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Have you ever noticed that your attitude at the beginning of a major project is different than it is at the end? Here’s a pictorial example from the San Diego Half-Marathon (13.1 miles) which I ran a few years ago:

San Diego Half Marathon 2016 Mile 3 300ppi


This picture was taken at about mile 3 on the perfectly beautiful San Diego course. You can see me smiling, enjoying the wonderful weather. Looks like I was having a really good time.

In the beginning, it’s fun.




San Diego Half Marathon 2016 Last Mile copy


Here’s a picture of me at the end of the race. Less than a mile to go. No more smile. I was very tired and my right hip was sore.  I just wanted to get over the finish line.

At the end, it’s all about getting it done.





As I look back at that race, I notice a remarkable similarity with other times of my life when I took on major projects.

When I started college, I was so excited to embark on the new adventure. But by the time I was a senior, I just wanted to finish so I could get on with the rest of my life. Happy to be done.

I’ve noticed the same behavior in software development teams. Whenever we started a project, everybody was rarin’ to go. Top of the mountain ebullience. But after months of slogging through the hard work of programming, resolving issues and facing unanticipated problems (we termed it “the valley of despair”), the team just wanted to get it done. Glad to have reached the finish line.

But here’s the surprise: the process of writing a novel has been very different for me. It’s not about a race or a project with a finish line. It’s all about the journey.

I started out to write my novel with lots of excitement and enthusiasm mixed with a little fear. I spent months typing away at the keyboard, coming up with the plot and shaping my characters and their challenges. I often fell asleep thinking about the story, and I even laughed out loud at some of the things my characters said. I finally got to the point where I thought I had a good story, so I sent out query letters. I got back rejections – imagine that!  Yes, it was disappointing, but thanks to all the information I had about novel-writing, I had expected it.

When I realized I needed help, I moved on to the next phase: looking for a professional editor to provide feedback and mentor me through the process. I was fortunate to have found Kathy Ide who has been my guide through the revision, rewriting, and book proposal steps. It took a long time and several iterations of rewriting and revising. I had to change the entire Point of View approach. As hard as that was, it was undeniable that the revision process made the story much better.

I spent many hours putting together book proposals and sending them to publishers who would accept a manuscript directly from an author. I didn’t know if any of them would be interested, and I was prepared for more rejection.

But then I received an offer to publish from a small publisher. Soon after, I got another one. In the end, I had several offers, and I chose Crosslink Publishers. Being a complete novice, I thought we could probably get everything done and release the book in a couple of months. That was about nine months ago. You would think waiting for such a long time would be frustrating, but it wasn’t. I had lots of work to do to prepare for the launch.

And all along the way, I had the great pleasure of meeting an abundance of interesting and talented people who share my passion for words and have become my friends.

The Watch on the Fencepost will be officially released on February 22, 2019. As I look back on these years, I savor the memories. I don’t feel like I’ve reached the finish line, but just the next milestone in this fascinating journey of novel writing. And like all fascinating journeys, I can’t wait to see what’s around the next corner.

Consider this snippet from “The Road to Ithaka” by C. P. Cavafy:

“Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
So you’re old by the time you reach the island,
Wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
Not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.”


What surprises have you had in your writing journey?

What encouragement would you offer other writers?



memories1I was born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, a city sometimes described as “a beautiful lady with a dirty face.” But I don’t identify Savannah as my hometown. That distinction belongs to my Uncle Fred’s farm a few miles up the road from Guyton, Georgia, where I spent most weekends of my youth.

My parents, my brother, and I would leave Savannah Friday afternoon after my father got home from work and drive the thirty miles or so to the farm. There we shared a large, brick house with a bunch of aunts, uncles, and cousins. All the children were young, and we were allowed to run wild outside all weekend, climbing trees, playing baseball, or watching the trains rattle by on the tracks just outside the fence.

My cousin Joan and I were the only girls among an abundance of boys, so the two of us  would occasionally be commanded to sit with the women and shell butter beans until our colanders were full and our thumbs were all mushy. Then we could escape to the more exciting world of pestering the guys and sharing our secrets with each other.

Our country surroundings boasted no majestic scenery like the American west. No urban sophistication like the big cities. There was certainly nothing that would recommend such a place to a tourist. But I can still feel the warmth of the Georgia earth beneath my bare feet as we ran races on dirt roads. And I recall arms tight around my waist as I sat sandwiched in between my cousin Billy and my cousin Joan, all of us astride Ol’ Dan, the gigantic gelding that yielded to our childhood antics and ignored our commands to “giddyup” as he plodded around the lake. And I remember bouncing up and down like a cork on the ocean as Uncle Fred drove his Cadillac across plowed fields with giggling, bobbling children in the back seat.

I have long since moved away from my childhood haunts, redefined by choice and chance. But Joan and I still talk on the phone and laugh at our youthful foolishness. And the memory of those days is warm in my heart. And I am so grateful.

  • What memories do you have that helped define you? Please share them here.

BOOK CLUBS by Vicki Fioranelli

I’m delighted that Vicki Fioranelli has agreed to write this blog post on book clubs. As the leader of our book club, Vicki is uniquely qualified to talk about the enrichment that comes from reading and discussing good books.

On a personal note, I want to thank the members of the Cherryhill Book Club for their support and encouragement as I walked through this very interesting time of writing and publishing a book.



She walked into book club clutching the current book in her arm.  She wore warm ups because she had just finished a round of golf.  Her hair is white and at age 80 she still tap dances.  Right behind her strolls the newest, as well as the youngest member; a paralegal whose job allows her BlogAnnMariethe flexibility of attending book club at 1:30 on the third Friday of each month. The remaining 10 members of the neighborhood book club are jusBlogVickit as diverse and interesting.

Book clubs are in vogue and come in many shapes and sizes.  There are the wine groups, the intellectual groups, the children’s clubs, and a growing BlogLindaKennardnumber of all men clubs.  Our club happens the be held in a small gated community, Cherryhill.  Our members’ backgrounds hail from the deep south to the suburbs of Boston and places in between.  Liberals sit beside conservatives and we are comprised of Catholic, Protestants and Jewish faiths.  We boast of a published author among our group, as our BlogMaggieown Kay DiBianca recently released the mystery, The Watch on the Fencepost. Other careers include retired educators, a master gardener, an alumni director emeritus, a journalist, an artist, an ordained minister, a caterer, and more.BlogMarcia

Because we are a neighborhood club, we have the unique privilege of knowing everyone in our 44-family community; thus our format every month is a bit unique.  We begin with what we call “housekeeping” before BlogJanelaunching into the discussion of the book.  Housekeeping includes a short discussion on houses for sale, illnesses, and any important issues from the last home owners association meeting.  In other words, it might be construed as “gossip of Cherryhill”.

After simple refreshments, the discussion begins.The 7-year-old club was BlogLindaOrtonformed with 4 basic rules, though the rules are bent and exceptions have been made on occasion.

  1. It is preferred that the person recommending and discussing the book has actually read the book.
  2. Discussion questions are used to lead the session.
  3. No “one person” dominates the discussion.
  4. No judgments are made on others’ comments.

I dare say, in my opinion, we seek to broaden our appreciation of BlogSheryldiverse authors and types of literature.  In fact, if we find ourselves choosing too many of the same themes or genres, our hand is called and the subjects change.  As with all boBlogLindaSerinook clubs, members are stretched to read books they would not have ordinarily chosen. Some are even out of our comfort zone
.  BlogNyla

One of the most pleasurable aspects of any book club is viewing things from another’s point of view, stretching our minds, and respecting others even when we disagree.

In a time of society’s disconnection, in large part due to the obsession and BlogKaydependence on electronic devices, in my opinion, book clubs provide more opportunity for connectivity and interaction.  At Cherryhill, it’s even more: It provides a sense of community, growth, and caring.


Thank you, Cherryhill book club.


light2In REFLECTIONS ON LIGHT (Part 1), we looked at the story of the healing of the man born blind. Notice that the man’s sight wasn’t just restored since he never could see. He was given the gift of sight by Yeshua. At the end of the long miracle story, the man utters a memorable sentence: “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

In this article, I’d like to tell you a story from my youth. My family lived on a nice street where there were seven or eight other houses on our block. Back in those days, neighbors knew each other pretty well, and they knew each others’ struggles and family issues.

There was a very nice family that lived on our block. Mother, father, and a couple of kids. I will call them Mr. and Mrs. X, though that obviously wasn’t their real name. We knew this family well. They were kind, hard-working, honest people. Salt of the earth.

However, there was a problem, and many people knew about it. The kind, quiet, hard-working Mr. X would occasionally have a drink of alcohol after work with his friends. Apparently, he was one of those people who couldn’t hold his alcohol because after taking a drink, he ceased being like kindly, intelligent Dr. Jekyll and changed to be more like you-know-who. It became known that he would be loud and belligerent with his family, though I was unaware of any physical abuse. Still, such behavior couldn’t have been good for his family, and I knew the children suffered.

I was a small child when I asked my mother why Mr. X yelled at his family. She told me that he was a good man, but he just didn’t realize the harm he was doing. She also told me I should pray that God would open his eyes to understand his problem. I did pray, and I learned that many other people also prayed for Mr. X.

After a time, things seemed to straighten themselves out in that family. I grew up and moved away, but once when I was visiting my parents, my mother related something special to me that she had learned about Mr. X.

It seems that during those troubled years, Mr. X went for a drive. It was a Sunday, and he was alone in his car when he heard a voice. It was the voice of a minister on the car radio. The minister was preaching a sermon about the evils of alcohol, and he said, “If you’re drinking alcohol, stop drinking because you’re hurting your family.”

If you’re drinking alcohol, stop drinking because you’re hurting your family.

Now I don’t know this for a fact, but perhaps Mr. X had been raised in a family where drinking and yelling were common, and maybe he was just following his own father’s example. But suddenly, in the course of that short automobile ride, Mr. X’s eyes were opened to the harm he had been doing to his wife and children.

You guessed it – he stopped drinking. Completely.

Think about it: One afternoon. One man driving in a car heard the voice of a preacher whom he didn’t know, and who certainly wouldn’t have known him. One sentence. And it changed that man’s life, his family’s lives, and who knows how many others.

How could that happen? Some minister sat in a recording studio and his words were turned into radio waves. (Did you know radio waves are a form of light?) Those radio waves floated unseen through the air onto Mr. X’s radio antenna, where they were reformatted into sound waves. And everything changed. An entire family had been saved.

Was that a miracle? I don’t know. All I know is that man was blind, and then he could see.


Words have power, and those of us who write have the ability to use that power to enlighten the world through our work. I pray God will richly bless us in the new year with the humility and wisdom to reflect His light.

How do you use your writing to enlighten others’ lives?



LIGHT: noun. something that makes things visible or affords illumination.

In this season of Chanukah and Christmas, we celebrate LIGHT. Jews remember the miraculous lighting of the menorah when one day’s oil lasted for eight days. Christians celebrate the birth of Yeshua (Jesus), the Light of the World.  Both refer to God’s power and glory manifested through light.

The first words we see about LIGHT are the first of God’s words recorded in scripture.

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.” — Genesis 1:3-4

Speaking of light, I have to mention my favorite miracle story. It’s from the book of John, chapter 9. It’s the story of the healing of the man born blind.

It’s a very long miracle story, full of disciples who missed the point, hypocrites who were only interested in stopping the Nazarene, and one man, born blind, who surely had no hope of ever receiving the gift of sight.

Yeshua explained to his disciples that the man was born blind not because of his sin or his parents’ sins, but so that God’s glory could be manifested through this man. Then Yeshua declared “I am the light of the world” and proceeded to heal the blind man.

The men who opposed Yeshua didn’t like this one little bit, so they tried to disparage the miracle by claiming this man wasn’t really blind to begin with. They even brought in the man’s parents and tried to intimidate them into saying he wasn’t their son. Finally, you can almost feel the tension as they tried to turn the healed man against Yeshua. “Don’t you know this man is a sinner?” they asked.

Then the man who was healed utters one of my favorite statements in all of scripture. He said, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

Though I was blind, now I see.

“The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;” — Isaiah 9:2a

In many ways, we’re all born blind. As we learn and grow, we catch glimpses of the truth, as through a glass darkly, but we’re fooling ourselves if we think we understand all of God’s truth. We need God’s healing miracle in our lives just as the man born blind needed it. Without God to open our eyes, we’re likely to grope around in the darkness and fall into a ditch. It’s the wise person who knows that he relies on God for his understanding.

What can we as writers do to reflect God’s light through our work? How can we be helpers in spreading His truth to a dark world?

“Your word is a lamp to my feet
    and a light to my path.” – Psalm 119:105



Holiday Traditions by Judy Karge

At this time of year when we are all considering our multitude of blessings, I’m honored to have Judy Karge, author of A Light in the Dark: Reflections on Proverbs, as my guest. Judy has written a delightful and innovative piece on the subject of holiday traditions.

Read and enjoy!



It’s November: time for those wonderful lifelong family traditions…or not.

I know that holidays often revolve around religious traditions too, but this is a brief look at how my family adapted to a restructuring of our holiday celebrations.

I always marveled and envied the generational groups that attended the church we chose after our marriage and relocation away from where we grew up. These families filled entire sections of pews on holidays, and continued afterwards in celebrating traditions that had stood firm for years.

This was not unfamiliar to me. I grew up in Northern Wisconsin where the third week of November brought hunting season and the beginning of “the holidays.” Electric ranges ran non-stop for at least two days as the women in my mother’s family created a feast for one of the season’s major events: Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year. These ladies were exceptional…and competitive cooks.

My stand-out memory of the meals we hosted is piles of wet, white, embroidered flour-sack towels accumulating during the unending rounds of dish washing needed to get everyone fed.  That was merely the end. Preparations started a month earlier as we made cookies, fruitcakes, and sweet-breads. Nothing was store-bought except the fancy paper napkins. The house was cleaned, the silver-plated silverware polished, and we prewashed the rose-patterned china Mom had purchased one plate-at-a time from the Kresge Five and Dime.

I never imagined these traditions changing. But shortly after our wedding, my parents moved to a different city for a job opportunity, my husband’s parents moved to Florida, and my husband and I as well as our siblings moved far-afield as well. There were no “over the river and through the woods” trips to grandma’s house on the holidays as I had known. And even when we could manage to get together, we stayed at houses and in cities that were foreign to us. Our kids never got to sleep in our old bedrooms or experience what had been our childhood traditions.

We eventually settled into doing Thanks-Christmas across the state at my folks’; doing church and Sunday School Christmas activities and a pre-Christmas celebration at home, followed by driving south for a third Christmas in Florida. One year I brooded while decorating the house, telling my husband I was disheartened that with the rushing around and triple celebrations in different places, our children would have no real traditions to remember. His reply…maybe this was our tradition and we needed to embrace it.

From then on we looked for opportunities to make holidays memorable. Some years we got together with friends who also lacked nearby family. There was the Trinidadian Thanksgiving with exchange students our friends’ daughters brought along home from college. There was jerk turkey and a regular bird that year…and a sprained arm as I recall. We ditched the turkey another time in favor of Dutch chili. It was named thus because the woman who made it was Dutch. Her kids were such picky eaters that she made a basic chili and provided a buffet of fixings with kidney beans, onions, macaroni, cheese, sour cream…and hot sauce. This tradition continues anytime we make chili, to remember a friend who is no longer with us.

There were more traditional meals during years I received holiday turkeys from work. But at a summer get-together after the boys were married and grandchildren started coming, we spoke honestly. We all admitted to liking turkey leftovers, but not the whole bird. There was the further admission that we all loved getting together, but no one loved of the formality of traditional dinners—or the work involved. With our newfound honesty, we started having fun.

Our first venture away from a Norman Rockwell dinner scene was our “All Pie” Thanksgiving. Pie is the part of the meal we enjoy but never have room for. So we started with pie! The turkey pot pie and a canned-fried-onion crust beneath a green bean casserole were the most traditional. The spaghetti pie, shepherd’s pie, and some entries merely served in pie plates were fun and tasty. It was amazing!

A newer tradition that my husband and I initiated is to celebrate “near” the holiday. This has eased the stress on our sons’ families, allowing them to decide what they want to do. Sometimes they’ll go to their in-laws, and sometimes they celebrate quietly, creating their own traditions.  We may still do a traditional dinner when we gather, but it usually has a twist. Last year our 16-year-old grandson cooked a turkey dinner as a scout project. That was awesome. And since one of our family additions is of Cuban heritage, we’ve had a Cuban traditional meal with plantains, black beans, yucca and pork. Also amazing.

This year we’re doing an All Costco Thanksgiving with ready-to-go items from that superstore. I’m looking forward to it because it means shopping with my daughters-in-law. While enjoying that meal, we’ll come up with the Christmas menu. We’ve had a soup sampling; a sandwich sampling; a cheese board extravaganza, and even one very fancy meal where one daughter-in-law practiced recipes for an event she was hosting.  We love to eat, but we’ve simplified the process so our brief time together isn’t spent cooking and doing dishes, and no one is burdened with lengthy preparations. I always make one new thing when I host. There have been hits…and misses.  Last Christmas we honored our ethnicity, calling it “The Cubans and Reubens Christmas.” We had croquetas and Cuban sandwiches, and a corned beef and sauerkraut dip with rye bread. Since our granddaughter is Chinese, we added eggrolls and dumplings, along with mojitos and German beer.

Traditions can involve customs you can’t imagine not doing. But traditions may also evolve from the loss of what had always been done, or be revitalized when discussed honestly. Whether it’s a turkey, tofurkey, eggrolls, croquetas, all pies or Dutch chili on the table, the most important part is cherishing the time together.

What Do Editors Do? By Mel Hughes

I’m thrilled that Mel Hughes has written this guest post for my blog. Mel is a wonderful freelance editor and provides us with a clear and entertaining definition of each type of editing. So much information packed into this one!

You can contact Mel at


MelThere was a time before I knew what editors did. I thought the name sounded cool, and I knew it had something to do with words—but as to what it was…no clue. After all, if you Google “types of editors” you’ll find a thousand different definitions of what editors do. A lot of what people think of as editing is really proofreading or copy editing. Don’t get me wrong—proofreaders and copy editors are essential. A book full of typos is not a fun read, even if it’s a good story. I’ve read—or tried to read—some stories so full of typos that it would take a magician to decipher what the author was trying to say. A book full of homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things) is also tough on my spine. “He through there chance away.” “Come to the alley at two—and be discrete.” Bleah! But those aren’t the only kinds of mistakes you will see as you read (or write). What about the beautiful blonde named Amanda on page 22 who was a flaming redhead named Miranda on page 78? Or the couple that was supposed to be biracial in a racist world, but were both white by the book’s midpoint? What about the airplane that started out as B17 from WWII in chapter 3 but had become a Boeing 77 by chapter 19? Or the guy who was taken captive in chapter 3 and spent the rest of the book trying to escape…from a cell that was four feet deep? (Yes, such mistakes are possible.)

So…we live in a world where anything is possible, and in the world of writing, there are people who can fix mistakes as easily as a mechanic can replace brake pads. In fact, there are multiple sorts of people who can fix the multiple sorts of errors writers make.

  • Developmental editing is usually done while the book is somewhere in progress. The glory of this kind of editing is you can hire a developmental editor before you’ve written a word. A developmental editor helps you (wait for it) develop your book: ideas and themes, structure and organization. Developmental editors are typically brought in early in the process because it’s better to hear that your idea for “a Kafka-esque circus monkey who works nights as a hard-boiled detective” might run into some difficulty before you’ve written half the book. They don’t worry much about homophones or whether you’ll win the spelling bee; they’re concerned with ideas. They want to help you create a book that works. Developmental editors are also the most expensive editors.
  • Substantive editors typically get a finished draft of the book. This editor will analyze what you’ve written and tell you the good and bad of it. If a character in chapter 18 acts in a manner totally out of keeping with the way he’s been written up till then, a substantive editor will point this out and advise you to provide a believable reason for his actions or rewrite the section. If you have a destitute girl’s car break down in New Mexico on p. 54 and on page 56 she’s in New York and still broke, the substantive editor will want to know how it happened. Substantive editors notice when things happen out of a logical order; they’ll also point out that the wife beater who becomes the hero of the book while not changing his treatment of his wife will probably not appeal to the author’s intended female audience. Substantive editors will also point out sagging sections, purple prose, and places where you took 148 words to say something you could’ve said in three. A substantive editor may fix your grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, but is not obligated to.
  • Copy editors are the famous red-pen carriers. They carry this name because they developed in the newspaper arena years ago, editing newspaper “copy” and advertisement “copy.” They are concerned with the infamous “PUGS”: Punctuation, word Usage, Grammar, and Spelling. If you said “more then ever” or “you must be, Varina,” it’s the copy editor you rely on to catch it.
  • Line editors…are usually mentioned when someone means “copy editor.” In real life, line editors are more like substantive editors.
  • Proofreaders are brought in last, when every word has been written and analyzed to death. Their job is to ensure there are no typos or other minor booboos in your text—although since many proofreaders read the text backwards, they probably won’t catch the dog on page 90 who has become a cat by the bottom of the next page. That’s just not what they are looking for—they’re looking for misspellings and and (heh heh!) repeated words and the like.

Don’t misunderstand me—just because there’s a distinct hierarchy in payment (and possibly in prestige) does not mean, for instance, that proofreaders and copy editors are less important than developmental or substantive editors. A beautifully developed novel that’s full of typos is just as hard to read as error-free text that tells a drab, emotion-free story. If you want the glory of seeing your name in print, do it right and work with the pros.

What does it cost? It depends on what you want done. To get a an idea of price ranges, visit the Editorial Freelancers Association, where they have posted rate guidelines ( Editors’ rates are frequently open to negotiation; don’t be afraid to ask.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find an editor who can honestly say “I do all kinds” and then who’s willing to put it into practice. I do it, and I’m not alone. There are several editors in the Christian PEN and/or the Christian Editor Connection ( who say, “I’m an editor” and that’s all. If you send a manuscript to them for a substantive edit, they’ll do it, but they’ll include fixing all your PUGS for free. Others are more specialized; if so, you may end up working with more than one to get your manuscript ready. That’s not a bad thing; frequently it’s a lot of fun.

One thing an editor should NOT do—ever—is change your voice. Every writer has a unique voice, and so does every editor. Do not let the editor change your voice to theirs’. The best editor for your project will make it the best it can be while keeping your voice intact.

If You Ruled The World

EarthImage2“A word fitly spoken
    is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” – Proverbs 25:11

Words are important. Everyone should love words. They are the tools of creation, the manifestation of thought, one of the ways in which man is made in the image of God. Whether written or spoken, they have the potential to change the world. For better or for worse.

Did you know that there are almost 200,000 words in the English language? About one quarter of those are adjectives. That’s a lot to choose from. And yet our popular culture shows a remarkable lack of variety in its choice of adjectives. When was the last time you saw a movie or read a book that didn’t use some degrading form of profanity? Over and over again.

I was thinking about the issue of word usage this morning as I was doing my daily reading in the Proverbs. Since today is October 15, I read chapter 15, and I was amazed at how many verses in that one chapter referenced something about words. Out of the thirty-three verses in Proverbs 15, I counted nine that directly referenced words. Here are a few:

“The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
    but the mouths of fools pour out folly.” – Proverbs 15:2

“A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
    but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” – Proverbs 15:4

“To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,
    and a word in season, how good it is!” – Proverbs 15:23

“The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,
    but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” – Proverbs 15:28

Unfortunately, most of us are guilty of using words as weapons of destruction at one time or other. Remember when you cruelly gossiped about a friend and your hurtful words got back to her? Or how about that email you shot off in anger and came to regret?

Clearly, all of us need to be more careful about what we say and what we write. So here’s my challenge: If you ruled the world, what would you do to fix this problem?

I’ll go first. If I ruled the world, I would require everyone to read a chapter in Proverbs every day. Since there are 31 chapters in Proverbs, it’s easy to remember which one to read. Just read the one with the same number as the date. Every month you will have read the entire book of Proverbs through (except for the months with less than 31 days, but that’s okay) and you can start the next month at the beginning.

The Book of Proverbs is overflowing with practical wisdom beyond the use of words. It teaches us to be honest and generous, to refrain from gossip and cheating, to give to the poor, to beware being used by other people, and so on. Reading the simple straightforward verses over and over changes you. And it may just change the world.

  • What law would you legislate if you ruled the world?

Plot Review: Is it really necessary? by Rachel Hills

I am honored that Rachel Hills has agreed to guest post to my blog. Rachel provided an excellent plot review for my book over a year ago that caused me to make significant changes to the plot and resulted in a tighter, more interesting story. Whether you’re a “plotter” or a “pantser,” her insights are especially valuable.


Plot Review: Is it really necessary?


Can I skip that step?

I once stated the process of writing a work of fiction consists of hundreds of steps. You’re thinking of several, aren’t you? There are many pieces in the creative dimension of fiction writing just as there are in the mechanical aspect.

For the actual writing, you must consider plot (with its arc), structure, characters (and their arcs), conflict, cohesion, and much more. The best writers know when to break these rules. And of course grammar, syntax, and spelling require attention.

But wait – do you have a platform? What about a marketing plan? Do you know how to write a book proposal that secures an agent?

Sometimes we get to skip a step or even three in this magical but lengthy and convoluted process called writing a book. How do you know when it’s smart to skip a step? With regard to the writing, a plot review can reveal issues unknown to you as author because you are so close to the work.

A plot review should include an assessment of the key elements, such as characterization, structure, dialogue, and coherence along with an evaluation of issues that could be improved to achieve publishable quality.

To the plotters:

You wrote a detailed outline, character sketches complete with arcs, timeline, and back story; you created conflict and selected the best point of view for your protagonist. You researched the location and time of year. You’ve spent months preparing just to get to the fun part of writing – why should you solicit a plot review? You worked hard on the preparation stuff, stitched together all the pieces with your best writing, and now you’re ready for editing, right?

But the middle does drag a bit and you’re hoping the editor can tighten it enough that readers won’t get bored. Or you’re unaware, only because you’re so involved, that you didn’t reveal a piece of back story that connects part C to part D.

To the pantsers:

You know who you are. You have to transmit virtuosic visions from your head to the monitor. It took weeks and months of your life but you had to pour out all the wonderful pieces of your book. It’s your baby, and you’re not sure you want someone telling you what’s wrong with it.

But the pacing is erratic and some dialogue is sketchy. Or certain scenes don’t drive the plot – they’re in your manuscript solely because you love them.

You have some darlings that need to die and it’s hard to let them go. Or maybe you’re just stuck and don’t know where the story should go next.

To writers who are both plotter and pantser (that’s most of us):

All of the above apply. Don’t believe it? How many times have you been bounced out of a good read by a misstep in the writing?

So, you deny, defer, and delay but eventually submit your manuscript for a plot review. When it comes back, you see your manuscript with fresh eyes. From 30,000 feet, the plot holes are obvious. That bog in the middle? Now you have fresh ideas how to drain it, leading to a killer climax.

Suddenly your manuscript has potential, your story is powerful, and you discover all over again how much you love to write because you were willing to learn from someone who wasn’t in your head when you were creating.

So many elements to writing a book – is the plot review one you can skip? Is it one you really want to skip?

Freelance writer and editor Rachel Hills assists both new and experienced writers. For the previous 18 years she edited writing primarily from those in higher education, spiced with the occasional memoir manuscript. The last five years however, fiction became the focus, that of other writers and her own. You can learn more by visiting her website.

An Author’s Prayer



After reading a blog post by Bob Hostetler entitled “A Literary Agent’s Prayer,” it occurred to me to create a similar prayer for myself as an author. Here is is:



Almighty God,

You spoke the universe into being.

You gave humans the gift of language.

You commanded us to write Your words on our very hearts.

Please hear my prayer.


I am Your servant, and I am an author.

Fill me with enthusiasm to write novels that reflect Your glory.

Discipline my heart and mind to Your will.

Give me an abundant desire for excellence.

Help me find patience and endurance to do the hard work of writing.

Guide me to professionals who will help me do my best work.

Strengthen me to overcome my doubts and insecurities.

Remind me to be grateful that I have the time and resources to pursue this dream.

Most of all, fill me with the humility to realize that all I have is from You.

Lord, please hear my prayer.


  • If you have a special prayer and are willing to share it, please add it here.
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