Sheila Cragg is the author of A Woman’s Heart for God by Worthy Publishing. She is a mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and formerly served as an associate book editor for Focus on the Family Publishing. She has published numerous articles in Reader’s Digest, Family Weekly, and other periodicals as well as six books, including the out-of-print devotional Bible studies, A Woman’s Walk with God, A Woman’s Journey toward Holiness, as well as Near to the Heart of God, a Scripture prayer journal.
Her Experiencing Christ website ministry at http://womanswalk.com, and her blog, One Woman’s Heart for God at http://www.sheilacragg.blogspot.com/ are centered on encouraging people from around the world (62 countries) in their quest to personally experience an intimate relationship with God.
Sheila is also a young at heart grandmother, who loves the Lord, her husband, Ron, sons, five grandchildren, and dear friends. She enjoys sewing and is a ribbon rose artist. She takes care of her three youngest granddaughters, who live three doors away. They love to come to her house to cook, do crafts, hang out, and have sleepovers. She lives in Santa Maria, on the beautiful central coast of California, famous for its grape vineyards, fields of strawberries, and broccoli.
What inspires you to write?
The Bible, spiritual classics, and life experiences that make no sense inspire me to discover meaning through writing about them.
My favorite type of writing is devotional Bible studies with personal stories that include practical and spiritual applications. When I have a specific subject, I research and read extensively. I also pray, meditate, reflect on the topic, and discuss it with others. I do a lot of writing in my head, ruminating, sifting information, questioning ideas, and even internally arguing different sides and views.
My most recent book, A Woman’s Heart for God, Worthy Publishing, was written and revised over many years as I prayed, reflected, and sought to understand the Lord’s working in my life and family and what He was teaching us. Through trials that were so heartbreakingly senseless this side of heaven, my faith was tested as I sought answers and wrote about our experiences.
For most of my life, I felt that it was all up to me to keep my faith and discover how I should live for the Lord. He began showing me that my walk with Him was me-centered. He had plans and purposes for my life and put me in places that I would never have chosen. I began to see that He was teaching me about the God-centered life. He was the initiator and sustainer of my faith. He was the one doing a transforming work in me. Once I realized that, I began to let go my expectations of Him. I was freed to see Him working according to His will in unchanging circumstances.
Tell us about your writing process.
I am not an outliner in the classic sense.
For my novel, All the Secret Things, I used Excel to create a timeline with the main characters names, birth dates, their ages at the beginning of the novel, age progression, dates/years of major events and pivotal moments. I included real places, information about the cultural environment, and historical events in my book, so I recorded brief notes with dates and information about the times to make sure everything fit together cohesively and according to certain historical events, times, and places.
Another helpful thing to do is to carry a small notebook with you at all times. If you are stuck waiting, describe an interesting person in the room, but be discreet. Also describe the scenery around you using all of your senses; record sights, smells, sounds, feelings, atmosphere of the place and people and the gestures they make. Record hand movements, the way people talk and walk, and tone of voice. Include clothing and scenery colors and weather. A notebook filled with sensory descriptions are very useful and carefully included enhance a story.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I do both. I have written one novel and I cut photos of people out of magazines that resembled my characters. I used those pictures to help me describe my characters. I also drew up personality sketches for each character, their likes and dislikes, values, and the type of work they did. The more you know about your characters the more real they become to yourself and readers.
What advice would you give other writers?
So much has changed these past 40 years from when I started. One piece of advice I learned in the beginning still stands strong: Writing for publication is a profession. Writing appears to be deceptively easy, but it is the hardest work I have ever done. You need special training to become a writer just as you do to become a doctor or teacher.
First: editing and revising are the most important parts of the writing process. I work mostly on the computer; when I finish a section I let it “cool” and move onto writing/revising other parts.
Second: I print the revised articles/chapters. This helps me gain a fresh look at the story because it seems to read differently than the computer document. Then I use standard editor’s marks to handwrite additions, corrections, deletions, and revisions.
Third: I tend to write my chapters in a random order, so when I make revisions of several chapters, I often use the numbering feature to number every paragraph in a chapter. Then I print those chapters and circle the parts that need to be moved. I write abbreviated instructions to show where to move that information. For example, in the left margin next to paragraph #25, I might write: “Move #25 after #3.” Or “move #25 to chapter 2 before #10.”
Fourth: after I have done several revisions I lose my objectivity and dislike what I have written, so I change the font from serif (Times New Romans) to sans serif (Arial or Helvetica or a fun font such as Comic Sans Mt). This gives the chapter or article another fresh appearance, so I see mistakes or needed corrections that I had missed before. When I finish editing that part, I change the font back to the standard: Times New Roman and continue the process.
It helps to earn a degree in English, journalism, or creative (fiction) writing. Submit your writing to local and online critique groups and critique other writers’ work, both are equally necessary. Attend as many writing conferences as you can, follow the rules for submitting your writing for publication, become social media savvy, develop a public platform, obtain an agent, in addition have your writing professionally edited before submitting your manuscript to an agent, book editor, and for self-publishing add a proofreader.
Keep up with the business and writing side of the publishing industry as it is changing at such a rapid rate. Always keep learning and sharpening your writing skills. Today you have to do more than simply write. Social media, blogging, having a platform, speaking, and so many more things are required to gain attention to your books.
Blogging has opened doors for people who do and do not want to write as a profession. Blogging is a wonderful way to hone your skills, find your voice, and develop your passion. The pressure is not as great as it is for writing an article or story for publication. It’s a dichotomy because blogging allows you the freedom to write what you please.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
All my books were royalty published, but then they went out of print. After that I tried self-publishing ventures but soon realized I needed to work with a royalty publisher because my books did not have the exposure or the promotional resources. I am grateful that A Woman’s Heart for God, was brought out by Worthy Publishing as they provided professional editorial, marketing, and publishing helps that I could not do. The Worthy staff has taught me so much about the rapid changes in publishing and what is required of authors today.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I have witnessed the lightening-speed change in book publishing these past forty plus years that I could never have dreamed or imagined. I started out using a self-correcting typewriter and submitting manuscripts by snail air mail, which cannot be compared to the computer and the instantaneous delivery by email attachment. Books will always be published, but in what form? I could not have predicted the changes I have seen so far. It’s fun to speculate what is coming tomorrow.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?
Non-Fiction, Spiritual, Inspirational, Christian, Christian Non-Fiction
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print