The Power of a Word

by Patty Smith Hall, @pattywrites

It’s the first of the year, a time when people make resolutions and goals for the coming twelve months. They start exercising or eating healthier, or maybe they decide to simplify by cleaning out all the clutter in their house.

It’s also that time when people pop up on Facebook with their ‘word’ of the year. Some are about lifestyle changes while others deal with spiritual growth or personal goals. I like having a word to focus on, probably because I’m a very goal oriented person but even I was surprised by the starkness of my word.

My word for 2018 is ‘NO.’

A small word, yet so powerful if used correctly and with diligence. So how can you use a ‘no’ to reach your writing goals for this year? Here are three ways:

1) Decide what is important to you

A few years ago, I had a friend who was caught up in a whirlwind of activities. If she wasn’t doing something for her church, she was on some city committee or running a book club. Now all that’s well and good, but she was frustrated that her writing career had stalled. With all her social obligations, she didn’t have the time to give attention to her writing.

When you’re a ‘yes’ person, everything feels important and you want to help in any way you can. But the truth is you can’t, and make any kind of difference. You’ll stretch yourself so thin, there’ll be nothing left for what matters to you!

Ask yourself this question—if you had one week to do the one thing you wanted to do most in this world, what would it be? Volunteering at the kids’ school? Getting ahead in your job? Writing the first draft of your novel? Is your ministry teaching Sunday school or writing devotionals? This is your opportunity to decide what you want to do, no one’s else’s agenda but yours. Once you’ve narrowed your focus down to one or two choices, you know what you want to give your ‘yes’ too.

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2) Give up those activities that steal your time

Now that you’ve narrowed your focus down to one or two things, it’s time to cut those other activities out of your life. I’m not going to lie to you—this is difficult, not just for you but for those people that’s come to rely on your ‘yes.’ They may say things like ‘how will we ever get along without you?’ The guilt is hard to handle—I know this firsthand. Years ago, when I first started writing, I was substitute-teaching. Both my husband and I agreed that I should quit and focus on my writing, but the school where I worked pushed back on the idea. How would they get along without me? When I told my husband this, his reply was priceless—‘I don’t know, but they’re going to find out starting tomorrow!’

I love what my pastor once shared with me. We all want to be a part of good things, but God wants us to take part in the great. Are you too busy doing the good that you’re ignoring God’s great for you?

3) Say No to Time Suckers

We all can agree the internet is entertaining and intellectually stimulating and a number of other things. It’s also a black hole that eats up precious moments of our writing time. Looking up a document at the Library of Congress can turn into an hour long political discussion on Facebook! And by the time you’ve finished, you not only alienated potential readers, you’ve forgotten what you were researching in the first place!

Say no to the madness now! Guard your writing time like a bulldog with his bone. Employ apps like Liberate and Freedom which restricts your use of the web while you’re writing. Make a pact with an accountability partner. Set a word count and make it before you can check your email.

One of the most useful things I learned in school was a limerick my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Payne taught me. It goes like this:

Sixty seconds in a minute, didn’t take it, didn’t chose it but it’s up to me to use it.

Use your time, and your ‘no’ wisely.


Seven Brides for Seven Mail-Order Husbands Romance Collection

Seven women seek husbands to help them rebuild a Kansas town.

Meet seven of Turtle Springs, Kansas’, finest women who are determined to revive their small town after the War Between the States took most of its men. . .and didn’t return them. The ladies decide to advertise for husbands and devise a plan for weeding out the riff raff. But how can they make the best practical choices when their hearts cry out to be loved?

Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published, award-winning author with Love Inspired Historical/Heartsong and currently serves as president of the ACFW-Atlanta chapter. She currently lives in North Georgia with her husband of 30+ years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters and a future son-in-love. Her next release, New Hope Sweethearts will
be available in July on Amazon.

Someone Else’s Success Does Not Ensure Your Failure

by Rachel Hauck, @RachelHauck 

Someone else’s success does not ensure your failure.

Unless, of course, you’re facing Jason Bourne.

Then you’re a goner.

But most of us feel like

if someone else “wins” they are better than we are.  Or, that they now have the spotlight and everyone will forget about us.
Entering a contest can rock your world or break your hopes. But it’s up to us, as writers, to be steadfast in our calling to write.

Contests do not make OR BREAK an author.

Published or unpublished.
Contests, while helpful and often a stepping stone, are merely a tool to help a writer reach the next level.

They are not intended to be a Seal of Approval or Seal of Disapproval that over inflates or deflates your dreams.

So take a deep breath. Swallow. Get back with your game plan and move forward.

Have a Game Plan

Speaking of a game plan…

1. Most of us enter a contest then sit back and wait… Bad idea. Move on. Start another story. Focus on your next book Contracted or not. Read a writing book. Read a good book, not in your genre. Spend time with the family. Don’t just wait.

2. Set new goals. If you’re not published, start a new story that you plan to finish in time for ________.

3. Follow up with editors or agents.

4. Sign up for a conference.

5. Do something outside of writing. Sign up for the local 5K. Work on a promotion in the day job. Start a review blog. I don’t know but you do. The Lord does. So get to work! 🙂

What To Do With Conflicting Feedback

It’s tough when you get conflicting feedback but DO take a deep breath, step back, get yer dander down and consider the input just might be right.

First of all, no judge that I know sets out to destroy the authors of the manuscripts they’re reading. I know, we all picture them with evil scowls, muttering, “Who writes this drivel!?”

Sometimes newer author judges can make some rookie mistakes. They take off points for creative choices or the word “was.” I think we should forbid anyone from discounting an entry because they used the word was…

But overall, I think judges are looking for voice and story.

And those are two of the hardest things for an author to master.

So, if you have conflicting feedback — one judge loved it and the other hated it — consider two things:

1. Audience. The first judge was your target reader. She/he felt your voice and the story emotion. The second may not have been your target audience. Or the story just didn’t resonate with them. Consider the story is probably somewhere in between. Needs work but doesn’t need to be torched.

2. The negative comments might have validity even if said harshly. Try to read between the lines. Hear what they might be saying if you were sitting across from them in a coffee shop. If a judge says the story was cliche or the characters kind of flat, take that into consideration. But don’t read: I stink as a writer. ReRead your piece to see where the judge might have accessed that? Have someone else you trust read it.

3. Don’t give up!

What If All The Feedback Is Negative

1. Get feedback from someone you trust.

2. Consider that the story just didn’t work for some reason but look for the positive input as a starting point to rework the story.

3. Be willing to rework the story.

4. Kick a few cabinets… er, I mean, spend some time in prayer. Let God share your burden.

5. Make a plan if you don’t have one. Execute your plan if you have one.

Contests Are Just One Brick In The Publishing Road

1. I didn’t win any pre-published contests. But I managed to get published anyway.

2. I haven’t won that many publishing contests but enough to boost my confidence and add a few line items to my resume. But I’m still publishing!

3. Keep your eye on the prize — getting your book in print. On God’s GOOD plans for your life. So keep working. Realize that publishing takes time because you’re not just putting words on a page, you’re learning a craft. You’re telling a story about pretend people that will touch real people’s lives.

So hang in there! You’re well on your way!

Go write something Brilliant!


THE WRITING DESK

Tenley Roth’s first book was a runaway bestseller. Now that her second book is due, she’s locked in fear. Can she repeat her earlier success or is she a fraud who has run out of inspiration?With pressure mounting from her publisher, Tenley is weighted with writer’s block. But when her estranged mother calls asking Tenley to help her through chemotherapy, she packs up for Florida where she meets handsome furniture designer Jonas Sullivan and discovers the story her heart’s been missing.

A century earlier, another woman wrote at the same desk with hopes and fears of her own. Born during the Gilded Age, Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of the old money Knickerbockers. Under the strict control of her mother, her every move is decided ahead of time, even whom she’ll marry. But Birdie has dreams she doesn’t know how to realize. She wants to tell stories, write novels, make an impact on the world. When she discovers her mother has taken extreme measures to manipulate her future, she must choose between submission and security or forging a brand new way all on her own.Tenley and Birdie are from two very different worlds, but fate has bound them together in a way time cannot erase.

New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal best-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a past ACFW mentor of the year. A worship leader and Buckeye football fan, Rachel lives in Florida with her husband and ornery cat, Hepzibah. Read more about Rachel at www.rachelhauck.com.

Five Ways to Survive the Publishing Jungle

by Patty Smith Hall, @pattywrites

The publishing world has changed drastically over the last ten years. When I first started attending writer’s conference, a self-published book was considered a career killer and e-books were something out of an old Jetson’s carton. Bookstores thrived with readers standing in lines for hours just to get their hands on a new release like Harry Potter or Twilight.

Then the Kindle came along, and Amazon gave readers the opportunity to buy their books instantly, and usually at a lower price. Publishers scrambled to catch up with the technology. Once prosperous bookstores closed. With Amazon publishing and Create a Space, self or indie publishing became the cool kid on the block. Writers who had languished waiting for that elusive contract found large audiences and success by marketing through social media. Editors are now as interested in your social media presences as much as your story idea.

All in ten short years.

Change is inevitable so how does a writer survive(and thrive!) in the publishing jungle. Here are five ways:

1) Be diligent.
Writing for publication is not for the meek of heart. It requires doing the work, day in and day out. You can’t be published if you never write anything to submit. And while classes, workshops and conferences are great, you can only apply what you’ve learned by putting fingers to the keyboard(or in my case, pen to paper.) Settle on a daily word count you can live with, put your backside in a chair and don’t get up until you’ve met your goal for the day. Tomorrow, repeat.

When you finish, start working on the edits. Make your work the best book you’ve written—until you start your next one!

2) Be studious
Being a great writer isn’t enough in this day and age, and publishing houses don’t finance the PR campaigns of just ten years ago. The job of marketing your book will fall mainly on your shoulders. Read articles and books on marketing—one that came highly recommended to me is 5-Minute Book Marketing for Authors by Penny C Sansevieri. Ask questions about marketing sites like BookBub and Faithful Reader. Here is a list of just a few:

  • BookBub
  • Faithful Reader
  • E-reader Café
  • The Fussy Librarian
  • Vessel Project

3) Be social

You want to sell your book? It’s up to you to market it and the best way to do that(without breaking the bank!) is social media. I know it can feel overwhelming—there are parts of social media that can make you explode. Whether you love to blog or tweet, or post on your Facebook page, find three ways you can commit to that will elevate your social media presence. Once you pick them, you can use hootsuite to schedule your post so that you can keep writing. Here are a few that I’ve used in the past:

  • Facebook Personal or Group Blog
  • Twitter Snapchat
  • Instagram Pinterrest
  • Google+ Tumblr
  • E-Newsletter(a must!)

Check into Ryan Zee if you’d like to grow your e-newsletter list—for my $50 investment, I got over a thousand emails addys from readers asking to be put on my list with a very low op-out ratio. If you love Twitter, you might want to look into Ask David who for a small fee($10-20 for thirty tweets) will tweet your new book release to his 50K following of serious readers.

4) Be fruitful
Being a novelist doesn’t mean you’re restricted to simply writing books. There are numerous ways to earn a living from the knowledge you’ve gleamed over the years. Novelist and Publisher Cynthia Hickey once told me she approaches the writing business like a stool—you need three legs to hold it up. So use the power of three—write devotionals for magazines, offer your editing skills, become a writing coach or guest speaker. Other writers offer their own writing retreats or mini-conferences. While these will bring in revenue, they also are a marketing opportunity. Remember, the more you get your name or your work in front of a new audience, the higher your sales.

5) Be open to change

The publishing world continues to evolve so it’s important to change with it. Keep an eye out for new and improved ways to meet the challenges of the ever changing market and technology in the publishing world as a whole.TWEETABLES

Five Ways to Survive the Publishing Jungle by Patty Smith Hall (Click to Tweet)


Seven Brides for Seven Mail-Order Husbands

Seven women seek husbands to help them rebuild a Kansas town.

Meet seven of Turtle Springs, Kansas’, finest women who are determined to revive their small town after the War Between the States took most of its men. . .and didn’t return them. The ladies decide to advertise for husbands and devise a plan for weeding out the riff raff. But how can they make the best practical choices when their hearts cry out to be loved?

Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published author with Love Inspired Historical and Barbour, Patty lives in North Georgia with her husband of 30+ years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters, her son-in-love and a grandboy who has her wrapped around his tiny finger. When she’s not writing on her back porch, she’s spending time with her family or working in her garden. 

Drop and Give Me Twenty! Okay, One.

by Rachel Hauck, @RachelHauck

All right, writers. I’m going to say a word most of you will hate: exercise. Yeah, I know, the excuses are long and many.

“I hate it.”

“I don’t have time for it.”

“It’s too cold.”
“It’s too hot.”

“My legs hurt. My arms…”

“I sprained my eyelashes.”
Okay, I get it. But as writers, we need to take care of our bodies as much as our hearts and minds.

Sitting all day is hard on writer. A few years ago I realized my entire body hurt. I was starting to think I was going to have to life with pain in my shoulders, hips and back the rest of my writing life. While I wasn’t happy about it, I wasn’t sure what to do.

Other than hot baths.

And over time, those didn’t work as well. I had a neck warmer thingy with beads in it that I’d heat up in the microwave. Until I finally burned up the insides.

Then I found Tony Horton’s P90X. I’ve always been an exerciser – biking, lifting weights, running, spinning, aerobics – but I wasn’t purposeful.

Tony Horton made me more purposeful. His P90X program is intense. Not for everyone. And the routines are long so it’s hard to fit in an average day, but along the way, I learned a few strengthening tricks that eradicated my pain.

One, I got a good chair. I’d been sitting in an Executive chair for years. The kind where the seat and back are concave. But the sides of the seat were padded so half my back side was down, half up, shifting my hip out of whack.

The lack of support on my back caused me to hunch my shoulders and arch my back. Over time, I knotted up and stayed knotted.

I splurged and bought a nice, ergonomically correct chair. I love it and do not miss my Executive chair at all!

Two, I started working out with Tony Horton. He had me doing dips and push-ups, and all kinds of mean squats, but my shoulders and arms began to get built up.

My hips and buttocks got stronger so sitting all day wasn’t such a strain. I sit and stand straighter now.
I couldn’t do one push up when I started. Now I can do ten – military style.

Another routine I added is yoga. I’ve been very leery of this discipline for years because of the spiritual aspect behind the practice. But I found a good class at my gym that leaves out the spiritual stuff and focuses on stretching and breathing. If they start talking about “opening your mind” or whatever, I fix on Jesus. Or pray.

I can’t believe how much I sweat in a yoga class. The routines strengthen my legs and back, and core.

Core. Let’s talk core. Very important. And probably the last place most of us focus. Core is from you neck down to your thighs. Sit ups and crunches, push-ups, squats, all the stuff we did in elementary P.E. class is core for our cores!

Because I’m on deadline, I’m crunched for time. So, if I can’t get to the gym, I do push-ups and squats at home, and put in Tony Horton’s Ab Ripper X DVD and work my core for fifteen minutes.

I see results almost immediately. A strong core also helps us lose and keep off weight.

Lately I’ve been seeing an ad for ten minute exercises by Tony Horton. I’m thinking of getting them because I can spare ten minutes. And, what a great afternoon break activity! Get my blood and body going by doing another ten minute set.

What are you doing to keep your body strong? Are you going from the bed to the car to the office chair to the dining room table to the couch and finally back to bed?

Do you have joint and muscle pain? I think you can rid yourself of some of it with a few good, purposeful exercises.

Here’s some tip recaps.

1. Get a good chair. If you can’t afford one, pray for the Lord to give you one. It makes a huge difference. A good mattress too. We got a new mattress and my last hip pain left.

2. Drop and give me one! One good push up. Work up to ten or more a day. By push up, I’m legs extended in the plank position. Not on your knees, girls.

3. Do some squats. Stand with your feet a few inches apart and sit down into a squat, raising your arms in front of you. Do that five or ten times, building as you go. I do 25. Or squat by sitting into the squat, touching your fingers to the ground. That’s harder, but really works you. Stand with your feet a few feet apart, squat, bring your hands toward the ground between your

feet. Stand, raising arms over head and repeat the squat. If you get ambitions, you can jump for the last few squats.

4. Work your core. Sit ups, crunches, oblique exercises.

5. Really, get a good work out DVD or go to a good class at your gym and learn tools you can use at home when you’re too pressed to exercise.

6. Improvise. I’ll put on a fun worship CD and boogie around the house, maybe do some “whacky-jacks” in the midst of it, work my obliques.

7. Try yoga or Pilates.


8. Try to eat a bit healthier.
Have fruit on hand for snacks instead of chips. I love chips. But I’ve been buying less chips lately.

So, what changes can you make to start building your body to be a better and stronger writer?

TWEETABLES

New York Times, USA Today ​and Wall Street Journal best-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a past ACFW mentor of the year. A worship leader and Buckeye football fan, Rachel lives in Florida with her husband and ornery cat, Hepzibah. Read more about Rachel at www.rachelhauck.com.