Think by Ada Brownell

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Writing occurs first in the mind. Authors think.

You can think anywhere. I used to take notes beside the sink as I washed dishes and cooked. I often keep an idea pad in my lap when we’re traveling. Pen and paper are in my nightstand. Every great book or article begins in the author’s brain, and that’s where we also should work out the kinks in novels or come up with great illustrations and original story angles.

Meditate on the things of God and listen for His voice. Often my best ideas come while I’m on my knees.

Here’s my advice if you’d like to stretch your writing to include Christian publications or other genres.

1) Read and study the publication or the book genre for which you would like to write.

Make notes. Copy guidelines and other info you notice. Stick these and samples of the publication. If you’re writing a book, collect website addresses of potential publishers’ book lists. If you plan to go Indie, look up books for sale in the genre you hope to target. You can buy and download e-books you want to study into your computer. Then ask yourself whether you can write and market similar stories or articles.

Clive Cussler, who was formerly in advertising, spoke years ago at a writers’ meeting and told us he used another novel as a model for his first book. He didn’t plagiarize. Instead, using his characters, setting and plot, he mimicked the style of the other author, creating a hook for each chapter as the author did, weaving in description and back story like the other writer, dropping in complications when the other person did, writing the dialogue in a similar way. He sold his book. I still see his byline on displays in airports and stores. He learned by thoroughly studying a successful novel.

2) Flesh out your ideas. With fiction, create character sketches, do scene research for the background and history on the location for your story—or draw a map of your fictional city and create your own history. Then identify your main character’s problem or goal. Don’t have mercy on your characters–create complications, or in other words, disaster. My editor of The Lady Fugitive told me, “Ada, you’re mean.” But she said it was a great cliff hanger at the end of that chapter.

You use some of the same fiction techniques for short fiction for Sunday school papers. A character with a problem and something or someone causing conflict. Conflict can be described as

1) Man against nature 2) Man against himself 3) Man against someone else 4) Man against evil. The areas of literary conflict are listed differently in some places.

Keep your eyes open for ideas, and learn to observe life everywhere. Rebecca McClanahan devotes a whole chapter in her book Word Painting to opening our eyes. She titled it, “The Eye of the Beholder,” and she highlights the many ways we can observe things around us.

3) For non-fiction: What do you know or what have you experienced that qualifies you to write the article or book? I used things I learned as a newspaper reporter for my books, Swallowed by Life: Mysteries of Death, Resurrection and the Eternal; and Imagine the Future You. But I also drew on years of study, amazing life experiences that partly came from raising five children, writing more than 50 years, and teaching youth.

But no matter what you’ve experienced, we need to think. What do you know that will help others? What have you experienced that affected you greatly—that caused you to grow in some way, or conquer a huge problem?

4) Research facts about your subject. On my blog recently I wrote a story about feet and later I submitted it to a Christian publication, informing the editor it appeared on my blog. The article came from thinking and remembering, but also through research. Notice how I used info about feet from the Bible and medical experts. Find applicable anecdotes and illustrations for your non-fiction. Interviews are great helps, too.

Use fiction techniques in your non-fiction, whether it’s a book or article, especially showing instead of telling. One of the best reviews I’ve received on my motivational Bible study, Imagine the Future You, said “It reads like fiction.”

5) Write. Edit. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, edit and send or publish. Forget that piece of writing and go on to your next project. If you’ve done your best, it’s in God’s hands. We sow and sometimes reap. God gives the increase.


Ada Brownell

Ada Brownell, a devoted Bible student, has written for Christian publications since age 15 and spent much of her life as a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain in Colo. After moving to Springfield, MO in her retirement, she continues to free lance for Sunday school papers, Christian magazines, write op-ed pieces for newspapers, and write books with stick-to-your-soul encouragement. She is critique group leader of Ozarks Chapter of American Christian Writers and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.

Among her books: Imagine the Future You, a youth Bible study (November 2013). Joe the Dreamer: The Castle and the Catapult, (Jan. 15, 2013); Swallowed by Life: Mysteries of Death, Resurrection and the Eternal, (Dec. 6, 2011); and Confessions of a Pentecostal, out of print but released in 2012 for Kindle; All the books are available in paper or for Kindle.

Blog: Stick to Your Soul Encouragement
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