For Writers… mostly…

As some of you might know, I’ve spent the last 10 months working on a mega character curriculum for pre-K through adult, and all based on living out of our identity in Christ. As I’ve told any number of people, I don’t know who else could have been the guy for this. And I don’t say that as an ego thing (well, maybe a little, but…)—rather as a “you could count on one hand the people that God has taken down this particularly circuitous route” thing. The pastoral AND curricular backgrounds, the immersion in gospel-centered materials in the three years after said curriculum department got toasted, the background with startups (from businesses to applications to churches to my own writing), the uncanny ability to get an inordinate amount of work done in a stupid-short period of time…. Heck, throw in the fact that I got hired in response to a job posting for the wrong job (but with the right job description)… and you can see God’s hand (and His sense of humor) in it all.

Anyway, over the course of reviewing and editing 700+ assignments (so far — ’bout 200 more to go) of 3,000 words apiece (give or take), needless to say there’s been a lot of coaching going on. (As a handful of those writers also subscribe to this blog, they might substitute “haranguing,” “harassing,” “lecturing,” “browbeating,” or “nitpicking.” I’m gonna stick with “coaching.” :)) Much of that has been product-specific, obviously, but there’s also been a goodly amount of philosophizing and quality-pushing that, really, I think could be useful to anyone who wants to reach and reassure others for Christ in a way that they might actually hear it.

So while we wait to talk about other stuff here, I thought I’d share some of the more global advice here, edited below as needed. (And hey, since half of the remaining writers are here maybe I’ll be able to save myself another round of “coaching” by putting it here, too. :)). Enjoy, or at least chew on it and see what you think, and I’ll see you soon….

• Remember your audience. Some may have an extensive knowledge of the Bible; many won’t. Likewise, avoid theological/”churchy” terms. Not that you can’t/shouldn’t discuss deeper stuff—just make sure you use words that anyone could understand as you do it.

• There’s a lot of crazy, and very visible, stuff that takes place in the Bible. What’s it like to be in the middle of that? We get wrapped up in bigger-than-life news events all the time; what’s going on in these passages is often far bigger than that. Leverage it.

• Obviously we want to stay true to what the Bible says, but the goal here isn’t to unearth biblical facts; our goal is to explore the tension in the biblical narrative and apply it to the tension in which we’re living. We can have all our “theological points” right, and still miss God’s point for our lives. Write out of your life—don’t just reflect God’s Word but also how He who is the Word has been dwelling and living through you. If you do the latter, you’ll nail the former.

• Don’t just write questions that need answering—write questions that spark discussion, and maybe even inspire some “iron sharpens iron” sessions among your teachers and students. If you wouldn’t ask your question to a person sitting across from you, don’t ask it here. Think: How would you ask this question to someone else—or maybe even to yourself? That’s how you want to ask it here. Don’t just write it—live it. And watch what God gives you when you do.

• Be sure to emphasize God’s mercy and grace over and above “your sin,” or “Jesus saved me—now I have to….” Remember, character isn’t about behavior modification; it’s what we hold deep inside. It’s not about how God’s gonna drop the hammer on us if we [INSERT SIN HERE]—it’s about “God’s power to do the right thing.” Show them the Jesus they’d (and that we already do) want to follow, rather than one who’s ready to lay down the hammer and/or make a ton of demands of you at every step (see also Matt. 11:29-30).

• Dig into the struggle. Don’t go for “Bible answers”; God certainly didn’t with the Bible. Show us how He’s with us in the struggle, just as He did with those He first gave these words to. The original protagonists of the Bible needed a Living Word—and so do we.

• Self-application starts with ourselves. Introduce people to Jesus—not to how much better we (and our circumstances) are as Christians, and how we can make everyone else know that too. Because again, we know that’s not how God dealt—and continues to deal—with us. And that “continues” is everything. Again, it’s about all of us growing in the struggles God takes us through, not about having all the answers. Jesus has all the answers (and is the answer); we don’t (and aren’t).

• Finally, consider Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” If this is true, then you have plenty to write about.  So, “stay true,” keep your “focus,” and “do the right thing.” :)

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Finishing Strong!

Last week I helped edit a friend's novel, and the story kept me in suspense all the way through 300+ pages. But the ending wobbled. He avoided the "everyone-lives-happily-ever" ending, which often seems fake. Yet, I wanted more than what he gave me. As we all do, he's struggling with the finale. Closure in relationships, in stories, and in life often generates angst. Because this is a Christian-based novel, my friend's ending must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading, neither too vanilla nor too dark.


If you're like me, I can start things with lots of enthusiasm and, on a good day, with a ton of creativity. But when the novelty fades and the hours accumulate, I often lose interest. Aren't we glad God's not like that? He never tires of our countless requests, failures, and concerns.  His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).


So how do we end a story? My best advice is to ask God for a strong finish. In fact, expand that to include your life’s story. That’s what I want!


“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

2 Timothy 4:7, ESV [The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001]


Writing Strong Endings


Writing Strong Endings 

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