Monday, August 31, 2015

One-Uppers

By Andrea Merrell


Do you have a one-upper in your life? You know … the person who is bigger, stronger, smarter, and faster. Not only does this person have to have the last word, it will always be ten times better than what you say. If you’re sick, they just got out of the emergency room. If you’re busy, they have much more on their plate than you do. If you’re tired, they are exhausted and headed for a nervous breakdown. They always get the trophy.

Sound familiar? For some reason, I always seem to have an abundance of one-uppers in my life. No matter what I say, they have to out-do me. For whatever reason, they must always have the upper hand in every situation. Maybe it’s pride. Maybe it’s insecurity. Could be different in each case, but it is, nonetheless, frustrating.

One-Uppers in the Writing Life
You’ll find this true in your writing life as well. No matter how many queries you’ve submitted or rejection letters you’ve received, there will be someone who should be in the Guinness Book of Writing Blunders for queries, and they have wallpapered their entire office with rejection letters. If you’ve written twenty devotions, they’ve written fifty. If you’ve been to five different writers’ conferences, they’ve been to ten—much bigger and better.

Learning to Adapt
Are you getting the picture? One thing is certain: there is no changing the one-upper. They are here to stay—to keep the rest of us on our toes—so we just have to learn to deal with them the best we can. These people have the it’s-all-about-me syndrome, and we have to learn to let their prattling roll off the proverbial duck’s back. Don’t ever let their constant self-promotion discourage or derail you.

This is why it’s important to never compare yourself with others. You are a special, one-of-a-kind creation, endowed with unique gifts and talents from your Creator. You have a story that no one else can tell but you. You have the ability to reach those whom no one else can reach. You have a divinely-inspired plan and purpose that no one else could ever fulfill. That, my friend, is your heavenly assignment.

One thing I’ve learned is that this journey—this Christian walk—is truly not all about me. It’s about being obedient to God, honoring Him with my abilities, and pouring into the lives of others. When we put others above ourselves as the Scriptures instruct us to do, and work together as a team to promote each other, God will bless our efforts in ways we can’t imagine.

(Photos courtesy of morguefile.com.)

TWEETABLES








Monday, August 24, 2015

10 Things to Do When the Writing Doesn't Flow

Some days I find myself sitting in front of the computer, head hurting, staring at a blank screen. Although the desire to write is there, the words aren't. Maybe it's the headache. Maybe it's the 50 other things rolling around in my brain, crowding out the words. Who knows.

One thing I'm sure of, though. On these days, there are still things I can do to further my story. Even if I'm not putting words on the page.

Here are 10 things we can do when the writing doesn't flow:

1. Research. Do I need to know what songs my character would listen to? Do I need to know more about the era my historical novel is based in? This is a good time to browse the internet or take a trip to the library.

2. Build platform. Take the time to interact with your followers. Follow someone new. Comment on a few blog posts. Start a newsletter for your readers/followers.

3. Take an online course. Struggling with a character? Want a better understanding of plot? Need to focus on a particular genre? There are several online courses that cover any number of writing topics/areas. Take one.

4. Attend a critique group. This is a great way to get feedback on what you've written so far.

5. Brainstorm. Call up a few writer friends and have a brainstorming session. This is a great way to get unstuck.

6. Exercise. Take a walk. Go for a jog or a bike ride. Or pull out that P90X DVD collecting dust. Exercise is great for the body and the brain.

7. Do something else that's creative. Creative types typically have more than one creative talent. Do you paint? Are you a photographer? Do you knit? Take an afternoon to express yourself in another format and see how much that frees up the words to flow.

8. Find your story online. A lot of authors will search the internet for people and settings that remind them of their characters and scenes. Save them in a folder on your computer or in your internet toolbar. Or create a secret folder on Pinterest. When you need inspiration, pull them up.

9. Read. I find that when I read another author's writing, it tends to inspire me to get back to my own. A great story by someone else can spark the creative engine in you to get you going again.

10. Free write. Write whatever is crossing your mind at the moment. Think of it as an info dump onto a blank page. Pretty soon, you'll find yourself back in story mode with words flowing freely onto the page.

Hopefully you've found something helpful in the list, and you've been able to get back to your writing. Whatever you do, don't let that blank screen intimidate you too long. You want to be sure to get words on the page within 24 hours.

What helps you overcome writer's block? We'd love to know, so please share your answers in the comments section of this post.

Tweetable:
Facing a blank screen? 10 tips to get the words flowing again via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

10 Things to Do When the Writing Doesn't Flow {Click to Tweet}

Monday, August 17, 2015

Are You Sharing or Spamming?

By Andrea Merrell

With all the constant changes on Facebook and the multitude of social media outlets, there has been a lot of talk lately among writing and editing professionals about posting on social media. The big question is: How much is too much, and when does it become spam?

There have been a few articles and blog posts written in the past few months about this, and there are numerous books on the subject. If you do a Google search, you will be amazed at the material available. If you’re just beginning to learn about this process of networking, there are a couple of books I would personally recommend. The first is Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers by Edie Melson. Edie is a social media expert and she gives you basic tips on how to get started, along with a better understanding of the terms and techniques we all need to master. If you are not familiar with Edie, I would encourage you to check out her website (www.TheWriteConversation.com) and sign up to receive her daily blog posts. She gives invaluable information that will help you with everything writing related.

Another insightful book on the subject is Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World by Kristen Lamb. In this book, the author shows us the importance of building relationships through social media, rather than amassing hundreds and thousands of people for us to try and “sell, sell, sell” our books. One important thing she points out is how writers tend to only stick with other writers as their tribe/followers. This ends up being a channel for authors to try and sell each other their books. This can get old really fast.

So … What’s the Big Deal?
The big deal really comes down to two things: motive and technique. Why are you trying to build your platform and increase your tribe/followers? Is it just for the sheer numbers, only for marketing purposes, or are you trying to connect with people and build relationships? Let me give you an example. There are people I have “met” through social media and we have developed a relationship that goes beyond Please buy my book. We have talked about children, recipes, and prayer needs. We have shared photos and funny or meaningful videos. Our connection goes far beyond My book is now on sale.

As a result, these social media friends have become important to me. I respect them and what they have to say. Because of this fact, whenever I see a familiar name connected with a blog post or comment, I  always stop to read it and usually share it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+.

There are other people (some I know personally and others I do not) who post only about the current book they are trying to promote. They never post about anything personal, funny, or inspirational. They post so much and so often (especially about the same thing), their efforts have become a form of spam and I almost always ignore them.

That might sound harsh, but I’ve heard many others say the same thing. If you think about it, there are probably a number of people in your circles who will catch your attention, no matter what they have to say. There are most likely others you skim over and never read.

So … What’s the Answer?
Spam is irritating. No one enjoys it, so the answer is to make sure you never come across as a spammer.

Tip to help you be effective with social media:
  • Don’t just share about the books you are trying to sell, and don’t just share with other writers. Expand your territory and be very strategic with your methods.
  • Use the five-to-one rule. For every five posts you share, only one of them should be about you, your blog, or your book. Share inspirational or funny quotes, Scriptures, and photos.
  • Subscribe to blogs that  contain helpful information, and post those on your social media sites. Be quick to promote others above yourself.
  • Don’t post about the same thing every day. If you are promoting a book or service, once or twice a week is generally enough. Give other people a chance to share your posts with their own tribe/followers. This is one way to expand your territory.
  • If you’re using Hootsuite or any other program to schedule your tweets and posts, be careful not to overdo it. Don’t schedule the same tweet or post to appear three or four times within the same day. This gets annoying when people see the same thing over and over and they tend to ignore it. This makes you appear more like a machine than a real person. As Kristen Lamb says in her book, “Be present.”
  • Interact with people whenever possible. Sometimes life gets busy, but it’s always good to “Like” favorite posts on Facebook and leave a comment when applicable. How does it make you feel when you follow someone on Twitter and they send you a reply thanking you for the follow? It makes them seem real and present, not just a face and name on a page.
Do you have any other suggestions for navigating the choppy waters of social media? We would love to hear your comments

(Photos courtesy of 101books.net and amazon.com.)

TWEETABLE

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Good, the Bad, and the Gutless

Today's guest post is by best-selling, award-winning author DiAnn Mills. You can connect with her at www.DiAnnMills.com

By DiAnn Mills

You’re an excellent writer. You’ve spent hours developing your character, but something’s missing. Frustration is eating a hole into your creativity because your character is too proud to admit he might not be perfect. 


You have:
  •        Researched your character’s personality.
  •        Interviewed him and asked tough questions.
  •        Developed a unique voice and dialogue.
  •        Established a setting that promises to spin the story into    a whirlwind of action.

But the character is guarding his weaknesses and flaws. He won’t divulge one moment of backstory, and you’re helpless to discover his motivation for any behavior. It’s time to hit the psychology books. After all, this closed-mouth character may be the best one you’ve ever created.
           
Flaws and weaknesses in human nature stem back to creation. God created us with three needs: relationships, significance, and security. Those needs are supposed to be satisfied by Him. But Adam and Eve kicked off their own program of relying on God. The question is how does your character fulfill his basic needs that don’t factor God into the equation?

The following is a list of those weaknesses that your character may use to fill the empty spots in his life. Where does your character fit?
  •        Money
  •        Power
  •        Sex
  •        Material acquisition
  •        Work, relationships, education, and aesthetic values

Your character uses his weaknesses to satisfy unmet needs. Characters have unmet needs that fall into these categories.
  •        Survival – the need to have continued existence
  •        Security – the need for emotional and economic                  stability
  •        Sex – the need for intimacy
  •        Significance – the need to amount to something and be      worthwhile
  •        Self-fulfillment – the need to achieve goals
  •        Selfhood – the need for a sense of identity

Once the writer is able to discover weaknesses and unmet needs, then motivation slips into an issue of backstory. Human motives have been categorized into four areas, and these areas extend into each one.
  •        Biological
  •        Social
  •        Cognitive
  •        Spiritual 

So take a look at that stubborn character. What is his basic need? Is it relationships, significance, or security? Or a combination? What does he use as a Band-Aid to cover up what’s lacking in his life? What category does his unmet need slide into? Now, what motivates your character into action?
           

TWEETABLE
           

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; the 2015 president of the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope, & Love chapter; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. She is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com





Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Life Happens - What's a Writer to Do?

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

Life Happens. We all know it. Don't we?

We sit down at our keyboard or with pen and paper, throw words on the page, and in the middle of the momentum, our train of thought is derailed by ...

The dust bunny hiding under the keyboard. Kids. Questions. Appointments. Trips to the ER. Collection calls. A friend with a desperate need. Death. Emergencies that need our immediate attention. Things we cannot possibly put off.

What's a writer to do?

Here are 8 things I recommend:

1. Forgive yourself for missing your word count. That deadline. The blog post that was supposed to go up on Monday and...

2. Reschedule. Put the post up Wednesday instead. Contact the deadline holder and let them know you've had an emergency and need an extra day or two. Double up your word count the next day.

3. Remember that those who we're accountable to have a life too. They'll understand. They've probably missed a blog post, word count, or deadline themselves.

4. Keep going. Don't quit pursuing whatever it is you're pursuing just because you had an off day. Or week. Or month. (Hopefully you're not having an off year, but I know they happen.)

5. Schedule in a little extra writing time. Think of it as a time savings plan. That way, when things do come up, you have another time set aside to focus on your writing. The little interruptions here and there won't seem so big.

6. Go on strike. Tell your spouse and the kids you are going dark for the evening and find a quiet place to write, where interruptions aren't allowed. Maybe you need to head to the coffee shop. Maybe you need to lock yourself in a closet. Strike on life and write.

7. Acknowledge when there are seasons you may have to set your writing aside. Maybe you've been writing since you were single in college, and now you're married and about to have a baby. Responsibilities and situations change. You may have to lay it down for a season. But that doesn't mean you can't pick it up again later.

8. Pick it up again. Maybe you set your love of writing aside for a season while life happened, and now that season has passed. Take down that dream, dust it off, and get writing!

Here is the one thing I don't recommend: Use these as an excuse to procrastinate.

Yes, life happens.

But don't let the need to take your child to the emergency room because they just broke their arm become the head excuse to look at Facebook for the next hour, talk with your best friend while eating lunch at your favorite restaurant, and then wander around Hobby Lobby until you have to get your other kids from the car line at school, go home to cook dinner, and collapse in front of the television to watch Castle and doze off.

Take care of life and get back to writing.

Tweetables:
Life Happens, So What's a Writer to Do? {Click to Tweet}

What's a writer do when life interrupts? {Click to Tweet}