Bind them continually upon thine heart

Bind them continually upon thine heart

“Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.” Prov. 6:21

This verse is referencing the Word of God as the Father’s commandments. Today I want to apply it specifically to authors.

Perhaps because I am an author I am slightly biased. Since we deal with communicating to people, albeit through fiction, I think we need God’s wisdom to a very high degree.

Thousands of books are published every week and tens of thousands every year. All authors are trying to sell their books to the widest audience possible. I am no exception. And we need God’s wisdom if we are to succeed.

I’ve talked before about the principles of God’s Word and I don’t want to be merely repeating myself. So instead of talking about marketing advice seen through the lens of the Bible, I want to talk about God’s wisdom and how it helps us write better.

Every book I’ve written has been bathed in prayer. It is not enough to merely follow principles, whether they are secular or spiritual. Writing is more than that. It involves the plot of the work, the characters involved, and the cohesiveness of the story. For that to happen requires a great deal of skill. But it also demands more.

People talk about inspiration being required. I’ve talked about being inspired, but it goes beyond simply being inspired to write. We need God’s guiding hand as we write every scene and develop every character.

It can be taxing, but when we have God in our corner it makes things much easier. Whether writing Perished, or World of Noah and the Ark, or even the current writing of World of Shem I have needed God’s guidance. I seek God’s guidance. I’m not talking about formal prayer, which I do, but of communicating to God throughout the process.

This involves talking to Him about every scene, indeed every word. I approach my writing in the spirit of open prayer. Sometimes it is unconscious praying and sometimes I actually ask Him directly. I ask questions like,

  • How do I write this scene?
  • Is this scene too suggestive?
  • Is this character believable?

Sometimes I have typed several words or entire sentences and upon further evaluation have erased them. We’ve all done this, but the question is was God involved in the process.

How do I involve God?

That’s not a hard question to answer. If you are a Christian, having received Christ as your Savior and you have been called to write, then you can expect His involvement. He doesn’t call and then abandon.

On the other hand, He doesn’t force His Will upon us. According to Psalm 32:8 He will guide us. That is a two-fold promise. On the one hand, God promises to guide us, but on the other hand we are responsible to listen to Him and obey.

What a great feeling it is when we have written a story and can say that God helped us all along the way! Whatever genre you write in you can count on His help as long as you are doing it His way. And that is a source of a huge sense of confidence and peace.

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R Frederick Riddle is the author of several books and is best known for Historical Fiction. For more information on him or his books visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to marketing@tr-indbkstore.com. You may also be interested in his Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld.

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But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me

But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me

“But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me…” Psalm 3:3

Today we live in a world that is increasingly anti-Christian. They mock us and, in some cases, try to harm us. But no matter what they do we have a God who is our shield. Nothing can be done to us without His knowledge and permission. So even if they kill us, God protects our soul and we are absent from the body and present with the Lord.

But how do I apply this to my writing career?

As a Christian you have standards – Bible based standards. And when you take a stand on those standards the world attacks you. This can come in the form of writing ‘experts,’ editors, publishers, and marketeers, or just well-meaning friends.

When this happens remember that God is your shield. Look to Him for guidance and reassurance. If your stand is Biblical then He will “have your back.”

For example, let’s say that you been searching for an agent to help you get a publisher. You finally found one you like. When he reads your book he says, “Your book is too bland. You need to spice it up. Your characters need to be more realistic.” Usually a statement like that means you need to have more sex, violence, and vulgarity than what you’re conscience permits. That’s assuming of course that your characters are well developed.

Don’t get me wrong. Sex and violence are part of life. But as Christian writers we are not to exploit sex and violence. There is a big difference from inferring sex and actually describing it. As for violence we don’t need to be overly graphic. In both of these areas our understanding of Biblical standards governs what we write.

Back to the agent. The agent has given you his advice and has made it clear that unless you change things as he has described, he won’t represent you. Complicating the matter is the fact that you have not been able to find another agent. What do you do?

You stick with your Biblical principles. You need to remind yourself that God is your shield. And since God knows everything from before Creation, He already has prepared for you a safety net. That net could be the sudden appearance of an agent who will represent your work without compromises. Or God could lead you to go the self-publishing route. Or He may provide something altogether different.

The point is that if we trust God and do things His way He will work it out to be for our good (see Roman’s 8:28). And chances are you may even be surprised by how He does it!

One last comment: As a Christian writer you don’t measure success the same way the world does. The world uses sales, royalties, etc. as the measuring stick. While you certainly shouldn’t ignore such data, your real success must come from a Biblical perspective. Does God approve? Not that you’re going to hear a verbal “good job” from Him, but your Christian conscience will let you know and He may well give you a great sense of peace. And no matter the sales, God takes care of His own!

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R Frederick Riddle is the author of several books and is best known for Historical Fiction. For more information on him or his books visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to marketing@tr-indbkstore.com. You may also be interested in his Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld.

Being Wise

Being Wise

A wise man will hear, and increase in learning…”

In Proverbs 1:5 we are told to be wise, to increase in learning and be a man of understanding. We have all probably heard sermons on this, but this blog is aimed at authors so what does this mean for the Christian author?

Actually this verse is related to Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge…” Taking these two verses together and applying them to us as Christian authors is a very impactful action.

The very first thing that must be done to gain wisdom is to worship God. More specifically we need to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ which occurs when we invite Him to save us. This is what we call being Born Again. This term is misused today to mean something like a fresh start. But it actually means a new relationship, of becoming a child of God (which only occurs when we are saved not when born in the flesh).

But what does wisdom mean to me as a writer?

I have stated this previously but it is worth restating. There is plenty of advice on and off the internet about writing, publishing, and marketing your books. The question is not do I listen but how do I discern good and bad advice. The answer is the Bible. God has laid out principles for us to follow. A wise writer takes those principles and used them as a filter for understanding and applying the wisdom.

Not only should a Christian writer use a biblically sound filter, but they need to apply the wisdom gained. So what are some of these principles?

Principles:

  1. Romans 11:29 : “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” We usually apply this to spiritual gifts, but God also gave us other gifts which we are expected to use. The ability to write is a gift. Has He given you that ability? If yes, then use it.
  2. Joshua 1:8: “…meditate therein day and night...” Whether your book is based on the Bible or not keep your focus on the Scriptures. He has promised to bless you!
  3. I Thess. 5:17: “Pray without ceasing.” Pray about your writing, publishing, and marketing.
  4. Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart…” Trust Him, He knows what is best and will provide.
  5. Proverbs 12:24 : “The hand of the diligent shall bear rule.” Be diligent in your writing, apply yourself. You may say your story wrote itself, but it still requires you to do the typing, editing, proofing, etc.
  6. Colossians 3:23: ‘…do it heartily, as to the Lord…” Put your heart into it, be proactive.

These are but a few principles. They are like nuggets of gold. The Bible is full of principles, so search for them and apply them. I believe that if you base your career upon the sure Word of God that God will bless you.

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R Frederick Riddle is the author of several books. For more information on him or his books visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to marketing@tr-indbkstore.com. You may also be interested in his Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld.

Creation of Man and Our Responsibility

Creation of Man and Our Responsibility

“And God said, Let us make man in our image…”

Because we Christians say that the creation of mankind was God’s highest creative act we are accused of pride. But that is not so. God demonstrated throughout the Bible that mankind is considered higher than any animal. We are simply stating a fact.

When God created us He did so in His image. What does that mean to us as writers?

First of all it means we have three parts: body, mind, and soul. The soul is that part of us that communicates with God. When we die our body and mind is corrupted; that is, they return to dust. But our soul is separated. If we are born again then when we die we are absent from the body and present with the Lord. If not, we are absent from the body and in Hades (similar to but distinct from hell).

Secondly, it means we are responsible to Him for our eternal state. God created us with a inborn desire for Him. Some have said we were created with a hole inside that only God can fill. He gave us life, therefore we owe Him all that we are. We not only owe Him, but we need Him. Because we are born in sin we are estranged from him. We need to ask Him to save us (Romans 10:9-13). Don’t ask and you won’t be saved.

Thirdly, we are responsible to Him for any skills He gave us. If we don’t have Christ then the talents we were born with never bear fruit for Him. But if we are saved, then we are responsible for the talents given through our DNA and the gifts we are given at our second birth (salvation).

Fourth, if we are saved then God has a plan for us. (Actually He has a plan for everyone, but the first step is always salvation.) His plan for you is probably different from His plan for me. Sure we may both be authors but even what we write may be different. So we are responsible to discover His plan and boldly act on it.

That fourth item is particularly hard. I am not a Type A personality so boldness doesn’t come that easily. But I have discovered that knowledge and skill by themselves won’t get it done. I need to involve God in my work. When writing, I need His guidance. Would He approve of what I’ve written?

In other words, is God in it? Not only the writing, but the publishing and marketing. For example, there is all sorts of advice about marketing but the question is does it meet God’s standards? Will it pass through the Bible filter?

I’m not advocating that you ignore or ditch all advice, but you need a firm grasp of the Scriptures and they should be absolute. Yes, I know that today people say there are no absolutes but for a Bible believing Christian the Word of God is absolute!

Fifth and last is we are responsible to glorify God: “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Cor. 6:20) This should be our chief aim in life to glorify Christ. It doesn’t matter if you are a teacher, a farmer, a street cleaner, a pilot, a politician, a minister, a writer, or anything else, you are to glorify Christ! When you think of it that way, it really impacts you. Can you really say that everything you do or say glorifies Christ? You probably can’t, but that should be your goal. And I believe that if you pursue that goal God will honor you and He will work out His plan through you. Just be prepared that His plan may slightly differ from your plan.

When I wrote Perished I was of course basing the entire book on the first six chapters of Genesis. But the novel sprang out of my devotions. Did that guarantee it was of God? No, but it certainly focused my attention on keeping the novel true to the Bible. I often say the book tells the rest of the story. I filled in the back story that thus brought to life the Biblical story itself. Throughout the writing I did a lot of research within the Bible to make sure that I didn’t violate Scripture in any fashion. Did I glorify Christ? I hope so. But that’s up to individual readers and ultimately up to God.

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R Frederick Riddle is the author of several books. For more information on him or his books visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to marketing@tr-indbkstore.com. You may also be interested in his Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld.

HOW NOT TO WRITE

HOW NOT TO WRITE

Today’s blog delves into bad writing.

A few years ago I spoke at a meeting where we were discussing someone’s book (name intentionally withheld). The book was full of foul language and filthy sex. I had agreed to review the book not knowing the author’s tendencies. In fact, I started to back out because it offended me greatly, but I had agreed to read and so I read it, although it was a struggle. My conclusion, it was a terrible book. I would never recommend it to anyone.

But it was a best seller!

If it was a best seller then how can I say such hard things about it? And if my views are correct how come it was a best seller?

I’ll answer the second question first. Sex sells. So does filthy language.

I said bad things about the book because they were true.

Back to the meeting. In my review I condemned the book for the language and excessive graphics. One attendee, obviously a fan of the author, objected. She claimed to personally know the author who she claimed was a great person.

Now understand this, I never condemned the author as a person. I condemned the writing. There is a difference, but this attendee attacked me anyway. There were others in the room who agreed with my analysis, but this woman was obviously type A and wouldn’t back down.

Since that meeting I have talked about writers not using profane language or excessively graphic scenes. I mentioned it once in a blog and a reader commented that I was imposing my religion on the readers.

Not true. I believed that writing should not contain profane language or excessively graphic scenes long before I ever accepted Christ as my Savior. In fact, I wasn’t even attending church. I’m not talking religion I am talking about what makes a great writer.

Sales doesn’t make a great writer.

There is a constant flow of pornographic books that sell. Mankind is attracted to such books. But they are not good books.

Before I got saved I read well written books of all types. I even read books that had great plots, fantastic characters, while also leaving little to the imagination. And the interesting thing is that these books were great even if the bad stuff was left out. In fact, I would contend they would have been better.

You read any of my novels and I leave out the excessive graphics. That doesn’t mean there’s no sex, violence, or anything like that. When I write a scene I leave the excess up to the reader. Which brings up an important maxim.

A writer’s job is to stimulate the reader’s imagination not replace it!

So I always have a stopping point. This is true whether it is sex or violence.

But what about language? Well, let’s take a look at that. Those defending the practice contend it is more realistic, that everyone swears. But that is a false statement. There are a lot of people who don’t swear. Hollywood and TV has created an image that says swearing is normal, but we all know people, a great many people, who don’t swear.

So, first of all, swearing is not as prevalent as advertised.

Secondly, even if it was prevalent, we need to ask why most people read. It is to escape the reality of their lives, to imagine, to relax, and to be uplifted. Sure some are drawn to the dark side (a little Star Wars there), but I doubt that is the majority.

So, how do you the author show passionate characters and/or events without crossing the line? Believe it or not there was a time when authors actually solved this dilemma. In the case of language they simply used symbols, such as !@#$%^&. The reader automatically knew they represented a swear word. Some readers probably substituted their favorite swear word if they liked to swear. But the key here is that the reader didn’t feel deprived, but simply read on.

In the case of violence or sex the authors highlighted the activities leading up to the event. For example, in Perished I wrote of a battle where a sword fight took place. Read it for yourself:

Akkub turned and saw Meremoth rushing at him. He blocked the initial strike although staggered by it. Meremoth used a two-handed grip to force Akkub back. Suddenly Akkub lost his footing and Meremoth’s sword came slicing downward unblocked.

Everything seemed to stop as the general looked at his severed hand still gripping the sword.

Here we have a sword fight that results in one man losing his hand. The amount of detail provided is not too graphic, but it is enough to stimulate the reader’s imagination. And different readers have different levels of imagination, so each reader may picture the fight differently. In any case, the scene is full of action yet not too graphic.

In the case of sex, my usual approach is to focus on the events leading up to the act and to the events leading away from the event. Again, I let the reader’s imagination fill in the gaps.

In truth, the reader’s imagination is a valuable tool available to every writer willing to make use of it.

It is a tool that needs to be sharpened. You do that by using it. Moreover, you experiment and see what works. As deeply as I believe in what I am saying I have had people who reviewed my rough drafts tell me that I needed to back off in this or that scene. So you need people you trust to review your rough draft before you submit it for publishing.

My final thought on this is: what is your ultimate goal? We all want are books to sell. That is a given. But what is your ultimate goal?

Is it to simply get rich? Then you’ll probably reject everything I’ve said.

Is it to simply write? Then you may or may not care about this blog or about sales.

Is it to write your very best book? Then I contend you want your writing to be above reproach. Fame and sales would be nice, but you want to be able to say to yourself, I did my best. And that brings a deep sense of satisfaction!

 

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R Frederick Riddle is the author of several books. For more information on him visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to marketing@tr-indbkstore.com.