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Welcome to The Inkwell, the blog site of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) of Colorado.

Each week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, you can find a wide variety of topics and insight
from inspiration to instruction to humor and more!

For detailed information on ACFW, click here to visit their main website.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Greatest of These

Not long ago, someone asked me a tough question. “What’s the most important attribute of a good writer?” I struggled with that for awhile. So much goes into writing. There are the mechanical aspects—mastering the language and grammar. Writers have to learn a variety of critical research skills—interviewing, evaluating, investigating. They have to be observant and astute, always seeking to represent the universal truths that bring human beings together.

These are all important skills of a writer, but as I thought more about it I realized the number one characteristic of a good writer is simple. It’s something Jesus exhorted his followers to do. “Love one another as I have loved you.” Last year, I experienced an intensely painful situation that taught me more about love. This experience not only deepened my understanding of the world around me, it also plunged greater depth into my stories. Getting involved in the lives of others is often painful. It demands our whole heart. It requires a great deal of risk. But, in turn, loving others the way God commanded us to fills us with empathy and compassion, and that comes through in our stories.

Next time someone asks me that question, I’ll be ready with an answer. A good writer loves people. Wants to know them, understand them, serve them. True love gives us the ability to write the most meaningful stories.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Bottle

I’m at a crossroads in my novel. I’m stuck. I know what happens in the end, but I don’t know how to get there. I’m in no man’s land, the doldrums. You guessed it. The middle of the book.

So I did what I always do when I get stuck. I called my brother. Case has an uncanny knack for diagnosing and treating plot problems. This may have something to do with the fact that he has not stopped reading since the age of three. Or maybe it’s because he’s a doctoral student in English at Purdue. Or maybe, for whatever reason, God saw fit to gift him with the creativity I needed in my career as a writer.

Whatever the reason, my brother is my favorite plot doctor.

And this time was no exception. He had some fascinating suggestions, helpful advice, and undiscovered tidbits relevant to my story. Whenever I’ve talked to him before, I’ve found my mind expanding with ideas sparked by our discussion.

But this time, my brain refused to stretch. We talked about my basic problem.

Me: “I’m stuck in the middle of the book. I need for something bad to happen.”

Him: “Can you give me just a little more information than that?”

Me: “I need for my heroine to be proactive.”

Him: “Riiiiiight.”

We went on to discuss the particulars, and then Case suggested something called The Bottle.

“Huh?” I said.

He sighed. “You know, it’s a classic literary trope. You take your character or characters, isolate them, attack them, and make them work out their issues, solve the problem, face their fears.”

“Oh, you mean like in scary movies?”

*suppressed groan*

We talked a little longer, agreed to think about my plot problems, and touch base again should brilliance strike one of us. Statistically, it should be my turn since the lightning of superior intellect has clearly already zapped my brother.

Since then I’ve been thinking about The Bottle, and I’ve decided that the metaphor applies to me, the author. My book and I are stuck together, and my choices are to get productive, solve my plot issue, and crawl on toward the end of the book. Or, wallow in my glass prison, able to see the light outside, but unwilling to do the work that will get me there.

So here goes. I’m gonna get out of this bottle.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sipping From a Gushing Fire Hydrant

Wow! What a great conference!

I went to the Early Bird session taught by Donald Maass. It was extremely helpful, thought provoking, and entertaining. By our afternoon break, I felt like I had been through a whole conference. And that was just the Early Bird. The conference hadn’t even started yet. I learned so much and must confess that I have already forgotten so much. There’s only so much space between the ears. ☺

Conferences are like trying to get a drink out of a flowing fire hydrant. You are so thirsty for knowledge and growth but you can only take in so much. You can’t learn it all in one conference.

The problem is that like many people, we go to our first conference (and additional conferences) and try to learn it all. We try to drink all the water gushing from the hydrant, then become overwhelmed and drown.

We need to step back and take little sips from the fount of knowledge and let it sink in, refresh, and help us grow a little at a time. Don’t worry about all the knowledge you’re missing (or in my case forgetting already), and focus on what you did learn and let that become a part of you as a writer.

It’s the same with God and His Word, only on a much grander scale. The Fire Hydrant of knowledge is so vast, we cannot comprehend it all, and sadly don’t try. Then we shrivel up and die of thirst. But if we try to learn everything God has to teach us all at once we become overwhelmed and don’t understand Him at all.

But if we take sips of knowledge from God’s slow patient teaching and from conferences, we won’t drown or dry up.

Sip. Sip.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What Do We Need To Do?

There has been lots of talk over the last couple of weeks about the ACFW National Conference in Denver this week. Many of us have been frantic in our preparations, hours spent perfecting manuscripts, time agonizing over elevator pitches, palms sweating over potential meetings with agents and editors.

Even for those of us who won't be attending the conference, there have been ways to get involved. Preparing materials for our chapter, critiquing proposals for friends, volunteering to help set up tables -- many have gotten involved in countless ways.

So now that we are here, down to the wire, let's consider what part each one of us can play in the conference, regardless of whether we are attending or not. Just because it seems like the work is done, it really isn't.

As you have read in previous blogs, there will be over 500 Christian writers coming from all over the world. While sometimes it can seem like we are involved in a solitary pursuit, the fact that 500 like-minded believers are coming to Denver should light a fire inside of each one of us.

What part can every writer out there play, regardless of their financial situation, publishing situation, writing accomplishment situation, family situation -- regardless of where we are and what we are doing?


Pray like you've never prayed before.

The enemy will be faithful to attack over and over again during this conference. We've already seen instances where he tried to keep people from attending, from driving here. We know he is roaming around, looking for who he may devour.

And it can be easy to let him devour our hopes for this conference. He can steal our joy, rob us of our finances, purloin our travel arrangements. He is more than happy to keep us from fulfilling the plan of God.

So pray. Pray for safe travel for all attendees. Pray for protection and provision for the families left at home. Pray for open hearts for agents and editors to recognize passion. Pray for hearts content to let God work His will. Pray for strength, sweet sleep, settled stomachs, and a desire to learn, share, and minister.

Because sometimes the most important meetings at conferences don't happen across the desk in an appointment time. Sometimes the most ministry happens in the hallway, the elevator, or even the bathroom. Sometimes the best relationships are developed between room mates who were strangers before the conference.

Please pray for those attending, those teaching, those searching for the next best seller. Pray for those who are not attending, who wanted to come but couldn't for any number of reasons. And, please, pray for those who will be serving at the conference, the hotel staff, that they would see the love of Jesus in the midst of their workplace.

We are part of a large group of Christian Writers -- let's not forget the Christian part in the busyness of the Writer part.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Writers Are Coming! The Writers Are Coming!

I feel somewhat like Chicken Little running up and down the streets shouting, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" only no one listened to her. I pray that doesn't happen here. :) In fact, I pray just the opposite. That a whole host of people will read this and learn it's a GOOD thing that the writers are coming to town.

That's right. It's time for the 8th annual ACFW Conference, and it's coming to Denver!

Some have already started arriving, but by Thursday, there will be over 500 authors, writers, editors, agents and other industry professionals present at the Denver Marriott Tech Center for fun, fellowship, training, networking, and delicious food! As a friend always says, "It's all about the food."

I'm thrilled to see the conference come to a town near me...even if I can't take advantage of it due to lack of funds. But I can still come up and hang out in the lobby and see all my friends passing by on their way to somewhere important. :) Just being present at the hotel will be a treat, as I can soak up the atmosphere and ride on the wave of excitement that fills the air each year at this conference.

It's the premier fiction writer's conference in the country, and the authors that come out of this organization are top notch, some even going on to become best-selling and award-winning authors. The training and instruction and mentoring can't be equaled anywhere else that I've found. So many members have a heart to help, which is truly inspiring.

And where else are you going to find over 100 authors all signing in the same place? You heard me right. Over 100. Go here to find a complete list.

So, Denver....look out! We're going to take this city by storm, make our mark and leave our calling card once we're gone.

Tiffany Amber Stockton is an author, online marketing specialist and freelance web site designer who lives with her husband and fellow author in beautiful Colorado Springs. They celebrated the birth of their first child in April and have a vivacious puppy named Roxie, a Border Collie/Flat-Haired Retriever mix. She has sold eight books so far to Barbour Publishing. Other credits include writing articles for various publications, five short stories with Romancing the Christian Heart, and contributions to the books: 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage and Grit for the Oyster.

Read more about her at her web site:

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Are You Connected?

These statistics will astound you. If you aren't on Facebook and Twitter, you may want to re-examine why. Watch this video and consider these media forums in terms of platform and networking. Want to energize your writing career? Get connected.

Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter

Monday, September 7, 2009

Perfecting Your Pitch

The annual ACFW conference is next week. I'm really getting excited to see so many friends and meeting new ones, especially our newer members here in Colorado.

One of the things that gets everyone, especially those who have yet to sell a book to an agent or editor, is the pitch. Including me. I hesitated putting the word perfecting in the title to this post, because I'm sure there are others reading this that fight perfectionism like I do. Daily. And if it's not perfect why bother to do it all? Right?


Okay, I know that in my head, and even through experience. But that doesn't keep me from going through it all again when it comes time to do this again.

So how do I perfect my pitch? Thankfully there's lots of guidance out there on this subject. But an article I read in the Christian Fiction Online Magazine last week says it better than I can. So I'm going to let Brandilyn Collins tackle the subject for me. *smile*

Go here to read her words of wisdom.

And if you're in the area next Monday (Sept. 14), Rachelle Gardner, Wordserve Literary agent, will be discussing this topic at the HIS Writers chapter meeting. They meet 7:00–9:00 p.m. at the Borders in the shopping center on the northwest corner of 104th Ave. and I-25. We look forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bottom in Chair & Fingers on Keys

Yesterday I told my youngest sons they had to write for 15 minutes or one decent paragraph, whichever came first. (Yes, I'm one of those crazy women who thinks God said, "Homeschool your children," and eventually, after peeling her hands off her ears, began a journey that has been going on for the last 13 years.)

Son #1 lamented the assignment. Nothing he had to say was interesting. He didn't want to write some old, boring stuff. It just wouldn't turn well. (Reminds me of Evangeline's post. (See below.) I'm thinking there was some serious negative self-talk going on there.)

Son #2 suddenly lit up, grabbed his pencil and wrote in his best handwriting about his favorite subject: how sharks are innocent, beautiful creatures of God and constantly misunderstood because us land lubbers (including marine biologists) are just to "pansy" (his word not mine) to get close enough to sharks to really understand them.

Now Son #1 came up with a very decent paragraph about how much hard work it's going to take him to earn enough money to get to the Bahama's with his scout troop. Son #2 wrote a few pages of impassioned words which would have continued indefinitely if I hadn't insisted math was also a subject for the day.

I'm rattling on like this because, frankly, my attitude as I sat down to write this blog was exactly like Son #1. I have nothing brilliant to say today. I don't want to waste my time writing trivial slop. I don't want to bore my readers. Why do I have to do this?

The thing is . . . once I sat down and started writing, I could feel this thing shaping up. I could feel a message in this blog that I hadn't thought about before putting my finger to the keyboard. That message sounds an awful lot like a phrase I've heard kicked around ACFW circles for years now--something like "put your bottom in chair and write." Now depending on the cultural upbringing in the particular Godly women who said this to me, the word "bottom" has been replaced with every extreme thought that is probably coming to your mind right now. But whatever your cultural sensibilities, the point is clear. Sit down. Put your fingers on the keyboard. Write.

Sometimes you'll get a decent paragraph. Other times you'll get pages of impassioned words. You might even have a few days of . . . "uh . . . I really don't know what to write today, but the sky is sure a pretty blue . . . " But unless you put that backside down and turn toward your computer screen what you'll accomplish in your writing is . . . well, nothing.

Fingers on keys ladies and gentlemen! Let's do this thing!

(And now I'm off to my laptop where there is no Internet, no enticing facebook comments, no emails from long lost friends to entice me away from my latest novel. Happy writing!)
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