First Posted by Susan Neal at floridacwc.net/fcwcblog
There are incredible advantages to being a Christian author—fulfilling God’s inspired dream, determining your schedule, and writing in your PJs. However, with that flexibility there are some negative aspects as well—it can be a lonely and inactive profession. This blog will provide tips on how to beat the solitary and sedentary features of this career.
- Start your morning by spending fifteen minutes meditating with God.
During this time don’t bring your prayer requests; instead, allow time for your mind to wander. God will lead you to important things you may have forgotten. He may remind you to send a friend a word of encouragement, or it may be a time to process an emotional issue that is bothering you. After this quiet time with the Lord, pray.
- Before breakfast, drink two glasses of water and take a probiotic with ten different strains of beneficial microorganisms.
Antibiotics and medications kill the good bacteria in the gastrointestinal system. It is vital to balance your gut flora, so you don’t crave sugar and processed carbohydrates. The probiotic will also increase your energy level. With your healthy breakfast take a multi-vitamin.
- As you begin your workday get the blood pumping with five minutes of exercise.
Exercising improves your brain function. I have a portable desk with an adjustable height and a mini-stair stepper. I get on this as I review my to-do list for the day and peruse Facebook.
- At some point during the day go for a walk or perform a fifteen-minute workout.
I lift five-to-ten pound weights and do an upper body work out. If I need mental clarity, walking is a useful way to help me focus and generate new ideas.
- In addition to exercising, we need to fill our bodies with whole foods, the way God intended for us to eat; not processed foods that come out of boxes and bags.
Foods high in sugar and carbohydrates, cause brain fog. We need clarity of thought to write well, so eating a nutritious diet is essential to a successful career. Instead cut up fresh vegetables and eat them with a healthy dip like hummus or guacamole. Eat more salads, nuts, and seeds.
To escape from the solitary aspects of being an author, I joined a Word Weaver Christian Writers Critique Group. I drive 75 minutes one-way to attend our monthly meetings. The members have become my dearest friends. They understand the ups and downs of this writing journey.
I needed more than one monthly meeting, so I joined an online Word Weaver Group too. I had lunch with one of the members last week, as she has a winter home 90 minutes away. We met half way so we could become closer friends and understand God’s calling on our lives. Sharing this passion with other writers is fulfilling.
To improve your writing life join a Word Weaver group, start your day by meditating with God, take a probiotic, drink plenty of water, eat nutritious foods, and perform a short workout every day. As you take care of the glorious body God gave you, you will create work that glorifies Him.
Susan Neal RN, MBA, MHS is an author, speaker, and Christian yoga teacher. Her motto is “to help others improve their health so they can serve God better.” She published three books, 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates, Scripture Yoga a #1 Amazon best-selling yoga book, and Yoga for Beginners. She produced Christian Yoga Card Decks and DVDs. Susan is the president of an online Word Weaver Christian Writers Critique Group and vice-president of the Destin Word Weavers Critique Group. She has been interviewed on Moody Radio, Blog Talk Radio, Premier Christian Radio from the UK, Divine Wellness Academy Podcast, Author Audience Podcast, A Fine Time for Healing Podcast, and Fabulous Beyond 40 Summit. Susan blogs on HealthyLivingSeriesBlog.com.
Scripture Yoga Classes
Susan is teaching Scripture Yoga™ Friday-Sunday morning at 6:30-7 am. Susan recites theme based Bible verses while participants hold a yoga pose. It is like a mini Bible study. Meditating on verses while in the postures creates a very tranquil time for God to penetrate one’s heart so you can hear from him. Join Susan and get away from all the distractions of life, and enter into His presence. If you have a yoga mat, please bring it with you to the conference, but there will mats provided as well.
First posted by Michelle Medlock Adams
- MYTH: Writing books for children is much easier than writing books for adults.
- TRUTH: Good writing is tough no matter what genre we’re talking about; however, writing for children can be one of the most difficult to master and one of the most difficult to break into—but you can do it!
MORE TO PONDER…
*You have to say a lot in so few words—must make every single word count!
*You must be selective in word choice so that each word matches grade level. (Get a copy of the “Children’s Writer’s Word Book” by Alijandra Mogilner, published by Writer’s Digest Books.)
*It’s highly competitive! (The average national publisher receives 6,000 -15,000 unsolicited manuscripts a year, and of those, they publish 2-3. The rest of the books they publish come from agents, from authors they’re already publishing, and from other authors they meet at conferences.) But, you can do it!!! J
*I recently read an interview with a children’s book editor at Bloomsbury Children’s Books in NYC and the interviewer asked her, “Is there really a slush pile? If so, how many manuscripts would you estimate are in it?”
She replied, “It is many piles. It is huge! And I have no idea—maybe a thousand manuscripts in it.”
Then she was asked, “What percentage of manuscripts from the slush pile do you estimate get published?”
She answered, “Less than 1 percent but that’s still a real number—we get thousands of submission a year, and every year, we find one or two great things in it.”
So, you could be in that 1 percent!
FAST STATS: GOOD NEWS!!
E-books are giving children’s writers more opportunities to publish their work! In fact, 11 million parents have purchased an e-book and 19.6 million parents plan to buy an e-book in the future, according to recent stats.
- MYTH: Children’s stories should always teach a lesson.
- TRUTH: Children (as well as children’s book editors) dislike preachy books.
MORE TO PONDER…
*Good children’s books usually have a message woven throughout the text, but the story is what drives the text. Of course…there is an exception to every rule. J
*Good example…Veggie Tales books teach good morals, but they are fun, silly and kid-friendly while doing so!
Want to see a list of best-selling children’s books? Read this article at: http://www.timeout.com/new-york-kids/things-to-do/the-50-best-books-for-kids?cmpid=ppcaw-Kids-Books
- MYTH: The adult in the story should solve the problem.
- TRUTH: Actually, any adult in the story is simply a sidekick. The main character must
be the child, and that child must solve the problem. He can certainly take advice from an
adult, but the child needs to do the problem solving.
MORE TO PONDER…
*Through our books, we want to empower the child, not tell the child that an adult must always solve every problem. We want to instill the message of “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”—in a sneaky, funny, kid-friendly way!
- MYTH: After I write my children’s story, I need to find an illustrator to illustrate my story before submitting it anywhere.
- TRUTH: Unless you are a professional artist yourself, it’s not wise to send pictures with your manuscripts. In fact, it might even hurt your chances for publication.
MORE TO PONDER…
*The editor might really love your words but despise the artwork that your sister did to accompany each page. Her yucky artwork could nix the whole deal for you.
*Editors at publishing houses already have a list of talented illustrators that they love to use, so let them choose your artist.
*Especially if you’re a first-time children’s author, the publisher will try to pair you with a better-known illustrator to improve your chances for better book sales.
- MYTH: Writing my book in rhyme will give my book a better chance.
- TRUTH: Actually, it could hurt your story’s publication chances. Some editors despise rhyme because they receive so many poorly written rhyming books; therefore,they are prejudiced AGAINST rhyme. However, if you can write rhyme well, go for it!
MORE TO PONDER…
*FYI: I have sold more than 40 children’s books to publishers such as Zonderkidz, Simon & Schuster, Ideals Children’s Books and Concordia, and all but my non-fiction library books are written in rhyme! J
*Rhyme isn’t a crime, as some editors would have you think— it sells well! (Just get yourself a rhyming dictionary for help!)
I attended my first writers’ conference in 1989. Yes, I am that old.
I was a magazine editor at the time, and knew absolutely nothing about writers’ conferences. Since then, however, I have served on faculty more than a hundred times, and have learned a thing or two about writers’ conferences, knowledge that I am happy to impart—for the right price. Today, since we are approaching the height of the Christian writers’ conference season, that price is “free.” Lucky you.
So, let me share seven tips for your next conference:
- Prioritize learning at your first conference, selling and networking thereafter
Every writers’ conference has a plethora of workshops on practically every writing and publishing subject you can imagine, from “writing personal experience stories” to “building a brand” and “don’t write about zombies; write for them” (I might have made up that last one). You will learn something new at every writers’ conference you attend. But you’ll cheat yourself if you don’t also begin developing relationships with other writers and pitching your work (devotions, articles, books, etc.) to editors and agents. That’s why most writers’ conferences provide the opportunity to schedule appointments with the pros, so seize the opportunity.
- Choose your conference strategically
There are so many good conferences, and you can’t possibly attend all of them. So carefully peruse the brochure or website according to your budget and priorities. Consider location; will you be able to carpool with someone or commute from Aunt Iphigenia’s house? Review the classes; do the topics address your top needs as a writer? Study the faculty; will you be able to show your work to editors and agents who publish the sort of stuff you write?
- Plan (and print) ahead
Even for your first conference, take a sample of your writing to show to someone and learn from their feedback. Have quality business cards printed and ready (preferably with a professional-looking photo of you). Write and print query letters addressed to specific editors you plan to meet. Prepare one-sheets for a book or two. Take along copies of a book proposal in case an editor loves your idea and wants to take it back to the office after the conference.
- Don’t try to do everything
If you’re anything like me, you want to get your money’s worth from a conference. But resist the urge to do everything you possibly can at the conference. You’ll exhaust yourself and exhausted people don’t usually make great decisions or first impressions. Include recovery time in your schedule, as your head will probably be spinning after the first day.
- Leave the introvert at home
Many writers are introverts, but I suggest that you leave the introvert at home and try to function like an extrovert at a writers’ conference. That doesn’t mean you have to be the life of the party, just that you work a little harder to introduce yourself, strike up conversations, and ask questions. Your fellow writers (and even editors and agents) like to talk about words, books, writing, and themselves, so invite them to do so at every opportunity. If you do, I promise: you will make lifelong friends and develop rewarding connections.
- Consider writers’ conferences an ongoing part of your growth strategy
Don’t imagine that you will attend a writers’ conference and then go home knowing everything you need to know to succeed. Rather, consider regular writers’ conferences (I recommend two a year, if you can afford it) to be an ongoing part of your growth strategy as a writer. Over the next few years you will be amazed at the ground you’ve covered and the progress you’ve made.
- Follow up
Editors say it all the time: a small percentage of the manuscripts they invite from conferees actually get sent. Don’t be a dunce. When an editor invites you to send a proposal or manuscript after a conference, move heaven and earth if you must, but send it! Even if you don’t get such an invitation, you can still follow up your conference experience with a thank you note to the director or a faculty member or an editor with whom you met. And one of the best ways to follow up your conference is to set goals and schedule your writing between that conference and the next.
There you have it. I could easily list seven more suggestions, but who has time for that? We have packing and preparing to do.
We book writers often study the works of other book writers … not to copy work, but to learn more about craft. If this book made it to #1 on any list, the question of “why” must be answered.
We study things like opening pages, middle of the book techniques (how do we keep the story interesting), the climax and the wrap-up. We write down characters’ names, their background stories and how the author seemed to effortlessly wove that back story into the novel.
We look at plot points, at the Major Dramatic Question, and at dialogue (Did it sound realistic? Did it push the story forward? Did it incorporate dialect without overburdening the reader?)
But did you know you can do the same thing with movies?
Years ago, I decided I wanted to write a novel. But I had to admit I knew nothing about writing a work of fiction. I knew all about reading them … and I
lso knew a lot about watching movies. I had my favorites–those I watched over and over again. And why? Because the story had been well-told.
I began to break down movies, scene by scene, character by character … and I noted a pattern. Using that, I wrote my first novel … and my second … and my third … and my sixteenth, which releases this April (The One True Love of Alice-Ann. Tyndale).
For several years now I’ve been teaching the techniques I learned and incorporated and, quite honestly, nothing thrills me more than hearing other writers say, “I can’t watch a movie now without seeing the pattern!” This is not movie-spoiling. This is movie enhancement!
I hope you’ll join me for my continuing workshop Foundations of Fiction Through Film. We’re sure to bring new light to movies as well as to your work.
Tova ha’aretz me’od me’od!
“I have so many ideas for articles and books that I don’t know what to write.” That’s one of two comments I hear from writers. “I want to write, but I don’t know what I want to write,” is the other. Although they come at this from opposite perspectives both have the same problem.
They don’t know where to focus their energies.
I was the former and it took me about two years of writing to know where I wanted to center my attention. I tried any number of things from fiction to nonfiction, children’s stories, Bible studies, devotionals, Christian living, and health-and-fitness pieces.
I wrote articles and short stories. Most of them found publishers, but that wasn’t the deciding factor for me. As I threw my effort into the pieces I tried to stay aware of my attitude. Creating the articles gave me a lift and a few of them made me ask myself, Why am I doing this?
As I continued to experiment, I figured out what I didn’t like—particularly Bible studies and children’s stories, even though I sold them.
One day I realized I’m not a cool, objective author—C.S. Lewis is my best example. Excellent material, but he isn’t self-revealing. One editor told me, “You write with heart.” That sentence enabled me to label myself as a warm, subjective.
I could turn out objective pieces and even produced The Dictionary of Bible Literacy for Thomas Nelson, which contained more than 150,000 words. Good experience for my head, but it did nothing for my heart. That was an important insight because it brought me close to focusing.
After publishing more than 100 articles, I transitioned into books. Then an editor said, “You know how to get inside people’s heads.” (I wasn’t aware of that ability.) He asked me to become a ghostwriter for his publishing house, and they published 35 of my books..
Ghostwriting became my primary focus (and provided a good income), and yet it hadn’t been anything I’d considered. But once I started, I knew that’s where I belonged.
One reason I recommend writers conferences is to help conferees become aware of the variety of opportunities in publishing. “Try classes you might not have thought about,” I advise. “Talk to authors who successfully publish in areas where you haven’t read widely.”
In short, be open to the Holy Spirit. Who knows what insight you might receive?