Writing Q&A

A few days ago, I posted I would answer any writing questions you had, and today is that day. Thank you to all who posed questions. I had fun answering them, and I hope they help.


Do you have a method for coming up with names for countries/places in fantasy?

– Kristina

If the name doesn’t come to me, I wait until I know the topography, geography, or what the land is known for. Then I search through specific words in different languages and usually combine a few. For example, Marteris in The Redwyn Chronicles is so named because mare means “water” in numerous different languages. I took the first three letters and slapped on a suffix.

How do you deal with magic in a Christian fantasy?


When it comes to magic, you’re going to find readers fall into two categories: those who hate it and those who are fine with it. There is a common misconception that every fantasy book must have magic, and that’s simply not true. There is a specific genre called Kingdom Fantasy, which is nonmagical fantasy.

In my opinion, there are two acceptable ways to portray magic. One, to have it be a literal gift from God, and two, to address it the way Donita K. Paul does, where it points back to Him. I can’t really explain her method, as it’s pure ingeniousness, so I’m just going to tell you to go read her Dragonkeeper books.

What are your tips on creating fascinating storyworlds?


Have fun! Be zany. What seems odd to us could be normal for your characters. Think about the small things. Do they know what cows are? Do they have pet lions? Do they live in the desert and have never seen the ocean? Do they primarily reside underground? Do different lands have different physical features and characteristics? Even a few minor things can create a host of unique differences. In The Redwyn Chronicles, they’re all human, but Veerhamers only have blond/e and red hair and aren’t known for their fighting skills. Marterises are both black and white and enjoy fish. Frilorans live in the mountains, and Halthdurnites are called wolfmen because they raise and hunt with wolves. Small things, really, but they make each group unique.

What’s your advice on how to create a fantasy story that’s low on magic but still inspires wonder?


One of the most common fantasy-related fallacies is you need magic.

You don’t.

And this is coming from a nonmagical fantasy author.

You can use worldbuilding to inspire wonder. Breathtaking scenery, a solid plot, and a good faith element are all you need to strike the hearts of your readers. There is wonder in our world, and it’s not hard to miss. Capitalize on that. When I look outside, I’m amazed by the thick wall of snowflakes, which bring them them a sense of peace and wonder when the wind’s not howling. Trekking through the mountains, dwarfed by lodgepole pines swaying in the breeze evokes an emotion I cannot name. Rising early in the morning and walking down to look at the mountain lake on a cold day enables you to see the fog either rolling in or drifting away over far hills and trees.

Just as there’s wonder and beauty in everyday life, so can there be in your nonmagical fantasy story. Take the everyday. Take a meadowlark’s melody, the rustle of leaves in the wind, or the gentle plunking of rain, and incorporate that. Your readers will comprehend it even better because they’ve likely experienced that themselves.

Where do you draw inspiration for your worlds?


I draw inspiration from everywhere. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve interrupted my sister, whether she’s snarking at me or being a goof, with an idea. Half of the ideas in my idea document are from her, and she inspired a certain character in Shattered Reflection. You can gather inspiration from the outdoors, from scrolling Pinterest, from exercising and listening to music, to studying historical events.

How truly important is it to make the world unique and never-been-done-before?


You need at least one unique element, but that can come from your plot. Unless you have the inspiration, or the plot calls for it, don’t spend hours worrying over creating a “never-been-done” world.

How can I take inspiration from other cultures to make a congruent world that doesn’t feel like it was mismatched and totally random?


This is one of the funnest aspects of worldbuilding. You can take Romanesque culture and plop it in the desert. Take African culture and put them in the mountains or on the beach. Of course, if fish is big in an African culture and they live in the desert, then you’d have to eliminate that to make it congruent, but there is a ton of maneuverability with this.

What sources do you prefer to use and would recommend (i.e sites/books/etc?)


The Inside Scoop by Janet Kolobel Grant and Wendy Lawton is fantastic, and the Emotion Thesauri are great too. I have a list of free resources here and joining a group like Writer’s Vision helps too. Plus, you can always ask other authors for advice. Other than that, I haven’t really “delved into the sources”. What I know is garnered from years of reading and studying how other authors write, worldbuild, craft characters, etc. But there are a lot of writing resources out there.

What are your best tips for worldbuilding? How do you normally approach creating a fantasy world?



How do you narrow the focus down/simplify things to make worldbuilding manageable?


Some of my above answers work into this. I’d say know the faith and if they have Bibles or not, use small elements to create unique places and people, and think about our world and what makes different areas unique. Focus on geography, leadership/government (royalty, republic, clans, tribes, whatever), and what weather and terrain come with that geography. Probably the tip I place most emphasis on is to not feel like you have to know every aspect. You’ll know more for some worlds than others, and that’s fine.

As for creating a fantasy world, there are two different steps you can take. One is to print out and fill in a form you can find online; there are many different ones. Some go so far as to ask what jokes are unique to that land/world. The other is the method I take. I make a list of imports, exports, faith, leadership, government, what the people look like, and clothing styles.

Different things work for different writers, so don’t place yourself in a box. Explore and see what jives best with your writing personality.


How do you make a fantasy story that isn’t preachy but still has Christian themes?


Actually, the “preachier” a book is, the more I laud it, but I understand the question. Interspersing prayers, like when they’re grateful for or scared of something, makes it natural, as does if they have daily devotions or go to church or have questions about their faith. Have your character(s) approach it like you would. That’s be best method I’ve found. What happens in real life are often the best methods for addressing faith in fiction. Don’t shy from having those faith talks, where your character(s) speak with a trusted mentor or pastor, but you don’t need to have it be half of every chapter. Do remember that “preachy” has a different level and meaning to everyone. The most important thing is to not shy from including your faith and to strive to honor God with every chapter you write.

How does one incorporate Christianity into a fictional world without it becoming stuffy/formulaic?

– Grayce

“Stuffy/Formulaic” can mean two different things:

One, those rote prayers you hear in certain churches and the “feelings” only garbage infecting the modern church and worship.

Two, the despicable, abominable lie that “too much Christianity” is off-putting.

Stay away from the first one. That’s unbiblical in so many ways.

But the second? Okay, I understand. You don’t want a sermon taking up half the book. But to call a redemption theme, a lot of prayers, or heavy reliance upon a character’s faith stuffy or too much? That is a bald-faced lie the enemy uses to dissuade Christian writers from pouring all of their heart and faith into a book.

Yes, have it be natural. Base if off your own faith walk. But, as a Christian writer, our mission should be to present the Gospel and proclaim our faith in our books. Nothing more. Nothing less. To quote from an Aaron Shust song, “Everything I say and do, let it be all for You.” Some books will have more faith content than others, and that’s okay. Your book isn’t less Christian if it doesn’t have a salvific theme.

But never, ever buy into that atrocious, deplorable, wretched lie that you need to water down your faith or not include too much because it will “offend” others. Christians who complain about “too much faith” in books will answer for their disdain for the Word. Let your faith pour out. Let it be natural. And never let the world or other readers dictate what is too much.

After all, you’re not writing for them. You’re writing for Him and Him alone.

How can you write a book with Christian themes that doesn’t only appeal to Christians?


I’m unsure if this question addresses “clean” fiction only or Christian fiction that unbelievers will want to read.

If you’re writing Christian fiction you want unbelievers to want to read as well, all I can tell you is God alone determines who reads your books, whether that’s believers or unbelievers. A lot of “clean” readers are willing to read Christian books, even if they themselves are not part of the flock. It’s kind of a crossover.


What are your favorite ways to add depth to a character?


You can add depth to characters by studying those around you. On the surface and during first interactions/impressions, people can appear single-facted. But everyone has a motivator, everyone has a dream, everyone has been shaped by past pain and disappointments. Knowing at least two of those, in regards to your character, will help add depth. I also, personally, find a character song for them. Doing this can really help you figure out your character’s struggles, yearnings, and fears. Bottom of a Heartbreak by Needtobreathe is Denton Yindell’s, and I must say it is totally him. Whenever you are having a hard time writing that character, you can return to that character song, and it will provide inspiration.

Do you usually use Pinterest to find a character (picture wise)? Or do you think of a name first, THEN picture someone in your head or find a picture that fits what you’re thinking of?


Both, honestly. It all depends on the character and if they’ve already come with a name. Don’t allow an either/or method to trip you up. Both can work equally well.

Sometimes I know a character’s place in my book, but not their name or appearance, and I’ll go looking to see on Pinterest if I can find what they look like, then seek a name to fit the look. Other times they come with a name, or I find a name, and then go looking for their appearance. And yet other times I have a name and find what the character looks like, but it doesn’t fit the name. So I change the name. That’s what happened to Marcus in The Shattered Lands. I had a picture of how I envisioned him looking like, but it didn’t match the current name, which was Grayson. So I changed his name.

Naming a character can be quite the complicated process.

What are your tips for writing a character whose arc spans a whole series?


Make them grow slowly and have something they need to overcome in each book until their character arc is complete in the final book.

Do your characters determine the plot, or do you build them based off of the plot?


Every author is different, but the outcome is usually the same. So whatever’s coming to you in that regard, go with it.

I begin with building them based off the plot, but they usually go their own way by a quarter of the book. It’s inevitable unless you’re one of the few authors who can wrangle your characters into compliance to what you already have in mind.

What’s your process for figuring out a character’s backstory?


I base it off the plot. An idea comes, then I determine which characters need to be incorporated, then what placed them there in the first place.

Do you have any tips for writing complex villains (especially on how to balance their humanity with their badness?)


I would advise you to understand your villain’s motivation. Is it greed? Anger? Revenge? And do they have a family? A prized pet? A hobby they enjoy? Even those who desire world-domination have one of those three things. Don’t water down their evil, but give them a driving force.


When other people are editing your work, how do you know when is too much? Like how to know that you aren’t using your original tone and voice as an author?


This is a good question, and definitely one you should keep in mind whenever you hire an editor.

A good editor’s job is not to eliminate or alter your voice; it is to help you improve by pointing out flaws (e.g. if you need to use more conjunctions in lieu of a bunch of short sentences). I would say too much/trying to alter your voice is when they’re attempting to have you completely “recreate” your story. Not missing scenes or whatnot, but a complete re-mastering of how you string together words and impart emotion.

Now, on the flip side, editors are paid to tell you if something’s not working. For instance, there is a common “acceptance” of this style of writing: “I sat up. Groaned.” That is an extremely amateurish and poor style for a variety of reasons, so if the editor is telling you to stop that, then heed their wisdom. They’re only trying to help you avoid a catastrophic writing pitfall in this instance.

In short, everyone has their own voice. If you think an editor is telling you how to completely change your voice, pray, read their suggestions with fresh eyes, and get input from someone who knows your writing well—like a family member or close beta.


What are your best tips for editing? What do you do to not get overwhelmed by the editing process? Any and all tips are greatly appreciated!


Take it slow and steady on editing. You’ll need to do multiple phases and rounds, but don’t let that irritate you too much (because editing is aggravating). Leave yourself plenty of time if you can, at least two, three months, so you don’t rush. Here’s a list of different types of edits, so you can see what you need to do in each.

How long do you recommend a draft sitting before diving into edits?


The optimal time is three to four months so you “forget” the story and are able to see it with fresh eyes. Sometimes even longer is better.

What are the main questions you focus on when doing developmental edits on books?


As defined by Mountain Peak Edits & Design, Developmental Editing,

Focuses at the broad range, or “big picture” of your writing project.

Look for:

  • General plot and character inconsistencies
  • Lagging areas – also known as a stalemate and if your writing is going 15 mph in a 45 mph zone. Basically, if your writing is too slow for the plot.
  • Chapters and paragraphs to see if they’re the right length and location based on the general flow of your story.
  • Flow – I look for potholes and speed bumps in your writing.
  • General syntax and grammar – if you have a pet word or consistently misuse or misunderstand homophones.

So you need to ask yourself 1) are there any inconsistencies, 2) does anything feel slow and if so, does it require alteration or elimination 3) does this chapter need to be combined with another or separated into two, 4) are any sentences choppy, and 5) is there a word or phrase you have adopted as your favorite word or phrase?

How do you know when to cut out a scene?


Cutting a scene is like removing your own limb. It hurts.

You’ll know when to cut if the scene just doesn’t fit, is nice to read but doesn’t go anywhere, or if your alpha and beta readers tell you it needs to go.


What are some good free fantasy fonts?


I will always recommend Cinzel. It is a font for all genres. Classy, but adaptable no matter the cover. There are two primary versions of Cinzel: Cinzel and Cinzel Decorative. The issue with Cinzel Decorative is it can easily become too much, as it contains extra tags and flourishes. The first letters in the author name on this book cover are in Cinzel Decorative, and the author name on this book cover is in regular Cinzel. You can mix and match for an elegant, yet classy combination, or strictly stick to Cinzel.

Where do you look for images (of people, landscapes, etc.) to use for covers? Any copyright stuff we should know about?


The two stock sites I use are Adobe and Shutterstock. These are not free and you will have to pay, but if you’re seriously into cover design, one or the other is worth it. My primary go-to is Adobe, where I have a subscription. Better to pay $320 a year (this is why covers cost at least $50) than $70 an image. That can turn terribly pricey when I sometimes use pieces from three different models for a “final” outcome.

Yes. Violating copywrite policies is called copyright infringement, and can land you in serious trouble. Be extremely careful if you take images from Pexels or Pixabay. In fact, aside from vectors, I wouldn’t recommend it if you can help it. Always research copyright laws when you are looking at a site that’s not Adobe, Shutterstock, or one of the other image-purchase sites.

Do you have some sort of app you use to design covers? I would love to get into that as a hobby, but I’m not sure what sort of app or service to use…


I personally use Picmonkey. It’s not “high-end” like Adobe Photoshop, but it’s a solid near high-end that doesn’t cost as much and is so much easier to use.

Now, the type of covers you’re interested in designing determines whether you should go with Canva or a design program like Picmonkey.

In Canva, you can create what I call “cutsey” covers, like the Imagine Anthology. They’re nice covers, but definitely a certain niche that fits only a certain type of book. When it fits, they’re adorable. So if your book falls into that niche, go with Canva.

If you’re looking for a design program where you can blend, shadow, recolor/dye, brighten, darken, tint, and more, then you’ll want to go with Picmonkey. Kimberly Burkhardt’s cover for Apple of His Eye (also designed by yours truly), is an example of dying, positioning, shadowing, and brightening. I dyed the model’s hair, put a slight yellow tint to her so she looked like she was in the sun, shadowed the grass behind her to create realism, and positioned her to the side before making it look like she was actually in the grass and not pasted on over it.

So it all depends on what look you’re going for. Both Picmonkey and Canva have their place.

Did you have to take classes to learn how to design a cover?


No, you don’t. While many advise it, you don’t need to. In fact, these days, the more you can stay away from colleges, the better off you are.

What are the “rules” for choosing fonts that work together?


The rule of thumb is no more than two fonts on the cover. Now, on the back cover you should use a legible font for the blurb. I prefer Lora, but chances are I won’t use Lora on the front. If you do use two fonts, do not make both of them gorgeous and calligraphic. That reduces legibility and makes it difficult for people to read. One Serif font and one calligraphic if you do decide to combine. Sans serif typically doesn’t go well with fiction, although certain fonts in that font family can work. So stick with Serif.

What do you wish you had known when first starting to design a cover?


I wish I had known that a good cover takes time. Slapping font on a background usually doesn’t create a quality cover others will want to buy.

What’s your process for designing a cover from scratch?


It begins with inspiration. If I’m making a premade, I usually concoct an idea when I’m scrolling through images and see a model and background I think would look good together. If you’re creating a cover for yourself, the first few things to ask are what/who do you want on the front, what colors convey the mood of your story, and what font and font placement would look best. I usually work on the model first (swap ‘n chops, clothing coloring, hair dye, etc.) before bringing in the background, but that’s a personal preference and every designer will be different.

What’s one big mistake you newbie cover designers make, and how can they fix it?


Just one mistake? I would say poor font selection. If you want to negatively mark yourself as an indie author, use scrawling font for your name. On the book title, that works sometimes. But not your name. Use clear, professional fonts like Cinzel and don’t have it be microscopic and tucked in a corner. Please don’t do that.

What are some of the biggest mistakes you notice in cover designs?


Aside from the above answer, size comparison and scale are the major issues I notice. Babies are not as big as the adults in real life, nor are they just happily floating above the grass. This drives me up the wall and then some, and my family is subjected to my rants whenever I see that error. It doesn’t look good. Ensure you take time and pour care and refinement into your cover.

Make sure the heads, if you do chop ‘n swaps, are the correct size, and not too big or small. If something is “closer” to the reader, then it will be bigger. (So a wagon in the background is smaller than the woman in the foreground.) Make sure heads don’t look like they’re on backward. Make sure hands aren’t too big/small. Also make sure you make the garments as modest and era-appropriate as possible.


What publishing companies have you used for your books? Do you recommend any for those seeking publication for the first time (aka, me)?


I actually self-publish. Now, my story in Seize the Love is published by Abbigail Harris’ company, but as far as I know, it’s not accepting submissions except through her Seize the World anthologies.

If you’re looking for traditional publishers, you can try Enclave and Ambassador International. To my knowledge, they’re the only two real ones who accept Christian unagented submissions, unless you write historical romance and want to look at Wild Hearts (but you’d need a huge platform for that).

I’m not going into much detail on this quite yet, but there is a Christian fantasy anthology publisher in the works. If all goes according to plan this year, there will be another group to which you can submit your novellas for theme-specific collections.

Collections and anthologies are a good way to start out. My first published work is A Past to Bear, which is featured in Whitstead Harvestide. I didn’t have to pay for the cover, but I had to go through the edits they wanted and learn how to promote. It was fun.


Sooooo I have a subplot in between a fantasy setting- from friends to lovers, and none of the actual plot can progress until they get into a relationship. How do I write a natural, realistic progression, that’s clean, not cliche, and concise enough so that it still remains the subplot?


Ah, one of my favorite tropes! I would recommend to have any subplots supporting the plot, and likewise, to have the plot affect the subplot. Do occurrences draw them together? How do those occurrences affect both subplot and overarching plot? Cliche can be good in some ways, so I wouldn’t direct too much worry that way. You can always go back in and clean it up/switch it, if you feel the need.

In Shattered Reflection, Breac and Layree (spoiler to those who’ve not yet read it), end up together. Their romance is a subplot, and they go from wary allies to friends to more. The feelings need to grow as the story progresses and they need to exhibit those changing feelings through their actions and words. Breac makes Layree a sword, something he wouldn’t do for anyone but his family (and he is an awkward bean at best, so that kind of said what he couldn’t figure out how to speak). Let their actions be in tune with the plot, and let the overall plot help guide the subplot.

I hope that helped. I know what to say in my head, but my fingers get in the way.

What advice would you give an author who is just starting a blog?

– Grayce

Publish book reviews, participate in cover reveals, and comment on others’ blogs. Not because it gains you something, but because it’s the nice and right thing to do. It will take time to build your platform, but don’t get discouraged. It took me seven years to reach one hundred subscribers on this blog. Actively seek connections (which I didn’t do) and be willing to help celebrate others’ victories and accomplishments.

How do you keep motivation while writing on a deadline?


I have a contract with Amazon, and breaking that contract would destroy my writing for the next year, so that is the driving motivator.

For normal people who don’t work themselves into corners, preorders, awaiting readers, and the eagerness to get your baby out to the world are usually the primary motivators.

What is your favorite thing about writing fairytale retellings?


My favorite things are infusing in faith and exceeding the typical plots and boundaries of retellings. I have absolutely nothing against traditional retellings, in fact, I enjoy reading them. But there’s something thrilling about putting logic where there’s originally magic, expanding the plot, and making it more. No one thought a Snow Queen retelling could be written without magic, but it’s quite possible, and I immensely enjoyed delving into the medical aspect. Putting more to the Cinderella retelling, IRON, was fantastically fun as well.

What are your best tips for writing retellings?


My first tip is to add something unique. Yes, yes, we all know Cinderella gets locked up. A unique element could be changing where she gets locked up (or he, in Carter’s case). Don’t be afraid to go beyond the usual. Make your world incorporate the retelling, not your retelling incorporate the world. Things are still happening when the fairytale is going on.

What are your tips for narrowing down on a certain aesthetic for a website?


When considering an aesthetic, you need to examine your platform and genres you write. If you pen suspense, you’ll not be wanting flowery and romantic. You’ll want bold, solid colors, like navy or forest green paired with white or gray. If you’re into romance, you’ll want muted pastels, perhaps with a floral or delicate design. Neither of those aesthetics work for my platform, so I have fantasy mountains, since I write fantasy. It’s all in your platform and what you write. Your aesthetic needs to match your primary genre.

Was any of that information helpful? If you have more questions, please feel free to drop them in the comment section!

What aesthetic fits you? What’s your favorite genre to read and/or write?


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?

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.

Your Writing Influence, Part One – A Reminder for Writers Part Two

“I figured since you listened to it, it’s fine.”

That sentence, so casually spoken by my younger sister, made my stomach drop. True, the song was fine. The artist was fine. But it was a brutal reminder I am always being watched. Studied. Emulated. I’m always influencing.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been in some form of leadership, whether it’s being a big sister; coaching my sister’s soccer team or playing on volleyball, basketball, or soccer teams myself; somehow being the one those in my homeschool group assumed was the leader; being the one friends talked to and sought advice from regarding topics ranging from boys to potentially life-threatening struggles; the one whose shoulder friends cried on; and the one whom my sisters’ friends looked and listened to during the homeschool co-op days.

More so, my sister always watches. Listening how I react when I’m impatient, angry, frustrated, tense, or in dealing with those I dislike. Watching how I approach, deconstruct, and argue against the unending slew of unbiblical causes and ideas the world pushes in our faces and demands we accept. Seeing what I watch, read, say, and listen to.

Dear writer, maybe you aren’t a leader. Maybe you’re content being the one who follows that person leading the charge and shouting the battle cry. Maybe you don’t want to be a leader. The thought of people watching your every move and listening to your every word, the thought of people placing you in a high enough position that your actions and deeds influence them may give you chills or make you nauseous. That’s okay. The world needs both leaders and followers.

But, fellow writer, though you may not be too keen on being a leader – or even if the thought doesn’t bother you – there’s a serious reality check you must realize.

You are a leader.

You are being watched.

Your words and the things and topics you advocate for and advise against are influencing others.

Whether you blog, write books, or do both, you are a leader. Your writing holds influence. Whether your platform is massive or has ten followers, you are a leader. People read your words.

With the written word, we influence others. Just think about the authors and bloggers that influence you. Do you hang on their every word? Devour what they write? I can guarantee you’ve been influenced in some way by their books, blogs, or social media posts.

Just as we are influenced by the written word, so do we influence others.

The thought of just one person being influenced by our writing can be both thrilling and terrifying. That’s why it’s so important to comprehend our influence. Not how far it reaches, or how powerful it is, for regardless of which end you are on, you still influence. No, comprehending influence is coming to the realization that we have the ability to alter lives, thoughts, actions, views, and hearts.

Leadership is not easy. It’s gritty, hard, and requires we watch what we say and do. With one word, whether written or verbal, we can change a life. With one action, whether seen or mentioned in a post or blog, we encourage others to do as we do.

The Bible is clear about the ramifications of leadership failure. Matthew 18:6 says, “[W]hoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea”.

Christ is speaking of causing children to stumble, but the point is clear. If we cause others to stumble and sin, it’d be better to have a millstone around our neck and drown. Look up a millstone. The best swimmer or the world’s strongest man couldn’t swim with one of those things around their neck.

The Bible also says in James 3:1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly”.

Yes, leaders have it hard, and God will hold us to higher standards because we possess the potential to lead others astray. Let me be clear on this: we have no control over those who follow us. We cannot control what they believe, say, or do. If they’re nasty, that’s not on us. What this speaks of is knowingly encouraging others to follow or believe that which is contrary to God’s word.

To this I must issue a solemn warning: be careful who/what you recommend. How can our writing influence others for the truth when we ourselves are lead astray?

In this age of internet, technology, hand-held devices, and speakers, teachers, and organizations galore, we are bombarded with words and falsehoods disguised as truth. Unfortunately, not everyone or every group beneath the Christian umbrella is as they claim to be. Remember these verses:

And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” – Matthew 24: 11

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” – 2 Peter 2:1-3

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

These are but a few reminders that not everyone who says they’re a Christian really is. We cannot see the hearts of men, nor declare in general who is and who is not saved, but we can get a pretty good idea on those who are wolves in sheep’s wool based on their actions. Namely, what they preach, who they elevate and join with, and what they do.

Consider who and what influences you. What do they say? What do they do? Who do they recommend deserves your following based on who they link hands with?

We need to be careful, fellow writers. We influence others, yes, but one source of influence must come from another. How and what we influence others with springs from who and what influences us.

Matthew 7:13-14 speaks of two gates, one wide and one narrow. The wide one leads to destruction, but is traversed by many. The narrow one leads to life, but is entered by few. There are many so-called Christian groups and organizations who, unfortunately, have not entered the narrow gate. Now, recall what I said above. Only God knows if someone is saved, but we can get a decent idea if they are or aren’t based on their actions.

There are many who do not align with God and His word. The following groups and names are but a few of those who, regrettably, do not align with God. Be wary of the songs they sing and the messages they speak.

  • Elevation Worship
  • Bethel
  • Hillsong
  • Cory Asbury
  • Joyce Meyer
  • Beth Moore
  • Andy Stanley
  • The Gospel Coalition
  • Tim Keller
  • JD Grear
  • Rick Warren
  • Priscilla Shrier
  • Todd White

Please, do not take my word for it. One quality of a good leader is to go to the source and investigate for themselves. Research these individuals and organizations. Protestia and Reformation Charlotte have some good articles about false teachers and heretics.

There are many secular groups that demand we adhere to their unbiblical views as well. It’s okay to allow secular influences influence you, but be cautious. Be very cautious. Many organizations/groups/whatever-other-categories-they-fall-into are not okay. Some may look like it on the surface, but you don’t need to dig very deep to understand they’re antiBible, antiGod, and antifaith.

Be careful. Not all that is popular is good. When we take what someone or a group says as truth, and forego being a Berean, we run the weighty risk of letting that influence us. It leaks into our writing, thereby leading others astray. And, as we saw in the aforementioned verses, it is not a good thing if we lead others astray.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”. Dear writers, if our hearts are tainted, through our writing we will taint others.

Leading is scary, especially when you didn’t ask to be put in that position. But we shouldn’t be afraid to lead. Our words can bless, guide, and influence others for the better. As I’ve contemplated this post, it has occurred to me that writing is an extension of the writer’s heart. What we believe, struggle with, hate, love, and hold dear will emerge. Readers will pick up on that and be influenced by it. We must guard our own hearts and minds, for by doing so we can help others guard theirs.

We will not be perfect leaders. We will not be perfect writers. We cannot control who follows us, who we influence. But if we focus on keeping our writing centered around God and His Truth, we need not worry about leading others astray. Take encouragement in that, and do not be afraid to influence others.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include at least one song. Why? Because Madi is a music freak and believes songs can teach valuable lessons and provide oft-needed reminders.

In “Lions” by Skillet, John Cooper sings, “We’re not waiting for permission/We defy our inhibition/ Like our middle name is “fearless”/ Unafraid“.

Fellow writers, be fearless. Be unafraid. Realize God has given you the honor of influencing others for His glory. Charge ahead in your writing. Be courageous and bold as you write for Him.

You have these words, this desire to write, for a reason. Use them. Pray for God’s will to be revealed. And, above all else, dedicate your writing to Him. He will guide you and your writing journey. Write every word according to truth, according to the Bible.

Next week, Lord willing, I will have Part Two of this up about how to be a leader. If you have thoughts to add, experience or wisdom to contribute, questions about the false teachers/heretics listed above, questions about other artists or groups, or just want to discuss the struggle of knowing you influence others (or, if you just want to discuss life in general), I’d love to connect and talk with you. Let’s encourage each other as we walk together and strive to write for Him.


Your Writing Future

Your Writing Future – A Reminder for Writers, Part One

“I don’t know what my writing future holds.”

This is a paraphrase of what I’ve seen several of my blogging friends say. It echoes something I too often feel and face: uncertainty regarding my writing future. At times, it gets so bad I allow this fear of the unknown, this uncertainty, to dictate what and how I write. Numerous stories are currently abandoned because I didn’t think they were good enough. When I sit down and place my fingers on the keyboard, I have to fight the questions often lingering in the back of my mind. Is this book any good? Will I actually finish this one? What if I receive another rejection? What if permanent writer’s block hits and I can’t get past it? What if it’s just a sloppy, weak story overall? It’s nothing like the books I love and have on my shelves.

These questions are crippling, and I know many writers have faced them head-on and lost, myself included. Since reading a friend’s post a few days ago, this has been on my heart. This post might be rough and might seem like I’m inundating you with verses and songs, and am rambling all over the place, but I’m praying I can transfer what I’ve been ruminating on into clear paragraphs and sentences so those of you who struggle with this can find help and encouragement as we travel this road together.

Not knowing can be nebulous, unsettling, and stressful. It can cause fear and that sinking feeling in your stomach as you contemplate the unknown. We bear this burning passion to write, to create, to weave stories and tales that touch others, but that passion comes with the crippling kryptonite we know as fear.

Oh, it may not feel like fear at first, but that is the root of it. Fear of what we do not know. Fear that our writing may go nowhere. Fear that our writing career will sink before it ever sets sail. We long to know that what we’re doing today will make a difference tomorrow. That these words emerging from the depths of our hearts, souls, and minds will bless others.

We humans are foolishly silly. We think we can control the future. Doing so would be nice, we think, being able to decide when we finish our books, how popular they’ll be, and how our writing careers will go. That stems from a desire to control, which is a branch from the tree of fear. Not knowing the future unsettles us. We want to reach out and create our future like we create the worlds we write. We want tie it in a nice bow and place it in a safe only we can access – all because we want things to go our way. How we want them to. We don’t want to question, to wonder, what tomorrow, the next week, and year, and the next decade will bring. We want to know in advance so we can plan.

In that desire, we derail ourselves. We get off the track we need to be on and crown ourselves queen or king of our writing future.

Reality check: we’re not. The crown we wear is one of our own making. It is superficial and, ultimately, will lead us nowhere.

I’ve donned my crown many times, thinking by my writing ability alone will I succeed, will I impress a publisher or acquisitions editor. I forget to align my heart with the One who created it. I forget that He was the one who gave me this desire to write. I forget that only though His will will I ever publish a book.

On the other hand, a crippling fear and anxiety can grip my heart. I’m not good enough. What if I fail? Will I no longer have a chance at success? It’s an odd dichotomy, this rancid pride and this debilitating fear of what the future may hold.

I’m the type who likes to control everything. I like everything neatly organized and where it should be. Heaven help the soul who dares mess up the order of things. Because of this, I want to control my writing future. When I can’t foresee what will happen, or where my writing is going, that fear rises. When I think I have a decent WIP, that pride reemerges.

In my effort to reassure myself I can do this, I place a chain on my writing. I hinder it by my inane delusions that Madisyn is the one who can do it all by herself. Help? Pft. What an alien concept. No assistance needed, God. I’m a big girl. I can do this alone. Or I contemplate quitting writing or dis the idea I”m working on. The idea of claiming the title of author is so far out of reach it feels like it’ll never come to fruition.

Either way, I’m leaning on myself. I’m relying on my tenuous grasp on the future. I’m trying to pave my own path and am ignoring that God’s plan might be different than mine.

It brings to mind Anthem Lights’ song “Follow Your Heart”. Our own way is nothing compared to God’s.

Fellow writers, why, oh why do we reject the unarguable truth that the One who gave us this desire to write will not fail in providing us a future for writing? Whether we think we, with our all-so-mighty-and-incredible plans, can conquer every writing obstacle with ease, or we doubt and question and fear our writing future, we’re brushing aside the truth. We can’t do this alone.

A big part of this is that we hesitate to give Him everything. Do we doubt He can bear it all? Do we think it’s too much for Him? Or do we simply struggle through the mire created by our futile attempts to blaze our own paths?

Think about the following verse and the lyrics of the next song:

We can make all the plans we want, but God determines our steps. Why is it so difficult place our writing into the hands of the One who holds the stars?

An image of Gollum comes to mind. That ugly creature hunched over the ring and obsessing over it, or even just after Smeagol killed Deagol for it, and is stroking the ring and whispering, “My precious”. We’re a lot like Gollum. We hunch over our writing, clutching it to our chests while hissing at God, “Mine. My precious”.

That’s not who I want to resemble.

Another big part in this is fear of the unknown. If we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen. We see this throughout the millenniums. Humanity has tried numerous methods – all wrong and antiBiblical – to ascertain the future: Fortune tellers; astrology; sacrifices to the gods in exchange for knowledge of what was to come. Humanity is driven with the need to know the future, and we collectively will do anything to get that knowledge.

Not knowing is scary. It can be nebulous and encases our hearts and minds in fear’s choke hold. This is natural, to an extent. But when we allow fear to become even a slight whisper in the back of our minds, we give it a foothold in our writing.

Not knowing the future feels like you’re wandering along, alone, on a mist-shrouded path. Surrounded by dark sylvan outlines, mist droplets peppering your face. You think you know where you’re going – after all, you chose this path in the beginning, when everything was clear. Now, all you can do is stumble through the mist and wander in the direction you think is right.

I’m going to quote the aforementioned blog post I read a few days ago, which addresses this matter: “You don’t need to know what God’s doing to trust Him” (quote courtesy of Issabelle). How true this is, and how grateful we should be that God’s wisdom and power don’t depend on our plans or lack thereof.

Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established”. Do realize that doesn’t mean our plans the way we’d like them, but our plans as they come into accordance with God’s will.

Our prayers need to echo the lyrics of “Help Me Find It” by Sidewalk Prophets: “Whatever Your will, can You help me find it?”.

With this prayer comes the necessity to release our control. Fearing the unknown and letting that fear control our writing is a poison. It weakens us, slowly wearing away our understanding that God, not us, is in control. It’s naturally difficult for us to hand over the reins. It goes against our fleshly nature to give Someone else control.

But when we wrest away control from ourselves and hand it over to the One who formed us and decides when we draw our last breath, we are stepping into submission to God’s will and saying, “Here I am. Use me, use my writing, according to Your will”.

When we return the control we’ve stolen, our writing is in the safest hands it could ever be in. Take to heart Proverbs 3:5-6 and the songs below.

Understanding that our writing futures are in God’s control is worthless if we then fight God’s will at every turn. When we say we give it to Him, we need to mean it. Understanding must coincide with our willingness to obey, even if it looks like a door we’d really like to walk through is closing. It’s closing for a reason. When another will open, or why it’s closing is for God only to know. Remember, we see one letter amongst the vast pages of a master tome. This is part of giving Him control. Handing everything over, even the outcome or lack thereof regarding our writing. We can’t say, “Thy will be done” and then retract our statement and try adding in a clause stating, “Thy will be done for everything but this particular issue”.

He will create our writing futures in a way only He can design. It won’t always be easy, but we need to willingly follow the path He provides.

It won’t always be easy. We won’t always know what God has planned for us. But we need to face our fear of the unknown, admit that we cannot control it, and recognize that even if God’s plan differs from ours, His is the best way. Don’t let fear hold you back from pursuing the desire to write. Keep in mind these three verses:

Behold, God is my salvation;  I will trust, and will not be afraid.” – Isaiah 12:2a

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” – John 14:27

Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” – James 4:15

These three verses remind us not to fear and to remember that Christ provides peace in our uncertainty. The last one is a good reminder that everything we do ought to be from a desire to accomplish the Lord’s will.

We say we know Who holds the future, but do we really believe it?

As you continue writing, and when you face the fear of your unknown writing future – for you will face it, remember we are not meant to control what will come. Our attempts will leave us empty, worn, and depleted.

Take courage and know that the Creator, the One who made galaxies and worlds, is fully capable of forming our writing futures and seeing them to completion.