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by Susan U. Neal RN, MBA, MHS @SusanNealYoga

Have you ever sold one thousand books in a few months? I did. I published my tactics in the Southern Writers article, “How to Sell One Thousand Books in Three Months.” Edie Melson suggested I share some tips from this article. I will review my strategies in two blog posts: “Pre-Publication Planning to Obtain High Book Sales” and “Marketing Strategies to Improve Book Sales.” To sell this volume of books an author needs to develop a plan that covers book inception to years after release. Here’s my method:

Target Market
When developing a book idea, first determine the size of the readership. For example, the Center for Disease Control indicated “half of all Americans live with one chronic disease.” From my healthcare background I knew many chronic diseases could improve through healthy eating habits and exercise. Therefore, I specifically wrote 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates to improve the health and weight of this audience. As I wrote this book, I kept my ideal reader in mind.

Passionate Personal Story
Everyone loves a story. Even non-fiction authors need to weave stories into their prose to engage the reader. Jesus used parables. In my self-help book, I combined a personal account of how I guided my sister to stop eating sugar and carbs which helped her to lose weight and cure a chronic ailment. 

I also included my passion for healthy living and God’s Word. When you write out of your passion the prose becomes powerful. I wasn’t afraid to add my faith in the manuscript. I believe an individual needs to utilize God’s power to overcome food addiction and emotional connections with food. Therefore, my target audience narrowed to Christians who experienced a chronic condition. 

Cover
A book cover should be visually appealing, yet stand out at the same time. Check the thumbnail version of your book to ensure you can see the image and read the title. The title and subtitle should portray the topic of your book and include keywords. 

Two of my book subtitles include: “21 Bible Lessons for Christian Yoga Classes” and “Healthy Eating for Healthy Living with a Low-Carbohydrate, Anti-Inflammatory Diet.” Well-defined titles and subtitles help the reader know they are getting what they want. Including keywords helps readers find your book. Almost every word in both of my subtitles were keywords. 

Reader Benefit/Hook
To attain high sales the target audience must benefit from the book; this is the “what’s in it for me” mindset. Readers may enjoy a novel or gain insight and knowledge from non-fiction prose. Your audience needs to understand how they will benefit from your product. Therefore, incorporate its value on the back cover and in the first few pages of the first chapter. A buyer may peruse those first few pages to help them decide if they will purchase the book, so catch them with a sharp hook.

My hook was “would you like to improve the way you feel and look while increasing your energy level and clarity of mind? How about losing weight naturally without going on a fad diet or buying prepared meals and supplements? You can achieve these results through simply changing the types of food you eat.” Apparently, this hook is working because I sell over 400 books per month.

Editor
As a self-published author I needed to find a top-notch editor. I contacted the chair of a large Christian writers conference and asked for her assistance. She referred me to a nonfiction, Christian editor. We worked well together. I sharpened my writing skills, and she learned healthy living habits. She lost twenty-five pounds in five months, and my book won the Selah award at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I love it when a plan comes to fruition.

Summary
Before you begin writing your next book develop a well-thought-out plan that includes:
  • Large target audience
  • Personal passionate story
  • Appealing book cover
  • Book title and subtitle includes keywords and defines the book’s topic
  • Reader benefit
  • Hook
  • Superior editor

As you begin planning, pray and receive spiritual direction. I had numerous subjects I could write about, but helping people get off sugar and carbs would improve their health. A healthy individual can serve God better than one who is sick.  My book also met a need in the market.

Currently, I am writing a book on gluten sensitivity and eating a gluten-free diet. Gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley) causes troublesome symptoms in many people. In fact, up to 10 percent of the population has a gluten-related disorder. Therefore, I want to use my knowledge as a nurse and experience as an individual who suffers from one of these disorders to help my readers alleviate their symptoms. Jesus wants us to live an abundant life, not one where we suffer from illness. Using the steps listed above helped me determine the subject of this book. 

TWEETABLES


Susan U. Neal, RN, MBA, MHS
Susan’s mission is to improve the health of the body of Christ. She has her RN and MBA degrees, as well as a master’s in health science. She is a CERTIFIED HEALTH AND WELLNESS COACHwith the American Association of Christian Counselors. She published five books, the Selah award winner 7 STEPS TO GET OFF SUGAR AND CARBOHYDRATESCHRISTIAN STUDY GUIDE FOR 7 STEPS TO GET OFF SUGAR AND CARBOHYDRATESHEALTHY LIVING JOURNALSCRIPTURE YOGAa #1 Amazon best-selling yoga book, and YOGA FOR BEGINNERS which ranked #3. She published two sets of Christian Yoga Card Decks and two Christian Yoga DVDs that are available at CHRISTINAYOGA.COM. Her digital product HOW TO PREVENT, IMPROVE, AND REVERSE ALZHEIMER’S AND DEMENTIA is a great resource. To learn more about Susan visit her website SUSANUNEAL.COMYou can also connect with Susan on FACEBOOKTWITTER, and INSTAGRAM.
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by Katy Kauffman @KatyKauffman28

Blah. Limp. Not enough. I scanned my paragraphs again and knew they weren’t sufficient. Where was the oomph? After all, I was talking about Scripture. My words had taken up space, but they weren’t useful or vibrant. I realized I was just rehashing what Scripture said, not adding any nuance or understanding in my book. I needed to “scrapbook” my writing. 
 
I scrapbook for therapy. After all, scrapbooking is taking treasured photographs and adding color and personality to them by pairing them with patterned papers, cardstock, stickers, paper flowers, and bling. What girl doesn’t like a little bling? 

Just as scrapbooking photographs allows me to tap into my creative side and add some visual appeal to my pictures, scrapbooking my presentation of Scripture allows me to infuse creativity into my writing. As we write about God’s word, we can share sparkling insights, vivid illustrations, and relevant stories. Writing about Scripture should be anything but blah and limp. The Bible is alive and powerful on its own, but it matters how we present it. It can be “scrapbooked.” 

If you’re a man, I don’t want to leave you out of this post. When I teach about making Scripture come alive in our writing, I talk about landscaping for all of the men in the room. Just as scrapbooking adds visual appeal to photographs, landscaping adds curb appeal to houses. Going to the trouble of adding just the right trees, shrubs, and flowers can enhance a home and create an inviting atmosphere. Going to the trouble of adding just the right elements to our writing can invite our readers to understand Scripture better and apply it to their lives. 

To fix the paragraphs that sounded redundant, I needed to add color and vibrancy to my writing. So I would like to share with you three ways to scrapbook your presentation of Scripture, whatever form that takes. Don’t just rehash what Scripture is saying. Bring out the beauty and relevance of its words by using one or all of these ways to share your message. 

3 Ways to “Scrapbook” Your Message:

1. Share a slant.

A haunting melody—that’s how I pictured guilt. I had heard its lyrics and understood its incessant nature. When I wrote “Silencing Guilt” in Breaking the Chains, I wanted to write about the woman with the alabaster flask from Luke 7 in a fresh way. I used the metaphor of music to contrast the melody of guilt and Jesus’ song of love and forgiveness. 

When you share a familiar passage of Scripture, find a slant that enhances your message. A metaphor or illustration sticks in the minds of our readers and serves as a good springboard for application that appeals to their hearts. Whatever slant you use as a lead-in for your chapter or article, carry it all the way through your writing, and use it at the end for an unforgettable finish. 

2. Share a story.

I may love a little bling, but I’m a tomboy at heart and a basketball player. My “pow in the gut” story turned into the perfect illustration for my Bible study on 2 Timothy. In 2 Timothy 1:8-12, Paul urged his son in the faith to share with him in suffering and to persevere in the work of the ministry. 

Instead of taking a head-on approach in talking about this passage, I shared a story about the time I took a pow in the gut on the basketball court. Instead of falling to my knees, I regained my composure, pivoted toward our goal, shot the ball, and it went in! A pow in the gut could have stopped me in my tracks, but it turned into a goal for the team. On a much more serious note, we can receive a pow in the gut as we serve the Lord, but He doesn’t want it to stop us in our tracks. He wants us to persevere so Hecan turn it into a goal for the team. 

3. Share some sparkle.

As you study Scripture, write down the definitions, cross-references, or commentary notes that are especially meaningful to you. Record the special principles in a passage that God highlights as you read. Pray through a passage, and write down how to live it out in everyday situations. Share some sparkle in your writing by including the relevant insights that helped you to understand Scripture better. Remember to filter out the notes that detract from your point or bog down your paragraphs. Infuse sparkle that adds value to the writing and makes your message clear and relevant. 

Are you ready to scrapbook, or landscape, your writing? Scripture is a treasure, and so is the writing that reflects its beauty and relevance.

Which of the three ways above do you use the most? Which would you like to use more? Tell us in the comments below, and join the conversation!

TWEETABLES


Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author who blogs at The Scrapbooked Bible Study. She is also an editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazineand a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. A 2019 Selah Awards finalist, her compilation,Heart Renovation: A Construction Guide to Godly Character, uses the metaphor of house renovation to show how God renovates our hearts. Katy’s writing can be found at CBN.com, thoughts-about-God.com, PursueMagazine.net, two blogs on writing, in online magazines, and on devotional blogs. She loves spending time with family and friends, making jewelry, and hunting for the best peanut butter cookies. Connect with her at her blogand onFacebookand Twitter.
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by Lucinda Secrest McDowell @LucindaSMcDowel

Sitting on the floor of the attic after discovering this little ceramic plaque, I realized anew how letting go must be one of the hardest choices ever made.

On the front was a Dutch prayer, with the English translation carefully written on the back by a young Dutch mother who had made her home in the United States. 

Father, I lay the names of my children in Your hands. 
… I do not ask You to spare my children every sorrow, 
But be their comfort when they are lonely and afraid. 
For your Name’s sake keep them in your covenant. 
Let them never stray from You, Never as long as life shall last! 
I lay the names of my children in Your hands. Amen.  

I know from the inscribed date, that shortly after writing this, Inka was diagnosed with cancer from which she soon died. Leaving her husband and three small children, the youngest only a year old.

Surrender indeed—wanting what God wants more than what we want. 

As Oswald Chambers suggests, “As long as you maintain your own personal interests and ambitions, you cannot be completely aligned or identified with God’s interests. This can only be accomplished by giving up all of your personal plans once and for all, and by allowing God to take you directly into His purpose for the world.”

True surrender is freely choosing to let go—knowing all is in God’s capable hands.

Will you surrender all your writing and speaking to God today? “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”Luke 22.42 ESV

Almost forty years ago that young Dutch mother opened her hands and laid her children in God’s larger ones. Soon this symbolic act became a literal one, when she died too young from cancer. But God was faithful. One day he placed those same children into the hands of another young woman who had surrendered her long desire to be a mother. 

Me. 

Perhaps one of the greatest grace gifts I have ever received is the privilege of adopting Inka’s children and raising them to adulthood where they continue to know God’s great care and enjoy full lives of service and surrender.

Long ago when I was in my thirties and wondering if I would ever be a wife and mama, I realized that as an act of consecration, I needed to release my own “toys” - my vision of what I thought would make me happy. 

Perhaps you think publishing a book will make you happy. Landing an arena speaking gig. Why not surrender those dreams today to the God who knows you best and loves you most; using A.W. Tozer’s classic prayer:

“Father, I want to know Thee, but my coward heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding… I come trembling, but I do come. Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival. Then shall my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it.. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
            
What you receive may be beyond your wildest dreams. 

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Will you surrender your #writing to God? Thoughts from @LucindaSMcDowel on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Thoughts on the blessings of releasing our dreams back to God - from @LucindaSMcDowel on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is a storyteller and seasoned mentor who engages both heart and mind while “Helping you Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength.” A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, McDowell is the author of 13 books and contributing author to 30+ books. Her books include the award-winning Dwelling Places (2017 Christian Retailing BEST Award for Devotional)Ordinary Graces  (2018 Selah Finalist), Live These Words, and Refresh! Lucinda, a member of the Redbud Writers Guild, received Mt. Hermon “Writer of the Year” award and guest blogs for The Write Conversation, Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference Blog and (in)courage. Whether co-directing  “reNEW ~ retreat for New England Writing,”  pouring into young mamas, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages. Lucinda’s favorites include tea parties, good books, laughing friends, ancient prayers, country music, cozy quilts, musical theatre, and especially her family scattered around the world doing amazing things.  Known for her ability to convey deep truth in practical and winsome ways, she writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and blogs weekly at http://www.EncouragingWords.net/ 
Follow Lucinda on Twitter: @LucindaSMcDowel
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by Karen Whiting @KarenHWhiting

The best time to create marketing tools for a book is while you write or edit your words. That’s when the ideas are fresh in your mind. As a bonus, you’ll create materials ready to post when the book releases. I tend to do memes as I’m editing each chapter or unit. For writers who just make the deadline, it might work better to create memes after sending the book to the publisher or editor. The lag time before the release is another great time to get creative and focus on marketing.

I’m fairly new to creating memes. My publishers created some for each of my two most recent books. I am creating them for my upcoming release and planning ways to use them in my marketing plans. This September when my 52 Weekly Devotions for Families Who Serve releases I’ve already created 52 memes. That’s one for each week. I started another set of 52 more memes that shares the weekly focus in a different way. I’m putting each meme into a hidden Pinterest board and also keeping them in a file. Once I have the book cover art I’ll add that to many of the memes.

As with any marketing tool, take time to plan for the greatest impact.

Create Your Book Memes
1. Design with consistency in mind
Take time to decide the style you will use. Consider the overall impression you want. Will you use real photos, cartoons, or artistic images? Will you have a specific background color that reflects your brand? Will you use the same font for each meme?  Will they be serious, inspiring, or humorous? What style will best reflect the book’s message? These are important questions to ask before you start creating memes. The answers will be your guide to create effective memes.

2. Add the marketing element
Design a logo or use the book cover to add to the memes as the marketing tool. Some authors simply add their website or book title in small print at the bottom of the meme. For my book, The Gift of Bread, the marketing department at the publishing house created a logo with the title of the book and an image of a stalk of wheat. It’s simple, elegant, and inviting. 

You can create the memes before you have the logo or book cover. Just leave space to add that element when it is ready.

3. Choose how many memes to create
Set a goal of how many to create. You can decide based on content or marketing needs, such as:
  • One for each chapter or unit so a daily devotional might have one for each day or week). 
  • One for each week for the first 3 months after the release (thirteen).
  • A meme for each quote you ant to use from the book
  • Memes that give tips for the readers, related to the book’s topic. So the top ten tips or 21 days of tips, etc.
  • Once you decide how many, write down a theme for each meme. This should reflect the book’s content. It might focus on the plot twists or characters in a fiction book or the main point or quote or each chapter in a nonfiction book.

Plan how to market with the memes
It’s always better to maximize any marketing effort. I like to know I can use the memes in multiple. Each one should be a message that can stand alone for posting on social media., but hopefully as a group they can convey a story or  reflect talking points to make them more versatile. Consider these ideas get more mileage out of the time spent cresting the memes:
  • Use as blog images. For my upcoming release I plan to use each one for a blog post. That works like a prompt on what to write about. I already wrote the opening sentences for each post.
  • Use memes for advertising. Use one or more memes to create a poster for an event or sales table. Memes become instant art for flyers and to send meeting planners to use in marketing upcoming speaking events.
  • Tell a story with your memes. Use a series of memes for a digital photo frame on your sales table or in a power point to scroll on a screen before you start speaking.
  • Your memes could be great images for your book talk. Use them to create the PPT for a talk.
  • Use memes in your newsletter. Post one at the end of the newsletter or use one to launch a chat about your book and a story behind writing the book.
  • Add one in a press release to grab attention.
  • Create ancillary products with memes. Use a series of memes with quotes on them to sell or use the memes to create greeting cards or posters to sell.

You’ll be better prepared to market when the book releases if you have memes ready to go and a strategy ton use them.

TWEETABLES


Karen Whiting (www.karenwhiting.com) is an international speaker, former television host of Puppets on Parade, certified writing and marketing coach, and award-winning author of twenty-five books for women, children, and families. Her newest book, The Gift of Bread: Recipes for the Heart and the Table reflects her passion for bread and growing up helping at her grandparent’s restaurant. 

She has a heart to grow tomorrow’s wholesome families today. She has written more than seven hundred articles for more than sixty publications and loves to let creativity splash over the pages of what she writes. She writes for Leading Hearts, The Kid’s Ark, and BCM International. Connect with Karen on Twitter @KarenHWhiting Pinterest KarenWhiting FB KarenHWhiting
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by Tammy Karasek @TickledPinkTam 

When you find yourself at a loss for words to write, do you whine, slam your fist on the desk or quit and get up and walk away? I have to admit I’ve done all of these at some point (or maybe all three at one time). But I’m still writing, so what made a change for me?

Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice. Psalm 55:17 (KJV)

I’ve managed to create a plan to keep these instances to a minimum. When these moments happen, I stop and blow out a huge breath, then pray. I think I know what you might be thinking…wow, that’s real news there Tammy! But hear me out. Not only do I takeit to God, I use an acronym of PRAY to aid me when I am tempted to participate in one of the above reactions to my frustration at the keyboard. 

PERSEVERE and PRESS-ON:  don’t quit! Don’t throw away your writing instruction books, cancel all your writing group memberships, give away your computer and go hide. Remember, the old tortoise and hare story? Slow and steady wins. Take a moment to breathe, get up from your writing space and take a little walk around the room or coffee shop and grab a fresh beverage. Well, don’t grab one if you’re at a coffee shop, they prefer you pay for them!

REALIZE then RESEARCH: realize you’re stuck, then research something for the piece you’re writing. I’m not telling you to research Pinterest for home decorating or a new recipe here. Take the topic you’re working on and use our friend, Google, to see what comes up. Character problem for your fiction? Research a flaw your character has and see what comes up about that. Working on a non-fiction piece? Dust off your King James Version and dig through the concordance for some scriptures regarding the topic you’re writing about. There’s just something about the beautiful words of the ‘ol King James Bible, right?  

ACKNOWLEDGE and ASK:  still stuck? The obvious of the acronym should be where we always start, but what about sending an email to a writing buddy asking for them to pray as well. Who knows, maybe they might have a suggestion for your piece or would be willing to give you a call to do a quick brainstorm session.  

YACK and YEARN:  yack about God everywhere and everyway you can! Yearn to have the opportunities to share of His goodness. What does this have to do with being stuck in your writing? Sometimes through these opportunities is where God gives us more to write about! Keep a notebook of things that were said or questions that were asked in these events, then when stuck, pull out the notebook and read through them, you never know what may jump out for you to use. Always look for the opportunities to share about God.

Pray without ceasing. I Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV)

I hope you can use the above P.R.A.Y. ideas if you find yourself stuck in your writing at some point. Do you have a thing or two that helps you when you have this happen? Please share in the comments below, we’d love to know!

TWEETABLE

You’ll find Tammy seeing humor and causing laughter in every aspect of life. Her past, filled with bullying and criticism from family, is the driving force of her passion to always encourage others and give them The Reason to smile. She’s been married to her college sweetheart, Larry, for 37 years, a mom to their grown daughter, Kristen and wrapped around the paw of a little dog named Hattie. Born and raised in Ohio, her family now resides in South Carolina. She is the President of Word Weavers Upstate SC, member of ACFW and member of My Book Therapy/Novel Academy. She’s the Blog Coordinator/Editor for Florida Christian Writers Conference. She was a contributor in the 2018 Divine Moments Compilation Book—Cool-inary Moments. She’s been a contributor to several other blogs.

Connect with Tammy on her blog, http://www.tammykarasek.com, through Twitter and Facebook.
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by Emme Gannon @GannonEmme

As this posts we’re ten days into Lent—a penitential time in the Church year where Christians examine their lives and set aside time to reflect more fully on those sins and bad habits that often beset us. During Lent, believers prepare their hearts for Easter through prayer, repentance, and self-denial, so that we can more fully hear the voice of God. 

These acts of contrition do not and cannot earn us points with God for Jesus already paid the price for our sins when He gave His life for us on the cross and God raised Him from the dead to forever make intercession for us. The work was fully done for those of us who believe. We are His through grace, God’s unmerited favor.

So why Lent? Why do more when it has already been done for us by our Savior. We should be reflecting all the time, you say. Yes, that’s true. But do we? I can’t speak for others, but I know the human part of me feels very comfortable in my routines and successes. Stretching hurts and brings out all of my insecurities. No thank you, Lord. I’m happy where I’m at, you may say. But are we?

One of the many, many things I love about my husband was that he stretched me. Growing up without a father stamped me with insecurities and the need to earn approval. Jumping into new situations meant I was far out of my comfort zone. 

So God sent me an adventurous husband who lovingly coaxed me to discover my gifts and go for it. It was he who encouraged me to tag along with my writer friends to my first writer’s conference. We did three conferences that first year. I discovered something about myself that I knew but was afraid to admit. I love weaving words together to create stories. 

God used my husband to open the box. The Lord showed me what was inside. Because I was in a strange environment, I tread lightly and sought the Lord’s leading as I had no experience to guide me. I discovered many things about myself that became an anchor for my life. You see, we often departmentalize God, but when He grows us in one area, that knowledge floods every area of our lives. 

Lent is like that. God wants to unlock emotional doors that we have locked, walls that we have built, secrets that we have hidden away that we no longer remember, but that have become part of who we are. Secrets that need to be exposed so we can be free to be that person we were created to be. 

Whether we use Lent as a penitential time to examine our sinful nature so that we can yield all to God, or this is something we regularly do, I encourage you to take that step. It’s not so much what we do for God, but what we allow Him to do for us. 

Surrender opens up the door of our hearts a little wider so that His light and love can burn through the barriers we’ve set up to protect us. I assure you, by allowing the Lord to expose the dark places of our soul, He will speak to you in ways you can’t imagine. You will not only become more like Him, but discover you are more than who you are. 

TWEETABLE
A Writer Looks at Lent - @GannonEmme on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Emme Gannon is a wife, mother, and grandmother who loves to write stories that stir the heart. Her award-winning writing has appeared in Focus on the Family magazine, several anthologies, and numerous newsletters. She just completed her first novel.
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by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Following my heart to become a writer has taught me a lot. I still remember the first time I got brave enough to call myself a writer, and the excitement the first time I sold an article.

It wasn’t all rainbows and roses though. I remember the excitement of having my first manuscript taken to committee—and the devastation when the publisher ultimately rejected it.

I wouldn’t have traded a single minute of my experience. Even that rejection was good because truthfully, neither my manuscript or me was ready for publication.

Lessons I've Learned on the Writing Road
  • Talent without persistence is worthless. So much of what we need to know to be successful, no matter what our goals, can be learned.
  • I’m stronger than I thought. If I had known when I started, the hard work and emotional toll getting to this point would take. I would have quite because I would never have dreamed I could do it.
  • Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss. When I first started down this road, I thought I knew everything I needed for writing success. I’m glad now that I didn’t know what was needed at the beginning. It would have been too overwhelming.
  • Quitting is the only path to failure. I’ve found writing success, but a lot of it has come simply because I refused to give up.
  • God is the One who directs my path. I can (and will continue) to make plans—but I stay flexible. I would never have even dreamed of the opportunities God has given me.
  • There’s a big difference between goals and dreams. They both have their place in the writer’s life, but a goal is something who’s outcome I can influence. A dream is something I wish would happen. It’s the difference between having the goal of getting a book published or having a best seller. I can achieve the first by hard work, but the second is ultimately up to God.
  • Detours aren’t the same thing as roadblocks. My path to publication has zigged and zagged so many times it looks like the path Mother Goose’s Crooked Old Man left behind. But more frequently than not, those detours ended up getting me further ahead, faster.
  • Generosity will always get you farther than selfishness. I have never once regretted putting someone else before me. I’d even go so far as to say that I’ve build my career (or at least my platform) by promoting others.
  • My reputation is worth solid gold, but it’s not something I can buy. I can only achieve it and keep it by guarding it. I always try to communicate honestly and above all, keep my word.
  • The joy is in the journey. The people I’ve met, the things I’ve gotten to experience have been the high points, not the achievements.
  • Publication isn’t the sole definition of writing success. Touching someone’s life through the words I pen, whether it’s on a blog or a book or an article, is way more important than a book contract.
These are just a few of the things I’ve learned while on this writing journey. What about you? Has writing taught you anything important about yourself and/or about life? Share your thoughts below.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

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by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

As writers, one of our most valuable resources is time—especially time to write. We dream about it, plan for it, even run away to find it. Yet it’s often ourselves who stand in the way of having the time we need to write.

Today I’d like to share some hidden—and some not so hidden—time thieves.

The Writer’s Biggest Enemies

1. Multi-tasking. This one is a biggie. Yes, we have a lot of things we must do from, writing, to editing, to marketing. But it’s not an efficient use of our time if we try to do everything all at once. By not focusing, we often set ourselves up for failure.

2. Unlimited web-browsing.We definitely need to build an online platform, but spending hours surfing the web isn’t the way to do it.

3. Not scheduling your time.The way to get all the various tasks done that need to be done is by scheduling our time. Find the most creative time and guard it for your writing first. Then work around that time for the other tasks you have to do.

4. Avoiding the hard stuff.It’s only human nature to want to do the easy things first. But that’s not always the most efficient use of our time. Come up with a schedule, then do the tasks that are scheduled, whether they’re hard or easy.

5. Talking instead of working. Writers are like anyone else, we’re passionate about our craft. But we need to make sure we’re spending time practicing our craft, not just talking about it.

6. Not networking. We shouldn't spend all our time talking about writing, but that doesn't mean we should isolate ourselves. Others can give us much needed perspective and insight into things we're struggling with. 

7. Using cheating as a reward. It’s great to build in rewards, but make sure the rewards aren’t sabotaging your progress. For example, if I’m on a diet and I lose five pounds, I don’t want to reward myself with a calorie-laden meal. With writing, if I make my word count goal, I want to build on it, not take the rest of the week off.

8. Thinking only about the big dream. Sure we all want to write a blockbuster. But that isn’t my only goal. I have lots of goals that will lead up to that one. Don’t be a big-picture writer and lose out on the chance to fulfill your dream.

9. Over planning.Yes, we need to make plans, and follow a schedule. But if we’re so concerned with the process of planning, we’re wasting valuable time. Write down your goals, come up with a schedule and then GET TO WORK.

10. Not learning.With writers, like most creative endeavors talent is a good start. BUT diligence trumps talent every single time. Doing the hard work to learn all that’s involved with becoming a professional writer will get you much farther than even a huge amount of talent.

These are the biggest time thieves I’ve found. What would you add to the list? Be sure to share your thoughts below.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

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The Writer’s Biggest Enemies—Time Thieves. @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)
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by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

In the past year, Pinterest has come into its own as a valuable social media platform. Where once it was known as the place to go for ideas for things, it's now a powerhouse in the social media realm. 

But like any social media platform, it has its own culture and best practices. 

If you've ignored this valuable network, it's time to dust off your account and see how it has improved. These tips will help you get everything in shape.

Pinterest Basics for Writers
  • Make sure you switch your account to a business account. You won’t lose anything in the transition, but you will gain a great deal in analytics and functionality.
  • Optimize your name (description is key, but make it interesting). If you have a ministry and/or a business, but you also are an author, make sure your account is set up under your name. (Mine is Edie Melson).
  • Spend time composing your Pinterest bio. It should be interesting and contain keywords that will be picked up in a generic search. For instance, my bio mentions that I’m a “creative” “photographer” and “author”. All popular searches on Pinterest. 
  • As you build your Pinterest world, remember that you are sharing a visual story. This is an image driven network and your popularity will hinge on how well you present the visual aspect of your content.
  • Approach your Pinterest account like you are publishing a magazine. Every board is a “feature” in your magazine. Consider your colors you use and the visual story you want to tell.
  • Take time to organize your boards. Consider the order they are in on your homepage. In addition:
    • Name each board. Give it a name that someone might type into the search box to find the content of your board.
    • Make sure you have designated an image as a cover for every board. 
    • Fill in the description and type of board. 
  • Use the search box strategically to find trending topics and share appropriate pins.
    • Click on the Search Box, but don't type anything into the box
    • You'll notice 2 main headings appear in a drop-down menu, Recent Searches and Trending Ideas
    • Look at the Trending Ideas for popular things to pin to your boards
  • Use templates in Canva or PicMonkey or to make your own pins. Remember thought that the largest majority of things you pin should be from others. I use a 10 to 1 rule of thumb. 10 pins from others to 1 pin from me. But it’s NOT considered poor form to share multiple pins in a row. For example, if I’m working on a new board for my blog posts, it would be fine for me to pin a lot of my own stuff to populate the board. Use this as a rule of thumb, not an inflexible rule.
  • Think outside the box when coming up with ideas for boards. Begin with your own branding focus, then branch out. I have a board for the color teal, a board with pictures of abandoned places, and a board for cute animals. This is the place to let your audience get to know you by seeing the interesting things you pin.
Spend time weekly pinning things you love. The more you’re on Pinterest, the more your visibility will grow.

Now it's your turn, what questions do you have about Pinterest? And what boards have you created or what boards have you seen that are fun? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Don't forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

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by Cindy Sproles @CindyDevoted

“How do you ever learn it all? There’s so much and it changes so fast.” The conferee leaned forward in his chair and scratched his chin. He had a great question. My answer was simple. “You don’t. You continue to study and learn.” 

It’s easy for a published author to tell you how they write, but the fact remains, despite how they may deviate from the norm, the basics of the craft do not change. As you progress through the ranks of the industry, you’ll find writing is also very subjective. What one editor loves, another hates. This in and of itself, makes learning the craft of writing a little frustrating.

Regardless of the variants, any writer worth their salt will spend a good amount of time revisiting their work, looking for those glaring things that eat away at it. There are always things to learn, ways to edit, tidbits and methods that will make your work better. Search them out and practice.

Given that, it’s important to remember where you are writing wise. Are you a beginner? Published in articles or in books? The tools available to us to learn the craft are tremendous but as the writer, you must honestly assess the level where you are currently writing. Don’t rush. Instead, start at the beginning and learn. Master one skill at a time. Practice discernment as you attend conference classes and purchase teaching materials. Remember you can’t drive a car without first starting the engine, so don’t skip steps in your learning process. Look at your learning level as a place to layer degree upon degree. With each process, step, or method you learn, you are building your skill level.

Read Books: There are great books available to help new writers locate and learn how to correct those common mistakes that plague their work. Books like Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King. If longevity means anything, this little book has been around for years. Browne and King have revised it over time to keep it current but within the pages of this book, new writers will find information that, if utilized, will help make your work very polished.

 The amazing James Scott Bell offers several editing tools via his writing books as well. Plot and Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish will offer the writer a clear guide to a smooth and successful plot. His book Revision & Self-Editing also deepen the writer’s knowledge of seeing, correcting, and even rewriting sentences and paragraphs to make them as readable and smooth as possible.

As your writing level progresses, Steven James’ book Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules, is filled with unique ways to take your writing to a new level. (FYI – writers should have a solid understanding of writing the craft in order to effectively utilize these methods). Still, James offers daring and solid methods to help writers produce sound work.

Attend conferences: The ability to learn at the feet of those who have blazed the trail is an opportunity no writer should pass up. Again, assess your writing level and attend classes that meet you where you are in your writing at that moment. Always purchase the cd’s or MP3s of the conference and take home months’ worth of continued learning.

Get involved in a critique group: Local groups should have levels of writers so that the learning continues to set a higher bar for your writing. Learn to critique and be critiqued. If there is no local group, visit Word Weavers. They have area groups and on-line groups you can join and learn.

The greatest tool you can exercise is practice: Spend time studying. Read the genre you love – then practice. Write, write, write. We learn best when we practice the skill. Skaters aren’t born to leap and spin into the air. They practice, strengthen their muscles, and make attempt after attempt until suddenly, they make the jump. It’s the same with a writer. Practice. 

Do we ever learn it all? Nope. But we do continue to strive to daily improve. Grasp the tools you need. Get plugged in. Learn. Before you know it, you will see a marked improvement in your skills and in your work. No. It’s never enough. We just keep learning.

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Tips for Learning the Craft of #Writing - @CindyDevoted on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Do we ever learn all there is to know about #writing? thoughts from @CindyDevoted on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Cindy K. Sproles is an author, speaker, and conference teacher. She is the cofounder of ChristianDevotions.us and the executive editor of ChristianDevotions.us and InspireaFire.com. Cindy is the managing editor for Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, both imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is an award-winning and best-selling author and the director of the Asheville Christian Writers Conference. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com.  @cindydevoted
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