Guest Post

My Secret Writer’s Tool

Guest post by Jennifer Sienes

2012 Platinum List Wedding Photographer Grace Ormonde

Jennifer Sienes, one of Karen’s clients, is a talented fiction writer who according to editors has a gift for bringing out the emotional power of the scene. She was recently named as a finalist in the 2014 Genesis contest with her novel Redemption.

You can find out more and read her blog at


I’ve been reading the Steve Laube Agency blog for years—long before Karen Ball signed me as a client. It’s where I receive advice, encouragement and the tools to better my craft. So, I’m well aware this is a blog for writers, but I hope you’ll allow me the leeway to speak to a larger audience here—those who live with a writer—spouses, this means you.

I attended my first writer’s conference in 2008, and Debbie Macomber was the keynote speaker. The title of her talk was How to Become an Overnight Success in Twenty Years. This was impactful on many levels. Her words not only gave me encouragement and took some of the pressure off—I thought I’d be on my way in a year—but when I shared it with my husband, Chris, he understood the time and commitment it would take to follow God’s call.

In response, he became my greatest writer’s tool.

At this point, he’d already encouraged me to leave a teaching career to give writing a fair chance. I realize this is not an option for some, but I was blessed with a husband who believes my writing is a ministry—one in which the payout may not be financial. Okay, let’s get real, most of us don’t write for the money. But if we’re in God’s will, the blessings far outweigh monetary compensation.

But Chris’s support goes far beyond the financial. It’s the day-to-day things that matter—understanding how imperative it is that I adhere to a regular writing schedule and not get sidetracked with those pesky tasks, such as yard work and house cleaning. As long I stay on top of the dust bunnies, it’s all good.

When I struggle to find the perfect words to write a blog or flesh out a scene, he makes suggestions—not always helpful, but the intent is pure, and I love that about him. As a chiropractor with a busy practice, he hands out more of my business cards than I do. A patient curious about what I do, he sends them to my website. Someone in need of a spiritual pick-me-up, he suggests my blogs.

And then there are the story ideas he throws my way. I have to admit, this isn’t his forte. I write contemporary women’s fiction and his favorite author is Louis L’Amour—which I can attest to by the hundred-plus paperbacks with which he can’t bear to part, like a kid’s baseball-card collection. More often than not, his characters stem from old westerns, or, heaven forbid, a James Bond movie.

And yet, he comes home each night after ten-plus hours at work, eager for me to read what I’ve written. This benefits me in several ways: When I read out loud, my ears often find mistakes my eyes don’t catch; he questions anything that doesn’t make sense (“Did I already know that character, or are you just introducing him?”) which reminds me not everything in my head actually made it into that draft; and I get his pulse on whether the story works. Granted, he isn’t my toughest editor, but it’s not his writing expertise I need—I have a critique partner for that. Instead, I look to him for encouragement.

Writing, in so many ways, is a solitary profession. Many of our friends and family members don’t get what we do. I’m sure, if they could read my mind, they’d swear I have a form of schizophrenia—all those people living inside my head. And I’m okay with that. As long as my husband understands, encourages and supports me, I can persevere through the endless hours of sitting, the tedious work of rewrites and the times of disappointment and failure.

Because, in the end, my successes will be all the sweeter for having shared them with him.

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How Entering a Writing Contest Just Might Change Your Life

Guest Post by Susan May Warren

Far East Russia in the middle of January has all the charm of a mausoleum. Our missionary family lived in a three-room flat on the ninth floor of a cookie-cutter apartment building that, to the untrained eye, resembled a recently shelled building in Chechnya. We had no running water during the day, no telephone line and the Siberian wind froze the windows shut, sheeting them with curlicues of frost.

Four children terrorized our 900 square foot flat, drag racing their tricycles down the hall, scattering their land-mine Legos and scribbling their names upon the walls like gulag prisoners. My husband too eagerly escaped to plant a church an hour from our city while I stayed to patrol the borders. Honestly, I felt like one of the captives.

At night, the wind howled against the panes and, locked in the now quiet house with the slumbering rabble-rousers…I wrote. I penned story after story of romance, adventure and suspense. My first was an epic tale of survival against a backdrop of war in 1940s Russia. The second, a story of a missionary fleeing a serial killer. Again, set in Russia.

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Knowing Discouragement’s End

A guest blog by Mesu Andrews

Mark Lowry is one of my favorite comedians. I heard one of his performances many years ago, and he quoted a single, profound phrase found 457 times in the King James Bible: “It came to pass…”

That’s it. That’s all.

It came…to pass.

And then he challenged the audience to remember those words the next time they faced an impossible situation, the depths of discouragement, or “a bout of constipation.” (Lowry’s words, not mine.)

I’ve needed that reminder during my writing journey: Discouragement will pass. And I decided if anyone could to teach me about discouragement, it was Brother Job. That poor guy lost his oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, and children—and was left with a surly wife. Eee-gad!

So, I dove—headfirst—into the mire of Job’s whining and ranting. After reading a few chapters , my life didn’t seem so awful! And I learned things everyone should know when they struggle with discouragement:

Know yourself Know your enemy Know your Champion

Know Yourself

The world says look inward to know ourselves, but Job 1 shows us how God knows us. Read the Lord’s description of His servant Job:

“There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Job 1:8

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A Scrivener Flunky Weighs In

A Guest Post by Deborah Raney

I’m probably not the best spokesperson for Scrivener, the popular novel writing software program from Literature and Latte, because I certainly don’t use Scrivener to its maximum capabilities. I don’t even actually write my novel in Scrivener. I still use Pages––Mac’s version of Word––to write the manuscript, although I do copy the manuscript into the program once I have a final version, just to keep my project all in one place.

I also don’t know how to use Scrivener for formatting e-books, etc., so I’m truly not an expert on it. Yet. I do love the software enough that I have a tutorial I paid good money for on my desktop, and I hope to work through it as soon as I get my work in progress off to my editor.

Despite my lack of expertise with Scrivener, I am an enthusiastic fan of the software, and I can testify that it is a great program, even for those who haven’t yet figured out all the bells and whistles Scrivener has to offer.

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Overcome the Discouragement of Expectations

Guest post by Erin Taylor Young

This is Henry, our dog. Not my husband.

I love my husband. Really I do. But there are occasions I’m tempted to take a sharp, pointy pencil and stab him somewhere non-fatal. Especially when I’m torqued over my anemic word count, frustrated by a recent edit, or discouraged by yet another rejection.

I’m venting why, why, WHY, and my hubby turns into a fixer. Worse, he’s a fixer with a PhD, so when he tells me exactly what’s going on inside me and how to change it—apparently it’s some stupid cycle between my situation, my brain, and my emotions—he’s right. I hate that.

Can I not just have five minutes to wallow?

Sometimes that’s exactly what we need. You know, like a good mud bath. People pay money for that.

Then again, people also get sucked into mud bogs and are never seen again.

The difference is in knowing what you’re doing in the mud and how to get out when it’s time. Which means understanding that cycle between situation, brain, and emotion is actually helpful. I’ll give you the elevator pitch though, so your eyes don’t glaze over.

We have goals. We try to achieve them. We fail.

Then we feel rotten because the mismatch between our goals and our ability to achieve them creates frustration. This is perfectly normal, and in fact a GOOD THING because it compels us to adjust our methods or our goals, i.e. get a grip on reality.

Sometimes it’s easy. Like that six-figure book contract with an eighty-city tour? Give it up.

Sometimes adjusting our goals is hard, because what if we did everything right? We wrote a great book, we’d be giddy over a puny contract, and the manuscript went to pub board at three houses. Then got rejected.

Our perfectly normal frustration makes us wrack our brains to figure out what we could’ve done differently, or what we can change now. But there’s nothing. So our brains keep cycling until we exhaust ourselves straight into discouragement.

And that, my friends, is a bog we can drown in.

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What is Crowdfunding? Is it Right for You?

Guest post by Nicole O’Dell

What is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is all the rage these days. And it makes sense because a successful campaign guarantees a successful product (book) launch since the necessary sales happen upfront. Or at least enough so that what comes later is gravy. How awesome is that?

But it can be a horrifying prospect to take your idea and present it to the public for a vote. I recently launched my own, and it was so difficult to press the launch button on my campaign page. It’s been an exercise in humility to remind myself that the success or failure of this one campaign is not a referendum on my self-worth. As writers, we’ve all had that feeling a time or two, no?

Not only had I spent years building my ministry and working within my passion for the parent-teen relationship, but then I spent months, weeks, and hours and hours of time on various aspects of the campaign and the product. It’s personal. And it’s scary. Oh, so scary!

It can be very risky for several reasons.

1. It’s public. I’ve equated the launch of my crowdfunding campaign with the horror of walking into church naked. It’s vulnerable. It’s taking something that means a lot to you and laying it bare for the world to see it succeed or fail. Imagine if your book proposals and the responses of all who saw them where just splayed on a public site. Eeek!

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Competitive Spirits and Battling Discouragement

Guest post by Roseanna M. White Roseanna M. White is a writer with a passion for bringing history to life. Her most recent historical series, The Culpepper Ring series (Harvest House) has received rave reviews from readers and reviewers alike. In addition to being a writer, Roseanna is the senior …

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Taking the “Dis” out of Discourage

by Nancy Farrier

With over 400,000 books in print, Nancy J. Farrier is no stranger to the ups and downs of the writing life. That combined with being a worship leader and Bible study leader has given her all kinds of valuable lessons on discouragement–and its solutions!


We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair…”    II Cor. 4:8a

During my writing career, I’ve often felt like Paul, hard-pressed on every side or perplexed due to the many areas of discouragement I’ve faced. Unlike Paul, I’ve often felt crushed and in despair. When I prayed about staying strong, God gave me a way to battle discouragement, showing me three areas where I often come under attack. Once recognized, they are easier to combat.

D—The first area is those who are distant to me. These are people I don’t know well, but who have contact with me: readers, critics, sometimes industry professionals. I don’t believe any of these people intended to say or do things to discourage me, but seemingly insignificant comments often cut deep. Even when most of my reader letters are very positive, notes like the following too often have a greater impact:

“I bought one of your books to give my granddaughter, started to read it first, and realized you’ve never opened a Bible in your life!”

I can’t tell you how much that hurt. I love God’s Word and I love sharing Scripture, so that attack was more painful than most. She didn’t say why she came to that conclusion. She didn’t even give her name or contact information. Perhaps from her perspective she was being honest, but her words wounded me and made me doubt my abilities.

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The Oddest Profession

Guest blog by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Writing is the oddest profession in the universe. Why? Because whether or not I get to keep doing it (in the traditional, royalty-paying part of the world I inhabit) has nothing to do with whether or not I’m good at it. Why? Because the one thing that reigns over my career is sales numbers, and I can’t affect sales enough to impress publishers (i.e., by the tens of thousands). I can build relationships and e-mail newsletters and conference and Facebook and Twitter and blog and teach my little heart out and still hear the words, “We love you. We love your work, but the sales just aren’t good enough. Goodbye.” The truth is, over a writing life that spans nearly twenty years of published Christian fiction and non-fiction, I’ve heard those words more than once.

A close writing friend of mine recently raised the topic of God “thwarting” a writer’s success. Assuming the writer is doing all he or she can to hone their craft, assuming their work ethic is excellent, assuming they are doing all they can … would God still thwart a writer’s success? Well … yes. I think He would. I think He does, because I think God operates with a different dictionary. I think He defines terms in ways I don’t always understand. For example, that word success.

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Get Thee to a Writers Conference

Guest blog by James Scott Bell

James Scott Bell is a bestselling thriller writer and long time friend. His most recent release is Don’t Leave Me. He is also the author of the #1 writing books, Plot & Structure and The Art of War for WritersIf you do not have them buy them today (He has five other must-have books on writing too.


I am asked all the time by ambitious, up-and-coming writers what they should do to get in the game. I tell them to do three things:

 1. Produce the words.

 2. Study the craft.

 3. Attend a good writers conference.

 The first is non-negotiable, of course. The most important thing a writer does is write. But that should be accompanied by a study of craft, because it does no good to put down words if common mistakes are being made and bad habits ingrained.

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