Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Giving Thanks #IWSG

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Can you believe it's November already? Sheesh! Good luck to all of you participating in NaNoWriMo. This will be the first November in many years that I'm not writing a brand new manuscript. Instead, I'll be working on final edits of another.

2015 has been a year full of unique challenges for me. But through these challenges, one thing remains the same: a thankful heart brings personal happiness. If you're a Bible reader, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 instructs us to "give thanks in all circumstances."

When we're able to follow that one piece of advice, it's amazing how life has a way of straightening out. Give thanks, even when things aren't perfect. Give thanks, even when you wish your situation was different. Give thanks, even if you have a long way to go.

As we head toward the holidays and the closing of 2015, my wish for you is that you'll find something to be grateful for every single day.

What are you thankful for today? Are you participating in NaNo? If so, what's your book about? Please share!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What Dude Perfect Can Teach Writers

Have you ever heard of the Internet sensation, Dude Perfect? They're five dudes who perform crazy awesome trick shots. You can check out their YouTube channel here. With three teen dudes of my own, I've watched a heck of a lot of Dude Perfect stunts.

In this interview with ABC's Nightline, we get to know the guys behind Dude Perfect a little more. As I watched it, I realized they could teach writers a whole lot of good stuff:

Do not give up

For Dude Perfect, failure is not an option. Their shots seem impossible, and it's only through try after try after try that they finally make it happen.

For some writers, finishing a manuscript seems impossible. For others, signing with an agent or securing a publishing contract seems impossible. Mega sales seems impossible. Let's adopt Dude Perfect's work ethic of try, try, try, and try again.

Celebrate victory

One of my favorite things about Dude Perfect's videos is their victory celebrations. After several failed attempts at a trick, when they finally make the shot, their joy is contagious.

Writers should be careful not to be down on themselves if they aren't where they think they should be in their writing careers. Instead, writers should celebrate each victory, no matter how small.

Include others in the fun

Dude Perfect has a legion of famous fans, like mega sports stars, big-time coaches, and celebrities. They've included these famous people in their fun, having them perform their own trick shots.

We can also include others in the fun. For me, it's fun to include my family in the cover design process. Perhaps you could name a character after one of your kids. We can even seek plot ideas from the people in our lives. It's fun for others to be involved in the sometimes wacky world of a writer.

Stay true to who you are

Dude Perfect has said no to lucrative alcohol endorsements because of their deeply held Christian beliefs. I totally respect that. Their videos are good, clean fun that the whole family can enjoy together. They don't hide their faith, they want to share it with others (check out their "why" section of their web site). They don't follow the money, they follow their hearts.

I'll probably never write fantasy or sci fi, simply because that's not my area of interest (even thought here's plenty of money to be made in those genres). If we stay true to ourselves and write for the right reasons, we'll stay on the path that's intended for us.

Love what you're doing

The dudes of Dude Perfect love what they're doing. Their joy is infectious. They're like five Peter Pans who I hope will never grow up. Even with all their success, they've kept their sense of humor and don't take themselves too seriously.

We can learn a lot from these guys. If we don't love what we're doing, why do it? If you're down in the dumps about a rejection or low sales, remember this: you're a writer, you love writing, and you'll likely continue writing even if no one else reads your words. Love it anyway.

Dude Perfect has fun. They know their audience. They've found their niche. We could all learn a lot from these dudes who make awesome trick shots. What say you, writer friends? Have you ever heard of Dude Perfect? Do you love what you're doing? Ever make an awesome trick shot?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Use It or Lose It #IWSG

Welcome, Insecure Writers! If you aren't a member yet, please do yourself a favor and sign up here.

After a summer of not writing, I was so glad to get back in the saddle again. I've sent my revision off to my editor, and I await her final notes.

All summer I kept reminding myself of the "use it or lose it" principle--that writing is like a muscle that can atrophy if not used. And even though I feared jumping back in, I survived the leap. No injuries occurred. *checks mirror for bruises*

While life swirls around me at a dizzying, uncontrollable pace, I continue to put one word after the next, creating something only I can create.

I hope you're doing the same...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Power of Giving Back

Friends, today we have a special guest--Randi Lee, author of Affected. Randi's here to share what she's learned about the power of authors giving back.

Take it away, Randi!

Writers, there are a lot of us. Strength in numbers is great! Don’t get me wrong. I love all of my writer friends and wouldn’t trade them for the world. However, with so many writers publishing so many books these days, it can be difficult to get noticed—especially by the media. 

I should know. I spent ages contacting media affiliates in an effort to have them promote my book. Newspapers, trade journals, television and radio stations: I tried them all. Through emails, letters, telephone calls and physical visits, I did everything I could to push my book on these agents of the media, to no avail. I even switched my message. When one pitch letter didn’t work, I tried another. If no one responded to my book’s synopsis, I re-wrote the synopsis and sent that out. No one bit. Nothing worked. Colorful language filled the halls of my home as I ranted and raved to friends and family about how amazing my book was and questioned why no one wanted to promote it.

What came to me later, something I should have realized when I first began contacting the media, is that lots of writers contact the media. Lots of writers want the media to promote their amazing book. Lots of writers try through emails, letters, telephone calls and physical visits to get the media to do something for them.

However, in return, what are those writers doing for the media?

Sure, the description of a great book written by a local author might entice a few additional viewers to tune in to the 5:00 news. However, unless that local author is Stephen King or Ann Rice, I doubt the boost in ratings would be all that significant. I was no different. Yes, my friends and family would watch, but who else? I knew I needed to add something to my pitch to the media—something more newsworthy than just an interesting read. I needed to provide them with a story that would benefit their viewers and ensure ratings succeeded. I needed to give something back.

My pitch changed completely. Instead of sending emails to newscasters about my “amazing new book!” I wrote to them about a successful self-marketing campaign I was running at the time and how learning about it could benefit their viewers. “Sales for my book skyrocketed in less than two weeks thanks to this marketing campaign and I did it all on my own,” I wrote. “I would like to tell you, and your viewers, how I did it.”

Suddenly, things changed. My inbox was flooded with responses from local and international news affiliates asking me if I would like to appear on their program or in their newspaper. Last week, I successfully concluded the first of three television news interviews I have lined up. Next week, I’ll be featured in an hour-long interview on the radio, with another radio interview following the week after that. Three local papers have agreed to run articles about my marketing campaign (and, more importantly, my book,) and potential opportunities are still continuing to arise.

Yes, writer friend, your book is amazing, and people should want to read it! However, there are a lot of amazing books out there. Getting yours noticed is going to involve giving, as well as taking. Think about your story. Think about the successes and failures you’ve had and what the media and its readers/viewers can take away from them. Did the inspirational theme of your book motivate someone to donate to charity? Tell them that. Did your book make the Amazon Top 100 in less than a day? Tell them how you made it happen. Empower yourself through your unique experiences as a writer and lend those experiences to the public in a new and thoughtful way. Once you learn to give back, the media will be much more obliged to listen.

Thank you so much, Julie, for hosting me on your blog today. I hope this information proves useful to you, Julie’s readers, and I hope you all continue to pursue your goals in new and inventive ways! 

Randi Lee is an author and blogger, as well as a freelance writer, editor and designer living in New England with her family and two much-loved dogs. She recently released her debut novel, Affected, and is currently working on its sequel, Ascendance. Randi loves sharing tips and supporting fellow authors. She often posts helpful advice and author spotlights on her website: www.randileewrites.comAffected, her action-packed dystopian thriller, is available at all store fronts, including: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and iTunes. 

Awesome, right? I love it when fellow authors succeed in the world of marketing their books. Giving back is always a positive way to go. 

Thanks, Randi!

Friends, what's your experience with book promotion and media? Any tips you'd like to share?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Writing: It's Like Tennis

As I mentioned in my post about Hope, Pride, and Midway Blues, I've taken up tennis. As C. S. Lewis once said, "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." So there you go.

Of course, as I dug into tennis this summer, my writer brain ran parallels between writing and tennis. My thoughts?

  • Jump in at your skill level. I didn't enter the sport with the notion that I'd be a skilled player after a couple of lessons. I was starting out on the bottom rung, with absolutely no idea how to even keep score. (Tennis score is really weird, though, but I digress) Same with writing. We don't enter the writing life as experts. We enter at our own skill level and go from there. No pressure to be like the aforementioned C. S. Lewis--now or ever.
  • Soak up advice from those ahead of you. In every area of our lives, there are people who know more than we do. Many of those people want to see others rise higher and improve their skills. Tennis and writing are no different. If someone offers tips, don't get offended and shut them out. Instead, soak up their wisdom and thank them for caring enough to help.
  • There is always something to learn. Even the best tennis players practice constantly and continue to improve. Experienced writers agree that they do not know it all and that they must continue to work on their craft. We will never, ever, know it all. Thank goodness! The journey would be boring without growth.
  • Don't let setbacks stop you. Sometimes I feel as if I haven't learned a thing with tennis, and that I'm moving backwards instead of forward. It may be frustrating, but that's just part of the process. As writers, we understand that there will be good days and bad days, momentum and failure. Heck, even Serena Williams has setbacks. We learn from them and move on.
  • Stay after class. My serve needs...ahem...some work. At this point, I'm happy if it just makes it into the service box. After my practice with other players ends, I stay alone and work on my serve. If we recognize a writing weakness--character, plot, world--it's helpful to dig in and do extra work in that area. It may take time and effort, but the improvement is worth it.
  • Keep those muscles working. Whether it's the mental muscles of writing, or the leg, arm, and shoulder muscles for tennis, it's helpful to keep them moving. I didn't write much over the summer, and when I came back to my manuscript, it took me a while to warm up.
  • Fatigue happens. Sometimes I try so hard to improve my tennis shots, I become too fatigued. And when I'm too fatigued, it's a downward spiral. It's time to take a break. We've all been there before with our writing, yes? When our brains are fried and we read the same sentence over and over again and have no revelation about what to do next. Stop. Rest. Return.
  • Get out there and try. I played in my first league match last weekend. I went in with the attitude, I'm new, but I've got the guts to try. With the afterthought, I hope these ladies have a sense of humor. I have a long way to go, but boy, was it fun. I love the Wayne Gretzky quote, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." I say that to my sons all the time. And why should I be any different? Why not take a shot? What's the worst that can happen? My manuscript is a flop? I'm a goofy tennis player? So what?
With anything in life, I think the most important thing we can do is live in the moment and enjoy the journey. Otherwise, what's the point?

Writing friends, what's your take on these comparisons? If you've played tennis, how's your serve? Can you reliably get that little green ball into the service box? Help!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Summer of Not Writing #IWSG

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Last summer I was busy with the release of my novel "The Summer of Crossing Lines." This summer, in keeping with "The Summer of..." theme, it's been "The Summer of Not Writing."

But now that my oldest son is settled in safety at college (boo hoo), and my other two sons are about to start their sophomore year in high school, I'm prepping to dive back in.

Life has a way of getting in the way, and I'm not stressed at all about not writing. There's a time and a season for everything. This summer may have been a The Summer of Not Writing, but autumn can be The Fall of Falling Back Into Work.

How about you? Did you get much writing done this summer? If you have kids, are they back in school? Are you back in the routine?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Finding God at the Kitchen Sink--a book review

Life has thrown me some curve balls lately, and more than ever I find myself gravitating toward faith-based reads. I hope you don't mind if I speak a bit about one of my new favorites, Finding God at the Kitchen Sink by Maggie Paulus. The back cover note from the author says this:

"I want you to know--
you with your brokenness, your chaotic days, and your one, fleeting life--
I want you to know there is a Maker who isn't far from each one of us.
He very much wants to be found.

So I scribble down my stories for you. 
And I testify to this--that I have seen God-glory.
And now I can't help but live in awe of the Eternal One who has woven
His narrative into my days.

I hope you see Him too.

Isn't that beautiful?

Have you ever had a troubling situation? A rough day when you sometimes feel overwhelmed by it all? Me, too. And I tell ya, this book is like a big warm hug on days like that. My copy is now dog-eared, with little hearts next to my favorite passages. I've read the words of hope and encouragement over and over again.

I usually blog about writing lessons learned, but in this case my main writing lesson is to write from deep within your heart about what moves you.

This book is beautifully written by an author with an open heart and an imperfect life. I'd highly recommend it not only for you, but as a gift for someone you love--especially moms.

Have you ever gone through seasons when you gravitate toward the spiritual? Do you have a favorite book that calms your soul? Please share!