All posts by Erin Unger

Books Are Like Gum

I’m a gum chewer. I can exhaust a piece of the best gum in no time flat. That also makes me a connoisseur of sorts. I could tell you which gum has the best flavor, which one lasts the longest, which one is most likely to trigger those happy childhood memories for most of us even if it only has five minutes of enjoyment in it.

 A book can be like gum. There are many types:

  • The ones that have the perfect flavor and texture all the way to the end.
  • Sometimes we pick up one with a great cover and we can’t wait to taste the delights inside to find a surprise: we think it’s one genre and it turns out to be different.
  • Sometimes we fall back on our old favorites for the sake of familiarity.
  • Or what about the one that someone recommends to you and it has just the right taste for that day.
  • There are ones like the best bubble makers. They build and build with excitement, and you can’t wait to see how they’ll turn out.
  • And there are the ones that you know you’re going to love from beginning to end just because you’ve enjoyed their brand in the past.

There are so many flavors, colors, and consistencies in this giant world of writing. Take a little time to enjoy something out of your comfort zone, something new. You may find it was exactly what you needed today.

Prayer…He’s Waiting

There are days when you’re down in the dumps, hanging on with your fingernails ready to split from the effort of holding on. You just want to let go. You just want to give up. You want to say you did everything you could.

But have you?

One of the most significant shortcomings we Christians fall prey to is lack of prayer. We remember God when things are crashing around us, but do we remember Him when things are going according to our plans? What about when we’ve had a major victory? Where is our thanksgiving prayer then?

It’s an easy slide from depending on God in a time of need to forgetting to pray in our daily activity.

As a writer, the need is so very great for us to stay hooked up to God. Our mission to write comes from above. God has a specific message he intends us to share, and a target audience He wants to influence through us, even if it’s only one person. How can we do that if we aren’t talking to Him and listening for His sweet voice?

Busyness is one of my best excuses for not praying enough. I hit the ground running as soon as I’m out of bed. I whiz a quick noncommittal prayer upwards as I careen through my morning regime, and then I’m off to my life. I forget that it’s not my life. It’s His. And, I need Him all the time. Not at my convenience: at His.

Sometimes I sit down to write and before I know it two hours have passed. I didn’t invite God into the room to show me what I was to work on for the day. So how can I trust my work is what He wants me to do? I may have wasted all the time I was trying to save.

If you’re rushing around today, and so many writers are on their way to the ACFW conference as we speak, stop and take time to come before the Savior. Talk to Him. Pray before you get too busy to remember. He’s waiting…

Why You Should Create an Outline When You Write

There are two kinds of writers. The planners and the fly by the seat of their pants writers. The one can’t quite understand the other. One must plot and plan. One can’t take time to scheme. They let the creativity flow and don’t worry about the behind the scenes work.

Well, I’m a planner. I spend countless hours fleshing out the characters. What is their story before the story? I have an outline for everything. One for places they live in or travel to. One for minute plot description. One for character sketches.

Being a plotter makes my life so much easier. Did I forget where my character stores her keys? Go to the ‘Places’ outline. Was one of my minor characters raised in a rural or urban environment? Go to the ‘Character’ outline. Did I forget to mention an important detail about the character’s past? Go to the ‘Plot’ outline.

For the ‘seat of your pants’ writers, your reading this with scorn. You’re wondering where my creativity even had a chance to breath with all these plans. Couldn’t I worry about all that later? And, some of you planners may be new at outlining and don’t quite know what the best set up is to make it an efficient tool for your work.

 

An outline benefits both kind of writers. With just a tiny bit of planning, you too can set up the dreaded outline to strengthen your writing. Here’s some quick and easy steps to help you do minimal organizing to keep the details in order:

  1. Set up a separate folder for each outline you’re making.
  2. If it’s beyond you to plot first, put it in the outline as you go.
  3. Make each chapter a new bullet and give it a page number to make for easy searching in the future.
  4. Put a timeline with each chapter and page number. This helps you map out time spans.
  5. Only type the most important details or things you know you’ll need to look back at later.
  6. Highlight sections in the outline where you know you need to go back and fill in blanks or give info that you haven’t had a chance to finish researching.
  7. Mark the day you started the manuscript and what the theme is. You’ll be wondering about it years later.

As much work as it seems to be, in the end you’ll be so glad you did it. It’ll minimize mistakes and help you find information faster when you’re editing or trying to remember exactly how a specific scene happened. And, once you get used to doing it, you’ll find you can’t live without it.