Author Archives: Judy Bodmer

Deadly Writing Mistake #2: Writing without Know Your Audience

Bestselling author Tim LaHaye says he writes as if writing a letter to a friend. Who do you picture when you put pen to paper?

Magazines and book publishers have well-defined audiences. If you don’t know what market you’re targeting, then you don’t know who your audience is. Are they new believers or seasoned Christians who attend church regularly? Are they from a denomination where people sit politely in the pews or one where attenders dance and raise their hands to the music? Are they moms of preschoolers, teenagers, or senior citizens? If you think this doesn’t matter, then you’re making a deadly mistake.

When I write, I picture a specific person. If I can, I develop someone who would be a reader of the publication I’m targeting. This keeps me from bringing in material that wouldn’t interest my friend. This method keeps me from preaching because I imagine eyes rolling. I also anticipate arguments to my points and answer within my article. People often tell me my articles and books feels as if I’m writing to the reader—maybe this is why.

How do you determine a magazine of publishing house’s audience? Sometimes writing guidelines or Web sites state this information. For magazines, you can figure it out by glancing at advertisements. Viagra, retirement communities, and books by well-known mainstream preachers say one thing. Pampers, exercise equipment, health foods, and Christian romance say another. If there are no ads, read the articles. You can quickly conclude the average reader by the language, the amount of scripture used, and the slant of each piece.

Doing the hard work of determining audience, creating an average reader, and then writing to a single person, takes time and creativity. But in the end, your writing will be sharper. And you’re more likely to get that coveted yes from an editor.

Deadly Writing Mistake #1 Writing without Knowing the Market

Once there was a woman who went shopping. She found a lovely pair of red shoes on sale at Nordstrom’s. Delighted, she brought them home to her family. But they were too narrow for her sister, too short for her mother, and too big for her daughter. Disappointed, she put them away in her closet, never to be seen again.

This is the way it is when we write without knowing where to send our projects. We have to have an idea who will buy what we’re going to write before we begin. If you know where you’re going to send your finished article, then you’ll know:

• Length (editors will not cut 200 words out of your article)
• How much, if any, scripture to include
• Whether to use the name of Jesus, or the more generic God
• How much research to include, quotes from experts, or if your story is enough
• If the magazine prefers subheadings, or not
• The editor’s preference for openings
• Kinds of articles they take: how-tos, devotionals, expository, etc.

This is true of book publishers too. Writers’ guidelines will tell you if they take series only, the length and kinds of books they are seeking right now, and how to submit to them.

Where do you find this information? The Christian Writer’s Market Guide is published every year, but there is also the Children’s Market Guide, The Writer’s Market Guide (for the general market), and several others. Start here. Look up the magazines and publishing houses that interest you, then go to the Web sites listed for each publication. Here you will find writing guidelines, past articles, list of books published.

Finding a market after you’ve written an article, or a book, can be as frustrating as this knitter’s experience. Knowing the market before you write will save you disappointment, rejection, and your writings will end up in print instead of in a drawer.

Deadly Writing Mistakes

I’ve worked with hundreds of writers over the past twenty years. Some publish right away. Others languish and never see their name in print. Yet, almost all have the same abilities. In fact, many of the unpublished writers are among the most gifted. What makes the difference? I have identified some deadly mistakes and in the next several postings will talk about them. Perhaps you’ll see yourself and be able to correct them before you bury your writing in a drawer and give up your writing dreams.

Who Am I?

Do you struggle with your inner voice, mocking your faith? You’re not devout enough, you don’t spend enough time in the Word, you need to be closer to God? Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “Who Am I” just one month before he was executed. This is an English translation of the famous text.

“Am I then really all that which other men tell of, or am I only what I know of myself, restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage, struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat, yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds, thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness, trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation, tossing in expectation of great events, powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance, weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making, faint and ready to say farewell to it all.

Who am I?

This or the other? Am I one person today, and tomorrow another? Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling? Or is something within me still like a beaten army, fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I?

They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine.”

Sticks and Stones

Bev’s thick blonde hair flowed around her shoulders and down to her waist. Thin with hips a model would covet, I didn’t think she’d ever want to be friends with someone like me and so when she and her husband agreed to join my husband and me in our marriage ministry I was thrilled. Alone in a restroom, I finally had the opportunity to tell her how beautiful I thought she was.
“Me?”she said, sounding amazed. “What do you mean? I’m not beautiful.”
“Of course, you are.”
“No, look.” She pointed at bridge of her nose. “Don’t you see it?”
All I saw was a perfect nose. She turned sideways.
“The bump. Don’t you see it?”
Upon further examination, I noticed a small hump, but nothing extraordinary.
“I was teased growing up,” she said. “The other kids in my neighborhood called me witch. I don’t see anything but that bump when I look in the mirror.”
Suddenly I realized the power of name calling. This woman was in her thirties, long past the years of those childhood taunts. Yet they rang in her head, filtering the truth. How sad.

Misconceptions about God

What misconception about God keeps you from having a full relationship with him? For me, I thought he was a hard disciplinarian, judging my failures and finding me wanting. When I told a white lie or lost my temper or failed to take a meal to my neighbor who was ill, I felt him turn away from me. I could see his face, his smile turned down with disgust. I would try to justify my actions, but that didn’t help. He didn’t want to hear my feeble excuses. And so of course, he wasn’t open to my prayers either. I knew what he thought, Get your act together, then I might do what you ask.

Is that the God of the Bible? Scripture says he’s my friend and his love is as deep and wide as the ocean and there’s nothing I can do that will separate us. He knows me inside and out (Psalm 139) and weeps when I hurt. He longs to hear my voice and wants a warm personal relationship with me. Think of your best friend and how her face lights up when she sees you. She greets you with a warm hug and wants to know every little thing about you, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And when you share your mistakes, she doesn’t curl her mouth down in disgust, instead she puts her hand on yours, or better yet, holds you in her arms, and says she understands. She wipes your tears and urges you to do better and be better. But then take it one step further.

God wipes away my sins. He forgets them the moments I ask him for forgiveness. He totally heals my broken heart—and he answers my prayers, whether I deserve it or not. And he’s never farther away than a whisper.

The good/bad news for writers is we must also be speakers. Here are some tips shared by nationally known speaker Bill Butterworth.

1. Don’t speak too long. Leave them wanting more.
2. Be concise. Don’t have more than three points in your presentation.
3. Be relevant. Know your audience and give them what they want.
4. Leave them with something to remember. Make it practical.
5. Make sure your presentation is clear. Use illustrations and stories.

Attitude Is Everything

I worked with a writer many years ago who sent an article off to a major publication and it was accepted. We celebrated her good fortune because this was a big break in her writing career. However, when the article appeared, her precious words had been reduced to a paragraph. She was so angry and hurt, she stopped writing.

I worked with a writer a few years ago who sent an article off to a major publication and it was accepted. We celebrated her good fortune because this was a big break in her writing career. However, when the article appeared, her precious words had been reduced to a paragraph. She was disconcerted—for a few moments, but then said, “Fine. At least they paid me and gave me credit. And this will look great on my list of credentials.” She took this break and parlayed it into a book contract a couple of years later.

Which person would you like to be?

I have a rule: When I receive a rejection, I try to put my article or story in the mail within 24 hours. This turns those ugly thoughts of wanting to give up, being sure I must have made a mistake to think I could write, and worrying that I’m wasting my time into hope. Finding another magazine or publishing house can be hard when you’re feeling low, so when you first develop your idea, make a list of at least three places that could be possible markets and put them with your article or story. This way, when the first house rejects you, you already have another place already scoped out.

A Different Kind of Moving Day

For 63 years my mother has lived at the wrong address and didn’t know it. This past week she moved from 810 Villard to a new address and a new street all without leaving her home. At first she was upset and wanted to fight this discovery by the city council when they mapped the town. Letting everyone know her change of address was going to be difficult. How would the UPS man and the florist delivery person find her?

That wasn’t the only change she had to face. This weekend my husband helped her erect a mailbox in front of her house. Starting July 1, her mail will be delivered there instead of her post office box in town. Sounds convenient. Now she doesn’t have to drive, or walk, the half-mile downtown to collect her mail every day. This will be especially nice when the weather turns stormy and the roads are icy. Well, that’s not how she sees it. The daily trip to town is an excuse to get out of her house.

She lives by herself in the house where I was raised, the house that my dad built board by board and added onto as his family grew to eventually include three daughters and four sons. She’s reluctant to give it up because once a year we all come home for the June Picnic, a community celebration. Where else could she live that has five bedrooms and room for a tent in the backyard for the grandkids? She admits she gets lonely, but she wants to hang onto her home as long as she can. She understands that getting out keeps her mentally healthy.

But that’s not the only reason she enjoys the post office. It’s also the center of the community. She often runs into people she knows and she can chat with them and find out what is going on. She keeps up with who is in the hospital, who has had a new grandbaby, who is out of work, or who is new in town.

Even if she doesn’t run into another person, the post office is where everyone posts what’s for sale, upcoming events, and announcements. If she wants to know what’s going on, she reads the bulletin board. It’s a fount of information. Plus, that’s how she found the man who mows her lawn.

Now she will have one less reason to go to town. Moving is hard even when you don’t have to pick up a couch or a mattress and put it in the back of a pickup. But my mom has a good attitude. I’m sure she’ll find other reasons to stop into the post office. Maybe she’ll mail more letters to me.

Today is the Fourth of July. Editors are on the lookout for articles with themes they can print in their July issues. Keep an ear open for stories during this weekend which you can write up and submit for next year’s celebration. Perhaps someone will ask you a question about the Revolutionary War. A bit of research and the answer can be the basis of an article. Think about five to seven little know facts about the founding fathers. I saw a survey on the news that said 22 percent of those surveyed didn’t know what country we fought against for our freedom. Seems as if everyone should know these basics, but obviously they don’t. Maybe instead of little known facts, you could use this survey and write up an article about the “basics facts” everyone should know. Be creative and you will have an article an editor will want—next year.


At church yesterday, we watched a video documentary about a young woman who has been blind since birth. She has never seen grass, the sky, or the face of her mother. She knows she’s beautiful, not because a mirror tells her so, but because Jesus told her what’s most important is she’s beautiful on the inside. Her one regret is she must depend on others to help her get through her days. She wishes she could be more independent. However, this doesn’t keep her from living with joy, which I could see expressed on her face, in her voice. This inner happiness flows from her great faith. She is so in love with Jesus that her greatest expectation is of the first face she will see—Jesus’.

As I heard her say that, I had to ask myself, am I living with that kind of expectation? I had to honestly answer no. I love my life, my new grandbaby, my kids, my activities. I’m wrapped up in my latest writing project, plans for vacation at the end of the month, and worry about my son’s health issues. I’m firmly planted in this world.

When I do spend time with Christ, I don’t see it as a time to build a relationship with him. I pray for relatives, friends, and strangers. Maybe complain about my personal problems, ask forgiveness for my latest slipup, or fuss about something that’s bothering me. But Christ wants more; he wants me to love him “with all my heart, mind, and soul,” not just dump on him. My time with him has become a one way street—me talking to him. The part that’s missing is that precious time when I listen and let him minister to me. That’s how a deep relationship is built.

This video clip showed me I’ve gotten off track. Yes, I live in this world and can love all the things I do and am, but also I can be close to God, so close I long to see his face.

This week notice the “big questions” your friends are discussing on Facebook, Twitter, or in person. Write them down and ask yourself how you can write something that would address the answers. This is one way to generate ideas for articles, short stories, devotions, or blog posts. Who knows, this may even turn into something bigger.

Knowing God’s Will

The job opportunity felt like God’s will. My husband wasn’t happy with his current corporate position, even though there was security, a comfortable salary, and benefits. He’d dreamed of something better and Jim showed my husband how he could make lots of money, be his own boss, set his own hours. We were new parents, new Christians. Was this from God? Sure felt like it. Was it scary to step out on this new adventure? Yes, but we were sure God would take care of us.

Larry gave his notice and quit his job. We stepped out on faith; certain this was God’s will.

A week into this new opportunity and Larry knew he’d gone to work for someone who wasn’t honest. And the promised money was nothing but that, a promise. We’d stepped out on faith, but it was more like we’d jumped off a cliff. How could this have happened?

Looking back we realize we made several big mistakes. How can you tell if an opportunity is God’s will? Pray about it, yes, but then check it out. We knew someone who could’ve told us Jim was nothing but hot air—all we had to do was talk to him. Listen to those around you. If this is from God, trusted advisors and family members will confirm your decision. We skipped this step too. Ask if you’re confusing God’s voice with your emotions. We were attracted to Jim’s promises, his charisma, the idea of trading in a corporate job for something more creative. Take your time. If you aren’t sure, and someone is pressuring you to make a decision, then ask for more time. If this is from God, big breaks will be there the next day, six weeks, even six months from now.

These principles can be applied to just about any decision you’re facing—a new job, a move across the country, a potential spouse, or a puppy. Perhaps our painful experience can save you from making the mistake we did.

As a writer it can be hard to know God’s will for your career. Fiction? Nonfiction? Articles? Books? What topic should you concentrate on? Family, money, Bible studies, historical fiction, mysteries, children’s books? Should you follow your heart or what’s selling? Almost every writer I know struggles with this question at one time or another. Some things to take into consideration are:

1) Do you need to make money? If so then you may need to write articles and cover topics that you might not be interested in, in order to earn a paycheck.

2) What is your passion? If you don’t need to earn money, then follow your passion. If you love children’s books and this is what you’ve always wanted to write, then follow that dream. Become an expert in that genre. Your love will come through your words.

3) If you don’t know, then try different types of writing and genres until you discover the place that makes you happiest.

4) Above all, bathe everything in prayer and ask God to show you where he wants you to use your gift.