Quote It! James Scott Bell

“Every hour you spend writing is an hour you don’t spend worrying about your writing.”

–James Scott Bell, at the 2009 Christian Writers Seminar, as quoted by Beth Thompson here. Bell is the No. 1 bestselling author of Plot & Structure, and thrillers like Deceived, Try Dying, and One More Lie. Under the pen name K. Bennett he is also the author of the Mallory Caine zombie legal thriller series, which begins with Pay Me in Flesh.

Do you worry about your writing? Isn’t that like asking a Mom if she worries about her kid? I know I sure do.

I worry I’m not writing enough (almost certainly true). That I’m writing too much (though I don’t worry about that often). I worry if it’s good enough (it’s not), if my characters are likeable (some are), and if I’m totally wasting my time (please, God, tell me ‘no’).

Sometimes my worrying is paralyzing. And that’s where I fall back on the sentiment in this quote. But you have to make a conscious decision to set aside worrying in favor of writing. If you don’t, or can’t, your success will be limited.

As a writer, what is your biggest worry? How do you set it aside?

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Feeling Like Stretch Armstrong

The Web is full of admonitions to stretch before working out or engaging in any kind of exercise. Why? The plusses are many:

  • Stretching helps prevent injuries.
  • It keeps your muscles in good working order.
  • Tight muscles are less capable.
  • It just makes you feel good.

Plus, if you stretch first you’re less likely to have to listen to your wife laugh (under her breath, of course) while you’re on the chiropractor’s table.

And who hasn’t enjoyed a good shoulder stretch after hours of hammering away at the keyboard?

Writing stretches

Lately, I’ve been doing some serious stretching in my writing/editing life. For just over a year, I’ve served as the editor for a new print magazine for American Christian Fiction Writers, the ACFW Journal.

We have a great team pulling this together (and we’re having a great time, too), but I am being stretched, particularly in the areas of organization and time management. As we enter our second year, even more stretching will be required.

Which, since I’ve also launched a freelance editing business (right here at WritingOnTheFineLine.com) and have just started doing some editing for one of my favorite publishing houses, is adding to my feeling like Stretch Armstrong.

I have to plan, write, and schedule three posts a week for this blog, under a set of (self-imposed) guidelines—stretching me, again, in the area of organization.

Since organization is definitely a weakness of mine (I don’t really even know how to use Excel, but I’m learning), this has all been a great experience. It will definitely lead to me learning how to better use my time.

Strength in weakness

In II Corinthians, Paul writes about how he had asked the Lord to remove his thorn in the flesh, only to have Jesus tell him, “My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul then says to his readers, “So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on–I would rather stake my claim in these and have the power of the Anointed One at home within me. I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong” (II Corinthians 12:9-10, The Voice).

What about you? In what areas are you being stretched this year? What weaknesses are you being forced to face? And how will that both benefit you and further the cause of Christ?

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Boost Your Creativity!

Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes.

For instance, I dabble in color and graphic design. I love to cook, but hate to clean up. I write a little. But what really gets my creative juices going is helping other writers discover the beauty in their writing through the editing process.

One of the things I’ll often suggest to authors is to engage their creativity through various writing prompts. Feel up to trying one? Then follow the link to read more at my post today on Novel Rocket!

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

The Glow

Recently, I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference in Dallas TX. I always come away from these gatherings with renewed creativity and an appreciation for just how tough this business is.

But I also come away with a glow.

If you’ve been to a writer’s conference, you probably understand. If not, and if you consider yourself a writer, you need to get to a conference and experience it. The ACFW conference is one I highly recommend, whether you’re new to writing fiction or a multi-published author.

I—intentionally—did not pitch a writing project in Dallas. Instead, I focused on promoting this website and my services as a freelance editor. This freed me to mostly relax and enjoy the conference.

When I did, I realized a few things:

  • I like the company of writers, editors, and agents. In an informal lobby gathering one night we had a laugh-fest—as creatives, yes, but also as people.
  • You can inhale creativity. I had more new ideas—for my business, my novel, the ACFW Journal—in those few days than I had in the previous three months. Not all are gems, but I think some of them are.
  • You can be alone in a room with hundreds of people. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing because you’re really in the world of your novel and everyone there understands.

What’s next?

Now I’m back home, back at work trying to build this business, back in my everyday world—and I’m enjoying the glow.

The keynote speaker for this conference was Michael Hyatt (left), former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, and the author of Platform: Get Noticed In A Noisy World. He said many things worth remembering, but two pieces of advice stuck with me:


Do not ask, “Where have all the good times gone?” Wisdom knows better than to ask such a thing (Ecclesiastes 7:10, The Voice).

“We often get stuck in a version of how things were and we pine for the old days. But they aren’t coming back. In the future you will look back on this day and think of it as the good ol’ days. You are living in the good ol’ days. God is doing a new work today and you have the privilege of being a part of it.”


“One of the reasons your role (as a writer) is so important is we live in chaotic times. People desperately need stories to sort out the meaning of what they’re experiencing. (They need) a way of thinking about the world to help them make sense of it.

“What do you choose to do with the gift—the future—you’ve been given? Will you lean into it and believe that God is with you?”

What is your response? Share—or simply ponder it in your heart.

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Man in glow image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Quote It! Kelly Long’s Mom

Never kick a sleeping skunk.

— Kelly Long’s Mom

Mom’s have a lot of great advice. I’m sure we’ve all heard:

  • Money does not grow on trees.
  • Don’t make that face or it’ll freeze in that position.
  • Always change your underwear; you never know when you’ll have an accident.
  • Be careful or you’ll put your eye out.
  • If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
  • Be careful what you wish for, it might come true.

We could go on–obviously.

But, I was intrigued by this bit of advice when Kelly shared it with me a couple weeks ago. Is there a writing application? What do you think?

Enter your writing related advice about kicking sleeping skunks below.

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

I Live To Serve!

I started this blog to, as the sidebar says, “help writers cross the fine line between where they are and where they want to be.” One way to do that, I reasoned, was to draw back the veil a bit between the editor and the writer.

As an editor, it thrills me to help writers see ways they can improve their writing in order to better communicate. Because, as George Bernard Shaw (right) says, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

I’ve now been playing with words on this blog for nearly three months. With that in mind, I hope you’ll indulge me and answer my poll. Do you like what you’re reading here? What do you like best? Are there other topics you’re interested in? Thanks in advance!

Michael Ehret, for Writing On The Fine Line

Quote It! Frederick Buechner

“But I talk about my life anyway because if, on the one hand, hardly anything could be less important, on the other hand, hardly anything could be more important. My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours. (Emphasis added)

“Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track, you and I, of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity…that God makes himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally.”

— Frederick Buechner, an American writer and theologian,
in Telling Secrets: A Memoir, page 30

Obviously I was struck by Buechner’s admission that his story, if told “anything like right” will be recognizable to others as their story.

Writers: What is your takeaway on this? What do you think Buechner means by anything like right? Share in the comments.

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Pssst! Maybe It’s Who You Are

Some people think of publishing as an “It’s who you know” industry. And it often works that way.

But I believe it’s not “who you know” as much as “who you are.”

You may think:

  • “I’m no one. I’m not published. I’m still adding to my (growing) file of rejections.”
  • “I’m no one. My first book didn’t do well and I can’t even get an agent to return my calls.”
  • “Sure my series sold well, but I’m still waiting for that big break that will make me the next Dean Koontz.”

Treadmill reality?

Whatever goal you have yet to accomplish, do you feel you’re constantly dodging the next obstacle? Maybe you see yourself as George Jetson, walking his dog on that moving sidewalk outside his space bungalow—walking, walking, walking—but never going anywhere.

I’m not trying to scare you, but maybe it’s not who you know. Maybe it’s who you are.

Are you the kind of writer who:

  • Bristles when someone suggests edits you don’t like?
  • Doesn’t use standard manuscript formatting?
  • Never follows up when an editor requests your proposal—with changes?
  • Always asks for deadline extensions?
  • Pushes ahead of others to get the seat at the editor’s side at a conference meal?
  • Brings every conversation back to you and your project?
  • Believes you know it all, but no one sees your brilliance?

Time for a rehab?

If you see any of these traits in yourself, consider whether you may be sabotaging yourself. What changes can you make to be the kind of writer editors want to work with?

Editors prefer writers who are partners in the process—writers who have a long-term vision not just for their own careers, but also for where their work fits into the larger picture.

Be that writer and you’ll come to know and be known by the right people.

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

In The Edit: Deborah Raney

Today’s In The Edit is a little different. Today I want to show you, by using a Deborah Raney example, ways that a good editor can help you make the most of the articles you write as you’re building your platform or your freelance business.

But, I do want to caution you as well. While it is permissible to repurpose an article—even wise—you need to be careful to not plagiarize yourself, as agent Steve Laube shares in his blog.

Deborah Raney
best-selling author of After All

The key, as best-selling author Deborah Raney suggests, is that each of these pieces, though about the same subject (how to incorporate the six senses into your fiction writing), are revised and re-edited with the audience in mind and each publisher was aware the article had been used before in another form.

I was not the editor on all of these pieces, but I did edit the versions that appeared in the Christian Writers Guild’s WordSmith ezine and the longer version in the ACFW Journal.

The original

“This article has gained so much mileage it’s not even funny!” Deb said. “The original sold to RWR (the magazine of the Romance Writers of America) in 2004—eight years ago. At that time it was 2500 words.”

See Deb’s original, unedited. Sorry, I do not have the edited version.

Christian Writers Guild version

This year, Deb will be one of the featured instructors at the Guild’s Writing for the Soul conference at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs CO. When I was the editor-in-chief at CWG, one of the things we liked to do was feature the conference instructors in our publications.

I needed something from Deb for the April 2012 issue of WordSmith and she suggested a reworking of this piece because the principles in it would help our students improve their storytelling abilities.

I had not read the RWR version, but she told me it had been published in the longer version above eight years earlier.

Read the version she sent me—already edited by Deb to 680 words.

The problem? I needed 300 words at the most—and, because of the audience, I needed a strong educational focus. Plus there was a desire, obviously, to promote Deb’s appearance at the conference.

See what we ended up with. (Deb’s article is on page 4 of the newsletter.)

Once more, with feeling!

Finally (so far…), Deb is the author of the Self-editing column for ACFW Journal, the quarterly magazine I edit for the American Christian Fiction Writers organization. When it was time for her July column, she suggested we run this piece again—only this time we were able to reinsert some of the stuff we had to cut for WordSmith.

See the ACFW Journal version.

Now, here’s where you may be wondering if this article is reaching critical mass. It has appeared, so far, in three publications that cater to writers: RWR, WordSmith, and ACFW Journal. Is that overkill?

A couple important things to remember: All three of those publications are member magazines and therefore only available to members of the organization that publishes them. While it’s possible there are a few people who are members of two of the organizations—even three—that is a fairly small population and each version of the story is substantially different.

But wait…

So Deb’s done with this topic now, right? Not so fast. When publicizing her latest release, After All (the third in the Hanover Falls series), Deb was asked to do a guest post on the blog The Borrowed Book. Yep, by taking the same information and revisiting it with examples from her new book, Deb was able to share this great writing information with another audience and do some good marketing for her book.

Why share this? Because when you write a good article, it’s not necessarily one and done—sometimes it’s one-, two-, three-, four- and (maybe) done. Especially if you think in advance about the different ways you can use the information you have to share.

Deb, thanks for letting me tell your story In The Edit today.

Eye image (c) Ken Raney

I hope you’ll come back on Thursday for another writing tip and then stop by Saturday for a writing quote and a question.

If you would like to see your writing in a future In The Edit post, send a maximum of 350 words to opusmle (at) gmail (dot) com. Please send in Word format (.doc). If I use it, you’ll be eligible for a 25-percent discount on any editing services.

On Thursday, we’ll look at another self-editing writing tip. See you then! Then on Saturday, drop by for a quick writer’s quote and to share what that quote means to you.

Michael Ehret, for Writing On The Fine Line

Quote It! Maya Angelou

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

― Maya Angelou, an American poet, memoirist, actress, and civil rights activist. (b. 1928)

Oh so true.

Some of the stories inside are happy, some sad; some decadent, some holy. But whether happy or sad each is on the inside fighting to get out. And their struggle–for it is my struggle as well–causes pain.

Do I struggle to write them from fear of failure or from fear of success? Or just from fear?

We all know “butt in chair.” What else do you do to extricate the stories in you? Share below.

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line