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When is it appropriate to use your trauma, personal drama, family emergency – or other catastrophe to sell books? Some might say, “Never!” —but then only presenting the rosy, perfect, polished side of life isn’t very authentic.

Recently, my husband’s brush with death in a traffic accident, a ministry friend’s early step into heaven and a leader’s home fire all caused me to ponder, “When is it good or a part of God’s will to post on tragedy and turmoil?”

Here are a few questions to ask before your post (especially if sharing a story will result in a profit of any kind, including books sales, it is best to double -check your heart):

Is this my story to tell?

Post unto others as you would have posted unto you paraphrases the Golden Rule of Christ’s words in Matthew 7:12.  If this is not your life, recount the facts and feelings in a way that you would like someone to do for you. Share your own personal feelings, how God is speaking to you, what you learned while keeping the details of the story private to protect another already going through a challenging time.  If it is your story, as was the case with my side of the story (of the near tragedy of my husband Bill’s truck being hit and hurled into a concrete highway divider by a speeding teen driver), then I was free to share my point of view, my feelings, and I did link to our marriage books. Because the principles in those books would help another couple in a comparable situation, we both wanted to use this pivotal moment to teach and train. (Read the full story )

Have I asked permission?

“…serve one another in love…” (Gal. 15:13 )

Even though I had plenty to share from my point of view, because someone else was also in the story, after our emotions settled and the crisis handled, I felt it necessary to ask Bill, if and when he might be comfortable with me sharing the account.  I penciled out what I thought was appropriate at this juncture and ran the text by him for approval. One never wants to add to another’s pain and drama when they are already experiencing pain and drama!

Is this the right time?

“it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time… “ (Proverbs 15:23 )

There might be a need or a desire to share an announcement or a statement. In these cases, if the ministry or the person themselves has shared, it is best to directly quote their testimonial.  Ask yourself “Will sharing the information lessen a person’s trauma, help meet his or her need or help reach or inform the audience he or she is trying to reach?”  For example, when a ministry leader was killed overseas and his ministry was wanting to get the word out so people could pray for his wife, family and his ministry, I instantly shared the post because it was clear that was the result wanted. In my post, I did inform my audience a little more of the bio, including a few of his books, so people would recognize and know whom I was talking about.

What is my motive?

“Search me God and know my heart…” (Psalms 139:23 )

Sometimes people rush to be the bearers of shocking news simply because they gain attention because they might have an insider’s view or a seat behind the scenes. Nothing hurts someone already going through a private tragedy in public view more than having friends divulge information he or she might have wanted to keep private. Ask yourself, “Would the person at the center see the sharing of this information as a betrayal?” Also ask yourself if you are the best person to share the news, or if there is someone better suited, better prepared, better equipped or better at handling these emotionally charged events.  Many professions are well trained in handling these kind of raw life moments: pastors, doctors, politicians, law enforcement or military leaders all have as part of their training elements of crisis management.   It might be God will ask you to be the silent servant behind the scenes that helps a family member or leader as he or she interacts with the public.

What is the desired outcome?

“Set your affections on the things above…” (Col. 3:2)

If you sense a green light on all the above questions, then before God ask, “Lord, what do you want to see happen in the lives of others who might read these words or hear this video?”  Is God wanting people to come to know Him personally and be prepared for eternity? Is he asking you to rally help or aid? Does the person or family in crisis have an economic need that they have asked you to share? It there a moral or Biblical truth that needs highlighted?  Before you write, before you speak—pray.

 

Pam Farrel is the very grateful to God wife of Bill, who was at the center of this story – and whose tale has a happy ending. (Fortunately, miraculously, my husband survived).  Together the Farrels write, speak and travel the world encouraging, equipping and inspiring people to live “Love-Wise.” They are the authors of 45 books including the newly revised, updated and expanded version of their best seller, Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti.

 

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Maureen pic from booksigningGreetings and Happy New Year! Maureen Pratt here with my monthly CAN blog on the craft of writing. Today, I'm going to offer one technique to help you find the right angle and tone for your story. Sometimes, fine-tuning these so that your intent is clear and your storytelling is compelling isn't a matter of vocabulary or sentence structure, or even pacing or flow.

Sometimes, it's how you frame your story that gives it its best final form.

Recently, I took two lovely watercolors to a frame shop. I'd purchased them awhile ago, and never liked the plain frames they'd come in. Each picture was of a stylized bird, wings outstretched, positioned amid some leaves and branches. Some of the colors were vivid – electric blues and bright pinks – and others were more muted – faint corals and fern greens, along with a more muted blue. 

As I tried one color of matting after another, and one frame after another along with the matting, I began to realize that, although the pictures remained the same, the overall effect and, even, the sense of beauty conveyed by the images, changed with each different color and combination. For example, if I were to use the same paler shade of blue as on the birds' undersides, the effect was not as eye-catching as when I tried to use a mat that was more vividly blue. 

The texture of the mats made a difference, too, as did the different shapes and widths of the frame pieces I tried. 

In the end, I settled on contrasting colors and a natural maple frame to set off the birds and draw the eye into the images.

As I left the shop, I realized that we do the same thing with writing. We begin with a story and characters that will populate it. Our stories have bveginnings, middles, and ends, subplots, and through-lines. Themes, too, and a writer's voice to tell the tale.

But even if we have unique characters and a never-before-heard plot, or, in non-fiction, even if we are writing about something no one has ever read about before, how we frame the work will make a difference as to whether we hold the reader's attention, draw him or her deeper into our story, and want to come back for more work by the same author.

The frame is made up of the world of the piece – what is around the characters (a town, a profession, a time period) and how vividly or faintly this world is portrayed.

The frame also has textures – within the time period, for example, how "gritty" will your scene-setting be? (distinct smells in the streets of London in the 17th century, for example, or a passing mention of the aroma of life there?) How much will you play with language to convey sounds, sights, and other "set pieces," such as weather? (for example: "Crack!"  or "Thunder exploded above her.")

The frame has size – How much space will you devote to setting your scene, and will you fashion subplots within it or graze only the surface on your way to your main characters and plot?

While trying to decide how I wanted to frame my pictures, I played with various combinations and also thought about where I would hang them. In our writing work, we can think about whether the book fits in with our current contract, for example, or whether it is the start of a whole new series or direction.

So, play with your frames and matting. Try an approach you've never explored before, even something you don't think will work. 

You might be surprised at what you discover as you experiment with different frames. Why, you might just find a completely new and exciting direction, a new creative canvass within which to paint your story.

Blessings in the New Year,

Maureen

www.maureenpratt.com

http://blog.beliefnet.com/gooddaysbaddays/

P.S. My publishing and production experience includes plays, a novella, several non-fiction books, devotionals, a regular blog and a syndicated monthly column. Playing with framing works in each of these categories and, I'm sure, many more.

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When does a wise author start thinking about marketing? Long before the first word of the book is written.

I remember questioning that advice when I first heard it. I trusted the instructor who said it, so I listened intently for what she meant. Now with more than a half dozen books with my name on the spine–and more on the way

, I'm absolutely convinced of the profound truth in that counsel.

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Pic for website 2012Hello, again! Maureen Pratt here with my monthly CAN blog about the art and craft of writing. This month's topic is, "Help! Where's my story?!" or, "What to do when your story goes one way while you go another."

Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, plotting or outlining is often an essential part of the publication process. From the first query to the last book cover blurb, most of us try to envision the beginning, middle and end of a work before we dive in.

 But, as we authors know, as hard as we might work on those early ideations, "things happen" once we get started. New facts come to light. A secondary character takes center stage. A plot thread we knew was right suddenly becomes oh-so-wrong.

How do we handle these and other creations of the creative process? First of all…

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Gail Gaymer Martin

Good morning from Gail Gaymer Martin at www.gailmartin.com

When creating story, the author should remember that each genre has its own set of patterns or “rules.” By rules, I mean reader expectations and qualities editors look for in your manuscript.

These patterns or rules do not exclude creativity. If that were so, authors would lose their spirit. Within the expected genre patterns, authors have great leeway to create unique stories. So let's take a look at the various patterns for romance, mystery and suspense, and speculative fiction such as: fantasy, paranomral and adventure,

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