Editing Your Novel for the “Big Picture”

New writers often focus their first novel revisions on individual words or sentences. Some spend hours, hunting for the right word or trying to improve “flow.” While this can be helpful, it’s important to look at the story and its structure before digging into details such as word choice or order. Big Picture revision is learning to see the forest instead of the trees.

1. Can you state what your story is about in one or two sentences?

If not, you may not really know what your story is about. Three questions can be helpful in pinning down the essence of your novel’s story:

1) What does your Protagonist want more than anything? This is the goal.

2) What kinds of obstacles must she overcome to gain this goal?

3) What will the Protagonist do to overcome the obstacles and meet the goal?

When you’ve answered these questions, put them together in a sentence or two that sums up the story. Here’s a formula that can help you state your story in one sentence:

Watch Movies Like a Writer

Guest Blogger Linda S. Clare

Want to be a better writer? Want more readers to say, “I couldn’t put your book down?”

Here’s an easy way to learn to write next-level fiction—and you can do it in your jammies: watch movies like a writer. Zap some popcorn, grab the remote and get comfy—from this point on, you’ll never watch movies the same way as before.

To begin, let’s look at the six easy steps necessary for creating Cinematic Camera Shots.

How to Break the Andy Syndrome

Guest Blogger Sherri Langton

I feel your pain, Miranda Priestly. Miranda is the perfectionist editor-in-chief of Runway, a top fashion magazine in The Devil Wears Prada. One morning she sweeps into her New York City office and finds Andy Sachs waiting for her. A college graduate, Andy is applying for a job as Miranda’s second assistant. One look at this naïve, plainly dressed young lady tells Miranda she has no fashion sense. But that’s not all. In front of this editing icon, Andy admits she has never read Runway.

Amazing how life imitates art. As an editor at the Bible Advocate magazine and Now What? e-zine, I’ve dealt with many Andys—not job applicants but freelance writers. Without even peeking at our pages, they trot out their manuscripts and watch them crash in the rejection pile.

Often the problem isn’t poor writing but a poor match. These writers have no clue who we are and what we publish.

Take the man who submitted reprints of his published columns. He fanned out his credentials like a deck of cards, then admitted he hadn’t seen our magazine before submitting. Another writer pitched a piece on the conflicts a librarian faces, like annoying customers, e-readers and aching feet.

Seriously? If you thumb through our magazine for sixty seconds, you’ll see nothing related to librarians and no columns written by outside authors.

The work of these freelancers sat in my inbox for two months when they could have been making money in suitable markets.

Editorial guidelines urge writers to read the magazine before submitting, but many of them don’t—or don’t know what to look for.

Analyzing a magazine isn’t hard to do, but it does take time and know-how.

Though there are a number of areas to study, these five can get you started:

Five Wonderful Rewards of Rejection

In An Introduction to Christian Writing, Ethel Herr wrote: “Writing without an audience is therapy. Writing that reaches an audience is communication.”

Though not all writers have the desire to publish, some of us feel led to share the words God gives us to write.

Communicators who choose traditional publishing quickly discover that rejection is an inevitable and invaluable part of our writing journey. Every no, not yet, and not here stings. But receiving those answers can become easier and even exciting, as the Lord adjusts our definition of a successful communicator and helps us recognize the following rewards of rejection:

Persevering Past Self-Doubt

A Writer’s Prayer

Lord, thanks for knowing we need boosts of bold confidence as You help us follow You and surrender every aspect of our writing journey to You.

Please help us welcome You into our creative process and stop fretting over the inevitable imperfections of the words we write.

We are weak, Lord. Our thoughts, our faith, and our courage are small.

But Your wisdom, trustworthiness, and might are endlessly dependable.

We are Yours, Lord. Please purify our hearts and our motives.

Make us more like You, as You equip us to use the creative gifts You’ve entrusted to us.

Empower us to persevere past self-doubt, so that we never settle for cowering behind self-centered insecurities.

We can be brave, even when we’re trembling with fear, because You promise to be with us as we take each step You’ve planned for us.

Compassionate Father, thanks for giving us all we need to share Your truth in love, with gentleness and respect.

Help us keep moving forward, writing with fierce faith and surety that stems from knowing You and relying on You.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Xochitl (so-cheel) E. Dixon encourages women and teens to embrace God’s grace while nurturing personal relationships with Christ and others. She enjoys serving as an Our Daily Bread writer, and being a wife and mom.


What Should You Look for When Choosing a Writing Retreat?

Guest Blogger Robynne E. Miller

So, you’ve decided that you need a bit of a break. We all do, at times. And a writing retreat seems just the thing for refocusing and relaxing, doesn’t it? But what kind of writing retreat? And where?

There are bound to be several options within a reasonable distance of your home, unless you live in a particularly remote area. All you have to do is Google “writing retreat” and your general location and there are probably several nearby.

Some retreats are very basic, offering only a simple space for people to use as they get away from their daily lives. These retreats have no formal meetings, workshops, or events. Some retreats, however, are meticulously structured . . . far more like mini-conferences, with top-notch speakers and every moment of the day accounted for. Most, however, fall somewhere between those two.

Deciding on which kind of retreat would serve you best is important. You want to return from your time away refreshed, rejuvenated, and encouraged. So choose carefully.

The following tips will help you make the best decision possible: