Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why Can't I Finish?

Why Can’t I Finish?
By Susan H. Lawrence

Writers sometimes struggle so much with finishing the project, they stall with the start. Or, they start, but they can’t quite bring themselves to finish. The project goes on and on, sits in the computer, continually gets reworked, or stalls in the to-do lists.

Knowing the why behind issues with finishing or starting won’t automatically fix the problem, but it will help you recognize where you are and what you need to get beyond in order to start…or finish.

Perfectionism. Unless you can produce something exactly the way you imagined it to be with no mistakes or misunderstandings, you don’t want to share it…which means, you’ll never share it. The only person who can create something that’s perfect is a perfect person, which you’re not. It’s okay to have high expectations, but don’t expect yourself to do the impossible.

Negative thinking. Perhaps you think you can’t get accomplish what you want. You’re not gifted enough, talented enough, worthy enough. You’re not well-enough connected or well-enough prepared. You don’t have enough time or resources. No matter how you much you grow and accomplish, you pay more attention to the empty half of the glass than the full half. Build on what you have, even if it seems like it’s only a few drops.

Distractions. Do you think you lack time to get done what you want? What about Facebook, Instagram, email, and Words with Friends? Consider the possibility you’re not using your time as well as you can. Manage your distractions better. Get focused.

Encouragement. Maybe you don’t have anyone encouraging you. Perhaps people closest to you are actually discouraging you. But are you really looking for encouragement? Perhaps you’re not getting it from certain people, but it comes through surprising sources. Don’t put conditions on the encouragement you receive. Don’t let your pride or fear stop you from reaching out and asking for support.

Accountability. One of the best ways someone can encourage you is by helping you stay accountable to your goals. You won’t meet every goal; no one does. But when you fall short, it’s helpful to admit it and hit the reset button. Ask someone to check in with you regularly. Hand off small pieces of your writing for feedback. Yielding a little at a time is much less daunting than sharing and getting feedback on an entire project.

Start somewhere today. Consider what’s holding you back. Is it really worth the damage it might be causing? Getting stuck and not finishing—or not starting—isn't just about your writing. It’s about your life.

Susan Lawrence is a women’s ministry consultant who also partners with women with writing goals. She speaks around the country, has written multiple Bible studies and devotionals, and blogs daily. If you’d like to start a conversation with her about your writing goals or other ministry needs, connect with her on

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Word Counts Can Be Fun

Word Counts Can be Fun!
By Susan Lawrence

As writers, we know we’re supposed to write consistently. Writing a few hundred words a day adds up quickly and is a lot less daunting than writing several thousand words. Small goals not only help us accomplish the bigger ones; small goals also help us develop discipline.

But as we develop our discipline and build a reservoir of written words, isn't there a way to have some fun along the way? Yes!

For every 100 words, a new photo of a kitten pops up on the right side of your screen. It’s like receiving a reward! If you don’t like kittens, try puppies. If you want to try another animal, click on the puppies link in the previous sentence, then replace the word puppy in the url with whatever animal you want to try. (Be careful not to waste too much time searching for obscure animals and let time nonchalantly slip by, defeating the purpose of getting motivated and disciplined.)

If 100 words aren’t a lofty enough goal, you can choose 200, 500, or 1000 instead. The first time you use the site and begin typing, a dialogue box might pop up to remind you that even if you have autosave on your browser, you’ll be wise to copy/paste your work often—perhaps when the picture changes—so you don’t lose it.

Give it a try, have some fun, and accomplish those writing goals!

Susan Lawrence is a women’s ministry consultant who also partners with women with writing goals. She speaks around the country, has written multiple Bible studies and devotionals, and blogs daily. If you’d like to start a conversation with her about your writing goals or other ministry needs, connect with her on

Graphic from Microsoft clipart

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

5 Ways Your Blog Can Help Your Writing

5 Ways Your Blog Can Help Your Writing
Susan Lawrence

Contrary to “expert” advice, not everyone who writes also needs to blog. The reasons for blogging vary. It’s important to know your reasons. It’s also important to understand how blogging can help your writing in ways you might not have considered.

  1. Attain small writing goals on your way to bigger ones. Not everything that’s included in a book needs to filter through your blog, but you can certainly release some devotionals and articles that feed into your book. Especially if you find it difficult to set aside chunks of time to write sections of your book, processing a little at a time through short blog posts will help you achieve small goals on your way to bigger ones.

  2. Get clarifying direction as you express yourself. If you tend to get paralyzed by ideas or aren’t sure in which direction to go, try a blog post on the topic. Choose one point to explore or summarize several points. As you blog, you’ll likely get more excited about some ideas than others or realize one point needs to be expanded much more than others. Writing short pieces can reveal clarity for expanding future writing.

  3. Develop your writing skills and style. What if you complete your first book and find out major flaws in your writing ability? Or what if you find out your style doesn’t really match the readership you thought you’d target? Why wait and learn hard lessons somewhere down the road when you could learn them along the journey and grow along the way?

  4. Set yourself aside. It’s counter-intuitive to think that more blogging leads increases humility when so many experts tell us we need to blog for presence, branding, and marketing. If self-promotion is your goal, then, yes, blogging can build your platform. But what if you want to write to meet the needs of others? What if you want to share inspiration and tools and invite conversation? Practice with humble blogging. As you practice writing from your giftedness with consideration of how the reader will receive and experience it, your discipline for otherness-writing will grow.

  5. Put why you write to the test. Why do you write? How do you respond to affirmation and criticism when you blog? Are you discouraged when someone disagrees with you even though you say you don’t care who reads your writing? Do you easily dismiss criticism without considering whether or not the person has a valid perspective? Do you say you want to reach out and help others but only write from a narrow viewpoint without considering how to engage others in conversation? Whatever your stated reason for writing is, does your actual writing match up to it? Invite the reactions (or lack of them) to your blog to reveal the reality of any discrepancies between why you say you write and what you’re actually seeking through your writing. Then make the necessary adjustments you need to make.

Susan Lawrence is a women’s ministry consultant who also partners with women with writing goals. She speaks around the country, has written multiple Bible studies and devotionals, and blogs daily. If you’d like to start a conversation with her about your writing goals or other ministry needs, connect with her on

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Promise in Pieces by Emily Wierenga

Cover3D 700x150millerendorsement

So, I've written a novel--a stumbling piece of women's fiction being released April 15th through Abingdon Press--and it's here, now friends, available for pre-order. And I'm shaking in my boots. I want you to like it, of course, but more than that--I want you to like her. The woman I wrote about, Clara, because, well, she's sort-of me. A daughter to a reverend, and she rebelled when she was young--ran away from home to serve as a nurse in World War II--and the story opens with her grown, in her sixties and taking a road trip with her family, looking back across the years like a lighthouse reflecting across water. This, from Chapter 1 of A Promise in Pieces:
Noah looked like his father, and she hadn't seen it before. But here in the backseat of a van strewn with skateboarding magazines and CDs, there was time enough to see it in the young man whose long legs stretched from the seat. To see the freckles dusting her grandson’s cheeks, the way his hair poked like a hayfield and his eyes grabbed at everything. 
Up front, Oliver asked Shane to adjust the radio, the static reminding Clara of the white noise she used to make with a vacuum or a fan to calm her newborns. The first one being Shane, her eldest, the one in the passenger seat turning now to laugh at his father, who wrinkled his long nose as Shane tried to find a classical station. Then, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and Clara could see Oliver smiling, pleased, and she remembered the way he’d looked over at her in church so long ago with the same expression: as though he’d finally found what he’d been looking for.
Noah was playing a game on one of those Nintendo machines. He noticed her watching him, said, “Do you want to give it a try, Grandma?” He looked so eager. Gone were the days of Hardy Boys and marbles. 
“Sure!” Clara said, mustering enthusiasm as she took the tiny gadget. Then she saw what he was playing. Some kind of shooting game with uniformed men and guns and she nearly dropped it. “I’m sorry, it’s too complicated for an old woman like me,” she said, handing it back and turning to stare out the window, at Maryland passing by, wondering what a kid in high-school could know about war.
They were taking the George Washington Memorial Parkway, one of Clara’s favorite drives, which would carry them from her home-state into Mount Vernon, Virginia. They were just passing through Glen Echo, north of Washington, DC. And Clara remembered the story her Daddy had told her on one of their summer holidays about the woman who’d spent the last 15 years of her life here. Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, who tirelessly provided aid to wounded troops during the Civil War, and she had dedicated her life to serving those in need, Daddy said. 
That was when Clara—only eight years old at the time—had decided she would do the same. After all, this woman shared her name. 
“Something wrong, Grandma?” Noah said, then. Shane turned in the front seat. His green eyes met hers, and it seemed only yesterday she had brought him home wrapped in that quilt—the one cleaned, pressed, and folded, sitting in the trunk of their Caravan.
Shane’s eyebrows rose and Clara shrugged, feeling cold in her white cardigan even though it was late May. It had been 50 years. “Fifty years,” she said, more to herself than anything, and the van was quiet. She’d had these moments before, many of them. Moments that landed her in the past, amongst broken and dead bodies, for there hadn't been enough beds in Normandy. 
Oliver peered at her now, too, in the rear-view, through his glasses, and she should give his hair a trim, she thought. It sprouted silver around his ears, and when had her soldier-husband aged? At what point between them marrying and adopting Shane and giving birth to two others had his hair turned gray? 
Noah was tucking the game away, now, saying, “I don’t need to play this right now. What are you thinking about, Grandma?” 
And she wiped at her eyes, moist, and cleared her throat and told herself to smarten up. It was 23 hours to New Orleans, where they planned to visit the National World War II Museum, and she should make the most of the time she had with this boy who knew nothing of the miracle of the quilt in the trunk. Who knew nothing of loss, and this was good. But there is a need for history to plant itself in the hearts of its children. And so she began. 


I am so excited to share Clara's journey with you -- she is a woman who struggles relentlessly to believe, who extends grace to everyone but herself, who makes a promise to a dying soldier to give a letter to his wife. She discovers love in the folds of a squirming baby whom she adopts, in the limp of a man who carves her a wooden jewelery box, and in the forgiveness of a friend whose husband she was unable to keep alive. A Promise in Pieces is part of Abingdon Fiction's Quilts of Love series, and I will be donating a percentage of all of the profits made from pre-orders to World Help's Rescue Homes project, HERE.

 ALSO, if you tweet or FB about your pre-order, using the hash-tag #PromiseInPieces, you will receive another Quilts book free of charge with your order! Here's a tweet for you to use if you want to: I just pre-ordered @emily_wierenga's debut novel #PromiseInPieces!

Available for Pre-Order HERE: BuyAmazon BuyBarnesNoble BuyCBD BuyCokesbury    

((Thank you)) For believing in me and loving me. To God be the glory. All my heart, e.
  Novel Rocket Endorsement

Emily Wierenga is wife to a math-teacher husband; mother and foster mother to four boys; an artist, columnist and the author of Chasing Silhouettes: How to help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder, Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy and A Promise in Pieces (Spring 2014). For more info, please visit Find her on Twitter or Facebook.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Why Write? Am I Missing Something?

Why Write? Am I Missing Something?
By Susan Lawrence

It’s one of the first questions I ask when either starting a project on my own or consulting with someone who is ready to dig into a project. The answers vary. Do one of these fit for you?

  • I want to preserve my stories for my family, especially future generations I might not get to meet.
  • There’s a gap in what’s available to people. No one is writing about ____________!
  • I love to be creative. I believe it’s a gift, and I want to share with others, hoping they get as much enjoyment when they read as I have when I write.
  • God placed a burden on my heart. I don’t think I will be able to fully rest until I get this written.
  • I speak to a lot of groups, and they always ask if I’ve written what I speak about. I feel as if I’m doing them a disservice by not being able to put a book in their hands.
  • I want to be remembered.
  • People have told me I really need to write.
  • I've always written, whether it has been journals, poetry, or stories. Putting it all together just seems like the next natural step.
God leads us in different ways. Your purpose for writing isn't wrong in and of itself. Just because somebody writes for a different reason doesn't make your motivation less or better than theirs. Writing isn't about comparison. Yes, it can certainly seem that way at times, because agents compare book proposals, and publishers compare prospective authors’ reach and books’ marketability. We can begin to compare ourselves to prolific writers who crank out exponentially more than we do. We compare our rankings on Amazon or the amount of language translations our books have. But those aren't God-driven comparisons, so we can set them aside. Of course, some publishing realities are important, but we cannot lose the “why” of our writing to the comparisons. We cannot sacrifice the why, because it leads us to an even more important question.

For whom do you write?

I’m not referring to your potential (or existing) readership. I’m talking about honoring God with your writing. He drives the why of your writing. He validates it. He guides it. If you’re writing to pass along your stories to future generations, even if only your family will see it, do it to honor God. If you’re writing to fill a gap among existing resources, do it to honor God. If you’re writing because it’s a gift or a burden, do it to honor God. It doesn't mean all content needs to be about God. It doesn't even mean that everything you write will fit into the “Christian” aisle at the bookstore. It’s not how you categorize your writing. It’s how you yield and offer it.

God isn't nearly as concerned about what you write as He is about the way you rely on Him through the process, start to finish. He wants to draw you closer to Him in absolutely everything you do, including writing—from research to plot design to brainstorming to character development to freeflow writing to organizing to time management to editing to proofing to design to publishing to marketing. He intends for every single detail to drive you closer in relationship with Him. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, about which He doesn't care.

So, the tough question becomes, “Are you honoring God with your writing?” If you’re procrastinating, rationalizing, lunging forward with abandon, or following every well-known expert’s advice, you might want to take a step back—into  God’s presence—and let Him reframe your priorities, perspective, and paragraphs.

"Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name." ~ Psalm 86:11 (NASB)

Susan Lawrence is a women’s ministry consultant who also partners with women with writing goals. She speaks around the country, has written multiple Bible studies and devotionals, and blogs daily. If you’d like to start a conversation with her about your writing goals or other ministry needs, connect with her on

*Graphic by Susan Lawrence

Monday, February 24, 2014

Chasing Down a Reluctant Heroine

Chasing Down a Reluctant Heroine

Authors love to introduce their characters and I’m no exception. I can’t wait for you to meet
Dr. Lisbeth Hastings, the heroine of my new book Healer of Carthage.

Lisbeth is a driven, young professional with her life as a doctor all planned out. However, that was before her tragic mistake. I won’t say too much about the mistake (after all I want you to read the book) but I will say her error in judgment thrust her into a world stranger than anything her archeologist father ever dug up in one of his forgotten caves.

You’d think the threat of medical malpractice would have humbled this young intern a bit, but … well … I’ll let you be the judge of her current emotional state.

She’s the one being drug to the baths of a third-century villa.

Be warned … she’s ticked.

Me: Excuse me, Dr. Hastings. Could I speak to you for a minute?

Lisbeth: In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a little busy. Hey, what is this place?

Me: It’s a bathroom.

Lisbeth: A bathroom? It’s bigger than my entire apartment back in Dallas.

Me: Nothing is too good for the wealthy Roman, Cyprianus Thascius.

Lisbeth: Roman?

Me: Calm down. I’m sure you’ll come to appreciate every amenity I dropped into this story.

Lisbeth: I don’t want to appreciate anything. I want you to get me out of this nightmare.

Me: Well, I can’t. I put you into the third century to change the world.

(Lisbeth has crossed her arms and is tapping her foot. She seems a bit too snarky, but I can see how unexpected time travel could have a tendency to make someone a tad defensive. Besides, if I sent Lisbeth home before she met the handsome hero what kind of love story would this be?)

I take a deep breath and continue.

Me: Maybe I went overboard a bit with the floor-to-ceiling murals, cascading water, and exquisite tile mosaics, but I actually toured the ruins of a Roman bath in England and thought the Romans masters of luxury. In fact, I think you’d find their medical knowledge equally as impressive. Frankly, Lisbeth, I’m jealous.

Lisbeth: Jealous?

Me: You’re going to wear some of the most beautiful gowns, have the most amazing adventures, and meet the most incredible hunk, and—

Lisbeth: You’re obviously not the one stuck in the past, half drowned, stripped to your birthday suit, and staring at woman coming at you with a metal claw.

Me: (Looking quickly over my shoulder, I sigh with relief.) Oh, that’s not a claw. The Roman’s call that a strigil

Lisbeth: A what?

Me: An exfoliation tool. First a slave slathers you with oil, then scrapes the blade over your skin … Lisbeth … Lisbeth … wait. I can explain.

(As she tries to bolt past me, I really have no choice but to push her into the tub. I’ll try to take up this interview once she’s dry, but I don’t have high hopes. Lisbeth Hastings seldom cooperates...with anyone.)

Lynne Gentry has written for numerous publications. Her newest novel, Healer of Carthage, is the first in The Carthage Chronicles series. She is a professional acting coach, theater director, and playwright with several full-length musicals and a children’s theater curriculum to her credit. Lynne is an inspirational speaker and dramatic performer whose first love is spending time with family.

Author Contact info:
Facebook: Author Lynne Gentry 

Healer of Carthage is the compelling adventure of a disgraced twenty-first century doctor dropped into a third-century Roman plague. Romance, courage, and justice propel Dr. Lisbeth Hastings to a harrowing choice: Save the past or return to the future?

Healer of Carthage: A Novel (The Carthage Chronicles)