Monday, December 29, 2014

HELP!

By Andrea Merrell










Ever feel like you’re going down for the third time, with no one around to save you? If so, you’re not alone. All writers, new and seasoned, have areas of constant struggle.

Maybe you have a problem with:
  • Time management
  • Constant interruptions
  • Self-discipline
  • Creating the perfect spot to find inspiration
  • Writer’s block
  • Staying focused on your project
  • Research
  • Marketing
  • Mastering the art of all-things-social-media
  • Physical limitations.

To break it down even more, many writers have trouble mastering things like:
  • Point of view
  • Crafting good dialogue
  • Creating realistic characters
  • Showing—not telling
  • Writing tight

Your Achilles’ heel may be something as simple as grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Whatever the case might be for you personally, remember: As writers, we are all a work in progress. The good news is that help is available in the form of critique groups, writers’ conferences, local workshops, online support groups, informative blogs, and your own inner circle of writer/friends.

The best remedy is practice, practice, practice. Don't try to do everything at once. Take one area at a time and work on it until it becomes a natural part of your writing life. Sometimes it starts with something as simple as a decision. Other times, it takes careful planning and the willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve your goal.

Don’t ever be afraid to expose your weaknesses—we all have them. The Bible says, Two are better than one, and Iron sharpens iron, so find an accountability partner, ask questions, and seek help whenever you need it. Sometimes it’s only a click away.

What do you struggle with the most as a writer? What words of wisdom do you have for those that have a problem with some of the items above? Where do you go for help? Leave a comment and start the conversation.

(Photos courtesy of Microsoftoutlookhelp and Keithburnettministries.com.)

TWEETABLES




Monday, December 22, 2014

7 Things I'm Doing Instead of Making New Year's Resolutions

by, Alycia Morales

Before I get to my regularly scheduled post, congratulations Tracy Crump! You've won a copy of Andrea's book, Murder of a Manuscript!

Here's the problem with New Year's Resolutions: they require resolve. Most people's resolve melts away like snow by the second week of January. There's no follow-through. And then there's the guilt...

I've decided that in 2015, I'm not making resolutions. Instead, I'm setting goals. I'm tracking accomplishments. I'm celebrating successes and evaluating failures. Rather than resolving to do or change something, I'm planning my activities.

1. I'm reviewing. This process began in mid-July when I realized how much work had piled up, how little time I had for my children, who were home for summer break, and how distracting it was to have to work with them in my office. I decided I'd do my best to set up enough work from January to May so that I wouldn't have to work from June to mid-August. I can then resume work until November, when the holidays roll around and I want to focus on my family.

2. I'm evaluating. As my editing work piled up, my writing fell to the wayside. Way aside. In July, I checked my personal blog. I hadn't posted since January. That's bad, because I'd been posting regularly, three to five times each week, for over a year. To have completely stopped blogging says something about how much I've written in 2014. Not much at all. So I've asked myself an important question: what happened? I took on more editing jobs, which is great for income. It wasn't so great for the rest of the things I wanted to accomplish in 2014.

3. I'm prioritizing. In the midst of my question asking, God whispered. I didn't call you to edit. I called you to write. In 2010, when I asked God what I could do with my talents, He didn't tell me to edit for Him. He told me to write for Him. Because I edited so much, I strayed from the path God wants me on. I need to trust Him to provide and be obedient in my calling. There's nothing wrong with editing. I know I'm going to keep editing. But I'm also going to prioritize writing so that I can do both.

4. I'm setting goals. There are a few things I'd like to accomplish in each area of my life in 2015. I'm going to set realistic goals in each of these areas.

5. I'm planning ahead. I used to be very organized. I knew everyone's schedule and rarely missed a beat. I only had two kids at the time, and I wasn't trying to earn an income. Having four kids and trying to run a business has left me a bit disorganized in the past couple of years. I've noticed my follow-through and follow-up has flown the coop, and all those kids have stolen some of my brain cells as they entered the world. I struggle to remember everything, and sometimes I even forget to write things down so I can remember them. This is discouraging to me, a perfectionist at heart. I strive for excellence, and when I don't see it in myself, I get upset, distracted, and frustrated. That's going to change this year as I plan ahead for everything. Conferences, writing projects, editing projects, kids' school trips, finances, savings, family vacation, Christmas - you name it, I'm setting up my calendar now.

6. I'm creating a personal schedule. It's been said that kids find security in a schedule. They know what to expect, which gives them a sense of safety and peace. I have things I really want to do, but they seem to take a backseat to the craziness of life. So this year, I'm scheduling as much as I can. I realize I don't have total control - that's for God to worry about. In scheduling myself, I will get closer to meeting my goals as I focus on each priority and find peace in my daily routine.

7. I'm putting God first. This is the key to it all. The most important. I have realized in the last few months that I have a hard time saying no. Thankfully, God has blessed people like Lisa Terkeurst with the ability to write encouraging words that help people like me learn to use their best yes. So when God whispers, "Don't do that," I'm going to listen and say, "I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to say no." Because He has something better. Something more important. A priority. A blessing. And I need what He has in store for me, because in that I will find peace and joy and rest.

Here are a few of my personal business goals for 2015:
  • Finish my novel before the end of March. (I'd like to have it completed earlier, but this is a reasonable amount of time to give myself.)
  • Write another book each quarter of the year. (That would be four books in one year. This may be pushing it, but I would be happy to have one written before December.)
  • Attend ACFW. (I've wanted to go for three years now.)
  • Be consistent in my blogging and post on time. (I'm usually a day late.) Get my personal blog (a new one that I recently started) up and running and obtain 1,000 readers.
  • Get 5,000 Twitter followers. (I'm hovering really close to having 1,000 followers now.)
  • Make a certain amount of money each month from editing. (I'll keep that # to myself.)
There are other things I'd like to do, but these are a few of the key goals I have. And here's why I want to do these things: I want to encourage as many people as I can to follow hard after their God-given dreams. Whether it's writing, being at peace with who they are, feeling successful as a parent, or something as simple as learning how to use their camera or how to crochet.

God created each of us in His image and with purpose. He's called each of us to do something for Him. What's He called you to do? What's one step you could take toward reaching your dreams in 2015? What's one goal you could set and schedule time to achieve it? Share with us in the comments below. We'd love to encourage you!

 

Tweetable:

7 Things @AlyciaMorales is Doing Instead of Making #NewYearsResolutions {Click to Tweet}

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bringing a Murdered Manuscript Back to Life

By Andrea Merrell


This week I'm giving away a copy of my book, Murder of a Manuscript: Writing and Editing Tips to Keep Your Book Out of the Editorial Graveyard. All you have to do is leave a comment below, and you will be automatically entered for the drawing.



And the winner of Yvonne's book is ... Nan Jones! Congrats, Nan. Please send your address to andreamerrell7@gmail.com and we will get your book in the mail.

“They murdered my manuscript! It never made it past their inbox,” the writer exclaimed. “Is there hope? Can it be brought back to life?”

I hear you saying, “Been there—done that—threw away the tee shirt.”

It’s heartbreaking for a writer to have her prodigy killed in its infancy by an agent, editor, or publisher. Unfortunately, rejection comes with the proverbial territory, but if we can discover the reasons, learn from our mistakes, and keep moving forward, we have a chance to breathe life back into our words and send them out again.

The key is to do your homework. Check the guidelines. Know what each publishing house, website, magazine, or contest is looking for, then spend time making sure your submission is as clean and professional as possible. Sometimes that requires going back to the basics.

Questions to ask yourself:
  • Does my proposal give the necessary information?
  • Is my manuscript formatted correctly?
  • Are my first few pages filled with typos?
  • Did I start with a strong hook?
  • Did I use redundant words and phrases?
  • Is there too much backstory in the beginning?
  • Am I telling my story or showing by using action, strong verbs, and creative dialogue?
When reviewing a submission, these are areas I notice first.

Getting deeper into the manuscript, I look for:
  •  Plot issues.
  •  Correct use of POV (point of view).
  •  How the writer sets the scene.
  • Well-defined and relatable characters.
  • Content that is presented in a clear and concise manner, with a natural flow. This is especially important in nonfiction.
Even in a simple devotion, you want to connect with the reader and pull on their emotions.

Last, but certainly not least, writing tight is critical in every genre.

Whatever you do, don’t be discouraged and never give up. Call on a writing buddy, consult your critique group (You do belong to a critique group, don’t you?), or hire a professional editor to help you polish your manuscript. Writing is most definitely a process and not an event. Having a teachable spirit and learning from mistakes is critical and will always take your writing to a higher level.

What do you struggle with? What tips can you add to the list. We would love to hear from you.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Yvonne's Thoughts on Christmas

Today’s guest is best-selling author of over fifty books, Yvonne Lehman. Leave a comment below and you will automatically be entered into a drawing for her book, Christmas Moments.


By Yvonne Lehman

Hey! I didn’t plan this. I don’t do things like this. I’m a novelist. Then what in the world am I doing with a Christmas book of three short stories?

Well, it’s like this. I had the opportunity to write a short story for a publisher that would be light, sweet, entertaining, and Christmassy. The pay would be a good flat fee and I thought, Why not?

I looked in my idea file and saw a few notes on a possible collection of midwife stories several of us writers considered for a compilation that never materialized. Not wanting my ideas to go to waste, I figured a midwife story just might be light and sweet enough.

Don’t laugh.

I started the story and other nice little ideas began to come like someone who doesn’t want to buy a toy for a young boy, and then a scandal. The characters veered from that straight and narrow path as if crashing headlong into a brick wall. Hmmm, or better yet, a mountain.

Sure . . . why have a holly-jolly-jingle-bell-white-Christmas when you can crash into it? Hold on. I did name a character Holly. Is that good enough?

I thought the publisher would love my stories, regardless. Not one . . . but three.

Again, don’t laugh.

Well, no. These didn’t quite fit with the light and sweet imperfections covered with a blanket of white snow. But then, Christmas events aren’t always snow-covered. I figured, why not entertain my readers with what’s beneath the surface and get to the heart of the matters like we struggle with even at Christmastime. Maybe the struggle is more difficult since we would love to have those perfectly happy and ideal Christmases.

I decided that we’re not always riding in a sleigh pulled by Clydesdale horses over a soft, snow-covered landscape singing, “Oh, what fun it is . . . dashing through the snow.” Sometimes, “Grandma gets run over by a reindeer.” Sometimes we get caught in a blustery blizzard and crash headlong into those mountains.

But . . . maybe it can be a blessed Christmas anyway.

Don’t laugh, but believe it.

Just read about the unexpected in Crashing into Christmas, my book of short stories for which I get no pay unless it sells. But it’s Christmas. The giving time. I will give a different free book, Christmas Moments (another of my recent unexpected books) to the winner of a drawing to be held this week. All you have to do is leave a comment below to enter the contest. And don't forget to check out Crashing into Christmas.

TWEETABLES





Yvonne Lehman, best-selling author of fifty-five novels, founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for twenty-five years. She is now director of the Blue Ridge Autumn in the Mountains Novelist Retreat, and has joined Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas as Acquisitions and Managing Editor of Candlelight Romance and Guiding Light Women’s Fiction. Her recent releases include Love Finds You in South Carolina, Reluctant Brides, and Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the TITANIC. Her first non-fiction book is Divine Moments (a compilation of fifty articles written by thirty-seven authors). Yvonne blogs at www.christiansread.com and www.novelrocket.com. You may contact her at yvonnelehman3@gmail.com.











Wednesday, December 3, 2014

5 Things an Author Can Do to Improve Their Craft

You may be a gifted writer, but there is always something you can do to improve your craft.

I've worked with a lot of first-time writers. I've also edited authors who have been published before. One thing I have recognized is that it isn't too difficult to discern who has worked on learning their craft and who has decided they should publish their story before the ink has dried.

If you're an author who understands that we never stop learning (even after we've hit the best-seller list or won the Christy award), here are 5 things you can to do improve your craft:

Book Photo Courtesy of
1. Read more. Especially in the genre that you're writing. But don't neglect those you aren't writing. I am amazed at how much I learn each time I pick up a new book. I don't only learn what to do, either. I also learn what not to do. I'm sure you can relate. You've read those books you want to throw across the room, right?

2. Invest in your writing. Read craft books. Subscribe to Writer's Digest or The Writer. Follow writing blogs like this one. Take an online course. Attend a writers conference. Spend the time and maybe a little money to learn new techniques or improve on old ones.

3. Talk about writing with other writers. I've learned so much just bouncing my ideas off my friend, Edie Melson. Little "rules" I wasn't aware of. When I get stuck, my writing buddies know just the right nudge to get me out of my writing ditch and back on the road to a successful story. Don't isolate yourself to your computer screen. Make some friends and meet them at the coffee shop. Work is more fun that way.

4. Hire an editor. Find one who is professional. You could learn a lot from their edits or suggestions. I leave my authors a ton of comments and suggestions, and I provide instructional handouts for various issues many authors tend to run up against, like telling instead of showing or misusing punctuation marks. And if I don't know something, I'm not afraid to ask someone in my vast network of editors and multi-published authors.

5. If at first you don't succeed, try again. And again. And again. Practice gets you a lot closer to perfect than sitting in your chair whining into your coffee about how cruel people are or how much they don't "get you." Stephen King didn't become who he is as a writer by crying over his rejection slips. He worked hard and kept at it. Read his book On Writing if you'd like to know more about how he became who he is as a writer today.

Tweetables:

5 Things an Author Can Do to Improve Their Craft via @AlyciaMorales #amwriting {Click to Tweet}

Want to improve your #writing skills? Here are 5 things you can do via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

We'd love to hear from you! Do you have another tip about how to improve your writing craft? Leave us a comment below.

Monday, November 24, 2014

What Kind of Reader Are You?

Linda Gilden is back this week to give us her perspective on the reader's personality. Enjoy.

And the winner of Linda's book is . . . Maureen! Maureen, please send your mailing address to andreamerrell7@gmail.com, and we will get your book in the mail.

By Linda Gilden


I’ve heard most readers spend eight to ten seconds looking at the outside of a book before they decide to move on or look inside. Have you ever stopped to think what draws you to one book over another? Perhaps it is your personality.

As a strong purposeful/melancholy personality, my preference often gravitates to covers that are to the point so I know what I am getting inside the book. I want it to have value for me and satisfy my thirst for knowledge. The colors are probably subdued without a lot of splash. Why does that appeal to me?

The purposeful/melancholy personality is curious about the world around him or her. The desire to go deeper when reading about subjects is often present. This no-nonsense reader doesn’t want to have to wade through the fluff, but wants the information to be complete and enlightening. A purposeful/melancholy reader searching for a novel to read may look for one with intrigue or settle on a romance with lots of family history and backstory. He or she may become engrossed in a book and forsake other duties to read.

While it may appear that those with playful/sanguine personalities are not avid readers, they love a good story. In fact, they can spin a yarn with the best. But in order to captivate this group of readers, the story line must move along quickly, and the action must be plentiful. Drawn to bright, cheerful, fun covers, if the words do not match the excitement of the cover, the book will probably join others on the book shelf that are half read. Fiction is the genre of choice for this playful, sanguine personality who is so easily distracted.

My friend who is a very powerful/choleric personality is even more matter-of-fact with her choices. The covers that appeal to her are not obscure, but give concise information as to what is in the book. For the choleric personality, a bulleted list is sure to please, with a promise to give information in a way she can understand and catalog in her storehouse of knowledge. A powerful choleric novel reader looks for intrigue and mystery, a story he or she can actively participate in and solve.

Observing the reading habits of the peaceful/phlegmatic personalities, they are drawn to books that have calm and inviting covers with promise of a peaceful getaway. This low-key personality loves to settle in the hammock with a good book that will entertain and give an escape from the hustle and bustle of the world. Books are a perfect gift for this personality.

Is it really important to understand personalities? Does it really matter why you pick up one book or another, or why you are drawn to a particular genre?

For writers, the answer to the first question is an overwhelming “Yes!” Understanding who your readers are and how they receive information gives you the inside knowledge of how to write so they will enjoy your books.

Having the knowledge of the personalities is a tool that can make a difference in your relationship with your readers, others around you, and with God. Certified Personality Trainer Tama Westman says, “Understanding the personalities is like a superpower. Being aware of what a person’s emotional needs are based on his or her personality, transforms your communication skills. You understand how you are perceived and how others receive information. You live more in tune with family and friends because you know why they walk and talk as they do. Personality knowledge made me realize God made me just as I was and He delighted in His creation.”

So the next time you visit the bookstore, what will interest you? Will you look at a cover with a catchy title and realize you like that because you are a playful personality? Will you see the purposeful person next to you drawn to the muted cover of a different book? Or perhaps a powerful person studying the list of features and benefits on the back cover of a book that interests him or her. Will you find a peaceful person intrigued by the story line?

No matter what your personality, there are plenty of books to choose from that will encourage, entertain, and enrich your life.

What kind of reader are you? We would love to hear your comments.

(Photos courtesy of blogthings.com and madisonpublicschools.org.)

TWEETABLES


  



Linda Gilden’s most recent book is Called to Write, coauthored with Dr. Edna Ellison. Linda is a Certified Personality Trainer who loves helping people understand how to build better relationships with those around them through a knowledge of the personalities. Linda is an author, speaker, editor, and writing coach. Her other books include Mama Was the Queen of Christmas, Personality Perspectives, and others. Linda lives in SC with her husband, three adult children, and the five cutest grandchildren in the world! Her favorite activity is floating in a lake surrounded by splashing children.


Monday, November 17, 2014

15 Things Writers are Thankful For - A Christmas Gift Idea List

by Alycia W. Morales

As a writer, there are several things I find myself #thankful for each year. My mentor. My agent. My supportive husband. My fellow writers. Decaf coffee and chocolate (by the pound, please!).

I just didn't feel right offering up a Christmas gift idea list for writers without first honoring Thanksgiving, since that's still a little over a week out. And Christmas comes after that.

But the fake trees are standing tall in the local shops, ornaments galore are begging to be purchased as they dangle from hooks in the same stores, and Starbucks is serving up Peppermint Mochas and Cranberry Bliss Bars.

And since this is my week to post before Thanksgiving, I thought I'd offer up a list of 15 things writers are thankful for, aka a Christmas gift idea list. I know that my fellow writers and/or I are thankful we have these 15 things available to us, so they're probably something other writers on your shopping list would be thankful for as well. Feel free to print it off so you can bring it along on Black Friday. Or use it on Cyber Monday.

1. Scrivener - This "is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft." (As their site says.)

I have many writerly friends who love Scrivener and use it regularly. After hearing someone comment about how handy it is for formatting (which tends to get wonky in Microsoft Word), I may be getting this for myself this Christmas. PS - Free trial.

2. An Editor - Any writer worth the words on their page knows and understands the benefits of having a professional editor go over their manuscript. What better way to encourage someone toward publishing their next great novel than to bless them with the gift of a professional edit?

Andrea and I (Alycia) would love to help, and our rates are available here on this site (click our names for the links to our pages). If you'd prefer to shop around, feel free to do so. Here are a couple of sites we recommend: The Christian PENA Little Red Inc.. Also, you may wish to check with your favorite authors. I know several of mine also work as editors on the side.

I met my agent at BRMCWC...
3. Writers Conferences - One of the best things a writer can do for their career is network. And one of the best networking tools in the industry is the writers conference. These are the place that you are going to meet the agents and editors that can get your manuscript into the hands of the right people. Most publishing houses no longer accept unsolicited materials. This means you need an editor or an agent to request a submission from you. One of the only ways to meet these people is to attend writers conferences. There are a few conferences I highly recommend attending: Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, Writers Advance Boot Camp, ACFW, Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, and Florida Christian Writers Conference.

If you're a writer wanting to go to a conference and your budget is tight, consider asking your family and friends to pitch in to your conference fee rather than buying you something else for Christmas or your birthday. If you're a family member looking for a gift idea, maybe consider sponsoring your writer or paying for their meal ticket, a plane ticket, hotel room, etc. associated with the particular conference your family member wishes to attend.

4. Online Courses - Maybe you can't afford the cost of a writers conference, but you still want to learn about the craft of writing or want a critique of your work or wish you could get your writing in front of an industry professional. Online courses can definitely help with that. One place to look for these would be Writers Digest.

5. Daycare Services - Many writers are stay-at-home parents. Or they work out of their "home" office. Which means that distractions are abundant. Maybe you could bless your writer with a few hours of daycare services each week. Or pop in and offer to watch the kids so they can work at their "other" office (aka Starbucks) for a couple of hours.

Personally, I know it's difficult to keep my creative juices going and the words flowing when my four children are constantly coming to me with a barrage of questions or needs (aka requests for me to buy them things they must have right now). It's a tremendous blessing when my husband comes home from his day of work and asks if I'd like to get out for a while so I can finish that chapter or race to meet that deadline.

6. A gift card to Barnes and Noble or Amazon or any other book carrier - Here's the thing about writing: it takes time to learn to do it well. Even if you're born with a natural talent for it. One way to learn to do it well is to read books on the craft of writing or how to edit or different ways to express the same emotion. Andrea and I provide a list of recommended reading {here}. Another way to learn how to write well is to read books by other people in your particular genre. You'll learn from reading their words what works well and what doesn't. Gift cards come in handy for stocking up on these reading materials.

7. A subscription to Writer's Digest or The Writer - Again, useful tools for a writer to learn how to improve their craft.

8. A gift card to Hobby Lobby or Michael's. Or a ticket to the next big game. Or concert. - Writers tend to be creative in more areas than one. Several friends of mine are also photographers, crocheters, jewelry makers, painters, and more. And one thing I've learned over the years is that I need to be creative in more than just my writing. Because it helps my writing if I can take a break and make something else. Or go someplace else. Maybe your writer isn't the artsy-craftsy type. Maybe they like hiking or flying planes better. Support them in those other areas as well. Bless them with a gift card or free pass or something so that they can enjoy another of their "outlets." Their writing will thank you for it.

Gloves by SoulRole on Etsy
9. Fingerless Gloves - As I'm sitting here typing this post, I'm wishing I had a pair. The weather is getting cooler (it's raining here right now, so add damp-cooler to that), and our fingers can get pretty chilly as they fly over the keys. It does help to have on fingerless gloves. Click on the picture to follow a link to that pair. Click "Fingerless Gloves" here or above to follow the link to a wide selection of them on Etsy.

(PS - There's even a pair listed for those Whovian writer friends of  yours...)

10. A gift card to Staples or another office supply-type center - Authors have various organizational needs. While some of us are super proficient keeping ourselves organized with our technological tools and apps, other tend to favor the white board. Or Post-It Notes. Some use the calendars on our phones. Others (like me) use the handy day planner. Believe it or not, a trip to the office supply store could be super handy and a huge blessing to a writer.

11. A gift card to VistaPrint or Moo - One of the key tools in a writer's networking bag is their business card. If a writer is going to attend a writers conference, they will eventually be told they need to come with business cards in hand. VistaPrint and Moo are two trusted sites for designing and ordering these.

I have a collection of minions on my desk.
12. Inspiration (or a gift certificate to a place where they can get it) - Many authors I know, myself included, have things hanging from their walls or sitting on their desks that keep them inspired. Whether it's quotes, photographs, minions--> or superhero paraphernalia, the item(s) encourage them to continue working through the day, the sudden blank page (or mind), or toward that deadline or goal. Find out what your writer loves and give them a little inspiration for their office space.

One of my favorite author spaces belongs to Torry Martin (comedian, actor, writer - honestly, I think he can do just about anything...). You can check it out {here}.

13. A workout video or gym membership - No, I'm not trying to say that your writer friend is fat. But writers do sit a lot. Which isn't good for us. Many of us will stand up and do at least 10 minutes of activity throughout our day, whether we wash the dishes, swap out a load of laundry, do a 10-minute workout, run the treadmill for 15, or take the dog for a walk.

14. If you're afraid you may offend your writer by buying them a workout video or gym membership, consider buying them a standing desk. (The cheapest standing desk was $35 and could hold a laptop.) These are becoming more and more popular for obvious health reasons. I'm even considering getting one. Especially since every time I have to stand for several minutes at a time, I find myself looking for the nearest wall or column to lean against.

15. Time - This could come in many forms. Maybe your writer could use a maid. Or a cook. Or a taxi driver. Maybe you're thinking, "She's crazy." But I'm not. Really. I promise you. What friend (especially if her love language is acts of service) wouldn't love it if you stopped by to offer to tidy up a bit, wash a load of dishes, cycle a load of laundry, take the kids to the park for an hour, or cook the family dinner for a night? Maybe he's been on deadline for three months and could use an evening out with his wife. Maybe she could use a weekend alone at a mountain cabin but needs someone to take care of the cats while she's away. Consider your writer and what his or her needs may be. Offer your service(s). Sometimes the best gift isn't one that money can buy. It's the offering of a true friend.

Tweetable:

15 Things a #Writer Would Want for Christmas via @AlyciaMorales #shopping {Click to Tweet}

Tell us, what would be the ultimate gift someone could give you as a writer?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Personality and the Writer

We are so happy to have Linda Gilden as our guest today. Leave a comment below, and you will automatically be entered into a drawing for her newest book, with coauthor Edna Ellison, Called to Write. 

By Linda Gilden


Recently, a friend called. “How do you do this?” she demanded.

“Do what?” I asked.

“How do you sit there all day and write? Don’t you get bored? Are you tired of being by yourself?”

I gave her a quick explanation of why my purposeful/melancholy personality was so well suited for writing. I also explained why as a playful/sanguine personality, she didn’t like being confined in a chair for long periods of time—alone. Once she understood why she needed multiple breaks and lunches out with her friends, she was less hard on herself to fit the writer mold.


 It may seem strange to even consider what personality you are if you are a writer. After all, you sit in front of your computer and type just like all the other writers in the world, right?

Well, yes and no. No matter what God has called you to do, it is affected in part by the personality He has given you.


For instance, the playful/sanguine writer loves the idea of having something in print. However, sitting in the same chair for hours on end with no one around to talk to is extremely difficult for this fun-loving, social personality. It almost seems a waste to keep all his or her enthusiasm still in a chair while waiting for a brilliant idea to come along. But playful/sanguine writers usually don’t lack for ideas. They just lack the discipline to carry through with those ideas. Sometimes they find it hard to stay on task and not put off the work part of writing. Their genuine love of people makes them love the research interviews, but they find it hard to focus on transcribing that interview into a wonderful story or book. But once the playful/sanguine writer gets started, his or her writing is colorful, descriptive, and fast-moving.

The powerful/choleric writer is strong-willed and decisive and once the decision is made to write an article or book, he or she is full speed ahead to check the task off his or her list. The powerful/choleric writer is not easily discouraged, but goal-oriented and will get the job done. When doing research interviews, the powerful/choleric writer arrives prepared with a list of questions and when they have the answers, the interview is done. The powerful/choleric’s writing is logical and easy to follow.

The purposeful/melancholy writer is creative and a deep thinker, always wanting to learn more about his or her subject. Being schedule-oriented, the purposeful/melancholy writer likes to finish every project he or she starts. While doing research interviews, the purposeful/melancholy writer wants to know more about his or her subject, sometimes requiring much more time than allotted. Often the purposeful/melancholy writers finds his or her perfectionism to be a hindrance. It’s hard to push the send button unless the work is absolutely perfect, and the mindset is that if the writer can just go over it one more time, that will eliminate more mistakes. The writing of the purposeful/melancholy writer is often deep and full of details and he or she will cover the subject thoroughly.

The peaceful/phlegmatic writer is a steady and competent writer. He or she works well under pressure, wanting to finish the tasks assigned. Because of his or her peaceful and laid-back style, this writer sometimes looks for the easy way to complete a task (and often finds it).  The writing of a peaceful/phlegmatic writer is sensitive and heartfelt. When conducting a research interview, he or she wants to get it done so he or she can finish the project. Peaceful/phlegmatic writers also love to be around people but sometimes prefer just to finish the article so nap time will come more quickly.

Do you see yourself in one of these personalities? Are there times when you need to take a step back from your writing habits and allow your personality strengths to make you a better writer?

Don't forget to leave a comment for a chance to win!



(Photo courtesy of helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com.)

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Linda Gilden is an author, speaker, editor, and writing coach. Author of over a thousand articles, the Love Notes series, Mommy Pick-Me-Ups, Mama Was the Queen of Christmas, Personality Perspectives, and the recently released Called to Write, Linda has ghostwritten or contributed to over thirty books. She directs the CLASS Christian Writers Conference and the Carolina Christian Writers Conference, encouraging others to clearly communicate God’s love to the world. Linda lives in SC with her family—three grown children and their spouses, and five, soon-to-be-six, grandchildren—a great source of speaking and writing material! www.lindagilden.com ~ personalityperspectivesbook.com




Monday, November 3, 2014

CLOSE CALL

By Andrea Merrell


We’ve all heard the old clich├ęs, “Close but no cigar,” and “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades,” but since everything is relative, how close is too close? How many times have you almost reached your goal, only to have some unforeseen event (or person) keep you just short of that goal?

Maybe you’ve entered a dozen contests and always come up in the top five, but never first place. Maybe you have enough rejection letters to wallpaper your bathroom. It could be you’re a writer who sets daily or weekly goals for projects and word counts, but you always come up short.

We all want the exciting hole-in-one experience, but sometimes a bogey is not so bad. And there’s always the mulligan (or the do-over) to help get us to the goal. The key here is to keep trying.

It’s hard not to get discouraged when you keep missing the mark time after time, but use that time as a learning process. There is nothing written so well that it can’t be improved upon by time, study, application, determination, and downright tenacity.

Over the years, I’ve seen writers have small successes, or maybe no success at all—at least in their own eyes. Many saw themselves as failures and gave up. I’ve seen others who went after their objective like a bulldog, not willing to let go until they arrived at the desired destination.

Sometimes a roadblock—which can appear as failure—is a way to point you in another direction. Many times God has another plan for you and He devises a way to get your attention and point you toward the destination He has for you. The truth is, God wants to be involved in every aspect of your life, including your writing. If He has gifted you with words, offer that gift back to Him as a sacrifice of praise and seek His timing and direction in every devotion you write, every article you submit, every blog you post, and every novel you pour your heart into. Pray, then put feet to your prayers. Your breakthrough will come.

I have personally used every excuse known to the human race for not sitting down to write. But when God calls me to get busy, all my excuses fall flat. As a famous author once said, “You only fail if you stop writing.”

How about you? What kind of roadblocks have you encountered? How do you deal with rejection? We would love to hear your suggestions.

(Photos courtesy of thetestofthecross.com, toonclips.com, and brghealth.com.)

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Monday, October 27, 2014

5 Reasons You Shouldn't Sign that Book Contract

In my editing career, I've discovered that there are a few reasons authors should pause for a week or two before they opt to sign a book contract. I don't say this to discourage anyone. I love encouraging authors to follow their dreams and reach that published status. I say it to encourage you to really consider what you're getting into and whether or not you're working within God's timing or your own. Is this really something He wants for you, or are you just looking for your name on the cover?

Here are five things to consider before you sign that contract:

1. If you're writing non-fiction or you've based your fictional character on someone you know, have you mentioned that to the important people involved? If not, why? If you are afraid to tell someone that you've written about them or tackled a tough topic that involves them, I don't recommend you look for a contract until you feel safe enough or guiltless and can handle a confrontation should one arise.

2. Can you accept constructive criticism without feeling the overwhelming need to defend your writing? If you do not want anyone to change anything in your book, don't sign a contract with a publishing house. I guarantee you the editor is going to recommend changes, and most houses state in their contracts that you no longer own the rights to your manuscript. Basically, when you sign a book contract, your rights go to the publisher. Which means they can tell you to change anything they deem necessary. Don't sign that contract if you're married to your words or you want to coddle them like a baby.

3. Are you a procrastinator? If so, do you work well under the pressure of a deadline? The process of publishing a book usually takes around a year to happen from start to finish, beginning the moment you sign the contract. There will be times that you'll be wondering if the publisher is even working on your novel, and then you'll find yourself with a manuscript slayed with red ink and only two weeks to make all of the required changes. It's a slow, quick, slow, quick type of process. Consider your schedule before you sign that dotted line.

4. How do you feel about marketing? Do you know anything about marketing? Publishing houses no longer have the budgets to fund major marketing campaigns. Most expect the authors to assist in marketing their books. That's why we constantly hear the word "platform." Because they want to know you've got a built-in audience. So what have you done to build that platform or form that tribe? And what can you do in the future to help your book sell? Are you comfortable getting in front of people through radio and television interviews, book signings, and speaking engagements? Are you proficient in social media networking? Do you go places your audience would frequent? These are all things to consider before you say "yes" to publishing.

5. Do you like working with other people? As writers, we spend a great deal of time alone in front of our computers, talking only with the characters in our heads. But when you sign a book contract, you're joining a team that is pulling for you, while at the same time they are expecting you to put forth your own effort and do what is requested of you. You may or may not have input into your cover design, your marketing plan, etc. Will you be able to handle interaction or lack of interaction? If not, don't sign that contract!

Please be very honest with yourself when answering these questions. I know it's difficult to face the fact that maybe I'm not ready to do one or more of these things. If it were me, failure and insecurity would overwhelm me, and I may drop my dream altogether. But, with time, any one of these points can be overcome and the dream can be pursued. That time is very important, though. Not something to be rushed or skipped for the sake of having a book in the market. Take it, and allow God to prepare you for what lies ahead as a published author.

Tweetables:

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How do you know if you're ready to accept a book contract? @AlyciaMorales shares 5 things to consider before you sign. http://tinyurl.com/ptvjmdf {Click to Tweet}

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Have you found any other reasons to delay publishing your novel or non-fiction book? We'd love to hear them! Please share in the comments.

Monday, October 20, 2014

WRITE, WRITE, REWRITE

By Andrea Merrell

My husband cringes whenever I say, “Let’s move the furniture.” This is especially true during the holidays as we try to make room for the Christmas tree. He expects me to know exactly where to place each piece of furniture so he only has to move it once. All you men are probably thinking, “Amen, sister,” while most of you ladies can relate to my dilemma.

The truth: I have an idea in my head where things should be placed.


The problem: Once it gets there, it just doesn’t fit the overall plan.

Writing is much the same as rearranging the furniture, especially if your method is SOP (seat-of-the-pants). Once you get your words out of your head and in front of your eyes, what made sense before, doesn’t make sense now. That’s when the work really begins.

I’ve shared this before, but it bears repeating. In the movie Finding Forrester, Sean Connery’s character (a famous author who has become a recluse) gives this advice to an aspiring young writer: “No thinking. That comes later. You write your first draft … with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is … to write, not to think.”

Great advice, but now let’s talk about the second key to writing: to think.

Once you have your words on paper or safely tucked away in your computer, it’s time to start the editing/proofreading/rewriting process. When you go back over your material and read it aloud, you’ll get a better feel for syntax and sentence structure. There needs to be a natural flow to your story and things need to be in chronological order.

Changes are inevitable. It might be something as simple as moving a speaker beat to shifting an entire scene to another chapter. Maybe you have a paragraph that does not move the story forward and needs to be deleted. In that case, open a separate Word doc, title it something like “Extra Passages,” then copy and paste what you are deleting. This way, you don’t lose anything valuable. You might want to use it later. If it doesn’t work in this book, it might be material for the next. Don’t waste a single word, thought, or idea.


Rewriting is also like remodeling a house. It’s easier to build a house from the ground/up, but sometimes the initial structure is beautiful and sound—it just needs to be made a little better by some important and well-thought-out additions.

Don’t let the process derail you. It’s a natural part of the writer’s life. If you’re having trouble, call on your critique group or a trusted writing buddy. Take a break (hours, days, maybe even a few weeks) then come back to your project. You’ll have a whole new perspective and possibly a fresh batch of ideas. Whatever you do, keep working and rewriting until your manuscript is clean, professional, and ready to launch into cyberspace.

 (Photos courtesy of moneypit.com and screencraft.org.)

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