Saturday, 25 March 2017

A Balanced Diet? by Fiona Lloyd

            For the past 15 months, I’ve been on a healthy eating plan. I’d got to the stage where everything in my wardrobe was too tight, so – being too parsimonious to splash out on a load of new clothes – I decided I needed to lose the odd stone or three.

I can't find this in my diet book...
            My understanding of a balanced diet is a glass of wine in one hand, and a bar of chocolate in the other…but for some reason, this was frowned on at the slimming group I joined. With a heavy heart, I hid the wine bottles at the back of a cupboard, gave away the remainder of our Christmas choccies, and purchased a bumper-pack of Granny Smiths. This was not going to be fun.

            But d’you know what? Turns out this healthy eating lark actually works. Having more fruit and vegetables – and less of the fatty, sugary stuff – on a regular basis means I can now find several things in my wardrobe that fit me properly, rather than threatening to cause an embarrassing incident every time I bend down to tie my shoelaces. I can walk to the end of our street without getting out of breath, and a brisk stroll round the park no longer sounds like a form of mediaeval torture.

            Last year, I also kept a record of my reading diet. I’d set myself the challenge of reading 52 books over the course of 12 months. By December 31st, I’d read a total of 56, as well as umpteen magazines and online articles. Some of the books I’d read before; some were new discoveries. I re-read all the Dorothy L Sayers novels (for the first time in about 30 years), and found that some stood the test of time better than others. Some things were recommended by friends, and some I read because they were free – or at least, massively reduced – on Kindle. (Told you I was tight…)

So many books, so little time...
            Analysing my reading habits in this way proved enlightening. I’ve always preferred to read fiction, but I hadn’t realised how much this informed my choices. Most of the non-fiction stuff I read was in the form of articles, and these were often things I came across at random, usually via Twitter or Facebook.

            Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having a preference for fiction (or non-fiction), but it does make me wonder if I’m missing out. I read to be entertained, but I also like to think and to learn, particularly in the context of my faith. There are challenges here for me around what, when and how I read. I can easily devour a novel in one sitting, but some of the other books waiting on my shelf require me to slow down and contemplate the truth behind the words. And yet I can see that when I pay attention to what I’m reading, my soul is more peaceful, and my faith more secure. My goal this year is to balance my literary diet, too.

Fiona Lloyd works part-time as a music teacher, and serves on the worship leading team at her local church. Fiona self-published a violin tutor book in 2013 and blogs at You can find her on Twitter at @FionaJLloyd. Fiona is vice-chair of ACW and is married with three grown-up children.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Writing Grace

I’m starting this blog on Ash Wednesday. Today we went to the Dominican Priory in central Oxford for the service of ashing. I’m still trying to figure out why it was such a meaningful service. I came away feeling I had been fed. I don’t think it was just the brief sermon, though that was helpful. Ashes in Scripture, said the celebrant, stand to some extent for penitence, but much more for mourning. What do mourning and penitence have in common? They both direct us to what really matters in life. ‘You are dust, and to dust you will return.’ It was grounding, but not depressing, to think during that service about being mortal.

Last night I met with two very different people for a time of lectio divina and contemplative prayer. We read Romans chapter 11, verses 1 to 6, together, each taking a verse and sharing what it said to us. What struck me was how easy it is for even a gifted prophet, as Elijah was, to become bitter, self-righteous, and perhaps even a bit paranoid, in times of national and international conflict. How like us! The Lord gently tells him that there are lots of people with their hearts in the right place. You are not alone (so don’t be so harsh and judgemental); you are not alone (so don’t be so fearful and anxious). The prophet’s mood contrasts sharply with the unchangeable gentleness of God: there’s a remnant chosen by grace. I did like that: it could have said ‘chosen by God’, which would have been correct, but somehow less easy to warm to. Grace, which of course is only God under another guise, does the choosing and calling, but it’s largely hidden and secret, known just to God.

I wrote in my last blog about the dangers of secretiveness in the church. But there is of course a good kind of secrecy. We had it today in the Ash Wednesday Gospel. ‘Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret’ (or, as some wit once said ‘so that your arms may be in secret’). ‘When you fast, wash your face.’ ‘So that your father who sees in secret may reward you.’ This is the same gentle Father who spoke to Elijah about Grace. The church hasn’t always learnt this lesson. Even while it covers up its shortcomings, it often goes in for the sensational, or at least yearns for publicity and enlists PR people to promote its image. Don’t we all long for spectacular salvation stories that will convert many? But ‘if they don’t listen to Moses, neither will they be convinced if someone rises from the dead.’ A very good Lenten discipline would be to give up our desire for grand Christian publicity and resist the temptation to seek impressive religious PR. And, on the positive side, to bank much more on the workings of Grace.

What has this to do with writing? Two things, I think. One is that we should try never to write the way Elijah might have at his moment of crisis, in a critical, captious, harsh, or even self-righteous spirit. Our audience, and our created characters, should be handled with gentleness and grace, even when they are actors in contexts of evil. The other point is that there is a good way as well as a bad way to ‘hide’ the gospel in our writing. Most people agree that to sneak it in and preach covertly is not good. But it can justly be hidden there in the same way that our good deeds are done in secret, the way that the kingdom is hidden in the world—the way that the leaven is hidden in the dough, invisible in itself, yet suffusing the whole. Which is to say much the same as the first point: grace must lie at the heart of it all.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Psalm (of Helen) : A mission statement

Gentle readers, may I beg your indulgence with this post; I set out to write a psalm, without first making much of a study on how the psalms were written, and I know that there are scholars among you who know and understand things like structure, metre, the little couplety thing that many of the psalms have and so on.  This will clearly fall far short.

My offering below is probably neither a psalm nor a poem, but a kind of outpouring from the heart in the rough style of the psalmists at their most raw and un-poetic. I don't think God is offended by the awkward and unskilled, and this felt important to me. It just wanted to be said.

As a writer who has - and is - struggling to understand what I am called to do, to find a niche, so stop speak, this seems the very bottom line in why I keep opening my laptop and stringing words together even when frequently I feel like giving up for good. I have tried so many different things, nothing seems to fit, and I come back time and again to this one truth: I want to write about Jesus.

I promise I won't often try to do it in verse.

This is what happened when I splurged it all out. I wanted to share it with you.

I was afraid and alone and longing to be found
But I didn't even know I was lost.
I wept and you held out your arms
You came to find me and caught me as I fell
I cried out to you and you took my hand.
You drew me back to yourself.
I reached for you and you held me tightly
You took me in your arms and comforted me
You wiped away my tears.

I lifted up my heart to you for you to make it clean
I emptied out my life and laid it in front of you
Dirty and miserable
Pain and sin and selfishness
Naked I stood before you, full of shame
But you did not turn away.
I had nothing left to hide behind and still you loved me
I was ashamed at the state of my heart
But you washed it clean with your blood
And declared me your beloved child.
You forgave me.

(pause - to blow nose)

You took away my guilt and you gave me unending love
You took away the hurt and replaced it with belonging
My only offerings were fear and bitterness
And yet you blessed me more than I can say.
You said that I could start again.
You healed my wounds and lifted my head
You set me on my feet and steadied me
You played your music and taught me how to dance.

My Lord and my God.
When I wander away, you follow me
Wait at a distance until I am ready to return
You never let me out of your sight.
You carry on loving me.
When all is dark and I can't feel your presence
Still I will trust you, for I know that you are faithful.

I will praise you until I have no breath left in me
Because you are the Lord; there is only you.
You are the Holy One and yet you love me
You are the only God and yet you are my Friend
I am your child and you are my Father.
I am safe and I am loved
I can never repay you for what you have done for me
You have set me free.
I was poor and came to you with nothing
You gave me a beautiful gown and a crown for my head
And called me a royal princess.

You turned the page in the story of my life
And gave me words for a new chapter
You whispered your wonders into my ear 
And I have glimpsed your beauty.
I will speak of your mercy to all who can hear.
I will listen for your voice, for I know it well
I will write down all that you say to me
I will tell of your glory and the wonder of your love.

I will say, 'Here He is, my Saviour and my Friend,'
And people will come and be healed.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Forgiving like Smarties by Emily Owen

A couple of weeks ago, I was back at school.
I’d been asked to go and talk to some students about writing.
So I did, and it was fun.
I talked a bit about my writing and gave the students feedback on their work.
At the end, just before the lesson finished, I gave them my top tip.
Well, it’s not really my top tip, but sometimes it’s not far off…

Sometimes, I confess, chocolate is my motivation.
I tell myself, for example, “finish this chapter,” or “write for another half hour,”
and then you can have some chocolate.
If I am being hard on myself, ‘chocolate’ maybe means two smarties.
If I am being kind, I’ll have lots of smarties.

Just before I typed this blog, I had some smarties.
(Yes, wrong way round; well spotted! Don’t tell.)
They were squashed in a small box and I couldn’t get them out easily.
So I tipped them onto my desk.

The smarties were much easier to get at then and, before long, they were gone.

This made me think about forgiveness.
Forgiving myself.
Forgiving others.
A much more appropriate topic for a Lent blog than chocolate.

Some years ago, I was in a situation where I needed to forgive.
I knew I did.
I knew I should.
Or at least, I knew I should want to.
The problem was, I didn’t want to.
My resentment became so ‘squashed in a small box’ that,
by the time I was eventually ready to try and let it out, it wouldn’t come.
Bitterness was stuck in the box that was me.
Anger took up residence.
It hurt.
But I couldn’t tip it out.
I just couldn’t.

Then God stepped in.
And gently showed me that, actually, I could.
I could tip it out.
By remembering that I didn’t have to do it on my own.

It echoes from the cross down through the ages;
‘Father, forgive them.’
A triumphant cry, because
it’s genuine.
 Forgive them.’
It echoes from the cross down through the ages.

Oh, Father of all forgiveness,
help us catch hold of that echo.
It’s love,
it’s reality,
it’s freedom.
And, in our reaching,
realise that
we don’t have to do it alone.
The strength of every echo is
it’s source.
The ability to truly forgive comes
from you.
Help us listen to your echo.
All it means.
All it stands for.
Let it resound into every situation.
Resonate in life.
May we never let your echo fade.

© 2017 Emily Owen

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

A chip off the rock...........Part 2 by Ruth Johnson

“Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!”  Psalm 95:1 

I have continued my February theme as 500 words were not enough to make a joyful noise about being a ‘chip off the old block’ in representing my heavenly Father, and the rock of my salvation.  Each of us is a living, precious stone, a gateway to His coming Kingdom on earth, and one day to be built into that city of God where many precious stones are mentioned, but not diamonds.  Are we His diamonds being honed to take our place?    

We know His promises, and His desire to fulfill them, when we abide in Him and He in us.  As writers’ our desire is to bless people, yet over the years many of us know little of who has seen, let alone read our words.  Habakkuk complained to the Lord about the times he lived in and He answered that the revelation, or vision, awaits an appointed time and although it lingers it will certainly come and will not delay. 

I asked, “Lord, when will I see the fulfillment of my dreams?” My mother’s antique engagement ring came to mind, pictured above.   An expert informed me new techniques today would have more finely honed the diamonds, as even the smallest chip can now catch the maximum light.  The valuation described it as a 13 stones ring, but only five are seen by the naked eye, here enlarged!  In the four corners of the round diamonds tiny diamond chips lend support and light to the larger stone.  

As a precious stone I could be a diamond chip, hidden but supportive and help others sparkle in their walk with the Lord.  If the bigger diamond, and seeing God doing a new thing, am I willing to be finely honed and repositioned in a new setting enabling me to reflect more of Him in my life?  Or, like the antique ring, stay as I am where I am valued, safe and without risk. My choice is for His Will to be done for then, whatever happens, His joy will rise up within me to touch others with His love and truth.

I doubt Paul writing to the Romans, Ephesus etc. ever envisaged the world would still be reading his letters 2,000 years later!  The same goes for Tolken and Lewis whose writing reflected God’s truths bringing sales far exceeding those when they were alive.  Those stories made into films have gone beyond anything they could have hoped or imagined.

With new technology Christian books are being self-published in every genre, mostly sold in their hundreds rather than thousands.  But let’s not deride that, for there are only a few Christian authors who make big sales, and see God has opened the way for the diamond chips to write their autobiography, biography, fiction, poems, songs etc.   Be encouraged for the variety and potential of all those small sales added together can equal and change more lives than any one book.

Monday, 20 March 2017

The long and the short of it by Sue Russell

(This image is totally irrelevant, but cheering, I thought.)

I've been thinking about the relative merits of different lengths of fictional pieces. My own are all novel-length, though not door-stoppers, and I've found this form most congenial. This may be partly because I enjoy reading longer works, relishing the opportunity to immerse myself in fictional settings and get to know characters at a deep level. However, I have a body of short stories, written over a number of years in response to assignments set by one of the writing critique groups to which I belong, and I have reason to be thankful for them.  They kept me going at a time when the creative wells were dry and I was writing little besides - if nothing else they provided a necessary discipline. They also show most vividly how I've developed as a writer; many showcase flaws I shudder at and would cringingly avoid today. Sometimes I churn out a short piece of fiction out of sheer shame that I contribute so little to the group except for trying to shake down the idiosyncratic punctuation of some of the members.
Writing short fiction that works requires skill of a high order - possibly the shorter, the higher, and I am full of admiration for those who can pull it off. Poetry is another form which demands honing and distillation and very precise word- and rhythm-choice, whereas my efforts are mostly maudlin meanderings.
I have found, however, despite my fondness for the longer story, that my novels are getting progressively shorter, and I ask myself why that is. I have also found another reason to be thankful for my little hoard of short stories. I have been wondering about my next project (novel no. 6 is done and, I hope, will be published later this year) - assuming that I should be going on rather than giving it all up and becoming a snake-charmer. It was one of my very short pieces, a mere 500 words, from several years ago that sparked what might become novel no. 7. Reading this story I realised another benefit of brevity: one can merely allude, and that cuts down the need for lengthy research!
I would be interested to hear about the preferred forms of readers of this blog: long or short, flash fiction, novella, series, the limerick... the possibilities are many.

Sue Russell writes as S.L.Russell and has five contemporary novels out there written from a Christian viewpoint. They can all be seen, sampled, purchased in paperback or kindle, and reviewed on Amazon and other outlets. I live in hope. A sixth novel should make its appearance in the autumn.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Heart, mind and soul sistas, by Veronica Zundel

It's been a funny old day today. Nine a.m. on a Saturday is not normally a time I recognize as existing, except in my dreams. However, that's the time I needed to be at a central London hospital this morning, for an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart, which confusingly has the same initials as an ECG which is something entirely different). Anyway, I made it fifteen minutes early in spite of the usual weekend Tube closures, and it was established sufficiently clearly that I have a heart . This was preparatory to next Tuesday when I have to check into another central London hospital for a brain biopsy, presumably to check whether I have a brain too (I wonder if they have a test for courage?).

After briefly touching base at home, long enough to check emails and have lunch, I was off in the other direction, to a part of London that is almost Hertfordshire, to attend the prizegiving for a local (but respected) poetry competition in which all three poems I submitted have been commended. This is not the most exciting occasion in the world, since for some strange reason every winner and commended poet has to read out their poem(s) twice, which must have been tedious for my audience. It is, however, a good opportunity to connect with poetry friends, some of whom are also Christians, and is about as much of the poetry 'scene' as I can stand in one bite.

It occurred to me on getting home again (to a dinner cooked by my husband, oh joy!), that today has been a sort of microcosm of the requirements for a Christian writer - or perhaps, for any writer. What more can we need than a heart, a brain, and a community? The heart, of course, is vital to life - if we write without sincerely felt emotion, without compassion both for our characters or subjects and for our readers, we will be at best dull and at worst cynical.

The brain, however, is equally vital. Without clear thought and intelligent critique both of the world (which includes the church) and of ourselves, we will risk being sentimental, mushy and rather sick-making. There is only so much sincerely felt emotion the stomach can stand before it longs for the bracing peppermint oil of a sharp incisive mind.

And what of the community? Writing, as I have no doubt mentioned before, is a solitary pursuit not always congenial to an extrovert like me, and it also offers unlimited opportunity to wander off into an ethereal haze of one's own supposed genius. Knowing what other writers are up to, and especially allowing them to feed back on our work at a higher level than 'That's lovely', is essential. And, come to think of it, that's pretty much what the More than Writers blog is all about.

So on reflection, perhaps this has been a perfect day for a writer. Although I could have done without the pain of the ultrasound thingy (what is it called? a wand?) digging into my left breast. At least I know now where my heart is.

Veronica Zundel is a freelance writer whose latest book is Everything I know about God, I've learned from being a parent (BRF 2013). She also writes a column for Woman Alive magazine, and Bible notes for BRF's New Daylight. Veronica used to belong to what was, before it closed, the only non-conservative, English speaking Mennonite church in the UK, and is currently playing at being a high Anglican. She also blogs (rather occasionally!) at

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Do we want a dose of gritty reality or is subterfuge the order of the day? by Joy Lenton

I write at an old oak desk, positioned close to an open window, lift my gaze briefly from the screen to savour a soothing sea breeze and quay-side view. 

Air is rich with birdsong and sweet fragrance pouring forth from a nearby arbour of flowers. Butterflies flit like my thoughts, alighting on something bright and fresh. Cut! That's pure fabrication, of course. Here's the reality...

Or should I share? Aren't we aiming to inspire one another with our words, rather than discourage with life's gritty reality? After all, what's a bit of softened lens viewing between friends? It helps us to imagine ourselves in a more salubrious place, a better pair of shoes. It fits us to enjoy flights of fancy without leaving the house, and suggests a lifestyle others can aspire to.

Hang on a minute, do I hear you say, isn't this taking creativity a tad too far? Well yes, so it is. I am a writer, after all. But here's the thing: being open, real, transparent and honest actually helps to foster trust and build connection—in real life and in the writing sphere.

How about poetry that emotes with feeling, more than languidly describing a beautiful scene? It tends to glean the most responsive reactions, engenders those 'you too?' moments we all secretly yearn for. 

Hanging out our proverbial dirty laundry in public is often frowned upon, because life can be hard enough without someone else's mess flapping in our faces.

Who needs a fresh dose of daily grime when TV and media already offer more than their fair share? And can we cope with a person's heart bleeding out on paper?

Such things nudge us out of our comfort zones, stir and provoke us into action, into caring, or maybe turning away. I've found in sharing personal story with transparency and vulnerability (laced with lots of God-given wisdom, sensitivity and discernment), we can make a better heart to heart connection with our readers.

It's still a risk to speak openly about our brokenness. Some might seek a more uplifting tidbit elsewhere. And others? They will stayhooked by our reality, seeing themselves within our stories, find they resonate deep within their soul.

My writing reality is less than exquisite. It's a delving into depths to mine nuggets, capturing whatever rises to the surface, whether it's a trickle or a flow. It's a weakened body bent over a PC with stiff, arthritic spine, painful fingers typing slowly, sore eyes hypersensitive to a bright screen. I know... the sacrifices for one's art.

There's no scenic view either. Sorry to disappoint you. But here's what I do have in abundance: grace upon grace, inspiration, transparency, God sustaining and equipping me to write regularly and to support and encourage other writers with their work.

My gritty reality is a life of chronic illness, pain and challenging circumstances. 

But oh how full it is of the reality of God's support, comfort and reassuring presence! 

We can't always alter or escape life's painful things, but they help shape who we become and enrich the hopeful truth we share.

If you stick around long enough and read between the lines of my work, you'll be able to trace God's loving hand on my life.

And it's the realest reality of them all, true for me and true for you too. It oozes out of every line we write.

How do you feel about sharing openly? Does the genre you write in affect your choices?

Joy Lenton is a grateful grace dweller, contemplative Christian writer, poet and blogger, author of 'Seeking Solace: Discovering grace in life's hard places'

She enjoys encouraging others on their journey of life and faith at her blogs and as she seeks to discover the poetic in the prosaic and the eternal in the temporal. You can connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Friday, 17 March 2017

The bitter and the sweet of being a writer By Claire Musters

Today is the deadline for me delivering my manuscript to the publisher. I began this week full of enthusiasm after the brilliant ACW Writers’ Day in Birmingham. However, I also knew I had an almost insurmountable amount of work still to do to meet the deadline so there was some trepidation mixed in with the enthusiasm.

I began the week by reading the Bible and in prayer, seeking God’s inspiration and anointing to help me finish off my book.

I was bowled over by the verses for Monday in the devotional I am working through, particularly this one:

‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.’
(Psalm 32:8)

I immediately had a vivid picture of God watching over me in love as I write, helping to give me direction. Yes writing is a struggle. It is difficult and takes so much out of us. And yet God loves to see us being creative, using the talents he has given us.

In the last few weeks leading up to today’s manuscript delivery, I penned this poem (and bear with me as I’m not a poet!). I wanted to capture the sense of the bitter and the sweet that we can experience during the process of writing…

Being a writer

Being a writer…
Staring at that blank space, willing it to fill itself.
Trying to capture elusive inspiration; it seems just a whisper away…
And yet it remains out of grasp.
Deadlines looming, stress levels rising, desperation beckoning…

Being a writer…
The delicious joy accompanying an idea that’s developing well;
Quiet celebration of a phrase beautifully executed.
Completing a project and feeling wonder at the achievement;
Knowing I have poured my best into those words.

Being a writer…
Wanting to hide away and not face the world;
The birthing of a work too painful to bear.
No one understands the anguish yet so many have an opinion;
Behind closed doors the tears begin to flow.

Being a writer…
The exquisite agony and ecstasy of creativity;
Of wanting to be alone with my words.
Locked into a scene, a concept; awareness heightened.
Quite simply – nothing else but being a writer will do.

Claire is a freelance writer, speaker and editor, mum to two gorgeous young children, pastor’s wife, worship leader and school governor. Claire’s desire is to help others draw closer to God through her writing, which focuses on authenticity, marriage, parenting, worship, discipleship, issues facing women today etc. Her books include Taking your Spiritual Pulse, CWR’s Insight Into Managing Conflict and Insight Into Self-acceptance, Cover to Cover: David A man after God’s own heart and BRF Foundations21 study guides on Prayer and Jesus. She also writes Bible study notes regularly, and her latest co-written book, Insight Into Burnout, was published in February. Her next book, Taking off the mask: learning to live authentically, is due for publication in November 2017 by Authentic Media. To find out more about her, please visit and @CMusters on Twitter.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

What's stopping you? by Lynda Alsford

Photo by Denise Mattox (licence)
I remember my step-brother Peter having a small brown plate hanging on his wall when we were younger. The wording told me it was called a Round Tuit. His version had a poem attached to it that said now he had a round tuit just think of all those jobs he could get done that he said he would do when he got a round to it. 

I could do with a round tuit now. I seem to have hit a brick wall as far as my writing goes over the last year or so. This blog is the only thing I have been writing regularly. 

In part this blockage is due to a very difficult year or so for various reasons. Now though, things are slowly beginning to look upwards again. So, I want to get back into expressing myself through my words again. But I still don't seem to be doing it. Where is that round tuit? I could do with it. 

If I want to do it, why don't I do it? As I write that sentence, I can hear echos of St Paul from Romans Chapter 7:15-16. 
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.
Obviously, St Paul is talking about sin, and not writing, but the struggle is there. And it helps to know I am not the only one who struggles to do what I want to do. 

Photo by Jan Kahanek via Unsplash
Perhaps it is fear that is stopping me. Fear that I am not good enough. Fear that no one would want to read what I write. Or perhaps it is laziness? After a long day at work where I spend all day looking at a computer screen, I come home tired and am not inclined to spend more time doing the same thing. Maybe that means I need to get out my notebook and pencil. Mind you, at some point if I want to publish what I write, it must be entered into a computer. 

Maybe it is a mixture of all these things, fear, tiredness and laziness. Knowing what is stopping me helps me plan to write. I can learn to get enough rest to overcome tiredness. And I can just step out in faith, and write, put my words out there and see what happens. Whatever the reaction I can learn from it and move on to improve my writing the next time. 

Photo by Sergey Zolkin via Unsplash
I want to start a new blog called 'Seeking the Healer', which will focus on sharing insights into my journey to freedom through Christ. It's been on my heart for a while but I have done nothing. I am motivated to write this post for More Than Writers each month because I have a deadline for it. I need to have a blog post by the 16th of every month. It motivates me. Perhaps I need to set my own deadline for my writing. 

What about you? Do you need a round tuit? What stops you doing the things you want to but never get around to? 

Lynda Alsford is a sea loving, cat loving GP administrator and writes in her spare time. She has written two books, He Never Let Go describes her journey through a major crisis of faith whilst working as an evangelist at a lively Church in Chiswick, West London. Being Known describes how God set her free from food addiction. Both books are available in paperback and on kindle on  and She writes a newsletter called Seeking the Healer, in which she shares the spiritual insights she has gained on her journey. When she finally starts her blog, it will also be called Seeking the Healer and you can find out more about both at

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

To be Continued - Writing Series Fiction by Phillip S. Davies

Do you want to write what publishers love? Then writing series fiction may be for you. Publishers like series of novels, because if readers enjoy your first book, then they’re more likely to buy a sequel with familiar characters and setting than a new stand-alone novel. There’s a bonus for writers toosome of your work is done, with a setting and characters already to hand.
But beware the “law of diminishing returns”! Too many series go downhill, trotting out the same tired story, with a few tweaks, until we’re bored with it. Those with young children may know the Beast Quest and Rainbow Magic series, each with over a hundred titles, but with carbon-copy storylines.
Another challenge is: can you assume your reader has read the earlier book(s)? If you assume so (and they haven’t), your reader may lose interest with poorly introduced characters and unexplained backstory. If you assume not (and they have), you risk boring your loyal reader with repeating yourself.
The answer to walking this tightrope depends on your series. Is it one long story,broken up into different volumes, like The Lord of the RingsOr are they stand-alone novels, with separate storiesbut recurring main characters or setting?
I like the analogy of the flights of stairs in a house. Picture our readers starting with us on the ground floor, and our story takes them up one flight to the upstairs. [Is that why thefloors in a house are sometimes called storeys”?!]
A trilogy like The Lord of the Rings takes us, over three volumes, from the ground floor straight up to the third, in one long staircase, with hardly any pause for breath. Series like Beast Quest and Rainbow Magic start with a similar situation in each story, so it’s like climbing from the ground floor to the first, over and over again, on slightly differingstaircases.
With other series, are there any changes for the main characters or setting between one book and the next – a new ally, an enemy defeated, an injury, etc.? If our series includeschange, character development and story arcs, then the second book can launch off from the end of the first. The sequels are like climbing from the first floor to the second, and from the second to the third. Each book ends with reaching a landing, where we pause before ascending the next stor(e)y.

A story between storeys?

Can I make a plea to my fellow series fiction writers? Please don’t end a book with acliff-hanger or twist, to try to make us buy the next volume. You’re denying your reader a satisfying conclusion and resolution to your story in that book. I hate that. I assure my readers that I will never do that to you. My Destiny series follows on from each other in time, with similar main characters and setting, but resolves properly at the end of each novel. I hope that (like me) you pause for breath, satisfied and content, before embarking on the next flight of stairs.

Philip S Davies writes the Teenage/Young Adult fantasy adventure novels Destiny’s Rebeland Destiny’s Revenge (releasing on 10th June 2017).
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