The Glory Writers has tackled the topic of publishing quite a bit, so let’s take a moment to talk about what happens AFTER publishing a book. Post publication blues: it’s a thing. After years of writing and editing, months of prep, and the whirlwind of release day, it’s not unusual to experience a subsequent slump. The little interim between projects can be a tough spot to be in. It can be hard to get back into drafting when you’ve been in an administrative mode for a long period of time; I know, that’s what happened to me last year. It was during such an interim that I embraced it as a chance to explore some of the opportunities that can forward our author careers, give back to the writing community, and refill our creative tanks. So are you ready? Let’s explore 7 CONSTRUCTIVE THINGS YOU CAN DO AFTER PUBLISHING A BOOK.

1. Try Something Short

Been working on a long novel for a year? Try writing some flash fiction. Maybe work on that short story that you’re going to use as a “loss leader” for your newsletter. When you’ve finished a book that has taken you years to create, it can be intimidating to immediately sit down and start the noveling process all over again.

Easing back into the game with shorter deadlines can be a relief, and give you the satisfaction of finishing while you’re preparing your next big project.

2. Rewrite Something

After months of editing and proofreading, it sometimes feels as if the brain has forgotten how to put NEW words on a blank page. Do you have a half-written novella or an old project that needs some overhauling? Try writing some new scenes for a project that you’re familiar with to get over that fear of drafting. 

3. Read Some Books

When you’re embroiled in the final months of getting a novel out into the world, squeezing in reading time can be difficult. So during this interim, Instead of rereading your story five hundred plus times, try reading someone else’s story for some rest and inspiration. 

4. Try A New Style / Medium

My sister, Tor, has started writing poetry and plays to shake up her creative muse, and I’m following suit! I used to write haikus, but abandoned the effort in favor of making all my writing sessions “count” towards publication. But I’m feeling the need to play again with writing, so I started experimenting with poetry and I’m really enjoying it – especially the fact that I’m writing in a notebook with a real pen, and not a computer. The unknown of discovery and experimentation can really unlock your creative juices. 

5. Update Your Website

My website needed an overhaul with tiny details like adding my book to my site for readers to buy signed copies, new graphics, etc. While I haven’t finished, the process has begun!

6. Promote Another Product

I handle the social media for T Spec Fiction, the e-zine I run with my sisters. Since I was taking a break from my last book release, it gave me the opportunity to finish setting up a newsletter for Worlds of Adventure and start promoting it!

I’ve also been promoting the works of some friends, making graphics for an author, writing a book endorsement, and sharing about ebook sales.

7. Outline

Instead of feverishly focusing on word counts or getting so many chapters edited a day, outlining gives you a chance to tap into the root of your creative well and to start daydreaming on pages again. If you’ve been feverishly producing a polished product, it’s a good idea to start meditating on stories again.

Light a candle, get that playlist, sit somewhere quiet, and allow your mind to cook up stories with the total creative freedom of a child.


These are some of the things I’ve been pursuing these days. I’m giving myself till the end of the year to rest and recharge, to explore and enjoy.

There’s always a new year and a new resolution. There will always be another big commitment.

If you’re in your own interim period right now as a writer, I hope these suggestions will give you some guidance on how to recharge in a productive manner. 

Get to Know Allison!

How to Optimize Hashtags on Instagram

The world of hashtags is vast. And as authors, we want to utilize every tool at our disposal to find our ideal readers! There are so many different words of advice here and there, but it all comes down to a few principles I have found that work. The one caveat is that these things are ever changing so keep that in mine. We have to move and shift in the market, but these are the things that I have found that work for me! 

 I have gone from having 2-3 views per post due to hashtags to now having hundreds if not thousands of views from hashtags alone using these tools. I hope this helps you and gives you some guidance on how in the world to use Hashtags on Instagram! 

Here are 5 of my higher performing posts and you can see how many of those views came from hashtags! It might not seem like they are doing much at first, but, by the way I figure it, those people would not have seen my content if not for hashtags!

What is a hashtag and how does it work?

Apps like Instagram are search engines at their core. They are becoming more intuitive as days go on. Hashtags are simply a way to “tag” your post, allowing the search engine to find it more readily under frequently searched or followed terms.

Types of hashtags to use: 

When it comes to these fanciful, mystical wonders called hashtags, there are definitely some tips to consider when choosing your hashtags. 

1~ Make sure they are subject and niche specific.

There are a host of topics that I post under, but generally the topics fall under 3-5 categories. This comes down to niche, but I wouldn’t recommend having more than 3-5 topics you cover. This is what is going to make you niche specific. They can be super general, like one of mine is Devotional, another fashion. These topics are very broad and there are a lot of narrower topics and hashtags to utilize within those general terms. Once you have an idea of what those groupings of content are, start searching through hashtags that fit within those niches. One good way to find some is to ask what hashtags your favorite influencers and Instagrammers are using? 

2~ Relevant to your topic and your post.

Does it fit? Here’s the deal. When it comes to the hashtag you are using, I like to use the Instagram app itself to search for new hashtags. Once I find one I think will be a good fit, I like to look at the posts within that hashtag to make sure that my content will match what is going on. There’s nothing worse than having a feminine clothing hashtag only to have some dudes posting car photos or some such nonsense to gain attention. Not the right demographic. Don’t be like Larry and post photos in the wrong hashtag for the extra exposure. No one looks at them. He would be far better served posting those with hashtags such as #hotrod #fancytruck and #checkoutmynewride. 😉 

3~ Look at the post count within that hashtag:

There are some rules of advice I like to give when you search for your hashtags. Make sure the number of posts within that hashtag don’t exceed 1M. That’s just way too much traction which means that the people who follow that hashtag won’t get much of a chance to see your post because it will go by so fast. There is too much traffic in those hashtags for you to stand out so we want to pick a smaller market to make your posts more visible. Don’t use hashtags with too tiny of a post count either. Same thing, just opposite problem. Your audience will be too small. The 5K-70K range is perfect for what you are looking for, with hashtags throughout that range mixed in your groups is PERFECT. So keep the variance pretty large amongst that number. You will want some with smaller and some with larger. Try to vary the popularity of the hashtags you use.

4~ Use 20-25 niche specific hashtags, 1-2 branding hashtags, and 5 post specific.

While not a perfect ratio (get creative) this is a good rule to shoot for to make sure you are varying your posts, getting your brand specific hashtags and posting to hashtags that actually go with the topic of your post. 

General Tips:


1~ Use all 30. This may change, but for now, I’ve noticed more success with 30 over the recommended 15. It’s 30 new opportunities to hit the right demographic.

2~ Separate them from your caption (cleanliness and personal preference): This may be personal preference, but I prefer to keep the hashtags separated from my caption. It keeps things from getting muddy and gives the focus to my caption. I either separate them from the caption with a period and enter times three, or put them in the first comment right away after posting. 

3~  Vary and shuffle your hashtags: Story time. I was using the same grouping of hashtags too often and Instagram stopped letting me post captions. Completely. Which is literally the life blood of my instagram content. So don’t make my mistake. Make sure you are varying and shuffling your hashtags. You can find tools for this in the Toolbox section below. Instagram likes difference, originality and the shuffling of content. They definitely don’t like cookie-cutter. 


1~ Don’t post random hashtags that don’t apply to the post or your content in general. Basically the reason I mention this rule is because when you aren’t posting hashtags that pertain to your content, you aren’t attracting your ideal reader. The people you are trying to reach aren’t in that niche, so therefore they aren’t coming to your post. You want the people your post can help or resonate with to be the ones who see it. 

2~ Don’t use massive hashtags with millions of posts. You are in the ocean instead of in a pond. You can’t find a needle in a haystack and your post will just simply disappear. 

3~ Sprinkle them throughout your caption. This just gets confusing and destroys the readability of your caption. 

4~ Don’t use tiny non-existent hashtags. No one is going to see your post if only three people follow that hashtag. Along those lines, make sure your hashtag is spelled correctly and you aren’t creating a broken hashtag that no one follows. 

5~ Don’t reuse the same pattern too often. Again. Mentioned above, Instagram hates it when you use the same hashtags and will downgrade your content or remove your caption or comment altogether. 

How to organize your hashtags and build your own toolbox! 

Use Google Sheets to create a spreadsheet of hashtags.

Below is a screenshot of my toolbox and how I organize it. 

When researching the hashtags, I made sure I found them under specific topics and then filed them in that section. I like having the tally of how many hashtags that I have in each section so that I am not over-posting or under-posting hashtags and know just how many I need to create in order to have my 30 for each post. 

Use Hashtag Shuffle:

The next hashtag tool that I use is called hashtagshuffle.com. I throw a few different gathered hashtag groups into their sort window, tell it to give me 25 (I use the other five for post specific and brand hashtags) Then click shuffle. It will pick out a random 25 for you to use. Copy and paste into your post, adding as many as you need to to create your list of 30. 

For instance, I may be posting on my walk with God next to a beautiful cottagecore style photo of one of my dresses. I’ll copy the fashion, devo, and seamstress sections, paste them all into the shuffle window on hashtagshuffle.com, select 25, then shuffle. These will go into my post with 5 more branding, or topic specific hashtags to complete the 30.

Use HishHash:

Next tool is the app called HishHash. I don’t like using this exclusively because I like to browse these hashtags on Instagram before I choose to use them as I want to make sure I am getting organic results and that my photos really truly match that hashtag. But this is a handy tool to search hashtags because it will show you what the post count is for that specific one. You can also add them to groups you create. It’s a mix of my two methods above. But as stated, I like to vary between the three methods to create the most organic experience. 

Use Planoly:

This app is a little wonder, and I use it for my personal Instagram and Facebook. I have the paid version, but used the free version for about 6 months before I knew I wanted to level up. I love the auto post feature, (which I will warn against unless you are committed to being present when you post so you can engage. Scheduling gives you an easy out to forget it, so I don’t recommend it)

You can auto post to Insta and FB at the same time which is what I use it for, but I enjoy using the hashtag counter. It tells you how many hashtags you have in your post and if you miscounted and went over, it won’t let you post it. Unlike the Instagram app itself that just erases the entire caption if you accidentally post too many hashtags. With the paid version, if you are a long caption writer like me, then I highly recommend the first comment feature which allows you to post all your hashtags in the first comment of your post and it will automatically post that along with it. It is super helpful and saves me a ton of headache when it comes time to post.

You can also save hashtag groups on this app! I don’t know if it shuffles it though, so pay attention to that. Using the same group all the time is one sure way to get your captions deleted. At least in my experience. 

There are so many things about Planoly that I love and you can check out the app here! 

Hashtag away!

I hope you found this helpful and that you use this hashtag guide to help you on your journey! If you found this useful, please share with your friends and other creators who are trying to grow on Instagram!

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My #1 Tip For Corraling Your Plot Bunnies 

Maybe this scenario is relatable to you.

You have a deadline, or you are committed to working on a single writing project, but then suddenly you watch a movie or read a book and get a new idea.

Suddenly you are losing your mind with the overwhelming desire to write a superhero story . . . but you can’t, because you’re committed to your historical romance.

This happens to me all the time. I don’t often get what is commonly called plot bunnies, but I get “vibe temptation” constantly.

For instance, I recently watched Encanto for the first time and now all I want to work on is magical realism set in South America about a family living in a magical house.

I don’t want to tell the story of Encanto, I just want to play in that world (i.e. soak in the vibe with my own unique story).

But the problem is, I have other goals and deadlines! I can’t just follow every little idea whenever I want like some untrained bloodhound puppy.

And yet, if I try to ignore this urge, the desire to follow a vibe can be so overwhelming, you can be distracted to the point of madness from your main WIP.  

Trust me, I’m familiar with this feeling.
I’ve heard of other authors dealing with this problem by simply writing down the idea to get it out of their head and then moving on. But this doesn’t work for me for several reasons.

#1. I’m impatient and I want to follow the vibe NOW. 

The writers’ life can be pretty mind-numbing as we devote countless hours to polishing one single story, so you can’t blame me for wanting a rare scrap of immediate gratification.

#2. Most of the time, these passing vibes are just that – vibes. 

There’s not much to them and it would actually be a waste of time to try and develop them into a full-fledged novel. They’re interesting but they’re not interesting enough to demand a good chunk of my life. Not every idea is worth developing into a full-length novel, and yet the ideas and urges keep coming.

In light of all this, I have come up with a method to grant myself short-term gratification on these sudden storytelling urges while STILL remaining focused on my current writing projects.

The answer has actually proved to be incredibly simple. 

I write short stories and I make lists.

I keep a short-list of “vibes” that I want to capture some day and will pick whichever one is most demanding and, within a very short period, cross it off the list. 

Here’s a recent example. I wanted to write something with the same vibes of one of my favorite miniseries The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. These vibes encompass such things as England in the 1700s, creepy moonlit marshes, flintlock shoot-outs, masked figures, highwaymen, etc. 

I sat down to write a short story to deal with the impulse and, voila, I wound up with an eerie and action-packed novelette called SECRETS OF THE NETHER MOOR.
And just like that, I satisfied the urge and had something to show for it.

Here’s a breakdown of my process.

For every book I read or movie I watch, I make a list of the settings and premises that really capture my imagination and write it down on my “Vibe List.”

I also keep a second list called “Characters Who Have Been Wronged.”

This is a list of characters from books, films, or TV shows. They could be anything from botched arcs, overlooked sidekicks, or villains I wanted to see redeemed. Essentially, any character that I liked and want to “fix.”

I will cross-reference this character list with my Vibe List and use this as a jumping-off point for a short story.

Here’s an example. Encanto’s setting is on my Vibe List and Bucky Barnes is on my “Characters Who Have Been Wronged” List.

Obviously, dreaming about how to give Bucky Barnes the ending he deserved in a magical South American setting with sentient houses suggests all kinds of fun possibilities!

After consulting my lists, I take an hour or so out of each day for approximately one week and use that time to write my story.

Typically, I’ll have a short story at the end of that time period and will have simultaneously scratched that new idea itch. 

(Note: This timeline works for me, but you could certainly do it faster or take it slower!)

And lo, with a bit of elbow grease and time, I satisfy my longings to dabble in a new locale as well as administer justice to a fictional character by giving them a chance to shine in my own unique take on their arc.

It’s immensely satisfying.

But aside from being a great way to achieve (nearly) immediate gratification on those random plot bunnies, this is not mere indulgence.

There are so many great reasons to work on short stories and these random junkets can truly work for you in a number of ways. 

#1. You will sharpen your writing skills. 

When I started writing flash fiction and short stories, I saw my storytelling skills advance in leaps and bounds.

The shorter your story, the more you are forced to hone your language, tighten your pacing, and make every scrap of characterization count. Writing more short stories will only improve your craft.

#2. You can use your short stories to forward your career. 

Submit these short stories to magazines and anthologies! If you’re turned down, you’ll learn how to deal with rejection. If you’re accepted, you’ll learn how to work with mainstream editors and wrestle through the balance of when and where to compromise on edits, and when to stand your ground.

If your stories are accepted you will build your publishing portfolio. Alternatively, if you don’t want to submit to magazines, you can give your short stories away in your newsletter to grow your audience or you can publish it on Amazon to earn a little more income.

The possibilities of how short stories can advance your career and improve your craft are almost endless!

#3. It can be a good mental break.

If I’m struggling with my main work-in-progress, or encountering a season of writer’s block, I’ve found that going cold turkey on writing does me more harm than good.

Everyone is different but, for me, if I turn the valve off entirely, I have a terrible time getting the writing to flow again.

After years of experimentation, I’ve discovered that keeping a tiny dribble going constantly works for me, as opposed to writing in fits and starts.

Consequently, if I need a mental break from writing, it is much more helpful to simply switch to a different (smaller) project than to stop writing.

Short stories have kept my creative-stream flowing during droughts and kept me poking at writing until I was ready to return to my main projects.

Sometimes life gets hard or creativity hits a wall, and short stories can help with that. When you’re recovering from an injury or strain, gentle stretches and easy exercises are the key, not abandoning all movement. Short stories have kept me limber, just as short jogs would help you train for a marathon.

And there you have it: my number one tip for corralling “plot vibes” and plot bunnies! I hope this post helps you wrangle those random ideas into satisfying stories.

7 Ways To Deal With Negative Feedback

Dealing with negative reviews. Some complain, some sidestep the issue or brush it off. “Being an author is tough, get over it!”

Well, sometimes we can’t get over it that easily.

I’ve always been one of those people who like bullet point instructions on how to do something, and that inspired me to compile some practical tips on how to deal with negative reviews!

And, just to clarify, I’m talking one star humdingers, not the small critiques that pop up in three star reviews.

Let’s get started!


I once saw a review that really stung, so I decided to act.

Within the hour, I packaged up one of my books along with an encouraging card and sent it to a young fan.

If you’re discouraged over an encounter with the wrong reader, send a copy to your ideal audience! Write a short story for a loved one and surprise them with it. Write a heartfelt card for a friend. Whatever the method, use your writing to bless someone.

When someone hurts you with their words, using your words to do a kindness for someone else is one of the best remedies for turning the situation around.


Never call out a reviewer online or attack them in any way.  Don’t complain about nasty reviews; you never know who’s watching. If readers see you’re the type of author that stalks your reviewers and whines about them . . . that’s the fastest way in the world to lose future readers.

Here’s what I really mean about posting something online. I once saw a negative review of one of my books. Their remarks caused me to reflect and, while mentally sorting through what was true and what wasn’t about this person’s comment, it inspired me to really nail down one of my characters!

I used NEGATIVE comments to inspire me to dig POSITIVELY into the character in question, affirming to myself who the character really is and then sharing it in a special post with my audience.

Do you see the difference? My post could not be traced back to that reviewer because I was merely sharing what inspires me about my character! And, woven subtly into that, there was a clarification to those who might, like that reader, misunderstand my character.


Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you absolutely must rant about a review. When this urge overtakes you, do it in person.

Posting nasty things on a public account looks unprofessional, and it is a bad testimony, since we’re essentially urging our loyal followers to grab pitchforks and go after the reviewer in question. We shouldn’t ever encourage our fans to bully someone over their personal opinion. 

It’s also usually not a good idea to rant to your peers (either through texts or groups), because they are more than likely also your reviewers and they’ll never feel comfortable reviewing your work again now that they know what you think of people who don’t love every little thing about your book.

When I need to rant, I talk to my sisters, who don’t have social media, so they can’t virtually strangle the person that hurt me. I strongly advise talking to someone face to face or on the phone or via video chat. You’ll still get it off your chest, but you also won’t get yourself into trouble by posting or texting information that can be copied and reshared.


Some years ago I saw some comments about one of my books that really hurt. I had tears running down my face but I grabbed my laptop and started typing on the next story just to show my critics that, no matter what anyone said, I wasn’t going to stop.

My bit of “positive rebellion” made me feel better, and the physical action of typing affirmed to my mind that I was determined to carry on, despite the mental urge to quit.

Let the anger out through your keyboard! Use the opportunity to write that emotion-charged scene you’ve been avoiding! Then take a deep breath and remind yourself that real writers don’t quit—no matter what anyone says.


When I see a review that puzzles or annoys me, I try to think of it from the reviewer’s perspective.

A reader’s mind is like a universal translator from Star Trek. The reader translates books into their own unique language and frequency. Each reader is unique, and they can’t help translating what they read into the language they’re most familiar with. Sometimes the translation is good, sometimes it’s bad.

Perhaps your character reminded the reader of someone who had been cruel to them. Perhaps that action sequence reminded them of a stressful time in their life. And so, consequently, their brain tells them they hate this book.

That’s perfectly normal; it’s happened to me. It’s not the author’s fault, it’s simply my past and my experiences translating the words on paper.

Some readers may overreact (we all need to be reminded that just because a book bothers us, that doesn’t mean our personal triggers make the book unhealthy or dangerous for others) but those are still legitimate reasons for them to dislike a book.

And there is absolutely nothing you can do to change it.

Everyone reads through their own personal lens. When a reader opens a book, they bring their background, their baggage, their prejudices, their preferences, and their beliefs. People tend to project themselves and their experiences into what they are reading and anything that remotely reminds them of something painful will naturally upset or anger them.

That doesn’t make your book terrible or dangerous, nor does it mean you responsible for that person’s reactions. It’s simply their own pain, experiences, or prejudices talking. And since all readers do this, myself included, I can’t be annoyed about it!

These types of reactions to my books aren’t a personal attack, it’s simply a read, just like me, wrestling with their translations.

Their perspective, ultimately, has nothing to do with me and, thus, their reaction is probably not an accurate reflection of the quality of my book or the intention behind my story.

Be quick to embrace empathy. Once you do, you’ll be able to move past your offense and look at negative reviewers sympathetically. 


More than once, some controversy in the publishing world has caused me to pick up a book I normally wouldn’t read out of sheer contrariness. Many times, someone’s one star review has made me realize that I want to read a book because the things they disliked are actually things I enjoy! So don’t fret when your book gets a low rating. Yes, you might lose some readers, but you could just as likely GAIN some new readers. Consider it a bit of free publicity that just might grab the attention of readers who are going to LOVE your book. 


Sadly, there is a small pool of people online who are genuinely nasty who have dedicated their lives to shredding everything in sight and spewing out vitriol for no reason.

Don’t worry about this crowd. A reader like that is to be pitied, nothing more.

Imagine never being able to enjoy a book because you’re too busy destroying them. Imagine never being able to support an author because you’re too busy hating them. What a sad and terrible existence. 

That’s their loss, not yours. Ignore these this sort of reviewer and reader and keep writing.


These are tips I learned the hard way, because I see very few authors talking about how to professionally and constructively deal with negative reviews.

When in doubt, be silent, be kind, be generous, be professional. 

Always remember that art is subjective. Just because someone critiques you does not make them a hater. Not everyone will like your book, and that’s okay.

One last thing. Don’t forget that Jesus, the Great Physician, is more than able to heal your heart from anything that might have wounded it.

I can testify that when I’ve been demoralized, God was there very shortly afterwards with a miraculous bit of encouragement; the timing was always perfect. He didn’t let the hurt of some comment or review or failure or rejection fester for long before sending a friend with a compliment, or a flash of inspiration, or a bit of clarity.

The ointment of His kindness is always close at hand. He cares about your writing, and He wants to use it. You can trust in His strength to keep you going. 

It’s Release Day // Author Interview

The Glory Writers was established by our beloved Victoria Lynn (and her best friend, Livy Jarmusch), with a shared heart. One that beats with the gnawing ache, to fill the void within the Secular and Christian fiction market. To offer pure and epic stories for the up and coming generations; tales of light against darkness in an age that glorifies evil, rather than the goodness of the Creator. 

As our platform has grown in wisdom and stature– and is continuously growing, as more hands join together across the map on this same, sweet journey– we recently, finally announced a long awaited, dream-come-true: 

We’ve started a press.

The Lord has officially given us the green light, and though we’re being prayerful and thoughtful about how we go about this process, we aren’t slowing down from Godspeed. 

On that note, it only makes sense that “Once I Knew” by Victoria Lynn, our founder, would be the first novel published under our seal. And rightfully worthy are both Victoria, and her precious book, to carry such a mantel into the fiery unknown. 

A [YA] medieval fantasy, OIK is about bodily and soul-bound amnesia. What it’s like to forget who you are, and who God is; the heights some human beings are willing to travel, to unearth their potential and their future…and the depths others go, to bury the past. 

Today, I’m privileged to interview Victoria on her new release, her passion for the art of storytelling, and the Holy Spirit’s power behind her pen. I pray you find inspiration to visit the world of her imagination, as well as revisit your own. 

GW: If you could narrow it down, what five words describe “Once I Knew” and the world of Elira, best?

VL: FIVE WORDS! So rude. LOL! That’s like an insult to a writer. I’ll try. 

Medieval, Generational, Epic, Internal, Battle.

GW: I’d say most (if not all) authors have the habit of hiding pieces of themselves within the hearts of their characters. What part of Obed and Violet, your MC’s— whether that be characteristic, part of their plot, even thematic lesson—belonged to you, first?

VL: Oof, this is such a great question! Honestly. there is something hidden in each of them for sure. Violet’s struggle with anxiety, despite being a strong and well grounded individual is definitely something that I struggled with very personally. So much of her victory and discovery in this area is something that I personally also deal with. 

Obed and his journey with the Lord is also something that was very personal. What God spoke to Him and his redemption story is something that I have very real experience with and oftentimes, felt like the words were for me as much as for Obed. 

Something that also stands out to me in this area is Violet’s struggle with compassion and boundaries. How to be a force for good and light, while also carefully tending to the garden of her heart and keeping the gate closed against the enemy. 

GW: Having read OIK myself, I’d say it’s a gem of a fresh classic within the Christian Fiction community. In your view, what are some new or even uniquely long-forgotten attributes that your book offers readers?

VL: The style of description is very heavily patterned in older books. It’s something that feels like a bit of a lost art and can fall by the wayside in newer books, so the descriptions of nature and the turn of phrase was very purposeful for me, and also hugely inspiring. 

I also think the approach of characters and the ways that the hear and interact with the Lord feels very real to me, it’s written in a way that is heavily influenced by my relationship with the Lord and the capabilities of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Hearing from God and truly hearing His voice outside of simply reading scripture (everything He says should obviously match and align with His word) is something that the church as a whole doesn’t seem to talk much about and encourage, but it makes sense because He is a relational God. Of course He wants to talk to us. This book I hope is a key to people to see how He can and does relate with His children. 

GW: You’ve been extremely vocal about God asking you to lay down your pen for a prolonged season of your life. In light of that, you waited quite a few years to publish OIK, as well as get back into the writing game. What advice would you give to someone who’s struggling with surrendering their dreams and goals to the Lord?

VL: He can carry it and manage it far better than we ever could. Remember that He is truly the author of all, He owns the cattles on a thousand hills, He has the ability to build up or tear down in an instant what many strive years for. Don’t feel like your time away from your pen is a waste because He can do in a moment what it takes others years to accomplish. He is fully capable of doing more with your gift than you could ever imagine. Seek Him on what He wants to teach and show you during this season and use it as an opportunity to grow and dive deeper with Jesus than to waste time or the experience waiting for it to come back. 

GW: The title of your novel, Once I Knew, obviously has many implications that are woven into the the book. Forgetfulness forced by fear and sorrow, and the fight to know who you are when you’re unknown to yourself, to name a few. Within a culture of constant identity crises and spiritual amnesia, what is it that you long for readers to remember, and hope they’re reminded of when reading this story? 

VL: I hope they remember and are reminded that their story matters. God has a distinct and unique call and destiny for each of their lives. You were created with a purpose and even in the pain and the struggle and the overwhelming pressure to change and be something other than who He created you to be, It’s in those moments and those places that your destiny is so much greater. The greater the darkness, the more import you have in turning the tide. The ONLY source of identity is Christ and what He says about us. But we need to be listening. We need to hold fast, and we need to stand our ground. Because we are the light bearers and we can and will turn this tide. 

“Once I Knew” is available on Amazon for digital and paperback purchase. 

Why Christian Authors Should Stop Joking About Torturing Their Characters

I’ve never liked it when authors joke about torturing their characters, and the other day I saw something that made me realize why.

In a Facebook group I lurk in, someone had posted a meme that went something like this: 

AUTHORS: “Look at my character, I love them so much.”

ALSO AUTHORS: “Now watch me break them like a light stick. Look at them burn.”

I rolled my eyes and started to scroll away . . . then froze when I saw the top comment. 

Someone had commented saying that they had always envisioned God like this: in other words, distantly cruel and even sadistic. They thought this joke was an accurate and realistic portrayal of God. 

This comment broke my heart, and it made me realize why authors making jokes about torturing their characters bothers me so much. 

I firmly believe that Christian writers shouldn’t just be striving for excellence in our stories but in our entire attitude towards the writing process. And one way to do that is to stop joking about making your characters suffer. Here’s why. 

First of all, let’s clarify something. 

No suffering is ever funny. 

As someone who’s suffered daily pain for the last eight years, I can testify that there is nothing amusing about it. Thank God, He has helped me preserve my humor through the pain, but the pain itself is not funny. It is something I struggle with daily and, during my lowest points, my flesh tries to challenge the kindness of God and ask, “Why is He letting me suffer?” 

Christians and non-Christians alike are bombarded with the temptation to doubt God’s goodness every day. When confronted with suffering, many people’s first reaction is to question God. We, the characters on this Earthly stage, turn in despair and confusion towards the Divine Author and ask “Why did this happen? You must not care.”

While this challenge can, and should, be answered through Scripture, Christian authors can still be stepping into the breach of this question through the power of storytelling. Believing authors should be representing the kindness of a loving Creator, showing through our writing that suffering has a purpose and that God does not delight in seeing us weep.

But, instead, we have jokes like the one above. 

Look at that person’s comment again; let it sink in for a minute. 

Now ask yourself this question: how many people view God this way because of writers

When we make jokes about making our characters suffer, we can be planting seeds of doubt in people’s hearts.

Yes, I’m mature enough to separate the truth from the joke, but not everyone else is, and we should be mindful of that because authors, in a sense, represent the Great Author. And this is not how God writes our stories. 

God doesn’t sit down in the morning and look over His cast of characters with an evil smile and say, “Who do I get to torture today?” It’s an unimaginably disrespectful and false image. 

Christ writes our stories with care, with compassion, with forethought and foresight. He doesn’t discipline us to torment us, but to refine us. Yes, sometimes God allows the consequences of a fallen world to touch us (sickness, war, and so forth) but that is part of a bigger plan—it is the incentive pushing us back to trust and submission when we wander from our devotion. 

But God never laughs over your suffering. He doesn’t elbow the angels and say, “Watch me ruin this one.” He is the Mender, not the Breaker. 

The now-accepted trope of authors being repressed killers who are creating purely for the enjoyment of imparting suffering to their characters and readers might be largely a joke, but it’s a joke in poor taste, and it has created a toxic standard as more and more authors rush to chime in.

I have a good sense of humor, but I simply don’t understand the reasoning behind this jest. Why would you create something solely for the purpose of tormenting it? Why would you create something only to destroy it? That’s what Satan does. Satan will manipulate situations and mold people to make dreams and hopes and scenarios that he can then kick apart like a pile of blocks. And then he laughs.

I truly feel that there is a devilish bent to these “torture your characters and laugh” jokes, and I think it’s fair to ask . . . 

Why are Christian writers emulating Satan, instead of Christ? 

Rather than reinforce the doubt that pervades human hearts with tasteless jokes about creators enjoying the suffering of their creation, let us write stories radiating with mercy and compassion, stories where the readers can clearly see a greater plan at work in the lives of the characters: a plan for good and not for evil.  

I fail constantly in how I represent Christ and I’m not the best writer in the world and never will be. But this one thing I can say about myself: I do not, in any way, enjoy making my characters suffer. I respect my readers and my characters too much to stoop to enjoying tormenting either of them.

Little human incidents like bumping into annoying people, missing an appointment, stubbing their toe, getting a cold—I smile or chuckle writing these, because they’re the daily little embarrassments, flubs, and miscommunications that keep us (or our characters) humble. 

But when my characters are truly suffering, I suffer too. I have cried many tears over the main character in my series and have been in pain as I crafted his character arc. I have hated his suffering, but injected it into the story with love and care, because I knew it’s necessary. Any suffering is in my books for a specific reason. As the omnipresent creator, I can see the beautiful end I have planned for my characters, and I can see what is needed to bring them to that point. 

I don’t enjoy making my character suffer: I’m trying to make them grow because I know they would suffer more if they were left exactly as they are. 

I do this to try to be an imitator of what Christ does for his children. Through my writing and my attitude, it is my hope that I might reflect even a fraction of this truth: whether you acknowledge Christ or not, He is reaching out to you, working through circumstances in your life to whisper to you, holding out His hand so that when the pain causes you to fall, you might fall in His direction and into His arms. 

By striving to be a thoughtful and empathetic author, I hope to reflect—even a little—the great care of the Divine Author. And that is why I don’t think Christian authors should make jokes about torturing our characters.