My heart bursts its banks, spilling beauty and goodness. I pour it out in a poem to the king, shaping the river into words. (Psalm 45:1)

Welcome to our new blog!

Note that this blog is primarily for members of CWOSA. Only those members who have signed up as authors to the blog are able to post on this site, although all may leave comments.

You may not pass on any posts from this blog without permission of the author, but you may pass on a link if you wish to share something written.

To join CWOSA, you are required to either be a Christian writer or aspiring writer who lives in Southern Africa, or a Southern African Christian writer living overseas. If you qualify and wish to learn more, click on this link.


1. Read the topmost post, then click on "comments".
2. Read the last comment to see the most recent addition to the story.
3. Copy/past the entire story to date into a new comment box.
4. Add a further three words.
5. Click on Comment as. If you are signed in, your name will appear. Click on Publish.
6. If you're not signed in, click the small dropdown arrow, and select Name/URL. Give us the name we know you as, and click on Publish.

Remember! This is meant to be a story!
Have fun!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

LOOKING FOR AN AGENT: What He Doesn't Want to Hear.

I have recently had my first book, Strength Renewed, Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer, published and released to the global market. I did it without an agent. I'm blessed!

However, I am now in the market for an agent. I realise that I will only have one crack at each one I approach, so I'm doing my homework.

What should I not say in my query letters to them? 

Following is  a list of some of the things I should avoid saying:

  • "I see from your website that you represent science fiction and fantasy, but I have written this cosy romance, and thought you might like to look at it."
Agents often specialise in specific types of literature for a reason. They have their contacts in that field, and that's where they are confident. I must study their websites, and if they don't represent your field, I mustn't  waste their time or mine. I must look for another agent.

  • "I have attached my novel for you to read. It is a rather large download, but I'm sure you'll find it worth the effort."
I must avoid filling his (her) inbox with long emails or attachments. I need to send a brief, well-formatted query. If the agent wants to see my work, he'll ask. Sending a full manuscript is a guaranteed formula to make sure he won't even read my work.

  • "If you are interested, I will send you the book as an attachment."
If he is interested, he will almost certainly only want to see a full book proposal telling him about the book, why I've written it, who I've written it for, and why I'm the best person to write the book. He will then decide if it's worth his time reading the entire manuscript. Again, I need to study the submission guidelines on his website.

  • "This is a draft copy and I'm open to your suggestions to improve it."
I must remember, I'm writing to an agent, not an editor. Premature submission is not an option if I'm trying to find an agent. He is a busy man and according to what I've read, most of his reading is done at home. He's not interested in material that is not the very best I have to offer. If I recognise it needs more work, I must do the work--or pay an editor to help.

  • "My writing is on a par with John Grisham but without the legal angle." 
I may think my writing is like John Grisham, and my mother may agree. It's highly unlikely, however, and it's for the agent to decide. Don't try to compare your work to other authors or boast about your amazing writing skills. He is a professional, and he will decide for himself.

  • "I have a number of other books I'd be happy to send you to look at as well."
Unless this is the first of a series, I must limit myself to one book. If it is one of a series, I should mention that in my query letter, but only offer to send a proposal for the one book. Yes, the agent may be interested in knowing I have other books in me, but this is not the time for me to impress him with all the books he's going to have to look at. At this stage, he's only interested in whether I am a good enough writer, and whether he'll be able to sell my work--the book on offer.

  • "I have published eleven books which all sold well." 
Truth is, I have contributed to ten published books, and had one book published by a major publishing house. Strength Renewed, my first "solo" book, was released a couple of months ago, so it's too early to say how well it's selling. I must remain truthful and not try to give a false picture of my abilities and success (or failure) rate.

  • I know this book has the makings of a top best-seller, and it will make a lot of money for both of us.
I can't possibly know this. Come to that, nor can he. I mustn't have unrealistic expectations, nor try to tell him how good I think I am. It's up to him to decide if I'm any good.

  • Sorry to bother you again, but did you receive my last three emails?
Agents are busy people. Some will acknowledge receipt of the email. Most will not. Some will send a form letter once they've looked at it. Others will write a short email. Still others won't reply at all. I find this bad manners, but according to much of what I've read, it often happens. I need to read their websites and make a note of when I can expect to hear from them. If they say I won't hear for 3-4 weeks, I should wait at least 5 weeks before dropping a polite note to see if they have had a chance to look at it yet. If I get no reply then, I should move on to the next agent.

  • It is two weeks since I wrote to you and there has been no reply. You might at least show a bit of decency and respond promptly. I'm a busy person, and I'm sitting waiting to hear from you!
Whatever I do, even if I think they are being tardy or unreasonable, I should not show my annoyance. I am not only trying to "sell" my book idea, I'm trying to sell myself as a client. If they think I'm going to be a problem, they will immediately say, "No thank you!" Even if they accept me as their client, I need to remember I am not their only author. I must not expect to hear from them every day or two.

  • I received your letter of rejection, but . . . "
So he's written to say "No thanks!" At least he's written. I need to acknowledge his letter politely, and thank him for his time--then move on. I should never be so unprofessional as to try and change his mind. No is no. If I really believed he was the right person, it would be a good thing to take another look at my query and see what might have put him off. But it's too late to try again with him. I must remember--I only have one shot.

  • Oh fantastic! You've sold my novel? Now I can quit my day job and start my next book.
From my sale of Strength Renewed, I know only too well that signing the contract was only the first step in a long journey. Even now that the book is on the shelves of shops across the world, I still have little time for writing that next book. Most of my writing time is spent on marketing and blogging. If I still had a day job, I would not be quitting. (Taking some leave to catch up on marketing, maybe. But I would need that income!)

Okay, now I know what not to say, I need to figure out what I do need to tell a prospective agent. More in a few days.

OVER TO YOU: Did you know all these? Do you have anything to add? Is there any point you don't agree with?

SHIRLEY CORDER lives near the coast in Port Elizabeth, South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer contains 90 meditations based on times when God spoke to her during the rough times spent in the cancer valley. Please visit Shirley at, where she encourages writers, and at, where she encourages those in the cancer valley. Follow her on Twitter or on FaceBook, or sign up for her newsletter.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

TOTW: Do Agents Look for New Authors?

Do Literary Agents look for new authors? If so, how do I get one?

by W. Terry Whalin

Question:Do Literary Agents look for new authors? If so, how do I get an agent?

Answer: I'll begin this answer with a question: Have you written a book proposal on this book or the entire manuscript?

Even if the manuscript is short, you still need to write a book proposal. Many people make this mistake when they try to publish a nonfiction book.

If you are writing a novel and are an unpublished author, then you need to write the entire novel (yes, all 90,000 words of it). Many fiction editors have been disappointed with contracting a great proposal, synopsis and a few sample chapters then the novelist wrote themselves into a corner and didn't know how the story ended. This situation happens much more often than you would suspect so if you are writing fiction, then write the entire book. If you are writing nonfiction, then you need an excellent nonfiction book proposal and a sample chapter.

I've written a book on this topic, Book Proposals That Sell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. This book includes a full example of a nonfiction book proposal which I wrote and sold several years ago for an advance over six figures. A book proposal includes a number of important elements for the publishing consideration process that are not in the completed manuscript--and the agent or editor will need that material.

As far as agents, every agent that I know (and I know a number of them from my work as a book acquisitions editor) is open to new clients--the key is that you have something different to say than the other stacks of things coming into their office unsolicited--and that your material catches their attention.

To get an agent, you need to ask other writers who have agents. Ask a series of questions such as the list over on the Association of Author Representatives website. Not every good agent is a member of the AAR but they have some membership requirements that make an AAR member a worthy agent to consider.

Also track down this book: Literary Agents: A Writer's Introduction by John F. Baker (Hungry Minds, 1999). Baker who writes for Publisher's Weekly profiles a series of literary agents who have been in the business for many years. You will learn a great deal about agents reading this excellent book--and it may give you some ideas about who to approach with your project. There are some good agents out there but as with editors, the good ones have their hands full.

Some times it's more difficult to find an agent than to get published in the first place. While you are talking with agents and waiting for a response, work on getting published in magazines and building some publishing credits. It will help you catch the agent's (and the editor's) attention.

Another good way to talk with agents is at a writer's conference. Look over the program and select a conference where there will be several agents attending. Take the initiative to talk with them and make a personal connection during the conference. After the conference, follow up and send them your material (or show it to them on the spot). That could be the major break through that you need.
W. Terry Whalin understands both sides of the editorial desk--as an editor and a writer. He worked as a magazine editor for Decision and In Other Words. His magazine articles have appeared in more than 50 publications including Writer's Digest and Christianity Today. Terry has written more than 60 nonfiction books and one of his latest is Book Proposals That Sell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success (Write Now Publications). See more about his writing at For more than 12 years Terry has been an ECPA Gold Medallion judge in the fiction category. He has written extensively about Christian fiction and reviewed numerous fiction books in publications such as CBA Marketplace and BookPage. He is the former Fiction Acquisitions Editor for Howard Books. Terry and his wife, Christine, live in Scottsdale, Arizona.

© 2008 W. Terry Whalin
Re-printed with permission

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

About Pansters - by Shirley Corder

In our Topic of the Week (TOTW) we're talking about Pansters. Here are some thoughts on the topic.

Stories written by Pansters tend to have a lot of twists and turns and often
end up somewhere you never expected--indeed often where the author never
expected. Fantasy writers and science Fiction writers are often Pansters.

Writing this way is a lot of fun. (I am a Panster.) But there are downsides:

Pansters are more prone to writer's block. It can be very frustrating when
your characters refuse to do what you want them to do, and throw the few
plans you did have out the window! I know it sounds weird to those of you
who are not Pansters--but this actually happens. I had a pair of twins in a
novel who absolutely refused to keep following an old lady they were spying
on. They insisted on turning in the gate to a play park. As a result, they
lost the old lady. BUT they opened the door for a new character that I
wanted to use but couldn't figure out how to introduce. So they redeemed

This character independence can lead to unfinished stories or stories with
so many surprises they are difficult to follow.

Perhaps one of the best-known Panster writers is Stephen King. How many of
you have his excellent book (if you can bypass his language!) "On Writing"?
It really is one of the best writing books I have read. Here are a couple of
quotes from him:

"I won't try to convince you that I've never plotted any more than I'd try
to convince you that I've never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as
possible. I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because out LIVES are
laregely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and
careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity
of real creation aren't compatible. . . . My basic belief about the making
of stories is that they pretty much make themselves. The job of the writer
is to give them a place to grow (and to transcribe them, of course)."

"The situation comes first. The characters - always flat and unfeatured, to
begin with - come next. Once these things are fixed in my mind, I begin to
narrate. I often have an idea of what the outcome may be, but I have never
demanded of a set of characters that they do things my way. On the contrary,
I want them to do things THEIR way. In some instances, the outcome is what I
visualized. In most, however, it's something I never expected."

Sounds like fun, right?

OVER TO YOU. Let's talk about what we've seen today.

* Does what Stephen King says resonate with you?
* Are you perhaps a Panster?
* Have you had any experiences like I've just shared about the twins?
* Do you think being a Panster only relates to fiction writers? Or would it also apply to a non-fiction writer?

Monday, 19 November 2012


By Marion Ueckermann

Earlier this evening I shared this story with Shirl that I’m about to share with you.  She immediately said, “Blog about it on CWOSA.” I agreed.
In penning this, however, I wanted to find some scriptures that were appropriate.  I started searching the words guide, write ... and it struck me how much God loves writing. Just go and check the book of Revelation how many times God tells his servants to WRITE.
Before I share my story though, I wanted to quote a few verses from my favourite passage in the Bible, Psalm 139. Ponder on these words when you write … God knows us so well, and he knows the way we must take, the words we must write, long before we even think them.
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. (OR ON THE TIP OF MY PEN, THE WRITER IN ME LIKES TO THINK) You hem me in behind and before and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
And then from Isaiah 58: The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
This afternoon I was busy writing a scene in The Piano, my 2012 Nanowrimo Novel. My protagonist, Lizzy, had just invited the Antagonist, a German concert player, Carl von Henselt, to a bible study at her house.  She’s attracted to the piano player and initially it slipped her mind that they are studying Song of Solomon Chapter 2. Lizzy might have reconsidered inviting him had she remembered, and to make matter’s worse, Lizzy is leading the study.
Now  to backtrack a little, in the beginning of The Piano, Carl reminisces on a wilder time in Bogota, Columbia (backstory titbit to his wilder womanising days). Initially I could not remember why I chose Bogota Columbia, but then on checking back in the story, it was because the portfolio case for his Macbook Air was made of Columbian leather (and that was a researched fact on the Mac products).
Anyway, so here I am literally sweating up in my writing loft, thinking of the next scene in which Lizzy is driving home. She tells me she wants to crank up the radio and play her favourite Christian CD so that she can sing while she’s driving.  I agree, and “randomly” decide on the music of Delirious? (yes, there is supposed to be a question mark after their name) as the song “Did you hear the mountains tremble” pops into my head.  The archaeologist in Lizzy tells me that’s a great song and instantly it becomes one of her favourites.
It is here where my story takes an interesting turn, and I realised just how involved God is in my writing, how he is continually before me and behind me, guiding me in the way I should go (or write). For in this research, I discover a song called God's Romance by Delirious? and I think to myself that it sounds like a great song to go in with the Bible study Song of Solomon theme. I’m certain I can find a way to write it into the story.
So I Google the song to see the words and listen to it, and you won't believe what I discover—it was recorded live in ... BOGOTA, COLUMBIA.  Well, I know that the German pianist is going to find that very interesting –that something other than wine, women and song has come out of Bogota—like 12,000 Colombian Christians who’ve found Jesus as the Lover of their Souls and aren’t afraid to sing it out into the night sky. Far more people—and far more enthusiastic—than those who attended his Bogota concert.
I’ve no doubt that making this discovery tonight is all part of a thread that will lead to the culmination of the story, the small, still voice that Lizzy hears as she contemplates what Solomon's words will do for Carl tonight—to draw him to the greatest love he'll ever find.
So, next time you’re on a writing spree, look for God in your writing. He’s actively at work in the background, setting the stage for your story.

OVER TO YOU: So what is Marion? A Planner or a Panster?