Saturday, May 10, 2014

Shirley's Writing Process--blog tour relay

This post is part of a blog post relay for which I received batons from two different authors. You wouldn't think I was running a relay here as I sat in the sun working on my laptop! Great for inspiration. Not so good for the eyes!

The first baton came from Marion Ueckermann, a South African writer whose debut novelette, Helsinki Sunrise, will be released 22 August 2014 by Pelican Book Group (White Rose Publishing) as part of the Passport to Romance series.

Marion blogs for International Christian Fiction Writers and Beauty for Ashes. She belongs to Christian Writers of South Africa and American Christian Fiction Writers. Marion lives in Pretoria East, South Africa in an empty nest with her husband and their crazy black Scottie, Wally. You can read about herwriting process at the ICFW blog, or visit her at her website,

The second baton came from LeAnne Hardy, an author who has lived in six countries on four continents as a writer and missionary librarian. Her plots and settings are inspired by these diverse locations. She currently writes and does freelance editing from a lake in the Northwoods of Wisconsin where she and her husband enjoy visitors, especially grandchildren. You can read about LeAnne's writing process here and you can also visit her at her website,

Thank you both of you for this fun blog relay!

In order to participate in this blog tour, I have to answer four specific questions, then pass on the baton to a further three writers whom you can read about at the end.

So here goes:


I have two works in progress. The working title of the main project is Out of the Shadows: Reflections of Lesser-known Women in the Bible.

What was it like to be the first and only woman? How did it feel to live on a giant boat with every type of living creature? Who was the first Christian evangelist recorded in history, and how thrilled was the old lady? And yes, I said old lady!

Have you ever thought of how it was to be the first woman to ever be pregnant? No other woman to assist you? No diapers? No books to read about dealing with two-year-olds? I am really enjoying the research as I look at the rarely-spoken-of characters behind some well-known names,like Sarai who was later called Sarah. Or Eve. Then there are the women whom we rarely hear mentioned in a sermon, such as Huldah, Jael, Anna and Elizabeth, not to mention the ladies who don’t have a name in Scripture—the Phoenician woman, the prostitute of Luke 7, the woman with the gynaecological problem, and others.

What can we learn about these women and what they went through? And more importantly, what do their lives say to us today? As I studied these ladies who appear in Scripture in the shadow of their famous husbands or other person, I was thrilled to learn how much their lives have to say to women who live today, perhaps under the shadow of an important husband or child, or an abusive relationship. Sometimes the shadow is even caused by the church they attend, or even the very fact that they are women. God created us all in His image, and He has so many exciting lessons for us, even if we think we live in the shadows.

My second project is Naomi's Long Road Home: Living with Heartbreak and Shattered Dreams. There are many books about Ruth. This is the story of Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law. What can we learn from the life of this brave woman of faith that will help us deal with our own times of heartache and shattered dreams? It would appear that this book would have come out of the previous one, but it actually worked the other way round. I had almost finished drafting this book, which I intend to release as an e-book, when I realised there were a whole lot more lesser-known women in Scripture with stories to tell. 

I have a problem deciding on my genre. All my published work is non-fiction, although I love writing novels for fun. (Seven times through NaNoWriMo proves that!) So the closest I can get is to say I write to inspire and encourage.

Where most Bible-based inspirational books stick with what is obvious in the Scripture passage, my goal is to enable readers to identify with the character’s emotions and behavior. I use anecdotes from modern situations where applicable, to bring the character to life in the minds of the readers, without departing from the truth as revealed in the Bible. In my current works I include background material taken from historical material and other parts of Scripture.

In Strength Renewed, Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer (Revell/Baker 2012) I take the reader on a typical cancer journey, linking it with true-life anecdotes and relevant Scriptures. My desire is to encourage those facing this life-threatening disease as they see that God is with them all the way, even during the darkest times. This book truly was a miracle in progress all the way along the line. If you are interested in reading more of how it came about, you can follow this link.

I do not want people to see me as a wonderful writer of a true book, but to see a true book about a wonderful God.


I love God’s Word and have a passion for helping others to apply it to their lives. Scripture tells us that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. Sometimes it is difficult to associate what we’re going through with the Word of God. I see my writing as an opportunity to help people bring the two together. I also enjoy looking for God at work in every day life, and I love to turn those events into story form. 


I do have a desk in an office which I share with my retired-pastor husband. However, I tend to write in different locations, one of my favourite being outside with my laptop as you can see above, or first thing in the morning before getting up. I do this particularly when I get inspiration for a devotional message during my Quiet Time.

Because I write mainly non-fiction, I start off with an idea of what I want the final work to be like. However, I am very much a seat-of-the-pants writer in that once I know where I’m headed I just go. I am also an inveterate note-taker. I jot down ideas in note-books, on the back of envelopes, on scraps of paper, on the back of important documents (!), and if all else fails on the palm of my hand. When I open my Bible in Church I have to be careful not to scatter pieces of paper in all directions.

Out of the Shadows, came out of my daily Quiet Time with the Lord. I noticed how many women there were in the Bible whom I really knew very little about. For example, Noah had a wife three sons and three daughters-in-law. That’s virtually all I knew about the women. They existed, and they went on a boat trip. A very long boat trip. I started thinking about Noah’s wife and all she must have gone through. I realised how much we could figure out about her from the Scriptures and from what we know about the culture of the time, and I knew I had to write about her. I then drew up a list of just about all the women in the Bible that we didn’t know much about. In some cases, the names were quite well known, but not the personalities.

It was nearly November, and I wanted to enter NaNoWriMo once last time. (This is the third time I've done it for the last time.) So I created two characters, Carey and Ross, and set one of them (Carey) to work to write the book. Ross, a fledgling Christian kept asking questions or disagreeing, which gave Carey opportunity to explain more about the character of the day. So I could honestly say I was writing a novel, although I had no intention of that being the final outcome.

Commencing on November 1, I wrote and researched flat out, completing the initial draft in three weeks. I then left it for two months partly because of Christmas and other deadlines, but also because I felt I needed to step back from it for a period. Where I had originally intended it to be a book of devotions, I realised it had turned out to be more of a book of reflections based on these women. The theme changed to be more of an encouraging meditation on their lives and the encouragement for us to stand tall, out of the shadows, and be the women God ordained us to be.

And so in February with a clearer picture of what the finished book should be like, I started a rewrite of the book. I am feeding the chapters to my critique group as I go, and once I’ve finished the rewrite I will start the editing and polishing process.

Because I live in S.Africa, publication is an even bigger challenge that for many other writers. My last book, Strength Renewed, Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer, was published as a result of contacts made when I attended a Christian Writers Conference in America. I don’t see that happening again, so I’m hoping to find an interested agent.

And so now it gives me great pleasure to pass three batons on to the following gifted writers and cyber friends:

Ray Hawkins is a retired Churches of Christ (Australia) minister. Married to Mary, a multi-published Christian Romance author, their three children and six grandchildren are their pride and joy. Ray still preaches, and he writes themed devotionals printed by Even Before Publishing. He assists at his son’s Seahorse World tourist business in Tasmania. Ray and Mary have been on three short-term mission trips to Africa. You can read about Ray's writing process on his blog on May 19th.

LeAnn Campbell is a retired special education teacher in SW Missouri, wife, mother, and grandmother. She is the author of a four-book Century Farm mystery series for kids (book #5, Secret Wall Mystery, to be released soon), published by OakTara. Book #6, Abandoned Schoolhouse Mystery, is her latest Work-in-Progress. The books are Christian, and she takes them into public and private school classrooms, where the students eagerly contribute ideas for the stories. You can read more about LeAnn's writing process on her blog on May 19th.

Heidi M. Thomas grew up on a working ranch in eastern Montana. She had parents who taught her a love of books and a grandmother who rode bucking stock in rodeos. Describing herself as “born with ink in her veins,” Heidi followed her dream of writing with a journalism degree from the University of Montana and later turned to her first love, fiction, to write her grandmother’s story.

Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, has won an EPIC Award and the USA Book News Best Book Finalist award. Follow the Dream, a WILLA Award winner, is the second book in the “Cowgirl Dreams" series about strong, independent Montana women. Dare to Dream completes the trilogy.

Heidi is a member of Women Writing the West and Professional Writers of Prescott. She is an avid reader of all kinds of books, enjoys the sunshine and hiking in north-central Arizona, where she writes, edits, and teaches memoir and fiction writing classes. Read more about Heidi's writing process on May 19th.


  1. Writing is really a major part of your life, isn't it Shirl? Your enthusiasm and constant encouragement of others comes through in all that you write, and the inspiration to write is a constant in your life. Congratulations on a well-written article. Enjoy the blog tour.

  2. Thanks Ann. Yes, it is a huge part of my life but somehow there is never enough time! This blog tour at the same time as the book marketing challenge is an interesting challenge to actually writing!

  3. Did you stick with the two characters in your Out of the Shadows book, Shirley? That sounds like it would have lots of potential for being practical and helping characters to identify with what you are saying.

    1. LeAnne, no. I actually got them involved in a church project with a team of people who were destined for disaster. It was a lot of fun, but I only used that as a "legal" way to do the book through NaNoWriMo. I am now busy on a rewrite which is a straight forward book of reflections on thirty lesser-known women. Having said that, I'm keen to resurrect the story and just zero in on one or two characters. That could be fun.

  4. I like your selfless approach to writing, as you put it, "I do not want people to see me as a wonderful writer of a true book, but to see a true book about a wonderful God."

    Having our priorities straight evaporates the pressure we put on our ourselves! Thank you.

    1. Thanks for your comment Sara. Yes, I sometimes think it's too easy to worry about being a fabulous writer and losing track of WHY you are writing - and what your reader needs to hear that they'll ONLY get from you.

  5. Writing is a process for sure, and a journey. It is interesting how Christian writers do their work in different ways but with a single purpose. Thanks Shirley.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Ray. Yes, I think the key learning for me in defining my process is I don't have a set process. :-) I know what I want to cover, and where I want to end, and then I run with it. The good thing is it's exciting watching it take shape. The bad thing is I end up doing a total rewrite!

  6. Hi Shirley. Great to meet another pantser though I am overawed by your rough draft in three weeks!

    1. Kara, this particular draft was tough to do in such a short time, as it involved a lot of research. I find a novel much easier as the characters take the story and run with it. However, I have found this is the best way for me to get the task finished. I sign up for NaNoWriMo (or another challenge) where I am accountable to a group. Then I go flat out. All other writing projects have to go on hold, as far as possible anyway. I couldn't always write at that pace, but it works for my first draft.

  7. Thanks for taking the baton from me, Shirley. A super post. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who writes in bed in her PJ's although I'm normally going to sleep after writing when you get up to write :)

    1. That's a pleasure, Marion. It was a good challenge for me personally to figure out what my process was. I can see ways I definitely need to refine it!

  8. Love seeing an inside look into your writing world. And yes, for me my bed is the most comfortable place to write. :-)

    1. Yay! Another one of us. We need to form a PJ group on FB or something. :-)