The Northwest Christian Writers Association (NCWA) is a group of dedicated writers of all levels and experiences. Lorinda Newton and Agnes Lawless saw the need for a resource for writers just starting out and put together the original Beginning Writerís Packet. This packet proved to be a much sought after product for NCWA members. Over the past four years, NCWA has grown and changed, and the board
realized the need to make this a more rounded resource for writers of all levels. This work has now blossomed into a well-rounded handbook for all Christian writers from beginners to advanced.
This compilation demonstrates the skills of the members of NCWA. As we sorted through and compiled the pieces for this book, we realized that vast resources of knowledge and experience we have within our own group. It includes tips for just starting out and setting up a work space, keeping records, understanding marketing trends, and lots of how-toís on everything from writing queries and proposals to speaking. Each of the pieces is written in the style of the NCWA member and reflects his or her expertise and knowledge.
We hope you find this a useful resource that will boost your writing career to new levels. We know we have while putting it together.
In absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing
daily acts of trivia.
Before I began writing, I imagined writers lived in cabins in the woods. Their home offices overlooked birch trees and meandering creeks. Inspiration was merely a glance away. Their phones didnít ring (except when the publisher called wanting to know if the royalty check should be sent to Tahoe or the condo in Maui). Their children didnít interrupt. Writers, I believed, were either millionaire hermits with maids, or they had supportive spouses who took care of the details of life. Nothing got in their way while they whittled manuscripts into works of fine art.
I have found, however, most writers are like me. We wash clothes and water the garden while waiting for inspiration. When the phone rings, itís a time-share salesman. Interruptions are continuous. We have jobs and children and spouses who fluctuate between being supportive and stressed out. Fortunately, Iíve discovered a few ways to deal with the trials and trivia that come my way while Iím writing.
After I began working on my book, my husband endured two surgeries, my daughter broke her arm, and I was injured in a car accident. After that, I wrote occasionally, but my goals were set aside. When I was ready to begin again, I gave myself an assignment: write a letter to the editor. It was published, and I had instant gratification. The satisfaction of seeing my writing in the newspaper encouraged me to get back on track.
I missed my first self-imposed book deadline, so I reset my goals. My new goal? Write one devotion each week. Iíll write it one day, let it rest another day, make changes the following day, then send it to my online critique group. While waiting for my first work to cool, I begin the next. As soon as I receive feedback, I polish the first and send the next for critique. If I accomplish these weekly tasks, Iíll meet my deadline.
One friend of mine chose to make a time commitment to write each morning from nine to noon. I like word-count goals. Iíll write to my goal, usually 250 to 500 words, whether it takes thirty minutes or three hours. Then move on to another project.
If youíre working on a book, you can calculate how many words you need to write each day to finish within your desired time. (Most nonfiction books are between 30,000 and 75,000 words; fiction 75,000 and 200,000). Decide how much of your day can be devoted to writing, then post your daily or weekly goals near your work space.
Iím unable to concentrate on writing when I have papers to file, laundry to fold, and bills to pay. Iíve devised a plan to get chores completed. Monday is the day I take care of my mundane tasks. This way, I donít have a to-do list hanging over my head all week. If my desk is clear, so is my head. (Well, sometimes, anyway.)
Tuesdays, Iím ready to write. My desk is uncluttered. A dictionary and thesaurus rest on the trunk beside my computer. A shelf above holds my writing books.
When Iíve accomplished my weekly goals, I reward myself on Friday. I might meet a friend for a latte, go shopping, or spend time in my garden. Having a time set aside for fun helps me to stay focused during the week.
ďSome people write by day,Ē notes William Zinsser in his book On Writing Well, ďothers by night. Some people need silence, others turn on the radio. Some write by hand, some by typewriter, some by talking into a tape recorder. Some people write their first
draft in one long burst and then revise; others canít write the second paragraph until they have fiddled endlessly with the first.Ē1
Iíve also learned to embrace how I write. Iím a revise-as-I-go girl. I no longer worry about what some writers proclaim is the correct way to write. Iím reading, experimenting, and finding my own way.
If youíre like me, with a family in the burbs and a computer in the corner, you can still triumph over trivia and write. Write down your goals. Organize your time and writing space. Discover how and when you are most productive, then reevaluate occasionally. If what youíre doing doesnít work, revise and reschedule. Goal setting is a process. Success is working with your unique personality and circumstances to accomplish your dreams.
1. William Zinsser, On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction (New York: Harper and Row, 1980), 5.
Barbara Koshar is a freelance writer whoís been published in Focus on the Family magazine, Christian Parenting Today, and the Eastside Journal (now King County Journal). Volunteer work includes involvement with NCWA. She is a member of Toastmasters and enjoys acting, photography and graphic design. Barbara and her husband Tom live in Redmond, WA. They have three daughters. BarbaraKo@msn.com