Buy The Land Uncharted, Uncharted Redemption, and Uncharted Inheritance for only $25 and receive a free copy of Christmas with the Colburns.
I am learning where my boundaries are as a writer. God is so graciously enclosing me behind and before and laying His hand upon me. He has given me boundaries out of His love for me and His purpose for my writing so my creativity will flourish and define my unique approach to storytelling.
I write stories about make believe people in an imaginary land who live in simplicity yet go through improbable situations that somehow parallel our lives. No matter the characters and the plot, my stories have the same theme. It is the core message the Lord has given me to share: You can trust God.
In The Land Uncharted, Lydia and Connor had to trust God’s sovereignty. In Uncharted Redemption, Levi and Mandy had to trust God’s forgiveness. In Uncharted Inheritance, Bethany and Everett had to trust God with their future. In Christmas with the Colburns, Lydia had to trust God with her family. When I went back in time to tell the history of the Land, the same theme flowed. In Aboard Providence, Jonah and Marian had to trust God’s unfailing provision.
I’ve heard writers muse about writing for an audience of one. While that sounds uber spiritual—and famously singable—I don’t write for God. I pray I write for God’s glory, meaning what I write points the reader to God’s redemptive plan. But I write for the readers who need to hear the core message He has given me.
I hear from readers in their eighties and in their late teens, but most are in their thirties and forties. My readers are mostly women, but occasionally I hear from men. From the messages my readers send, I know many are similar to me in temperament, ideals, and dreams. I’ve learned a few other things about my average reader too…
She grew up reading or watching Little House on the Prairie. Though there was a 50/50 chance her parents had divorced, she dreamed of someday marrying a man like Charles Ingalls. She was raised in a Christian home or was around the Christian faith enough it affected her thoughts and conscience. She might be a devout Christian now, or she might be seeking God (whether she realizes it or not). She loves to learn but doesn’t want to be preached at. She enjoys American history and is enthralled by herbal remedies and organic gardening, even if she doesn’t have the time or skill to keep a houseplant alive.
She wishes life were simpler and fantasizes about throwing her phone out the car window on the commute from work to her kid’s ballgame or her zillionth errand or a chemo appointment. She dreams of homeschooling her children on a self-sustaining 40-acre plot in the middle of nowhere while she still has time with them or about raising the children she is still trusting God for in a simple lifestyle or about getting her daughter-in-law to limit her grandkids’ screen time. Either way, she grits her teeth when she pays the bills each month and sees how much money is spent on data.
In all of this yearning for a simple life, she curls up in bed at night with a book to escape the clutches of click bait and reality television. She might not be in her own bed. I’ve received enough letters from readers to know it’s likely she’s reading in a hospital bed or sitting beside a loved one who is in hospice.
The book she chose to read tonight probably has a sweeping landscape on the cover and maybe a woman in a dress from a bygone era. It’s usually a paperback, but it might be an ebook because she didn’t have the energy to get to the bookstore or library. If it is an ebook, she wishes it were a physical book for the feel of the paper and the smell of the ink. She imagines reading it by the light of an oil lamp with the thud of horse hooves stamping onto her property, announcing the return of her faithful husband from some noble and manly adventure.
She might have a husband who is truly noble and faithful, or he might have left her for a career or mistress or alcohol or Heaven, or he might not be in the picture yet or never will be. She might have regrets or she might be at peace with her relationships. Regardless, she believes people—men and women—can and should treat each other in a chaste, temperate, charitable, diligent, patient, kind, and humble way. She wants those qualities exemplified in the books she reads while she dreams of her own noble adventures.
Wherever she reclines and whatever pain she is in, she reads for comfort and encouragement. She reads to know she is not alone. She reads for someone to show her: you can trust God, even with this—whatever her “this” might be.
The answer is always no. It doesn’t matter what antidote was relayed, what supposed fact was spouted, or what tidbit of unsubstantiated gossip was deposited. I’m not putting your story in my book. I may take note of how the person paused and chuckled before delivering the punch line of a joke, or how she glanced side to side and lowered her voice as she spread her gossip, or how the tip of his nose turned pink long before he came to the sad part of his story. That might end up in a book.
Gesture, tone, response—these are the things I look for, but not just in my interactions with people. [bctt tweet=”One of a writer’s best tools is the misunderstood art of people watching.”] I say misunderstood because often when I’m sitting alone, someone thinks I’m lonely and comes to talk to me. When I’m people watching, I’m working.
Here are some of my favorite places to people watch:
Songwriter John Mayer nailed this one in his song Wheel: “Airports see it all the time where someone’s last goodbye blends in with someone’s sigh cause someone’s coming home.” Airports are a parade of human experience. It’s in the pastor praying over departing missionaries, the businesswoman stomping toward her gate and the rhythm of her suitcase wheels rolling on the tile behind her, the soldier’s welcome home kiss with his wife, who holds their newborn.
Not quite as dramatic in emotional depth, but bubbling with frustration, chaos, and teen angst, a shopping mall is a like a catalogue of human features. The faces range from the overwhelmed mommy who brought the double stroller but neither of her toddlers will stay in it, to the Botoxed suburbanite dashing from Macy’s to Banana Republic, to the senior citizens in tapered-leg jeans and arch-supporting sneakers powerwalking around and around until their step counters beep two miles.
A tour of several different types of churches is necessary for the full scope of church people watching. Every church has its own culture and feel, but I’ve noticed some commonalities in the sanctuary pre-service. Watch the pastor’s wife, flustered as she wrangles her four children into the second pew from the front, suddenly straighten her posture and broadened her smile when the congregants start to arrive. Watch the early birds who sit in their routine seats, sigh with contentment, and absorb the peace. Watch the middle-aged man who slips into the room halfway through the service, perches on the edge of the back pew, and drops his face into his hands.
These are the things from real life that end up in my books, and not the circumstances, but the emotion conveyed through the slightest gesture. If you’re a writer, go people watching for inspiration. If you’re a reader, check out The Land Uncharted and see if you enjoy how my hobby of people watching enlivens my writing.
This post written by Keely Keith originally appeared on Krysten Lindsay’s Blog, December 2014.
Releasing a book is kind of like dressing a kid for his first day of school. You wave goodbye as the school bus drives away and pray your baby doesn’t get picked on. He will. At some point. And so will your book.
Even if your book never gets a low rating, most authors are sensitive enough to be hurt by the barbed remarks floating in 4- and 5-star reviews. And of course we all want to believe only mean-spirited trolls post 1- and 2-star reviews. Sometimes that’s the case. Sometimes negative reviews are the legitimate opinions of readers who simply did not enjoy the book.
Either way, reviews are often painful for authors. We eagerly await them, expect them to be filled with praise for our hard work, then read them and want to drink what’s under the sink. [bctt tweet=”Your reaction to negative reviews might determine the length of your writing career.”]
Don’t let it be the death of yours. Here are a few tips for handling negative reviews:
Keely Brooke Keith is the author of The Land Uncharted (Edenbrooke Press) and Aboard Providence (CrossRiver Media, coming October 2016). Keely lives on a hilltop south of Nashville where she dreams up stories about imaginary lands. She is a member of ACFW.
This post written by Keely Brooke Keith originally appeared on CBE Author Blog.
I recently asked a few authors if they could give a new writer one sentence of advice, what would it be. From award winning authors, New York Times best sellers, and powerhouse indies, here are their replies:
“Develop perseverance, a thick skin, and a love of rewriting because it takes all three to last more than a year in a writing gig.” – Angela Hunt, Christy Award winning author with more than four million copies of her books sold worldwide
“Finish the book.” – Melissa Gorzelanczyk, author of Arrows, Randon House/Delacorte Press
“Measure your success as a writer in terms of things you can control—writing to the best of your ability, making your page count, finishing a project—not in terms of things you can’t.” – Lisa Wingate, Christy Award winning author of The Story Keeper
[bctt tweet=”“Measure your success as a writer in terms of things you can control.” – Lisa Wingate”]
“Invest time and money in books, magazines, classes, conferences, critique groups, and webinars on the craft of writing, and then hang out with interesting people.” – Kathy Nickerson, award winning author of Thirty Days to Glory
“To help you find your voice, visualize the one person you know who best represents your target audience and write as if you’re writing personally to him or her.” – Jennifer Case Cortez
“Starting a novel is like any new relationship; make your book feel special or it will get bored with you.” – Cynthia Port, author of Kibble Talk
“Find a critique partner or group who write in your genre so you will grow as a writer, learn the craft, and forge deep friendships with kindred spirits based on the work you critique and the critiques you’ll receive.” – Heidi McCahan, author of Unraveled
“If you know you’re supposed to be writing, prepare to push past multiple rejections, harsh critiques, and disheartening feedback to the reward at the end of the tunnel: finding your true readers, who will enjoy your books and tell others about them!” – Heather Day Gilbert, author of God’s Daughter
“Learn to thrive—in the struggle, in the joy, in the creative process—flourish in the messiness of it all.” – Christina Yother, author of the Hollow Hearts series
“Study and know your genre back and forth, and make sure your cover, blurb, and contents all align with what the reader expects from that genre.” – Victorine E. Lieske, New York Times and USA Today best selling author
“You are the only person in the entire world that can write what you do, so believe, keep going and shine.” – Megan Easley-Walsh
“Take advice and guidance from experienced editors and fellow authors, but never allow them to change the story you feel driven to write.” – Paul Cwalina, author of Dropping Stones
“Write even when you don’t feel like it.” – Lindsey M. Bell, author of Searching for Sanity
“Don’t write what’s trending and don’t write for the market, rather, dig deep and write the story God purposed only you to tell.” – Brenda S. Anderson, author of the Coming Home series
“Learn your craft and persevere.” – Debra L. Butterfield, author of Carried by Grace
“Take a day of rest from your writing–that means promoting it as well!” – Lauren H. Brandenburg, author of The Books of The Gardener Series
“Don’t make it hard for people to find you.” – Marianne Sciucco, author of Kindle bestseller Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s Love Story
“Read, read, read and write, write, write.” – RJ Thesman, author of the Reverend G series
“Write what inspires you and not what you think will inspire readers.” – T.I. Lowe, best selling author of Lulu’s Café
“Write from the secret places of your soul; only by risking your heart can you craft a powerful story that will touch readers.” Katy Huth Jones, author of Leandra’s Enchanted Flute
“Read your work aloud—it will show you your grammar errors, but more importantly it will teach you cadence and rhythm and help you find your voice.” – C.M. Keller, author of Screwing Up Time, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarterfinalist
“If you want to grow as a writer, never be satisfied with your original efforts: you must fearlessly self-edit and rewrite.” – Sarah Ashwood, author of The Sunset Lands Beyond series
“Write what you want to know, and teach your readers as you learn.” – Lars D. H. Hedbor, author of Tales From a Revolution Series
“Never give up because the only good writing is rewriting.” – Steve Stroble, author of Fool’s Gold
“Cultivate patience, and enjoy the journey.” – Margaret Lynette Sharp, author of Sisters and Rivals
“Write the story you feel in your heart, not the one others tell you to write.” – Shannon L. Brown, award winning author of The Feather Chase
“Join a critique group and never stop honing your craft!” – Regina Tittel, author of the Ozark Durham series
“Take the time to find your own voice and when you do, don’t be afraid to use it.” – Barbara Hartzler, author of The Nexis Secret
“Join a supportive group online or face to face, where you can collaborate with other writers.” – Melissa Miles, author of Burning Prospects
“Writing is a gift of expression and creativity; don’t be afraid to share the work, improve the stories, and learn life lessons along the way.” – Julie Gilbert, author of the Devya’s Children Book series
“When faced with a roadblock, press on with courage.” – Nancy Kay Grace, author of The Grace Impact
Post originally appeared on KeelyBrookeKeith.blogspot.com, August 2015.