Thursday, February 15, 2018

“Hope is the answer” and you’re cleared to go

“During my intense grieving moments,” writes Dana Goodman, “other people’s stories gave me words to describe the ache that was indescribable. They gave me hope that a new day would dawn, and I would not be stuck in the black forever.”


“Sharing hope truly is the heart of this writing business,” writes Mick Silva. “Words are like packaging. They’re pretty or flashy or sad or boring. And while everyone appreciates good packaging, ultimately it’s the hope inside them that matters…. We each have to ask…whether we want to share hope or not.”

Read that again. “We each have to ask…whether we want to share hope or not.” That zings, doesn’t it?

The Bible tells us to comfort others
with the comfort we’ve received from God.
(2 Corinthians 1:4)

Your memoir can do that.

That means writing your memoir is not a hobby, it’s a ministry.

Eugene Peterson suggests the church should ordain writers in the way they ordain pastors.

“There are never enough storytellers,” he says. “There are a lot of people who want to write stories but they don’t want to go through the discipline, the agony, the immersion in life it requires…. I think writing is one of the sacred callings. I wish, in fact, that the church would ordain writers the way they ordain pastors….”

Is that a new thought to you?

If so, make time to ask yourself these questions:

How different would your writing be if you viewed yourself as ordained to tell your story?

Can you—will you—consider yourself ordained to tell your story?

Let’s take a minute to ponder: What does it mean to be ordained?

It means to be approved, authorized, appointed, anointed, selected, and chosen.

It means to be commissioned, empowered, assigned, entrusted, and consecrated. And cleared to go.

Have you thought about that question in the past few days?

Maybe something or someone maimed you, left you blemished, flawed, maybe even deformed—maybe in little ways, maybe in massive ways. Perhaps they left you broken, immobilized. Some scars are visible, some are hidden inside.

But remember: A scar is evidence of healing.

How did God transform your wounds into scars?

Who and what did God use to bring healing?

As a result of your experience, what hope can you pass on to others?

Are you now super-inspired to write your story? Please say Yes!

Believe God has
approved, authorized, appointed you.
He has anointed, selected, and chosen you.

Believe God has
commissioned, empowered, assigned you.
He has entrusted, and consecrated you
to carry out our key verses:

Always remember, and never forget,
what you’ve seen God do for you,
and be sure to tell your children and grandchildren.
Deuteronomy 4:9

Jesus said, “Go tell your family everything
God has done for you.”
Luke 8:39

Like Kellie McGann said, “Hope is the answer your readers are searching for…. Tell them they’re not alone in their dark night of the soul.”

“…Writing your story is the only way
to truly express what God did.
And you can’t believe just how remarkable he is
until you step back and see it for yourself.”
Mick Silva, Higher Purpose Writers

Your story can change a life.

Someone needs the hope you can offer.

So hear this:

You know what you’ve been commissioned to do,
and you—youare cleared to go.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Tuesday Tidbit: “Are you a success?”

You don’t want to miss Steve Laube’s message about being a successful writer. With wisdom and grace, Steve explores what a Christian writer’s definition of success should be—and should not be.

He writes, “This writing journey isn’t about how you feel about success, or how does success make you feel. It’s: What does God mean to happen for you and for your readers? What is God’s intent in this and how is He using you to accomplish that intent?

Be sure to read the rest of Steve’s post, Are You a Success?

There you have it: your Tuesday Tidbit.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

If your scars could talk, what stories would they tell?

Scars. You have a few. So do I. When writing our stories, we’ll almost certainly need to examine one or more of the wounds that caused our scars.

Keep in mind that a scar is not the same as a wound.

A wound is an injury, a laceration, a gash, a blow, a rip. Some wounds are superficial, but others are deep and agonizing.

On the other hand, a scar is “a mark left where a wound or injury or sore has healed” (Oxford American Dictionary).

Read that again: A scar is what you have after healing has occurred. After the bleeding has stopped. After the scab has fallen off.

A scar is evidence of healing.

When we think of a scar, too often we associate it with something damaged, defective. A disfigurement, an impairment.

But isn’t it better to recognize that a scar is something that has healed?

Think of your scar as an emblem declaring you’re repaired, a symbol of surviving, evidence your wound has mended.

So I ask: 

If your scars could talk, what stories would they tell?

Most of us are good at keeping our wounds and scars secret—maybe even from ourselves, but a good memoirist will not leave them in hiding.

Dani Shapiro says, “What we ignore, we ignore at our own peril. What we embrace with courage, perseverance, humility, and clarity, becomes our instrument of illumination.”

Our instrument of illumination. 

A good memoirist will
invite God to stand alongside—or maybe inside—
and help peel back layers,
get out a magnifying glass,
and discover the deeper, broader, bigger story.

A good memoirist will make time
to examine the chapters of his life
in which God used wounds
to turn his story in a different
and better direction.

That reminds me of Bev Murrill’s words about Romans 8:28, “Paul said all things work together for good for people who love the Lord and are called according to His purposes. That doesn’t mean what happened is good, but that God can use even the most terrible things if we will let Him treat the wounds and heal them.”

C.S. Lewis said, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” Your job as a memoirist is to look back and discover that extraordinary destiny God has been working out for youa destiny you couldn’t have experienced if it weren’t for your hardship, your wound. You have a scar to prove it.

How did God transform your wounds into scars?

Who and what did God use to bring healing? 

  • A doctor, counselor, or medicine,
  • a Bible passage or Bible study, 
  • a book, 
  • prayer, 
  • a strategically placed friend or relative,
  • time and distance,
  • writing or journaling.

God has many ways of turning wounds into scars.

Bev Murrill says God is capable of “turning ugly gaping wounds into scars that serve as badges of honor and trophies of the grace of God at work in me.”

What badges of honor
and trophies of God’s grace
will you include in your memoir?

Someone needs to know your story.

Someone needs the hope your story can offer.

If your scars could talk,
what stories would they tell?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Tuesday Tidbit: I need your help due to Facebook changes

HELP! Facebook has rearranged the content you see in your newsfeed. That means you won’t see Spiritual Memoirs 101’s posts as frequently as before.

If you’ve already “Liked” SM 101’s Page, keep it in your newsfeed by going to Spiritual Memoirs 101’s Facebook Page. Toward the top, click on “Follow.” In the drop-down menu, click on “See First.”

And if you don’t already follow SM 101 on Facebook, YOU’RE MISSING A LOT—quotes and quips and inspiration and instruction. Click here to go to Spiritual Memoirs 101 on Facebook. When you do, toward the top of the Page click on “Like” (you might also need to click on “Follow”). Then in the drop-down menu, click on “See First.”

And since I’m asking for your help: Please let your friends and relatives know about SM 101.

A family’s stories are so important!

There’s a reason God told us to always remember what we’ve seen Him do and to tell our children and grandchildren (Deuteronomy 4:9).

There’s a reason Jesus said, “Go tell your family what God has done for you” (Luke 8:39).

What’s that reason?

God created humankind to respond to stories.

God uses stories.
They are among His most compelling
and successful tools.

Learn more: Click on

There you have it: Your Tuesday Tidbit.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Tell yourself rewriting is not punishment

Writing your memoir’s first draft is an experiment. Even your second and third and fourth drafts are experiments.

It’s like trying on for size—like taking five yellow dresses off the rack and heading toward the dressing room. When you slip into them and look in the mirror, you discover only one yellow is the right shade; you look washed out in the other four.

So, you keep only the one yellow dress that’s the right shade—

and in writing,
you keep only the sentences
and words
and paragraphs
and openings
and endings
that fit—those that work best.

You can also compare writing and rewriting and polishing to arranging flowers in a vase. You do your best to create beauty but when you stand back, you see the bouquet is lopsided, or you didn’t distribute the colors well, or you’ve left a gap, so you rearrange it, tweaking it here and there until it’s just right.

With dresses and with flowers and with writing, we need to stand back, take another look, and adjust accordingly.

We can view rewriting and editing and polishing as a pain in the neck, or maybe even punishmentOR we can consider it an enjoyable process of enhancement.

Amber Lea Starfire writes, “As a teacher, it always surprises me when beginning writers resist the revision process, because that’s often when the best writing takes place.

“I think of the first draft as a kind of rough sketch—the bones of the piece,” she continues. “It’s during the revision process that the skeleton acquires muscles and flesh and features. And I often have to do major surgery, restructuring the skeleton, before I can write what needs to be said.” (You’ll enjoy Amber’s post, Writing is Revision is Re-Writing is Craft.)

Good writers revise and rewrite, often many times.

Dinty Moore says, “The difference. . . between writers who are successful in finding an audience and those who struggle, is when and where in the revision process a writer throws in the towel and settles for 'good enough.’” (Read his How to Revise a Draft Without Going Crazy.)

Don't settle for  just “good enough.”

Tell yourself rewriting is not punishment
instead, rewriting is beautification.

So, beautify! And have fun!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Tuesday Tidbit: Does it tickle their fancy?

We’ve been looking at: 
  • the importance of writing a captivating opening for your memoir, and
  • writing chapter endings that grab readers’ attention and inspire them to keep reading.

Next, examine each chapter opening. Ask yourself: Does it intrigue readers? Charm them? Tickle their fancy?  Does it hold their interest so they’ll keep reading?  

Each chapter beginning must be as attractive as your book’s beginning.

You’ll find helpful tips in Matilda Butler’s post, Memoir Writing Prompt: A Running Start with Each Chapter. Besides helping you polish each chapter opening, she also offers help with choosing chapter titles. Don’t miss her post!

Related posts:

That's it: Your Tuesday Tidbit

Thursday, January 25, 2018

“Give your chapter endings extra love”

“. . . Have you ever noticed that [the] desire to keep reading is amplified by how the chapter ends?” asks Ashley Martin.

We all know this: Readers have a choice at the end of each chapter. They can turn the page and begin the next chapter—or not.

As writers, we want to prevent that “or not.”

Ashley continues, “. . . it’s our job to craft chapter endings that pull our stories—and our readers—forward. But sometimes, finding the perfect end to a chapter can be tough….”

That’s why we must learn to write effective chapter endings.

Book chapter endings aren’t supposed to resemble composition endings we penned in college freshman English. Back then we concluded with a summary that tied everything together and provided a satisfying end. Our endings brought a sense of closure. Resolution.

We might think that’s how to end a memoir’s chapters, too, but that’s not the case.

Rebecca Belliston writes, “if we end every chapter with a resolved scene, readers might leave for those Oreos and find something else to do. When it comes to holding reader interest, knowing when to end a chapter matters almost as much as knowing what content to include within the chapter.”

So, let’s get to work. Examine the endings of your memoir’s chapters.  Ask yourself if each one compels readers to turn the page and keep reading.

Here are a few techniques for grabbing and holding readers’ attention:

  • Drop a new twist into your story—maybe a surprise, or a new conflict, or a secret, or something terrifying.
  • Ask a captivating question.
  • Reveal a tidbit that hints at the future and creates curiosity.
  • Humor is good. Make ’em laugh.
  • Or make ’em cry.

Mystery, tension, emotion, and suspense motivate readers to keep reading. End a chapter in the middle of a conflict (real or emotional).

Ashley Martin recommends, “Look for places in your story where something BIG happens. Once you’ve found that big event—rewind. When you’ve found the apex—the point where your chapter is teetering on the edge of that pivotal moment—FREEZE. Stop your chapter there, and don’t reveal what happens until the start of the next.”

We call that a cliffhanger.

Aaron Elkins offers this advice: “. . . A cliffhanger ending to a chapter doesn’t have to be an action scene. As long as it leaves the reader ‘hanging,’ you’re in business. For example:

“END OF ONE CHAPTER: Nan’s normally rosy face was the color of putty. ‘There’s something I need to tell you.’ Her eyes were fixed on the floor. ‘Something you don’t know about me.’

“BEGINNING OF NEXT CHAPTER: It had all started, she said, tight-lipped, when her mother’s brother moved in. She was 12….”

And here’s an important takeaway: End your chapters in a variety of ways—mix them up. Be unpredictable.

“One of the best things an author can hear
from a reader is,
‘I’m so exhausted.
I stayed up until four in the morning
to finish your book.’
. . . If they were willing to give up sleep,
they must have really liked the book.”

Whatever you do and however you do it, hook your readers—make them curious to know what will happen next. Compel them to turn the page.

If you don’t want your memoir to sit on a shelf and collect dust, craft intriguing chapter endings. In the words of K.M. Weiland, “give your chapter endings extra love.”

The following offer additional inspiration on crafting chapter endings with pizzazz:

Rebecca Belliston’s “Mastering the Art of the Cliffhanger Ending
Aaron Elkins' "3 Ways to Know When to End Your Chapters" (He refers to novels but his info pertains to memoirs, too.)