Kitty’s Writing Tips
How exciting that you want to write! Whether you’re 9 years old or 90 years old, here is good news: Writing is good for you!
- Oftentimes I write for very practical purposes. Writing helps me think more clearly. When struggling with a decision, I take a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle and list the pros of the issue on one side, and the cons on the other. You would be amazed how this helps with day-to-day problem solving!
- Other times, when I am struggling with a difficult situation and I don’t know how to pray, I write God a letter. In the process, God often encourages me, gives me insights, and gently shows me the way. When I find myself worrying yet again about the situation (which I am prone to do!), I am able to re-read my letter to God, and once again am encouraged and grounded in faith.
- And of course there are those times when writing allows my imagination to take flight. Perhaps like you, when I get an idea for an article or book, I get so excited that I drop whatever I’m doing and scribble it down. Thank heavens for Post-It notes! When I am working on an article or book, I find myself thinking about it all day long. I go to bed thinking about it and dream about it at night. Did you know that when you are sleeping, your brain keeps on solving problems and coming up with new ideas? Sometimes in the middle of the night – and many mornings – I wake up with my mind brimming with fresh ideas. Keeping a pad and pencil by the bed comes in handy on these occasions.
- Some people tend to romanticize writing. They think of writing as a purely artistic endeavor, and of writers as being uniquely “talented,” and “gifted.” The truth is, writing is a skill. The more you write, the better you write. True, like being able to draw, the ability to string words, sentences and paragraphs together can be an innate aptitude. But there’s also a lot of truth to the old saying that writing is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration. Any writer will tell you that the secret is to really good writing is… re-writing!
- Like any task, one of the hardest things about writing is getting started. I think you will probably agree that there is nothing quite so intimidating as a blank computer screen! That’s why each time I sit down at the computer and place my hands on the keyboard, I say a little prayer. I thank God for the opportunity to write. Then I ask Him to guide and inspire me as I work. A short prayer not only helps me to focus on the task ahead, but also serves to encourage me and take away my fear. It also helps to prevent “writers block,” which is nothing more than a fancy name for procrastination.
- Once you sit down and start writing, the words will come – I promise! – sometimes slowly, and sometimes pouring out like a fountain. Once you start, there will be no turning back. Like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle, each day your manuscript will be waiting for you to find the missing pieces and complete the beautiful picture.
- After you think your article or story is finished, it is a good idea to give it plenty of time – at least a day or two – to “cool down.” The sense of elation experienced after completing a manuscript can be so euphoric that the urge to dash your masterpiece off to an editor or publisher can be nearly irresistible. Don’t do it! You will be amazed how many typos can hide in a just-completed manuscript. Letting a hot manuscript cool also gives you time to make other revisions, and almost always results in a much-improved final version.
- Finally, when it comes to writing, here is the most important thing to remember: Only you can tell your story the way you want to tell it. No one else can do the job like you. No one!
- Likewise, when it comes to writing for publication, I’ve learned over the years that if that’s what God wants for you, too, nothing can stop it from happening. Nothing!
So gather up your ideas, find a quiet spot, and start writing!*
*Writer’s Market is one of the best books and online resource to help you find out how to submit your writing for publication. Click here for the book at Amazon or visit their website at www.writersmarket.com
Kitty’s Tips for Writing for Guideposts
People often come up to me and say they want to write a story for Guideposts. I say, “Go for it!”
Guideposts is a wonderful magazine founded in 1945 by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote the international best-selling book, The Power of Positive Thinking. Dr. Peale was a man who deeply loved Jesus. His heartfelt desire was to share God’s love with as many people as possible through true, inspiring first-person stories of faith and hope. Today Guideposts is one of the country’s Top Ten magazines, with a monthly circulation of 2 million and an estimated household readership of 12 million. Today Guideposts is America’s Number One source for inspiration!
- Remember a Guideposts story is a story – not an essay, devotional, speech, or sermon. It is a true, first-person story in which the subject learns a spiritual lesson or gains a spiritual insight that the reader can apply to his/her life. We call this the “takeaway message.”
- Know what the takeaway message is before you write the story. Everything in the story should point to the takeaway. Without conflict (doubt, failure, fear, challenging circumstance, difficult relationship, etc.) there is no story. It is through resolving conflict that the takeaway lesson is learned.
- Although the story is non-fiction, use fiction techniques to tell your story. Think of the story unfolding in scenes – sometimes it’s helpful to picture a movie unfolding in your head. Use dialog and vivid description. Details are key! Thoughts are italicized. For example: It’s not supposed to be this way, I thought.
- When you are writing, “Show, don’t tell.” For example, don’t write: “I fried an egg.” Instead, show frying the egg with something like: “The yellow yolk sizzled as it hit the frying pan.”
- Keep your story simple. Less is more when it comes to the number of characters, settings, and scenes. The story should not be overly internal. You do want interaction with at least one other developed character.
- First-person writing can be tricky. In order to disarm and engage the reader, it is helpful to be self-effacing. When you tell your story, don’t hesitate to point out your doubts, fears, shortcomings, failures. This will help the reader relate to you, and be cheering you on as they read.
- A good Guideposts story should move the reader. We are looking for stories that inspire and touch the heart.
- Guideposts stories have faith content, but are not preachy. Go easy on quoting scripture.
- Your story should be about 5-7 pages, double-spaced. Again, less is more!
- How to impress the Editors: Be courageous and try writing someone else’s story. Good ghostwriters are hard to find!
The Two MOST IMPORTANT TIPS:
- Study the magazine!
- Writing is re-writing!
Send your story ideas and manuscripts to:
GUIDEPOSTS, 110 William Street, New York, NY 10038.
For more information about Guideposts, including more writing tips, visit the Guideposts web site at www.guideposts.org.
© Copyright 2020 Kathryn Slattery. May not be reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.