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A Sabbatical, Not an Excuse by Tracy Krauss

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The book of Ecclesiastics tells us that there is a season to every activity. We are all familiar with the "list," but nowhere does it say, “A time to write and a time to refrain from writing.” Still, God Himself provides us with a cyclical example by resting on the seventh day. It is reasonable to assume, then, that creative activities like writing also benefit from a season of rest. (more…)


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Writing for Therapy by Jack Popjes

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The complete title of this piece is "Writing for Therapy, Not for Publication: A Testimonial." During the summer months I like to take a break from writing for publication, even from weekly blogging. Instead, I like to focus on reading widely, checking out books by authors new to me, stretching my mind with new ideas, and following mental paths I have not trod before. This summer, as part of our daily devotional and prayer time, my wife, Jo, and I read a book together that God used to stir up some things that had long been dormant in my mind. The author focused on Philippians 4:8, in which the apostle Paul urges us to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. (more…)


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Does Absence Make the Pen Grow Stronger? by Pamela Mytroen

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Ever thought about a long distance writing relationship? Like the old adage, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” I wonder if some major distance from writing would make the pen grow stronger? According to a study in the Journal of Communication, (August 8, 2013, Molly Vorweck, USA Today, usatoday.com) long distance relationships were found to have more intimacy and depth than couples that saw each other on a daily basis. One of the psychologists who authored the study, Crystal Jiang of the City University of Hong Kong, suggested that because long distance relationships have limited face-to-face interactions, they maximize the time they do have together by cutting some of the chitchat and diving straight to the heart of the matter. “In an effort to keep the romance alive, couples will . . . discuss deeper issues such as love, trust, and future plans . . . they also adapt their messages, for example, by focusing on more limited but relationally intense topics." Though they have no physical contact, they do grow close psychologically. If you are struggling with a project, consider a long distance relationship, where you would limit the amount of time you spend with it. Or, if you are getting along well with your current pieces but want to add another, you could try starting a time-and-space-limited piece. (more…)


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Vacation without Guilt by Violet Nesdoly

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I’ve just returned from a three-week vacation. Therefore, I’m as in-touch with being in holiday mode as I’ve ever been. I spend much of each workday on writing and writing-related activities so it was from these thing I wanted a holiday. I was ready for a break by the middle of June! I decided this year, as never before, to vacation with no guilt. To make that possible I worked extra hard before our July 8th departure date to meet all deadlines. I also scheduled the blog posts that I wanted to publish while I was away. (more…)


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From Picture to Story by Jack Popjes

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I just finished reading the second in the three-volume series of Ransom Riggs’ "Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children." Riggs came across some vintage photographs of children and was struck by the peculiarities of expression, bodies, dress, or poses. He collected more of the same style of photos and eventually developed a storyline based totally on the photos and the peculiarities they showed. After personally handling and viewing 100,000 photos, he wrote the first volume, using a photo to introduce each character, setting, and situation. The result is not only a fascinating story liberally illustrated with vintage photos but a book that was on the New York Times best sellers list for nearly a year and sold 2 million copies. (more…)


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You Gotta Wind Up Where You Started From by Janice L. Dick

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Beginnings and endings are the most important parts of our stories, besides the middles! Each part is essential. Take a look at I Corinthians 12:21ff, “. . . the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ ” Our stories would be incomplete without the necessary parts, just as our bodies and the church are incomplete without each part. The thing about beginnings is that they set the stage in so many ways. First lines or paragraphs are responsible to introduce character, setting, mood, and possibly even the story question. (more…)


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What Gerald Did Next by Brenda J. Wood

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Ever read a mystery that left you flabbergasted? The murderer was not the suspect you had in mind. How did that happen? There wasn’t a clue—or at least not one you figured out. So how did the writer pull it off? Quite possibly they were surprised too. (more…)


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A Three Act Sandwich by Tracy Krauss

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Building a Sandwich You may be familiar with the good old sandwich analogy. Take two pieces of bread—the beginning of the story and the ending—and layer the rest of the ingredients in between. This is the basic three act structure that fits almost every kind of fiction, no matter if it’s a play, a short story, or even a full length novel. Put simply, every story must have three basic parts: the problem; the problem gets worse; the problem gets solved. While the middle usually makes up the bulk of the "sandwich," the "meat" if you will, the choice of bread on either side can make or break the story. A weak beginning and readers may not continue reading. A weak ending and they will be left feeling unsatisfied and probably won’t be back for more. (more…)


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Are You Hooked? by Steph Beth Nickel

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NONFICTION OPENINGS “Imagine for a moment that one of your favorite female Bible characters were to somehow travel through time to the modern day. What would Esther, or Ruth, or Mary Magdalene think as they stared, amazed, at our lives?” (opening of Chapter 1 of The Life Ready Woman: Thinking in a Do-It-All World by Shaunti Feldhahn and Robert Lewis) “It was a scary year when I sat down to write this. The toughest I’d been through by far. My place in the world never seemed so uncertain.” (opening of the Introduction of My Life A.S. Is: An Inside Look at Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome by Benjamin Collier) “This is the story of a family living on a farm that once belonged to my grandparents. It is about the individuals, the personalities and the ties that bind us to each other, in love and in faith, within a community of extended family, neighbours and friends.” (opening of Chapter 1 of Once Upon a Sandbox by Carolyn Wilker) (more…)


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Opinion Pieces Need Muscled Middles by Pamela Mytroen

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Nonfiction has unique challenges with middles. A reader may notice that the body of the piece flops around in too many directions rather than delivering a muscled middle. This divergence should be addressed at the very beginning of every opinion piece by developing a focused thesis. (more…)


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