often it’s their autobiography, the first and last thing they will ever write for publication). Is it any wonder that professional publishers give such projects a quick turn-down? I’m not trying to discourage anyone, I’m trying to encourage new authors to attend conferences, read books on writing and publishing, and to write and publish simpler projects before tackling a book.

What is the current environment for writing Christian Non-fiction?

The Christian nonfiction book environment has always been tough, but not as tough as secular nonfiction, and the opportunities are improving — especially since so many Christian writers, it seems, have abandoned nonfiction for fiction.

The key, however, to attracting a publisher is to provide some real content — you have to speak from a position of expertise. We know this instinctively. If you were shoved in front of a huge audience, what would you talk about? (That’s why autobiography is so common among new authors; they instinctively know that they have to speak from their expertise, and of course they are an expert about themselves.) So of course you would not write a book about evangelism if you’ve never shared the gospel with someone; you’d never write about prayer if you don’t pray. Find your area of expertise and run with it.

What single piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to write Christian Non-fiction?

Pray and solicit others to pray. Not one of my books ever came to fruition without prayer.

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

I take a walk. Since I work from home, about the only way to get away from work is to physically remove myself! And the town I live in has a variety of interesting streets, alleyways, houses and buildings, so it’s never boring.

What are you working on now?

I am writing (or not writing, as the case may be) my second novel, along with several nonfiction book projects. I haven’t made much progress on my writing lately, because of my freelance editing, agenting, and part-time editorial work for CLC Publications. Please pray for me, that I can get the time to write — or maybe I should say, that I would be more disciplined in the way I spend my time.

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

I have a website,, a blog,, and an online bookstore, The bookstore is in the midst of a revamping, after which the blog and my personal site will get an overhaul as well. If you don’t like what you see, please be patient! Improvements are imminent.

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




This month I’m happy to welcome Daniel Overdorf to the blog. Although Daniel has previously published non-fiction titles, A Death Well Lived is his first novel and is a 2020 Illumination Awards Winner! It was published and released in January 2020 by CrossLink Christian Publishers. The book description on Amazon is so compelling that I’m including a portion of it here:

Lucius Valerius Galeo personifies the Roman Empire’s ambition and dominance. An egotistical centurion, his swagger betrays his arrogance and his blood-stained fists evidence his quick temper. He serves in Judea, quelling Jewish riots in Caesarea’s hippodrome and doing the bidding of the governor, Pontius Pilate, from Jerusalem’s fortress of Antonia. The Jewish people repulse him.

A Death Well Lived is a captivating tale set in first century Judea that offers hope for the worst among us and the worst within us.


Daniel Overdorf grew up in the mountains of eastern Tennessee and southern West Virginia, where he experienced the value of the blue-collar work ethic, the wonder of Appalachian storytelling, and the joy of being raised in the home of a preacher who loves the church with all his heart.

These early influences continue to shape his perspectives of life and faith. He graduated from Johnson University, then spent the next ten years ministering with churches in Illinois and Georgia. In the meantime, he earned a Master of Divinity from Lincoln Christian Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He currently serves as Professor of Pastoral Ministries with Johnson University in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Prior to A Death Well Lived, he published four books related to the church and preaching.


Welcome, Daniel! Congratulations on your Illumination Award and thank you for joining us!

Thank you so much. I appreciate the kind introduction and I’m honored to join you.

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get interested in writing?

I remember going to the library as a boy and coming back with my arms full of books. I read all the Hardy Boys series, and later Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie novels. Stories have always captured me.

Through high school and college, teachers encouraged my writing. I appreciate that they saw potential in me. It wasn’t until after college, though, that I considered writing for publishing. At this time, I began writing longer papers for grad school, articles for church newsletters, and lessons and sermons on a regular basis. I enjoyed the process, both the research and the creative side of it.

After having written non-fiction, what made you decide to write this novel?

My previous books grew out of what I was learning in grad school and later as a professor. I enjoyed sharing with readers what I had researched and wrestled with.

A few years ago, I decided to write this novel for several reasons. I have long felt that pastors could learn much from novelists about communication. Since my primary role is to teach pastors, I decided that learning to write fiction would add value to what and how I teach. Also, I wanted to tell this particular story. There are a couple of Roman centurions who show up in the New Testament, but we know very little about them. I wanted to imagine what a centurion’s life may’ve been like before and after encountering Jesus. Finally, I just wanted to learn how to do something new. It was time in my life and development to stretch myself, and since I’ve always loved story, I felt this would be a fun adventure.

I included part of the book description above. Can you fill us in with a short synopsis of A Death Well Lived?

When the book opens, the main character, Lucius, isn’t the most likable fellow. He’s selfish and violent, especially toward the Jewish people in his jurisdiction. As the story unfolds, though, he encounters courage, warmth, and generosity among the Jews that begins to soften his heart. Then, when he crosses paths with a rabbi from Galilee, his whole worldview is called into question.

As a historical novel, the book carefully weaves in historical research about the culture, geography, and events of first century Judea. While writing the novel, I was able to make three trips to Israel to walk the countryside and see the sites where my story would unfold.

What was the most difficult thing about writing a novel?

For me, the most difficult aspect was to let the story drive the book. I so enjoyed the research, and I found myself, time and again, including too much data and too little story. My original draft had paragraph after paragraph of description. It was good description (if I don’t say so myself!), but it muddled the story.

With the help of gracious and wise a writing mentor, Cindy Sproles, I learned to bring the story front and center (you can read about Cindy’s perspective of this process at this link). I was still able to include much of the description, but I learned to use it in a way that furthered the story rather than distracting from it.

Describe your path to publication.

Though I was a published author, I was not a published novelist. So, in essence, I was starting from scratch. Christian fiction and non-fiction are two different worlds. I spoke with a couple of agents who offered helpful guidance. I had worked once in the past with CrossLink Publishing, a small, Christian, trade publisher out of South Dakota. I contacted the editor there, and after a few conversations we decided to move forward with the project. I appreciate the opportunity to work with CrossLink.

What one message do you want readers to take away from your book?

I want readers to turn the last page and feel hope—hope that people can change (including ourselves), and hope that our sovereign God is stronger than even the most difficult circumstances we may face.

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

Find a mentor. Some join writing groups, where members encourage each other and critique their work. Others are able to develop relationships with established writers. However you accomplish it, don’t write alone. Invite others to speak into your process.

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

I have a couple of teenagers still living at home who keep us busy with concerts, school plays, ballgames, and similar activities. So, I spend much of my time away from work cheering for my kids. I also enjoy exercising, playing golf, and watching college sports.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a book tentatively titled Preaching: A Simple Approach to the Sacred Task. It will be a basic textbook for first-year preaching students and a refresher for experienced pastors. I’m working with Kregel Publishers. It will be another year or two before it’s completed and released.

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

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

You’re more than welcome!

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The Punctuation Test


A couple of months ago, I told you about the games we play in our home. Everything from Scrabble to Monopoly. And I mentioned that word games are a special favorite.

For this month’s interview with Kathy Ide, I’m going to take game-playing to another level. Kathy is an expert in grammar and punctuation, and those are areas I’m a little weak in. So we’re going to have a fun test to see if you can spot errors in my sentences. After all, we’re readers and most of us are writers, so we should be able to pick out the mistakes in no time at all. Right?

Take a look at the sentences below and decide where the errors are.

The Punc Test

  1. I think its a shame that Mrs. Fletcher’s Fabulous Chicken Restaurant closed.
  2. Frank ate the hamburger, and went to the park.
  3. I’ve seen the best movies, including: Casablanca, Forrest Gump, and Schindler’s List.
  4. Donna told me that “there is nothing like fried ice cream.”
  5. Is this theme-park a dog friendly place?

You can check your answers here.

How did you do?

If you missed three or more, you might want to brush up on your grammar and punctuation. Kathy Ide’s Editing Secrets of Best-Selling Authors would be an excellent place to start!

If you only missed one or two, you’re doing well, but you probably need an editor to check your work before you publish. You can find excellent ones at

If you got them all right, you may be ready to become an editor or proofreader yourself! Check out Kathy’s Christian Editor Network at!

* * *

   I am delighted to welcome Kathy Ide back to the Craft of Writing Blog Series. Along with her numerous activities in writing, editing, and mentoring, Kathy is owner of the Christian Editor Network, the parent company of four divisions for aspiring and established freelance editors and proofreaders. In addition to her latest book, Editing Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, Kathy has written Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors and the Capitalization Dictionary. She is also the compiler and editor of a four-book series of Fiction Lover’s Devotional books, including 21 Days of Grace21 Days of Love, 21 Days of Joy, and 21 Days of Christmas.

* * *

Welcome back, Kathy, and thank you for joining us!

It’s been a little over a year since you were here last. What have you been doing in the interval?

Still doing a lot of editing for authors, which I love. The SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference went virtual this year, which was a blessing to many people who couldn’t have attended in person.

The Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, which I’ve directed the last four years, was cancelled due to COVID-19. The conference center has been hit so hard by the pandemic, I was laid off (along with 90% of the MH employees), and the ministry leaders decided not to sponsor the writers conference anymore. I’m praying they will recover from this terrible situation, and if they do, I’m eager to see what God does there.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying more time with my family now that my conferences, travel, and visiting relatives are off my calendar due to the virus.

What made you want to become an editor?

When I lost my day job in an office, my husband suggested it might be a good opportunity for me to do something different with my career. He asked what I’d choose if I could do anything for a living, and I immediately said, “Write!” But I knew I couldn’t earn a living with my writing at that point. He asked what my second choice would be, and I said, “My critique group likes what I do for them, and I love doing it.” He suggested I see if I could make a career out of that. I asked my workers’ comp coordinator about it, but she said that since I didn’t have a college degree, it was “impossible.” When I heard that word, I heard God say, “Impossible is my specialty,” and I knew it was a direction He wanted me to pursue.

It was one of the best decisions I ever made. While I love writing, helping others improve their writing is an absolute delight for me.

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

In my work with authors, as well as attending and teaching at writers’ conferences across the country, I developed several flyers on various aspects of editing. Most were based on advice I’d picked up from best-selling authors I’d met and learned from over the years. Putting those flyers together into a book, weaving in direct quotes from my multi-published author friends, just made sense.

When Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors was published, it was intended to be the first in a series. Editing Secrets seemed like the logical second book.

This has been a strange year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. How has that affected your work?

With the cancellation of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and the in-person SoCal conference, as well as other travel and out-of-state relatives visiting, I am no longer behind on any deadlines! It’s an odd feeling, but I have to say, quite satisfying.

Some of my editing clients are using the extra time to get lots of writing done, so they’re keeping me busy. Other clients are finding it difficult to concentrate on their writing with all that’s going on, so their slots on my calendar have been moved. So it all works out for everyone.

Many of the people who visit this blog are new authors. What one piece of advice would you give to them?

Only one? J Let’s see … I think the most important would be to trust God’s calling and his timing. Many new writers get so excited about what God has put on their hearts to write that they tend to rush the process. They set self-imposed deadlines for when they want their books published before they realize all that’s involved and how long those steps can take. God called you at exactly the right moment for you to learn how to write well, make connections with other writers who can help you hone your craft, work with a professional editor to polish your manuscript, and then follow whatever path he has chosen for publication of that book. He knew at the start how long that process would take. He also knew precisely the right time for your book to be published so it would get into the hands of the people he knew would need to read it. So relax, take your time, do it right, and enjoy the ride.

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

There are many, and I’d be hard pressed to recommend one craft book above all the others, so I’ll go with The Chicago Manual of Style. It’s not so much on the craft of writing itself, but once you’ve read many craft books and implemented their techniques into your manuscript, it’s important that you do that final polish and make sure your punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling are according to the book industry’s standard guidelines. Because if you have a lot of errors in your manuscript, publishers (and readers) will be so distracted by them they’ll have a hard time getting into your story or your message.

The publishing world seems to be changing daily. What do you see in store for us in the future? What advice would you give to authors to navigate this labyrinth?

That is so true, Kay! My best advice for keeping up with changes in the publishing world is to attend writers’ conferences. COVID-19 has forced several to cancel, but some have gone online … and we’ll be able to have in-person events again at some point. Conferences that have active literary agents and acquisitions editors on faculty will give you the opportunity to find out from them what’s going on in the industry.

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

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

Thank you for this opportunity, Kay.


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This month I’m happy to welcome Gale Sears to the blog. Although Gale has previously published other titles, The Fifth Favorite is her first foray into middle-grade fiction. It was published and released in November 2019 by CrossLink Christian Publishers.

From the Amazon book blurb:

Eleven-year-old Allie Whitman is dealing with stress about her sixth-grade science project, embarrassment about her chicken costume for Halloween, and fear of the Mad Woman of Tahoe Meadow. Added to this, she feels that she is her mother’s fifth favorite in their family of six. She tries hard to up her status, but competing with her dad, a charming older brother, a brainy older sister, and a younger sister with autism; Allie laments that she may be stuck forever as low man on the totem pole.

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Gale Sears


Gale Sears is the best-selling author of the well-loved children’s story, Christmas for a Dollar. She has a degree in play writing and a masters degree in theater arts. She grew up in the magic of Lake Tahoe, which colors the story of The Fifth Favorite.


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Welcome, Gale, and thank you for joining us!

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get interested in writing?

I grew up in the wonder of Lake Tahoe which shaped my joy and imagination. I also spent time in Hawaii during my high school years, and then attended college in Utah and Minnesota. For many years, my profession centered in Theater Arts. I spent time acting, directing, and playwriting. Later in my life, the Lord moved me onto another path—novel writing, specifically Historical Fiction.

I am married to George and we have two children, Shawn and Chandler. Our son, Shawn, passed away ten years ago. It was a painful experience which brought our family to that crisis of faith faced by many. Would this great loss have us doubt the Lord or bring us closer to His divine love? We chose closer.

After having written other novels, what made you decide to write in the middle-grade genre?

I had a story bumping around in my head about life in Lake Tahoe during the innocent age of the early 1960’s, and a young girl’s discovery of the principle of seeing into a person’s life and not judging them on first impressions. It was a fun book to write as my historical fiction books require hundreds of hours of research and tons of organizing. With The Fifth Favorite, I was able to let my imagination fly! And, there were several characters who marched themselves onto the pages without invitation. It’s always fun when people or events magically pop into the book.

Give us a short synopsis of The Fifth Favorite.

Eleven-year-old Allie Whitman is growing up in a place of beauty and wonder, Lake Tahoe California. During her sixth grade year she experiences exciting adventures and encounters some difficult problems. She also comes face to face with school friends and neighbors who challenge her childhood perception of people. One of the main people who changes her thinking is Mrs. Hemmett, who is the frightening odd-ball character of the community. Allie thinks Mrs. Hemmett is completely creepy until she has the opportunity to get to know her.

What was the most difficult thing about writing a middle-grade novel?

I found the most difficult thing was going back into my middle-grade self to remember what those years felt like. It was important not to talk above the age level, but also not to make light of the real concerns facing the characters. It was vital to express the characters’ genuine stresses and emotions.

Describe your path to publication.

Years ago, when I was still doing theater, I had an idea for a story which did not work as a play. I began building the skeleton of the story and found it worked better as a novel. I wrote the first four or five chapters and an associate of mine knew a managing editor and suggested I meet her and show her the work. She encouraged me to finish the novel and present it to her publishing house. This I did, and they accepted the work. I have been very blessed in my efforts as an author, and I do not have any ego in my accomplishments, because EGO is Edging God Out. I am grateful to be able to tell stories that hopefully lift others.

Prior to this favorable outcome, I’d spent about a year sending out a manuscript which received many rejection letters. It made me evaluate whether I had the talent or tough enough skin to be an author. I kept going. That’s always my advice to new authors, keep going! Book publishing is a fickle business and the needs of the industry are ever changing. If you love your story and have done the work to make it clean and crisp—power ahead.

What one message do you want readers to take away from your book?

Be gentle and non-judgmental of other people and the path they’re traveling. You never know what they’ve suffered or are suffering. I realize that today life is gritty; we do not live in the innocence of the 1960’s, but we can still offer others understanding and compassion.

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

Be a good storyteller. You can study books and books on writing, but I think if you come up with an amazing character that goes on an adventure (either actual or of the soul—or both!) you will keep your readers interested.

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

I like to spend time hiking in the mountains or at home cooking! Some of my favorite things to cook—beef stew, chicken and dumplings, and banana bread. Also, when the opportunity presents itself, I like to travel with my cute husband, George.

What are you working on now?

I just finished an historical novel. The working title is “Sisters.” It takes place in 1898 and tells the story of the first sister missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They were only twenty-two years old when they were called from Utah to go to England.

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

My web site is

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

Thanks, Kay! And the best to all the wondrous writers out there!

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