Category Archives: Pen to Paper Communications

I Am Ready–The day God took His Business Back

The Day God Bought Me Flowers

Two months ago I woke up one morning and asked “What shall we do today, Lord? It’s Your day that you have made, you choose what I should do.” He responded– Farmer’s Market, write your story, and deactivate Twitter. Did I literally hear his voice in my room? No. I heard it in my heart. In my mind, I didn’t want to go to the Farmer’s Market. I wasn’t feeling well; I was tired and all I wanted to do was edit, but I had the strong urge that I needed to go the Farmer’s Market. It was an instinctual feeling.

When I arrived at the market, I heard the same voice say, “Buy yourself flowers.” This was weird because I never buy flowers unless it’s for a friend. Again, in my mind, this seemed absurd, but the instinct was loud and clear. “Buy yourself flowers.” Well, I only had 20 bucks to spend, and I figured while I was at the market I would purchase kale, radishes, berries, and carrots. The bouquets I was seeing were $18! Seriously? If I bought these flowers I would have nothing left for my produce. I wandered awhile, feeling physically worse because I was having a food reaction. My stomach was hurting so badly I was nearly doubled over. I bought my produce and wanted to leave right away, but I still had the strong sense I was not to leave until I had purchased flowers for myself.

I only had $8 remaining. I sat down to rest and prayed while I was at it. “Lord, Flowersformeplease can I leave? I feel wretched and there are no flowers here I can afford.” I took a deep breath and decided I would indeed just leave. As I walked forward, I came along side a produce tent that I had already scoped earlier; what I hadn’t noticed before were the buckets of bouquets off to the side. Imagine my shock when the price for these gorgeous flowers was–$7! I got goosebumps all over and my heart swelled with immense joy. I even forgot about my stomachache.

God bought me flowers that day and taught me that if I ask, He will answer. And the answers come after I obey to where I am led. When I’m looking for Him, I will see Him. When I am listening for Him, I will hear Him.

Later that day, I deactivated my Twitter account for my editing business. I didn’t know, why but I obeyed anyway. The answer eventually came.

The Day God Asked for His Business Back

Yesterday I woke up at 3:20 am. As I tossed and turned, I had a funny thought. Maybe it was a vision. Maybe a daydream. I don’t know. It feels like a memory of something that actually happened only I wasn’t aware it was stored in my brain. But in the dark, this memory came so vividly:

There was a giant white house with many windows and a blue front door. Though it was daylight one could tell from the street that all the lights inside the house were off. But I had the sense someone was home. Me.

The words I heard said, “Though it is dark, someone is home. The Holy Spirit will lead people to knock. They won’t know why nor who will answer, if anyone. They will be uncertain but will feel the need to knock. Should the Holy Spirit prompt you, you will answer the door. Check with Me before you invite them in.”

I didn’t need to ask to what this was referring. The Lord has been switching off the lights in my business one by one. In July He asked me to deactivate Twitter. Though I didn’t understand why, I felt great relief when it was gone. In August He asked me to unpublish my Facebook business page. This was much harder for me to understand, and I felt sad. “Is this the beginning of the end?” I prayed this question with the dedication, “Lord, if it is your will to end Pen to Paper Communications, then I will do so. Please be clear.” The only answer was, “Trust me for I know the plans I have for you and they are good. You are still an editor.” I found comfort in what I was hearing in my heart–I knew something cool must be coming. He assured me that I was still an editor; after all, he didn’t ask me to get rid of my business website. People could still find me.

September arrived as did His request for my website to be turned off. I went into mourning at the thought that this might be the end. “Lord, are you asking me to give back Pen to Paper Communications? It is your business and I have always known this, but I cannot tell for sure if this is really you. I don’t want it to be over. But if you are asking me to hand it over, then I will. Please please be clear. Give me a good sign–yes the business is done or no it is not.”

I have heard nothing but silence for the last two weeks–until  now at 3:20 in the morning with this funky memory vision thing.

I came downstairs to read Hearing Heart by Hannah Hurnard. She’s my spiritual hero. I am on chapter 3, titled “I am Ready.” This is the same chapter that completely changed my perspective about prayer when I read this book the first time. All the same things stood out again, but something new poked my heart this early morning.

“But whenever we say truly from the heart, “I am ready” for God’s will, whatever it is, we shall certainly experience his faithfulness and providential dealings in ways which to other people will often appear extraordinary.”  

She goes on to challenge that in order to experience something spectacular in answered prayer that “perhaps something a little more spectacular in the way of faith is required first, for after all, faith is being willing to test the faithfulness of God, and one cannot often do that secretly and safely. It generally means openly taking some sort of risk and being willing to look a fool before others.”

I chuckled because ending my business would definitely seem foolish in the eyes of the world. It is thriving. My editorial calendar has been filled to the brim since my first client back in January 2012; every single client so far has been published; I have four book-clients currently in process; I have a huge project w/sequel slated to begin January 2015; while I haven’t made oodles of money, I have made enough to satisfy my two goals of buying my friends lots of presents and giving away as much money as I can to missions, causes, and people who need it; I’ve been teaching, coaching, and mentoring from individuals to conferences; I’ve met the most incredible people and heard stories that have changed my life; I been immersed and welcomed into communities of people I used to judge, stereotype and fear– of/for whom I now adore and advocate. My life is rich in spiritual and personal blessing from this business.

Foolish is an understatement. To shut off all the lights would most certainly seem foolish and crazy and perhaps even stupid to others. What if I was interpreting all this incorrectly?

As I processed and felt more sure about what God was asking me to do, I continued reading. Ms. Hurnard says, “He has never once allowed me to make a mistake if I was really willing to obey.” It reminded me of the time I was asked to lead a group of recently-released incarcerated men in a writer’s workshop. I was terribly uncomfortable with the idea but felt God was really and truly asking me to say yes. And I did. I began preparing my class, and as the date arrived to begin teaching, the non-profit organization went bankrupt and the class never happened.

The Lord has never allowed me to make a mistake either–even when I felt I was floundering around. “Mistakes” have always revealed lesson and blessing.

I read further, “For he does often cause us to walk in darkness, having no light at all on the extraordinary path by which he is leading us, but then his precious assurance is, ‘What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.'” (NIV Translation: “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

Again, as with so many times in my relationship with Jesus, my mind did not want to do what He was asking. It made no sense within the confines of my own understanding–nor would it to my family, friends, peers, and colleagues. But my heart knew it was time to shut off all the lights on Pen to Paper Communications.  I got goose bumps, which I have come to recognize as the breath of the Spirit.

I began to pray in earnest, and I declared to God, “I am ready to give the business back to You. I lay it before you and trust whatever Your will is in this.”

After my prayer I logged on to read a friend’s email who, interestingly enough, had decided to read Hearing Heart after I had spoken so much about it. He laid out his early reflections and the first quote he addressed:

 “[God] always enabled me to do the things that I dreaded, after he had first made me willing, and though it cost much pain and inner struggle, the joy which followed obedience outweighed everything else.”

 

I'mOkay

I am okay–in a good way.

I have no fear but a great sense of peace. I am sad and even shed tears as I write this today, but I know without a doubt the joy following my obedience will far outweigh everything else. I am willing to face whatever is next. Of course I have imagined the worst, like maybe I am about to tragically lose my husband or one of my children and need to have no committed projects. I can’t imagine the best because God always has something far better than I can ever imagine. Pen to Paper Communications started out extraordinarily and exceeded far beyond what I ever thought it would be.

I will end with this. My husband offered the best words of confirmation and assurance for me: “”You know, He only took back the business. You are still a talented writer and a skilled editor. You still embody a great passion and unique set of skills for what you do. He took the business but not the heart.”

He’s so right! I love writing and editing and life. I will keep writing and keep advocating for great editing. In fact, I am currently working on a manifesto and my own book. I still believe in my clients who are now all friends; I still have a passionate belief that stories matter and should be shared. Oh friends, I am still a writer and I’m still an editor, just one without a business. Whatever comes next, I am ready.

Overcoming intimidation; finding inspiration

 

opened book, lying on the bookshelf

Have you ever walked into a book store or the library and scanned the array of works that fill the shelves and thought, “How will I ever stand out among all these authors?”  I remember the same feeling when I started this blog back in 2009– There are hundreds of thousands of blogs. Who would ever be interested in reading the ruminations that come rambling out of my head?

When faced with the mass quantity of published writing that has already “made it,” it’s easy to become doubtful that whatever you have to offer will be original or interesting enough to claim a spot on readers’ lists. The insecurity becomes worse when you begin reading through the works of other writers and you notice how great everyone else is at writing.

There’s “that moment” when you think, Awesome. All the good ideas are taken, everyone is a fabulous writer, and I probably won’t ever be this good, so why bother?

Intimidation is a dangerous threat to writers. It can stop you from putting pen to paper let alone sharing whatever you are brave enough to write. Don’t let intimidation keep you from trying–people need your story.

You are a unique person with valuable and distinct perspective, imagination, and life-experiences. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing or has already done. Be yourself and write what burns inside you. You don’t live life quite the same as everyone else (at least you shouldn’t be!), so whatever you create won’t be the same as other authors either. Sure, you may be thinking of a romance novel or children’s story just as another writer is, but your combination of storylines, characters, settings, style, and voice will be different.  Even if your themes are common within your genre of writing, the story will be different as long as you are being yourself. So try not to let the vast size of the writing industry trick you into thinking you have nothing new to offer. You do! Take heart in knowing nobody can or will tell a story the same way you can.

Okay, but I’m not great writer, you say. Everyone is way better.

Be inspired to be better, my friend. Writing takes practice, discipline, and courage. That’s how your favorite writers got to be so good! Rather than be intimidated by other authors’ talents, focus on how you can be better for your reader. The writers who strike your fancy do so for a reason. Figure out what it is about your favorite book-authors and bloggers that sparks the awe within you, and let it motivate you to become stronger where you are challenged. Always be reading for the pleasure of good storytelling and the visual of how to apply good writing mechanics to your own projects.

Also remember that “great” writing is subjective. What you write and the way you write will be pleasing to some people yet cause debate for others. Regardless, great writers stay teachable. So focus on being a great writer who writes better with each piece.

Whether book, blog, article, etc., you’ve got something to say, so say it. Put your hands on the keyboard or pen to the paper and write. Don’t let intimidation get the best of you. Instead, be inspired and give your best to the page.

And don’t forget to edit! 😉

What an editor looks for before taking on a project

I love finding a great story, even if it isn’t written well—yet.

DSC_9949 - Version 2 (1)I cannot speak for other editors, but I can tell you quite clearly what I’m looking for as an editor when you submit your work to me.

Let me start by saying, I am not partial to any genre. Everyone asks me “What genres do you edit?”

All of them (except for one).*

I have my personal favorites, but as an editor, I am more interested in what it is you have to say.  You get to pick how you want to say it. Fantasy romance? Great!  Suspenseful thriller? Awesome!  Narrative non-fiction? Excellent!  Workshop curriculum? Outstanding! You choose what to write, and I help you sculpt your prose so it is clear and compelling for your reader.

In other words: edit and proofread what you write so your story or message is not just understood by your reader but also connects with him/her in a compelling way.

Let’s pause for a moment and look at what compelling really means.  Many tend to interchange this term with interesting or exciting or moving.

To compel is to “drive or urge forcefully or irresistibly.”

Are you satisfied if your reader is merely interested in what you have to say? Or would you rather your work be so irresistible that your reader is driven to literal emotion, change, or action? Keep this in mind as you read through this article…

What I look for in fiction works:

1) The story. It doesn’t even have to be a good story because if it isn’t good, then we’ll work on it until it is outstanding. That is what editing is about! However, I should be able to find the story. Within the first 10-20 pages I should have a general idea of what the book is about and who the main players are. Preferably, I’d like to be invested in the characters too, but this element isn’t required as we can work together in developing/defining your characters.

2) Your purpose. I won’t necessarily find this until I reach the end of your work (if I make it that far); however, when we first meet to talk about your story, you should be able to articulate to me why you have poured your heart into this work. What this tells me is that you have written your piece because you have something to say as opposed to written this piece because you want to say something… so you can be published.

Don’t write because you want to be published. Write because you have something to say.

3) Your passion.  You need to believe in your story and its central themes so deeply you cannot help but share them with the world. When you are moved then your reader will also be moved. This starts with me as your editor.  I need to see, hear, and feel your passion when I interact with both you and your prose in order to accept your project. This lets me know that you will work hard, listen to my commentary and advice (doesn’t mean you have to take it, but it means you’ll hear me out and engage in discussion), and be willing learn how to write better.

What I look for in non-fiction:

1) The message. Whether it’s web content, marketing materials, student curriculum, sales letters, a business e-book, a narrative non-fiction, blog post, query letter, synopsis, resume, cover letter, etc., I need to know what it is you need your reader (the customer, the volunteer, the agent, the publisher, the client, the potential client, the student, etc.) to know. I should be able to determine and articulate back to you what your message is for your audience. Again, even if it isn’t written well, help me help you by having a clear idea of what it is you are trying to say.

2) Your purpose. What do you want your reader to do as a result of your message and why? Your message needs to coincide with your desired result. And your audience–starting with me–needs to understand why it is so important they participate in achieving the result. Why does it matter that your reader click on your link? Why should they sign up for your newsletter, service, or volunteer opportunity? Why should your reader consider a new perspective based upon what they learn in your autobiography? Know the “why” behind your message.

3) Your passion.  As I mentioned above, you need to believe in what you are saying to your audience. If you don’t really care, then you cannot expect your audience to care either. Heck, you can’t even expect to build an audience, period. You have to be able to tell me why your message matters so much to you in order to get me on board. I cannot help you share a message that’s driven by ambivalence. If you want your readers to feel compelled to action or change, then you need to feel passionate about what you’re saying.

In both fiction and non-fiction I need to be certain of all three elements in your work before I’m willing to take on your project.

Editing can be an excruciating process wrestling with grammar, developing, rewriting, expanding, cutting, and rearranging, but it won’t feel this way if you:

  • Know what you are saying
  • Understand why you need to say it
  • Have the drive to work the process so you say it well

Everything I do in my work as your editor is anchored in these three elements. It all starts with you. You need to be compelled to write well in order to craft compelling work. If your story or message isn’t good yet, I want to help you craft it to excellence if you are feeling passionate and driven to make it so.  Remember, compelling is a type of verb, friends. It is action-packed!

*Note about fictional genres: The only genre I will not accept is pornography. Erotica? Yes, but the work had better include all the elements of good fiction (characters navigating the twists and turns of story lines, making their way through settings and plots and conflicts and finally ending at some sort of resolution and/or achieving a goal). The sexual tensions and physical sexual encounters should merely enhance the emotional intensity of the story and the dynamics between characters.

Related articles:
Why I am an editor
The Difference between Editing and Proofreading

The difference between editing and proofreading

Editing is

I love the reactions I get when people find out I am an editor. They start confessing all their grammar sins and foibles to me. It’s analogous to when people find out my husband is a dentist and confess they are overdue for their cleaning, or that they never floss. It makes me smile. 🙂

I don’t judge bad grammar, poor spelling, or apostrophe abuse. I won’t shake my “you should be ashamed of yourself” finger if you mistake loose for lose or mix up there, their, and they’re. And I certainly won’t accuse you of missing the fourth grade if you switch your with you’re. Will I trip over these things when I see them? Yes. But I will not chastise you. (I may, however, write a blog post on the importance of proofreading. 🙂 )

The second thing people say is “Oh. So you like, fix stuff in people’s books… and stuff.” Haha! Yes. Something like that, but it’s the “and stuff” that is my favorite part and the most important to your reader.

Think about your favorite book or even a favorite author you keep going back to.

Got it?

Now, think about the reasons why this is your favorite book or author. I’ll wait…

One of my favorite authors is Nora Roberts. I am sucker for romance. But digging deeper, I always relate to and/or admire her characters. They are women who discover the true power of their inner strength and drive to persevere and survive. The male characters swoop in thinking they are going to rescue and/or fix things only to find out their female love interest is perfectly capable to care for herself.  The dynamics between man and woman end up being of respectful admiration and complementary bliss where each balances the other’s strengths and weaknesses.

I would guess that, as in my example, you didn’t say “She’s (or he’s) my favorite because her grammar is truly amazing. And her sentence syntax… there are no words to describe the perfection. Oh and her punctuation just really titillates my senses! Oo lá lá !”

We don’t connect with books because of impeccable proofreading. We connect with characters and story lines because they resonate within our hearts. We connect with and relate to the human elements illustrated within the story or message such as love, honor, respect, survival, success, acceptance, death, relevance, redemption, resolution, spiritual epiphanies, healing, hope, etc. etc. etc.

Editing is not about “fixing stuff” so your work looks good.

Editing is about preparing the work for your reader  to settle in and stay a while. Proofreading is cleaning up the mess you made while under construction.

This applies to ALL writing, not just fictional works. Whether you are writing a an email to a client, a love letter to your spouse, a query letter to an agent, marketing materials for you latest product, web content for your new business, a post for your blog, or an  eBook for your industry, or… etc., you are constructing a message in an effort to move your reader to emotion, action, or new perspective. You are trying to connect with him/her in a way that makes them say: I understand. I want more. I need this. This is so good. I want to read the next one. 

Editing tends to (but is not limited to) the following:

Elements of Editing

Proofreading tends to (but is not limited to):

Elements of Proofreading

You see the difference? Human elements versus mechanics, though they all intertwine. Writing is hard, but editing is excruciating in trying to find harmony between all these elements. 

Both editing and proofreading are necessary in the revision phase of your process to ensure your reader can easily get to where they need to go and feel like it was worth the journey when they reach The End.

Again, though, I contend that editing is the best part. Arthur Plotnik sums it up beautifully: “You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. We edit to let the fire show through the smoke.”

Fixing stuff is certainly important and necessary, but sculpting your prose so your message connects with your reader is what determines whether or not your reader will settle in and stay for a while… and then come back for more.

Big Announcement…

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As an editor, I spend the majority of my time buried in the pages of unpublished books, blogs, and other beautifully  blunder-filled prose. I am energized by what I do, and I enjoy (prefer) being behind the scenes helping my writers polish their message so it shines for the world.  I take what I do very seriously because writing is hard… and for most authors, editing is excruciating. I respect that. I honor it. Hey, I’m a writer too, so I get it!

I  love editing, though. It’s my favorite part of the entire writing process because it is where the smoke clears and the destination you were trying to reach comes into view.  But more than editing, I love cultivating relationships with other writers.  I am inspired, intrigued and taught by my community of fellow writers, readers, and life-livers. I find great joy in learning from others and engaging in discussions of or relating to reading and writing and life–life is what gives us the material about which we write.

So imagine my delight when–and here’s the announcement–I was asked to speak at this year’s Faith and Culture Writer’s Conference!

*hand to mouth gasp*

Oh yes! I’m coming out from behind the pages and getting in front of a crowd. EEP! I’m stoked!

Why? Several reasons but here are the main two:

DSC_9949 - Version 2 (1)1) Community! Writing is a solitary (and sometimes dark) endeavor that requires community engagement. Our craft, as writers, messes with the psyche, causing both doubt and euphoria regarding our skills in a matter of seconds. A writer’s conference brings us  together with others who understand the celebrations and commiserations associated with the writing process.

Writers are also a community of creators who share a common DNA for an art we simply must share with others, yet each individual is as unique as the stories he/she creates. We come together at an event like this and gather knowledge, perspective, and inspiration that help us keep creating and sharing with the world– better than we did before.

2) Learning. I hope to forever be a scholar of the writing craft–always learning how I can be better. Though I am excited about the opportunity to speak, I’m looking forward to being part of this event at a student. Reading through the session-topic schedule is analogous to walking through a See’s Candy shop… everything looks so good I just don’t know which ones to pick!

The bottom line is this: when it comes to writing, the rules are changing, the publishing arena is changing, and what readers want from content and its authors is changing. I want (need)  to know how to better connect with my readers. I need to know how to better help my clients so they can reach their publishing dreams. And everyone who’s speaking at this conference will offer perspective on how to be better.

Plus, the two keynote speakers are Ken Wytsma (founder of The Justice Conference) and William P. Young (author of The Shack), both of whom I respect and believe will offer outstanding insight/testimony! To be honest, I am a bit geeked-out about hearing them live. 🙂

So what will I speak about?

My session is called “Beyond the Mechanics: Editing for Audience Connection versus Proofreading for Mistakes.” I will illustrate the differences between editing and proofing, how to craft your message so it connects with your reader. A reader does not connect with pretty words and perfect punctuation; however, good word choice and clean grammar are necessary for a reader to understand your message and take it to heart. That is to say both editing and and proofreading are crucial to your writing process… and completely different from one another.

I’ll be unpacking what all this means and how to approach this phase.

Enough about me! If you’d like to come to the conference, you should definitely come because you are invited! It takes place April 5 and 6 2013; click here: Faith and Culture Writer’s Conference for all the information: speakers, topics, schedule, registration, and of course, the story behind the conference…

You can also hop on over to the  Faith & Culture Writers Connection Facebook page for updates and announcements.

Thanks for reading through this awfully long post, my friends. It truly is a always leawonderful opportunity for all who come, so I wanted to be thorough about why this is so from my perspective.  I hope to see you there… would love to meet you!