I signed up with a newsletter provider … but now I actually have to write a newsletter (and get subscribers).
A website? I need a website?
“Build a social media following,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said. Okay. But how?
This whole writing thing can be overwhelming.
So, the first step? Take a breath—a really deep one. Count to five. And exhale. Repeat as needed.
Numbers can be scary, really scary. Thousands. Tens of thousands. Millions even.
But no one—NO ONE—began by having 50 books under their belt or even 100 followers. (Not long ago, “followers” weren’t even a thing.)
So, you’ve published your first book? That’s worth celebrating BIG TIME. You’ve done something so many people only dream of doing. Kudos!
And an author platform? Just take it step by step. Word of advice: don’t get overwhelmed by all the “expert advice” on the Internet. Do your research and find someone who has experienced the same kind of success you’d like to have, someone whose advice you can trust and emulate without too much stress.
Like Facebook and blog posts, it’s a great idea to create several newsletters before firing off that first one. If you have four prepared and send out your newsletter once a week, you’ll be all set for a month. If you write even one newsletter per week after that, you’ll never get behind. At least, you’ll have a little wiggle room.
And that newsletter email list? Again, it’s good to do your research and learn from someone who has built a sizeable list, someone who can break it down into a doable step by step process.
Don’t have an author website or a blog yet? One-page websites can be a great place to start. You can always grow from there.
Building a social media following can seem overwhelming. Maybe you don’t like social media. If that’s the case, don’t feel pressured to do “all the things.” Even if you do enjoy social media, it’s best to focus on one program at a time. If you’re building a Facebook group, you don’t have to create stories on Instagram and figure out Clubhouse at the same time. Maybe never. It’s up to you. And if you really don’t know where to begin, there’s great training out there—much of it free.
Of course, there are costs along the way, but remember that there is SO MUCH free information online created by GENEROUS EXPERTS.
Be patient. And as much as possible, enjoy each step forward—no matter how small the step. Learn to celebrate each step and you will experience joy in “the little things.”
Even before you know exactly what you want to write, you have to get the words on paper. Just write!
I have four manuscripts partially completed: a devotional on the gospel of John, a contemporary women’s fiction novel, a YA fantasy, and a memoir I’m coauthoring.
While niching down has its place and is well worth the effort, waiting until you’re 100 percent sure what you want to create for the long haul pretty much guarantees you won’t hit PUBLISH (or pitch an agent) on any project.
So, consider this your invitation to write … just write!
Here are some suggestions to inspire you:
Pick up that book of writing prompts that has been sitting on your shelf gathering dust. Open it to any random page … and write.
Scan photos online until you find one that inspires you and go for it.
Make a list of all the topics you’d like to write about. Obscure? No problem. No market? It doesn’t matter at this point. Plus, you might be surprised. Don’t think you have what it takes? Tell your inner critic you’ll get back to her later—much later!
Create a list of your favourite genres, authors, writing styles …
Choose a topic and a genre … and write! (You don’t have to know everything about the genre. There’ll be plenty of time to polish in subsequent drafts.) Or you may want to …
Create an outline for your project before you begin to write. (Discovery writers [aka pantsers] prefer a simple scaffolding at most. Plotters will want to include more details but can get caught up in “perfecting” the outline before they even start. At some point, both types of individuals must take a deep breath and begin to write.)
Allow the story or nonfiction project to flow—even if it does so in spurts and starts. Bullet points. Notes to self (i.e.: insert character name here). Skipping around in the story. (I’ve written an epilogue for a novel that isn’t finished yet.) If you run into a roadblock, these and other methods are 100 percent acceptable “fillers.”
Try your hand at something you’ve never written before. I wrote 40K of a YA fantasy novel back in November for NaNoWriMo. I wondered if I had what it took to write fantasy, but I figured, Why not? And I’m having lots of fun.
If you’re writing to deadline for a traditional publisher with specific guidelines, you have a responsibility to fulfill your obligations, but that doesn’t mean you can’t explore other genres, other writing forms, that idea you’ve long buried at the back of your mind (or in the bottom of your drawer) …
Writing can be both a job and a creative outlet, but don’t let the business side of things squelch the joy you feel from simply putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. JUST WRITE!
Thousands of authors all around the globe have participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November.
To “win” NaNo, the author must write 50K words of a new novel or nonfiction book … although there are NaNo Rebels who combine projects or choose their own word count goal.
So, just what is success?
For some authors, they must achieve a predetermined goal, such as writing 50K words in November, in order to feel successful.
Others need a deadline to keep them on course. When they complete their writing goal by said deadline, they consider it success.
This year, many of us have come to realize, if we’re disciplined enough to spend any time writing, we’ve been successful and “beaten the odds.”
One writer cannot define success for another. One writer should not criticize another for not accomplishing what the first writer defines as success … nor should the first writer condemn herself for not being able to write every day, never mind 50K in a month.
How can you set yourself up for success, whatever that means to you?
Determine not to compare yourself to others.
Others’ accomplishments can inspire you and give you something to strive for. However, another writer’s productivity and schedule may not work for you. And that doesn’t mean you’ve “failed.”
Honestly evaluate how much time you can set aside each week to write.
Take into account not only your other responsibilities inside and outside your home but also the physical and mental energy you have “left over.”
It’s true that you may have to get up a little earlier or go to bed a little later to make time for your writing, but don’t neglect your need for adequate sleep.
Consider reallocating some of the time you spend watching Netflix or scrolling social media as writing time.
Look for those “found pockets of time” within your daily schedule.
You may have 10 minutes here and 20 minutes there. It may not be ideal, but it’s likely to help you reach the goal you’ve set for yourself more quickly than if you wait for large chunks of solid writing time.
Keep in mind the age-old advice to carry a notebook with you wherever you go.
These days, that may mean writing in the Notes app on your phone or using an App such as Evernote or Google Docs. There are authors who write entire manuscripts on their phone.
Give yourself grace.
Do you wag your finger at other writers and condemn them for not spending more time writing? Do you think they should simply “suck it up” when life (aka 2020) sends them for a loop? Do you determine your favourite author isn’t a success unless they release at least one new book every year?
Your answers to these questions are likely “No. No. And no.”
You see what I’m driving at …
And in the same vein …
If you don’t meet today’s goal, give yourself permission to try again tomorrow.
It can be discouraging if a writer doesn’t meet their daily goal, especially if they feel the goal is achievable.
Even if this describes you, there are days life will happen and you just won’t get around to it, but that doesn’t mean you have to write off tomorrow and the next day and the next.
Each sunrise marks a new beginning, a new opportunity to achieve SUCCESS.
Two award-winning Canadian Christian
freelance writers, Patricia Paddey and Karen Stiller, have teamed up to share
what they describe as “our conversation with you about what we have learned
through success and failure.” [Kindle location 98]
The book feels very much like a
conversation, candidly sharing experience and advice. Beginning and
intermediate writers will gain the most, but even seasoned pros will likely
pick up a thing or two.
The “craft” section deals mainly with
nonfiction, mostly articles, yet I’ve gleaned inspiration and encouragement I
can apply to my fiction. The “cost” section includes practical business tips
relevant to all, and “call” addresses the spiritual side of writing. What
struck me most in that part was this quote:
View your platform as the place from which you live out your calling to be a writer and to serve your readers. [Kindle location 1865]
Reading this book made me want to go write
Writers are invited to visit CraftCostCall.com for “more writing
exercises, resources, and conversation about building a life as a Christian
writer.” [Kindle location 2129] This virtual watercooler could become a very
good place to hang out.
Patricia Paddey and Karen Stiller have
solid backgrounds in writing and editing, with articles and books and awards to
their names. These two authors illustrate the truth that while writing is often
a solitary activity, it requires community. Having benefited from other writers
along the way, they’ve prepared this book to mentor others. And they’re
donating a portion of proceeds from Craft, Cost & Call to The Word Guild, an association of writers
and editors who are Christian.
At the risk of sounding cliché, the possibilities really are
How should I pursue publication?
Should I look for an agent and try to get a traditional
Should I self-publish my work?
Should I do both and become a hybrid author?
If I choose to self-publish, what will I do myself?
Format my manuscript? Create a book cover? Edit my book?
And if we’re Christian, we likely want to be certain that we’re
fulfilling God’s call on our life—and going about it as He would want us to.
But how can we know that we’re following the path He has set out for us?
Writer or not, there are a number of ways to do so—and
they’re not as mysterious as we may think.
Study God’s Word.
The Scriptures are the Lord’s primary means of communicating
with us. It’s important to become familiar with what they say and what they
mean in context.
In God’s Word we find specific instructions and principles
that apply to every area of life.
Seek to obey His commands and directives.
Are we seeking, in God’s strength, to walk in obedience to
Him? As we do, He sheds light on the path before us and enables us to take the
next step on the journey.
Spend time in prayer.
Sometimes, it’s as we pray for guidance that He gives it. At
other times, it’s as we’re praying for others that the Lord nudges us in the
direction He wants us to take.
Seek godly counsel.
Wise counsellors may be members of our family or fellow
members of our church. They may be friends, neighbours, or even those we’ve
developed relationships with online.
Wise counsel, direction that honours the Lord, points us in
the right direction—even if it’s not what we want to hear.
And we can rest assured that it will never contradict the
clear commands in God’s Word.
Use your talents and abilities as you have opportunity.
While we are responsible to develop them, God gave us our
talents and abilities. They are often a good indicator of the route we should
Pursue that passion that just won’t go away.
We can’t do everything we’d like to do in this life. (Ask me
how I know this. <grin>)
Still, if there is a God-honouring passion that never leaves
us, no matter what our circumstances and season of life, it’s likely something
the Lord wants us to investigate—and possibly, pursue.
I recently heard that there are writers who give up because
the words just aren’t flowing. These individuals figure if God wants them to
write, He will give them the words and it will be easy.
Any of us who have written anything from a Facebook status
to a full-length novel know there are times it’s far from easy. The right words
seem as elusive as the bat my hubby can’t find in our house (but that’s another
Still, the Scriptures have much to say about perseverance.
And if God has put it on your heart to write, I encourage you to persevere.
Develop your skills. And continue to seek Him for guidance and direction.
Wise counsel, direction that honours the Lord, points us in the right direction—even if it’s not what we want to hear. (click to tweet)
If there is a God-honouring passion that never leaves us, it’s likely something the Lord wants us to investigate. (click to tweet)
Any of us who have written anything from a Facebook status to a full-length novel know there are times it’s far from easy. (click to tweet)
Are you looking forward to the journey or only arriving at
How is vacationing like the writing journey?
We aren’t planning any big trips this year, but I realized
on our way to Frankenmuth for a couple of days that I had a choice. I could
enjoy the journey or merely endure it.
Writing is a little like planning and executing a vacation.
Decide on a Destination
Unless you’re hopping in the car and seeing where the road
takes you, you likely have a destination in mind.
The same should be true when writing. Are you planning to
write a book? An article for Medium? A blog post?
Set a Timeline for Each Leg of the Journey
Life happens. Something may come up to deter you from your
schedule. However, it’s important to at least have a schedule to keep you on
track. (You don’t want to find out the day before you leave for the airport
that you should have renewed your passport.)
It’s important to be kind to yourself. Set an achievable
pre-journey itinerary, but don’t be so “kind” that you leave everything to the
last minute and consider giving up on the idea altogether.
This year I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo—and, shock of
shocks, I edited my manuscript well ahead of schedule. There are several more
steps to take before the book is available, but now I know I can actually git
’er done. Now to set a timeline for the next steps.
Gathering what you need for your writing journey can simply
mean grabbing a pen and notepad or your phone with its note-taking app, finding
an inspiring location to write, and getting at it. Or it may need a reliable
internet connection and months of research.
Whichever it is, commit to it and get started.
You won’t get any closer to your destination if you gather
what you need, pack it in the car, and sit in the driveway.
It may be exciting—or a little scary—to start out on a new journey.
But the only way to reach your destination is to set off.
Put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard (thumbs to phone
screen?) and begin.
“Once upon a time …”
Recalculate When Necessary
You may find you made a wrong turn or missed the cut-off.
But just like the old GPS units used to say, “Recalculating.”
You wouldn’t abandon your idea for a vacation because you
had to do some backtracking and recalculating to find your way.
Don’t abandon your idea if the road to publication gets a
little bumpy or if you have to find your way through unfamiliar territory.
Ask for Help
When planning your trip, you may hop online to get
inspiration or check out customer reviews of accommodations and tourist
If you get lost (on the road or in the airport), you may
have to check with someone in the know.
Even after you reach your destination, you will likely count
on dozens of other people to make the trip a success.
Granted, writing is, in many ways, a solitary endeavour, but
“no [writer] is an island.”
Writers rely on countless others on the journey from the
first spark of an idea to published work—and beyond. Those people may include
beta readers, editors, proofreaders, marketing pros, web designers, and many
Celebrate Your Arrival
“We’re here!” to a traveler is as amazing as “The End” is to
Touching down on the tarmac or penning those satisfying
words isn’t really the end of the journey. But it is well worth taking at least
a few minutes to do a happy dance—literal or figurative.
You may have a detailed itinerary in hand, but it’s good to
check on reservations and make sure everything is in order. On most trips,
adjustments have to be made.
When it comes to releasing a book or publishing a blog post,
adjustments may be in order. Or, possibly, if you’re new to the process—or have
just been too busy with other things, you may have to create that website,
research traditional and indie publishing options, find out how to get your
work in front of readers.
Begin Planning for the Next Journey
It took about five minutes before I started planning our
next trip to Newfoundland when we were there last summer. Since our son and
daughter-in-law live in Scotland, I thought it would be a wonderful location
for a family gathering. They wouldn’t feel like they’d left home—except, of
course, for the hours of travel and the money spent.
Even if you’ve arrived at your writing destination, you
likely have plans for several other projects. While you want to relax for a
while and enjoy the moment, you just may want to grab that note-taking device
and outline the next journey.
Wherever you are along the way, take a deep breath, and
marvel at the fact that yes, you are a writer. And it’s one of the most
exciting journeys you’ll ever take!
How is vacationing like the writing journey? [click to tweet]
9 ways travelling is like the writing journey. [click to tweet]
“We’re here!” to a traveler is as amazing as “The End” is to a writer. [click to tweet]
Take a deep breath, and marvel at the fact that yes, you are a writer. And it’s one of the most exciting journeys you’ll ever take! [click to tweet]
A four-letter word. And we writers utter it
in all its forms: noun, adjective, verb. However, this dirty little word is
most vital to our work.
My latest book A New York Yankee on Stinking Creek was heading to IngramSpark. I
knew it shone with my authorial brilliance. After all, my two critique partners
tore it apart, and I rewrote it according to their suggestions.
I have subscriptions to Grammarly and to my
favorite editing software, ProWritingAid. I ran the manuscript through them and
dutifully made corrections.
As a final polish, another software program
read the work to me.
It wasn’t enough, and I knew it.
The book would be self-published, the
reasons would make another blog post. I wanted this book to rise to the top of
Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s lists. Millions of other works competed against
it. Again and again I read that in order for your book to make it into the ten
percent of new releases, a professional editor had to correct its issues.
You read all I did to make this work shine.
My editor, true to my predictions, claimed
my work was clean. She found it easy to edit. Then she sent me my edited copy.
Page after page after never-ending page,
she marked-up my work like an English teacher on Adderall.
And what did she find? A smattering of
MINI Cooper not Mini Cooper
LEGOS not Legos
My ‘ was supposed to go the other way ’ (Can you see the difference? I couldn’t).
I spelled Emmett’s name (a
minor character appearing seldom) Emmet on one random page somewhere in the
middle of the manuscript.
Kincade not Kincaid
Random single spaces at the end
And I could go on and on and on. Why bore
you with my boo-boos?
So many small mistakes all my early editing
didn’t catch. So many of my favorite weasel words I never saw. So much.
I almost think I took longer to correct my
mistakes than it took to write the story.
However, the result is a professional novel.
I know most of you use traditional
publishers and using ProWritingAid sends off a polished manuscript for their
editors to critique.
For those who must self-publish, find a
trustworthy editor. Check his/her credentials. Send her a few pages for a
sample of her work.
How do you find one? Ask your writing
groups. Get recommendations from other writers. Mine is a member of ACFW and
used to work for the agent Les Stobbe.
New York Yankee on Stinking Creek rise to the top of the NYT Best Seller
List? An introductory read of the novel will prove it should.
If it doesn’t, it won’t be because of poor
Check out A New York Yankee on Stinking Creek. You’ll see the above is true.
NOTHING GOOD COMES FROM
Alone, again, after the death of her
fiancé, abstract artist Kiara Rafferty finds herself on Stinking Creek,
Tennessee. She wants out of this hillbilly backwater, where hicks speak an
unknown language masquerading as English. Isolated, if she doesn’t count the
snakes and termites infesting her cabin, only a one-way ticket home to
Manhattan would solve her problems.
Alone in a demanding crowd, Delia Mae
McGuffrey lives for God, her husband, her family, and the congregation of her
husband’s church. Stifled by rules, this pastor’s wife walks a fine line of
perfection, trying to please them all. Now an atheist Yankee, who moved in
across the road, needs her, too.
Two women. Two problems. Each holds the key to the other’s freedom.
Author Carol McClain is an eclectic artist and author. Her interests vary as much as the Tennessee weather—running, bassoons, jazz, stained glass and, of course, writing. She’s a transplant from New York who now lives in the hills of East Tennessee with her husband and overactive Springer spaniel.
She is the president of ACFW Knoxville and
the secretary of the Authors’ Guild of Tennessee.
The world in East Tennessee intrigues her
from the friendly neighbors to the beautiful hiking trails and the myriad
The ladies I’ve met with over the past decade are diverse, as is their writing. But we’ve learned much during our time together, including what we want to write and why—for now at least.
Barbara is working on a talk she will be giving to the ladies at her church in December. Her husband passed away from ALS, and she will be sharing some of that journey. This is a highly emotional topic, but one she feels ready to dig into now that some time has passed. Barbara has come to realize there may, indeed, be enough material to write a book, something she has been encouraged to do.
Even though there may be no one in the audience who has lost someone to ALS, Barbara’s listeners will be able to relate to the depth of emotion, the sense of loss, the challenge of believing in God’s goodness and love even when the darkness threatens to engulf you.
Do you have a personal story to tell? Have you struggled with pain, illness, broken relationships? Do you wonder if anyone could relate, if sharing your story would be more than simply a cathartic experience for you?
You might be surprised what a blessing you can be to others.
In the past, Darlene has blogged about some of the most painful and challenging times in her past, but currently, she is focused on fiction. She likes to read—and write—romantic suspense. She enjoyed Nancy Drew as a girl, as many of us did. And this serves as inspiration for her award-winning stories. She and her agent are hunting for the right publishing home for her work.
Which books fostered your love of reading? What do you enjoy reading today? Have you considered writing in the same genre? Perhaps you should.
The journey to publication can be long and filled with a string of highs and lows. But if this is where your heart is, take courses, attend conferences, read skills development books, and write, write, write … and then write some more. Perseverance is key—to this and most any form of writing.
Lisa writes nonfiction to share what she has learned, to encourage others, and to enable them to write more skillfully. She writes fiction to tell the whole truth. There is a depth to the human condition that is sometimes best examined in a story.
Lisa is an expert in writing in deep point of view, and her new book Method Acting for Writers: Learn Deep Point of View Using Emotional Layers teaches others how to draw in readers and keep them engaged from page 1.
Do you have a wide variety of interests? While there is a time to focus on a single project or a single genre, you may want to explore a number of the many options available to today’s creative.
Our group members are also writing poetry, devotionals, and book reviews, as well as other things.
If you’re not sure what you’d like to write, connect with other writers, in person or online, and ask what they write and why. Your conversations may spark your creativity and lead you to write something you hadn’t before imagined.
Steph Beth Nickel (Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)
Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter.