Monday, March 28, 2016

Critique partners, 'dry spell' and publishing jitters. - By Deanna Fugett

I want to brag on my amazing crit group for a minute. Not only are they a constant source of inspiration and help, they are my friends.

Recently I have been struggling with not knowing how to finish my second book. It's been a frustrating experience not having direction or knowing how or where to end it. I'm a 'panster' writer so I fly by the seat of my pants, hoping it will end somewhere perfect. It worked with my first book, but not so with my second.

I also have been struggling with confidence since I got my publishing contract. Like, oh crap, am I ready for this? Is my book ready for this? Having my first real big doubts about my writing journey and if I can really pull all this off. I asked for prayer for these concerns and the responses for my crit partners blew me away. Not only were they going to pray for me, but they covered me in timely, wonderful advice and love. They are my treasured jewels and I couldn't ask God for a better group of ladies to tread this exciting journey with. I got permission to share their beautiful words below.

"Oh boy, the classic dry spell. It's always a dark place to be, isn't it. We can't always run on creative drive. But hey, sometimes a long break is just what the mind needs to replenish the book building juices. Diverting your attention to something else is often a great refresher, but if you're also seeking other ways to get back in the game, I can only offer what I occasionally do to get myself in the mode. I watch or read material that inspired or is similar to my work. Returning to the very roots I started from and/or exploring how others have handled similar material helps a lot. I also like to deeply analyze what I have already written and my ultimate plot goals. Or I re-examine my characters - dissecting them, revisiting what makes them tick, and reflecting on what moral, ideal, or virtue they're supposed to embody. Oftentimes, that includes comparing them to other well-written characters and understanding why they work and how. Or, I pick apart a flawed story, and consider what I would have done to fix it. Sometimes, I find lots of good and bad ideas by simply doing that. Or I just relax, listen to music, and play a video game. Still, this is what I do to incite new ideas. Results may vary. Prayer is likely your best solution, though. Let's be honest. All us sub-creators get the ultimate mojo from the ultimate Creator. Just don't let this dry spell get you down. We've all been there at least once in our lives." 

- Hannah Colvin

"Let me explain first: my mentor and friend is well known in the CBA world. She sent me a simple email asking if I was ready for the conference. Here are the first two lines of my response: "Does one ever feel like they are ready if they aren't published? Even if they are?" Then I unloaded about my self-doubt. You see, last year, I had an editor write a horrible, nasty note no one who pays to go to a conference should have to read (I've tried to chalk it up to her "bad day," but there  is no excuse). She knows all of this. She is multi-published. She gets invited to ghost write. As a matter of fact, a pretty big celebrity has "her" book coming out this year and my friend wrote it. So, my friend has been there and climbed through the trenches. 

She wrote the best response. It was a long email, telling me how she just met with another big name and that when another day passes, she wonders if she is good enough. She ended with this, and it is so appropriate: 
   "I too completely trust God, so what the heck is wrong with me, I keep asking myself today. I had to stand outside for a while under the stars and just simply praise God to regain a little perspective, be reminded of just how big He is - beyond what I can guess or comprehend. Just wanted you to be encouraged that you'll always feel this nuts - ha!! I'm such an encouragement tonight, aren't I?" 

-Sarah Bennett 
Facebook Author Page:

"I got stuck writing my book 2 too. Somehow I pushed through it, made it to the end, and started book 3. Then I got stuck again in a similar spot. I thought I was done for. It felt impossible. I wanted to scrap the whole thing and forget about it. But then I had the thought, "I've done this before. I figured it out once. I can do it again." I filled in what was stumping me with a vague, sort of skeleton outline, just to get me to the next scene. I wasn't worrying about setting, or even writing in complete sentences. Just getting the characters from A to B--where they needed to be to continue the story. It worked! I got over that hurdle, pounded feet to the finish line, and went back later to clean up the part where I had been stuck. Give yourself permission to suck right now. It can always be fixed.

On the confidence issue, I struggle with that a lot. It's not always a bad thing. Sometimes it helps me see flaws and cheesiness I couldn't see when my confidence in how great it was blinded me. Talk to God about it. Tell him where your mind is at. Ask him to either put you at ease, or open your eyes to how you can make it better, spur you to make the changes, and restore your confidence in what you've created." 

- Robin Scobee
Facebook Author Page:

"I'm not sure I have too much new to add, but first of all I would say to make sure you're getting sleep and taking care of yourself. I feel like my creative juices dry up every time I hit a level of being really tired and stressed. I also agree with Hannah's suggestion of reading to get inspiration - reading something I'm excited about always makes me eager to get back to writing. I also agree with Robin's advice to just get something written without worrying how good it is. I feel like once you have something there it's less intimidating than the empty page.
As far as the confidence in your book - I'll just echo the others to place your trust in God. Your writing will never be good enough for every single person that reads it, but we all believe in you, as does your publisher, and if you're trying your hardest (which you obviously are), God will be pleased by your efforts. And I'm sure this is a natural phase for about-to-be-published authors to go through and hopefully something you'll be able to work through soon." 

- Laurie Lucking
Facebook Author Page:

"I will be praying for your inspiration. Robin, I might just tape that fantastic quote of yours to my desk. "Give yourself permission to suck right now." What a breath of fresh air. We all know how that feels, trying to write the final draft instead of the first one. I've heard it said that you can always edit what sucks, but you can't edit what you haven't written. 

I faced the same total block in January. I decided to take a break from fiction to write another teen Bible study. I sat staring at my blank computer screen...for days. Then I cried...for days. Satan was after my confidence and my identity. Everything I wrote didn't feel good enough. I didn't feel qualified, and I had the looming deadline of getting this book self-pubbed before I leave. I had to grab my Bible and read Ephesians 6 out loud a few times to get my moxie back. 

"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Eph.6:12

I'm not the kind of person who blames everything on the devil, but I know that he is more than happy to take advantage of our exhaustion, our insecurities, and (Lord help us!) our hormones. In II Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the messenger of Satan sent to "buffet" him. That Greek word for buffet literally means to punch continually in the face. Anyone else had a week like that lately?

You were meant to write this book. It's not just your job. It's your calling from God. Don't let the enemy tell you that you are anything less than a conqueror in Christ. This book coming out is going to touch people. Be confident of this very thing: He who began a good work in you will complete it until the Day of Christ. (Philippians 1:6)

So there's my spiritual advice. My practical advice: Take a day off. I know that might not be possible, but at least give yourself the freedom to uni-task. Give your brain a break. 

I love the suggestion of reading. But sometimes, my brain isn't even up for that. Sometimes you just need you some Netflix. I'm serious. Take in a movie that's not even close to what you're writing, and don't dissect it looking for plot devices. God commands us to take a Sabbath and rest in Him. There's nothing wrong with that. Just enjoy it. 

It's going to get done. I promise. Take heart. You've got this, girl! I believe in you." 

- Hannah Duggan
Facebook Author Page:
Amazon Author Page:

"Regarding not knowing how to finish the second book… what works for me might not work for you, since every person has their own unique way of brainstorming that works best for them. But I’ll still explain what I do, in case it helps. I go to bed with a pad of paper next to me. As I’m falling asleep, I let my thoughts drift toward my book. Sometimes I’ll think about the specific problem I’m trying to solve, or other times I’ll just think about the characters and whatever events happen right before the part I’m stuck on. I’m not actively trying to solve the problem as I lay there, which would keep me awake. I’m just picturing my characters’ interactions so that my book is on my mind as I fall asleep. Then, as I fall asleep, my mind starts creating its own story with the characters. The hardest part is waking up enough to write down any good story ideas your mind generates. Every time I’ve been too tired to write down a good idea, I could never later recall what the idea had been. This probably only works for light sleepers, like me. Everyone else had great ideas too… taking time off or watching/reading other material.

Regarding the second item… I think what you’re feeling is probably normal, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with! For myself, I had a serious problem with worrying about everything (even tiny things) to the point that I had trouble sleeping every night, up until a few years ago. I finally kicked that habit. I came to the realization that the reason I worried so much was that I was overly concerned with what other people thought of me. To some extent, we’re supposed to care what other people think. For instance, it’s good to avoid the appearance of wrongdoing, not just wrongdoing itself. We want to be good examples of Christ-like behavior, after all. But I had gone overboard and was focusing too much on what other people thought. In so doing, I had neglected to focus enough on the opinion of the one person who matters… God. Look at the people in the Bible who were completely following God, like John the Baptist. Other people must have thought he was a freak, surviving by eating locusts and wearing animal skins. But he was so focused on God that he didn’t care what other humans thought. Yet God was still able to use him for great good. Likewise, God can use your book for good, whether it’s a bestseller or not, and whether everyone universally loves it or not. Maybe a small number of people who read it will be massively impacted by it, in a way that’s life-changing. Sometimes that’s how God works. As long as you focus on God, it will be okay. And that’s a hard thing to do. Really, really hard, when we have so many distractions around us. But after this life is over, we’re all going to be glad about the times we did properly focus on God, and wish we had been doing that our entire lives."


I strongly encourage any of you readers to follow these wonderful ladies on their websites, author pages and blogs. They are inspiring, encouraging and have such a great heart for the things of God. 
Thank you ladies for letting me share your hearts and words. 

-Deanna Fugett

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Is the Lord telling me to cast out my net?

I’m a private kinda person. With 99% introvert qualities. Seriously, if I could, I would probably live in a (comfortable) remote cabin and thrive. Give me my husband, my little dude and my laptop and I’ll be good to go. Wait. Add my Pugs, please. And books. Lots of books. Okay… and Wi-Fi. Hehehehe. I said comfortable, remember?

Because I struggle connecting with people, and opening up, I’ve never submitted any of my work to a traditional publishing house. I’ve been writing for eighteen years this year, dreaming about publishing my stories, all in the comfort of a hermit-like-writer environment. Why? because, REJECTION stings. I’m sure everyone knows that. The idea that my work gets rejected for whatever reason, terrifies me. (Perfectionism streak.)

Eventually my husband (Bless him) grew tired of my whining and convinced me to join ACFW's. I think 2013… or 2014 perhaps? Anywho, I joined and only then did I start putting my work out there in the Scribes Loop (Online critique group – I recommend joining ACFW’s to anyone hoping to enter the CBA publishing world.) for OTHER people to read. *Gasp.* That’s also where I found most of my amazing crit partners.

Somewhere along the journey the idea of indie-publishing became more and more appealing to me. See, indie-publishing is mostly a one-man show. No need for you to approach unnecessary people. If you want, (you probably should) you hire an editor. If you can, you do your own cover work. No rejection. No damaged pride. Also, you’ll be in charge. Whooop! But I realized after some introversion that my reason for finding the indie-publishing world enticing… was wrong. 
I was being disobedient.
Deep down I knew I wanted to pursue indie-publishing to avoid rejection. Then Deanna posted about her publishing journey,and the more I mulled over her post, the more the following scripture came to my mind:

Luke 5:3-6Amplified Bible (AMP)

He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little distance from the shore. And He sat down and began teaching the crowds from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon [Peter], “Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch [of fish].” Simon replied, “Master, we worked hard all night [to the point of exhaustion] and caught nothing [in our nets], but at Your word I will [do as you say and] lower the nets [again].” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets were [at the point of] breaking;

A simple act of obedience yielded a tremendous catch. It would’ve been missed unless Peter obeyed.

So now I’m being obedient and polishing a novella to pitch to a traditional publishing house.
Am I terrified – You bet’cha!
Will I be traditionally published? I don’t know.
If I get rejected, will it sting? Of course.
Will I sulk and cry and indulge in chocolate and ice cream ? Probably. 
But, I reckon there’s something that I need to learn and that’s why I’m gonna listen to the Lord. I’ll give y’all an update when I actually do sub my novella, and the outcome. Of course there's the  option of approaching other publishing houses if I get rejected this time, and that gives me hope. And I might just attempt it.

Maybe after this lesson, I will have the Lord’s peace and finally be able to pursue indie-publishing.

I guess all this rumbling can be summed up in one question: Is the Lord telling you to cast out your nets on the other side?

I hope this will inspire you to do some self-introspection and yield to the Lord’s will.

Until next time, be blessed.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Writing for a Sovereign God

By Robin

I have a journal in which I write almost exclusively about writing.

This is the story (told partly in retrospect) of my life, my work, my heart, over four and a half years of writing. It tells the story of why I started. It tells of my victories, frustrations, insecurities, triumphs, and doubts as I've walked this writing path. It tells of my great love for God and for the craft of writing fiction.

It's interesting to thumb through the pages I've filled so far (a hundred or so) and see the same theme pop up about every other month. I cruise along for weeks, writing, making progress, pleased with my work, and then--screech--the same niggling questions slam on the breaks.

What am I, that the Lord should be mindful of me?

What is my mouth, that it should speak?

My hands, that they should write?

My words, that they should be heard?

I have to spend a day, or two, or a week, working them out for myself before I can take my foot off the break and ease into traffic again. You would think, after all this time, after all the pencil-scrawled words poured out attempting to answer these questions, I'd have figured it out by now. I haven't.

I still find myself wondering if I'm not actually His most unfit servant. I am beset by pride every day, at every turn. I am wrong about so much. I don't have some special access to God that isn't available to every other believer in His creation. I didn't actually hear or sense His specific words to me: "Here is a story from Me to you. Go forth. Do well."

Some days my countenance is brought so low, I'm so convinced my writing is terrible, and nothing will come of this, and I was crazy to ever think it would, the only thing that keeps me from giving up is the sight of all the empty pages in my journal yet to be filled. I can't bear to think that my writing story is over yet.

It was begun in 2011, during a season of personal and professional chaos, before I fully understood what I was doing, where I was going with it, or why I was doing it. But it was begun. In the canvas of my life, a thread was knotted behind the scenes, the first stitch was laid, then the second, then the third.

Not by me. I am nothing on my own. Like the Psalmist who also asked, "What is man, that you are mindful of him?" (Psalm 8:4) I know from whom my life, my breath, my worth, and my work comes.

The sovereign God who brought the universe into existence, the Author of history, the Redeemer of mankind, the Beginning and the End--that same God--took the time in 1979 to breathe into being a new life, one chosen before the foundation of the world, predestined to love and worship Him. (Ephesians 1:3-5)

And that I do, just as He ordained.

It's when I think I've got to have all the questions answered that the magnitude of His sovereignty becomes paralyzing. How do I know if I'm supposed to be doing this? If I'm the one to be doing this? If my labor will ever yield fruit in this life?

Because it may not. 

That's not up to me, no matter how hard I work, no matter how many revisions I sweat and cry over, no matter how much I try with my own power to make it good enough.

It's. Not. About. Me.

How wonderful, the thought. How freeing! 

The future is not mine to know or manipulate. My destiny, on earth or in heaven, is not in my hands, thank God. How I would screw it up if it was.

He's the One who chose me.

He's the One who made my mouth to speak.

He's the One who strengthens my hands.

He's the One who gives me words.

God will do what God will do. I am simply to follow the thread.  

My dear writer friends, the cry of my heart is that you too would cling tightly to the thread that was begun in the canvas of your life, even if you don't yet understand what to do with it. Even if you can't see how there will ever be fruit from it. Even when doubt and insecurity slams on the breaks. Work diligently, knowing the thread was laid by a sovereign God, and He knows what He's doing.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Ultimate Story

by Jebraun Clifford

I remember when I first learned to read words and sentences strung together to make a story. At the tender age of five, I sat with “Little Bear” by Maurice Sendak on my lap. At the beginning, only the first page made any sense. Then, as I grew in confidence and ability, page after page came alive.

The story transported me to another world.

I traveled with Little Bear to the moon, tasted the birthday cake his mother baked for him, felt the soft crunch of snow beneath his feet.

Throughout my childhood, this scenario was repeated again and again as I moved to more challenging books with fewer illustrations and longer chapters. Jenny and the Cat Club, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables. 

Stories entertained me for hours, fueled my imagination, and satisfied my soul.

I lived for the days when my teacher would pass out the Scholastic book club order sheets. My parents put limits on how much I could spend (otherwise I’d buy every book!) and I’d spend hours poring over each description, agonizing over this title or that.

One of my purchases was a condensed version of “Little Women,” and I read it so many times that the pages drifted out of the spine. Imagine my delight when my grandmother gave me a beautiful hardback copy, and I found undiscovered chapters with more details of the March girls’ antics. Of course, I broke down in tears when I read that Jo didn’t marry Laurie, and even the appearance of kindly Professor Bhaer wasn’t enough to quench my disappointment.

So many of the stories I read made deep, lasting impacts on me, and I can truthfully say that some changed the way I think.

For this is the magic of stories.

Stories engage us. 

Challenge us. 

Entreat us.

Madeleine L’Engle says “stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.”

My favourite story is one I find myself returning to again and again. In each season of my life, it’s meant something a little different.

Every time I read it, I’m struck anew by its richness and depth.

The story tells of an individual who left his home to seek a bride. 

To rescue her from destruction and death. 

To find all things lost. 

To heal all things wounded. 

To bind all things broken.

To establish an ever-expanding kingdom.

This quest would cost the God-man his life, a price he was more than willing to pay.

Would you be interested in such a story? Would it surprise you to discover that you are the bride? And that you have a part to play in creating this kingdom? 

For we’re all involved in this great cosmic story. An epic struggle against good and evil with a cowardly antagonist and a glorious Hero. Of princesses, warriors, and kings. This story has spanned the ages and will continue on into eternity.

And this time, there will be no let-down at the end of the story. No disappointment. No tears.

This is the ultimate Story, and one I love to read again and again. Do you know it?

Be blessed,


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

My Publishing Journey : Part 1

So by now you may be aware that I’ve been offered a publishing contract with Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing. And to say that I’m beyond thrilled would be an understatement.

I’ve been asked by multiple people to explain this process or ‘how did it happen’ so I figured, I better write a blog about it.

You know how they say it's good to network? Well, "they" were right!

So here's my story, I knew my manuscript wasn't completely edited, but I wanted to test the waters. I sent it out to five different publishers, none of which I desperately wanted to represent me. I got rejected by two and three still haven't responded.

I had made friends with a writer (ACFW member) named Michele Harper, through mutual Facebook friends. Little did I know she had been in the process of becoming a traditional publisher for Clean Speculative novels. Not until my friend Amy McNew announced that she was getting published by a small startup publishing company called Love2readLove2write, did I find out that Michele owned this company.

I was like, cool, hmmmm...I'll keep them in mind for after I get rejected by all the BIG publishers. God kept putting that company on my heart, and I kept ignoring it. After all, I *had* to try the big publishers first, right?

A few days before New Years Eve I wrote Michele a personal message on Facebook just to say “Hi”. She asked me if I had found a publisher yet. I told her no. She said she was not accepting submissions at the moment but asked if I would be interested in subbing to her once submissions opened up. I said sure! She asked if I would send her a sample of my manuscript and I did. (I may have gotten carried away with sending three full chapters instead of the regular 5-10 page sample)

Low and behold, a couple days later she wrote me and told me even though she's got enough authors to fill up her 2016, she wants to "squeeze me in", that's how much she liked it! I screamed and cried and was in total disbelief. I hadn't even officially submitted to the company and here she was telling me she's going to publish my book. THIS. YEAR.

It still hasn't fully hit me yet. I'm still in a bit of a daze. I promised her I would get her the full manuscript as soon as I was done implementing my editor’s edits. Soon I was able to get the full MS into her hands and sign the contract a month later. It's all been a crazy whirlwind.

Michele told me that God kept putting my name on her heart but she kept ignoring it because her 2016 was full up. We both kept ignoring God's leading on this. So crazy, and I'm so glad we finally listened! I really feel a peace about this decision now.

Before the contract was signed, I kept thinking, OH NO, now I’ll never know if the BIG publishers would have accepted my manuscript or not. Am I making the right decision? Am I just going with the easiest option since it just-so-happened to fall in my lap quickly? What if a bigger publisher did take on my story? I would get more money and more publicity.

But you know, I learned something about myself that surprised me. I learned that that stuff doesn’t matter to me as much as my sinful little heart thought it would. I learned that I am humbled anyone would want my book at all, and completely blown away at how fast God provided the means to get my book into print. I know so many authors who waited years and years longer. I almost feel guilty. Like I’m somehow cheating the system and getting ahead of myself. But I worked hard on my manuscript and I need to realize God’s timing is different for everyone. Just because he’s fast-tracking my career, doesn’t mean I need to feel guilty when I look at those around me who have been at this far longer than me who haven’t quite ‘arrived’ yet.

Because I know they will.

I know these writers, these authors, these blessed friends who write ten-thousand times better than I could ever care to write will get their moment. It’s coming and I can’t wait to see it. Just because their moment hasn’t come yet, doesn’t mean it won’t. God brought me to this moment and He wants joy for me.

God will bring you your moment too.

Moral of the story is, never forsake the necessary networking. The word networking, to me, is just a fancy way of saying “Make some friends with your peers in your same professional circle.” If I hadn’t known Michele, this whole thing wouldn’t have happened for me. I would just be another name in the gigantic ocean of wanna-be authors. But since I took the time to get to know her she gave me a wonderful opportunity to prove myself. Something that most likely would not have happened had I just been some random person off the streets.

Make the connections. I know you’re probably an introvert, but do it anyway.

You won’t regret it.

Check out Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing on Facebook

and check out their website

 *Stay tuned in the months to come for more news as I continue on this publishing journey. 

And don't forget, we love your comments! Comment in the comment section below (I know it's tiny and hard to see, but it's there!).