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.)

TWEETABLE


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.


TWEETABLES



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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Monday, March 13, 2017

Writing for God Begins at Home

By Lori Stanley Roeleveld


My son-in-law is a chef. You'd think he'd be sick of cooking when not at the restaurant, but instead, we have gourmet meals at holidays. 

My husband is a construction manager. You’d think he’d be exhausted at day’s end (and you’d be correct), but that doesn’t stop him from renovating our home, putting up bookshelves for our daughter, or helping neighbors with projects.

I’m a writer.

Thank God that early in my writing endeavors, I encountered a study in our local newspaper stating that the unhappiest spouses were those in unhappy marriages to good communicators. I flashed immediately on my tirade to my husband just the night before. I’d spelled out in great eloquence the depth and breadth of what I believed were our troubles (largely attributed to him). God took the opportunity to instruct me that the people in my life should be the first to benefit from my gift with words—not become victims of it.

If you’d interviewed my family about what it’s like to love a writer before that awakening, they might have had few positive things to say about it. (What’s there to say about someone shouting through a closed office door: “Not now! Can’t you see I’m writing?”)

After that, though, I took to heart that God likely intended to bless my family, friends, local church, and community through my writing before He unleashed me on the world. I sought opportunities to serve those I love with my words through praise, cards, notes, letters to the editor, church plays, and assistance with everything from resumes to eulogies.

God gave me an expanded vision that my writing ministry could have an immediate impact on the world right outside my office door without ever hitting the best-seller list. I realized that even if I never became a “published author,” He desires to use my words to further His kingdom. That’s when my words began to bless and build up my spouse, children, and extended family. They served friends and fellow worshippers. They provided light to coworkers.

Because God is so great, many of those acts I initially saw as sacrificial (read “time away from my real writing”) became unexpected stepping stones in my writing career. My agent discovered my work through letters to the editor in the paper. Church plays became some of my earliest published work, providing me with initial writing credentials. But, by then, I’d realized that was all beside the point.

The benefits of using my writing gift to bless my marriage, parenting, friendships, and relationships in the greater community are immeasurable. I shudder to think what damage my words could have caused if God hadn’t corrected me early on. Like a superhero gone bad, those of us who are skilled with words need to be sure we’re using them for good and not for evil. Writing for God begins at home.

I learned that lesson just in time.

What lessons have you learned through this writing journey? We would love to hear from you.


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


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Lori Stanley Roeleveld is a disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored an inciteful blog since 2009, a pursuit that eventually resulted in two provocative non-fiction books, Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus) and Jesus and the Beanstalk (Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life) as well as an unsettling novella, Red Pen Redemption. If you don’t find her at her website, www.loriroeleveld.com, know she’s off slaying dragons. Lori lives in Rhode Island with her husband and surrounded by family, absolutely surrounded.




Monday, March 6, 2017

Writers & Taxes

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

I'm a writer, not an accountant. I want to clarify that up front. But since writers have to do taxes, I know a few things about keeping receipts and what I can claim as part of my business. So here is a short list of things writers will want to track for tax purposes (and it's by no means all-inclusive).

When writers attend conferences, purchase online courses, or pay for a local workshop, it's a tax write-off.

When writers travel to and from conferences, meetings, retreats, and critique group, they can keep track of their mileage, save receipts for airfare, hotel, and any transportation they must use during the conference. I use Google Maps to track my mileage. I save my receipt for the airport parking (that's a write-off too), the coffee shop where my critique group meets, etc. Then I Google Map the distance between my house and the destination and keep a spreadsheet of the dates, where I traveled to, for what purpose, and the round-trip mileage.

If you eat while at a conference or during a meeting, you can save your receipts for the cost of the food (this is also proof you were where you said you were). Food write-offs are usually a percentage, not full cost.

Do you love learning about writing? Buy a lot of books about writing? Or reference material? Writing magazines? Those are a write-off as well. But literature (the fiction novels and nonfiction reads) you enjoy is not a write-off.

Do you rent an office space specifically for your writing business? Have a room in your house that is a dedicated office? Ask your accountant how to write off the cost of having that space. (Understand that nothing except work can happen in that space.)

If you have such a space, then some portion of your electric bill, internet service, and phone may be written off too. Again, ask your accountant about this.

Did you buy a new laptop, desktop, camera, or tablet this year? Do you do a lot of business (blogging, writing, editing, etc.) on the electronic device you purchased? That's a write-off too.

What about programs such as Microsoft Office 365 or Scrivener? Yep. They qualify too. Do you pay for Dropbox, PicMonkey, MailChimp, or any other online service? Those can be written off as well.

These are just a few things that are tax deductions for the writer. As I said, I'm not an accountant, so please discuss any questions with yours. If you're new to the writing industry, these are simply things to consider as you move forward in your writing career.

Do you have anything else to add to the list? Feel free to add to it in the comments below. And don't forget to make that appointment with your accountant before April 15!

Tweetables:

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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Seven Things to Do While Waiting for your Book to Release

And the winner of Deb Raney's newest release, Home at Last, is ... Tonya Robinette. Congrats,Tonya! Please e-mail your address to andreamerrell7 @ gmail (dot) com, and we will get your book in the mail. Thanks for participating in our giveaway.

 By Andrea Merrell

In my last post, we talked about many of the reasons it takes so long (usually a year) from contract to publication for your book.

Now that you understand the steps that go into getting your book ready to launch, let’s look at seven things you can do in the meantime.
  

While you’re waiting:

1. Work on your platform
Make sure you have a viable presence on social media, and do some networking.

2. Work on your blog/website
Make sure your blog/website is up to date and others can easily contact you. Include all links to your social media.

3. Create a marketing plan
This can be as simple or elaborate as you can afford. You can do it on your own or hire someone to help.

4. Create social media posts
Compose Tweets, Facebook posts, and blogs you can use to promote your book. And don't forget Pinterest.

5. Create a tribe
Choose your team/influencers and plan your launch party.

6. Plan a blog tour 
Ask other writers if you can be a guest blogger on their site.

7. Pray 
Give your project to God and ask Him to guide you in your next steps. Pull together a team of people who will pray for you and for your book.

The bottom line is this: 
Don't wait. Start now. If you wait until your book is out, you're way behind schedule.

What have you encountered
while waiting for your book
to release. We would love to
hear from you.




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

TWEETABLE


Monday, February 13, 2017

Pros, Cons, and Tips for Writing a Novel Series

Today’s guest is award-winning author Deb Raney. We will be giving away a free copy of her newest release, Home At Last, so be sure to leave a comment for her below. The winner will be announced the week of February 27th, so check back to see if that’s you. J


By Deb Raney

I recently finished writing the fifth and final book in the Chicory Inn Novels series, and am now working on the first book in a new series. Having written mostly stand-alone novels for most of my writing career, this has been an interesting experience and one I’ve learned so much from. First let’s look at the pros and cons of series books.

PROS:
• Once you’ve created your setting and any recurring characters, half your work for subsequent books in the series is done! 
• If you’re an author who grows very attached to your characters and has a hard time saying “goodbye,” a series lets you stick around a while.
• Series let you develop characters more deeply and over a longer period of time than the average stand-alone.
• Readers love series (although be aware that some readers wait until an entire series is out before they start reading—or buying—the books).

CONS:
• If you grow bored working with the same setting or characters, you might feel stuck long before your contract is fulfilled.
• If the first book of a series bombs, it can create a dilemma about how to proceed.
• With shrinking space on the bookshelf, bookstores often carry only an author’s newest book. This can make it difficult for customers to find an entire series at once. (Of course, they can always order online.)
• Committing to a series is committing to one publisher for a long period of time. You risk cancellation if an imprint closes, or a publishing house dissolves.
• If you write contemporary, it can be difficult to keep up with technology. The iPad your character used in Book One might be obsolete by the time you get to Book Five.

Here are some things I’ve learned through the writing of two two-book series, two three-book series, and my most recent five-book series that I’d like to pass along to anyone who might be considering proposing or writing a series.

TIPS:

• Be sure you have enough material for the number of books you’ve planned. It’s not unusual to have a grand, high-concept idea for Book One that fizzles out long before you reach Book Five.
• Consider making each book of the series a stand-alone that concludes sufficiently so that readers won’t be disappointed if they read Book Three first, or if they don’t like the series well enough to continue after a book or two. Readers are sometimes disgruntled if they invest time in Book One and then find they must read future books to discover the main characters’ happy ending.
• The books of a series might tie together in theme (weddings, royal families, stories of hope, etc.) and setting (each book is about a different character in the same small town, etc.) rather than being a continuation of the stories of one or two characters. (But realize that such a loose tie negates some of the pros mentioned above.)
• Create a “bible” with all the details of your characters, setting, and storylines. You might think you’ll remember, but trust me, you won’t.
• Keep an updated, ongoing timeline for each book and for the entire series. Readers have sharp eyes when it comes to inconsistencies.
• Before you start, research what series are already being published, and work hard to make your series unique.
• Most publishers will want you to have an official series name that will likely appear on the book covers. Often this series title will hint at the setting or the theme of the series. It’s also helpful if individual titles in the series fit together well. (Think of Karen Kingsbury’s series where all the titles begin with the same letter of the alphabet. In my Chicory Inn series, each of the five titles has the word HOME in it, which also echoes a main theme of each book.)
• I’ve found it very helpful to have photo reference for the setting, each character, the homes where many scenes take place, etc. I use Pinterest and Scrivener to make “idea boards” with all those images. I also set my desktop with those inspiration photos so that I’m constantly, visually seeing my characters and setting.
• Consider creating a music soundtrack for your series. Music can be a powerful, positive trigger for getting you in the zone for writing about a specific setting or set of characters. I’ve done the same thing with scented candles, snacks, and even flowers, etc., surrounding myself with things that call to mind my story and help me go deep into my story world.
• Enjoy the privilege of living with beloved characters for longer than the time it takes to write just one book. It’s a pleasure to write “the end” knowing it’s really only the beginning of a new book with the same wonderful setting and/or cast of characters. (But prepare for the final goodbyes to be even more difficult than usual after you’ve lived with your characters for so long.)

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stuart Miles and Deb Raney.)

TWEETABLE


DEBORAH RANEY's first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched Deb’s writing career. Twenty years and more than thirty books later, she's still writing. She and her husband traded small-town life in Kansas—the setting of many of Deb’s novels—for life in the city of Wichita. They love traveling to visit four grown children and seven grandchildren who all live much too far away. Visit Deb on the Web at www.deborahraney.com.