Monday, January 8, 2018

Writer, Make 2018 Your Most Productive Year

By Linda Gilden

My favorite Christmas gift this year was a big whiteboard for my office. In some ways it feels old school but in others, it feels like a brand new start. I am going to keep up with my deadlines and writing goals better than ever.

Every year in January I vow this year will be more productive than the last. I will write on a better schedule. I will try a new genre. I will keep all my projects on a calendar and meet my word count for each one every day. I will get endorsements before I am done writing my book. I will query for at least five articles a month. I will do my best not to miss my quiet time each day. The list goes on and on. And, of course, the last one on the list every year—I will exercise more.

All these things are well-intended but rarely come to fruition. This year, I said to myself, is going to be different!

How can I possibly make so many changes in the way I work? How can I be more productive in 2018?

Don’t Overcommit
Why is it so hard to say no? Every year there are many writing opportunities. Figure out which ones best fit the purpose and mission of your writing and stick to them.

Make Use of all the Digital Assistance Available
This year I am going to learn more about how to make my devices work for me.

Keep a Visual Plan in Front of You
Here is where my new whiteboard comes in. I need to be able to see where I am and how each project fits into my schedule with the others. I can post deadlines and submission dates. And if I need to adjust a bit to make it all work, it is easily done.

Plan Times of Rest and Refreshment into Your Days
As a fairly busy writer, I have found if I don’t plan for “play” time, it doesn’t always happen. Schedule time with your family and children to make sure you are making plenty of memories. Unplanned interruptions as well lead to precious family times. Don’t overlook them as bonus opportunities with your family. You can finish your article later.

Whether you use a whiteboard, keep a written calendar, or schedule your goals digitally, won’t you join me in my efforts to make 2018 the most productive and organized writing year yet?

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.)

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Linda Gilden is an award-winning author, speaker, editor, ghostwriter, and writing coach. Author of twelve books and over a thousand magazine articles, Linda loves helping others discover the joy of writing. Her twelfth book, Articles, Articles, Articles will be released early this year. Linda lives in SC with family and loves every minute spent with her six grandchildren (great writing material). Visit www.lindagilden.com.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Take a Risk in 2018

By Andrea Merrell
Are you a risk-taker? I’m not talking about being a daredevil or doing dangerous stunts, simply someone who has the courage and ambition to try new endeavors.
I’ll have to admit, I’m not very adventurous. I like to play it safe, staying well inside my comfort zone. But one morning during my quiet time with the Lord, I was reading my daily devotional from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and it addressed this very subject:
Be willing to go out on a limb with Me. If that is where I am leading you, it is the safest place to be. Your desire to live a risk-free life is a form of unbelief. Your longing to live close to me is at odds with your attempt to minimize risk. You are approaching a crossroads in your journey. In order to follow me wholeheartedly, you must relinquish your tendency to play it safe.
Going out on that proverbial limb can be scary but as Sarah Young so aptly puts it, if that’s where God is leading, it’s the “safest place to be.”

Everyone has that dreaded fear of the unknown to some degree. Some push past it easily and take the plunge, while those of us who want to know exactly what’s ahead tend to hold back and wait for a clear signal.

I can tell you that the times I have moved out of my comfort zone and taken that leap of faith, God has been right there, holding my hand and guiding my steps. There is no greater satisfaction or fulfillment than being obedient and walking in our calling.

So, my question for you on this first day of the New Year is are you ready to take a risk? Are you willing to make a commitment to move forward in 2018 and do those things you’ve been shying away from?

Attend a Writers’ Conference
Maybe you’ve never attended a writers’ conference. My first one was a bit overwhelming because I didn’t know exactly what to expect. But it was the catalyst that God used to propel me into the writing career He had planned for me. This is where you begin to learn the basics, grow in the craft, build your network and platform, and meet the most amazing people you will ever meet.

Join a Critique Group
Perhaps you’re hesitant to get involved in a critique group. Putting your words—your baby—out there for feedback from others can be very intimidating. This is where we have to develop what some call a writer’s rhino skin. Accept your critique with grace and don’t take it personally. It will only make you a better writer.

Blogging
How about that blog you’ve been meaning to launch? Maybe you’re blogging but need to be more consistent. Could it be that your website needs a face lift?

Contests
Is there a contest you’d like to enter? Don’t put it off. Go for it.

Follow-through
Has an editor or publisher requested material from you? You’d be surprised how many times we ask for a proposal or chapters from a writer and never get them. If you’re given that open door, walk through it.

Social Media
Afraid of social media? I was at one time, but it’s a necessary tool for writers. Just remember it’s not all about promoting yourself or your books—it’s about building relationships. Use what you have, and build as you go. Promote others whenever you can. Use the law of sowing and reaping.

Just Do It
Write that devotion or article. Contact other bloggers and ask if you can be a guest on their blog, or invite them to be a guest on your blog. Inquire about speaking engagements. Finish your manuscript. Whatever you’ve been putting off, now is the time to do it.

It’s a New Year. Instead of dwelling on the past, look to the future. As you make your to-do list for 2018, pray for guidance and creative ideas. Add a few items that will require you to climb out on that limb, knowing God will be right there with you.

But what if it doesn’t work? you might be thinking. But what if it does? We never know until we try. I’ve always heard it said that we will end up regretting the things we didn’t do more than the things we did. Pastor and author Bob Gass puts it this way: "The only way to know you've discovered your niche is to try things, take risks, learn from your failures and successes, and discover what God has gifted you to do."

Are you willing to take a risk?

What can you add to the list? Is there something in particular you’ve been struggling with but want to step out in faith? We would love to hear from you.

Alycia and I would like to wish you 
a blessed and prosperous New Year!

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.)

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Monday, December 18, 2017

The Real Reason We Read ... and Write

By Andrea Merrell

If each of you were asked the question, “Why do you read?” what would you say? Maybe your goal is to learn as much as you can by digging into how-to books. Perhaps you read for pure entertainment, to get lost in a dynamic plot, or to travel to exotic places.

Some of you may read simply because you have a number of favorite authors, and your goal is to devour every word from them that comes out in print. We follow these authors on Facebook, like their posts, retweet their tweets, and interact with them at conferences. So why are we so passionate about this?

I love what author and social media guru Edie Melson says:

I follow other authors because I want to know them. I love to get to know the person behind the book.

Let’s look at another question: “Why do you write?” Whether you’re creating blog posts, articles, memoirs, or novels, what is your motivation? Is it to be famous, sell books, make money, increase your subscriber list, or build a huge platform? Or is it to get to know your readers, build relationships, and share God’s love and truth with the world.

Here’s what author and speaker LoriRoeleveld says:
I now understand that part of my mission as a Christian writer is to locate the people God wants to receive the message I’m called to write. And not just to locate them, but to pray for, listen to, develop God’s heart for, and serve them with humility and zeal. It’s in marketing research that I’ve come to know and love my readers. God has used the cries of their hearts to spur me on to become a better writer, a better reacher, a better follow of Jesus. Not so I can sell more books, or enlist more subscribers, or increase my platform (although, that’s a by-product of this process), but so that I can be with them in this Jesus adventure.

This “Jesus adventure.” I love the way Lori defines our writing career. God gives us the gift of words so we can connect with others who need to hear what we have to say. Writing for the Lord is not a business, it’s a ministry ... and one that’s very fulfilling.

It’s not about numbers or dollars, it’s about relationships. Over the years, God has brought so many wonderful people across my path—both writers and readers.  I’ve gotten to know the person behind the book, and I’ve had the privilege of interacting with—and praying for—many of my readers.

If you’re a writer, remember that readers are more than just numbers. As Lori Roeleveld says, “Behind every number in the platform section of my book proposals is a name, a face, a heart, a soul—someone seeking courage to endure, someone waiting to be challenged to deeper faith, someone wanting confidence to speak up for Christ. God wants to reach them in many ways, but one way is through what I write. Part of my job as a writer is to locate and love them in Jesus’ name.

What about you. How do you connect with your readers?


(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/everydayplus/imagerymajestic.)

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Blogging Lessons from My Dogs

By Edie Melson

Most of you know I’m an animal lover. We have one cat, Emily Dickinson, and our sons dog, Cosmo. I don’t know what I’d do without my four-legged friends cheering me on as I work every day. 

But they’re more than just great companions; they’ve got a lot to teach me. So today I’d like to pass along some of the wisdom I’ve gleaned from my dogs.


9 Blogging Lessons from My Dogs

1. Go all in. When you play, play. When you work, work. And when you rest, rest. My dogs are 100 percent involved in whatever they’re doing. Beyond that, I’ve discovered there’s no such thing as a multi-tasking dog. The same should be true for bloggers. Focus on the task at hand by setting aside time to blog. Don’t think of it as work you do in the spaces. 

2. Chasing squirrels never ends well. It may be fun, but it rarely brings value to what you’re doing. When our boys were young, they had the great idea of tying our dogs leash to the handlebars of a scooter so he could pull them down the street. It went well until a squirrel darted in front of them. The dog took off in one direction, the son on the scooter went another way. There was definitely collateral damage, although none of it permanent. The same thing can happen with blogging. Leave the squirrel-chasing for play time, stay focused on where you’re going in your post, and avoid the collateral damage. 

3. Loyalty is everything. My dogs are friendly with almost everyone, but their loyalty is to me. As bloggers, we have to have that same kind of loyalty toward our readers.

4. 50 new smells a day. For a dog, going outside is more than exercise; it’s the ability to gather information about the world around them. As bloggers, we can’t become so immersed in our own corner of the world and especially only our point of view. 

5. Keep digging until you have what you need. All of our dogs have had favorite toys. But our poochs favorite pastime would appear to be getting his stuck under things. He’s learning though, to not just rely on us to get what he needs. He’s learning how to work and dig until he gets them back. As bloggers, we can’t just rely on the information others provide. We have to be willing to learn, grow, and dig out what we need to be the best we can be.

6. Wag more, bark less. When my dog comes up to me, he’s grinning and his tail is wagging. He doesn’t approach me barking and growling. We need to make sure we interact with people online by wagging, not barking. Think before you post and keep it positive. You’ll never regret being nice. 

7. Puppy treats make the worst job easier. Through the years, all our dogs have loved treats, but training our newest dog is giving us a new appreciation about how valuable they are. Treats are also a good way to get me to finish a job I’m dreading.

8. Be ready for an adventure and travel light. My dogs are always ready to go for an adventure. Don’t be too tied to home base. As bloggers (and writers) we can pick up and go at the drop of a hat. 

9. Always on guard. My dogs are always aware of what’s going on around them. They may appear to be sleeping soundly or playing hard, but if someone comes to the door, they are the first to alert. Because blogging is an online activity, we also need to always be alert. We shouldn’t be fearful, but we do need to be smart and stay aware. 

These are some of the lessons I’ve learned, what has your pet taught you about blogging, writing, or even life? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

(Photos courtesy of  author, pixabay.com. freedigitalphotos.net, and Stuart Miles.)

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Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, no matter if she’s writing for fiction readers, parents, military families, or writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her numerous books reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives. 

She’s a leading professional within the publishing industry and travels to numerous conferences as a popular keynote, writing instructor, and mentor. Her blog for writers, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month and is a Writer’s Digest Top 101 Websites for Writers. She’s the Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and the Mountainside Marketing Conference, as well as Vice President of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine. In addition, she's a regular columnist for Guideposts.orgJust18Summers.com and PuttingOnTheNew.com. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.


Friday, December 8, 2017

12 Months of Writing Plans & Prompts

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

As the year draws to an end, we celebrate all that is good and wonderful in life. We give thanks. We look back and realize how far we've come in the past year. We honor those who've served. We give gifts. We spend quality time with our family. And we look forward to what's to come.

12 Prompts to Ease Your Writing Schedule in the New Year via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

What do we have to look forward to in our writing career? Here are twelve ways to plan for success in the New Year:

On the first month writing, my muse brought to me a venti cup of Starbucks coffee!
Use the five senses to write about Starbucks - or any other coffee - or any other drink you may drink while writing.

On the second month of writing, my muse brought to me two writing conferences!
Write down two conferences you'd like to attend next year. It's good for writers to attend at least two conferences a year. Networking is a big key in our business.

On the third month of writing, my muse brought to me three critique partners!
Write a thank you note to each of your critique partners, explaining what their feedback and fellowship has meant to you over the past year.

On the fourth month of writing, my muse brought to me four book contracts!
We all dream of these, don't we? What do you have to celebrate this year? Write about that. Maybe it can become an article or blog post in 2018.

On the fifth month of writing, my muse brought to me five more book ideas!
Write down five book ideas you have sitting in the back of your brain. Better yet, write them in a journal specifically for fleshing out your book ideas. Keep it close to you so when inspiration hits, you've got a place to put it.

On the sixth month of writing, my muse brought to me six platform building opportunities!
Consider your brand and then your network. Choose six people within your network who you'd like to connect with on another level. Write down six ways you can do that (i.e. comment on their blog or social media posts, invite them to guest blog, let them know how their writing or product has blessed you, etc.). Action.

On the seventh month of writing, my muse brought to me seven days of vacation!
Most creatives know and understand they cannot create forever without taking time off to recharge those creative juices. We may love our careers, but just like any other occupation, we must make it a point to take a vacation. Write down and research seven places you'd love to visit or take your family.


On the eight month of writing, my muse brought to me eight freelance gigs!
Want a way to make income while you're working on those books? Freelance! Write down seven topics you could be considered an expert at. Remember, an expert is someone who is a couple of steps ahead of someone else in an area. We're all experts at something!

On the ninth month of writing, my muse brought to me nine books to read!
Writers need to read. Write down nine books you'd like to read next year: 3 fiction, 3 nonfiction on topics outside of writing, and 3 writing books. Don't forget to leave a book review for the author when you're finished.


On the tenth month of writing, my muse brought to me ten ballpoint pens!
Write out your first page for the day on paper using a pen instead of typing it into your computer.

On the eleventh month of writing, my muse brought to me eleven blog posts!
Write down eleven blog post ideas using the following prompts:
1 guest you'd like to have post on your blog - invite him or her to do so
1 book you've read that changed your life and the concept that spoke to you and made you want to change
1 movie that taught you something about writing and what that something was
1 writing tip that changed your career
1 thing you're an expert at and the steps you took to become one
1 thing you wish you knew and ten blogs you know teach that (you'll write a post that basically provides one link to one article at each blog that you can learn from)
1 non-writing thing you love to do and why it helps you relax
1 list of ten of your favorite things (getting to know you post)
1 unique, creative way you use social media
1 recipe you use to save time when you're on deadline
1 list of ways you reward your family for their patience with your tight schedule

On the twelfth month of writing, my muse brought to me twelve social media ideas!
Most of us dread social media. Make it easy for yourself in the New Year. Outline 12 months in a notebook or planner, and lay out the following: 5 types of posts you'd like to make on a regular basis (i.e. quotes, sharing a particular blog's posts, daily questions for your followers, etc.); a theme for each month (this will focus your posts); a posting schedule (30 minutes each morning blocked off for you to post to social media).

Congratulations! You now have a foundational plan for your writing in 2018! We'd love to know one thing you've come up with as a result of our list! Feel free to share in the comments below. And here's to writing successes in the New Year!