Writer’s Vision: Interview With Founder Kaytlin Phillips

Today I am interviewing Kaytlin Phillips, founder of Writer’s Vision, which is, “A community of Christian creatives longing to share their love of Christ through their works! Whether that’s through a story they wrote, an article, or their editing skills, Writers’ Vision is a place for writers, editors, and bloggers to find the inspiration and encouragement they need to keep moving forward”.

You can learn more about Writer’s Vision here.


What inspired the idea for Writers’ Vision?

Well, it was a slow-building idea that started in the head of a 16-year-old writer who wanted to connect with a writing community but could find/afford to do so. At the time, I just wrote it off and decided it wasn’t time for a writing community and I didn’t need one anyway. Turns out community is really important. So in 2021, I felt the push to start my own! I’d been tossing around the idea of starting my own personal blog and thought why not combine the two? Making a space of encouragement and tips for writers, while also building a community for them as well!

Who is your target audience for Writers’ Vision?

Writers of any level, bloggers, and basically any kind of creative. I want it to be a safe space where creatives can come to find encouragement, advice, and help when they need it.

Tell us a bit about Writers’ Vision—fun anecdotes, little-known facts, etc..

Well, a fun fact is I pushed out starting the site for two years because I didn’t think anyone would be interested, and then once I had it up, I kind of avoid it for a year…just posting occasionally, enough to say it was alive and I had tried. But then in Sept. I don’t know, God just pushed me back toward it again. So, I remodeled the site, we’re calling it a vibrant vintage makeover, and actually started putting effort into it. The response over the last two weeks has been astounding!

What is your ultimate dream for Writers’ Vision? Why?

I want it to reach as many authors, bloggers, and creatives as possible. I want them to know they are not alone. That what we do matters and even when it feels like a lonely, sometimes expensive, trail…there are other people who feel that too. The why behind it is simple, I want people to know their work, their creative voice is valued and has a purpose! I see you, Writers’ Vision sees you, and we want to help!

What would you say is Writers’ Vision’s goal?

To be there for creatives of all levels and to help them when it feels like nothing is working out. I designed it with the blog as an encouragement and advice tool, then the Community side is for criticism, writing craft help, and beta read sign-ups… the blog is also a tool though, I’m using it to spotlight books, cover reveals, blog tours, spotlight blogs, and interview writers. I want it to be a hub of sorts, a landing and taking-off place for creatives in need.

Is Writers’ Vision more an online haven for Christian writers/authors, or do you open it up for secular/general market?

I designed it with Christian authors/bloggers in mind, but we’re not opposed to secular/general market writers as long as they follow our community guidelines.

What makes Writers’ Vision unique from other online writing groups?

The biggest thing is it’s free. I also don’t let anyone join until I’ve sent them a few questions, usually name, the reason for joining, and social links if they have them. Unless I know you from somewhere the account doesn’t get approved until those questions are answered.

Who are your minions—those who assist you with Writers’ Vision?

As of right now, I have one partner and that is the amazing Louise Taylor! She’s the manager of our quarterly short story contest and also the judge of said contest. It’s been really great working with her. She’s also my sounding board, she reads all my long ramble emails full of random ideas and helps me sort them…lol…so, it’s been a blessing to have her come alongside in this endeavor.

Is Writers’ Vision planning any collaborations or anthologies?

Honestly, I’ve only given it a passing thought or two. I’d love to do an anthology on Writers’ Vision, one of these days, but for now no. I am working on a collaboration post with two other bloggers, which will hopefully give some very valuable insight into Foster Care and Adoption and how to write them well.

How has Writers’ Vision assisted you in your own personal writing life?

It’s given me the drive to keep going. Just knowing that there are some people out there who believe in what I’ve written is really nice. But also, knowing I can get honest feedback from fellow writers has been great!

How can we help spread the word about Writers’ Vision?

Tell your friends, and tell your friends to tell their friends. Sharing on social media or blogs is always helpful. I want as many people as possible to know about Writers’ Vision because community is so important for writers! Like, I cannot stress how much community had helped me grow. So, helping me get the word out there about this 100% writing community would mean the world to me!

How can those interested contact you about Writers’ Vision?

You can contact me via email at ourwritersvision(at)gmail.com. I am happy to answer any questions you may have!

Thank you so much for this interview, Madi, and for the chance to share about Writers’ Vision! Means a ton to me! 

Thank you so much for joining me, Kaytlin!


Writers, have you joined Writer’s Vision yet? I’ve been in a few writing groups, and I can attest Writer’s Vision is the most laid back and friendliest of them all. If you have, don’t forget to tell your friends about it. If you haven’t, you should.

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Plants to Use In Your Writing

One of the things I enjoy most when it comes to writing is incorporating medical terminology, herbs, and healing methods. This is the result of being an FES clinician, taking multiple homeschool and college anatomy, physiology, and health classes, and having a mom who is also huge into health. Over the years, I have compiled a list of herbs, plants, and other natural resources that promote healing…and death.

God has given us so many natural elements that promote healing. I am always disappointed when I do not see those herbs and plants utilized in books. Fantasy is the primary genre in which these are featured, but you can use these in any genre.

These lists have been taken from my notes, and I have attempted to clean them up so others can understand them, but some things just can’t be fully rehabilitated.


That Which Heals

Ginger – Eases nausea

Peppermint – Reduces nausea and can help induce sleep

Feverfew- Helps headaches

Butterbur– Helps headaches

Holy Basil – A natural remedy for combating Stress

St. John’s Wort -Sooth worries

Lavender – Reduces swelling; repels bugs; treats insect bites and burns; and relieves itching or rashes. The scent of lavender is also calming.

Goldenseal – Promotes faster healing of wounds.

Crushed Yarrow Leaves – stop bleeding, used for mild burns

Plantain – Neutralizes stings

Rosemary – Can help headaches and muscle tension. Crush a teaspoon of rosemary and brew tea.

Lemon –Lemon juice mixed with water can help nausea. Non-watered-down, unaltered lemon juice can result in an unpleasant contortion of the facial muscles as you suffer from the sourness.

Boiled mint leaves – Good for nausea

Calendula– Canlendula tea promotes healing. (Calendula looks like a marigold.)

Chamomile – A wash or salve for red and inflamed wounds; soothes swelling.

Cayenne Pepper – Stops wound bleeding in 10-12 seconds. If bleeding is severe, drink water with a bit of cayenne pepper in it.

(Note: When I learned about cayenne pepper, I was nearing the middle of DECEIVED‘s rough draft. I knew I wanted to incorporate cayenne pepper, so that resulted in an infamous scene near the end.)

Witch Hazel – Soak a cloth in some witch hazel and apply it to cuts and bruises.

Echinacea – Helps colds, the flu, upper respiratory issues, anxiety, migraines, and pain. (Looks like a pink daisy.)

Thyme – Helps coughing.

Ravintsara – Assists with easier breathing.

Elderberry – Lessens cold and flu symptoms and respiratory illnesses. Raw elderberries are mildly toxic.

Wild Strawberry Leaves – Lessens arthritis and throat inflammation.

Chickweed – Finely chop and apply externally to sooth irritated skin. (Tastes like spinach when cooked.)

Mullein– Stimulates coughing to clear congested  lungs; helps breathing. 

Ground Ivy – Helps headaches.

Wood sorrel – Reduces fever. (USE SPARINGLY)

Lemongrass Assists fever, flu, and headaches.

Valerian – Puts to sleep (Don’t use on babies and young children. Side effects: headache and mind fog).

Jasmine – Helps headache; heat exhaustion; sunstroke; anxiety; depression [tea, lotion. Also, Jasmine is pink, white, and yellow, loves sun, smells wonderful, is a vine or shrub, helps with sunburn and rashes; the smell calms and relaxes.

Barberry – [Use: bark, berries, roots] Kills bacteria on skin. Not to be used during pregnancy. Decreases heart rate, so too much can be used to kill someone

Birch – [Use: bark, leaves, sap] Anti-inflammatory; pain reliever; apply topically for boils and sores.

Black Cohosh/Snakeroot: [Use: roots] Induces labor, aids in childbirth, take two weeks before expected delivery. Helps with morning sickness and poisonous snake bites and arthritis

Black Walnut – [Use: husks, inner bark, leaves, nuts] Helps heal mouth and throat sores. Good for bruising, fungal infections, poison ivy, and warts.

Nota bene: when boiled, the hulls produce a due that is used to color wool

Bonoset/White Snakeroo – [Use: flower, petals, leaves] Reduces fever, increases perspiration, clam the body. Useful for colds, flu, bronchitis, and fever-induced aches and pains.

Nota bene: do not use on a daily basis for more than one week as long-term use can lead to toxicity

Cinnamon Bark – Relieves nausea

Elder – [Use: flowers, fruit, inner bark, leaves, roots] Combats inflammation, relieves coughs and congestion, lowers fever. Flowers used to soothe skin irritations.

Nota bene: stems of plant should be avoided. They contain cyanide and can be very toxic.

Eucalyptus – [Use: bark, essential oil, leaves]Is a decongestant and mild antiseptic; relaxes tired and sore muscles. Not for ingesting.

Hyssop– [Use: flowers, leaves, shoots] Poultices from fresh green hyssop help heal cuts.

Lemongrass -[Use: leaves, stems] Useful for fever, flu, and headaches.

Nota bene: used in perfumes and other products as a fragrance.

Nettle – [Use: flowers, leaves, roots] Is a pain reliever and tonic. Also called stinging nettle.

Motherwort – [Use: leaves, flowers, stems] Useful for headaches, insomnia, and is used to relieve childbirth pains. Also used for a tranquilizer.

Sangre de grado/ dragon’s blood – [Use for: bark, resin– rainforest herb.] Fights inflammation. Helps heal wounds and stop bleeding.

Red clover – [Use: flowers] Purifies the blood. Has relaxing effects.

Skullcap –  [Use: leaves, shoots] Aids sleep, relieves muscle cramps, pain, spasms, and stress. Good for anxiety, fatigue, headache, rheumatism.

White oak: [Use: bark] Antiseptic. Good for skin wounds, bee stings, burns, fevers and cold, nosebleed, poison ivy.

White willow – [Use: bark] Relieves pain. Good for headache, backache, nerve pain, joint pain, inflammation, toothache, injuries.

Wild cherry  – [Use: inner bark, root bark] Acts as an expectorant and mild sedative. Good for coughs, cold bronchitis, asthma. Syrup or tincture is best.

Nota bene: Leaves, bark, fruit pits contain hydrocyanic acid, which can be poisonous.

Wintergreen – [Use: leaves, roots, stems] Relieves pain and reduces inflammation. Good for arthritis, toothache, muscle pain,and rheumatic complaints.

Nota bene: Oil distilled from leaves is used in perfumes and as a flavoring.

They’re not plants, but they’re naturally-occurring elements and have many healing properties:

Water – Reduces dehydration; improves brain function; lessens exhaustion; helps weight loss; refreshes and restores cells, especially T cells, which are used in healing the body.

Frankincense – Pain relief; wound healing; may help arthritis; helps asthma

Honey – Helps lighten scars and soothes burns. Mix honey in warm water and drink to ease coughing and sore, raw throats.

That Which Kills

Wolfsbane: [a.k.a aconite or monkshood| Toxins easily soak into skin, kills within 6 hours of consummation.

Symptoms: Vomiting followed by burning, tingling, numbness in mouth and face, and burning in the abdomen.

Autumn Crocus: Can kill humans and animals alike.

Hemlock: Highly poisonous

Nightshade: Everything about this deadly beauty is poisonous, but be particularly aware of the berries.

There are many, many, many more poisonous plants; this is just a starter list.


What plants/herbs do you use in your books? Have your characters ever ingested poisonous plants?

Resources for Upcoming Authors

You have completed the first (or second, third, or fourth) draft/rewrite of your book. In your opinion, the story is almost ready to be released (or, in some of our cases, unleashed) into the world. So…what now? Where do you go from here?

The concept of publishing a book can be daunting. What so many writers do not realize is there are multiple steps one must scale before their book is actually ready to publish.

Coming from the combined perspectives of author, reader, editor, and designer, I am presenting a list of of resources for everything from formatting to cover design, from swag to editing services, and more.

Editing

Editing is crucial for your book. I was recently in a local bookstore and the owner mentioned an indie author who, “Had multiple typos on every page”. The reason? The author had his “friend” edit the book. By friend, I mean a ninety-year-old, well-intentioned man who spends most of his time at the gym. Yes, I do know who this author is. And I know who the “editor” is, as well.

This was a cringe moment for me. For so long, indie authors have been seen as the “lowlifes” of the publishing world, and a certain stigma was applied to indie authors–and sometimes for good reason. Only in the past seven years or so has indie publishing become respected in some circles. We still have that stigma to break, and one way to accomplish that is to have your book edited by a quality editor.

Some editors charge an arm and leg. Others prefer to take a lung and your remaining foot as well. I’m not saying editors don’t deserve to be compensated for their work and time. They do. I’m merely stating some prices are exorbitant. I know I, for one, couldn’t afford to pay $500 to have an 80,000 word book proofread.

Few writers can thoroughly edit their own work. We’re too close to the story, which makes it harder to catch those pesky typos

Two editors I know are thorough are Mountain Peak Edits & Design and Kendra E. Ardnek. Both are affordable and offer quality editing services.

Nota Bene One:

There are many different types of editing, so do your research and determine which would best benefit you and your book.

Nota Bene Two:

Editors are human. It is almost impossible for us to catch every typo in a longer story. We will catch at least 97%, which is why it is important to have an editor go over your work.

Formatting

Just what is formatting? Book formatting consists of the title page, copywrite page, margins, gutter, font size, placement, scene breaks, text justification, and, ultimately, book length. For ebooks, formatting also includes the TOC–Table of Contents. There is a lot that goes into formatting books, and it can be a lengthy and headache-inducing process. Alas, book formatting is a necessary evil.

Before you secure your paperback wrap cover, you’ll need the page count…which is determined after paperback formatting is complete.

There are a few methods for formatting:

WORD:

I used Word to format DECEIVED, which is 90,000 words long. The thought of formatting IRON (97,000) and Shattered Reflection (113,000) makes me nauseous.

Positives:

It’s free to format in Word, and ebook formatting is fairly quick and simple enough.If you’re able to format in Word, you don’t need to pay a formatter.

Negatives:

  • It is a lengthy process, which can take days if your book is longer than 50,000 words.
  • The justification of text can cause issues, such as gaps and odd placements.
  • There are plenty of ways to inadvertently cause errors and other formatting issues, such as Chapter Ten beginning on the last page of Chapter Nine.
  • Spacing for chapter titles and numbers, subtitles or character names, and days and dates is time-consuming if you want them to match. Even then, it is not a guarantee.

ATTICUS:

I’m fairly new to Atticus, and broke myself into it by using the program to format IRON for both ebook and paperback.

Positives:

  • You have oodles of layouts at your fingertips, and even more possibilities if you’re keen on designing a format specific to your book (which is what I did for IRON).
  • The end product looks clean and professional.
  • It automatically generates epub and PDF if you so desire.
  • The gutters, margins, and indents can be altered without issue.
  • The amount of manual labor involved is minimal compared to Word.
  • It’s affordable, with a one time price of around $150. Included is a 30-day refund if you find Atticus isn’t for you.
  • It automatically inserts your desired scene break design. Just include it in your pre-format, keep three asterisks in the manuscript your upload, and voila. There you go.

Negatives:

  • There is quite a learning curve involved, which can take a few hours to get a grasp on.
  • Atticus is new, so some kinks are still being worked out, although I didn’t notice any real problems while formatting.
  • The front matter and back matter can be the most time-consuming and can cause some frustration.
  • The offered fonts can be iffy. The body text font I recommend is Spectral.
  • The gutters and margins are always pre-set too low, and you need to increase them by at least two clicks.

Formatters I Recommend:

Jon Stewart – I haven’t personally worked with Jon, but I do know he did an excellent job formatting Love in Disguise by Penny Zeller; I was also told he has excellent customer service and is easy to work with.

Kathryn with Hannah Linder Designs – Same as with Jon: I haven’t personally worked with Kathryn, but I do know she did a good job on Love Under Construction by Penny Zeller.

Mountain Peak Edits & Design – Formatted DECEIVED and IRON by yours truly.

Cover Design

“Don’t judge a book by its cover”, is the common cry. And, while that does have merit on some occasions (like traditional authors who don’t always have a say) ,we all know we do, in fact, judge books based on their covers. This is why it is so important to have a good cover, whether designed by yourself or a professional.

If you do design your own cover, please, please, please gather feedback before displaying it to the world. I’ve seen some self-designed covers and–not to be rude–and they’re cringe-worthy. I’m not saying not to design your own cover, as there are many indie authors with an eye for design. I’m merely recommending you receive feedback.

Designing your own cover:

There are many aspects to consider when designing your own cover: layout, flow, distance, genre, models, font, colors, and the “message” or “feeling” you want your cover to impart.

You don’t want flowy, elegant font on a book about how to write a will, just as you don’t want dull, boring sans serif font (yes, I am generally against sans serif) on a romance cover for the title. The font itself imparts an indication of what the book’s feel is. Look at other books in the same genre and take note of the fonts used.

Layout, flow, and distance are all problems I’ve noticed on many indie covers. Just yesterday, I saw a cover where the baby was as big as the woman. It wasn’t good. Take distance into consideration: babies are smaller, objects that farther away are smaller than those up close, and please, for sanity’s sake, don’t have the shadowed side of the model facing the sun! That’s completely incorrect.

Models, models, models. Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, but I have to be honest: if I see a guy with more fur on his face than a bear has during wintertime, I’m done. I’m not touching your book. Just be careful when selecting your models. Please.They can turn readers off.

Other Do’s:

  • Consider font colors: Do they match? Are they aesthetically pleasing (no neon colors, please). Keep in mind the meaning of colors as well. Pastels and light neutrals are more sweetly-romantic. Red has the potential to indicate a certain…air you might not want your book cover to impart, so use that carefully. Black is an all-around color.
  • Keep everything within a layout–your font should be on the cover instead of bleeding off, it should be off the characters’ faces, your characters should be sized appropriately (no babies being just as large as the women). Beware textboxes. They either look good or chintzy.
  • Do have your models dressed tastefully. Please. I beg you.

Other Don’ts:

  • Don’t just slap a model on the cover and call it good. Most need blending, shadow adjustment, and possibly size reduction. Not all (take Love from Afar by Penny Zeller, for example) but most do.
  • Don’t have your male models go shirtless. I don’t care how ripped and muscular he is. He. Needs. A . Shirt.
  • Don’t have your female model’s junk be spilling out of the trunk. If you find a model’s head that is attached to a body with more skin uncovered than covered, just transpose the head onto a different body (it’s harder than it sounds, but it’s quite doable). This may land me in some hot water because you may know the cover I’m referencing, but I frankly don’t care because this needs to be said. I’ve seen one such cover floating around. The book is written by a faith-professing author. The model’s cleavage is billowing over the top of the bodice. It’s not okay for any Christian book to feature such bodily exposure. Our covers should be God-honoring. Lack of clothing is not that. Honestly, it’s vile. It’s gross. Keep it off your covers.
  • Don’t have your cover impart the wrong “feeling”. Don’t have hard, bold font for a gentle, tender romance. Don’t have calligraphic font for science fiction. Don’t have a woman staring out into the distance wearing a wistful expression (which is a romantic-type cover) if your book is suspense. That’s one thing I really love about Shattered Reflection’s cover. It conveys the book’s mood perfectly. You can just tell Layree has a long journey ahead of her, and the sword, cloak, and mountains are perfect.

Design Software:

Designers swear by Adobe and Photoshop, but if that’s too pricey (and it probably is), there are a few alternatives.

Picmonkey:

You have to pay, but it’s the software I use to design covers. I’m quite pleased overall. Picmonkey allows you to erase, blend, texturize, recolor, and more. It’s not as cutsey as Canva, but it does offer options for designs, along with the ability to upload your own font. I recommend it.

Canva:

I have a love-hate relationship with Canva, although I know others who swear by it. Canva is cutsey and offers an abundant variety of elements, stickers, and fonts, even if you are using the free version. However, Canva offers a poor attempt at fading, and you cannot blend, shadow, or texturize well. In my humble opinion, Canva is second-tier. It has its place, but it cannot deliver a quality cover if you’re looking for covers like Karen Witemeyer’s, Penny Zeller’s, or DECEIVED.

Gimp:

I’ve not used this at all, but I’ve heard from authors who are pleased with it. All I can tell you is it must be downloaded–and it’s a big download.

Book Cover Designers I Recommend:

Asteriks (*) indicate designers I’ve not worked with, but have heard good things about and who offer quality covers. All but EAH Creative offer premades. Each designer offers something a little bit different.

Lynette Bonner – Designed DECEIVED

Mountain Peak Edits & Design – You may recognize several of the covers listed here

EDH ProfessionalsThe covers I purchased from Erin are for an upcoming series and are not yet released

*Cora Graphics

*EAH Creative – Designs for Enclave Publishing and made Love in Disguise by Penny Zeller

Graphic Design

Aside from a well-written book and quality editing, formatting, and cover, one of the most important things you can do is promote your book. One excellent way to do this is through graphics. Graphics are versatile, and through them you can offer what readers are saying, sales, releases, cover reveals, quotes, questions, and more.

The two sites I recommend for cover design are Picmonkey and Canva.

Picmonkey offers a more elegant design and includes options for font texturization and colors. The downside to Picmonkey is you have fewer design elements like flourishes and all those pretty doodads. Picmonkey does provide some, but not to the extent of Canva.

Canva is artsy and cute. You won’t get elegant and gorgeous out of it, but you will get fun, attention-grabbing graphics if you can figure it out. It also offers quite the variety of elements, probably quadruple that of Picmonkey.

It all depends on your personal preference. I use both, although Picmonkey is my modus operandi. I can immediately spot a Canva design; whether that’s good or bad is up to you.

Picmonkey Examples:

Canva Examples:

It is easy to make your own graphic designs, but if you don’t know where to start or have too much on your plate, Mountain Peak Edits & Design offers graphics at an affordable price.

A+ Content

A+ Content has been around for years, yet it seems like few know what it is. A+ Content is a design/marketing opportunity offered by Amazon. Images of certain sizes are placed on the book’s page and are seen by potential readers as they scroll. Amazon has just upped it’s absurd pettiness, however, so be prepared for some hassle if you do decide to go this route. I do recommend it despite Amazon’s unnecessary pickiness.

Mountain Peak Edits & Design also offers A+ Content.

Examples of A+ Content

Miscellaneous

Google Doc Forms:

Use these forms to create places where people can sign up to help spread the word about cover reveals, book launches, and giveaway/sales. You can choose from a variety of fonts and colors, and can even create a header.

Header Example:

Swag:

This ranges from character cards, necklaces, bracelets, candles, tea, shirts, pins, stickers, and more. There are many designers/candle-makers/tea-providers who offer these services. I personally was pleased with Paige Coffer, who did an astounding job on Therese’s character card.


Authors, what do you use for your books/promotions? Writers and upcoming authors, what are your thoughts? There’s a lot more that goes into publishing than you think, but don’t get discouraged. There is a vast writing community, and the majority are more than happy to offer advice and encouragement.

Why We Need Hope in Fiction

As I was exercising the other day, the lovely auto-play chose which song I would next listen to. A secular song, one I never before heard, came on, and while there was nothing inherently bad about it, it got me thinking.

The song could easily be a character song, and I may use it for that purpose one day. But what really struck me was how most of the lyrics contained no hope. Music possesses the ability to control our moods, whether that is uplifting or evoking sadness or nostalgia. This song did not uplift me. Instead, it reminded me of a faceless soul standing on the edge of a cliff, staring at the swirling, misty hopelessness below and asking, “Would anyone care if I jumped off?”

It struck a chord. Whether good or bad, I cannot say. But I went from trying to be positive and telling myself to survive the workout to thinking about that sad, almost dark song for the rest of the day.

I then listened to a Christian song, Valley of Death by Skillet, and compared the two. Valley, unlike the other song, contains hope. A surge of it that tells the listener no matter how trying a time or how dark the valley they’re currently in, God is in control.

The songs are similar genres. But I rather listen to Valley because it gave me hope.

There’s not that much difference between books and songs. Of course, in songs, the words are set to music, but they both carry the power to affect our emotions. I was rereading Resistance by Jaye L. Knight recently and found the book altering my mindset. I’ll admit the sorry state of affairs our country is in often gets me down, and I have to work to keep my eyes on the Light and not the darkness inhabiting the world.

While Resistance is fantasy, and thus set in an fictional world with fictional events and characters, it gave me hope. The characters endure all types of trials and difficulties, some similar to what we may experience in the near future. What keeps the book from becoming dreary and depressing is the hope Knight infuses through the characters’ faith. I finished the book feeling encouraged. Just as the characters had hope because they knew Who was in control, I could have hope because I know nothing will happen outside of God’s plan.

That’s the power of words, which is why it is so, so important for writers to infuse their stories with hope. There’s nothing wrong with approaching heavier topics, or digging into how fallen and evil humanity is, but we cannot only include those topics. We must offer hope.

Hope can strengthen faith. Brighten an otherwise-difficult day. Provide a reminder that, though the world can and will worsen and grow even darker, the Believer’s end is not death, but eternal life with Christ.

I’m not saying don’t include heavy topics—merely, don’t let those themes be the only topics you include. If I did not include hope in my stories, they’d be too dismal to read.

Words are possibly the best medium through which to convey hope. Writers, we have been given a duty to infuse hope into our stories, no matter how heavy they may otherwise be. Our end goal should be to uplift and encourage, not depress.

Let’s guide our readers toward the Light, not the dark.

A Word About Writing Low-Star Reviews

Your fingers fly across the keyboard until, finally, you click that post button. A few seconds later, your review is available for all to see. In this review, you eagerly detailed your staunch dislike–or, perhaps, your deep hatred–for the book, it’s characters, plot, settings, and even, perhaps, the author. Now all you need to do is await the likes, comments of agreement, and the, “Oh! I’m never reading this book because of your review!” remarks.

Makes you feel good, doesn’t it? Your low-star review has just docked the author’s overall rating and it definitely lowered the book’s rating.

Here’s the thing. It may make you feel good, powerful, but that review? It’s poison.

An author’s heart and soul went into writing that book. They labored through dry spells, physical ailments, emotional trials, and nights of exhaustion that proved detrimental to their health. They know not everyone will like their book–it’s a given, and authors accept that.

You possess every right to dislike a book. You absolutely do not have the right to expel written vitriol. There is a code of ethics for writing reviews, and especially low-star reviews, though many have forgotten that code. You can express your displeasure in a Christlike, gentle manner. It will still sting the author, but it will not shred their heart and soul.

As Christians, we are called to be lights in this dark world. Low-star reviews like the one mentioned above? Those don’t reflect our light. They embrace the world’s standards: cruelty, hatred, and the pleasure derived from tearing someone down.

The Bible has plenty to say about words.

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. – Proverbs 12:18

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. – Ephesians 4:29

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

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! – James 3:5

It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person. – Matthew 15:11

We live in an age of technology where almost everything can be accomplished behind a screen. This is creating an atmosphere of emboldened ruthlessness, where we can say what we please without reaping the consequences. Gone are the days of duking it out via fistfights and recognizing words have the power to heal or destroy. Here are the days of gleeful grins and smug sneers as we post our latest demolishing review.

Those harsh reviews don’t make you look good. They make you look immature and emotionally weak. Are you so incapable of wrangling your emotions into order that you go on a rampage under the guise of a review?

Like I said, you have every right to dislike a book. What you do not have the right to do is use your words to cause harm.

And I’m seeing a lot of reviewers, professing “Christians” included, use their reviews to cause harm.

Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, this should not be.


Related Posts:

Too Much Faith?

Small but Powerful

Small but Powerful

My family has homemade oatmeal for breakfast. Sometimes, hulls are left in the oats. While I try to pick them out as I make the oatmeal, I often miss some. If you’ve ever had an oat hull stuck in your throat, you know they hurt. They’re sharp and difficult to dislodge. It takes a good amount of coughing and water to finally make them go down.

Just as the hull can cause a lot of discomfort and pain for something so small, so can words.

Lately, I’ve noticed a rash of hateful, cruel book reviews. Authors are lambasted and verbally flogged for the most asinine things. The plot is picked apart. The writing style is demeaned and made fun of. The reviewer complains about the most ludicrous “issues” just for the sake of complaining. Sometimes, these reviewers encourage others to partake in such unsavory behavior.

These reviews are full of what I call “gleeful hate”. You can just hear the reviewer’s satisfaction at writing that low-star, hateful review. It’s a power trip, in a way. They’ve written their review and the author can do nothing about the spite-filled words.

Words fall into two categories: the spoken word and the written word. The written word is a method by which words, intentions, and thoughts are conveyed through writing. The written word can be just as harmful as the spoken one. At these times, our fingers contain just as much power as the tongue.

Unfortunately, many of these reviews come from professing Christians. In fact, some of the most scathing reviews come from professing Christians.

Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, this ought not be so. Whether you’re speaking face-to-face, writing a review, or responding to someone through text or private message, remember words have power. With one word you can burn someone down. With one word you rebuild a broken spirit.

As Proverbs 12:18 states, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

We must careful how we use our words, whether written or spoken.

The written word can be just as harmful as the spoken one.


I hope to begin a series about book reviews: how to write them, the do’s and do not’s, what constructive criticism is and isn’t, how to write a tasteful low-star review (something that is sorely lacking, even amidst Christians), etc.. If you have questions regarding book reviews that you’d like addressed in this series, please leave a comment.

What’s the Difference? Blurb vs. Synopsis

Blurb and synopsis. Those words are seen often in writing communities. Chances are you’ve used them yourself. But do you really know what they mean? Are they interchangeable or complete opposites? And, most importantly, are you using them correctly?

As writers, it is important we know the lingo—the vernacular associated with this profession. Unfortunately, I have seen many writers who do not know the difference between a blurb and a synopsis.

A blurb and synopsis are not the same. They’re not congruent or synonymous. They do not serve the same purpose.

What is a Blurb?

A blurb, or back cover copy, is the 100-400 word description of a book. You often see it on the back of a book, although hardcovers sometimes place them on the front flap. The purpose of a blurb is to entice the reader. It is to convince and sway them to check out, pick up, or purchase your book.

What is a Synopsis?

I’ve seen this word used quite often, too often, in place of a blurb. A writer will say, “Here’s the synopsis of my latest book!”, never realizing they’re using incorrect terminology. And if a reader knows the difference between a blurb and a synopsis, they will cringe when they see this.

Let’s first cover what a synopsis is not. A synopsis is not a blurb. It is not meant to attract potential readers. It does not go on the back of your book or in the description space on retailers and book review sites. It’s not what reviewers post when they write their reviews and include what the book is about. It is not something your readers will ever read.

That is not a synopsis’ purpose.

A synopsis is an overview of your book. They are often one to three pages long, but some publishers request up to six pages. And those aren’t necessarily double-spaced pages. A synopsis is usually used to inform an agent or traditional publisher you have an outline for your book and you are able to bring it to resolution. It tells the agent what happens at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. It tells them whether or not they want to take a chance on you.

Indie writers needn’t worry about forming a synopsis to send with a proposal, but it is a good idea to write a synopsis anyway, as doing so reveals weak spots in your plot. Don’t worry about it sounding terrible, because it will. Most writers abhor synopses (I personally prefer writing them over blurbs). It’s merely to assist you in finding weak areas in your story.

To read more about what a synopsis is (plural, synopses), go here.

In summation, a blurb is 100-400 pages long, is placed on the back of a book, and is used to entice potential readers. A synopsis is from one to six pages long and provides an overview of your plot from beginning to end.


I am beginning a new series titled, What’s the Difference, where I address the differences between anything writing-related. If you have a writing-related question that would fit into this series, or you’d like to know the difference between anything writing-related, drop a comment.

Writer to Writer: Advice and Encouragement from Fellow Authors and Writers

Writing is not an easy process. It’s hard, feels impossible at times, and is far too easy to call it quits. When those hard days, weeks, months, or years strike, and you feel like you should give up writing or scrap your project, or if you just need some encouragement when the words aren’t coming, here are several writerly wisdoms of advice and encouragement from fellow authors and writers who’ve been in the same predicaments.

Many thanks to the wonderful authors and writers who contributed. Your insight is invaluable.


A couple of tips that I have found helpful are to never, ever give up. You have a message and it needs to be read. Secondly, connect with other writers and people in the industry. With social media, it’s easier than ever these days.

Penny Zeller, Author

My advice is to remember why you write. As Christians we write for God first. Keep that in mind. That will solve a lot of self-doubts right there. Then remember the message and why it’s important to you. And remember who you want to reach. Just remember.

Rayna Lynn, Author

Don’t be afraid to write a first draft that you may never use. It’s all practice, and it’s not wasted.

– Mary, Writer

Know your first draft will need work. And that. is. o. k. You will have to rewrite. And that is perfectly normal. It will probably take you a lot of time to make anything really good. And that’s totally fine. Lots of the great writers produced their masterpieces when more advanced in age. On the flip side… you can’t be perfect. Don’t strive for perfection. Strive for your best. You’ll never be perfect, and that’s fine. No one, not even the experts, are perfectly satisfied with their writing. You don’t need perfect. You just need your best. And that’s good enough

Two last things: It’s okay if your voice is different from others. And rules are in place for a good reason and you should consider them carefully, but when you seriously think that breaking a rule is better, then do it. You know your style and your story.

Katja H. Labonté , Author

The biggest lesson I’ve learned in writing, is that there is no ‘right way’ when it comes to writing. We’re all so unique with our backgrounds and strengths and personalities, it makes sense how we write is also individual. Learning to embrace that, to listen to ideas and leave what doesn’t work…that’s been huge. And that we’re all a work in progress, and giving each other grace is the best gift we can give .

MaryAnna Rose, Author

The biggest help I’ve found is to turn off my internal editor for the first draft. I will try to do writing sprints for 20-25 minutes to focus just on producing, without worrying about looking up some detail and getting distracted. If I get it on the page, I have something to work with and edit. I can’t work with a blank sheet.

Jason Joyner, Author

My advice would be to keep trying different things until you find out what works best for you. For example, if you start out writing by pantsing, give plotting a try if you’re finding out your stories have plot holes or if you’re having trouble finding the ending. Or the flip side would be, if plotting sucks the joy out of writing, try pantsing and see if that brings excitement back to your writing.

Jen Rose, Writer

Be passionate about the story you’re writing! That’s the best – and, in fact, the only – way to write something that will change readers’ lives and draw them closer to Christ. I’ve learned that if there’s a story that’s always on you’re heart, that you’re always thinking about (even in your subconscious), that you’re always feeling an urge to pray about – well, that’s the story God is calling you to write. And if we write to honor God, we’ll want to write what He wants us to write. We’ll have all the fun that way, too!

Joy C. Woodbury, Writer

Some writerly wisdom I’ve learned is to not push yourself. Pushing yourself and forcing your story to be written can be bad. But, I’ve also learned that people are different; so pushing yourself may be exactly what you need. I think my biggest piece of advice would be to figure out what best suits you and go for that.

– Kenzie, Writer

Don’t let yourself be swayed by the criticism of readers who are NOT your target audience! If you are confused or hurt by negative feedback, go to the people who DO like your writing style and ask their opinion. Not everyone likes every writing style, and it’s more important to really nail the preferences of your target audience than to try to please everyone.

Chelsea Burden, Author

The first draft isn’t going to be great. It’s just not. But you have to start somewhere. And feedback is a GOOD thing. It helps your writing be better. And it’s not a condemnation of you as a person. You have worth and value regardless of how poorly or well you write. You could never write another word and still have no less value in God’s sight.

– Nathan Peterson, Author

My advice would be completely surrender your book to God. His will for the book is so much better than we can imagine! It might not mean it’ll be a bestseller, but it means God will be with you as you write your story, and even if your story doesn’t work out, you can get to know God better while working on the story if you give it all to Him.

Also, don’t have unrealistic expectations, and be willing to take a break and muse on your story from time to time.

– Charis, Author

3) Write a lot. Practice writing whenever you can, whether you feel like your work is a masterpiece or garbage. The more you write, the more your skills improve. (2) Read a lot. Read books both in and outside of your genre by authors you want to emulate. Notice everything. You’ll learn so much about writing by reading quality books. (1) Pray and meditate on God’s Word day and night. Let God write the book through you. As you seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, all these things shall be added unto you.

Erika Matthews, Author

Write consistently. Writing on a consistent basis—whether that’s daily, weekly, or monthly is much easier (at least for me) than sporadic writing. When I’m writing consistently, I find the story flows much better, I have more fun, and I actually remember details from the book I’m working on. Because when I’m not writing on a regular basis, I lose momentum in my project (and forget what the story’s about).

Kristina Hall, Author

Two things I can think of right off. First was a piece of advice I heard from a speaker at a Christian writers’ conference: A writer has to be willing to walk down the street naked (not literally); in other words, a writer must be completely vulnerable. Second, I kind of disagree with the old advice, “Write what you know about.” I would add to that, “Don’t limit ‘what you know’ to your 5 senses.” I write about spiritual warfare and allegories, because I “know about” these things from my personal experience. Similarly, we are so blessed in this day and age with information about ANYTHING at our fingertips! Don’t let anyone tell you there is anything you’re not allowed to write about because of your lack of “experience”. Finally, I recently read a quote from C. S. Lewis that I love: Write about what really interests you, whether it is real things or imaginary things, and nothing else.

Sarah Earlene Shere, Author

You can’t please everyone, so stop trying to. Write what God has given you, no matter who doesn’t like it (including yourself).Yes, you need thick skin in this business. But don’t pretend the rejections are painless. Even if they’re not technically, they’re going to feel personal. It’s ok. It’s ok to hurt. JUST DON’T STAY THERE!

Erudessa Goodman, Author


Which pieces of advice helped you? I know all of them reminded or taught me something. What is a piece of advice or encouragement someone has blessed you with regarding your writing?

Write with courage, write with confidence, write with conviction. And, above all else, remember Who you write for.