Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ten Seeds a Writer Should Sow

By Andrea Merrell

Every farmer and gardener knows that in order to harvest a certain crop, he or she must plant the right seeds. Planting the wrong seeds would be foolish, but not planting any seeds at all would be a disaster.

You might be wondering what this has to do with being a writer.  Just like there are natural laws in effect—like the law of gravity—there are spiritual laws that govern our Christian walk, determining how we fulfill our purpose and God-given destiny. One of the most important is the law of sowing and reaping (Galatians 6:7).

I’ve heard it said that what you are today is a result of what you’ve been believing and confessing (sowing) for the past five years. If this is true, then what you want to become in five years will depend on the seeds you sow now.

To make it more practical, if I want love, friendship, and encouragement from others, those are the seeds I must plant. When I plant seeds of hate, indifference, and criticism, those are the things I will harvest. Not only do we reap what we sow, the Bible says we receive the same portion, whether it’s a spoonful or a bushel basket.  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38 NIV).’’

As we talked about in my last post, I just recently returned from a large conference where I met a multitude of new writers, bringing back memories from my own first experience. I can vividly remember the seeds I tried to sow before I was ready. My pitch was not polished and my proposal not ready. My one-sheet looked like my ten-year-old granddaughter designed it, and I made my own business cards. My three-inch notebook was so organized I couldn’t find anything. Being focused on making a good impression and getting a contract created missed opportunities to network, make new friends, learn the craft, and encourage others who were just as nervous as I was.

The Bible tells us to sow seeds of kindness. This is easy to forget when we’re focused on our own agenda. The best way to achieve our goals is by pouring into the lives of others. To live generously. To tithe our time and our talents, as well as our finances.

When we “delight in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4), He promises to give us the “desires of our heart.” He abundantly grants those desires when we invest our time in helping others. Everyone needs approval and acceptance, and that’s a gift we can freely give.

Here are ten seeds we can regularly sow:

  • Develop a relationship with other writers either face to face or through social media.
  • Pray for others when needs arise, and let them know you’re praying for them.
  • Encourage others when they’re struggling with a project or just received a rejection.
  • Rejoice with others when they win a contest, sign a contract, acquire an agent, receive an award, or have a five-star review on Amazon. 
  • Share your talents. You might be a graphic artist, have an eye for detail, or love marketing. If someone can benefit from your expertise, don’t hesitate to bless them.
  • Find someone to mentor. We’re all at different stages in our writing career, and we all had to start somewhere. Everyone needs others to help them succeed (just like we did). The Bible says that “two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9 KJV). The Message translation puts it this way: “It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps. But if there’s no one to help, tough!
  • Look for the best in others. Encourage them. Don’t offer shallow flattery; give them genuine, heartfelt praise.
  • Be a trustworthy friend and confidant.
  • Don’t just sow query letters, proposals, and contest entries. Sow love and kindness into the lives of others, and watch what God will do.  
  • When you do sow query letters, proposals, and contest entries, make sure they are as clean and professional as possible. 

I’m much further ahead now than five years ago, but I’m still on that journey with a long way to go. The seeds I sow from this point forward will not only determine my destination, but the joy and fulfillment I experience along the way.

What seeds are you planting? We would love to hear your suggestions.



(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/koko-tewan.)

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Ten Things You Should Never Say to an Editor

By Denise Loock



Hiring an editor is wise. But you’ll waste the money you’ve invested if you’re unwilling to accept an editor’s advice. Here are ten things you may want to say to an editor but shouldn’t.

1. No one will notice. No one cares. If you’ve ever noticed a misspelled word or a misplaced comma in a newspaper or on a billboard, you care about accuracy. More than that, though, God cares. He loves excellence. In fact, He demands excellence. Colossians 3:23-25 says, “Don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God. … The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work” (MSG). Ouch. God never excuses “shoddy work.”

2. My friend, an English teacher, told me this was correct. I taught English for 29 years before I became an editor. The differences between English-teacher style and publication style are many. Get the right resources. Here are three: The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, fourth edition (CWMS); Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors; The Associated Press Stylebook.

3. How will readers get my point if I don’t use italics, all-caps, and exclamation points? Make your words work. Don’t glitz them up with fancy fonts and superfluous punctuation. “The craft of writing involves arranging words and phrases in such a way as to emphasize the important points without depending on typographic peculiarities” (CWMS 77).“Typographic peculiarities” attempt to mask mediocrity with gaudiness. Don’t insult your reader with such shenanigans.

4. Max Lucado does it that way. According to his website, Lucado has sold 92 million books. Yes, he’s successful. But if God wanted another Max Lucado, He would clone him. Be your best self. Find your voice.

5. This is God’s message. I can’t change it. Yes the Holy Spirit impresses on us a message. He reveals fresh meanings and applications in Scripture. But He also uses traditional means of education. Paul’s letters are filled with post-resurrection connections to Old Testament Scriptures. Revealed by the Holy Spirit, yes. But Paul had studied the Hebrew Scriptures thoroughly. He learned under Gamaliel, the most respected rabbi of that era (Acts 5:34; 22:3). Messages need refinement. So do messengers. Just ask Paul.

6. That’s the way I talk (or blog.)  The CWMS devotes three pages to the difference between blog style and book style. It covers topics such as tone, structure, transitions, repetition, and references. Learn the rules of good writing and practice them in everything you write.

7. I like it the way it is.  Stubbornness is the twin of arrogance. Everyone makes mistakes—writers and editors. But wait at least 24 hours before insisting, “I won’t change it.” Pray about it. In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer says of the student: “And gladly would he learn and gladly teach.” Wise words.

8. But I love that song (book, speaker). We all have favorite books, speakers, and songs. But that doesn’t mean we insert lyrics, paragraphs, and illustrations from those sources in our books or blogs. Find a fresher way to say it that reflects your experiences, your environment, your interests.

9. I saw it somewhere on the Internet (heard it at church, at a conference, on TV).
Documentation is essential. If you don’t know the source, don’t use it. Misquotes and wrong attributions permeate the Internet. Avoid using brainyquote.com and goodreads.com/quotes. And never depend on Wikipedia. Respect the sources you admire enough to read the original version of their words.



10. It could mean that, couldn’t it? Use Scripture accurately and appropriately. Context is everything. Don’t mix fiction with fact. Even if you’re using only one verse, study the context, read a few commentaries, and pray about it.  Research Scriptures as thoroughly as other citations. Plant 2 Timothy 2:15 in your heart and “correctly handle the word of truth” (NIV).

Remember, an editor is your friend. Editors want your manuscript to be the best it can be. Editing is a humbling career. Writing is a humbling career. Neither writers nor editors are infallible. But we both can strive for excellence and make our heavenly Father proud.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Master Isolated Images, Denise Loock, and Google Photos.)

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Denise Loock is a writer, editor, and speaker. She is the former editor for The Journey Christian Newspaper, which reaches over 60,000 online and print readers. As an assistant editor, she helps Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas produce high quality, engaging inspirational books. She accepts freelance editing projects too. Contact her at info@digdeeperdevotions.com.



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Time Management Tips for Writers

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

Life has a way of taking over, and it always seems to be my writing that suffers. For the past few years, I've been working as a freelance editor—and a very busy one at that. Between the editing and busyness four kids entail, I've let my writing dreams take a shelf. No longer. Based on what I've been taught over the past seven years, I'm setting a schedule and sticking to it. Here are a few of those tips:

7 Time Management Tips for Writers {Click to Tweet}

1. Start your morning with God. I don't know about you, but if I skip my morning quiet time with the Lord, things don't go very well the rest of the day. It may not be evident in the events of the day, but I can always tell my stress levels are up and my patience levels are down. I need that time with the Lord to gain the peace only He can provide. Other benefits to quiet time with Father? Reassurance of His love. Direction. Healing. Freedom. Creativity. Just to name a few...

2. Half an hour of social media first. As writers, we're assured we need a platform. Social media and blogging are two ways to help build that platform. After your quiet time, spend half an hour scheduling your social media posts across sites for the day. Use HootSuite and preschedule those posts so you don't have to be tempted back to Facebook or Instagram until you've gotten your day's work finished. What to share? Quotes. Memes. Links to pertinent information for your audience. Questions to get your audience sharing. Interesting facts. Something interesting to you or about you that will pull your audience closer to you. And remember the golden rule: 5 posts that promote someone else to every 1 post that promotes you.

3. Find your golden hours. Every creative person has a certain time of day they are most creative. When's yours? Mine happens to be mid-morning until early afternoon. It's definitely not after 6:00 PM when I can no longer put two sentences together. Know your creative golden hours and do your writing then.

4. Schedule the other tasks around that time. I'm an editor and, as of this year, a ghostwriter. I have clients lined up through the end of 2017. I will work on their projects around those golden hours when I'll be writing my own novels or blogging.

5. Make one day a week the day you run errands for your household. I know that Fridays tend to be the days I am out and about getting groceries, taking care of household business, etc. So, I plan to work four days a week, Monday through Thursday, and spend Friday taking care of everything else. I spend the day working the weekly household budget, paying bills, grocery shopping, dropping bags to the thrift shop, and anything else that needs accomplishing.

6. Pick a day of the month to dedicate to appointments for your household. My doctor isn't in the office one afternoon every month. That's his dedicated day for dentist appointments, doctor appointments, etc. Granted, kids will get sick or break bones any day of the week, but if you know you have annual checkups and cleanings coming up, pick one day a month to schedule these. That will allow you to stick to your schedule and not be running 50 directions all week.

7. Let everyone who typically interrupts your schedule (family, friends, church family) know that you are running a business and cannot be interrupted anymore. Turn the ringer off on your phone or set text messages to Do Not Disturb and get to work. If you're going to make an income, you need regular office hours just like any other businessman or woman. It's time to set healthy boundaries and minimize interruptions.

I hope these tips will help you! Now, I'm off to set my schedule in motion and let my household know I have a job to do. If you have any tips you'd like to add, please feel free to share them in the comments below. We look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Writers Conferences Are Like a Box of Chocolates

By Andrea Merrell

Expectations. We all have them—some realistic and achievable, others not so much.

Merriam-Webster online defines expect this way: to await, suppose, or think; to anticipate or look forward to the coming or occurrence of; to consider probable or certain; to consider reasonable, due, or necessary; to consider bound in duty or obligated.

That’s a whole lot of wishing and hoping.

I just returned from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (BRMCWC) in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. With over 500 people in attendance, it was a privilege and honor to be part of the faculty. Teaching classes and interacting with conferees at appointments, meals, and free time gave me the opportunity to observe attitudes in action. For many of these conferees—especially first-timers—expectations ran the gamut from “God’s about to make me a super star” to “what in the world am I doing here?”

When attending my first conference as a newbie, I was clueless. My friend and roomie (also a newbie) and I had no idea what to do before we arrived, while we were there, and even after we left, but we knew we were supposed to be there. Armed with faux courage, we were both convinced we would come home with an agent, a contract, and a bunch of “attagirls … you are an amazing writer and just what we’ve been looking for.”

Sad to say, that’s not exactly what happened. Actually, that’s not anything close to what happened. Speaking for myself, I wasn’t ready.

They say you don’t know what you don’t know. An acute awareness of how much I didn’t know (and needed to learn) came home with me, packed securely in my luggage—along with a fistful of business cards, bookmarks, handouts, class notes, and an abundance of wise advice. Overwhelming? Yes, but as I applied myself and attended this same conference (along with others) year after year, God’s plan for my life unfolded. Looking back over the past ten years, I can clearly see His hand in every aspect of my writing career—even in the dreaded rejection letters. Every step became part of the learning process as God opened the right doors and closed the wrong ones, taught me to keep my eyes on Him instead of others, and prepared me for the wonderful journey He had prepared for me. The key factor was—and is—trust.

This past week, I had the pleasure of speaking with so many precious individuals who have words burning in their heart that need to be written. Some were confident, while others were shy and hesitant. A few were confused and frustrated because they didn’t know what to expect, who to talk with, and which classes to attend. My advice to them was simple: “Put away your expectations and allow God to do what He wants to do. Believe for divine appointments, divine connections, and divine favor. Take one step at a time, and make the most of every opportunity that comes your way. You are not here by accident, but by design.”

God’s plans are almost always bigger than our own, and He will bless us in the most unusual and unexpected ways. I’ve learned that at a conference, the person I meet in the hallway who needs a hug and a word of encouragement might be the very reason God has me there.

Attending conferences is essential to our writing journey. But success is in the eye of the beholder. Yes, we all long for an agent, a contract, and an attagirl (or attaboy). But let’s not neglect the process of learning the basics and honing our craft. Becoming a good writer is a process, not an event.

Most importantly, don't forget to step outside your comfort zone and meet people. Forging friendships is how you build your network. I'm very thankful for lessons learned over the years and the many opportunities that have come my way, but some of the greatest gifts are all the incredible people I’ve met and the life-long friendships that have been created.


So, what about you? If you’re not getting the desired results, maybe it’s time to change your expectations. To quote Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates.” We could say the same thing about a conference. You never know what you’re going to “get,” but when you’re trusting in God, you can be sure it will be a blessing and another step in the right direction.

Has God blessed you in ways you least expected? We would love for you to share with us and our readers.


(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Pansa/David Castillo Dominici.)

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Don't Bury Your Gift

By Andrea Merrell

Writing can be a tough business, especially when working with deadlines, keeping up with blog posts, and coming up with fresh ideas. Even attending workshops and conferences can be a challenge—financially, emotionally, and physically. As writers, we sometimes work under strict time restraints, family obligations, and physical limitations.

So … why do we do it?

For most of us, it’s a God-given calling. We write because He has placed the gift within us. I like to say, “I write because I can’t not write.” Not a great way to say it, but it expresses the reality of this unique calling. I would be completely miserable and unfulfilled if unable to express my thoughts, ideas, stories, and characters on paper.

Because I spend so many hours at the computer, I deal with neck, back, and shoulder issues. These problems have been severe at times, resulting in doctor appointments, chiropractic care, massage therapy, testing, medication, and time away from the computer. But lately, I’ve talked with many other writers who have to push through because of severe physical limitations. Their stories have been very inspiring, making me realize I don’t have much to complain about.

On the other hand, I’ve known a few writers with an amazing gift who gave it up because they had so many obstacles to overcome.

Why would someone with such a special gift decide to bury it? I think there are several reasons, and they all have to do with fear.


Fear of Rejection
Everyone deals with this to a degree, but to some it can be crippling. It might be the very thing that keeps you from submitting your manuscript to an agent, editor, or publisher. One lady told me she was terrified to let her words “out of the nest.”

Fear of Not Being Good Enough
Perhaps you’re intimidated by other writing professionals, and this keeps you from attending workshops and conferences where you can network and polish your skills. One of the worst things we can do as writers—or anything else for that matter—is compare ourselves to others. God has called and uniquely gifted you to do what no one else can do.

Fear of the Unknown
This one could encompass a multitude of reasons we bury our gift. For me, my vision has always been an issue. Seven years ago, I had a corneal transplant and cataract surgery in my right eye, putting me out of commission as both a writer and editor for several weeks and making my work difficult for months. Now, I’m facing the same surgery in my left eye later this year. Even though the outcome is unknown, my faith, hope, and trust is in the One who enables me to do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13 NKJV). The Message puts it this way: Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

Pastor and author Bob Gass says:

Paul told the Philippians, “Keep on growing in knowledge and understanding (Philippians1:9 NLT). And he told Timothy, “Be sure to use the abilities God has given you … put them to work … kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you (1 Timothy 4:14-15 TLB). When you don’t exercise your muscles, they weaken and atrophy, and when you don’t utilize the skills God gave you, the same thing happens. Don’t be afraid. Put your gifts and abilities to work, and they’ll become enlarged and developed through practice. With study, feedback, and practice, a good teacher can become a better teacher, and in time grow to be a great teacher.



Whatever God has called and equipped you to do, don’t ever let fear derail you my making you hide or walk away from your gift. Don’t be like the unwise servant who buried his talent in the ground.

Are there certain fears that hold you back? We would love to hear from you.


(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/adamr/Stuart Miles.)

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Freelancing Offers Benefits a Real Job Can't

Thank you for joining us at The Write Editing. Today's guest is award-winning author, editor, and speaker Jim Watkins.

By Jim Watkins

As a freelance author, editor, and speaker, I haven’t had a “real job” since 1982. That also means I haven’t had a regular paycheck, health insurance, pension, or paid vacation. But before you think I’m sending out invitations to a pity party, let me assure you that it’s been worth the white-knuckle trust that bills will get paid and the sleepless nights when there’s no paying work the next day—like right now. So, I’m writing this to assure myself that:
  • I don’t have a regular paycheck, but I don’t have regular hours either, so I’m free to babysit two adorable granddaughters one day a week, be there to help my daughter through the various challenges of her divorce, and drop everything to take off to Michigan to help care for my mom. (I just got back from having lunch with oldest granddaughter during Grandparent’s Day at her school.)
  • I don’t have paid vacations, but I’m free to sit on the porch and read a good book whenever the weather is nice and work is slow. This year, I’ve been able to speak at sixteen conferences across America and stay in some very nice hotels—and be entertained at some very nice restaurants, sit on the beach of Lake Michigan, and enjoy the Rocky Mountains from my lodge.
  • I don’t have a pension, but I have such a wealth of friends as a result of my writing and speaking, so many rich emails and letters saying that I have encouraged people along their life journey, and so many precious memories of moments with family that I would never have been afforded if I was off working at a real job.
Yes, I’d love a regular paycheck, health insurance, pension, or paid vacation. And, yes, it can be frightening being one project away from homelessness. But life is a trade-off and—at least for me—freelancing offers freedom that a real job can’t. And my prayer life has never been better!

What about you. What benefits have you found as a freelancer?

Copyright © James N. Watkins

For a ream of writing resources, visit www.jameswatkins.com.

(Photos courtesy of http://www.jameswatkins.com.)

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Jim Watkins is an award-winning author of over 20 books and 2,000 articles, who has spoken across the United States and overseas. He has served as an editor and editorial director at Wesleyan Publishing House, an editor with the American Bible Society, taught writing at Taylor University for 15 years, and has guest-lectured at Liberty, Regent and other universities. He is currently writing and speaking full-time as well as editing for ACW Press and other clients. His most important roles, however, are being a child of God, husband, dad and “papaw.”



Monday, May 1, 2017

Four Keys to Finding Your Writing Breakthrough

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

It's been seven years since I started my writing career. Seven long years in which I've written two full-length novels and started a few more (some I've even made it halfway through). However, every time I get rejected, it's for the same reasons: episodic writing (translation: flat plot line with occasional peaks), a character who falls flat, or characters we don't have empathy for.

So I go back to the drawing board. Try again. Because I'm not a quitter, and I am a writer.

Have you ever felt like you keep hitting a brick wall and you really want breakthrough in your #writing? {Click to Tweet}

Here are a few things I've figured out as I've searched for breakthrough in my writing:

1. Be obedient to God. If you know He called you to write nonfiction, quit trying to write a novel. If He called you to write YA, stop trying to write contemporary romance for adults. If He called you to write for your family, quit seeking immediate publication. Be obedient, and breakthrough will follow.

2. Face your fears head on. One of my biggest fears is that if I dig deep enough, I'll be surprised by what comes out. I think part of me fears I'll face things I may have buried instead of allowing God to heal the hurts, and I don't really want to go there. So I avoid it in my writing. Which is probably the goldmine that would resolve my flat plot lines and characters. If I don't write, I don't have to dig deep. But then I'm being disobedient to God's call on my life. So I must tackle that fear and put words on the page until I find the golden thread for my story.

3. It's not about you. It's about what God can do with your story. It's about the people who will read it and what you will evoke from within them. Maybe someone will meet Jesus face to face in your novel. Maybe someone will find healing as she recognizes she's not the only one suffering in a particular area. Maybe someone will find a shred of hope and decide life is worth living. Get out of the way, we always tell authors. Don't interrupt the story with your own voice. Let the characters use theirs. Move over and invite the Lord into your work. When we write with Him, our words have far more meaning and purpose than when we choose to write alone.

4. Don't quit. Maybe you've seen the cartoon of the guy with the shovel digging the tunnel underground. He's about to reach his destination when he gives up and turns around. Don't be that guy. Most best-selling authors I know worked an average of eight years before they saw their first contract. And now they're making a decent living off their book sales. But even that takes time. Because you usually need four books published before you start seeing decent royalty checks. So keep digging deep and putting those words on the page. Don't give up on your dream. You never know when you'll hit that breakthrough spot.

Can you relate? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Especially if you have a breakthrough testimony that will encourage others. Thanks for sharing!

Four Things To Do for Your #Writing Breakthrough {Click to Tweet}

Monday, April 24, 2017

Five Things To Do After a Writers' Conference

By Andrea Merrell

You’ve just returned from a writers' conference. You’ve invested your time, energy, and money. Your head is overflowing with information that needs to be processed. What should you do next?

After attending conferences for the past ten years, here are five things I’ve found most helpful.

Breathe
The first item on your agenda should be to stop, take a deep breath, and allow your mind and body to decompress. Writing conferences can be exhilarating and exhausting, especially when they’re longer than a couple of days. After attending my very first conference, my mind was spinning with information overload, and my body was spent. I had so many notes, handouts, and business cards, I didn’t know what to do with them. Treat yourself to a nap or a trip to Starbucks. Visit with a friend or fellow writer and share your experience with them. Taking a break will allow you time to get your thoughts in order before you tackle the tasks ahead of you.

Network
Go through the business cards you collected while names and faces are still fresh in your mind. Connect with these folks on social media. Visit their website or blog and leave a comment. Subscribe to their posts. E-mail someone you made a connection with, and keep in touch. Send a thank-you to those who were helpful and encouraging. Networking is all about establishing a relationship with others in the industry.

You never know when God will give you a kingdom connection, and you never know how it might come. He may surprise you with those He chooses to pour into your life and help you move forward. Sometimes our greatest blessing may come from the last possible place (or person) we expected.

Study Your Notes
Writing is a lifelong learning process. Go over your notes and put what you learned into practice. Don’t file those notes away and forget about them. Think of it as continuing education for writers. If you have questions, brainstorm with other conferees. If the classes were recorded and you purchased the MP3s or digital downloads, you have the entire conference to listen to over and over.

Get Back to Work
Whatever you’re working on—devotion, article, essay, fiction, or nonfiction—get back to work while you’re still excited and motivated by what you gleaned from the conference. Once you’ve read through your notes or listened to the recorded classes, put that new information into action. Maybe you learned how to craft great dialogue or how to write with deep POV. Perhaps you picked up some unique marketing techniques or valuable resources. Be sure to take the time to check those out.

Follow-Up
If you met with an editor, agent, or publisher and they asked you to send them a proposal or a few chapters of your work in progress, do it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked for writing samples at a conference and never received them. Conferences are the best way to get your writing foot in the door. If the professional you met with was not interested in you and your project, they would not have asked you to send them a sample.

Bottom Line
Writing conferences are vital to your writing career. The best advice I ever received as a newbie was to “join a critique group, attend writers’ conferences, and network, network, network.” I took that advice and have never regretted it for one moment.

Whatever you do—before, during, and after the conference—be ready. Whenever you ask God to bless you and open doors of opportunity, He will. The best way to begin each day is to pray for divine appointments, divine connections, and divine favor.

What about you? What have you found helpful after you return from a conference? We would love to hear from you.


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Monday, April 10, 2017

How To Light a Fire To Your Writing Career

by DiAnn Mills    @DiAnnMills


When writers realize the embers of their careers are dying, stomping out the few remaining flames is not the answer. Instead, effective writers look for new ways to promote themselves that explodes with ingenuity and creativity.

Is your career on the verge of smoldering? Try adding a spark to your marketing and promotion plan with these ideas.

1. Brainstorm with other writers about your brand and marketing and promotion efforts. Brainstorming is the best method I know to expand creativity from the writing process to branding and promotion.

2. A new professional photo. Invest in a good photographer who will not only create a great new look for media but will also snap a few candid and fun pics that can be used for social networking.

3. Update your website. Now may be the time to consider an exciting design that uses your brand as the focus. Your website is your calling card. It must reflect you, your writing, and your uniqueness.

4. Author bio. A writer uses his/her flair for words to enhance a bio that draws readers into your world. Make it personal and professional. Also develop a shorter version for those times when media has space for two or three sentences.

5. If you’re social media networking includes only Facebook or Twitter, stretch yourself. Dive into the advantages of Goodreads where a writer can communicate with readers. Take the time to read all the benefits of Goodreads for writers. Pinterest is addictive, and the many uses of images in marketing and promotion are endless. Don’t limit yourself! Are podcasts and Facebook Live in your future?

6. Use Buffer or Hootsuite to organize and simplify your social media posts. This relieves the stress of watching the clock and questioning when followers are online. Analytics provide information critical to posting and content. Other methods are available, but these are my favorites. https://bufferapp.com https://hootsuite.com.

7. Is blogging a part of your plan? A successful writer understands a blog is only as good as the subject matter and how the material is presented. Use images, videos, memes, and make it fun.

8. Commit to reading blogs and books about marketing and promotion for writers in your genre.

9. Are you taking care of yourself physically? A writer who’s not healthy or regularly exercising can’t expect the brain and heart to engage to maximum potential.

10.Are you ensuring each book is written better than the previous one? Are writing challenges met with determination by studying the craft, deepening skills, and evaluating your own work?

11. Prayer. This should be first. Seek God’s guidance for ways to glorify Him as we seek to entertain, inspire, and encourage readers.

Perhaps one of these eleven ideas have motivated you to add fire to your writing career. Determine today to light a match to one of them.

How are you igniting a fire in your writing? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Tweetables:

Light a Fire To Your Writing Career via @DiAnnMills 

Is your writing career flickering? Light a fire under it!


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. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian Fiction books of 2014.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on Facebook: www.facebook.com/diannmills, Twitter: https://twitter.com/diannmills or any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.

Be sure to check out DiAnn's newest release, Deep Extraction, available now.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Preparing for a Writers' Conference

Last week, Alycia shared some great tips on why you shouldattend a writers' conference. This week, let’s talk about how you can be prepared for the conference.


By Andrea Merrell

You’re getting ready to attend a writer’s conference. Maybe it’s your first one, and you’re not quite sure what to do. Here are a few tips to help you be prepared.

Clothing
Always check the weather (extended forecast) and pack accordingly. Even if you think you won’t need it, take a jacket or sweater. Layering is always a good idea. Most conferences are business casual, and comfortable shoes are a must if you will be doing a lot of walking. If there is to be a banquet or awards night, you might want to take something dressy.

Food
Some conference centers have restaurants, snack bars, and vending machines, but it’s always a good idea to take your favorite snacks for those in-between or late-night moments when food is not available. You can also pack a few bottles of water or your favorite soda. 

Be sure to keep mints with you at all times. 😊

Materials for the Conference
  • Business Card: Your first investment should be a business card with your name and pertinent information. Be sure to include a photo. You might think you will remember all the people you meet, but when you get home and go through all the cards you collected, you will be wracking your brain to remember people. Make it a point to exchange business cards throughout the conference. This is how you network.
  • One-Sheet: This is a single sheet of paper that contains the title of your project, genre, word count, your photo and bio, and a short synopsis of your story (think back cover blurb).
  • Bookmarks, postcards, or other materials that you use to promote your book or services. Most conferences have tables where they offer freebies.
  • Notebook, extra pens, conference schedule, and driving directions.
Other Important Items
Don’t forget your vitamins, prescription medications, and toiletry items (toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, razor, etc.). Many conferences are now fragrance free.

Most places will offer hairdryers and coffee pots in the room.

Be sure to bring your chargers for phones, tablets, and laptops, along with extra batteries. I always carry my earbuds and an extension cord just in case.

Last, but not least ... bring some cash. Besides snacks and vending machines, there are always books available to purchase.

Bottom Line
The most important thing to remember is to relax and make the most of your experience. It’s especially hard when you are a newbie, but we were all newbies at one time. Pray. Ask the Lord to show you which classes will be most beneficial and the right people to meet with. Believe for divine appointments, divine connections, and divine favor.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek help when you need it. Christian conferences are a special community of like-minded individuals who are more than ready to help each other.

What has your experience been in preparing for a conference? Are there other items you would add to the list?

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stuart Miles/jannoon028)


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Monday, March 27, 2017

7 Reasons To Attend a Writer's Conference

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

In 2010, I was new to the writing world. Sure, I'd written before. I started writing when I could hold a pencil and put my ABCs on paper. I went to college for Mass Communications & Journalism. I knew I wanted to write from a young age, but my writing career didn't come into play until I was raising my children and needed something I could do that was productive and fun for me. How did I get started? A writer's conference.

If you're new to writing, I highly recommend you attend a writer's conference this year. And if you've been in a writing career for any amount of time, you know the value of one.

Click to Tweet:  7 Reasons to Attend a #Writers Conference This Year

Here are 7 reasons to attend a conference this year:

1. Networking: There's no better place to meet and associate yourself with other writers than a writer's conference. It's a great place to meet agents, editors, and established writers. But it's also a great place to meet up-and-coming writers who will be able to encourage you just as well as the established writers. Don't discount anyone. You never know who God is going to raise up and place in a position to help you get your books published or ask you to join their team.

2. Learning the Craft: Many new writers need to take time to learn the mechanics of the craft of writing. If you write a wonderful story but don't understand Point of View, it's going to affect whether or not an editor keeps reading. And Point of View really isn't that difficult to understand, if you take the time to learn it and apply it. Writer's conferences are the perfect place to learn about plot, character development, point of view, world building, and so many more of the important elements of a successful story. Go forth and learn, young write-a-wan.

3. Opportunities: Most agents won't take on a writer unless they've met them in person. And most editors won't take a manuscript without submission via an agent. Does a writer have a chance? They do if they attend a conference where agents and editors are present. Make sure you sign up for appointments when you register for the conference you are attending.

4. Fellowship: Writers are an odd bunch, and we tend to isolate into our writing holes while we pound away at the keyboard. It can be a lonely world, this writing career. Writer's conferences are the perfect place for us to come together with like-minded weirdos and talk all things writing and otherwise. Other writers get us. They understand what it takes to do what we do. They get the fear of being watched by big government because they noticed your Google searches always contain terms such as "body dump" or "ways to commit murder with poison." They understand the joy of being able to set your own schedule or take a family vacation whenever it's convenient. They get you.

5. Rest: As busy as you'll be over the course of the conference, it's usually a restful time. Maybe it's because you're away from the daily grind. Maybe it's because you're surrounded by those who get you. Maybe it's because you're just away from the four walls you usually face when working. Whatever the reason, spending that time away from home and around others in your field is actually relaxing. You should be physically tired when you head home from the conference, but your creative juices should be restored and you should find yourself ready to go full speed ahead again.

6. Idea Central: Stuck? Not sure what to do next? What word fits that sentence? What best describes your story? Should you take on that next editing client? You're surrounded by others in the same business. This is brainstorming central. Don't be afraid to ask that burning question. This is the place to get the answers.

7. Encouragement: Yes, there may be a rejection here and there, but that's part of the business. What's great is that you are surrounded by others who get how much it can sting and know just the right words to pick you up and set you back on your way. Writer's conferences are a great place to find encouragement in your writing career. Who doesn't need encouragement?

There are many, many other benefits to attending writer's conferences. If you have one you'd like to share, we'd love to hear about it in the comments below.

Do you want to attend a writer's conference but don't know where to start? Here are a few conferences we recommend (some have already taken place this year, but they are annual, so you can catch them next year if you'd like ... others are coming up):

Asheville Christian Writers Conference
This is perfect for new writers, as it's a smaller conference. Watch closely for the 2018 registration to open. It fills up quickly, and they always have a waiting list. Held in Asheville, NC.

Carolina Christian Writers Conference
This is another great conference for first-time attendees, as it's a smaller conference. Great faculty. Plenty of opportunity to learn. Held in Spartanburg, SC.

Florida Christian Writers Conference
It’s an opportune week to meet agents and editors, award winning writers and others who have heard the same call to write.  Come attend workshops and continuing classes that will sharpen your pen, develop your platform, and strengthen your resolve. Critique groups, meetings with agents and editors, writing contests, and camaraderie with fellow writers make this week one to remember. Held in Leesburg, FL.

Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference
This one is my personal favorite. Maybe it's because I'm on staff, but really it's because this is the first conference I ever attended, and it's one I call home. Personable faculty, a wide variety of classes for all levels of writers, and a beautiful mountain setting. You can't go wrong with the Blue Ridge Conference. Held in Black Mountain, NC. May 21-24, 2017

Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference
There are West Coast conferences! And Mount Hermon is one of the well-known conferences. Held in Felton, CA. April 7-11, 2017

ACFW: American Christian Fiction Writers
Are you a Christian fiction writer? ACFW is a great conference focused on writing Christian fiction. Held in Grapevine, TX. September 21-24, 2017

Write to Publish
Another popular Christian writer's conference. Held in Wheaton, IL. June 14-17, 2017

Realm Makers Conference
Do you write stories set in other worlds? Realm Makers may be the conference for you! Don't forget your cosplay! Held at Atlantis Casino Resort, Reno, NV. July 27-29, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

Why Do You Write?

By Andrea Merrell


I have a question for you to ponder this week: Why do you write?

What is your true motivation? Have you ever really thought about it? These questions could also apply to speaking, teaching, mentoring, or any other type of leadership.

I read an article recently that suggested we should analyze our reasons for doing what we do, making sure it’s not out of need, insecurity, ego, or even a false sense of responsibility. According to the article, when we operate out of any of these motives, we are seeking praise, acceptance, approval, and the applause of the audience. I’ve heard this referred to as an “approval addict.”

All of us need approval, an occasional atta-girl or atta-boy to let us know we’re doing a good job. That’s the way God created us. But when we get to the point where we can’t function without that approval, we lose our focus and our purpose.

Some people say, “Do what you love.” We could add to that, “Do what you’re called and gifted to do.” When we operate within our God-given calling, we do it with love, grace, and passion. It’s a natural flow.

I am not gifted to dance, act, or work with children. My math grades in school proved I would never become an accountant or CPA. Other areas where I fall short are sewing, drawing, painting, photography, and … well, you get the picture. Over the years, I’ve tried and failed at many endeavors. But when God called me to write for Him, I knew He had shown me my true calling and passion. I write because I can’t not write. Not the best way to say it, but it makes the point.

So, what about you? Do you feel God’s call on your life to share the words He gives you. Maybe you write poetry or devotions that will bless others. Perhaps you’re a gifted novelist who can entertain your readers while showing them the way to live for Him. You might write articles or blog posts that will resonate with others, or children’s stories that will thrill youngsters and open their eyes to God’s creation, love, and truth.

The Bible says everything flows out of the abundance of the heart. When we recognize and utilize the unique gifts, talents, and abilities God has placed inside each of us, doing everything we do “as unto Him,” we don’t need the approval of the crowd—only the applause of our audience of One.

So, why do you write? What has been your motivator? We would love to hear from you.


(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stuart Miles/surasakiStock.)


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