Blog – Mary Harwell Sayler

As the New Year begins, expand your options and improve your writing and publishing success with these tips and helps.

Source: Blog – Mary Harwell Sayler


Minipoems plant little seeds

A quick look at a day’s headlines reminds us how fragile life is – and how fragile the earth! As Christian poets and writers, many of us can’t help but think about our loved ones who don’t know the Lord or who have fallen away. Unfortunately, it’s easy to come on so strong that our words have the opposite effect.

One way to overcome this tendency yet say what needs to be said is to find an appropriate metaphor or symbol, then pour our words into a small container such as a minipoem or aahcoo. Maybe a loved one won’t even see our poems, but someone else’s loved ones might.

To recap an earlier conversation: an aahcoo focuses on God or a spiritual matter in a maximum of 3 to 7 syllables written on 3 to 7 lines.

This example uses the traditional haiku form of 5/7/5 syllables to understate a colossal concern. Lord willing, the poem might cause readers to consider their own spiritual condition:

Angels on the pond
their tiny searchlights blinking –
I wonder who’s lost?

by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016



Using alliteration for sound echoes and for fun

In case you haven’t had a chance to experiment with alliteration, here are two types to practice in your poems or when you want to turn up the audio for emphasis or humor in other genres of writing.

Assonance – This type of alliteration with vowels is more subtle than consonance, which is more subtle than rhyme. If words end in a vowel, they might rhyme too, but assonance typically comes in the sound of vowels at the beginning of a word or inside it.

For example, read the following question aloud and listen for the repetition of the uuuu (ew,ew,ew) sound in every word but “as.”

Would you choose Hugh as true?

Consonance – The alliteration most people notice when they’re reading is consonance where two or more words in close proximity begin with the same consonantal letter of the alphabet.

Generally speaking two or three repeated consonantal sounds on one line of poetry lend musicality to a poem. As you read aloud the following, listen especially for the echoing m, r, and g.

…the murmuring sounds of morning

Like end-line and internal rhymes, consonance emphasizes word, but much more subtly. A big exception is if you use multiple words with alliteration. Then you have a tongue twister, such as Suzy sells seashells by the seashore. Try saying that aloud a few times to see how long your tongue lasts without twisting!

Now, go back, reread that last sentence above and notice the alliterative use of l’s and t’s. You can slip that type of consonance into descriptive scenes in novels or other forms of fiction to add a touch of musicality. And, you can use light alliteration in nonfiction to lighten a mood.

As you increase the volume of sound echoes with consonance, you also increase the humor to a certain point before getting just plain silly:

Susie’s sale of seashells
makes no sense to me!
Why does she sell seashells
when, on the beach,
they’re free?

by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016.

For more help with poetry techniques, terminology, and forms to play with, order Mary’s e-book, the Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry, based on the study course she wrote and used for years with other poets and poetry students. The guide is for almost any poet, but the poetry examples come from a Christian perspective. Hopefully, the title also lets poet-readers know that the poems used to illustrate various principles are G-rated. 🙂

Tips on writing nonfiction

• Pick a subject that clearly relates to the theme and purpose of the publication or blog for which you would like to write.

• List the points you want to make. [Hint: Give your ideas time to surface.]

• Select the most significant, timely, and/or freshest points.

• Arrange those points in order of importance.

Next, evaluate how long your article will probably need to be.

If you have one main point or fresh perspective you want to discuss in, say, 200 to 300 words, that would be about the right length for a blog post.

If you have 3 to 5 points you’d like to develop in, say, 1500 to 3000 words, that could be a magazine article.

If you have a long list of points that will require research and/or take time to explain, you might have the makings of a book!

If you’re interested in suggestions on ways to develop each point, let me know in the Comment space below, and, Lord willing, we can talk about that next time.

by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2015

Besides a couple dozen books in all genres for Christian and educational markets, Mary has placed over 1,500 articles, devotionals, and other short manuscripts with traditional and indie publishers. She also wrote the Christian Writers Guide e-book on writing, revising, and publishing to help you in your Christian writing life.


Step into the New Year: writing, revising, and marketing

Preliminary Steps:

Study classical and popular works in your favorite writing genre.

Consider what draws readers to a particular poem, story, article, or book.

Study magazines and other publications you like to read.

Get familiar with the book catalogues of publishers whose work you like.

Consider potential gaps that your story, poem, article, or book might fill.

Writing Plan:

Plan your fiction or nonfiction manuscript before you begin.

Decide on a theme, purpose, and reading audience.

Thoroughly research your topic or story setting.

Outline each article or nonfiction book.

Write a synopsis of your novel in present tense.

Both the synopsis and the outline should be from 1 to 5 pages.

Writing, Revising, and Marketing:

Let your writing flow without criticizing yourself, then let your work rest.

Later read those pages as if someone else had written them.

Read your work aloud and notice if anything seems “off.”

Pinpoint a problem, and you will usually find a solution.

Revise to make the manuscript your best before you send it to a publisher.

Find and follow writers’ guidelines located on the company’s website.

Query several editors at once about an idea or book proposal, but when you submit your actual manuscript, send it to only one editor at a time.

When mailing your manuscript by postal service, enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) to cover its potential return.

Keep track of where, when, and to whom you mailed each manuscript.

If you don’t hear back in 3 months, follow up with a brief, polite email.

While you wait to hear from one editor, query another editor about your next idea.

Repeat the above steps.

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer and poet-author of 27 traditionally published books in all genres is on a mission to help other Christian Poets & Writers through blogs, writing resources, and e-books such as the Christian Writer’ Guide.

Knowing what and when to write

Most writers wonder where or how to start when they first begin to write, but seasoned writers also have difficulty discerning which subject or story idea to focus on next. Assuming you have prayed for God’s guidance, just begin with whatever God brings to your mind. For example:

• Make a list of the Bible verses that speak to you often.

• Consider your Life Themes such as encouraging people or ministering healing to the church.

• Keep a diary, notebook, scrapbook, or journal.

• Practice journaling in a written conversation with God.

• List stories in your life that might make illustrative works of fiction.

• Start an “Idea Folder” on your favorite topics, interests, and places you would like to go.

• Jot down dreams, thoughts, and insights that come to you on awakening.

• Write down every idea God brings to mind for a story, article, or book.

If an idea or subject comes up again and again, prayerfully consider this as the start of a writing project, then let your imagination play. Have fun with the possibilities. Get comfy. Relax. Focus on a central topic or story idea, then let your thoughts flow. Write down everything that comes to mind without censoring yourself or eliminating any possibilities at this point. Later, you can cut or insert words as you revise.

Why wait? Writing and editing involve two separate tasks and actually use two different parts of the brain. By separating those aspects of your work into different time slots, you’ll avoid short-circuiting yourself!

Writing takes time. Revising takes time. So you might be wondering what you’ll do when you have no time to spare. Simple! Use snatches. A minute here or a half-hour there, waiting around for something, can offer writing moments you might not have realized were yours. For example, consider how “Tweeting” in 140 characters sounds inconsequential, but spending only a few minutes a day on Twitter for four years gave me 147 single-spaced, typewritten pages!

Although a well-written manuscript consists of more than tweets, notes, and fleeting thoughts, a little time at the beginning of a writing project can save you all sorts of time (and grief!) as you proceed. For example, almost every type of writing needs an underlying theme and purpose with an appropriate audience in mind. A favorite Bible verse can provide that theme, perhaps, with the purpose of helping to increase a reader’s faith in God, Christ, the church, love, forgiveness, or biblical principle such as this important word for Christian poets and writers:

“Wear steadfast love, kindness, and truth around your neck. Write them on your heart, and you will have a good reputation with God and with people too. Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on what you think you know. Remember God in everything you do, and the Lord will show you the way,” Proverbs 3:3-6

© 2014 Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. This above post is an excerpt from the Christian Writer’s Guide e-book.

Christian Writer’s Guide, Kindle e-book on Amazon


Time in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry

• Let a narrative poem, true story, novel, or short story unfold according to its time sequence.

• Avoid flashbacks or use sparingly.

• Avoid distractions or unnecessary interruptions.

• Let time flow.

• In nonfiction, arrange each point chronologically, sequentially, or logically in the natural order of development.

• Make your points then move along from one point of interest to another.


© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler – poet-author of 26 traditionally published books in all genres, and a lifelong lover of Jesus Christ, the Bible, and the church – wrote the Christian Writers’ Guide e-book with you in mind.


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