Saturday, July 31, 2010

Words on Display

At A Pen for Your Thoughts we usually spend our days sharing other authors with you, and in turn giving you an opportunity to share a little something back with us. Through both, we learn either a little or a lot about each other.

Since many of us are not only readers, but writers, as well, I'm blessed Delia Latham, award winning author has graciously consented to sharing her tips of the writing trade on a regular basis with us. In this section, you and I will learn to remember those things we can easily forget when we are penning our beloved manuscripts.

Looking for some spit and polish? Here is lesson number one.

Words on Display
by Delia Latham

And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.
~1 Corinthians 9:25

“Temperate,” according to Merriam-Webster:  1 : marked by moderation: as keeping or held within limits; not extreme or excessive.
Sometimes less is more.
Unlike many familiar phrases, this one is true almost every time. (I have to admit, I don’t think that way when I’m trying to stretch too few dollars to make ends meet. In that case, more would definitely be more.)

But we’re not talking about money, or beauty, or weight loss. We’re talking about writing, and with that topic in mind, less is more.

Write tight. Be succinct. Make it short and snappy.
I could think of a dozen more ways to say the same thing, but it would defeat my purpose.

Want to know why editors slap our wrists for using too many adjectives and adverbs? Because they clutter, without serving any real purpose. They are crutches, and depending on them keeps us from making the effort to write better, tighter, cleaner prose.

I once knew a woman who owned a houseful of expensive things. Beautiful china and crystal. Figurines, paintings, the best furniture—costly collectibles everywhere one looked. Curio cabinets and china closets lined the walls of her home, each of them literally packed with beautiful items.

The result?
Visitors saw nothing but clutter. The sheer volume of stuff overwhelmed them—and destroyed the intended effect.

A savvy displayer would have cleared off an entire shelf for one exquisite piece, knowing that a masterpiece shows best when it stands alone.

The same principle can be applied to writing. While adjectives and adverbs are useful when used sparingly, most of the time they are unnecessary excess. They turn our literary works of art into a meaningless jumble of words.
  • Example 1:
The beautiful, raven-haired princess strolled happily along the lush, green banks of a dancing, sun-dappled brook, enjoying the peaceful, pastoral view.

Beautiful imagery? Hardly! It’s pure excess. Why force a reader to weed through an over-abundance of description to find the core message?
  • Example 2:
Princess Rowena strolled beside the brook. Sunlight danced on the water, turning its surface into a thousand jewel-like prisms. A lush blanket of grass hugged her bare feet. For the first time since her escape from the palace, she smiled, soothed by the sound of the water as it bounced off boulders and splashed against smaller rocks. Peace at last.

Example 1 uses nine descriptors in a single sentence. Example 2 uses less descriptors in five sentences. It doesn’t eliminate descriptive words, but it does make them count. Breaking up that original bulky sentence gives the reader’s eyes a rest, and her mind an opportunity to catch up. Throwing aside the crutch of descriptive words also forces more action. Example 2 conveys the same meaning, but shows what’s happening instead of telling.
  • Example 3:
“I don’t like it,” Mikie said, wrinkling her freckled, turned-up nose as she pushed the plate of sticky pasta aside and fixed her big blue eyes across the small table, where flickering candlelight turned Carter’s normally handsome face into a shadowy monster’s mask.

  1. Head hopping. Mikie can’t see her freckles, her nose, or her eyes, so their description should be left for another time and place—unless we’re in Carter’s POV. If so, then we have the same problem: Carter can’t see his own face… (We’ll discuss POV another day.)
     2. Run-on sentence. (Please. Give your reader a break!)
     3. And, of course, our pet peeve of the day: overuse of descriptors.
  • Example 4 (Fix): 
“I can’t eat this.” Mikie wrinkled her nose in disgust. “It’s sticky.”

Carter’s eyebrows rose in surprise—or was it irritation? That pasta would cost more than he earned in two hours. Mikie ignored the niggling guilt. Lost in the perfection of his face, she almost forgot to breathe. Somewhere in the room, a door opened and shut. On the table between them, candlelight flickered and waned, then settled into a steady flame. As she watched, mesmerized, the play of light and shadow twisted her husband’s features into a demonic visage.

The above examples are simplistic to an extreme. Still, I hope they demonstrate the benefits of clearing the clutter.

As Christians, we “strive for the mastery.” (Read that, “shoot for perfection.” We may never attain it, but it should be our goal.) Attaining master level in any area requires moderation and temperance in all things.

Merriam-Webster describes “temperance” as: “…keeping or held within limits; not extreme or excessive.”

With the clutter pared away, we might reveal a masterpiece.

© July 2010
Delia Latham
Yesterday's Promise
Adam's Wings (coming 12/2010)
Thank you so much to Delia for those great tips.
How about you, everyone?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

How Do You Do the Research Needed for Your Book? See What Deborah Vogts Has to Say...

We're pleased to share Deborah Vogts with you in the next few days here at the blog. Deborah and her husband have three daughters and make their home in Southeast Kansas where they raise and train American Quarter Horses. As a student at Emporia State University studying English and journalism, Deborah developed a love for the Flint Hills that has never faded. In writing this series which you will learn about this week, she hopes to share her passion for one of the last tallgrass prairie regions in the world, showing that God’s great beauty rests on the prairie and in the hearts of those who live there.

Journey to the Seasons of the Tallgrass
by Deborah Vogts

In April 2008, I received “the phone call” from my agent, Rachelle Gardner, that Zondervan had made an offer on the Seasons of the Tallgrass, a contemporary romance series set in the Flint Hills of Kansas—a place I dearly love. My long-held dream had finally arrived—my prayers had been answered. But the story didn’t begin there…it began many years ago when I attended Emporia State University and took a summer course called Flint Hills Folklore.
 Along with classroom study, we took field trips into the heart of the Flint Hills and visited with old-time ranchers, schoolmarms and post-mistresses. It was such a delightful experience, especially our drives into the pastures. We would get on these back roads and drive over pasture guards into the open range. We would travel for miles without seeing another car or even an electric line—just pure, native prairie. That summer, I fell in love with the Flint Hills and it has stayed with me all this time, finally culminating in the contemporary romance series, the Seasons of the Tallgrass.

My first book, Snow Melts in Spring, begins when a horse is terribly injured. Right off, I had to know technical terminology and had to create a scene that was accurate and believable. To get it right, I contacted a handful of veterinarians, asked them a bunch of detailed questions all the way down to possible accident scenarios, which would create the type of injuries required for the story. I even shadowed one small animal vet for a day in order to get a feel for what a "day in the life" might look like for my character who was also a vet.

My hero in this book is an NFL quarterback, so I also had to know something about football. For this research, I went to the children's section of the library and checked out an armload of books. I also watched a lot of football games on television and asked my football-loving friends and family hundreds of questions--all so I could write two or three scenes with authenticity.

On one of my many road trips into the Flint Hills, my husband and I stayed at the Clover Cliff Ranch, a Bed & Breakfast owned by Jim & Joan Donahue. This place became the basis for the McCray's Lightning M Ranch.

For Seeds of Summer, which released the end of May, I learned about the Miss Rodeo America competition because my main character, Natalie Adams is a former Miss Rodeo Kansas and first runner up Miss Rodeo America. My research for this story included visiting with those at the Miss Rodeo America headquarters, as well as interviewing and questioning the current MRA at that time, Miss Amy Wilson, Miss Rodeo America 2008.

The highlight of this research occurred when I met and visited Amy at her home in Colby, KS. Amy was a joy to work with and is such a lovely person. My visit to her home was an unexpected blessing, as she shared some special moments from her time as Miss Rodeo Kansas and then as Miss Rodeo America. [Insert picture of Amy Wilson]

I learned that Miss Rodeo America has a host of sponsors who shower their queen with lovely gifts, some of which include: a wardrobe of Wrangler Jeans, Justin Boots, Bailey Hats, fully tooled Court’s Saddle with custom Miss Rodeo America conchos and an official Miss Rodeo America trophy buckle from Montana Silversmiths. Accompanying the perpetual Miss Rodeo America tiara made by Landstrom’s Original Black Hills Gold Creations, Amy was given a wardrobe of matching jewelry. These items, along with other prizes were presented to her throughout her reign. To see some pictures of these items, please visit my blog post HERE:

Seeds of Summer
When opposites attract, sparks fly--like an electrical malfunction. That's what happens when former rodeo queen Natalie Adams meets the new pastor in Diamond Falls. A heart-warming contemporary romance set in the Flint Hills of Kansas where a former rodeo queen abandons her dreams in order to care for her deceased father’s ranch and her two half-siblings, only to realize with the help of a young new pastor that God can turn even the most dire circumstances into seeds of hope. Spanning the Seasons of the Tallgrass, each story in this series reveals the struggle of the people who live there and the dreams they have for the land until they come full-circle in a never-ending cycle, just as man comes full-circle in his understanding of God.

Visit Deborah at her web site:  Or her Country at Heart blog:

We also have a reflective thought from Deborah for those who stop by.  Take a moment to add your name to the drawing. We'd love to hear from you.

Each time I drive out into the Flint Hills, my heart soars, and I’m touched by God’s presence in the simplicity of that rolling prairie. Write about a favorite place that warms your heart.

We want to say congratulations to Ann Lee Miller of Gilbert Arizona! Your book is on its way, Ann. Hope you enjoy it as much as we got to enjoy hearing from Deborah.

Monday, July 19, 2010

No Matter the Age, Everyone Enjoys Hearing about Scary Things...Well, Sorta

Join me in welcoming Max Elliot Anderson, who grew up as a struggling, reluctant reader ...
(Are you like that?)
Well, listen to how he overcame that.

Using his extensive experience in the production of motion pictures, videos, and television commercials, Max brings the same visual excitement and heart-pounding action to his adventure and mystery stories, written especially for tween boys.

If you know any tween guys, read ahead, and invite someone else. Moms, Dads, singles, and both boys and girls have reported that reading one of Max Elliot Anderson's books is like being in an exciting movie.

SDC: How did you get into this field of writing for youth, Max?

Max: From my background is in the production of dramatic films, television programs, and commercials. My most favorite projects were films for kids. This is where I learned story, plot, characterizations, pacing, and other skills that would help my writing later. When I did decide to begin writing, it was only natural that I would choose to write action-adventures and mysteries for readers 8 – 13, especially boys.

SDC: I know two young guys just the perfect age for your stuff! Tell us about your publishers and how you were able to propose your work so successfully

Max: I met my first publisher online, in a children’s writers forum. These were two men who each had previous publishing experience. They chose to actually start a company in order to begin publishing my books. Unfortunately, this current economic slowdown was too much for them, and they didn’t survive.

Toward the end of that relationship, I signed with the Hartline Literary agency. Between searches that I continued to do, and the work of my agent, we have signed contracts with two new publishers at the present time.

Port Yonder Press was interested in developing a traditional series. Up until that time, each of my thirty-five manuscripts had different characters, settings, and plots. So I began writing the Sam Cooper Adventure Series. Three manuscripts have been completed for that series so far.

Comfort Publishing has chosen to publish, Barney and The Runaway. In addition, they also picked up my original seven books which include Newspaper Caper, Mountain Cabin Mystery, North Woods Poachers, Legend of the White Wolf, Secret of Abbott’s Cave, Big Rig Rustlers, and Terror at Wolf Lake. And we have signed an option for sixteen more titles.

SDC: That is really great. What are some of your favorite themes you write about in your stories?

Max: My stories range from the classic hero, to battling bullies, fighting against impossible odds, boy-and-his-dog, triumph over tragedy, ordinary kids doing extraordinary things, and other subject matter along these lines.

SDC: All the right stuff! You soundbusy. But tell us about your life outside writing. We'd love to hear about that too.

Max: Well, my life used to center more around video production. There was a major shift for me in this area just after 9/11. That’s why I began writing in the first place, as a creative outlet. Life seemed to straighten out a little just as the bottom again fell out of the economy. So, really, my life is now concentrated around writing, building my platform, speaking, and promoting my books.

My wife and I have two grown children. Our son is an attorney in Chicago, and our daughter teaches 2nd grade in the Orlando area.

We have a cat named Aubie, named after the Auburn Tiger from Auburn University. I’m a big NASCAR fan. Jeff Gordon has always been my favorite driver, and my son and I go to the Daytona 500 every year.

I’d like to have time for other things, but these days, in order to be effective in the world of publishing, I believe it’s necessary to give that everything you have.

SDC: I believe that too. But I work a bit slower than it looks like you do. What books are you reading right now and how do you select your favorite characters in a story?

Max: I grew up hating to read. I know that’s a little different, coming from an author, but it’s still true. I have read some children’s books in order to review them on my Books For Boys blog but I don’t read much for enjoyment. I do read magazines like Writer’s Digest, The Writer, and Christian Retailing, along with Forbes, Fortune, and others. Recent books I’ve read include Wild at Heart, The Alchemist, Man in the Mirror, Big Nate, and Horrid Henry. I have three books stacked up that I want to read about the Second Coming.

Keep in mind that, by the time I finish a manuscript for publication, I might have read it up to twenty times. And when I made the switch to my new publisher, it was necessary for me to read all eight of the books they had chosen to publish.

SDC: Yes, we do keep busy reading through our own stuff again, and again, and again, don't we. What’s your favorite Bible verse or verse that has sustained you recently and why?

Max: I’ve always liked 1st Corinthians 10:31. Throughout my life, this verse has helped in the decision making process, or in choosing direction. In the Living Bible it reads, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

SDC: One of my favorites, Max. Do any family members play a part in your story writing?

Max: Yes. Most in my family are very supportive. Two of my brothers, and one of my sisters, have read every one of my manuscripts. The oldest sister has also helped as an editor. She taught creative writing at the University level. My son has also done line editing for me. During his lifetime, my dad published over 70 books. He and my mother used to read my manuscripts together, out loud, before he died at 88.

SDC: What a neat testimony of the nearness of your family. How do you choose your settings?

Max: I have an advantage in that my film and video production work has required me to travel all across the United States, Canada, and around the world. Many of my stories are set in places where I’ve actually been before. Most often, the story suggests itself first, and the setting falls in line behind that.

SDC: I have been loving what you've shared with us. Thank you so much, Max. I understand you have a book you would like to donate to one of our readers, or to offer one of their family members. That's awesome. What question you would like one of our viewers to answer to help me select the winner?

Max: I’d like to offer a copy of North Woods Poachers. This will be one from my original publisher. I’ll sign it, and since the book is to be republished, this will be somewhat of a collector’s item.

The question for our guests, since most of my books get a little scary at times is, Tell us about the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you, or a friend of yours.”

SDC: Ah, that's a super question. I can't wait to see the responses. Where can our readers find you on the web, Max?

Max : Come by Books for Boys blog  or my Author Web Site And on Facebook
Or Twitter My new books will be distributed by Ingram, available to order in any bookstore, on Amazon and other online bookstores.


Readers and writers, moms and dads, be sure to write in and leave your responses to Max's question. It's a good one regardless of who you are.

Congratulations to AJ Hawke of Richardson, Texas. Be watching for your book!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Susan Page Davis, who we get the pleasure of speaking to again here at A Pen for Your Thoughts,  is the author of thirty novels. She and her husband Jim, a freelance editor, live in Kentucky with the youngest two of their six children. They also have six wonderful grandchildren. A native of Maine, Susan is adjusting to life in the South She’s an ACFW Book of the Year Winner, a two-time Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award Winner, and her July book, The Crimson Cipher, from Summerside Press, was named a Top Pick at Romantic Times Book Reviews. I know you will look forward to getting to know her a little better in this interview and as you hear about her newest book out.

About The Crimson Cipher:

After her father is murdered in 1915, Emma Shuster is recruited as a Navy cryptographer to help expose enemies she didn’t know America had. Lt. John Patterson introduces her to the Signal Corps. She soon learns that the men who killed her father are still out there, and now they want to stop her. She finds new strength in her faith as she and John strive to outwit her adversary, known only as “Kobold”—German for “goblin.”

SKC: Ooh! That's intriguing! You have me interested already. By the way, Susan, I think I met you at last year’s conference. We were riding in the same van. What a joy that was meeting you. It's a pleasure having you here now. First of all, what inspires you each day with your writing from morning till night?

Susan: Yes, I remember. That was a fantastic conference, and I’m looking forward to this year’s ACFW conference in September. My inspiration comes from a lot of sources—my family, the world around me, other people. For a historical novel, I like to read up on the history of the area it’s set in, and I’ll often find some nuggets that will make interesting incidents in my plot. For the Crimson Cipher, one of those was the bombing of a bridge in Maine. I had no idea German saboteurs had been at work in my home state in 1915.

SKC: Starting and ending a book is often the most difficult, for many writers. Describe how you come to decide the beginning and ending of your stories. If it’s easy, hard, seat-of-the-pants, or carefully thought out.

Susan: I’m a plotter, and I’m most comfortable if all the problems are worked out before I write the story. That doesn’t mean I never vary from the original synopsis, but the major points of the plot usually stay the same. I know where my characters are at the beginning, and where they will end up. Getting there is the fun part.

SKC: I wish I could be a better plotter than I am. I try, but somehow I end up writing from the seat of my pants more often than not. How does a person who uses one side of her brain for things that deal with logistics in the process of story writing and getting their brain into the creative mode?

Susan: I’m not sure I understand that question, so I’ll just say, I don’t know. I just sit down and write.

SKC: I wasn't trying to catch you off guard. I think you probably answered that question when you stated that you plot, which is a more logistical way than just writing off the top of your head. What do you believe is the KEY to writing a good book so far?

Susan: A lot of elements have to come together, but I think most important is to have a great story to tell. And then to tell it—get it down in written form.

SKC: What do you do when you discover your daily writing time begins to interfere with your family time or quality time with God?

Susan: That’s usually time for a break and an evaluation.

SKC: Have you ever experienced your publisher changing your title after you worked so hard to come by it, and, if so, how did you feel about their decision making?

Susan: Oh, yes. One publisher in particular has changed every one of my titles. Sometimes it worked better, but in a couple of cases I was very unhappy. One of my books now has the same title as another book by another author, and it did not seem to me that it fit my story. If you can’t do anything about it (in that case, I couldn’t—they told me it was too late and that was their decision) then you just have to live with it and thank God you have a book. On the flip side is one editor who brainstormed titles with me until we got it right.

SKC: Can certainly be a tricky situation, huh. Every writer has a process that fits her or him personally. How do you settle into your page goals, your chapter goals, your storylines, and the rest? And do you create character studies to work with?

Susan: Sometimes I do character sketches or studies, and sometimes I don’t. Usually I do it if I feel I haven’t gotten to know the character well enough, or if I have an ensemble cast and feel the editor might find it useful to have a short profile of each major character.

By page goals and chapter goals, I think you mean how much I write per day or week. I usually go by words per day, not pages or chapters. I figure out how much I need to write each work day before my deadline in order to have time to get critiques and make revisions. I am usually comfortable with 2,000 words or so a day. In times of stress, 1,000 has to do. In “crunch times,” I write much more than that.

My storyline is usually settled and approved before I begin to write. Coming up with the idea and working through it to be sure it’s good enough and big enough for a full length book takes a while, but the planning is well worth the effort.

SKC: This subject went around ACFW recently. I was in on the question, because it was one of mine. I thought I would ask you your thoughts on it too. How do you deal with unlikable characters without ruining the goal of your story, which might be for the purpose of showing a change in someone’s attitude?

Susan: That’s an excellent question, Shirley, because it’s true that readers don’t identify with a heroine or hero they don’t like. If my main character has to be brash, mean, or otherwise unlikable at the beginning of the story, I try to give her some other qualities to balance that. Even a well-developed villain has some “good” qualities. If you can let the reader in on a different side of the character’s personality, or drop some hints about a past that explains some of the behavior, or show another person who likes the character and understands what makes them tick, it can help a lot. As a quick (oversimplified) example: A heroine might be a strict curmudgeon of a supervisor at work because she feels she has to act that way to keep her position. But when she goes home at night, she might be a wonderful aunt to her sister’s children, or maybe she goes after hours to the animal shelter to volunteer, or maybe she cries about the situation she won’t give in to at work.

SKC: Other writers and readers will appreciate your answer to that above question, Susan. The readers here at A Pen for Your Thoughts also get excited, I believe, about the reflection question an author offers. What would you like to ask both our readers and writers in the next few days...something they can respond to, and what book will you be offering our winner?

Susan: I’m offering The Crimson Cipher.

My question is: Has reading fiction ever altered your plans or your actions?

SDC: Oh, I love that question. (I also love your book coverR!) So many of us write with a message of some sort, in hopes we WILL affect the way a person sees certain things. Thanks for being a part of A Pen for Your Thoughts, Susan. As we close out today, please let us know where we can buy signed copies of your work, and how we can find you and read more about you.

Susan: For a signed copy, email me through my Web site: (or just drop by for a visit). You can find my books (or order them if you can’t find them) in bookstores, or at,, or Eight of my books are available electronically.


Congratulations to Ann Lee Miller, Gilbert AZ. It's so great to share these books with so many wonderful people we are having the pleasure of meeting.
Be watching for your book, Ann. And THANKS so much for following A Pen for Your Thoughts and leaving your comment!

Thanks to all the rest as well!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Writing and The Role of Patience and Waiting

I am so thrilled to share Joseph Bentz with you this week here at A Pen for Your Thoughts. Joseph will be offering us a wonderful feature on the character trait we all so desire--the art of living with and showing patience in our lives...especially with our writing.

At the close of Joseph's feature is a reflective question for you. Joseph will be sharing his his book/DVD combo on patience with the winner who is selected at random at the end of his time with us. We look forward to hearing from you this week.

Who is Joseph Bentz? 

Joseph Bentz is the author of four novels and three non-fiction Christian living books. His most recent book is God in Pursuit: The Tipping Points from Doubt to Faith (Beacon Hill Press, 2010). His book When God Takes Too Long: Learning to Thrive During Life’s Delays (Beacon Hill Press, 2005) is available as a stand-alone book or accompanied by a DVD that guides small groups through a six-week study of the book. All of his Christian living books include free Study Guides that are ideal for small group use.

Among Bentz’s novels are A Son Comes Home (Randall House, 2007), contemporary novels published by Bethany House, and a fantasy novel, Song of Fire, published by Thomas Nelson. Bentz is a professor of English at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California, where he teaches courses in American literature and writing. More information about his books and speaking is available at his website,

Writing and The Role of Patience and Waiting
by Joseph Bentz

A writer may often have to wonder, why do I always seem to be waiting for things to happen? Why do I so often feel that the most important events in my life are just beyond my reach?

My book, When God Takes Too Long: Learning to Thrive During Life’s Delays, sprang from what I consider one of the most frustrating aspects of the Christian life: Waiting. Why does God seem to take so long to accomplish His purposes in my life? As I researched the book, I decided to read the entire Bible specifically with the idea of Waiting in mind. As I studied the stories of the great men and women of faith, I looked for patterns. I wanted to know, what principles of how God works in the lives of His followers can be drawn from these people? What can how He worked in their lives tell me about how I might expect Him to work in mine?

The ideas about waiting on God that I explore are not limited to writers, of course, but because the writing life includes so much Waiting, these are principles writers in particular can relate to. Consider the chapter titles alone and see if you can see the connections between these ideas and the writer:

Expect some frustrating detours if you’re going to follow God.

• Assume that God is at work—even when you don’t understand what He’s doing.

• Remember your identity in God during the long days of waiting.

• Trust God—even though you’re likely to feel His way is not the best way.

• Wait and obey—even as things seem to get worse.

• Have faith that in His good time God will sweep away the obstacles.

Remind yourself of what the Lord did for you in the past.

• Wait when it’s time to wait and act when it’s time to act.

• Know your enemies—their names are Restlessness, Complaining, and Disobedience.

• Cling to God’s purposes—even if you have a quicker plan of your own.

Do any of these resonate with your life as a writer? I wish I could discuss all of them, but right now I will focus on one that has been especially meaningful to me as a writer: Wait when it’s time to wait and act when it’s time to act.

One of the most exasperating aspects of the writing life is how many things are out of my control. The unknowns feel endless: Do I have what it takes to write this book? Even if I manage to get it written, will anyone publish it? If someone does publish it, will anyone read it? If people do read it, will anyone like it? If some readers do like it, will it sell well enough for me to publish another? If I do publish another, will that one merely prove that the first one was a fluke and that I should have stopped a long time ago? Am I really called to be a writer? Is the publishing industry imploding? Should I quit? Should I write more? Should I market more? Is there any future in this?

Writers at every level, from bestselling authors to beginners, struggle with these questions, and I know very few who get beyond all their insecurities. I know even top-selling authors who fear their best days are behind them. In the “Wait when it’s time to wait and act when it’s time to act” chapter of When God Takes Too Long, I examine Moses and the Israelites shortly after they have been freed from Pharaoh as they begin their extremely long odyssey through the desert toward the Promised Land. This should be the happy part of their story, since they have finally gained their freedom, but it isn’t. Up to now they have already endured terrible struggle—hundreds of years of slavery, a forty-year “detour” of Moses’ life as a shepherd in Midian, Moses’ reluctance to take the lead once God calls him, Pharaoh’s crackdown on the people once Moses demands their freedom, and plague after plague that almost convinces Pharaoh to free them before he changes his mind.

But finally—they’re free! They want to rush to the Promised Land, but God takes them the long way instead. They don’t get it. Pharaoh doesn’t get it either. God’s plan for the Israelites doesn’t look too bright to him. The ruler of Egypt misses his huge slave workforce. He decides it’s time to send out his army to bring them back. After all, they appear to have lost their way. He says of them, “They are confounded in the land. The wilderness has closed round them” (Exodus 14:3).

So far, to me this sounds very similar to the writing life—years of struggle followed by frustration and second-guessing. My first novel took me ten years to write, followed by another year to find a publisher and another year for revisions and editing before publication. During that time there were plenty of second-guessers, people who thought I was “confounded in the land.” In fact, I told few people that I was even writing a book because I shared their skepticism. Who was I to write a book? Why was it taking so long? Why did it have to be so difficult? How realistic was it that the outcome of this struggle would be good?

Pharaoh’s army bore down on the Israelites as they waited, disappointed and bitter, by the Red Sea. They panicked. They turned on Moses. They complained extravagantly. In that dire moment, Moses gave this advice, in one of my favorite portions of scritpture: “Do not be afraid. Take your station and see the Lord’s deliverance that He will do for you today, for as you see the Egyptians today, you shall not see them again for all time. The Lord shall do battle for you, and you shall keep still” (Exodus 14:13-14).

Do not be afraid.

Take your station.

The Lord shall do battle for you.

You shall keep still.
We all know how the story ends. God comes through for the Israelites in ways their own plans could never have come close to matching. As the army draws near, Moses stretches out his hand over the sea, and the Lord causes the water to split apart to form a dry area for the Hebrews to cross. The Egyptians follow, but their chariots get stuck, and they panic. The Lord orders Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea again, and the water floods down on the Egyptians and drowns them. They have many challenges ahead, but their fight with Pharaoh is over.

As a writer, my station is at the computer, where I sit without fear each day to do the work I feel called to do. I cannot control the outcome. I can’t predict the future of the publishing industry. I can’t predict the responses of editors or readers. I can’t control sales. I write because that is what is in me to do. I trust the Lord to do battle for me. I trust Him with the outcome, even if it’s different from my expectations. I’m tempted to panic at times, tempted to give up, but instead I keep still. If He wants to call me in a different direction, I’m ready. Until then, I take my station. Day after day, I write with joy and anticipation.

Reflective Question (for you):
As a writer, how hard is it for you to “take your station” and “keep still” while the Lord fights the battle for you? What are you tempted to do instead?

And for the rest of you who don't believe you are necessarily called to be writers:
What in this feature ministered to you most this week?

Congratulations to Jan Cline of Spokane Valley, Washington! Watch for your book. It's on its way soon.