Thursday, July 24, 2014

Writing- One Helluva Process

All Aboard The Writing Process

I don't know about you, but I have attended many writing conferences that are put together by writing associations, clubs, and societies. These conferences include many guest speakers like agents, authors, publishers, and editors.

After attending these conferences, it seems a message is coming through loud and clear:

There are many "Dos" and "Don'ts" in writing that can help you get published or hinder your chances. So, being a writer, of course I take these Dos and Don'ts seriously while I write. I take them seriously because I am a serious writer.

But now I am simply a frustrated writer stuck in this process that feels like a road trip through hell at times.


Hyperbole?  Yes.

For emphasis.

...and because it's true!

First Stop: The Dos and Don'ts

Among these famous Dos and Don'ts of writing are:

  • Do use descriptive language
  • Do consider your audience when writing
  • Do read in the genre that you write
  • Do use exciting first sentences to start each chapter
  • Do write in active voice
  • Do use imagery, metaphors, and other devices

  • Don't have a prologue
  • Don't have too many scenes in one chapter
  • Don't use adverbs
  • Don't use tags like "said" "asked" "laughed" throughout
  • Don't use passive voice

These are just some of the rules I have heard from experts over the years and they are embedded in my brain as I write, haunting me...tormenting me...and sucking all the creativity out of me as I write.

More hyperbole?  Yes, of course.

Because it's true!

This summer, a popular writers magazine released a summer reading list of the top twenty most successful books out there for my target audience. I, being a writer and a reader, borrowed three of these books off the prestigious list to read over the summer.

One June evening, I snuggled up in bed, anxious to read an award winning book in my genre written by a successful author. I hoped to glean much from the writer's grasp of the writing process and craft. I couldn't wait to learn by reading a great book!

After I read through the title page, list of other books this author had published, and the acknowledgement page, I came to the start of the book. Yay!


What?? Wait a minute. Isn't "prologue" listed as one of the "Don'ts" of writing??

Why, yes it is.

Aren't we told by the experts at these conferences NOT to include a prologue? Don't they tell us new writers that a prologue is a kiss-of-death and will end your chances of landing an agent for your book?

Why, yes that is what we are told.


After I quickly read through the forbidden prologue, I began chapter one.

Passive voice.

What??!! The first chapter is written mostly in passive voice!

How can this be? Aren't we told by the experts at these very expensive writing conferences NOT to use passive voice but active voice?

Why, yes that is what we are told.


And yet, there I was, reading a very successful book published by a big publishing house, written by an author who has a literary agent, and the book had broken many rules before chapter 2.

The writer also used...gasp...adverbs!

Oh the humanity!

Next Stop? The Editing Process

I completed the book and wasn't that impressed with the story. It was a cute mystery for middle grade readers, but not literature. But I could see why it sold so many copies. It was short (about 60,000 words), and each chapter contained only 2 scenes.

So, I went back to my manuscript and continued on, keeping in mind all the rules listed above. And as I wrote, I omitted the adverbs (going against my intentions) and used very few "said", "asked", and other tags. When finished, I gave the manuscript to beta readers and my editors.

A funny thing happened on the way to the insane asylum...

My editor insisted that I use "said" because the lack of tags was distracting.

My beta reader, however, suggested that I not use "said" but use other tags like "asked" or "laughed" or "whispered" and she even suggested that I use more...gasp...ADVERBS.

Wait a minute! Aren't we writers told by the experts at these writers conferences NOT to rely on tags and not to use adverbs?

Why, yes we are.


Ever wonder why writers twitch? Now you know why.

Last Stop: Never Give Up

After screaming out all my frustrations today, I sat before my manuscript, that's draft #4 of my manuscript, and watched the cursor blip on the screen.

What rules should I follow? What about what my beta reader suggested? What about adverbs?

What should I do?

I know what the experts will say: Do you want an agent someday? Do you want your book to get published? Well, then, follow our rules because we are the experts. We know what we're talking about.

I know what my editor will say: Proust used tags and so should you!

And my beta readers? I know what they will say:  Most middle grade readers don't read Proust.


Yes I want an agent some day to assist me with my writing career. Yes, I want my beta readers to enjoy my books. Yes, I want my editor to enjoy reading my prose without having to mark up my manuscript so much.

But I also need to be who I am and write as I want to write. And if that means a prologue...then a prologue it is. If it means using adverbs, then adverbs it is! If it means not having so many "said" tags in the dialogue, then that's how it is going to be.

The writing process is an arduous journey. But it is the journey that matters most, not the destination. Anyway, that's what I have learned over the years.

Rant over.

What about you? Do you insist on following all the "Dos" and "Don'ts" of writing? How have you developed your writing style? 


Monday, July 14, 2014

The Woman at the Well- The Water

John 4:10-

"Jesus answered and said to her, 'If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.'"

The Water

Many years ago, during a subbing job for Nathan's history teacher, we went over the history of Egypt. And one thing that stood out to me was how the Nile has always been a predictable river for the Egyptians. They know when it will flood every much so that they are able to plan when to harvest their crops according to the river.

Contrast that with the Tigris and Euphrates. These two rivers are very unpredictable. The Iraqis who reside near these rivers know not when it will flood or recede.

I thought it was interesting how the Lord allows one river to nourish and care for its people and yet other rivers to be so harsh in a dry and thirsty land.

Water is seen in so many ways in Scripture. We are about to see how Jesus views water...


So far we have looked at John 4 piece by piece:

The Wanderer- Jesus was God in the flesh but still a human being with physical needs. He stops to rest and drink water. 

The Well- we learn that the well where Jesus stops to rest is a very significant well in Scripture. We learn that culturally, the women came to draw water from the well in the evening time.

The Woman- we have learned that this woman was Samaritan and understood that Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. We can see that she recognized Jesus to be a 1st century Jewish man and nothing else. But she did think it odd that He would speak to her, a Samaritan woman and ask to use her water pot to draw water since Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. 

Today we will look at The Water.

The Living Water

John 4:10-

"Jesus answered and said to her, 'If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.'"

"If you knew the gift of God...."

Jesus emphasized here that salvation is not earned, but it is a gift given by God.

Eph 2:8-For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God...

Titus 3:5-6   he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior...

And that He, Jesus, is that gift of God:

John 3:16-For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Rom 5:15-But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.

Gal 2:20-I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

"He would have given you living water."

In the Old Testament times, running water was considered "living" water. The act of finding water in the desert lands was seen as a divine activity. (Commentary, New Geneva Study Bible, 1995)

Jer 2:13-for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Zech 14:8- On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter.

A symbol for salvation:

Is 12:3-With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

A symbol for the forgiveness of sins:

Zech 13:1-On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.

And for Jesus giving the Holy Spirit:

John 7:38-39-Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Remember, for those of us who live in the desert, water is most precious. When it rains in the desert, we feel anew! Imagine living in the desert during the times of Christ. The thought of "living water" was glorious indeed. Soon we will see that the Samaritan woman desires to have this living water.

"And who it is who says to you..."

Jesus hints that He is about to reveal to this woman who He is. How wonderful that God has removed the veil from our eyes so that we can see a part of Him in His word. He has revealed Himself to us today! Yet, like the Samaritan woman, one day we shall see Him as He really is...

Until then...

"For I will pour water on him who is thirsty,
And floods on the dry ground;
I will pour My Spirit on your descendants,
And My blessings on your offspring.."
Isaiah 44:3


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Woman at the Well- The Woman Part 2

 A woman from Samaria came to draw water.
 Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”
John 4:7

The Woman- Part II

So who exactly is this woman? We learned last time that she is a Samaritan. She comes to the well at noon to draw water which is strange since most women at that time came in the evening to draw cooler water. We learn that Jesus spoke to her and asked her for a drink of water.

Let's she what else we can learn about her...

John 4:9-

"Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, 'How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?' For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans."

The translation of this last part of the verse is: "Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans"

The woman sees that Jesus does not have his own vessel for drawing water. She assumes He wants to use hers...and that is what amazes her.

Samaritans were more lax in their understanding of ritual cleanness (Commentary, New Geneva Study Bible, 1995).

The disciples were taught to treat Samaritans differently:

Acts 10:28- And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.

Matt 10:5,6-These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans,

Luke 9:51-54-When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

There was obvious animosity between the Jews and Samaritans. Now we can see how truly amazing it was that Jesus, a Jewish man, would speak to this Samaritan woman.

But Jesus not only spoke to the woman, He asked to drink out of her unclean vessel.

Rom 9:22-"What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction..."

It is up to God how He creates vessels and how He uses the vessels that He makes.

God uses us, earthen vessels, for His good will. We can trust in His good purpose.


It was understood, during that historical time period, that Jewish men were prideful. Many Jews would rather cross the Jordan river twice than go through Samaria. She recognized Jesus as a Jewish man. His appearance wasn't anything "glowing halo" around His head and no red hair with crystal blue eyes to set Him apart. He obviously looked like a 1st century Jewish man.

Yet, the woman at the well noticed something different about this Jewish man. Do non-Christians notice something different about us or are we the same as they?

Jesus gave us an example...a perfect example...of how to live in this world.

Jesus seeks out His the Good Shepherd that He is. He seeks them out and brings the hurt or lost lambs to Himself.

Ez 34:11-“For thus says the Lord GodBehold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.

Ez 34:15-I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God.

He is the loving shepherd who returns His sheep to the fold. Like the shepherds of old, Jesus comes to the well to quench the thirst of His lost lamb. 

The Samaritan woman had no idea she was among her Shepherd....her Messiah. But she was about to discover this truth. She did not seek Him out. No, on the contrary, He sought her out from among the flock.


We know that we have the Good Shepherd with us. And because we are Gentiles, we are adopted into the flock:

John 10:14-16-I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Is 40:11- He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
    he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
    and gently lead those that are with young.

He will feed His flock and gather the lambs with His arms and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.

love this picture of our Savior. He truly is the Good Shepherd who saved us from the "beasts of the field" that sought to devour us. He provides for us through the covenant:

  • Provisions
  • Protection
  • Presence
We are His and He is ours.

The Samaritan woman, we will soon discover, was lost. She was out there searching from man to man for her "thirst" to be quenched. But soon she will have that Living Water for all eternity.

Praise God that we have that water...we are no longer lost.

Praise God that we have the Good Shepherd who gave Himself up to save us from His wrath.

John 10: 27-28
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 

Your turn: Are you lost? Are you still searching in the wilderness for what's missing in your life? How can your "thirst" be quenched by the Living Water?


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Woman at the Well

The Woman

John 4: 7-8

"A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, 'Give Me a drink.' For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food."

We learned that the land of Samaria had special significance to the Jewish person and to God Himself. We learned last time that the well where Jesus waited also had significance to the Jewish person and to God Himself.

The setting is rich with history and meaning!

Now, the stage is set, the scene is prepared, and the players are all in place:

-Jesus, the Promise of God, God in the flesh, sits at the well of Jacob where so many men of God had met their future wives. 

-The Samaritan woman, who is not named here perhaps because her earthly name is not needed for she is about to become a new creation in Christ.

-And the disciples. They have followed their desires and needs of the flesh. They have gone to buy food to satisfy their hunger...and look at what they missed! If only they had been more patient like Jesus...if only we were more patient like Jesus.

Imagine all that we have missed because we were so concerned with our physical needs being met.


God Remembers

Please read:

Ez. 16:51-59

53 “I will restore their fortunes, both the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters, and I will restore your own fortunes in their midst, 54 that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all that you have done,becoming a consolation to them. 55 As for your sisters, Sodom and her daughters shall return to their former state, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former state, and you and your daughters shall return to your former state.

We see here that the Lord remembered what He swore He would do to Samaria. Restoration was about to come.

Let's continue:

Who was this woman?

-We see here that the woman came to draw from the well for herself. She had no servants. So she must have been poor. She came at unusual time of day for women to draw water.

Gen 24:11-And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women go out to draw water.

Ex 2:15-16-15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well. Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their father's flock.

In this historical time period, the time to draw from the well was evening when the water would be cool. And it also seems the custom was for the women to gather at the well to draw water together.

Why was the woman going to the well at noon when the water would be warm? Why was she alone?Perhaps the Samaritan was ashamed and did not want to see other women? Yet, our Lord knew she would come at this time and not at evening time. The providence of God.

-Jesus was alone. He had walked a long way. His disciples went to buy food, but Jesus knew that water is more important than food. The human body can live weeks without food, but only a few days without water.

Jesus knew of a different food:

Matt 4:4- “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Concerning the woman, Jesus focuses in on her needs ahead of the needs of the whole town. Their time would come, but now Jesus centers in on the woman at the well.

-Finally, Jesus lowers Himself to speak to this woman. He appears without servants to do His work for Him. She would see Him as a poor Jewish traveler.

Phil 2:5-7  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Life Application

In this passage, we see the humanity of Jesus. He was weary. He was thirsty.

By witnessing the humanity of Jesus, we are convicted with the fact that He did not give in to His earthly needs or desires. He was weary, yet did he go to sleep? Was He so impatient to fulfill His thirst that He drew His own water? He is God...He could have ordered the water to rise up and meet Him where He stood.

Yet, He waited.

How many of us are ruled by our own desires to the point of disobeying and rushing into things without waiting for the Lord to meet us there? I know I do it all the time.....yet we can learn from Jesus not to be ruled by our lusts or desires for material things, or our need for food, or people.

That is why we turn to Christ.

He was 100% man.

Jesus had hunger and fatigue. He had sorrow (Luke 22:39-46 & John 11:35,38) and we know He felt pain.

He was even tempted! And because of this, we now have an example to follow:

Heb 4:15,16-15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Because Jesus passed the tests of temptation, now we can go to Him, confident that He is the Helper we need.

John 5:19, 30:

"Then Jesus answered and said to them, 'Most assuredly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.....I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me."

Your turn:  Do you see yourself in the woman at the well? How does she compare to you and how does your life compare to hers? Would you go to the well alone? What about the disciples? Have you ever put your physical needs ahead of your spiritual needs?

Until next time.............

“When we understand the character of God, when we grasp something of His holiness, then we begin to understand the radical character of our sin and hopelessness. Helpless sinners can survive only by grace. Our strength is futile in itself; we are spiritually impotent without the assistance of a merciful God."

Dr. R.C. Sproul



Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Woman at the Well- The Waiting and The Well

"You visit the earth and water it,
You greatly enrich it;
The river of God is full of water;
You provide their grain,
For so You have prepared it.
You water its ridges abundantly.
You settle its furrows;
You make it soft with showers,
You bless its growth."

Psalm 65:9-10


The Woman at the Well

Today we will look at the significance of the waiting of Jesus and the well where Jesus sat.

As a writer, I have learned by reading God's Word that each word, each scene, in my story must have a meaning. For instance, in my book, The Children Under the Ice, the frozen pond is significant to the story. The fact that the local kids enjoy playing hockey on that pond has meaning. The name of the pond has meaning.

That's what makes reading God's Word so exciting! As you read, you can rest assured that everything written has significance not only to the story, but to your life.

Rivers and Seas.

In scripture, we often see rivers mention as well as the sea. In Revelation 22: 1-2 we find that there will be a "river of life" in the New Jerusalem, but in Revelation 20: 13 we find that the sea will give up her dead followed by Revelation 21:1 where we read there will be no more sea. Lastly, in the New Jerusalem, even our tears will be gone:

"And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying..." Rev. 21:4

So, we find that in the New Jerusalem, we will still need water. We will not be like God: without need for anything. We will still need light and water. But that water will be the river of life, flowing eternally for us to see and drink from always. No more salty undrinkable water from the sea, no more drawing stagnant water from a well, and God will even dry up our tears.

What a beautiful picture of how God will supply all our needs.

Now we will see how He extends this message of eternal provision to a lonely woman at the well...


John 4:5
"He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son, Joseph."

Sychar is also translated as Shechem or Shalem. Why must we know the name of the city and the name of the plot of ground? Remember, God carefully selects the setting of this account in the ministry of Christ for a reason:

Gen. 12:6-9 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said,“To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.

Gen 16:14  Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.

Gen 33:18-20 And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram, and he camped before the city. 19 And from the sons ofHamor, Shechem's father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. 20 There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.

Gen 48:21-22 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers. 22 Moreover, I have given to you rather than to your brothers one mountain slope that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.”


Gen 24:62 Now Isaac had returned from Beer-lahai-roi and was dwelling in the Negeb.

So, we can easily see that the land that Jesus selected is meaningful to His people and, eventually, to us Gentiles adopted as children of God. This land where Jesus waits for the woman is significant to Him.


"The Well-of-the-One-Who Lives-and-Sees-Me"

Beer Lahai Roi

This is the well where Jesus sits and waits for his Gentile bride to come to Him....

Wells were very important in scripture. They symbolized the presence of God: He had provided water for them in the dry desert land. We who live in the desert appreciate water more than anything! I'm a runner, and running in the heat of the desert makes me thirst for water all the more.

In scripture, we find that wells were where grooms met their brides:

Isaac and Rebekah
Gen 24:1-21  "...And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women go out to draw water. 12 And he said, “OLordGod of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. 13 Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water."

Jacob and Rachel
Gen 29: 1-12 But they said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.”
While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherdess. 

Now we find Jesus about to do the same..........

The scene is almost completely set now. This plot of land was where Abimelech was made king, Jeroboam's royal seat was, and where Jacob's well was.........obviously, the land of Samaria is very important to our God. At this time in history, though, it was not important to the Jewish people:

"The hatred between the Jews and Samaritans went back to the days of the Exile. Samaria was the region between Judea and Galilee. When the northern kingdom was exiled to Assyria, King Sargon of Assyria repopulated the area with captives from other lands. The intermarriage of these foreigners and Jews who had been left in the land complicated the ancestry of the Samaritans. The Jews hated the Samaritans and no longer considered them to be "pure" Jews. Jesus, however, had no such bias." (Commentary, Nelson Study Bible, 1997)


John 4:6

"Now Jacobs' well was there. Jesus therefore, being weary from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the 6th hour."

Here we see the humanity of Christ. -wearied from His journey. He needed to sit down.

We also see the time of this event: the sixth hour. Most Bibles translate this to be "noon" when the sun is at its highest.

Jesus rested at Jacob's well. A well of remembrance: Beer Lahai Roi. The Well of the One Who Lives and Sees Me. This is also where Abraham built an altar (Gen 12:6-9). Jacob also erected an altar near here:

Gen 33:18-20

He called the altar: El Elohe Israel....."God, the God of Israel"

Here we have Jesus, the Son of God....God in the flesh appearing to His people, the God Who Lives and Sees Us.....the very Promise of God....sits at this precious site rejected by His people. Yet He sits there to wait for His bride.

A Gentile Bride.

How amazing is that? And you probably thought it was just a well!

As you read through the verses and begin to paint the picture in your head of what the waiting and the well means to God, what does it all mean to you?

Is God waiting for you in a very special place of significance? What does the well mean to you? Does it bring tears to your eyes because it is where you find water that will leave you thirsty again? Do you long to have that thirst quenched...forever?

We'll learn soon how the Woman at the Well was much like you and me. She longed for something more meaningful in her life than just water from a well.

Until next time...

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.