Friday, March 29, 2013

Naomi Musch: Putting Kick In Your Writing By Sharing It With Others

Everyone's Story welcomes author Naomi Musch. Not only is Naomi a multi-published author, writing generational fiction for the Christian market, but she's also a former editor at Port Yonder Press. What has all this experience taught Naomi? Join us this week as she shares great advice on a different perspective of editing. Have you struggled with editing? Any suggestions? Naomi looks forward to hearing from you. Plus, Naomi is offering a very nice Book Giveaway (see below). Enjoy!

Book Giveaway:
For one lucky commenter, chosen randomly, Naomi is offering a PDF copy of one (winner's choice) of her EMPIRE IN PINE series. These stories are described by Naomi as "historic, romantic, women's fiction--a multi-generational family saga of love and deception, hope and turmoil, and the rise of a wilderness empire. For convenience, please leave your email address within the body of the comment. The winner will be announced here on Friday April 5th between 4-6 EST.

Want to Really Improve Your Writing?
How Critiquing Others' Novels Will Put a Kick in Your Craft
By Naomi Musch

Feedback. Where would any writer be without it? If we, as writers, live inside our own bubbles, romancing our work and never exposing it until it's in the hands of an agent or editor, we might find a quick rejection. Why is that? It's because we haven't learned from critique. One set of eyes -- our own -- is seldom enough.

We don't take that plunge after a first draft, of course. Maybe not even after a second. We should apply self-edits and get our work as clean as we can before we turn it over to someone else to critique or even have it subjected to a hired editor's pen.

In the meantime, we can learn more about improvement by doing the same job for someone else.

When I sat down to pound out my first novel, I took it weekly, chapter by chapter, to my local writers' group for feedback. That eclectic, hands-on group questioned trouble spots, marked up passive tense, tweaked dialogue, made stronger verb suggestions, pointed out plot holes, offered ideas for tightening tension, and helped with a host of other new-writer issues. Sitting around a big conference-sized table, passing out copies of work which we read aloud, they offered me much needed advice, and I offered them the same type of feedback. Those early years in my experience were worth a college education. When other skilled writers and astute beta readers offer feedback, our eyes are opened to a myriad of plot snafus, grammar gaffs, and character issues we might have missed. Conversely, when we do the same service for others, we began to notice the weak points more easily in our own work. We gain the ability to look subjectively at our work -- at least as subjectively as is possible. We learn how to take criticism, and which criticism is worthy. This is all great preparation for the day our books are contracted with a publishing house where we might have to bow to an editor's decisions over our own. It also prepares us for receiving those book reviews we hope to garner someday. It's easy to bask in a 5-star glow, a little tougher to let a 1-star slide off our backs.

Years later, now that my list of publishing credits is gaining ground, I continue to grow in my own craft by helping others grow in theirs and by closely examining quality, published work as well.

As a staff writer and occasional proofreader for five years with a Christian newspaper, I learned more about various writing styles and techniques. Blogging regular tutorials for new and young writers on A Novel Writing Site, I helped judge and give personal feedback to entrants in our yearly "First 5 Pages Contest". Finally, spending a year as an editor for Port Yonder Press, I discovered there was more for me to learn as an editor, and there will always be more -- much more -- I will learn as a writer. Lately I've joined the board of The Grace Awards, which also offers a yearly contest. I expect the experience I gain serving others there will also provide facets of education to my writing experience.

Feedback is essential to receive, yes. But it is also extremely necessary to give.

If you don’t know where to start, think of a book you've recently read that's gripped you. Then begin asking why. What did that particular author have a way with? Was it the way they turned a phrase? Was it the short bursts of dialogue that created intensity in an action scene? Did they reveal their characters' motives in a way that created an immediate connection? If so, how? Study. Critique them.

What book have you set aside recently? What made you stop reading, and how can you avoid being guilty of making the mistakes that author did?

I occasionally even write Book Exams on my blog -- reviews of books that stood out to me, but focusing on an instructional twist -- ferreting out something a writer could learn from them.

Benefits of giving critique or edits:
·      Learning how to look subjectively at plot structure, scene structure, character arc, and methods to develop brilliant dialogue, heightened verbs, even improved voice.
·      Developing heart. It's frankly, pretty easy to be either hyper critical or blown away by genius. But if a manuscript needs more work, use your offer of critique to be kind while making suggestions. Consider that, in the serendipity of life, these things come back to you, so be tactful and gracious.
·      When you've met a cardboard character, you know it. They feel lifeless and flat and you don't care what happens to them. If you were the author whose work you're critiquing, what would you do to enliven that character? Suggest it, and then give your own characters the same surgery.
·      Making friends. You know you've found a kindred spirit when you connect with another writer. Your family might think you're off your rocker at times, as you walk around the house conversing with the imaginary population in your private downtown. But a fellow writer understands, and commiserates with your dreamed-up crises. Part of the fun of offering critiques and edits is the camaraderie you experience.

A final suggestion is that you don't offer editing service for a fee unless you really have the credentials to back them up. Experience over time is a great teacher. Having your own work go through a publisher's or editor's gristmill will put you miles ahead. Stick with it, and don’t be discouraged. Everyone's work needs work. Other's eyes will help you find your story's flaws, just as your eyes will help them find theirs.

Author Bio:
Empire in Pine is Naomi's inspirational, historical series from Desert Breeze Publishing. First published in e-format, all three books are now coming to print beginning with Book One, The Green Veil. Naomi writes from the pristine north woods of Wisconsin where she and husband Jeff live as epically as God allows on a ramshackle farm near their five young adult children and three grandchildren. Amidst it, she writes about imperfect people who are finding hope and faith to overcome their struggles, whether the story venue is rich in American history, or along more contemporary lines.

She invites readers to say hello and find out more about her stories, passions, and other writing venues at or to look her up on Facebook (Naomi Musch - Author) and Twitter (NMusch).


Naomi's Ah-hahs to Tweet:

“…get our work as clean as we can before we turn it over to someone else to critique…” (Click To Tweet)

“Feedback is essential to receive, yes. But it is also extremely necessary to give.” (Click To Tweet)

“Other's eyes will help you find your story's flaws, just as your eyes will help them find theirs.” (Click To Tweet)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Jordyn Redwood: Recognizing God's Lamposts On The Journey

Everyone's Story welcomes author Jordyn Redwood for her 2nd appearance. Jordyn has enjoyed an awesome year since the release of her first novel: she's received a 2nd starred review in Library Journal for POISON, her 2nd book in the Bloodline Trilogy Series, and as I'm putting together this segment, I just learned that PROOF, her debut novel, is a finalist of ForWord Magazine's 2012 book of the Year Awards. Blessings to you, Jordyn, for continued success! And for viewers this week, Jordyn shares her thoughts on why authors write for the Christian market and exactly what defines success and keeps one pursuing the writing journey. Jordyn's offering a Giveaway of POISON. Please see below for details, a synopsis, and a dynamic book trailer. Most of all, Jordyn looks forward to hearing from you and hearing your thoughts on how you're managing on your journeys.

                            Book Giveaway Opportunity:
Once randomly selected commenter will receive one copy of POISON, Book 2 of the Bloodline Trilogy Series, though it can be read as a stand alone novel. The winner will be announced on this site on Friday, March 29th, between 4-6 EST. Please leave your email within the body of your comment for easier contact. Thank you!

Synopsis of POISON: Five years ago, Keelyn Blake's armed, mentally ill stepfather took her family hostage in their house in rural Colorado. She and her half-sister Raven made it out alive, but others did not. Authorities blamed the father's frequent hallucinations about a being named Lucent, but in the end, even the best of the FBI's hostage negotiators failed to overcome the man's delusions and end the standoff peacefully.

Now, Lucent is back, and he's no hallucination. In fact, he is a very real person with dangerous motives. He has kidnapped Raven's daughter, and--Keelyn worries--maybe has hurt Raven as well. Though she is estranged from her sister, Keelyn feels the immediate need to find Raven and save what family she has left. But when others who were involved in that fateful day start dying, some by mysterious circumstances, Keelyn wonders if she can emerge unscathed a second time.

The Letter by Jordyn Redwood

Sometimes, I don’t think we as “Christian” authors give credit to how extraordinary our calling is. I’m speaking specifically to those writers who feel it is God’s will for them to write. We write because we feel burdened to do so. Not burdened like a chain around our necks but restless that if we don’t write then we are not fulfilling what we are here to do.

Sometimes that calling in light of our circumstances is hard to manage.

Long hours at the keyboard. Perhaps long hours banging your head against the wall when the words don’t seem to be flowing as they should. Managing two careers and likely a family. Wondering how long you can keep up the pace of working two jobs (yes, writing is very much a job) when one’s maybe not paying you as much as you thought it would. Yes, I haven’t gotten a James Patterson paycheck. Wondering when, if ever, we’ll hit it “big”. Wondering what “big” is?

I think, too, there is added pressure if we consider ourselves Christian authors. Now, there’s a whole other level of worrying/thinking. Is this what God wants me to write? Why did God take me down this path if I can’t survive on this income? Am I writing when God wants me to do something different? Am I still working my “real” (and paying) job when all God wants me to do is write?

And so we look for God’s little lampposts along the path. Something—anything to affirm that this is the right, chosen path. That our typed words on a white screen would make a difference to someone, somewhere in a Godly way. That someone’s faith would be affirmed—strengthened. That maybe our words would give sense to what Jesus did on the cross in a way that someone could then believe in that sacrificial offering for their own lives.

Now, after being on this journey for a couple of years—this is what I know for now. Sometimes these lampposts along the path are not what we think they will be. Maybe my affirmation is not in selling a gazillion copies of my book or hitting the bestseller lists.

But in a letter.

One of the smartest things I did as an author was leave an e-mail address in my published books and ask readers to e-mail when they finish with their thoughts. Some authors don’t do this for fear of spamming, privacy, etc. You can list your own reasons.

So far, I haven’t received any creeping/concerning e-mails. I have gotten over fifty letters from readers which is nice when you’re also getting one star reviews (particularly on Christmas Day—yes, that did happen!)

I’ve only sobbed over one letter—thus far.

It was written by a woman who had just finished Proof—my debut medical thriller. Proof, at its heart, is about Lilly Reeves, an ER doctor without faith and her journey to coming to know Christ through a trial by fire series of events.

In the novel, a physician friend tells Lilly the story of Lazarus. How Jesus waited three days to respond to his good friends cries for help. At first, this seems unusually cruel. But in the end, when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, Jesus does a miracle he’s never performed before and gives a prelude to his own forthcoming sacrificial offering.

The letter that brought me to tears was from a woman who was in the midst of her son being diagnosed with cancer. He’d just been through the surgery to retrieve lymph nodes and the surgeon was fairly certain of a lymphoma diagnosis—they were just waiting for the final biopsy results. She specifically mentions this passage of the book and what it meant to her at that moment – “. . .we are praying for healing for our son, but completely trust him to God's plan, whatever that is . . .”

So humbling.

Remember, God communicated his presence to us in two ways. Through his creation and through his words.

Typed words on a page.

Consider this and the smaller lampposts along your path when you’re wondering exactly why you’re on this crazy writing journey. Maybe it’s not for a James Patterson type paycheck.

But simply for a letter like this . . . and the impact your words will have for one person.

Would this be enough for you to keep going if God has placed the call to write on your heart?

Author Bio:

Jordyn Redwood is a pediatric ER nurse by day, suspense novelist by night. She hosts Redwood’s Medical Edge, a blog devoted to helping contemporary and historical authors write medically accurate fiction. Her first two novels, Proof and Poison, garnered starred reviews from Library Journal and have been endorsed by the likes of Dr. Richard Mabry, Lynette Eason, and Mike Dellosso to name a few. You can connect with Jordyn via her website at

Additionally, you can read more about POISON at:
Link to the first five chapters of Poison:

Jordyn's Ah-hahs to Tweet:

“…I don’t think we as ‘Christian’ authors give credit to how extraordinary our calling is.” (Click To Tweet)

“…God communicated his presence to us in two ways. Through his creation and through his words.” (Click To Tweet)

What will sustain you “if God has placed the call to write on your heart?” (Click To Tweet)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lynn Mosher: Glorifying God With A Blank Page

Everyone's Story welcomes inspirational author Lynn Mosher. Lynn falls into one of my favorite groups of people I look up to: strong and faithful to God, depending on the Lord for everything. In 2000 Lynn, grappling with health issues, answered God's call to write for Him, encouraging others on their faith journey. It's my pleasure to host Lynn this week. She shares with you, writers, why you should embrace the blank page. Readers--this is an excellent insight to a writer's thinking! Please enjoy Lynn's thoughts, and leave a comment about how you tackle that first blank page before the words flow, whether in telling a story or dealing with a life situation. 

Each Blank Page by Lynn Mosher

I recently entered a contest, for which I did not win, by the way, for limericks about writing. Here’s my entry...

There is an “albino monster”

That begs for attention and taunts her

It comes out day or night

Giving her such a fright

That now the “empty page” haunts her!

Oh, well! Only rarely does poetry strike my soul. However, this one is a little better...

Finger Painting

A blank canvas begs my attention,
A palette of white before my eyes,
Awaiting my fingers to begin.
What will be its completed surprise?

Painting images that dance in my head,
Drawing them in orderly fashion,
To give them substance and come alive,
That’s my desire, that’s my passion.

Coloring, shading, tinting here and there;
There must be a point at which to start,
To choose from the hues of my palette,
And blend them into a work of art.

Stirring scenes depicted by my touch,
To express the feelings of my heart,
Offered when troubles surround a soul,
For its comfort I long to impart.

Giving my fingers freedom to move,
Yet sketching with a divine restraint,
Guided by the Master Craftsman’s Hand,
I click on the keys and start to paint.

Obviously, it’s about writing also. But this post isn’t about writing. I used writing as an analogy. Just as any writer, artist, or composer uses a blank paper or canvas to display his or her work, so, too, do we.

This post is about the blank page God gives us of each day. It is to be filled for His glory with all that we say, do, and think. His plan and purpose will fill each 24 hours in the best way possible...if we follow them.

However, in all the daily hubbub of a busy schedule of running errands, working (and some working two jobs), appointments, emergencies, cleaning the house, or whatever, we get sidetracked and leave God out of our day.

Therefore, Paul exhorts us...

*“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Col 3:17 NIV)
*“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (Col. 3:23 NLT)

Each day’s activities will be gathered up and, on Judgment Day, they will show how well we filled each blank page of our lives. Paul said that each person’s work will be shown for what it is, because it will all be brought out into the light. “It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.” (1 Cor. 3:13b NIV)

What are you writing on today’s blank page? Does it glorify God? Is it fireproof?

“He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from
all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns.”
(1 Cor. 1:8 NLT)

Author Bio:
Lynn Mosher lives with her hubby (since 1966) in their Kentucky nest, emptied now of three chicklets and embracing three giggly grand-chicklets, and an inherited dog. Through many hardships, trials, and health issues, Lynn learned to depend entirely on the Lord for everything. After being diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2000, the Lord whispered to her heart to write for Him. So, now, her greatest passion is to obey the Lord’s call to use her writing to uplift and encourage others and glorify the Lord.

You can find Lynn on the web at:

Lynn's Ah-hahs to Tweet:

“… the blank page God gives us of each day… is to be filled for His glory…”

“What are you writing on today’s blank page? Does it glorify God?” (Click To Tweet)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Mark Gilroy: The Joy of Putting Yourself Where You Can Succeed or Fail Miserably

Everyone's Story welcomes author and senior vice president of Worthy Publishing, Mark Gilroy. I first became acquainted with Mark through his encouraging blog posts. When it comes to publishing, name it, Mark has done it: sports writing, to packing boxes of books, an editor as well as an agent, to ghostwriting, to countless number of other titles, and now as a successful published author. His novels are praised as intense, eerie, funny, riveting, and as fast-paced thrillers. Mark is looking forward to hearing from you!

Book Giveaway:
Mark is offering a dynamic book giveaway to 3 randomly selected commenters. Each winner will receive a set of both of Mark's novels: CUTS LIKE A KNIFE and EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE. You may preview the book trailer for the first one below--an awesome video! The winners will be announced on March 15th between 4-6 PM EST. For convenience, please insert your email address into the body of your comment. Thanks... and good luck!

Interview with Mark Gilroy

You’ve been in publishing for more than 30 years; what got you started down that path?

There’s an old adage that success breeds success. I really wasn’t a very good student in elementary, high school, and the beginning of my college career. I did what was considered outstanding work—but only once in a blue moon. I was very inconsistent; I probably would have probably been diagnosed with some form of attention deficit in later generations. But about halfway through my second year of college I added a second major to go along with biblical literature: Journalism. Maybe it was because writing articles felt like a more relevant—and quicker—process than term papers, I immediately started doing better in those classes and then all my classes.  At the beginning of my junior year I got a call from a prof that the local newspaper was looking for a sports intern to take calls from football coaches on Friday nights and write up a digest of local high school games, doing my best to sound like I’d been there. That hit my sweet spot as a sports fanatic and the editor loved my work. I got my own byline that year, which seemed like a huge deal to a 20-year-old. I picked up confidence and it seemed to lift all my class work to another level. So the experience of success as a writer gave me a taste for success in an area I’ve pursued most of my adult years.

On a side note, I’d just say to teens and young adults who haven’t had great success in school and academics, don’t feel stupid and don’t give up; you don’t know what will flip the switch for you academically.

After years as a writer, marketer, manager and publishing executive, what motivated you to put yourself out in the public as a novelist?

I will confess that when I wrote Cuts Like a Knife I did so under a female penname. I wrote a business plan to create a fictional female author to stand in as the author. I started presenting the first novel as an agent to a couple of the New York houses, got some solid meetings and reads, and thought I had it sold. I made it to final review committees with three of the big six publishers, but each eventually said no. I got into an informal conversation about the book with Jeana Ledbetter who heads up acquisitions at Worthy Publishing. She said she’d read it if I told her who really wrote it. I owned up, she followed through, and I had an offer on the table a week later. That’s how I put myself out there; reluctantly.

Why did I finally write a novel? A few of my friends might suggest I’m just slow. I don’t have a good answer other than to say that after reading thousands of novels I woke up one day and said I’m going to write my own novel. Working evenings and weekends—and enjoying almost every minute of it—I churned out 100 thousand words in about six months.

Another aside. If you want to write a novel, start with the writing before you think about the selling. I get approached by people who have the idea for a novel that ask me how to sell it before writing a word. No big deal on getting input into the process, but it’s ultimately about the story and the writing. Non-fiction can be sold with a great outline and sample chapters. But rarely does fiction get sold without being a finished product. If that doesn’t seem right and fair, you better get over that fast. Fiction is a labor of love that always begins with sweat equity.

You’ve had a successful career as a publisher, did you have any fears that your work might not be well received?

That’s a very polite way of putting it Elaine! I’ve had some bad reviews, of course. The good and great have far outweighed those, so they don’t bother me. If the majority of reviews leaned neutral to negative, I’d probably be a basket case. But going into the process, I had a confidence based on two things: (1) I’d read enough great novels that even if I couldn’t pull off great, I might be able to get to good or very good; and (2) I knew with my marketing background I would have enough feedback and common sense to throw it away if people were letting me know it wasn’t going to work. I’d have been happy just to have tried. (I think.)

This may be a bad analogy but I found if I never fell when I skied, I wasn’t pushing myself very hard. We all love comfort and that’s great. But every now and then we have to push ourselves and take a risk; to put ourselves in a place where we can succeed or fail miserably! That’s when we step out of the comfort zone and grow. I can honestly say that writing my novels has been invigorating.

You’ve got a fabulous and fearless lead character in Kristen Conner, a detective for the Chicago Police Department. You’ve had great reviews, but what makes your fiction stand out?

I think it was the approach I took. After reading many of Tony Hillerman’s Jim Chee novels I realized Hillerman wrote very religious novels that weren’t religious novels. (I confuse myself sometimes too.) He had a great detective who happened to be a reflective, introspective devout Navajo. But never once did I read a review that called Hillerman’s novels “Navajo novels.” They were mysteries. When I read Christian novels they were definitely Christian novels. Nothing wrong with that. There are many great starting points as a novelist.

But I decided I would write murder mysteries that just happened to have a detective that loved God, her family, and even her colleagues—and who sometimes fights with all of the above. I was very pleased when one of Amazon’s power reviewers gave both my books great reviews but went to great lengths to say to readers that the novels were written for a general audience, not just a Christian audience. In the USA Today review, the comment was made that Cuts Like a Knife “has a very subtle faith thread that enriches rather than suffocates the story.” I took that as a compliment.

Oh, I think one other thing that makes my novels stand out is that they are written primarily in first-person active, which to me, gives the most poignant and intimate glimpse into a character, but is a tough voice to write in. Then there’s that gender thing. As a male writer I’ve had many ask how I pulled off writing with a female voice. I just answer that with three daughters, it wasn’t as hard as it sounds.

Author Bio:
Mark Gilroy is senior vice president for Worthy Publishing and author of the highly acclaimed novels, Cuts Like a Knife and Every Breath You Take.

You can connect with Mark at:

Mark's Ah-hahs to Tweet:
“If you want to write a novel, start with the writing before you think about the selling.” (Click To Tweet)

“Fiction is a labor of love that always begins with sweat equity.” (Click To Tweet)

“…we have to…put ourselves in a place where we can succeed or fail miserably!” (Click To Tweet)


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