Monday, January 23, 2017

Don't Be an Almoster

By Andrea Merrell

In my last post, we talked about setting small, bite-sized goals that we want to accomplish this year. Last week, Cindy Sproles reminded us to complete the writing we set out to do: “Laying it to the side for when you think the time is right, does not ingrain integrity or the success of completing a task. Finish the work, even if it’s tiny bits at a time.

To help with this concept, allow me to share a tip I learned years ago. While once applied only to household tasks, this little tidbit now helps me with my daily writing and editing.

“Don’t be an almoster!” The lady who made this emphatic statement looked at each person in the room as if she'd been peeking in our windows. Then she added, “Pick it up—don’t pass it up.” When she elaborated on her points, I had to admit the truth: I can easily be an almoster (and a procrastinator).

When cleaning house, doing laundry, and attending to everyday chores, my tendency is to go into a room to put something away, spot another task begging to be done, and abandon my initial project (or even forget the reason I came into the room in the first place). This can happen several times throughout the day.

The result? I’m almost finished with the laundry … almost finished vacuuming … almost finished paying the bills … Besides, I’ve passed by a variety of objects, promising myself to pick them up the next time around.

Do you get the picture? Can you relate?

Even though I learned this principle over thirty years ago, it's always stayed with me. Now, I find myself applying it to my life as a writer and editor.

There are many reasons we don’t complete our projects: time, illness, stress, family obligations, distractions … life. But sometimes it's simply because we try to multi-task and flit from one thing to another. This can mean we’re almost finished with next week’s blog post, almost finished with the article that’s due in a couple of days, and almost finished with our most current novel. 

Almost … but not quite.

If you find you’re always busy but not accomplishing your goals, try setting aside some quality time—even it's only fifteen minutes—to focus on one task. The next time you sit down, go back and finish that one task before you move to another. Give it your full attention. Don’t check your e-mail, Tweet, or visit your Facebook page until you finish. Concentrate and get the job done. You can derive a lot of satisfaction crossing an item off your to-do list.

I once heard a teaching on the “tyranny of the urgent.” We could call it the proverbial squeaky wheel that gets the oil. Sometimes the urgent screams for our immediate attention and causes us to lose sight of all the important matters we need to attend to. When we have a full plate, we need to take the time to prioritize. There will always be tasks we enjoy more than others, but when we consistently put them first, the others get pushed to the back of the shelf.

This year, I challenge you (as well as myself) to complete that special project you've been putting off. Finish your novel. Read the book that’s been lying on your nightstand. Send that e-mail or thank-you card (the one that's way overdue). Make that phone call you’ve been putting off. Update your blog or website. Get involved in a critique group. Start putting money aside for a writers' conference. You'll be so glad you did.

What's the one thing you’re almost finished with that needs to be completed? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of and Stuart Miles.)


Monday, January 16, 2017

17 Achievable Goals for Writers for 2017

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

It's a new year, and we've all got personal goals we'd love to meet before December suddenly shows up again.

One thing I've had to consider this year is whether or not my goals are reasonable. I've also asked myself if I can really meet those goals or if I'm setting myself up for failure. I tend to give myself bigger goals than I can accomplish. Maybe it's because if I set high expectations for myself, I know I can achieve at least half of what I want to. Maybe if I don't, I won't even achieve the middle ground. And that, for me, would be true failure.

But not all goals have to be physically tangible. Because honestly, not everything in life needs to be about how much we put in our bank account this year or how many books we can pick up and read or how many people we added to our social media networks. Sure, these things can be important, but they aren't the end all. None of these are things we can take with us when we leave this earth.

So in setting my writing goals for 2017 - and considering every aspect of a writing career - here are 17 goals we could all aim for:

1.  Put God first in all that I do. Including my writing career.

2. Tithe 10 percent of my writing income. Giving God my first fruits honors Him.

3. Read at least one book per month.
I've committed to trying to read 40 books this year. GoodReads  is tracking this goal for me.

4. Put my butt in my chair on a daily basis and write for at least 15 minutes or write at least 500 words.
This should be very doable. Especially if I blog consistently. I really want to make it a habit to do this with novel writing this year.

5. Attend critique group once per month.
I attend a critique group once a week. I make it at least twice per month. I also have another group I attend once per month.

6. Follow 5 blogs and leave a comment on each at least once a week.

7. Find 3 new people to follow on Twitter each week. (That's 156 new people this year.)

8. Encourage writer friends and acquaintances as I see their Facebook and Twitter posts by responding to the post with more than just a thumbs up or sad face.

9. Attend one conference this year.

10. Meet three new people at every conference I attend, and keep up with at least one of them.

11. Find a Bible verse to apply to my writing career this year.
Mine is Proverbs 10:21: The words of the godly encourage many. (NLT)

12. Create a vision board. This is as simple as putting a bulletin board over your writing space and filling it with things that pertain to what you're writing, what you'd like to do or buy when you obtain income from that writing, etc.

13. Pour into another writer. It's a huge blessing to have a mentor. If you've been writing for a while, you have something you can pass on to newer writers.

14. Try something new. A new craft. Hobby. Style of writing. Genre. Writing poetry. Something new.

15. Get up and exercise every hour. Hold a plank for a minute. Take a walk at lunchtime. Get off the chair and move. Burn some calories.

16.  Send a gift to someone. Or bring a gift to someone. People still enjoy getting physical mail. Especially if it isn't a bill.

17. Complete that manuscript. After all, that's the goal, isn't it?

What goal would you add? We'd love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below.


17 Achievable Goals for Writers for 2017 {Click to Tweet}

What's your writing goal for 2017? @AlyciaMorales shares 17 achievable goals. {Click to Tweet}

Monday, January 9, 2017

Expectations for Writers

By Cindy Sproles

Expectations are a double-edged sword. They can be uplifting or frustrating. It’s what we do with them that makes the difference.

When we waltz through the door of a new restaurant, we expect great things. Birthdays bring expectations (I expect my spouse to remember). After the commercial with the E-Trade baby fades from the screen, we expect easy results for our stock-pocket. Not to mention, the newest book from James Patterson is expected to be his best yet.

Expectations are everywhere. We place them on everyone but ourselves. It’s easy to demand the best from others, yet when we look at our work … there are few expectations.

Each year I meet with hundreds of conferees—new and seasoned writers who have high hopes. Each one harbors a dream of having a published book on the shelves of a bookstore. It’s the trophy of our profession. The inspiration that makes us plug ahead. A paper book with the smell of print, a cover that glistens, and the pat on the back we all expect.

I listen as writers tell me their storyhow it’s the best  in the world, one that’s never been told, and one I’ll be sorry to miss if I don’t accept it. It only takes a few moments reading through a one-sheet for me to see the writing level and if this is a story that fits my publisher’s needs.

“I’d like to see this manuscript. Is it complete?” I pull my glasses away from my eyes and peer at the anxious author.

“Oh, no. It’s not written yet. I haven’t started it. My kids have been sick. I started a new job. My husband doesn’t want me writing when the family is up and about.”

I slump in my seat and sigh. This writer has dreams, but no expectations.

Writing doesn’t just happen. You have to sit down and pen the words. You have to set goals and expectations for your dreams if they are going to materialize. Great ideas and beautiful storylines are only that until someone takes the time to write them down.

We all have life. Family. Work. And the harsh truth is, we always find time for the things we really want to do. If writing is something you really want—if it burns in your heart—then you make the time, and you make it an expectation for yourself.

The same applies for the quality of your work. When you expect good work from yourself, you will perform. But when you have no expectation for the quality of your goal or dream, then none comes.

I once read an article by a prominent blogger who chastised writing professionals for telling “would-be writers” to just write.  Her thought process was this: telling a writer who has no time or who is sporting a hefty size of writer’s block to just write is like building a fire under the ladder they stand on and waiting for it to snap and burn to ashes.

To that I respond:  First, the use of the term “would-be” writers is very demeaning. Once again, no expectation here in being called a “would-be writer.” If you work on a poem, article, or story, there is no would be. You are a writer. The trophy of a book does not the writer make. However, the effort behind the words, be they articles, church devotions, or things you write and read at a nursing home, do. Like most folks I know that unless you put forth effort, nothing will ever transpire. It’s like this: When you lay out of church for a couple of Sundays, you might feel a little guilty. But the longer you lay out, the less the guilt, and then suddenly … you’ve dropped out of church.

How can a writer be a writer if they never expect to write? Follow these answers and decide where your expectations lie:

Decide to live the dream. If you want to be a writer, begin by making the decision to do so.

Set your expectations. Expect to do your best work and then do it.

Make the time. Carve out a little time each day to indulge in your dream and then expect yourself to do it. When you draw the line in the sand to act, you will act.

Expect that your dream will happen. Set an expectation of success on yourself and you will succeed.

Constantly entertain improvement. The expectation to improve is important. Otherwise, we sit in a puddle spinning our wheels.

Believe. When you believe in yourself, others will too.

Remain humble. For in humility, Christ served. Do not be haughty or demanding. Instead, be of humble heart, and allow God to work through your writing in His time frame.

Honor your work. Complete the writing you set out to do. Laying it to the side for when you think the time is right, does not ingrain integrity or the success of completing a task. Finish the work, even if it’s tiny bits at a time.

Secure a group of peers. Find those who will be your tribe, who will encourage you, keep you accountable, and expect great things from you.

Expect good things. When you expect good things from yourself, you will be pleased with the outcome.

I remember my first writers’ conference. Eva Marie Everson stood before the group and had us raise our right hand. “Now, repeat after me. ‘I am a writer.’ And you are!” It was the most reassuring thing I’ve ever experienced. I am a writer and it’s okay to say that.

As you enter the New Year, set realistic goals and expectations for yourself. Act. As we say in the mountains, “Git’er done.” Believe in the gifts and talents you maintain, and write.

If you have something to share about your own expectations as a writer, please leave me a comment below. I would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of and Stuart Miles.)

If you want to be a writer, begin by making the decision to do so. via @cindydevoted (Click to Tweet.)

The trophy of a book does not the writer make. via @cindydevoted (Click to Tweet.)

Cindy Sproles is an author and speaker. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries and the executive editor for She is the managing editor for SonRise Devotionals and Straight Street Books, imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Cindy not only teaches at Christian writers conferences across the country, she is the director of the Asheville Christian Writers Conference. Her debut novel, Mercy's Rain, won the IndieFab Book of the Year in 2016, and her second novel, Liar's Winter, releases in the spring of 2017. Visit Cindy at

Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year ... New Goals

By Andrea Merrell

All too fast, 2016 has come and gone, and we are now facing a brand new year. 

How many times have you made a list of resolutions that usually end up as unrealistic (and unmet) expectations? We all do it—make promises to ourselves to eat healthier, exercise more, go to the gym, and lose weight. Some of us plan to have lunch with an old friend, clean out the garage, or spend more time in God’s Word.

As a writer, have you made resolutions for 2017? Maybe you’re determined to finish a manuscript and work on those proposals and query letters. Perhaps you plan to make a schedule and set aside a certain portion of each day to devote to writing. If you’re like most writers, you’re probably trying to decide which conference is the right fit for you. There are countless opportunities for us to grow as writers and polish our skills.

Whatever your desires might be for this year, try something different. Instead of making the usual resolutions—which fade further and further away with each passing day—establish small, bite-sized goals that can easily be achieved. When we set unrealistic expectations, we end up disappointed, frustrated, and ready to give up completely. In other words, don’t vow to have your book on Amazon by this time next year. Instead, establish some reachable goals and then stick to them.

But stay flexible. Life happens. When it does—and it derails your best efforts—don’t beat yourself up and pronounce yourself a failure. And, whatever you do, don’t quit. Tomorrow is a new day, and God’s mercies are new each morning.

Here are a few ideas to get you started. Pick out a couple of items, and then put them on your calendar or to-do list.

This Year I Will Commit To:
  • Pray over my writing and commit each project to God.
  • Set aside a certain amount of time each day/week to write.
  • Clean and organize my desk/workspace.
  • Spend less time on FB, Twitter, and computer games.
  • Attend at least one workshop or writers’ conference.
  • Take an online course.
  • Stop procrastinating and complete one unfinished project. (devotion, article, blog post, short story, or novel).
  • Step out of my comfort zone and try a different genre.
  • Start a blog (or blog more).
  • Update my website.
  • Join a critique group.
  • Offer to mentor another writer or help them promote their book, blog, or services.
  • Send thank-you notes or e-mails to those who have helped and inspired me. 
Do you have other suggestions you would like to share? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of Miles/satit_srihinm.)


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Twas the Night Before ...

Alycia and I are so honored to bring you informative posts each week that will help you in your writing journey. Thank you for taking the time to read and share our words over this past year. We would both like to wish you 
the merriest Christmas ever.

By Andrea Merrell

As a change of pace from our normal posts, I offer you this silly little poem for writers. (I'm not a poet, so be kind with your edits and critiques.) 🌝

Twas the night before deadline
And all through my mind
No creative thoughts were stirring
Of any shape, form, or kind

Reference books were stacked
By my computer with care
In hopes inspiration
Would quickly be there

My family was snuggled all warm in their beds
While visions of book sales swirled round in their heads
And me with my ratty old robe and hairband
Settled in at my desk with dark chocolate in hand

When out on the porch there arose a loud crash
I sprang from my chair and made a mad dash
Away to the window to see who was there
Hoping new ideas had been delivered with care

I opened the window to get a quick peek
While snowflakes gathered rapidly on both of my cheeks
Then what to my sleep-deprived eyes did appear
But a man dressed in red on a gigantic reindeer

My hands flew to my face as I was turning around
Down the chimney came the big guy without a single sound
A large furry bag was flung over his back
And he looked like my editor opening his pack

He spoke not a word but went straight to his task
I watched him with wonder, not daring to ask
He gave me a package, then touched the side of his nose
He winked and he nodded as up the chimney he rose

I opened the package as he sailed away like the tide
Knowing my muse was tucked safely inside
Scrambling back to my desk, my fingers flew fast and tight
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good-night! 

(Photos courtesy of Miles.)