Monday, July 29, 2019

Pay It Forward


By Andrea Merrell

It’s not what you do but who you know.

We hear that a lot, especially in the writing world. Sometimes this can be true but not always. Besides the knowing, there is also some doing.

One way to prosper and be successful in your writing career is to pay it forward. You can do this in numerous ways:

  • Help a new writer learn the basics.
  • Encourage and pray for others in the industry.
  • Retweet others’ tweets.
  • Like, share, and comment on Facebook posts.
  • Write Amazon reviews for books you’ve read. Best gift ever!
  • Invite others to write a guest post for your blog.
  • Attend local book signings.
  • Share your expertise (editing, critiquing, graphic design, making memes, marketing, and social media).
  • Invest in a new writer or someone who doesn’t have the funds by helping them attend a writers’ conference or local workshop.

Some may think this is counterintuitive—I don’t have time. It’s not my responsibility. It’s inconvenient. I need to concentrate on my own needs. Someone else will help them. This is what psychologists call “compassionate disengagement.” It is comprised of all the excuses we come up with not to help someone else.

As children of God who are called to write for Him, we should always operate by the law of sowing and reaping. It is both a natural law and a spiritual law. When we give of ourselves by sharing our expertise and tithing our time, along with our resources, we plant seeds that will produce a harvest in our own lives.

Over the years, I’ve had numerous people sow into my life, especially in my writing and editing career. These were people who were eager to see others move forward and willing to do whatever they could to make it happen. It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35 NIV).

If others have helped you along the way, be thankful. Then make a decision to help others in whatever way you can. Pay it forward. You'll be glad you did.

Can you think of other ways we can sow into someone else? How have people helped you? How have you helped others? We would love to hear your suggestions.

(Photos courtesy of Blogpiks.com and Stuart Miles.)


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Monday, July 22, 2019

Know Why You're Writing

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

There are many reasons writers author books. Some are superficial, while others dig deep into our purpose in life.

What is your true WHY behind your desire or call to write? Let's do some exploring to find out.

WHO are you writing for? 

This defines your audience. Once you know who your audience is, you can write for your audience. Keep in mind that you are not your audience. Others are. It helps to define one specific person you are writing to for each individual project (like a book or devotion or article) and for your mass projects (like a blog). Maybe your audience is just one person, perhaps a family member.

Ask yourself a few questions:

Do you want to reach believers or those who have fallen away from their faith? Or does your audience have no idea who the Lord is?
Are they young or old?
Are they married or single? Have kids or not?
What is their career? Are they still in high school? Or younger?
What are their hobbies?

Consider how we develop characters, and do this for your avatar audience.

The first person we, as Christian writers, should be focused on writing for is the Lord. Everything we do should aim to please Him.

Does this mean we don't write about the harsh things in life? No. Every story has conflict. His Word is filled with harlots, murderers, and other topics we try to be soft about. And there are many lessons we can learn about God's love by how he presents these people in His Word. Keep that in mind when you're writing. Find freedom in writing raw and real.

WHAT are you writing?

What you are writing may be influencing why you are are writing.

If you're writing memoir, you probably have a story to tell. Is the story for yourself? Your family? Or the world?

If you're writing novels, what genre are you writing? Romance? Suspense? Thriller? Contemporary? What age are you writing for? Young adults? New adults (college-aged)? Adults?

If you're writing devotions, what topics are you covering?

If you're blogging, what's your theme?

It's one thing to have a desire or sense a call to write. It's another thing to know WHY.  {Click to Tweet}

There are several reasons we write. Let's start with the surface reasons:

- We need to work from home, so we write to make money. We pay household bills and put food on the table.
- Some of us need a secondary income or we supplement our spouse's income. So we plug away and pound out articles during our evenings so we can help pay for the new car or take our family on a vacation. We write for the "extras."
- We want to write a bestseller or award-winners. This gives us a sense of accomplishment.
- We want to see our books become movies. We write to entertain.
- We want to see new places in the world, so we travel to new places in the name of research for our books.

There are more reasons like these, I'm sure. But these are all surface reasons for writing.

What is your deep-down desire for writing?

What is your WHY?

For me, it's an opportunity to be creative with my Creator. It's another way for me to spend time with the Lord. It's a desire to share His truth with the world by presenting the nitty gritty of life in a clean way that teens will enjoy.

My daughter is a young adult reader. She loves all young adult novels, but she doesn't like when an author takes a great adventure and then adds sex to it. She doesn't need or want to read about sex at 16. There are ways to imply something or to note that something has happened in the life of our characters without getting detailed about it. My daughter is not only my who and what for my novel writing; she is my why.

I also love reading. I love reading romantic suspense. I also love reading young adult novels. I want to write what I read. I want to write what I know. I want to write what I love.

The blog I'm releasing in August is another story. My audience there is a group of mothers. Mothers of all types. New moms. Great-grandmothers. Step-mothers. Foster and adoptive mothers. Mothers of normal kids. (Is there such a thing?) Mothers of chronic kids. Spiritual mothers. Moms of all ages and races and experiences.

Why such a large, non-niched audience? Because God has blessed me with a gift of encouragement, and there's no one I can think of who needs more encouragement than mothers.

We lay down our lives to serve our families and the Lord, and there's rarely any payback other than the joy of doing so. The occasional thank you. But many feel as if their hard work is unseen and unappreciated. There's an imbalance. And I want them to know that someone sees them. Someone knows them. Understands them.

But that's not my only reason for that blog. I also want to build a community of women and resources. Someplace central that moms can come to access information they may not otherwise have access to.

Plus, I know from my own experiences that what works for one family may not work for another. But it may help someone else like me. I love reading posts and resources other moms write and recommend. I'm always looking for something that will work for my family and our situations. I'm sure other moms are too. So I want to share experiences in our community.

Again, I pose the question: WHY are you writing? Keeping your WHY in front of you will encourage you to keep going to the keyboard even when you feel blank.

I recommend making yourself a vision board. Put something in front of you that describes your why, so that you can refer to it every time you are discouraged or drained or want to quit. Find things that describe your why (pictures, words, logos) and put them on a corkboard on your office wall or glue them to posterboard and hang that. You could create an art journal to flip through or add them to your planner and set goals to meet them.

If you're brave and want to share, we'd love to hear your WHYs in the comments below!

Monday, July 15, 2019

An Author's Reading Life


By Yolanda Smith

Mallory has ambitions of being a world-class violinist someday. She keeps her instrument finely tuned and follows a rigorous practice schedule. Although she covets a chair in the renowned philharmonic, Mallory never attends orchestral concerts.

Odd?

Andre spends hours in front of a canvas in his private studio. He paints from morning 'til night and believes, if he is diligent, he will be a featured gallery artist in the future. But Andre has never stepped foot inside an art gallery.

Unthinkable?

Edgar wants to be a master chef.  His loyal wife assures him he makes the best bologna sandwiches she’s ever eaten. But wifey-poo would like to ditch the bologna on occasion and spend an evening of fine dining at the local five-star restaurant. Edgar is too busy whipping up his personal creations to step foot in anybody else’s eatery and taste something other than his own dishes.

Ludicrous?

Carrie wants to be a bestselling author. Day after day she taps a thousand words on her keyboard, the story finding its way from her head to the magical screen. Carrie doesn’t have time to read books. She never reads classics, nor does she consume titles off the current bestseller list. Audio books aren’t an option because she’s too busy listening to other things.

Inconceivable?

Mallory, Andre, and Edgar are figments of my imagination. But Carrie? I know her. Sometimes she’s young, now and then she’s old, and often she’s middle-aged. She writes memoirs, poetry, middle grade fiction, Bible studies, and romance novels. Carrie also goes by many other names.

I ran into Carrie recently and asked, “So, what have you been reading lately?”

Eyes downcast, she offered a shrug of shame. “I know I should do better, but …”

Not a Judgement, but a Plea

Have you met Carrie? Does she stare back at you from the mirror while you brush your teeth?

When I became a writer, I assumed all writers loved books at a high level. I assumed they recognized the life-changing power of story, thereby gulping down as many tales as they could swallow. But Carrie never ceases to shock me, and she shows up everywhere.

Carrie is busy, and she has a list of excuses—all valid, mind you. I hope she doesn’t feel I’m judging her for not reading, or not reading enough. But I’m begging her to change her ways.

Here’s the thing. Carrie can’t expect to be a bestselling author if she doesn’t know what a bestseller looks like. She’ll never develop an ear for the cadence of literary language, tease apart the particulars of her genre, nor feel the evocative power of written words unless she consumes the work of the masters.

Finding Time

For some of us, reading is as natural as eating, and we would shrivel up and die if we didn’t feast on a steady diet of literature. But for other folks, reading is an extra item on the to-do list, only to find space once everything else is crossed off.

How do we make more time to read? Here’s a short list of options for finding ways to consume more books:

  • Skip television. Don’t hate me. Can you scrub a half-hour program from your TV time in favor of higher learning? Could you—gasp—forfeit a whole hour? An average novel takes somewhere in the neighborhood of nine hours to read.
  • Listen to audio books. I get in listening time when I’m driving, cooking, folding laundry, or getting ready for the day.
  • Keep a book on your smartphone or tablet. Read a few paragraphs during those odd cracks of time when there’s nothing else to do but mindlessly scroll the internet.
  • Read aloud to your kids, grandkids, nieces, or nephews. I’ve been doing this for the last twenty years, and there were many years this was the only kind of reading I had time for. Don’t discount the power of picture books and children’s novels. Some of the best stories in the world come from picture books.
  • Find a reading partner, join a book club, or become a member of an online literary community. Reading is more fun when you can discuss it with someone, and you’ll find strength of motivation from this activity.


What to Read

Read books in your genre. Analyze the books that make all the lists and win the awards. Read books outside your genre. You never know when something will ignite a new idea you can incorporate into your own writing.

Read books that are heartwarming and endearing, or lighthearted and fun. Find titles that make you angry or cause you to examine your opinions. Grab books that are too hard for you and will stretch you. Revisit old favorites. Read a classic once in a while (audiobooks are great for this), and definitely find room in your repertoire for the latest releases.

Already a Reader

If you are already a reader, consider ways you might encourage the nonreaders in your life. You’d be surprised what you might be able to accomplish.

After five years of marriage, my husband finally caught on that one of the primary ways he, a nonreader, can connect with me, a book vulture, is by reading. Physical books put him to sleep, but he spends hours on the road each day and discovered he enjoys audiobooks. He’s read more books in the last year than he has in the last decade. We’ve had great fun chatting about all the bookish things.

Seasons

There will be seasons when reading is more of an option or less of a possibility. Take regular time to reevaluate your reading life and see where changes can be made.

What would you like to be different about your reading life? Do you have suggestions for incorporating more books into a busy schedule?

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/sattva/nenetus/everydayplus.)


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Monday, July 8, 2019

It's All About the Hashtags


By Marcie Bridges

I hear it all the time: “I’m a writer … not a marketer.”

Many authors assume that once they have achieved the coveted contract with a publisher, the marketing aspect of their book is strictly in the hands of the publisher.


I hate to break it to you, dear authors, but the majority of promotion for your book is on your shoulders. Publishers cannot get as personal with your readers as you can. Publishers cannot go to a library and read a chapter from your book and converse with the public for you. Publishers cannot go to bookstores and do your book signing. No, these special occasions are just for you.

Which brings us to social media. The idea of social media is just what it implies. It is meant to be “social.”

Your publisher can put your book out on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, but they cannot build the kind of relationship with your followers you can.

Now, you don’t want to inundate your followers or friends by asking them all the time to buy your products, but you can use social media as a tool to get the word out about your book or books.

The best way to build your following is to apply hashtags. A hashtag, which is the number symbol (#), goes before keywords in each social media status you share. Hashtags create a group for followers to join and interact with.

If you are a fiction writer, you most definitely should always be using the hashtag #fiction or #fictionwriter. The same goes with #non-fiction.

You can also get extremely specific in your hashtags. If you write romance novels, by all means add that to your status. For example, Land of My Dreams by Norma Gail would contain #fiction #romance #Christianromance.  Or you might have The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife by Nan Jones as #pastorswives #inspiration #ministryhelp.  Do you have a book on parenting you want to advertise on Instagram? For Praying for the Prodigal by Andrea Merrell you would use #prayer #prodigal #children #encouragement #parents. And that’s just for starters.

There are all kinds of hashtags you can use. Use your imagination, especially on Instagram. With Instagram you can have up to 30 hashtags with your post. But be careful with Facebook and Twitter where they only encourage up to 3 hashtags for each post. 

A great way to build your hashtag list is to make a spreadsheet with a list of hashtags for each of your social media accounts. It will take some time, but in the end, it will be worth the effort. At one time, I built a list for our LPC authors and had four pages each for fiction and non-fiction categories.

So, now it’s your turn. What hashtags will you use for your 
book? We'd love to hear your suggestions.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, David Castillo Dominici, and Chris Sharp.)

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Marcie Bridges is a lover of God, people, poetry, and chocolate. She is a freelance editor as well as the Author Care Representative of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (LPC). Marcie’s deepest passion is sharing her faith through poetry. She is the author of Broken and Spilled Out: An Offering of Poetry and Prayers for the Hurting Soul. She lives in Western N.C. with her husband, Mark, and two daughters. You can contact Marcie through her website: www.marciebridges.com or at lmwbridges@gmail.com.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mwbheartthoughts/
Twitter: 
https://twitter.com/Marcie_Bridges


Check out Marcie's book, Broken and Spilled Out.


Are you feeling broken? Needing a place to find rest for your weary, worn-out soul? Broken and Spilled Out: An Offering of Poetry and Prayers for the Hurting Soul is a collection of poems Marcie has written chronicling her journey from places of brokenness to healing. You will also find places to rest and pour out your own prayerful thoughts within the pages of this heart-stirring book.



Monday, July 1, 2019

Writer, Don't Lose Heart


By Andrea Merrell

As we’ve talked about before, writing is a process, not an event. It’s a journey that can begin very slowly and seem uphill all the way.

Just like everything else in life, there are always obstacles to overcome. At times we have to “fight” in order to possess the territory—the dream God has placed in our heart.

But sometimes it’s hard to believe in our heart (as the Word says) when we don’t see our dream manifest as quickly as we’d like it to. That’s when we have to exercise our faith.

Pastor and author Bob Gass says:

Just because something’s not immediately evident doesn’t mean it won’t happen. For example, when we ask God for an oak tree, He gives us an acorn. At this point we may think God didn’t hear and answer our prayer. No, the oak tree is in the acorn; it’s just a matter of time before what’s inside bursts out. Whatever God has promised you, the seeds are already within you. Water them, nurture them, and don’t let anyone uproot them through unbelief. In other words, begin thanking God for what He’s going to do in your life.

The hardest part is in the waiting. That’s when the Enemy whispers defeat in our ears and tries to convince us to give up. But God is always at work in and around us, even when we don’t see the evidence. Read these words from Chris Tiegreen and take them to heart:

There can be a painfully long gap between a promise from God and its fulfillment. In that gap, we can become thoroughly frustrated at how long it’s taking to happen or how many detours we’ve had to take. The place between promise and payoff is hard one. And it can distort our perception of life, God, and ourselves.

This is normal for God. The hard place of waiting is also the fruitful place of faith. This is where faith gets stretched and strengthened, and we can’t get to any land of promise without it. We have to know that even when we don’t see God working, he is—behind the scenes, between the lines, beyond the horizon. He may give us glimpses to keep us going, but for the most part, we have to wait with nothing but trust.

Don’t give up the wait. God watches over his words to fulfill them. He hasn’t forgotten you, changed his mind, or stripped it from you. His words are like seeds planted in the ground. Eventually, they show. And the harvest is wonderful.

God is a man of His Word. What He promises, He will do. Jeremiah confirmed it in Jeremiah 1:12: The Lord said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled" (NIV).

The Message puts it this way: God’s message came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?” I said, “A walking stick—that’s all.” And God said, “Good eyes! I’m sticking with you. I’ll make every word I give you come true.

If you’re in the hard place of waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled, know that He hasn’t forgotten or forsaken you. He is working all things together for your good, and His timing is always perfect. So, don’t lose heart. He will come through just in time.





(Photos courtesy of Blogpiks.com and Stuart Miles.)

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