image: header

image: inkwell header

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.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Tale As Old As Time


Ah, romance! Boy meets girl. Boy is a mess. Girl sees something in boy that he never knew existed. Boy lives up to girl’s belief in him. Boy – now in his true essence – and girl live happily ever after.

This simple formula is what creates a good romantic story. We’ve seen it time and again.

  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Dirty Dancing
  • African Queen
  • Angel and the Badman
  • Music Man
  • Guys and Dolls
  • The Lady and Tramp
  • King Kong (Think about it.)

Sometimes it’s the girl who needs to move into her true essence.

  • Sweet Home Alabama
  • Hope Floats
  • My Fair Lady
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • True Lies
  • Romancing the Stone

The beauty of this formula is that it’s flexible. Often, both boy and girl change.

  • Enchanted

In a rare instance, the girl is changing the boy, but she doesn’t realize it.

  • Ground Hog Day

Or the boy is changing the girl, but she doesn’t realize it herself.

  • 50 First Dates

This is the lesson I learned when taking Michael Hauge’s screenwriting class at the ACFW national conference last year. Here is his bit of wisdom:

“The reason the romance character and the hero belong together, is because the romance character is the only one who sees beneath the hero’s identity and connects at the level of essence.”

We made him say that several times so we could write it down. This, my friends, is the key to writing a good romance. For an in-depth observation on this subject, please go to my Craft Cinema blog and learn how the animated feature, Megamind, meets this requirement. I have also included Hauge’s six questions to ask your character to understand his or her identity and essence. Watch the movie first, though, unless you don’t mind the spoilers.

Beauty and the Beast is the quintessential example of the identity/essence idea.

Beast is a prince trapped in a monster’s body due to his lack of the ability to love. When Belle meets him, he is living in that identity. Beast has no love or respect for any human being. He has captured Belle’s father, an innocent victim who accidentally trespassed on his property.

Belle offers her life for her father’s, and is now condemned to live in the dying castle forever. Through her spunkiness, she eventually stands up to the beast, who responds to her in his identity. He grouses and grumbles, even roars a time or two about how impossible she is. But we get a glimpse of his true essence when he protects her from wolves. He gets hurt in the process, and as she tends his wounds, he begins to open his heart to caring for another person.

The final act is a poignant portrayal of true love. Beast allows Belle to go home after he shows her a magic mirror and she sees her father lost and sick in the forest.  At this point, he moves into his essence—now caring deeply for someone other than himself. This unselfish acts leads to his near demise as angry villagers storm his castle.

The mob is lead by Gaston, who early in the story made it known that he would have Belle at all cost. Through a series of events, Gaston and the villagers believe the beast to be dangerous and must be destroyed. In a one-on-one combat between Gaston and the beast, Gaston nearly meets his fate at the hands of the beast, but the beast relents due to his love for Belle and his new essence. He tells Gaston to leave and never return, but when Beast leaves him to climb up to the balcony where Belle awaits him, Gaston follows and stabs him in the back. Gaston then falls to his death.

On the balcony now, Beast is dying.  Belle cries over his limp body. He has sacrificed himself by moving into his essence—a caring and loving being. But, in true Disneyesque fashion, as he breathes his last breath, the spell is broken, and a dramatic transformation takes place. He turns back into the prince, a handsome young man who must now convince Belle that he is the person she has come to love. She’s skeptical at first, but when she gazes deep into his eyes, she sees him for who he truly is, the one she fell in love with, sans fur and fierce teeth.

And then they kiss. And the spell is broken all over the castle. And they get married. Sigh.

Please enjoy this quick look at the beautiful love story. It shows in only a few minutes how identity/essence works. 


Kathy Kovach is the ACFW Rocky Mountain Zone Director, and author with HeartKathleen Kovach low res jpgsong Presents and Barbour Publishing. She writes Spiritual Truth…With A Giggle, thus proving herself as one of God’s peculiar people. With a passion for story, she dissects movies on her Craft Cinema blog. Read the first chapters of her books at Fiction Finder and visit her at

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Writing Goal or Chocolate?

When I think of writing goals my mind gets overwhelmed and goes into overload. My hand starts twitching and I find myself reaching for the first piece of available chocolate .

What is it about goals that can turn the toughest man (or woman) into Jello? That question has plagued me ever since the LORD confronted me in the quiet of my room ten years ago and told me to write.

Say what?!? Write?? Thank goodness a time frame wasn't part of His original "agreement." It began only as a task. Tasks are easier than goals. "Learn the craft," He said. "Find mentors and apprentice yourself." Years later I'm still comfortable with staying in the same spot I was back then. But now God wants me to move forward. And He's requiring I set a goal.

Goal. G-O-A-L. Note it's a four-lettered word. It's also ambiguous, which means the first step in setting a writing goal is to define what it means to you. For some, "writing goal" means typing so many words per day. To others, studying the craft, attending workshops and seminars, reading books, or talking to their writing partners. It can be mailing a manuscript or making an appointment with an agent. It might even be as simple as waking up in the morning and saying, "Today, I'll try."

I love all those movies that have to do with writers. The most difficult obstacle they seem to have to overcome is what to write. Ah, that it should be so easy! But all "real" writers know it isn't. "Goal" eventually pops into the equation and messes with the creative juices. Sitting at a typewriter (or computer), mustering up inspiration, is hit head-on with the reality that something needs to get down on paper...soon, or the window of opportunity might close. "Goal" quickly becomes the pin that bursts the bubble.

Paul said, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Phil 3:13b-14). Not the goal Paul set for himself, but the goal God set in motion. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I need to remember that God will not give me heavy burdens to bear. His goals are doable. They will not break me. I don't have to turn into Jello when God is by myside. And finding comfort in that, my friend, tastes better than chocolate any ol' day.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Baby Steps

So this month we’re talking about writing goals and resolutions, but maybe, like me, you feel that any goal you set would be unrealistic. Maybe just thinking about meeting a daily word count is like contemplating a life-sentence. Maybe “overwhelming” describes the act of brushing your teeth. Maybe, like me, you’re pretty sure that life is trying to kill you.

If that’s the case, watch this clip.

The movie “What About Bob” seems to apply to everything, doesn’t it?

Baby Steps. Don’t think about how many words you need to finish your WIP. Just think about how many words you need to finish this chapter. Or, this sentence.

Don’t think about the odds of getting an agent or getting published. Think about making contacts in the writing world. That can be as easy as reading another writer’s blog and commenting.

Don’t think about your grand character arc. Think about your character’s next step. His next thought.

And if that’s still too much for you, it’s okay. Believe me, I’ve been there. Recently. Here are a few of my baby steps to reassure you that you are not alone if you feel like writing is torture especially designed for you.

1. Today I will write one sentence.
2. Today I will think about my characters while I’m folding laundry.
3. Today I will only check Facebook 99 times instead of 100.
4. Today I will not throw my laptop in the fireplace.
5. Today I will highlight one good sentence in my chapter.
6. Today I will promote another author’s book.
7. Today I will use one of my favorite words. NOT the four letter ones.
8. Today I will brainstorm the next plot development.
9. Today I will trust that there is a plan to this madness.
10. Today I will not give up.

My critique partners regularly talk me down from ledges. They’re probably compiling a manual on how to keep an insecure writer from committing career suicide. One of them shared this verse with me.

"With the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you..." 2 Peter 3:8-9

Taking baby steps feels like a pretty slow way to get somewhere. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be running and leaping right now. But neither speed affects God’s timetable. So, for my own fragile sanity, I will keep taking baby steps.

“Baby steps into the office. Baby steps to the desk. Baby steps—turn on the computer. Baby steps—open document.”

Evangeline Denmark has storytelling on her heart and in her blood. The daughter of novelist, Donita K. Paul, Evangeline grew up living and breathing good stories. She has co-authored two children’s books, The Dragon and the Turtle (Waterbrook Press, 2010) and The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari (Waterbrook Press, 2011) and also writes adult fiction. Evangeline enjoys wearing goldfish in jars around her neck and desperately needs a vacation from her problems. You can find Evangeline online at and

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Goals, not Resolutions

I have set myself some writing goals this year. Note I said goals, not resolutions. Resolutions sound -- well, resolute. Like, if I don't do it now, I'll never do it. Like, I've tried this before, and I'm going to do it now, even if it kills me.

I like goals much better. Resolutions are made to be left behind, ignored, and forgotten. Goals, on the other hand, are living, breathing, made to be massaged, changed, evolved over time.

My goals include:
1. Attend 3 conferences or seminars this year: already registered for the Peak Conference in the Springs next month, the Denver HIS Writers fall seminar is a given, so now I just have to find one more. Hawaii beckons!
2. Send out a submission every month: this includes contests, which I have already done twice this month. Sending out a submission accomplishes several things: I get over the fear of rejection (right, in about 100 years!); I might just win a contest; I might just find a publisher. If I don't send out something, I will never accomplish any of these.
3. Send out a rejected project within 10 days: nobody likes looking for a new market, especially when the one that just rejected me was the perfect place, or else I wouldn't have sent it there. No matter -- I cannot accomplish (2) above if I don't send it out.
4. Train up a co-facilitator for my Denver critique group: good leadership is always trying to work itself out of a job.
5. Mentor: I am so blessed by people like Cec Murphey -- I want to be like him when I grow up!
6. Read a book on writing every month: not easy. There is so much fun reading to do, where will I find time? I won't, unless I make time.
7. Outline and do a synopsis for 6 new books this year: yes, six. Why six? I don't know, I should be able to come up with at least one good idea for a book every two months. Not saying I can write all these books, ever, but it will be good practice for me.
8. Finish my current project: not only can I not find it a good publishing home unless it's done, I'm one of those people who doesn't like to have two projects on the go at the same time, and I won't be able to start any of (7) unless I finish this one.
9. Finish another project I started 2 years ago: again, goes along with (7) and (8), but I can't stand not having the story done. I want to know how it turns out!
10. Send out a completed devotional book I have already written: I think there is a need for this book about people marrying for the second time, to help them through the struggles they are going to face.
11. Commit to doing my weekly devotional: if I can't commit to sending out a small 150 word devotional once a week, how can I ever expect to be able to finish a bigger project? How could I ever hope to get syndicated and become famous and make lots of money? Okay, just checking to see if you are really reading this. Because I believe this is an area of ministry the Lord wants me to stretch into.

My goals are not written in stone. If I don't meet a goal one month, I'm not going to throw out the whole plan.

How am I doing? Well, like I said, I got (2) done, been praying about (4), am halfway through (6), working on (8), started on (10), and got 2 done out of 3 on (11).

What are your writing goals for this year? See, the important thing about goals is they should be measurable, they should be achievable, and they should be reasonable. Share your goals with me, sign up for my weekly devotional on my website at to keep me accountable, and feel free to ask me from time to time how it's going.

And I'll pray for you and your writing goals, too.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Journey of Profound Reliance

"True dependence is not simply asking Me to bless what you have decided to do. it is coming to Me with an open mind and heart, inviting Me to plant My desires within you. I may infuse infuse within you a dream that seems far beyond your reach . . . thus begins your journey of profound reliance on Me. It is a faithwalk, taken one step at a time, leaning on Me as much as you need. This is not a path of continual success but of multiple failures. However, each failure is followed by a growth spurt, nourished by increased reliance on Me. Enjoy the blessing of a victorious life, through deepening your dependence on Me." (Jesus Calling, pg. 6, by Sarah Young)

I sat in the above thoughts for a while this morning, sensing deep joy as I did. When I attended my first writing conference (many years past!) I survived by posting Bible verses and encouraging quotes all over the walls. Stepping out in my writing seemed such a monumental task. I feared failure and success equally as I began a journey that was so far beyond me.

Here I sit nineish years after that first conference. Nothing looks as I expected. I've written novels that have never been published, but I've published works I never intended to write. I chuckle to think that I've spent the last two years taking free-lance work as a curriculum writer. Certainly it was not path I planned to take, but the Lord knew it would be a fit. I wanted to write novels, not develop an Internet ministry. And once that ministry developed I never expected God to then tell me to lay it down. I was determined to write meaty women's fiction. My latest fiction project have been light romance and oh so fun . . . but not exactly weighty. My journey isn't what I thought it would be, but it is oh so much more.

The biggest surprises are not surprises at all. I am more me. The Lord has taken me through more failures that I can count, and guess what? They didn't ruin me. I didn't fall apart or throw in the towel. I just cried a bit, threw a few fits before my Lord, and discovered that those disappointment don't define me. They affect my mood for a short while, and then they just disappear as I keep being me. Recently, after several months of hoping and waiting on word on a submitted novella project I found out the editor had never received it, and it had missed the deadline to even be considered for that particular round. My response? "God is Sovereign." And I really meant it. Didn't even need to whine or question. Just re-submitted for the following season, and truly, deeply believed that God was in lost manuscripts as well as published ones.

The me that slowly emerges is a me more peaceful and steady than I thought possible. Of course I still have "those" days, but in general there is a deepened ability to rest in Him and to trust His ways. I prayed a lot for joy several years ago. At first I felt a little miffed about His response. I asked for joy and received a lot of disappointments and struggle. And yet now I think how important it was to happen just that way. I'm beginning to sense joy being sown into my life on the soil of peace and dependence on my Lord. If the joy had been dropped in my lap--given like happiness--I think it would have been fleeting. I may have thanked the Lord for His blessings, but then looked to those blessings instead of to Him for continued joy. I trust the work He is doing inside of me will bear lasting, continual fruit of joy--not manufactured joy, not joy I choose as I gut it out, but a natural well inside of me that draws from the sweet waters of God.

Today I'm celebrating many years of victorious living--the kind that is not measured by continual success, but by the failures and disappointments that caused me to have inner growth as I walk a journey of profound reliance.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Trusting God—One Step at a Time

To kick off the New Year here at ACFW Colorado, I'm cross-posting some thoughts I posted on my personal blog, The Writer's Tool.

Be strong and of good courage . . . fear not, nor be dismayed; for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
1 Chronicles 28:20

This and several other verses in my quiet time this morning, dealt with courageously moving forward into the New Year. And my birthday on New Year's Eve always lends itself to reflection on the past year.

My word from the Lord for 2010 was trust. Learning about trust more has shown me how closely related trust is to surrender, the word for 2009.

True surrender involves casting all my care on the Lord and leaving it there. Hannah Whitall Smith describes absolute surrender like this: “You must not think of it or brood over it, but must dismiss it from your mind altogether, except whatever degree is necessary for proper self-care.”

When I came across that statement when doing research for a devotional project for Barbour Books (Shared Hope: Inspiration for a Woman’s Soul, releasing February 1, 2011), I was facing the biggest struggle of my life requiring me to surrender someone very dear to me completely to the Lord. I was brooding over the situation, and the loved one. I had shed tears of grief and even guilt, feeling like I had failed. I thought I’d surrendered it before, but when I read this sentence, I realized how much I was still clinging to my desires, trying to maintain control of people and situations.

What peace came over me when I confessed my control issue and totally surrendered the situation and the person to Him.

Then the Lord revealed trust as His word for me this year. He’s taken me on a somewhat different journey this year. Another situation out of my control. And instead of getting better, as of course I wanted, it continues to worsen. Every time I think I’m learning what it means to trust, the Lord takes me deeper. And this is good.

We all know the Lord has a sense of humor in the midst of conforming His children into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Believe me, I’ve caught both the humor and the irony in His leading me to choose an elective class on Wednesday nights at my church. In this class we’re studied a book entitled Running Scared by Edward T. Welch. My pastor led the discussion as we worked through the book. While we finished the class before Christmas, it isn’t the end of my needing to reread the book and continue to grasp the biblical principles the author teaches.

In learning to identify and deal with my fears, which are many, I’ve learned better to analyze myself—my motives and my desires—in light of who God is and what He desires for me. And it has challenged me to examine whom I believe—me influenced by the flesh, the world, and Satan, or God, the sovereign ruler over all creation.

But what truly got my attention was my study in the last two weeks of the class. One chapter took us to an examination of Romans 6, a passage I memorized nearly twenty years ago when the Lord used Romans 6 through 8 in bringing me out of a severe clinical depression.

The passage declares that when Christ died, I died. When Christ rose from the dead, I, too, was raised. Not to walk in my own way, but to walk in God’s way. If I died with Christ, then I am dead to sin. It no longer has power over me. It’s still there, but it only has power when I give it permission. Paul exhorts believers in this chapter to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. It’s the only way we can live surrendered to and trusting completely in Him.

The reminder that I’m dead to the desires of the flesh helped me realize that many times I’m trusting in a dead person—one who can do nothing! I am dead. What can I expect from myself that will help deliver me in any situation? I’m only alive spiritually because of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and my belief and trust in Him alone for eternal salvation. So it only makes sense for me to put my trust in the One who paid such a price for me. He has never failed, nor will He.

As I was going over my notes from the final chapters, the Lord reminded me of ways He had taken my fears from me in the past. The biggie: my fear of speaking in front of people, either strangers or those I knew well.

Did you know that public speaking is very high on the list of fears people have?

I was so shy I barely passed the required two semesters of freshman speech classes in college. I knew the Lord had called me to teach, and I was obedient to that call in pursuing training in that field.

But I chose elementary education rather than my first love of English and literature. The Lord still used it for good and slowly started teaching me to trust Him to open the doors where He would have me teach. Today, I’ve taught children and young people from first grade up through seniors in high school (Spanish, English, and literature) to teaching a ladies Sunday school class, leading Bible studies, and even speaking to women’s groups. That isn’t me. I’m still that shy person inside. That was the Lord. And I love it.

After reminding me of this, He asked me, “So why can’t you trust Me with your lesser fears?” Um, good question. Why can’t I?

Because I want to control my life, my way. Even though I stink at it. My control in certain areas has led to near disaster. To what now looks like an impossible situation.

Yet God says, “I am the God of the impossible.”

I’ve also learned that I tend to live in the future. And I worry and fear about what might happen. No one but God knows the future. So why do I fret and fear? God is in control. My calling right now is to live one step at a time, trusting my present and my future to the God who is sovereign, the God who is enough, the God who has already made me a conqueror because of His amazing love that caused Him to send His Son to die so that I could have fellowship with Him.

So I’m committing myself to “Trust God and do the next thing” (Elizabeth Elliot). It’s still in the early days of this, but instead of looking at the big picture of what the future holds, I’m asking the Lord to show me what I am to do today, this hour, this moment. And when I complete that task, I ask Him for the next task, trusting that His plan is being worked out in me, one step at a time.

And you know what? It’s okay that I can’t see what’s ahead. The more I grasp the concept of trusting God one step at a time, the more I realize how freeing that is. It breaks the chains of fear and anxiety, and I can know the peace of God that passes all understanding.

And my word for 2011? Confidence. Which is just another step in surrender and trust. God is good . . . all the time!

Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?
Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through?
God specializes in things though impossible.
He does the things others cannot do.
(Oscar C. Eliason)

May each of you have a blessed New Year!
Copyright ACFW Colorado | Layout and Graphic Design Eagle Designs