Category: Writing (page 1 of 8)

Work Your Writing Muscles!

There are some wonderful standbys when it comes to finding writing inspiration. Take a walk in nature. Reflect on a passage of scripture. Listen to music. And of course, always have that journal handy for when the muse strikes! Here are a few more that you might want to add to your arsenal.

At the spring WorDshop in Blackfalds, Alberta, instructor Susan Plett suggested using the following prompts:

  1. I remember/ I don’t remember…
  2. I want to write about / I don’t want to write about…

These are simple, yet surprisingly powerful, places to start. I was amazed at the depth that came out of such uncomplicated phrases.

At another workshop I went to a number of years ago, (also led by Susan), she chose a random line from a novel which we all had to use as our first line. Again, it was amazing how different everyone’s pieces were even though we started with the very same opening.

I’m a big fan of what used to be called ‘stream of consciousness’ writing. (It might have a different name nowadays, but I think the old term is quite descriptive.) Basically, one just writes whatever is in their mind at the moment – no self-editing, stopping to think things over, or choosing the best word allowed! The only rule to this exercise is, “Don’t stop writing!” I use this frequently in my high school English classes. I tell students to think of it as a ‘brain dump’. Unless you’re unconscious, there is something going on inside that head! Students can share their writing with me, or a peer, if they choose. If they don’t want to, they simply staple the page shut. This allows for privacy and eliminates the fear of someone reading something embarrassing.

Another idea I’ve used is writing from the point of view of an inanimate object. This can be fun and translates well into children’s fiction and poetry, but can be quite serious, too, depending on the object and the writers’ frame of mind.

Something I have not tried, but which I think sounds fascinating, is using the cards from a board game like ‘Trivial Pursuit’, “Balderdash’, or any other game that has a box of questions. Ready made writing prompts! Thus my title ‘Out of the Box Writing Ideas – Literally’.

For those who haven’t tried it, Inscribe offers ‘Word Challenges’ every month on the ‘Listserv’. (Thanks to Glynis Belec for tirelessly coming up with these prompts.) It’s a fun way for members to hone their writing skills and sometimes the pay-off is publication.

There are tons of writing prompt books and blogs out there to glean from. Writing from a prompt is great practice no matter what you ‘normally’ write. It gets the creative juices flowing and builds writing muscle. So… have fun and experiment with some new writing ideas.

This post originally appeared on Inscribe’s professional blog on August 10, 2017.

The Power of Fiction

While non-fiction is probably the most direct way of addressing issues of importance, my personal preference, for both reading and writing, uses fiction as the vehicle.

A few months ago I read a book called Then She Was Born, written by Cristiano Gentili and translated into English by Lori Hetherington. I am often asked to review books and in this case, I received an unsolicited copy. I don’t always have the time or desire to read the books I receive, but something inside nudged me to try this book. I’m glad I did for it impacted me profoundly. The book is about the plight of African albinos living and struggling to overcome deeply rooted superstitions, even in today’s ‘modern’ world. I had no idea. Although I’m sure I would have been sympathetic to the cause had I read an article in a magazine, hearing it from the point of view of a person going through it brought the issue up close and personal.

That’s what good fiction is supposed to do: transport us into the lives of the characters in such a way that we feel what they feel; experience what they experience. As a Christian writer, I see huge opportunities to spread the gospel in an unobtrusive way while highlighting some of the struggles common to both Christians and non-Christians. I don’t need to get on a soapbox to talk about drug and alcohol abuse, pornography, the occult, or sexual promiscuity. I just let my characters struggle with these issues. Hopefully, but not always, they come out on the other side with the help of the Lord and other caring individuals. Sometimes things don’t get wrapped up quite so neatly, however, but I think there are lessons to be learned no matter what the outcome.

I’ve heard it said that you should write what you know. I’m not sure I totally agree. I wouldn’t want to have to go through some of the abuse that my characters have had to and I don’t need to murder someone in order to be able to write about it authentically! I think this is where writing from a place of personal passion comes in. My goal is to expose the darkness and shine the light of Jesus on whatever situation my characters find themselves in. In the end, it is up to them how they choose to respond.

I’ve taken some criticism about the use of ‘edgy’ content in my work. My characters have pretty much done it all: drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution, pornography, dabbling in the occult, promiscuous sex – not to mention lying, cheating, stealing, greed, doubt… the list goes on. Some are believers while involved in these activities, some aren’t. For me, God’s grace and the redemptive power of the cross is everything – for those who don’t know Him and even more for those who do and mess up. While I do not feel comfortable writing graphic scenes (most of the aforementioned occurs ‘off camera’) I don’t try to hide the fact that it takes place. God’s power shines brightest against the darkness.

Perhaps part of my desire to write what I do stems from my own experiences. I came to the Lord as a young adult, having dabbled in some of the seedier side of life before crossing over to the light. My husband and I have also been in ministry for many years and we’ve seen some pretty dark things, even among believers. The truth is, all have fallen short of the glory of God. To pretend that hot button issues aren’t relevant in the church is to bury one’s head in the sand. All is not always as it seems.

The good news is, nobody is too far gone for God. Hallelujah! That’s why I will continue to write the kind of fiction that I feel called to write. God’s redemptive power can shine, even in fiction.

This post originally appeared on the Inscribe Professional Blog on June 29, 2017. 

 

The Little Known ‘Secret’ to Finding More Time

*Note: Since I’m taking a ‘rest’ this week myself, I re-posted this. It originally appeared on the ‘Inscribe Writers’ Online‘ blog on August 15. Enjoy – and leave a comment!

“If I only had more time!” How many of us have said that? I know I have. Lack of time seems to be the number one barrier to reaching one’s writing goals – or so most people say. What if I said you could actually increase the amount of time you have for writing – or at least make it much more effective? Read on…

We’re talking about ‘balance’ – specifically, finding balance between our writing life and the ‘rest’ of life in today’s time driven world. A few months ago, I would have said things like, “Set SMART goals.” “Make a schedule.” “Just get your butt in the chair and do it!” I’ve always been ‘big’ on all of the above, and I’ve managed to be quite productive despite a busy life of ministry, working, and raising a family. I’ve always maintained that if something is important enough, you’ll find a way to fit it in, no matter how hectic your life.

While all of those bits of advice are still valid, I’ve discovered that none of them is actually the real secret to ‘finding more time’.

God has launched me on a different trajectory these past few months. For those that don’t know, I had an unexpected heart attack in May and subsequent open heart surgery. For the first while I couldn’t do much but pray and listen to scripture and worship music on my phone. I had been longing for more time to work on my writing projects, but now that I HAD the time, I simply didn’t have the energy.

As I began to recover, God gave me a new thirst for His Word. As I got stronger I could have jumped all over that list of writing goals I had on my bulletin board, but instead, God prompted me to keep on soaking in His Word with the promise that He would help me finish them in His time.

IN HIS TIME. 

I believe God has shown me the ‘secret’ to living a balanced life. Actually, it’s no secret at all. It boils down to one thing: Honour God with the BEST of your time and He will honour you by multiplying what’s left. 

It is the same principle we see in regard to tithing. It doesn’t make sense to give one tenth of your income away, especially if things are tight. I’ve heard people say, “I can’t afford to tithe right now.” The truth is, people can’t afford NOT to tithe! When we follow God’s principles, He supernaturally gives us increase. It’s just one of the ways that the laws of the spiritual realm operate.

The same is true of our time. This is where my post might turn into a sermon, so hang on to your seats and and keep reading if you dare!

How much quality time do we really spend with God? REALLY? Five minutes each morning? Ten minutes? Half an hour? If we applied the tithing principle to our time, we should conceivably spend two hours and forty minutes per day studying, praying and worshipping. I suppose one could factor in the times praying in the shower, listening to worship music while doing other chores, or going to mid-week Bible studies, but I suspect we’d still come up short.

Unfortunately, many Christians feed themselves with, “A chapter a day keeps the devil away.” Some are on an even leaner diet of, “A verse a day,” or substitute the solid food of God’s Word with one of those little devotional books. (I’m not knocking the devotional books, but if that’s all you’re getting, it amounts to a starvation diet.)

Our rebuttal might be, “But I go to church every Sunday.” This brings me to another point, even more serious, I believe, than how much time we spend in daily time with God: Very few Christians keep the Sabbath.

Please don’t be offended! (And I’m not talking about keeping a certain day of the week – I will leave that up to individual interpretation.) Instead, we each need to examine our own habits. (I’m examining mine as I write!) God commanded us to keep the Sabbath. Not only is it one of the ten commandments, but it is His first ordinance right at creation. He ‘rested’ on the seventh day, not because He was tired, but as an example to us. It’s that important! Taking an entire day for rest and reflection is a gift for our benefit, not an imposition. It says in Genesis that He ‘blessed and sanctified’ the Sabbath day.

This is hard for us to hear in our modern ‘pressed for time’ world. I don’t have time to take an entire day off – every week, no less! It seems there’s always some chores to be done on a Sunday afternoon; things to prepare for the next week… on and on and on… even down to the ‘work’ of writing. And so I continue to scramble about trying to ‘fit’ everything in and hopefully squeeze some time in for writing along the way.

Except… God has promised to BLESS us if we are obedient. I’m beginning to see that God truly can redeem the time if we honour Him FIRST. If I spend quality time with Him each day as well as an entire day once a week, I actually get more accomplished – and with less stress!  Go figure! It doesn’t make sense logically, but God’s spiritual laws work. Just like tithing doesn’t make sense to our natural mind, neither does keeping the Sabbath or spending more personal devotional time make sense in our super-charged-gerbil-on-a-wheel world.

Sermon over. Now for the challenge. 

1. For the rest of this month, spend double the time you normally spend in prayer and Bible study each day. If you spend five minutes, make it ten. If you spend half an hour, make it one hour.

2. Purpose to set aside one entire day as a Sabbath each week for the rest of this month. If Sunday works for you, great. If you want to try the Jewish custom of Friday at 6pm until Saturday at 6pm, that’s cool too. You don’t have to read your Bible and pray the whole time, although doing that is good, but God made the Sabbath for our enjoyment. Prepare a special meal and eat together as a family or invite friends over. Play games, go for a hike, do something fun with people you love. Fellowship. Socialize. Just don’t do any WORK.

3. Keep track of how much more productive you are with the rest of your time. Write it in a journal or just in your head, but I can almost guarantee that you will get more done with the time you have left. Of course, Satan will try to thwart your success, but ignore him and you will be fine!

4. (Optional) Report on your success! I would love to hear about your experiences if you choose to take up this challenge. Comment here, or email me privately: tracy.krauss@gmail.com

In today’s fast paced world I think one of our biggest struggles is lack of time. The enemy has tried to rob us of time with God by making us ‘too busy’. Take back your right to time with God and you will be surprised at how ‘balanced’ the rest of your life will become.

I LOVE Scrivener… Now That I Know How to Use It!

I’ve been using Scrivener for about five years, give or take a few months. I loved it from the moment I started just for the way it organized my writing. but I never used it much beyond a word processing tool. Last summer I watched a free online video by Scrivener Coach, Joseph Michael, and I was so impressed. There were so many more things Scrivener can do – including formatting everything from epubs to mobi files to paperbacks to plays and more! I decided I needed to delve a bit deeper.

But… I figured as a long time Scrivener user, I should be able to figure things out for myself. I wasn’t about to pay some self proclaimed ‘expert’ to show me how to do it. Scrivener itself offers tutorials and there are tons of videos online, so I took those free tidbits from Joseph Michael and continued on my merry Scrivener way.

Things changed drastically when I went to format a book. I had done it before using ‘Word’ but apparently it was so much easier with Scrivener and the same file could be converted to an epub, mobi, paperback, pdf… whatever was needed with just a few clicks.

About forty hours later, bleary eyed from watching confusing youtube tutorials and upmteen ‘trial and error’ compilations, I gave up. Compiling my files for publication just wasn’t as intuitive as I had thought.  In desperation I signed up for Joseph Michael’s course,  LEARN SCRIVENER FAST

AND IT HAS BEEN THE BEST INVESTMENT I HAVE EVER MADE FOR MY WRITING CAREER!

I’ve managed to format and publish multiple ebooks, paperbacks, and pdfs. I organize my blog posts using Scrivener, and I even do a lot of my outlining using the cork board function. I can’t imagine writing without it and whenever I run into a snag, all I need to do is go to Joseph Michael’s easy to follow videos and VOILA! Problem solved!

LEARN SCRIVENER FAST has continued to be the best investment I’ve ever made in my writing career!

One year later, after paying for the course, I’ve decided to become an affiliate of Joseph Michael’s program. I mean, I’m always advising others to sign up for his courses, so why not get paid while doing it?

So… if you have ever thought about taking the course (and if you haven’t, you should! It’s SO worth it!) you can do so through any of the links on this page, or by clicking on the ad in the sidebar. You’ll get the benefit of Joseph Michael’s training (which you won’t regret) and you’ll help me out, too. Win-win!

I’m preparing to teach a workshop at Inscribe’s Fall Conference this September on Scrivener Basics. It will be VERY basic, since there is only so much one can do in an hour. I will be recommending that students sign up for Joseph Michael’s training. it is truly an amazing course and worth every penny hundreds of times over!

Keeping Up With the Neighbours COMPLETE SERIES

It’s official! The COMPLETE SERIES is now available as an ebook with the paperback coming next week. Check it out on AMAZON.

Look out! The Malloy family have taken over the neighbourhood, starting with Jed, whom we met in Neighbours Series 1. Jed is a downhome boy from Newfoundland who is a bit rough around the edges, but is the first to lend a helping hand when needed. His colourful and sometimes raucous siblings – Bo, Reba, Pip, Will, and Zeb – join him one by one in the western city of Calgary, Alberta. There’s plenty of laughter, romance, and a few surprises, as the Malloy clan get together. In the midst of the surprises, a greater love than any one of them ever expected comes to call: The love that only God can give.

 

As always, an honest review is always appreciated!

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