Posts Categorized: Writers Conference

Four Ways Money Can Add Depth to Your World

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british coins

by Chris Morris

Many novels hardly even mention currency in the story. And most characters never run out of money or supplies … unless it’s a convenient plot point.

But a creative author can use money as a way to introduce the intricacies of the world that is created. Currency can shine light on the motives of a character. In fantasy, the currency is often based on one or more types of metal. Classic science fiction fare typically has paperless credits or universal currency. So long as authors stick to the mantra of “show, don’t tell,” economies can serve as much more than background.

  1. Political unrest

Imagine a world where a usurper just commandeered control of the kingdom where your story takes place. As an indication of his newly established dominion, he mints new currency with his face on the coins and issues an edict that all commerce must be conducted with his coins only.

Those who support the usurper will gladly comply, while those merchants with less-than-loving feelings toward him will be inclined to continue to accept the “old money.”

Placing your protagonist in the midst of this political intrigue opens a variety of options that will enhance your story.

  1. Bartering with a twist

Picture a universe where a horse with a lame leg has more value to a merchant than a healthy horse. There are  myriad reasons this could be the case, each giving you the chance to expand your world.

Perhaps the sacred texts of your world include this proverb: “The favor of the gods will shine upon the man who cares for a lame animal, for his heart is pure and worthy of reward.”

This uncommon bartering system would create some particularly memorable scenes in a time-travel plot line like Outlander, where the protagonist is not familiar with the world. Your readers would then be able to experience confusion with your main character, which creates further connection with your story.

  1. Black market

It would be easy to “play the religion card” in this scenario. To use an example that could potentially occur in our actual world, consider what the market for hamburgers in India might look like if India were a militant Hindu nation.

But religion is not the only reason a black market might exist. There are many creative concepts that could be applied here. The monarch of a kingdom could be deathly allergic to nuts, so they are banished. But there are certain indigenous tribesmen who still rely upon the sale of Brazil nuts. Welcome to the Brazil nut black market.

Your protagonist can enter this black market for a variety of reasons, ranging from an insatiable desire for Brazil nuts to a need for extra income.

  1. Money exchangers can provide insight into the prejudices among the races.

Consider for a moment what it would be like for a Romulan in the twenty-fourth century to work at a currency exchange for a Klingon world? Try as he might, his strong prejudice against Klingons would come out. This can be brought into the narrative using a short dialogue scene like this:

“We don’t want to exchange our money until Sbardi is working. Like all Romulans, he hates Klingons and gives a better exchange rate.”

In two sentences, the readers are clued into racial tension and see how it impacts the protagonist. The possibilities are endless when you introduce money exchange as a component of your universe.

I am a CPA, but I realize that most people would not want to read a treatise on the economic conditions of Diagon Alley. I’m not suggesting the focus of your stories be on the intricacies of how goods are bought and sold. Instead, I’m pointing out the opportunities that exist in the context of money exchanging hands. Rather than quickly moving over these exchanges, and treating money as a non-entity in the stories you craft, you can add depth and vibrancy to your world.

What other ways could you see currency being used to open up your world to your readers?

Chris is presenting financial workshops for creative people at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference April 7-11, 2017.

photo of chris morrisChris Morris is the founder and managing partner for Chris Morris CPA, LLC, an accounting firm focused on meeting the tax and accounting needs of creative entrepreneurs. He has the privilege of counting editors, digital designers, magazine publishers, authors, photographers, online marketing firms, and book illustrators among his clients. He is the author of the book I’m Making Money, Now What? A Creative Entrepreneur’s Guide to Managing Taxes & Accounting for a Growing Business.

 

The Psalmist Had a Day Job

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the text of psalm 23

by Cynthia Ruchti

For every writer who slogged through a day where interruptions outnumbered hours spent writing…

For every novelist who left a hero in deep distress because the family car needed its oil changed or the substitute teacher position turned into a financially helpful but creatively draining three-month maternity leave sub…

For every memoirist at the edge of a breakthrough in a gripping opening line, called away by a spreadsheet due on a client’s desk…

I offer hope.

King David managed roles as writer, worshiper, and warrior, among other things. He had a day job—king. But what he wrote in pensive, reflective, or desperate hours while listening to, praising, or arguing with God formed among the most frequently visited pages of history’s all-time best seller: the Bible. King and lyricist. King and musician. King and warrior and worshiper and writer.

Aspiring writers might be surprised at the number of veteran authors who—despite multiple books to their credit—have day jobs in addition to their writing careers. They teach fitness classes, work for non-profit ministries, hold down part-time jobs at coffee shops or dental clinics. Among many prolific authors are those who offer home daycare, run ranches, sit in uninspiring cubicles working on uninspiring projects until the end of the workday when their paycheck will provide more printer ink for their heart’s true passion: writing.

You mean I can have it all? I can have a prolific writing career while single-handedly managing a national or international ministry and teaching weekly cooking classes and traveling more than I’m home at my desk and raising organic goats and getting my doctorate in advanced nuclear physics and refinishing museum-quality fifteenth-century furniture and caring for my elderly parents?

No. Key words from that paragraph tell the story:

  • All. The only “alls” we can successfully handle are all God has for us and all God wants us to be.
  • Single-handedly. If the “all” God is asking of us can’t be listed in one breath, we’ll need help: His, obviously, and the help of others who can assist or, better yet, take over responsibilities we thought were ours to manage.
  • Weekly. The writer who is serious about using the gift of words, story, and language for holy, God-directed purposes will have few additional weekly, regular, time-consuming commitments. We’re not told that King David had time for a golf league or that he played the lyre in nursing homes every weekend.
  • Goats. David may have insisted on organic goat’s milk on his breakfast table, but he left his animal-herding days behind when God called him away from tending livestock. The committed writer soon learns that some activities become archives and memories in order to create time for writing.
  • Caring. God too may have glanced over all the other words in that paragraph of piled on responsibilities and landed on this one. Caring is dear to His heart. If what we abandon in our pursuit of a writing career is the caring part—caring for our families, about our relationship with the God for whom we write, about our readers, caring for those entrusted to us—the words we write will ring hollow in His ears and hollow to those who know and love us.

King David was writer, worshiper, and warrior. How did he juggle those interconnected but distinct roles? And what core principles guided all three careers?

Ah! That’s the stuff of which workshops are made.

Cynthia will be mentoring nonfiction writers in inspirational and personal-experience stories at the 2017 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Cynthia Ruchti headshotAuthor and speaker Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-hope. Her novels, novellas, devotions, and nonfiction have been recognized by a number of significant industry awards. She and her husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five grandchildren. Her prayer is that those who finish reading one of her books or attending an event where she’s speaking will gain the confidence to say, “I can’t unravel. I’m hemmed in hope.”

17 Questions to Ask When Researching for Your Novel

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historical book, glasses, clock

by Sarah Sundin

When I started writing my first World War II novel, I thought I just needed to read a history book, find some cute outfits for my heroine, and have her hum a popular tune.

You may now stop laughing.

Those initial research questions ended up raising more questions. I fell in love with the era and longed to bring it alive with thorough research.

Here are seventeen questions to ask when conducting research for historical fiction. Many are also useful for contemporary novels and when building a story world for fantasy or science fiction. You will not need deep research in every area, but you should be aware of them.

  1. Historical events
    You need to know the events occurring in your era. Even if your character isn’t directly involved, she will be affected by them. Be familiar with the preceding era too.
  2. Setting in historical context
    You may know your setting now—but what was it like then? Towns grow and shrink, businesses and streets change, ethnic groups come and go.
  3. Schooling
    What was the literacy level? Who went to school and for how long? What did they study? If your character breaks the mold (the peasant who reads), how did this happen?
  4. Occupation
    Although I’m a pharmacist, writing about a pharmacist in WWII required research. How much training was required? What were the daily routines, tools, and terminology used, outfits worn? How was the occupation perceived by others?
  5. Community Life
    What clubs and volunteer organizations were popular? What were race relations like? Class relations?
  6. Religious Life
    How did religion affect personal lives and the community? What denominations were in the region? What was the culture in the church—dress, order of service, behavior? Watch out for modern views here.
  7. Names
    Research common names in that era and region. If you must use something uncommon, justify it—and have other characters react appropriately. Also research customs of address (“Mrs. Smith” or “Mary”). In many cultures, only intimate friends used your first name.
  8. Housing
    What were homes like? Floor plans, heating, lighting, plumbing? What were the standards of cleanliness? What about wall coverings and furniture? What colors, prints, and styles were popular?
  9. Home Life
    What were the roles of men, women, and children? What were the rites of courtship and marriage? Views on child rearing? How about routines for cleaning and laundry?
  10. Food
    What recipes and ingredients were used? How was food prepared? Where and when were meals eaten and how (manners, dishes)?
  11. Transportation
    How did people travel? Look into the specifics on wagons, carriages, trains, automobiles, planes. What was the route, how long did it take, and what was the travel experience like?
  12. Fashion
    Most historical writers adore this area. What were the distinctions between day and evening clothing, formal and informal? How about shoes, hats, gloves, jewelry, hairstyles, makeup? Don’t forget to clothe the men and children too!
  13. Communication
    How did people communicate over long distances? How long did letters take and how were they delivered? Did they have telegrams or telephones—if so, how were they used?
  14. Media
    How was news received? By couriers, newspapers, radio, movie newsreels, TV? How long did it take for people to learn about an event?
  15. Entertainment
    How did they spend free time? Music, books, magazines, plays, sports, dancing, games? Did people enjoy certain forms of entertainment—or shun others?
  16. Health Care
    Your characters get sick and injured, don’t they? Good. How will you treat them? Who will treat them and where? What were common diseases? Did they understand the relationship between germs and disease?
  17. Justice
    Laws change, so be familiar with laws concerning crimes committed by or against your characters. Also understand the law enforcement, court, and prison systems.

Don’t get overwhelmed or buried in research. Remember, story rules. Let the story guide your research, and let research enrich your story. Your readers will love it.

Originally published by FaithWriters, October 8, 2012, http://faithwriters.com/blog/2012/10/08/historical-research-seventeen-questions/.

photo of sarah sundlinSarah Sundin will be teaching a Fiction Morning Mentoring Clinic and a workshop on “Historical Research without the Headaches.” She is the author of nine historical novels, including Anchor in the Storm and When Tides Turn (March 2017). Her novel Through Waters Deep was a finalist for the 2016 Carol Award, won the INSPY Award, and was named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years.” A mother of three, Sarah lives in California. www.sarahsundin.com.

Click here for more information about the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Harnessing the Magic of “After-Writing”

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by Joseph Bentz

I would like to declare a new stage of the writing process. I call it “after-writing.” Even though I never see it discussed in books or articles about writing, for me it has been a crucial stage in the writing of my books.

I teach writing in a variety of venues, from freshman courses at Azusa Pacific University to professional conferences like the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, where I will be leading a Morning Mentoring Clinic on writing nonfiction books this year. In textbooks, writing experts often identify and describe the various stages of the writing process as pre-writing, drafting, revision, editing, and proofreading. The “after-writing” stage that I am proposing is not represented by any of those steps. By overlooking it, writers may be losing an opportunity to harness much more of their creative energy.

creative child in afterglow of sunset Here is how after-writing works for me. I sit down for my scheduled daily writing session on the book I am working on. Let’s say I have three hours for that session. At the end of that time, I will have to set the book aside, move on to other things, and come back the next day to pick up where I left off. By the time the writing session is over, my ideas are usually flowing pretty well, I have an idea where I am headed next, and I look forward to getting back to it the following session.

As you may have experienced, what often happens the next day is that as I glance over what I wrote the day before, my sense of momentum that had felt so strong the previous day has now shut down. I often think, Now, where was I headed with this? What was I planning to write next? I can spend much of the current day’s writing time trying to reconstruct that mind-set of the previous day and re-enter that creative flow.

“After-writing” helps prevent that dilemma. Now, instead of merely stopping at the end of a writing session, I make sure to leave a little time—maybe ten or fifteen minutes—at the end of a session to jot down a note to myself about what I would have written next if I had been able to continue. This “after-writing” note is usually rough. I don’t worry about getting the wording just right or tracking down the documentation of a source or even writing in complete thoughts. What I’m after is a road map for the next day. I need notes that capture my thinking of that moment so that when I read them the next day, those thoughts will come alive inside me again, and I won’t have to waste time recreating my earlier mind-set. The notes might be so rough that they would make sense to no one but me, but I am the only one who will read them anyway.

“After-writing” has another benefit. I have noticed that when I am in my more formal writing stage, I am sometimes a little tense as I try to get the sentences and paragraphs just right. But once I enter the “after-writing” stage and the pressure is off, sometimes that unleashes a whole new burst of creativity. Even though I might have felt worn out from writing, I suddenly have a new gush of words that I can barely type fast enough to get on the screen. That second wind sometimes leads me to postpone my stopping time and keep going awhile longer.

I have discovered one final advantage of the after-writing stage. After many years as a writer, I noticed that once I have stopped writing for the day and my mind has let go of that disciplined way of thinking, I often have another rush of ideas about an hour later. I used to ignore that or even squelch it, thinking that I had already done my work for the day and should relax and return to it tomorrow. But now I prepare myself for that little “brainstorm” and take advantage of it by jotting down whatever comes during that time. Then I can go back to whatever else I was doing.

For me, writing a book includes many moments of joy, insight, and satisfaction, but it is also a long, hard slog. Good ideas are precious commodities in that process, and I want to do everything I can to capture the ones that show up. “After-writing” is one of the best techniques I have found to accomplish that.

Joseph Bentz has published four novels and five nonfiction books. His most recent book, Nothing Is Wasted, was published in 2016 by Beacon Hill Press. He is a blogger and currently at work on a book about passages of Scripture that have changed the world. He is a professor of English at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California, where he teaches courses in writing and American literature.

Joseph will be a nonfiction mentor and also presenting workshops at the Mount Hermon Writers Conference. Click here for more information.

Conference Connections

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people connectionAre you attending the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference for the first time? Returning after a long break? Perhaps you’ve attended before but are submitting to editors and agents for the first time. Conference Connections is for you!

Before the Conference

Download the First-Timer’s Packet, which is filled with helpful tips and information.

Look for our weekly Pre-Conference Preparation Tips on Facebook, starting the first week in February.

At the Conference

On Friday after lunch, be sure to attend the First-Timer’s Orientation, where you will receive valuable information on how to get the most out of this wonderful conference.

Keep an eye out for people who have hearts on their name tags. These conference veterans enjoy connecting with first-timers and those who feel like newbies. If you have a question, can’t decide which workshop to take, need help finding a room, are having a difficult day, or want to share exciting news, flag down one of these kind, encouraging registrants or faculty members. They will be happy to help, listen, or pray with you. Be sure to introduce yourself to at least one of them so they get a chance to meet you.

If you walk into lunch or dinner feeling tired, discouraged, or like you need a break from trying to impress editors, join us at the table designated as a No-Pressure Zone. There you can relax, connect with others, and get the lift you need to go into the rest of your day.

Still have questions? Contact Jeanette Hanscome and she will be happy to help you.

See you in April!

The Challenge of Writing for Children

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shelves with children's books

by Crystal Bowman

When people find out I write books for children, their response goes something like this: “Oh, how fun! I have always wanted to write a children’s book.” Writing for children is fun, but fun does not mean easy. That’s why I love teaching classes on writing for children. I enjoy helping writers learn the craft of this genre. But the more you learn, the harder it gets! Here are a few basic tips on how to get started:

  • Learn the genre and the sub-genres. The genre of children’s literature is very specific and writers need to learn how to write for children. Writing an engaging story with limited word count and limited vocabulary is difficult—even for seasoned writers. Then there are the sub-genres. From board books to early chapter books and everything in between, each sub-genre has its own specific requirements that writers need to know.
  • Understand the market. Before you invest your time and energy in writing a children’s book, research the market to find out what is already out there. If what you write is not better than or different from what is already being sold, your book stands little chance of being published.
  • Master writing techniques. Rhythm, rhyme, repetition, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and other forms of wordplay are effective tools for children’s stories. However, these writing techniques must be mastered if you want to add creative elements to your story. Misusing these techniques will send your manuscript on a fast track to the slush pile.
  • Have your story edited. Once you have learned the basics and begin writing your story, be sure to work with a children’s editor or writing coach. Your story needs to be professionally polished to catch the attention of a publisher. You must be willing to accept constructive criticism and revise your manuscript multiple times.
  • Don’t give up. There are no shortcuts or quick paths to the world of publishing. Writing for publication can take many years, and some writers give up along the way. If writing for children is truly your passion, learn everything you can about the process. Be persistent, patient, and prayerful. Learn. Learn. Learn. Revise. Revise. Revise.

 

I was thrilled to be invited back for a second year to lead sessions at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. I will be teaching a Pre-Conference Next Level class and look forward to working with some talented writers. If your passion is writing for children, please sign up for this session. I can’t wait to meet you!

Crystal is the Children’s Books and Magazines mentor for the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic, April 5-7.

Click here for more information about the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, April 7-11.

Crystal Bowman

Crystal Bowman is a best-selling, award-winning author of more than 100 books for children, including The One Year Book of Devotions for Preschoolers, Our Daily Bread for Kids, and My Mama and Me. She has written many I Can Read! books, as well as stories for Clubhouse Jr. magazine and lyrics for children’s piano music.

 

The Power of a Mason Jar

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mason jar

by Marci Seither

“Are you going to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers conference this spring?” I asked Susan Gregory one day. I had volunteered to give her a ride to an event, and as we rode together we found out we shared a love of writing.

She told me it wasn’t in her budget but she hoped to attend one year. Despite having a book that she would love to see published, it seemed like her dream was beyond her reach.

I knew the feeling of having something you dream of doing, and even feel called to do, yet not seeing any way it could happen.

The first year I decided to attend the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference I taught swim lessons and worked as a lifeguard all summer, putting the money I made into a mason jar designated for conference tuition. I knew it would take a lot of planning and sunscreen to pull it off.

My husband gave me money toward tuition in lieu of Christmas and birthday gifts, adding to my mason jar. I did a photo shoot for a friend, and in return, she surprised me by putting cash into my Mount Hermon fund. I managed to collect enough to attend the conference. I did the same thing for a few more years after that.

“Let your family and friends know you have a big dream,” I told Susan. “And start a conference fund for yourself.”

When we got to our destination, she handed me money for gas. I gave it back to her. “This is the first deposit in your conference fund.”

Eighteen months later, Susan’s face beamed as she walked down the redwood-lined path at Mount Hermon. “I made it!” she exclaimed. “I’m here because of the Conference Fund! It took a while, but the money you gave me became something that grew.”

cover of the book slender reedsI recently saw Susan’s newly published book, Slender Reeds, being shared on Facebook. It is beautiful. And it really was a dream come true.

I later heard about a young mom named Jenni who felt led to write but didn’t know where to start. Her friend encouraged her to set up a GoFundMe account in order to attend the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. A GoFundMe account is a way for people to tell others what they need funds for and why. Instead of giving gifts or stocking stuffers, people can add funds to that person’s project. Many of Jenni’s friends helped support her and her dream of reaching others through her writing.

I’m not saying that if you just set a mason jar on the counter all your dreams will come true. That’s not realistic. But sharing your goals with others allows them the opportunity to partner with you in something worthwhile.

Pride can make us dream hoarders. Humility allows us to be vulnerable and share our dreams with others.

Do you have a big dream? Are you among the 81 percent of Americans who would love to write a book but just need the courage, and maybe a nudge, to put action to that dream?

Why not set up a mason jar conference fund and see what happens?

For more information about the Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference, click here.

Marci SeitherMarci Seither has written hundreds of feature stories, op/editorials, and human-interest articles for local papers as well as contributing to national publications. She has been married to her husband almost 30 years and is mom to six amazingly rowdy kiddos who have provided her with volumes of great material, loads of laundry and symphonies of laughter. Marci encourages others with humor that packs a punch and entertains other moms with her Urban Retro style. She recently had two books published and knows how to make marshmallows from scratch. Marci is an airport shuttle assistant for Mount Hermon Writers Conference.

First-Timers Contest: Winners Announced

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winners

We are excited to announce the winners of The First-Timers Contest. Congratulations to:

Ann Neumann

Erica Hale

Erin Kincaid

Karen DeBlieck

Karl Haffner

Laurel Burlew

Leah Hinton

Lisa Gefrides

Margery Warder

Robin Phillips

If you entered and were not one of the ten winners, we hope you will still consider spending an amazing and life-changing week in the California redwoods to experience this one-of-a-kind event. Find all the conference details at http://writers.mounthermon.org/.

First-Timers Contest For MH Writers Conference

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pen, notebook, and coffee for writersWhen I attended my first writers’ conference years ago, I didn’t realize how dramatically it would change my life. I met so many professionals in the publishing industry and authors I admired (and came to admire later). And it really kicked off my own writing career!

Major writers’ conferences can be expensive. But they can be valuable investments in our future.

If you’ve always wanted to attend the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, but never been able to afford it, I have exciting news for you.

Mount Hermon is running a First-Timers Contest for the 2017 conference. Ten winners will each receive a full scholarship, including economy lodging and conference meals.

There is NO FEE to enter this contest. It is open to both published and unpublished writers.

Just send a five-page writing sample (fiction or nonfiction). In addition to writing quality, winners will be determined based on the answers to these questions:

  1. Why do you want to attend the Mount Hermon Writers Conference?
  2. Why have you never attended before?
  3. What do you hope to get out of attending in 2017?

Once submissions are narrowed down based on those factors, the final decision will be made based on prayerfully asking for the Holy Spirit’s leading.

Deadline to enter is December 30 at midnight Pacific Standard Time.

Go to http://writers.mounthermon.org/resources/first-timers-contest for details, guidelines, and submission instructions.

Please spread the word to anyone you know who might benefit from this amazing conference.

Kathy Ide, Director
Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference

The Top Five Things You Shouldn’t Do in Kids’ Devotions

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Kristen GearhartBLOGGER: KRISTEN GEARHART

Managing Editor, Keys for Kids

Reviewing Pre-Submission Manuscripts for Editorial Review and Meeting with Writers at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22.

 

THE TOP FIVE THINGS YOU SHOULDN’T DO IN KIDS’ DEVOTIONS

Every year, I receive hundreds of children’s devotional submissions for publication consideration at Keys for Kids Ministries—from both new and seasoned authors. Our daily devotional is one way to break into children’s publishing to get some clips and also expand an existing author’s platform, so I see all sorts of writing levels on a day-to-day basis. Here are some examples of things I immediately decline publishing:

  1. Stories that have lofty messages or use complex theological terms. Devotions are meant to speak directly to readers. They should be able to see themselves in the situation or relate in some way. Every story should have a biblical/spiritual application, but presented in a way kids can relate to without getting too complicated.
  2. Stories told from an adult’s point of view. Because kids don’t want to read about someone’s grandma’s personal connection to her garden.
  3. Devotions that feature mythical creatures. In order to be biblically sound, I hold myself to being as truthful and upfront as possible for 6-12-year-old listeners/readers. While fantasy has its place, I’d rather not potentially confuse children by weaving biblical elements with imaginary beings.
  4. Devotions that are condescending to the reader. I don’t like it when someone wags their finger at me because I should or shouldn’t do something. I’m pretty sure kids don’t like it either.
  5. Stories that are poorly constructed or do not follow the writers’ guidelines. While I know it’s my job as an editor to smooth out plots, beef up character development, and clean up grammar issues, being forced to crawl through confusing dialogue or messy writing hinders me from truly connecting with the story.

Of course, these are just my opinions—another publisher might be interested in publishing stories featuring spiritually hungry Amish Leprechauns from outer space. Who am I to say?

__________________

Come meet Kristen Gearhart at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Click here to Register Now!