Google Docs: A Helpful Tool for Writers Who Want to Collaborate

I wanted to share this post by Mary Larmoyeux from the WordServe Water Cooler with our StoryWriting Studio friends. Hope you enjoy it! Karen

WordServe Water Cooler

woman on laptop

Years ago Ethan Pope and I wrote a book together called There’s No Place Like Home (Broadman & Holman). Thanks to email, the phone, and a fax machine, we were able to communicate pretty well back them. But not nearly as well as Karen Jordan and I recently did as we worked together on a book proposal. Our collaboration was so much easier because of Google Docs!

What is Google Docs? It’s a free online word processor available to anyone who has a gmail account (which you can get for free). Like most word processing programs, it makes it possible for you to change the appearance of a document: the size of the text, spacing of lines, paragraph styles, headings, etc.

It also allows you to write, edit, and collaborate with others at the same time. And you can upload a Word document and then convert it to a Google document…

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Where do your writing ideas come from? The way you answer that question may depend on what kind of writing you do. Are you a fiction story-teller? A creative non-fiction story-teller? A Bible study/devotion writer? A technical writer? Is your typical message more serious, or do you prefer adding doses of humor, or even comedy?

We can gain ideas from many sources. Just this morning, while working in my yard, I thought of a new slant for a piece I want to write based on gardening. I used to own a cat named Theodore. One day I noticed he liked to sleep on my shoes with his nose stuck in one of them. My mind went to work, and before long, I sat down to type out my thoughts.


Children are great sources of material. I have social media friends who post the funniest things their kids or grandkids say. Some of them really should write books! My mother was a kindergarten teacher for over 30 years. She used to entertain us at supper with stories of the notes she received from parents. We told her she should keep them and write about them.

My cousin loves to track her family genealogy. She wrote a long history of our family going back two hundred years. This document is a treasure for us. A friend of mine turned her family history into a series of best-selling novels.

Difficult experiences such as cancer or losing a loved one can motivate us to write helpful books or articles for others who face similar circumstances. The love of Bible study can turn into writing studies.

On and on it goes. The list of possible writing idea sources is endless. But there is one bottom line for all of our projects as Christian writers. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” The Bible is the place where we find our basic motivation and ideas. This Book itself uses the power of story to teach us. No matter our genre, there is a verse or verses that should be the foundation of what we write.

Let me encourage you to set your scripture foundation first, before you ever type a word of your next project. This conscious decision and Bible search will make certain your message is God’s message.

In case you wondered, the verse behind this post is Psalm 45:1, “…My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.”


Photo: Pixabay

Writing Wins

Many people tell me they think they’d like to write, or they feel called to write, or there is something they think they need to write about. But few of them follow through. I think there are several reasons.

  • Writing is work. Writers have to be willing to put in effort. Producing a first draft isn’t too difficult. But the self-editing process can be long and labor-intensive.  Sometimes I struggle for the right phrasing and word choice. When I finish a piece, I’m often brain-drained.
  • Writers need to learn their craft. While we all took English classes in high school, we are not all good writers. Reading books on the subject, attending writing conferences, and possibly taking classes all help us hone our craft. Learning how to tell a story in such a way as to engage readers from beginning to end is an art form. Writing non-fiction that is not boring as dust doesn’t just happen, either.
  • Writing takes time. This can mean saying “no” to other, also important, things. It means sitting at the keyboard for blocks of pre-determined time. Writing, like any other art, requires daily practice to attain excellence. The more we write, paying attention to things we’ve learned about writing, the better we write.
  • The finished product is like our baby. We feel a need to protect it from criticism or injury. Therefore, we hesitate to let others read it, and when they do, we’re terrified they won’t like it or will want to change it. Or worse, they’ll reject it. Experienced writers must get over the idea that their product is perfect. We must allow those who are more expert to edit and comment. And we must not take rejection personally. Rejection is a professional decision that is based on many factors. Learning what those factors are is part of our education process.

Knowing all the above, you might wonder why anyone would want to write at all. But those of us who are called can’t avoid writing. Ideas spring into our heads. We become antsy or on edge until we’ve spilled our hearts onto the page. We are driven. We might try to ignore our need, pouring ourselves into other pursuits. But in the end, writing wins.


Photo: Pixabay

The Magic of Collaborative Marketing for Writers

Sharing this WordServe Water Cooler post by Anita Brooks with our StoryWriting Studio friends.

WordServe Water Cooler

Zig Ziglar Motivational Quotes“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” Zig Ziglar, the ultimate motivator, knew that when we authentically and unselfishly support other people, great things happen. I’ve experienced the truth of this principle many times in my life, but especially recently, when I joined forces with two other WordServe authors.

Karen Jordan, Kathryn Graves, and myself decided to collaborate on writing a non-fiction book for women. By doing so, we discovered some surprising side benefits. We’ve found the magic of the collaborative process for writers improves marketing, increases our income potential, and adds a fun element to the author’s journey.

The pressures seems lighter, because we’re in it together.

Untangled A Women's ConfereneceOne of our most exciting accomplishments came from developing a women’s conference based on our book’s title and message. We outlined options for a one-day conference as well as a two-day event. We…

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I cradle the phone on my shoulder while making an omelet for breakfast, and trying to think through a grocery list when my husband, Bo, walks in the front door. The senior pastor of our church, he’s already been at work  for a couple of hours. I tend to ease into my mornings, while he jump-starts his. As soon as he enters the kitchen, he mouths to me that he needs to talk.

“Hey listen, Bo just came in and he needs something. Can I call you back in a few minutes?” I ask into the phone. After hearing her okay, I end the call and flip my eggs.

“What’s up?” I say as I grab a pen and jot another item on my list.

“I need to  you go to a meeting with me in an hour.”

I think through all the items on my to-do list and silence a groan. “Why?”

“I’m meeting a woman and I need you along.”

I understand and appreciate his sensitivity to the situation. But I needed to write. My time is limited and a deadline looms. But I say, “Sure, I’ll meet you there.”

After the meeting, I decide to drive to Wal-Mart since I need to pick up a few things and I’m already out of the house. By the time I pull back into the driveway, it’s nearing 1:00 and I haven’t eaten lunch. At least we can have left-over beef stew for supper before choir practice tonight and I don’t have to spend an hour cooking, I think. Cooking is not my favorite activity.

* * *

The example above is just a morning schedule gone awry. Sometimes entire days, or even several days in a row, become a scheduling tangle and no writing happens, or very little. We certainly don’t meet whatever goals we set for the timeframe.

How do you deal with unforeseen setbacks? Do they knock you so off-kilter that you find it difficult to return to a routine? Or do they make you hungry for a few days to do nothing except write? Does your stress level rise during the time off, only to then keep you from being able to focus when you return to the keyboard?

My life is unpredictable as a pastor’s wife. Often, just when I think I have an entire day to write, something comes up in the middle of it. But I have discovered that an idea will “simmer” in the back of my mind while I deal with distractions and interruptions. When I am able to write again, the words just flow off my fingertips.

Escape or Writing Cave

Sometimes, I need to take drastic measures and go out of town to re-gain control of my writing time. I am fortunate to own a place of escape. But for those who don’t, you might try making what some writers call their writing cave. It is a place away from daily distractions where they can be alone. It might be a basement room, or it might be the back porch. But it is a place of solitude. When entering the writing cave, social media is put away and the phone silenced.

A couple of months ago, I spent time in Denver caring for my school-age grandson. The days alone were a perfect writing retreat. I’m already longing for a few days like that again. None are on the calendar, but I can retreat to a writing cave.

What does your favorite writing space look like? Where is it? Do you keep it clear of distractions? Each of us will define “distractions” a bit differently from anyone else, but we know what lures us off-focus. Whatever they are for you, be sure to keep them out of your writing cave.

* * *

I did find my writing groove that afternoon. When I reviewed what was in my draft from the previous day, I realized the time away gave me a fresh perspective. God used the downtime to work even though I was unaware. The final product is the message God planned all along.


Photo: Pixabay


Heirloom Stories

My son and daughter-in-law took a recent trip to New Zealand. While they were gone, I stayed in their home and cared for my grandson, Carson. Upon their return, Jeremy and Glen presented me with a pair of jade earrings. Greenstone, as it is known in New Zealand, is not mined, but gathered from deposits on the ground, before being fashioned into pieces of jewelry.

Neither of the kids is a beach-vegetable type, so rather than a relaxing vacation in the sense of lounging around, this was a grand adventure. They even named it Jeremy and Glen’s Grand Adventure. They did things like hiking up mountains to spend the night on top, sea kayaking, mountain biking, and white-water rafting.

On one of their hikes up a mountain, they encountered parrots. Not just one or two parrots– flocks of parrots. And these were no caged, tame birds. When they arrived at the sleeping hut for the night, the ranger told them to bring their muddy shoes inside because the parrots would eat them if left outside. I’m serious. The ranger also told them of a couple who arrived in a soft-top Jeep. The next morning the parrots had eaten the entire soft top.

This adventure story was relayed to me while I was driving with Carson in my car. I have Bluetooth, so the call went straight to the speakers in the car. Carson listened in disbelieving silence, punctured only by an occasional, “Really?!” The facts lay so far outside our realm of experience we could hardly believe them.

But because people we love and trust told us about it, and they saw the birds for themselves, we believed. And we hungered for more tales of extreme adventure. We couldn’t go on the trip ourselves, but we could live it vicariously through stories.

The gift of the jade earrings caused me to remember another grand adventure. This one was mine. After my junior year in high school, I traveled to Europe for 38 days as part of a People-to-People student ambassador group. We visited nine countries with home-stays in three of them. A home-stay meant we lived with a local family in their home for five days.

One of our home-stays was in Germany. I stayed with a rather well-to-do family and we developed a friendship that lasted many years. On several occasions, I received a gift from them. One gift was a jade parrot necklace pendant. I loved that pendant and wore it often. But after several years, it spent more and more time in my jewelry box. I almost forgot about it.

When I looked at the new jade earrings, I remembered my jade necklace. And I realized it must surely have been made in New Zealand. It was, after all, a parrot. As soon as I returned home, I dug out that parrot. Putting it in the box alongside the earrings, I saw the perfect ensemble.

Every time I wear my jade jewelry, I will think of two grand adventures and all the stories we collected from them. Are these earth-shaking, life-changing stories? No. But they’re our stories, our family stories. Because of course, now I need to tell my own grand adventure stories to my grandson.

Have you told your family your grand adventure stories? Do they know the special memories you hold so deep in your heart you may even have almost forgotten them? Do you own a memento that will help you remember your dusty, old stories? Maybe it’s time to dig out your stories and share them. Tell them, or write them, but bring them out of storage for your kids and grandkids.

My friend, Karen Jordan, says, “Tell the stories that matter most.” I think family heirloom stories matter most.


Photo: Kathryn Graves

By Kathryn Graves                         

You Are a Letter

People don’t write letters much anymore. We use social media to give little updates to the world about what’s going on in our lives. No matter where in the world we may travel, it’s almost always possible to connect to the internet to post our pictures. That’s nice in many ways. But I think maybe we’ve lost an art form.

The Old Way

In the olden days, before there was an internet and cell phones, we wrote letters and sent postcards to our friends and loved ones. I have some old letters written during the Civil War to one of my ancestors. The writer fought on the battlefield and the recipient ran the family farm in Missouri during his absence. The missing piece of information is whether or not our soldier returned home alive. If he did, no more letters would be necessary. If he didn’t, they wouldn’t be necessary either. Letters were for keeping in touch when separated.

But letters were sometimes written when people were not separated. My husband and I wrote letters back and forth the summer we were engaged and living in different states. But returning to college to spend all our free time together did not stop our letter writing and card sending. I have a rubber band-wrapped bundle of them, proving we each thought of the other almost every moment of every day. And we wasted no opportunity to communicate our love, whether in person or in letters or cards.


Photo: Pixabay

God’s Way

Did you know God writes letters, too? He does! In 2 Corinthians 3:3 we read about His letters: “And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us [Paul], written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” God’s letter is not written on paper, or stone tablets like the Ten Commandments, but on our hearts.

We are the “paper” and the “ink” is the Holy Spirit. What does this letter say? What would the Holy Spirit write on us that He wants other people to read?

I can think of several things.

  • A return address–we belong to Him. I am a bonafide citizen of His kingdom and have a residence waiting for me in heaven.
  • Truth–I know the truth because I know God. He puts truth in my heart and I speak truth when I speak or write a message from Him.
  • Fruit–maybe drawn in pictures. But the fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The ink is the Holy Spirit, but He is invisible. The visible is the blood of Jesus Christ. Like invisible ink that only shows up when you color over it, these invisible writings only become visible when the blood of Jesus “colors over us.” When we believe and accept His sacrifice for us and surrender ourselves to Him, then the invisible things that the Holy Spirit gives us become visible to people around us. The letter that is us gets read.

Your Life Letter

What does the letter of your life say? Has God’s writing gotten smudged or worn away by time and failure to pay attention? My family heirloom letters are difficult to read in spots just because they are so old. But in other spots, a bit of moisture blurred the words–maybe tears? And there is grime from fingers that folded and unfolded them to read them over and over again. How carefully do you treat God’s writing on your life? How special is his letter on your heart? How easy or difficult is it for others to decipher the writing?

I think I’ll be paying closer attention to mine from now on.

by Kathryn Graves

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