Archive - Guest Post RSS Feed

How Entering a Writing Contest Just Might Change Your Life

Guest Post by Susan May Warren

Far East Russia in the middle of January has all the charm of a mausoleum. Our missionary family lived in a three-room flat on the ninth floor of a cookie-cutter apartment building that, to the untrained eye, resembled a recently shelled building in Chechnya. We had no running water during the day, no telephone line and the Siberian wind froze the windows shut, sheeting them with curlicues of frost.

Four children terrorized our 900 square foot flat, drag racing their tricycles down the hall, scattering their land-mine Legos and scribbling their names upon the walls like gulag prisoners. My husband too eagerly escaped to plant a church an hour from our city while I stayed to patrol the borders. Honestly, I felt like one of the captives.

At night, the wind howled against the panes and, locked in the now quiet house with the slumbering rabble-rousers…I wrote. I penned story after story of romance, adventure and suspense. My first was an epic tale of survival against a backdrop of war in 1940s Russia. The second, a story of a missionary fleeing a serial killer. Again, set in Russia.

Knowing Discouragement’s End

A guest blog by Mesu Andrews

Mark Lowry is one of my favorite comedians. I heard one of his performances many years ago, and he quoted a single, profound phrase found 457 times in the King James Bible: “It came to pass…”

That’s it. That’s all.

It came…to pass.

And then he challenged the audience to remember those words the next time they faced an impossible situation, the depths of discouragement, or “a bout of constipation.” (Lowry’s words, not mine.)

I’ve needed that reminder during my writing journey: Discouragement will pass. And I decided if anyone could to teach me about discouragement, it was Brother Job. That poor guy lost his oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, and children—and was left with a surly wife. Eee-gad!

So, I dove—headfirst—into the mire of Job’s whining and ranting. After reading a few chapters , my life didn’t seem so awful! And I learned things everyone should know when they struggle with discouragement:

  • Know yourself
  • Know your enemy
  • Know your Champion

Know Yourself

The world says look inward to know ourselves, but Job 1 shows us how God knows us. Read the Lord’s description of His servant Job:

“There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Job 1:8

A Scrivener Flunky Weighs In

A Guest Post by Deborah Raney

I’m probably not the best spokesperson for Scrivener, the popular novel writing software program from Literature and Latte, because I certainly don’t use Scrivener to its maximum capabilities. I don’t even actually write my novel in Scrivener. I still use Pages––Mac’s version of Word––to write the manuscript, although I do copy the manuscript into the program once I have a final version, just to keep my project all in one place.

I also don’t know how to use Scrivener for formatting e-books, etc., so I’m truly not an expert on it. Yet. I do love the software enough that I have a tutorial I paid good money for on my desktop, and I hope to work through it as soon as I get my work in progress off to my editor.

Despite my lack of expertise with Scrivener, I am an enthusiastic fan of the software, and I can testify that it is a great program, even for those who haven’t yet figured out all the bells and whistles Scrivener has to offer.

Overcome the Discouragement of Expectations

Guest post by Erin Taylor Young

Henry
This is Henry, our dog. Not my husband.

I love my husband. Really I do. But there are occasions I’m tempted to take a sharp, pointy pencil and stab him somewhere non-fatal. Especially when I’m torqued over my anemic word count, frustrated by a recent edit, or discouraged by yet another rejection.

I’m venting why, why, WHY, and my hubby turns into a fixer. Worse, he’s a fixer with a PhD, so when he tells me exactly what’s going on inside me and how to change it—apparently it’s some stupid cycle between my situation, my brain, and my emotions—he’s right. I hate that.

Can I not just have five minutes to wallow?

Sometimes that’s exactly what we need. You know, like a good mud bath. People pay money for that.

Then again, people also get sucked into mud bogs and are never seen again.

The difference is in knowing what you’re doing in the mud and how to get out when it’s time. Which means understanding that cycle between situation, brain, and emotion is actually helpful. I’ll give you the elevator pitch though, so your eyes don’t glaze over.

We have goals. We try to achieve them. We fail.

Then we feel rotten because the mismatch between our goals and our ability to achieve them creates frustration. This is perfectly normal, and in fact a GOOD THING because it compels us to adjust our methods or our goals, i.e. get a grip on reality.

Sometimes it’s easy. Like that six-figure book contract with an eighty-city tour? Give it up.

Sometimes adjusting our goals is hard, because what if we did everything right? We wrote a great book, we’d be giddy over a puny contract, and the manuscript went to pub board at three houses. Then got rejected.

Our perfectly normal frustration makes us wrack our brains to figure out what we could’ve done differently, or what we can change now. But there’s nothing. So our brains keep cycling until we exhaust ourselves straight into discouragement.

And that, my friends, is a bog we can drown in.

What is Crowdfunding? Is it Right for You?

Guest post by Nicole O’Dell

What is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is all the rage these days. And it makes sense because a successful campaign guarantees a successful product (book) launch since the necessary sales happen upfront. Or at least enough so that what comes later is gravy. How awesome is that?

But it can be a horrifying prospect to take your idea and present it to the public for a vote. I recently launched my own, and it was so difficult to press the launch button on my campaign page. It’s been an exercise in humility to remind myself that the success or failure of this one campaign is not a referendum on my self-worth. As writers, we’ve all had that feeling a time or two, no?

Not only had I spent years building my ministry and working within my passion for the parent-teen relationship, but then I spent months, weeks, and hours and hours of time on various aspects of the campaign and the product. It’s personal. And it’s scary. Oh, so scary!

It can be very risky for several reasons.

1. It’s public. I’ve equated the launch of my crowdfunding campaign with the horror of walking into church naked. It’s vulnerable. It’s taking something that means a lot to you and laying it bare for the world to see it succeed or fail. Imagine if your book proposals and the responses of all who saw them where just splayed on a public site. Eeek!

Competitive Spirits and Battling Discouragement

Guest post by Roseanna M. White

Roseanna WhiteRoseanna M. White is a writer with a passion for bringing history to life. Her most recent historical series, The Culpepper Ring series (Harvest House) has received rave reviews from readers and reviewers alike. In addition to being a writer, Roseanna is the senior reviewer at the Christian Review of Books, which she and her husband founded; the senior editor at WhiteFire Publishing; and a member of ACFW, HisWriters, HEWN Marketing, and Colonial Christian Fiction Writers. As a speaker–whether her topic is on what to write, how to research, or overcoming marketing fears–Roseanna invites her audiences to rely on the leading of the Spirit. She lives on the East Coast with her husband and their two brilliant, talented children.

__________

As a kid, I was used to being the best. Best grades, finished my homework before leaving school, understood everything without needing the teacher to explain it more than once. (Well, fractions gave me grief for a week or two, but let’s just call that a blip on the screen.) Every year, my mom would issue the same warning: “Roseanna, next year the work will be harder. You might have more homework. It might not come so easily.” I took that as a challenge. ;-) And all through school, I proved my wise mama wrong.

Then I hit the real world.

Sometimes, competitiveness gives me the impetus I need to get off my rear and do the work that needs done. But other times? It leads to far less productive places. When you’re competitive, like I am, it can spread to everything. How many comments did my guest post get? How many reviews on my book? How many sales? How many replies to a post on Facebook? Retweets? Likes? Follows? Sales ranking? Awards? And more important–how many did those other people get??

Aaagghh!

Once in a great while, comparing yourself to your peers can make you feel good about where you are and how you’re doing. But it’s a trap. Because even if you win that contest…or sell your very first manuscript on your very first query…or if you win that award…or have great sales…or loyal reviewers…or a huge blog following–eventually, you’ll find that someone’s better. Where someone else sells earlier. Or they’re picked up by your dream house. Someone else hits the bestseller list. Outranks you on Amazon. Sets the media abuzz. Wins the award you’ve always longed to have on your shelf.

And it’ll eat at you.

That’s when the competitiveness turns to jealousy. And jealousy leads straight into the teeth of discouragement. When you have this type of personality and see others doing better, the natural questions that start popping to mind include, Why them? Why not me? What did I do wrong? Why am I not good enough? What am I supposed to do now? Will I ever succeed at this??

I can’t tell you how many times, after others found the success I had prayed I would achieve, that I put my head in my hands and cried out, “Lord, when? When will it be me? What more do I have to do?” And I can’t tell you how many times those questions hurled me straight into the pit of despair. How many times I found myself praying, “Lord, if this is the path You want me on, send me some encouragement.”

And He always did. But eventually, I got tired of hearing myself pray that same desperate cry, time after time. I began to realize that what I was, in effect, praying was that circumstances (encouragement) would defeat circumstances (discouragement). The problem is that circumstances always change. The bad to good, yes, but the good will always give way at some point too. If I wanted to defeat this discouragement that plagued me, I had to change something far more important than circumstances. I had to change my perspective.

For starters, I need to safeguard my heart from this nature of mine. I stopped reading my reviews and checking my ranking. I trained myself to never give utterance to, “Why them instead of me?” I had to give my career, for the umpteenth time, over to God and say, “It doesn’t matter if I sell. It doesn’t matter if I win. It doesn’t matter if I hit any big lists. What matters is that I’m following the path You put me on.”

Any time I walk this path, I have to recognize a vital truth: God does not discourage. When He wants to redirect us, He might use some startling means to get our attention, but when we ask Him if it’s where He wants us, we hear Him in the voice of peace. If we’re instead discouraged, then it’s not God. But then…whose voice is it?

Ah–there we have an interesting question. What voice am I hearing? My own? The enemy’s? Either way, it’s not the voice I should listen to. So why, then, do I let it get to me? Why do I try to fight it off with other words in other voices? Why do I try to overcome it with reminders of my successes? None of which works.

What I need to do instead is stop when I first hear those words in my spirit and say, “No. This isn’t God. I won’t think it. Lord, protect me from these thoughts and fill my mind with Your truth instead.”

Do you know what I discovered His truth to be? That God cares more about me than about my success. God cares more about my heart than my bank account. God cares more about my name being in His book than having it on the cover of a novel with Bestselling/Award-winning author of… written beneath it. God cares that I’m on the path He set out for me. And He never, ever compares my path to someone else’s.

Maybe I’ll always battle this competitive streak–maybe sometimes it’ll catch me unawares and send me back into discouragement. But at least now I know where my focus needs to be: on God, and on my relationship with Him. As long as I keep that in mind, then I can accept with peace whatever comes my way. Because I know nothing takes Him by surprise. I know it’s all part of the road He wants me to walk.

And I know that as long as my feet stay on that path and don’t try to jump onto one that looks more alluring to me, He’ll lead me to places I couldn’t have imagined.

Taking the “Dis” out of Discourage

by Nancy Farrier

NancyBattu2

With over 400,000 books in print, Nancy J. Farrier is no stranger to the ups and downs of the writing life. That combined with being a worship leader and Bible study leader has given her all kinds of valuable lessons on discouragement–and its solutions!

__________

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair…”    II Cor. 4:8a

During my writing career, I’ve often felt like Paul, hard-pressed on every side or perplexed due to the many areas of discouragement I’ve faced. Unlike Paul, I’ve often felt crushed and in despair. When I prayed about staying strong, God gave me a way to battle discouragement, showing me three areas where I often come under attack. Once recognized, they are easier to combat.

D—The first area is those who are distant to me. These are people I don’t know well, but who have contact with me: readers, critics, sometimes industry professionals. I don’t believe any of these people intended to say or do things to discourage me, but seemingly insignificant comments often cut deep. Even when most of my reader letters are very positive, notes like the following too often have a greater impact:

“I bought one of your books to give my granddaughter, started to read it first, and realized you’ve never opened a Bible in your life!”

I can’t tell you how much that hurt. I love God’s Word and I love sharing Scripture, so that attack was more painful than most. She didn’t say why she came to that conclusion. She didn’t even give her name or contact information. Perhaps from her perspective she was being honest, but her words wounded me and made me doubt my abilities.

The Oddest Profession

Guest blog by Stephanie Grace Whitson

stephaniegracewhitson

Writing is the oddest profession in the universe. Why? Because whether or not I get to keep doing it (in the traditional, royalty-paying part of the world I inhabit) has nothing to do with whether or not I’m good at it. Why? Because the one thing that reigns over my career is sales numbers, and I can’t affect sales enough to impress publishers (i.e., by the tens of thousands). I can build relationships and e-mail newsletters and conference and Facebook and Twitter and blog and teach my little heart out and still hear the words, “We love you. We love your work, but the sales just aren’t good enough. Goodbye.” The truth is, over a writing life that spans nearly twenty years of published Christian fiction and non-fiction, I’ve heard those words more than once.

A close writing friend of mine recently raised the topic of God “thwarting” a writer’s success. Assuming the writer is doing all he or she can to hone their craft, assuming their work ethic is excellent, assuming they are doing all they can … would God still thwart a writer’s success? Well … yes. I think He would. I think He does, because I think God operates with a different dictionary. I think He defines terms in ways I don’t always understand. For example, that word success.

Get Thee to a Writers Conference

Guest blog by James Scott Bell

jamesscottbellJames Scott Bell is a bestselling thriller writer and long time friend. His most recent release is Don’t Leave Me. He is also the author of the #1 writing books, Plot & Structure and The Art of War for WritersIf you do not have them buy them today (He has five other must-have books on writing too.

__________

I am asked all the time by ambitious, up-and-coming writers what they should do to get in the game. I tell them to do three things:

 1. Produce the words.

 2. Study the craft.

 3. Attend a good writers conference.

 The first is non-negotiable, of course. The most important thing a writer does is write. But that should be accompanied by a study of craft, because it does no good to put down words if common mistakes are being made and bad habits ingrained.

‘Twas the Night Before Deadline

A Fun Friday guest post written by Frank Ball. Frank is a great friend to all writers with his sites  NTChristianWriters.com and HelpMeTellMyStory.com. With his permission I changed the title a little and the opening line to fit today’s theme.

‘Twas the Night Before Deadline

Twas the night before deadline, when all through the house,
My computer was working with help from my mouse.
The due date was taped to the screen’s top with care,
In hopes a bestseller would rise below there.

The elves were all settled down snugly in bed,
While thoughts of acceptance still danced in my head.
My words in a turmoil, my hands in my lap,
I rested my eyes for a nice little nap.

When out on the snow there arose such a clatter,
I looked from my desk to see what was the matter.
I took to the keyboard, both hands in a flash,
My fingers were wanting a super good smash.

The moon on the slopes of the new-fallen snow
Gave light to great scenes but the plot wouldn’t go.
Then what to my wondering mind should appear:
A wonderful plan for my story made clear.

Page 1 of 3123»