Monday, February 13, 2017

Creating Connections with Our Readers

 

I had met Chere once at church, but didn’t really get to know her until the day I ran into her at the mall at the inside play area.  On a dreary winter day, I was desperate to get my kids out of the house, and apparently so was Chere. There she was with her three kids doing exactly the same thing I was – spending way too many quarters in the little ridey-machines.

When I greeted Chere, she said, “I was going to run away from these kids, or sell them to the lowest bidder if I didn’t find something to tire them out today.”

And she laughed, hard.  And I smiled big.  And I thought, This is my kind of girl. She’s just like me. She gets it – what it’s like to love your kids, while simultaneously wanting to cry, scream or run away.

Isn’t that the best feeling when you meet someone, and you feel that connection of loving acceptance and understanding?

That’s the same loving connection I want to feel when I read a book.

When I read a book, I want to experience that feeling of, We’re in this together. I’ve been there in those hard times, too. I don’t want to be preached at, like the blows of a hammer coming down on me.  I don’t want to be condemned, like a stern preacher pointing his finger at me.

That’s not motivating.  Love, understanding, acceptance, and encouragementthese qualities motivate me to keep reading and to wonder, What else does this writer have to say?

How can we writers deliver a loving connection that engages our readers?

Let’s look at a couple of writing samples that create a loving connection between writer and reader. Let’s also identify the writing elements that deliver engagement with the reader.

 An example from Breaking Up with Perfect by Amy Carroll

“Here’s a little challenge for us girls with our to-do lists clenched tightly in our hands and written on our hearts.  Do a measurement on a long-list day.  End the day with this question, How did your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) hold up today?  You’re probably nicer than I am, but I’m telling       you, those godly virtues go up in smoke on my long-list days.  On those days, nothing pleasant comes out of my mouth…”

Elements that create connection in Amy’s writing:

  • Amy shares vulnerably about her own weaknesses.
  • She writes in first person plural – okay, all that means is she writes using “we” or “us, as opposed to writing in second person using “you.”

An example from One in a Million by Priscilla Shirer 

“All we can feel are the walls closing in.  All we can be sure of is that there’s no way out.  All we can see are the Egyptian hordes on one side and the vast Red Sea on the other.

The rock. The hard place.

But, my friend, this is God’s place – the place where He wants to show His miracle-working power in your experience.”

Elements that create connection in Priscilla’s writing:

  • Priscilla occasionally addresses her reader as “my friend.” I love that!
  • She points us to God.

We can learn from these gifted writers and apply the same techniques to our own writing to engage with our readers.

As we write, let’s imagine we are sitting with our reader, looking into her eyes, sharing stories, tears and God’s Word, together as friends who love and care about each other and Jesus. 

Why is connecting with our audience so important?  I’ll address that in my next blog post.  But I’ll give you a hint found in this verse:  “For Christ’s love compels us…”(2 Corinthians 5:14).

Melanie

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Loving Words and The Word

 

Do you remember when you fell in love with words?

I like to think my love for words was birthed even before I was physically born, as my mom was a voracious reader, reading book after book during her pregnancy with me.

I remember as a young girl curling up with books…Berenstein Bears, Harriet the Spy, Nancy Drew mysteries and Judy Blume books.

I remember turning words into stories on my mom’s manual typewriter.

And then I remember falling in love with the Word, Jesus.

John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word,
            and the Word was with God,
            and the Word was God.” 

blog-graphic

On a dark, starry night, while sitting on a rock at the foot of a mountain in North Carolina, Jesus, the Word, captured my heart forever.

And from that point on was it God’s plan to intermingle the words I love with the Word I love even more?

I began to delight in books containing more of the Word.  Christian writers and books left an imprint – Elizabeth Elliot, My Utmost for His Highest, Elizabeth George, and my first Bible, a paperback version called The Way.

Recalling the stepping-stones leading to my writing life turns my heart toward Jesus with thankfulness.

Today can you take some time to do the same?  Reflect with thankfulness the stepping-stones leading to your calling of being a writer for the Word.

Jesus, Thank you for all the stepping-stones leading to our calling of speaking and writing for You.  I pray You will fill us with creativity, truth, and perseverance.  May our ears and hearts hear only your voice of love, encouragement and power.  Protect us from discouragement, naysayers, and our own insecurities.  May our words, whether public or private, be a beautiful offering to You, the most beautiful Word of all.  Amen. 

I’d love to help you with your writing.  I offer writing coaching and editor services.  Check out specific options on our Next Step site under Writing Services.

Melanie

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Start with the End

 

My oldest son Zachary is engaged!  There’s so much rejoicing in the Chitwoods’ lives for the answer to our prayers.  Since the day he was born, I have prayed for Zach’s future wife to be a girl who would love God, love Zach, and, of course, love this mom! And these prayers have been answered abundantly.

Beyond just wanting to talk about this engagement all the time, what does this have to do with writing?  Hold on…we’re getting there.

While Zachary and Kylie settle into their junior year of college, they’ve given the moms freedom to commence wedding planning.  We delved in with gusto, little prompting needed.

The first place we started was to ask Zachary and Kylie, What do you want your wedding to look like?  Give us your top three priorities. 

We probed with questions:  Elegant or casual?  Large or small?  Indoors or outdoors?  Black tie or rustic?

Their answer, because I’m sure you’re wondering…. An elegantly casual, festive celebration with outdoor and indoor areas.  And Kylie wants pizza.

fiance Kylie with a pizza bigger than she is!

Now that we know the goal, we’re ready for wedding planning.

In the same way knowing the end goal of your writing will shape your writing journey.

What’s the end goal for your writing? 

I can think of many ways you might answer this question.  Maybe you’re not sure; you’re figuring out your goal in the process.  You’d like something written to share with your family.  You’ve been speaking for years and want an accompanying manuscript for your audience.  Maybe you want to try self-publishing.  Maybe your ultimate goal is a contract with a publishing house.

I know you may be in the very beginning of your writing journey.  Maybe all you can consider right now as an end goal is simply to stick to a consistent writing time.  That’s okay, but trust me.  The early stage of the writing journey is the best time to define your end goal.  It will motivate you, increase your efficiency, and save you from feeling overwhelmed as you write.

Let these questions help you define your writing end goal.

Describe your audience. 

How old is your reader?  What makes her happy, what brings her down?  What’s her typical day like?  What does she wish or hope?  What kind of relationship does she have with God, her family, and her friends?  Does she go to church?  Has she been a Christian for a while, or is she just learning about her faith?  Let your imagination roam, as you picture her reading your manuscript. 

Identify your purpose. 

Entertain, inform, encourage, exhort, or teach can all be purposes. Can you be even more specific? For example, help women to engage with God’s Word; reach freedom from strongholds; or provide encouragement for everyday parenting.

Determine which genre (fancy word for type or form of manuscript). A memoir looks different from a devotional, which looks different from a how-to book. A combination of several forms?

One more thing.  Write down your end goal.  Display it in a place where you will see it daily.  Review it on a regular basis.  Let it have space in your mind, heart and schedule.

It’s okay if you wander off the path some; rabbit trails and tangents can be part of the journey.   I’ve already gotten off track a bit with the wedding planning.  Kylie gently reminded me of her end goal when I sent her a few photos (okay, a whole lot of photos) of reception ideas.  In response to one picture of tables covered in white linen tablecloths and burlap napkins, she texted, No burlap, please.  The end goal reminder got me back on track. 

Take some time to talk to God about your writing destination.  He made you a writer, and He has a plan for your writing.  Then write down your end goal, and let it  be your guide as you write.

Sign-up opportunity for Proverbs 31 Ministries’ COMPEL is now open! 

Proverbs 31 Ministries offers an amazing writing training service called COMPEL. Subscribing to this monthly service gives you access to practical and inspirational podcasts, written teachings, interviews of well-known Christian nonfiction writers, and so much more. Well worth the $25/month fee! Registration is only open several times a year, so don’t miss this opportunity. Click here to find out more and to register!

Melanie

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