Posts Tagged: Mount Hermon Writers

The Right–and the Left–Way to Prepare for Writers’ Conferences

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Sarah Sundin Right-Left (357x400)

 

BLOGGER: SARAH SUNDIN

Historical novelist Sarah Sundin will serve as a mentor for the Morning Mentoring Clinic, teach an Afternoon Workshop, and serve on the Critique Team at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

THE RIGHT–AND THE LEFT–WAY TO PREPARE FOR WRITERS’ CONFERENCES

Are you a left-brained, analyzing writer? Are you a right-brained, spontaneous writer? If you’re attending a writers’ conference, engage both halves of your brain and plan the right way—and the left way.

Experience has taught me to let the left brain reign before the conference and the right brain fly free during the conference.

The Left Way

Before the conference, analyze and plan. Proper preparation allows you to get the most out of the conference and be relaxed.

  • Decide which tracks and workshops to take. Analyze your strengths and weaknesses as a writer and consider where you are in your career. Pick workshops to target your weaknesses or solidify your strengths.
  • List the editors, agents, and authors you want to meet. Make a list of professionals you’d like to meet—at workshops, meals, etc. This can keep you focused during the flurry of a conference.
  • Prepare your pitch. The most common question at a conference is, “What do you write?” Be prepared to answer with a sparkling one-to-two sentence description. Also be prepared to answer follow-up questions with more detail. But not too much detail. Really.
  • Business Cards. A simple and professional way to remember the wonderful people you meet. Make sure to include your photo, email, and website.
  • Prepare your One-Sheet. (Optional, and only if you’re pitching a completed project). A one-sheet is “you and your project” on a single piece of paper. A catchy tagline, one paragraph about your project, a short bio, and your contact info. Include your photo and don’t overload with graphics.

The Right Way

At the conference, work your plan but let your right brain frolic. Serendipity produces the best conference moments.

  • Let your creativity play. You will learn so much and be surrounded by hundreds of creative people. Soak it in. Brainstorm. Explore new ideas.
  • Veer off your list. Your list of professionals to meet is a guide, not Scripture. Try to meet others, even outside your genre. The publishing industry is fluid, and the editor from House A may be with House B next year—or have become an agent. That casual conversation over dinner might lead somewhere unexpected. And don’t forget, these people know the industry. Ask questions, absorb, and simply enjoy them as people.
  • Meet new friends. Don’t overlook the person next to you at lunch. I’ve met some of my dearest friends this way. We struggled together along the pre-published road and now we’re exploring the world of publication together.
  • Watch for God appointments. My best conference moments come when I set aside my plan. Pray with those who’ve been rejected, who need a boost before an appointment, or who face personal issues. Introduce people with similar interests. Listen for God’s voice about your writing and life. When you look for God at work, you’ll find Him.

I hope to see you at Mount Hermon! Please veer off your list to say hi!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sarah Sundin (501x800)

Meet Sarah Sundin at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to Register Now!

Cross-Train Your Brain

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Marci SeitherBLOGGER: MARCI SEITHER

Marci Seither will serve on the Resource Team as an Airport Shuttle Team, on the Critique Team, and lead a Night Owl at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 16-22.

 

CROSS-TRAIN YOUR BRAIN

I will never forget the day my sister talked me into signing up for the Donner Lake Sprint Triathlon. It was 13 years ago and I didn’t really take into consideration all that would be required.

I was a certified lifeguard and had taught swim lessons for several years. Confident that, despite the high elevation and frigid snow fed temperature of the lake, I would be okay with the swim part of the event.

The bike and run sections were going to be a challenge for me. A serious challenge.

After moving to the countryside when I was in 3rd grade, we weren’t allowed to ride our bikes down the thin tar and gravel road that stretched beyond our short driveway. We did a lot of other activities, but the bikes were soon stored under the deck, which is where they stayed until they became antiques.

I borrowed a bike to start training for the triathlon. It was the first time I rode anything with two wheels that didn’t have a banana seat and long handle bars.

I remember making the long climb up a hill near our home. My legs felt like Jell-O. Gasping for air, I took a long drink from my water container, only to have it come out my nose. Someone pulled to the shoulder to see if I needed medical assistance. I waved them off and, in-between gasps, reassured them I was totally fine. I wondered if I could get a refund if I backed out of the race.

A few days later, I contemplated the run and what it was going to take to actually complete the event.

I figured if I needed to “Stop-Drop-and Roll” the last half mile or so, I would still get the T-shirt, so I kept going.

I spent the summer training, getting up early in the morning before the kids got out of bed, and charting out my progress each week. Muscles I didn’t even know I had began to ache less and less.

By the middle of Summer, I was able to ride up the steep hill without stopping. My swim time increased. I felt healthy and stronger than I had in several years.

The weekend of the race came. I carefully packed my gear and headed to Donner Lake.  When we arrived at the staging area, the volunteers handed us our race numbers and marked our age on the back of our calves in black permanent marker. Each age group started at different times. Some people obviously had trained for much longer and with more intensity than I had, but I was just there to prove to myself that I could make it across the finish line.

When the staring gun popped, it was time to put my training to the test.  I don’t remember much about the swim, or even about the run, but the one thing I will never forget is when, after several miles of grueling straight up the mountain switchbacks, I reached the lookout where we turned around. The sight of Donner Lake below, sparkling like a million diamonds under the morning sun, was my ah-ha moment.

“If I can do this…” I felt a renewing of energy. “Who knows what else I can do.”

It wasn’t about the race, or the T-shirt, it was about challenging myself to stretch beyond my comfort zone to a place I had never imagined.

The same is true with writing. We might be equipped in one area and focus all of our energy on that one aspect of the craft, but what would happen if you cross-trained your brain?

I do it all the time and I think it has made me a better writer article writer. Taking classes on fiction, screen writing, speaking, and even writing for children have been beneficial in being able to hear, write, and market my work better than if I had only focused on my original skill.

I learned how to weave the fiction technique of “show-don’t-tell” into my articles. I learned to write with more creative imagery through poetry. I understood scenes and movement because of scriptwriting.

Because I love seeing how far I can take a project with what I have learned, I have ended up with a few published works outside of my specific focus of article writing. Does that mean I am genre jumping? No. It means that I love seeing a project through to the end and watching it take flight whether it is shared with only a few friends, or a few hundred kids.

As a Christian writer, it is a comfort, and an added discipline, to put all of our work into the Lord’s hands. For me, I think of the passage in John, where Jesus feeds the multitude. There was a boy who had a few barley loaves and a couple of fish. Not a huge lunch by any means, but he gave it to the Lord anyway. After everyone was fed, the Lord told his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”

I have heard people say that going to a conference without having something to pitch might be a waste of time, or that they have already taken the track in their area of interest.

“Great!” I respond. “That means you are more open to learning something new. Something that might stretch you beyond what you would normally consider and work part of your brain that hasn’t been used for a while.”

It is not genre jumping to cross-train your brain. It is taking advantage of opportunities to strengthen your writing skills. To become better at the craft and calling you have as a writer. To trust that when you take your meager offering and put it into the Lord’s hands, he will gather what is left and not allow anything to be wasted.

Cross-training your brain helps to better equip you in your area of focus. It gets you out of your comfort zone and makes you think in ways that might feel as awkward as getting back on a bike that doesn’t have a banana seat.

Like making it to the top of that mountain on that crisp morning, it might take all you have to prove to yourself that you can do the unimaginable.

Side note-I have been in the Mount Hermon gift store, they have a variety of awesome apparel. If you make it to the end of the conference, treat yourself and get the shirt.

_________________

Come meet Marci Seither at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 16-22, 2016.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER NOW FOR THE CONFERENCE

$75. Early Bird Discount expires February 1!

How to Move Your Cover Letter to the Top of the Pile

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Have you seen the plethora of Editors–both for adult and children’s periodicals and books–joining us at Mount Hermon in March? Exciting! And many of them are blogging for you here. Today, I’m welcoming Elizabeth Mazer back tot he Mount Hermon Writers Blog.

Elizabeth Mazer head shotBLOGGER: ELIZABETH MAZER

Associate Editor, Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense, Love Inspired Historical

Teaching two afternoon workshops and meeting with writers at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016

 

HOW TO MOVE YOUR COVER LETTER TO THE TOP OF THE PILE

Writing a cover letter is a little like dressing for a blind date. The right choices can be key to winning someone over…but what’s the best option? What outfit says “I’m funny, charming, and make a killer apple pie”? How can you guess what your date will like or hate? There’s no hard-and-fast rule about what makes a good cover letter. But there are some things you can keep in mind. As someone who reads a lot of cover letters, here’s my two cents (or rather, three hints) to help your cover letter stand out in the best way.

1) Cover the basics: Writing your cover letter may be like prepping for a blind date, but receiving it is like speed dating when I first skim through it to see if your story fits my requirements. Help me out by starting the letter with some key facts: word count, genre, main selling points (in romance fiction, these can be things like “reunion romance” or “secret baby”). Also be sure to let me know that the manuscript is complete. (I’m afraid I can’t review works-in-progress.) And what I want to know most? The title! You’d be surprised how often I get cover letters where the book’s title isn’t mentioned at all.

2) If you know it, show it!: You’ve done your research before targeting an agent or editor, right? You know what books we’ve worked on already, and what types of stories we’re seeking. Pique our interest by pointing out how your writing style fits with what we’re requesting. If you’re targeting me with a Love Inspired story, be sure to note how your sweet-rather-than-sensual romance grows as the hero and heroine face challenges together and achieve happiness in a realistic but still faith-driven manner. Show us that you know what we’re looking for, and that you have it, ready to deliver.

3) Toot your own horn—especially if your hero’s a trumpet player: The information describing your story (word count, title, plot highlights) definitely needs to come first, but when you get to the end of your letter, leave room for a little bragging. Has this story won awards from your local writers’ organization? Have you won awards—or maybe landed on a bestseller list—for any other books you’ve written? Or perhaps you have personal knowledge or experience that enhances this particular story? If you’re writing a story with a special forces hero/heroine and you served in the military for fifteen years, then that’s great information for us to know. But please keep it professional and related to this project—sell me on your book, not yourself.

There aren’t any guarantees in life, but by following these tips, you stand a much better chance of getting a second date—or at least a letter from an editor/agent to say something other than that s/he’s just not that into you!

____________________

You’ll meet Elizabeth Mazer at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, where she will review manuscripts, teach two workshops, and meet with writers.

Click here to REGISTER NOW!

Why Investing in Your Writing Career is a Good Idea

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B.J. Taylor.2BLOGGER: B.J. TAYLOR

Editorial Representative, Guideposts Magazine

Teaching an Afternoon Workshop, Reviewing Pre-Conference Manuscripts and meeting with writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.

 

WHY INVESTING IN YOUR WRITING CAREER IS A GOOD IDEA

The great accomplishments of man have resulted from the transmission of ideas and enthusiasm.” – Thomas J. Watson

The Mount Hermon Writers Conference has ideas, enthusiasm and more!

l  Choose from a variety of classes (all at the same place).

l  Meet many other writers (think writer’s group/critique group potential).

l  Touch base with editors and agents (think sales down the road).

Benjamin Franklin said: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” When I first started attending the Mount Hermon conferences, I was a newbie writer with a few small successes in publication. I kept coming back, year after year, and learned more and more, and today, well, I’d credit a great deal of my success to attending those conferences (adding in a lot of perseverance and a lot of work on my writing skills).

Do you want to change the world with your writing? Steve Jobs said, “…The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” Be one of those people. And if it scares you to think of attending a conference where there are hundreds of people, just remember this from John Wayne, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.

Investing in your writing career by attending a conference is important because it’s the place where you can hone your skills, listen to other writers talk about how they succeed, and make a plan for yourself on how to be successful and make money with your writing. And making money isn’t a bad thing. Selling what you write helps to offset the money you invest.

When thinking about where to come up with the funds needed for the conference, take it from Steve Martin who said, “I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too.” lol Like Steve Martin, I’ve bought dumb stuff, too, but I’ve learned to put priority on what I need, and that’s the infusion of ideas and enthusiasm that Mount Hermon brings.

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Lao Tzu

Take that step of investment in your writing career. I’d love to see you at Mount Hermon in March.

___________________

Come meet B.J. Taylor at the 43rd annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to Register Now!

10 Steps to Better Time and Stress Management for Authors

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Are you vowing to better manage your time and stress in 2016? This post is for you.

Ben WolfBLOGGER: BEN WOLF

Publisher, Splickety Magazine, Splickety Love, Havock 

Teaching an Afternoon Workshop, Reviewing Pre-Conference Manuscripts and meeting with writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.

 

10 STEPS TO BETTER TIME AND STRESS MANAGEMENT FOR AUTHORS

Walk the dog. Take out the trash. Make dinner. Get the kids to their activities. Volunteer at church. Work your day job. Spend time with your spouse.

Oh, and somewhere in there, you need to write, too.

So how do you make it happen? How do you carve out time amidst all the stress of your life to write?

Short answer: have a plan, and stick to it.

I created a 10-step process to get me from being stressed to being productive—ultra-productive—with my writing. I’m going to share it with you today with the hope that you can make use of at least some of them.

Before you jump into the process, you have to determine when you’re going to try to do it. Make sure you set aside time–at least an hour, if possible.

With your time set aside, you can dedicate yourself to following these steps and get your butt in the chair to write. So, once you’ve set the time aside, the first thing you do is…

  1. Freak Out.

No, I’m not kidding. One of the best ways to deal with excess stress is to vent it. Scream in a pillow, or pound it. Whoop and holler. As long as you’re not harming yourself or being destructive, this is an important step to follow.

Once you’ve done that…

  1. Take a Breath.

You have successfully freaked out. Congrats.

Now regain your equilibrium—if you can’t get back to a nice, balanced point, you can’t advance beyond that level to a proactive, productive point, and you certainly won’t get to the ultra-productive point where your stress actually becomes your fuel (more on that later).

So, take that breath (or two…or three…or seventeen) and center yourself. Then…

  1. Pray

God WILL help you. He’s faithful. Jesus said not to worry about what you will eat, drink, wear, where you’ll live, and so on. He said don’t worry about tomorrow because today has enough worries on its own (see Matthew 6:25-34).

Besides…when is prayer NOT a good idea? This segues into our next one…

  1. Prioritize.

Put off ’til tomorrow what you can do today.

I prioritize in two ways: I do the projects that need to be done first (to make sure I’m not late), and then, if I’ve somehow managed to not procrastinate, I do the hardest project first.

The opposite can work well also. The momentum you get from finishing small projects can inspire you to dive head-on into the big ones and take them down. But suppose you need a bit of extra inspiration while you’re working. You could…

  1. Medicate.

I’m not talking about booze or drugs or even caffeine (at least not necessarily). I’m saying find something that motivates you to get started. Something that gets you writing (or working on whatever you need to accomplish).

Maybe get yourself a snack, or your favorite beverage, or both, and chow down on them. And while you’re at it…

  1. Get comfy.

Ideally, you’re going to be in that spot awhile writing, so you might as well enjoy your stay. Round up pillows and blankets, find a comfy chair, etc. Just don’t take too much time with this step—you still have work to do.

The crucial part of this step is to physically set yourself up to succeed. Be sure to cut out distractions, create an environment that fosters creativity, and start working. Once your writing realm is established…

  1. Jump in headfirst.

You just have to do it. Abandon your reason, your worries, and your fears. Go for it, and go for it hard, because the sooner it’s done, the sooner it’s done. Once you’re in the zone…

  1. Make the stress become your fuel.

Remember how I mentioned that you could become ultra-productive? This is how you do it: find a way to channel the anxiety and stress of your deadline into your energy reserve OR ignore that external stress entirely.

Those are your two options. If thinking of your stress empowers you to work harder, use it to spur you on. If, on the other hand, that stress tends to cripple you, then push it out entirely and set your sights on only one thing: that manuscript.

In either case, you’ll find yourself being ultra-productive because you’veyou’re yourself up for success (Steps 1 through 7) and now you’ve dealt with your stress the right way for you personally. Once you’ve been ultra-productive for awhile…

  1. Finish strong.

Write that last chapter with zeal. Type that concluding paragraph with gusto. Compose those final song lyrics and notes with fire shooting from your fingertips.

In other words, don’t tank at the end. Why give yourself something to stress out about tomorrow if you can help it? The point here is to finish if you’re close. Power through to the end if you can. If not, don’t sweat it, and when you’re done…

  1. Make a break for it.

Regardless of whether you’ve got more to do or if you finished, take a break. During this break, your task is simple: celebrate.

You’ve got to expend your extra energy somehow. Sometimes it’s through celebration, other times it’s through relaxation. Depends on your mood.

Those are the 10 Steps. But sometimes you may find that those steps aren’t enough. In that case, I recommend that you venture outside the 10 Ssteps to something I like to call…

Step 0: Delegate.

You don’t have to do everything. You have lots of choices in life. Someone else can dot he dishes every now and then. Hire a service to mow your lawn. Have the kids or your spouse vacuum the living room carpet or take out the trash.

Yes, everyone’s circumstance is different, but if this is your career choice and not just a hobby, isn’t it worth investing a bit of money and/or energy in carving out more time in your busy schedule to write?

If you can delegate something—anything—to someone you trust, then do it. It will give you freedom to do the other things you need to do, which means more efficiency and less stress.

If delegation and the ten steps still aren’t enough, it may be time to cut something out of your life. Our time on this planet is limited. Use the principles in Step 4 and figure out if something’s got to go.

There you have it. What are you waiting for? Start these 10 Steps today and get writing!

__________________

Come meet Ben Wolf at the 43rd annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to Register!

WHAT’S TIMING GOT TO DO WITH FINDING AN AGENT?

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Jessie Kirkland stripeBLOGGER: JESSIE KIRKLAND

A Literary Agent with The Blythe Daniel Agency, Jessie will teach two Afternoon Workshops, review Pre-Conference Manuscript Submissions, and meet with writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22.

WHAT’S TIMING GOT TO DO WITH FINDING AN AGENT?

Watch photo

Poor timing could sabotage your ability to snag an agent. Some writers can’t get an agent because their craft still needs work. Other writers fail to come up with a unique idea that helps them stand out amongst the competition. However, many writers have put in the time and hard work necessary to get published, and they are still empty-handed when it comes to signing with an agent. For some of those talented writers, it simply comes down to poor timing. So, how does timing affect the “yes” you so badly want and need from an agent?

Although I would say that I’m always open to submissions, the truth is I’m not always in active signing mode. I tend to sign people in rounds throughout the year. And these signing sprees are typically concurrent with writers conferences, not the queries in my inbox. I do review queries, but it’s not the best way to pitch me personally.

Here is a typical rundown of my calendar year. I have a conference a month in August, September, and October, then I take a break until February. Then, I have a February, March, and May conference, and then I break for the summer. In the spaces between these writers conferences and retreats, free time is scarce. Most months, I’m focused on servicing my existing clients: negotiating contracts, talking with editors and publishers, and helping clients with marketing & social media. Many agents have much busier schedules than me as they go to multiple conferences a month—every single month of the year.

It can be very difficult for agents to find time to stop doing the work that is right in front of them, in order to think about acquisitions. The workload from already existing clientele always takes priority over potential clients. I can’t switch my brain into acquisition mode sometimes, until I’m leaving on a plane for my next conference. At almost every writers conference, agents teach, speak on publishing panels, and take pitches via 15-minute appointments. A writers conference is your best chance at getting signed by me personally. And yet timing plays a role at these conferences, too.

Agents typically meet with acquisition editors and publishers in 30-minute appointments in between all the duties we have scheduled for us at conferences. So, what if you come to a conference and don’t get the time you wanted with an agent? Then, what should you do? My advice is that you send an email to the agent with a title like “Mt. Hermon Writers Conference meeting” in the subject line. We don’t normally stop checking email, even if we are at conferences. Tell the agent that you weren’t able to get an appointment with them like you requested, and would it be possible to meet with them at a meal or during some of their free time? You might have a good chance at not only getting this appointment, but also standing out more because you emailed them and now you are on their radar.

NOTE FROM MONA: Mount Hermon doesn’t do pre-conference or arbitrary sign-up sheets for appointments. You and the faculty member schedule your own appointments. You can read more about the connection process here.

A few years ago, I was sprinting through a hotel lobby trying to get to a dinner meeting with a publisher when a conference attendee stopped me as I was hurrying past, and told me that they didn’t get an appointment with me. I replied, “Oh, I’m so sorry. If you’ll send me an email, maybe we can make some time.” The guy was determined to force me to hear him out—right there in the lobby. He started to recite his pitch when I had to interrupt him and say, “No. I’m sorry I can’t listen right now. I have an appointment.” He kept pitching, and moved in front of me to block me from leaving. And so I stood there, feeling odd, and by that point…mad. When he was finished I said, “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested.” and stepped past him. My point? If he would have been wise with the time I offered him, instead of pushy, then it might have turned out differently.

Don’t ruin your chance by forcing a moment with an agent when they don’t have time to listen. Particularly if they’ve already politely said no. There’s so much instruction out there on how to take your moment and deliver your elevator pitch, but if you force your moment into an agent’s already-filled-up schedule, then you’ll probably be staring a quick no in the face. Pick a meal to do an impromptu pitch, not when an agent is running to the restroom or another meeting and doesn’t even have the time to think about what you are saying. I think all of us expect to be stopped, and we don’t mind at all. It’s only when writers get forceful that things can turn south quickly. That type of bad timing pitch will never turn out in your favor.

Agents are busy. Our calendars are full, and although another agent’s calendar may look different than mine in a lot of ways, I assure you there are patterns to the bulk of their signing. They might not have my habits, but they have habits. Their calendars, inboxes, and time available still affect your ability to get their attention. And when you know these patterns, you’ll be able to pinpoint more optimal times to query or pitch them face-to-face, and therefore have a better chance at getting an agent.

________________

Come meet Jessie Kirkland at the 43rd annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to Register!

Making Your Speculative Story World Unique

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Kathy Tyers GillinBLOGGER: KATHY TYERS GILLIN

A freelance author, mentor and editor, Kathy will serve as a fiction mentor for the Morning Mentoring Clinic and teach an Afternoon Workshop.

 

MAKING YOUR SPECULATIVE STORY WORLD UNIQUE

People who write fantasy and science fiction read a lot of it. We love the way it lets us stand outside life-as-we-know-it and look at what it means to be human in this world. And as authors, we tend to imitate what we’ve read.

That means it can be a little too easy to recycle the common tropes of speculative fiction: dragons that can be ridden, planets that have gravity so close to earth-normal that people can walk unassisted, spaceships that go BOOM when they blow up. Last year at Mount Hermon, I passed out a cliché list I’d found online—and since it’s well-nigh impossible to tell a readable story without using any well-established ideas, I had to confess I’d written many of them into my books.

But in a speculative story, not everything unusual should come out of the consensus universe. How can we add something new to the conversation?

Try brainstorming across different disciplines.

  • Combine botany and culture to imagine the farming community of an imagined era or planet
  • Mingle the culinary arts with microbiology to imagine new fermented foods.
  • Cross anatomy with aerodynamics, and create fantasy dragons that people really could ride.
  • What about combining speculative geology with architecture and homebuilding?
  • Or applying your imagined culture’s history to the planet’s orbital cycle, to create a believable list of holidays?
  • The possibilities are endless.

You might discover that mingling seemingly unrelated crafts and sciences is just as much fun as using the results to deepen your story—so don’t get carried away! Remember story is character in conflict.  That’s why 90% of your scientific brainstorming won’t be explained in the story.

The deeper and wider your knowledge pool, the more interesting the ideas that might come swimming past. Speculative fiction’s target audience tends to be bright, introverted, and well-read in what’s already published. They’ll know where we borrowed our ideas, if we only borrow.

So add something fresh to the conversation. Some day, when other writers borrow your fresh ideas, you’ll know they aren’t just acknowledging Tolkien or George Lucas, C.S. Lewis or J.K. Rowling. They have also acknowledged you.

_____________

Come meet Kathy Tyers Gillin at the the 43rd Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to REGISTER NOW!

Workarounds: Finding an Agent

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Wendy LawtonBLOGGER: WENDY LAWTON

Literary Agent and Vice President of Books & Such Literary Management

Co-Teaching a One-Hour Workshop and serving on the Agent Panel.

WORKAROUNDS: FINDING AN AGENT

Too often we hear writers mourning the “fact” that one can’t get published without an agent (which is not true) and that it’s near impossible to find an agent in this seemingly shrinking market.

Anytime the front door to a problem seems blocked, I like to find a workaround. Let’s look at the problem and see if we can figure out the workaround.

Problem: Catching the attention of an agent and getting him to ask for a proposal or manuscript.

Traditional Solution: Write a smashing query letter, send it to multiple agents and hold your breath.

Workaround: Meet the agent or publishing professional in person. Sounds complicated, but it’s not. And we’re not talking about the fabled literary dinner parties and salons of Maxwell Perkins, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

A century ago, people didn’t travel like we do today. Writers, agents & editors gather together in person more than ever before. Forget the dinner party, you can now spend an entire week with your favorite publishing professionals, practice the craft and learn about the business of writing. Agents and editors are committed to making ourselves available at writer’s conferences. It’s my favorite way to meet writers who are willing to invest time, energy and fiscal resources in their careers. I’m preparing for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in three months. It’s still one of my favorite weeks of the whole year.

Simple fact: Agents attend writers conferences to meet new writers. The good conferences give us plenty of time to connect with writers. Mount Hermon is one of my favorites. In addition to the appointments we schedule, we share seven or eight meals with writers. Those relationships forged around a table of eight are the basis for many a professional relationship.

It may take a number of different face-to-face meetings until your target agent decides he can’t live without you, but there is something about that real-time connecting that overshadows the traditional methods. It’s the perfect workaround.

____________

Come meet Wendy Lawton at the Mount Hermon, March 18-22, 2016, where she’ll participate in a couple of workshops, review pre-conference manuscripts, and meet with writers!

Are you looking for the agent who is right for you? Eight agents plan to join us at Mount Hermon in the spring. I hope you’ll consider doing so, too.

Click here to REGISTER.

Success! Are You Ready?

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Tamela Hancock Murray
BLOGGER: TAMELA HANCOCK MURRAY

A Literary Agent with The Steve Laube Agency, Tamela will teach an Afternoon Workshop, participate in an Agents Q&A, and meet with potential clients at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference in March.

SUCCESS! ARE YOU READY?

Recently one of the faithful readers of The Steve Laube Agency blog asked if I would write a blog on how to handle success. Here are a few of my thoughts, in no particular order:

Once you are successful, prepare to…

Be gracious. Whether you struggled for years to be published or if you’ve never heard the word “no” from an agent or editor, when writing in public forums or speaking in a group setting, always temper your enthusiasm about your success. No doubt and you simply want your friends to celebrate with you. We all want that. But in a public forum, there will always be the person your success makes feel small, and words that can be interpreted as boasting can hurt, no matter how pure your heart.

Deal with backbiting. Since we live in a fallen world, even if you are the most gracious and lovely person you can be, someone will be envious of you. Someone will say your writing stinks. You may never hear this. Or you might. Either way, keep walking with God, and realize that writing touches the gamut of emotions. We cannot control responses to our writing. No one is immune to criticism. Don’t believe me? We just celebrated Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for us, His crucifixion brought about by His actions — and His words.

Realize that people who were never on your team still won’t be. We’d all like to think that if only we could appear on TV and become rich and famous, we could finally prove our critics wrong. Nope. They’ll just hate you more. Don’t worry about them. Enjoy your true friends. You know who they are.

Adjust your financial plan. You may receive no advance, a four-figure advance, or an advance large enough to make a real difference in your life. But please remember, you will be taxed on that advance and any royalties so hold back at least 30% for when the tax bill arrives. And if you are using an advance to live on, make sure to budget so that the money will last well past the date you can expect your next payment on your contract. Unsure of how to handle your new finances? Your local bank should be able to help you find professional help so you can form a plan. Bottom line: it’s easy to spend a fortune so don’t get caught short on money if you can avoid it.

Be watched. People who never looked your way before may suddenly notice you. You may gain more friends than if you had just issued a public invitation to a vacation home on the beach. Enjoy the popularity, but keep a balance of how much to let others into your life so you don’t become overwhelmed. This is a good time to solidify friendships you already have with other published authors and get a few tips from them on how to form boundaries with fans.

Expand your social media presence. Now more than ever, you will need to communicate with fans. Set up a schedule for Twitter, Facebook, and your newsletter and/or blog. Remind fans that you are still writing, and keep them up to date on important events in your life so they will feel as though you are a friend. Don’t hawk your books, though. Let readers find you and your books, although letting your fans know when your publisher is offering a free download can be a great idea.

Be asked to speak. Speaking engagements may start coming your way. If you need to hone your public appearance skills, many people recommend Toastmasters http://www.toastmasters.org/.

 Master time management. You will no longer have the luxury of taking as long as you want to write a book. You will have relentless deadlines — several with each book. Be prepared to meet them all and schedule your time accordingly.

Be with those you love. Make spending time doing fun activities with everyone you love a priority.

Enjoy your success!

Do you have other suggestions for those experiencing success?

______________________

Come meet Tamela Hancock Murray at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to register. 

Procrastination: Muse & Writer

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BLOGGER: ANGELA BREIDENBACH

Angela will teach an Afternoon Workshop and serve on the Critique Team at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Angela Muse Image

 

PROCRASTINATION: MUSE & WRITER

Muse: No.

Writer: But I’ll just watch the news while I eat on break.

Muse: You are on deadline. No.

Writer: Hand over the remote. Please.

Muse: You want to reach your goal, focus on the little tasks.

Writer: 15 minutes won’t matter.

Muse: But you won’t stop there.

Writer: I bet I can–

Muse: Go ahead – try to take them.

Writer: You wouldn’t…

Muse: Try me.

Writer: Fine, I’ll just go write then.

Muse: I’m sure you made the best choice…

 

Ever had a similar conversation with your self, uh, your muse?

_________________

Angela BreidenbachCome meet 2016 faculty member Angela Breidenbach at the conference, March 18-22.

Click here to register.

Podcasting for Writers and Authors

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John VonhofBLOGGER: JOHN VONHOF

Manuscript Retrieval Coordinator

 

PODCASTING FOR WRITERS AND AUTHORS

Writers want to write. Between query letters and proposals, research, one or more manuscripts in various degrees of completion, critique groups – we keep pretty busy. Then we learn that as writers, published or not, we should have our own website. And of course, if we are published, we need to do marketing. And whether published or not, we need to be working on building our platform. Building your platform can take many forms: websites, blogs, speaking, article writing, events – and more. For years, blogs were seen as the “must have” for writers. Then along came podcasting. Statistics from 2014 revealed that for every 1,700 bloggers, there was one podcaster. It’s a very small, wide-open arena for those wanting to build an even larger platform.

Podcasting in simple terms is often called on-demand radio – generally without the advertisements. A more detailed definition of a podcast is a digital medium consisting of an episodic series of audio files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device. It allows anyone to become a radio announcer, talk show host and a recording artist in just a snap. The majority of podcasts are listened to on mobile devices, with Apple’s iPhone leading Android phones by a five to one margin. Podcasts can be listened to anywhere and anytime: commuting, cooking, gardening, exercising, and walking – anywhere you have time to fill. I listen while I ride my bike and run. Apple’s iPhone has a built-in podcast app. Android phones can download podcasts through the Stitcher radio app. Shows can be listened to on the podcast host’s website, online in iTunes or Stitcher, or better yet, subscribe to the podcast and you’ll automatically get each episode downloaded directly to your smartphone or tablet. Podcast can be listened to at 1.5 speed, allowing you to hear more in less time. I find listening at 2x or higher makes it hard to understand the content.

Anyone can start a podcast and it can be incorporated into any WordPress website. Podcasting can be done with relatively inexpensive equipment – your computer, earbuds from your smartphone, and a website. There are podcasts about podcasting, teaching listeners about equipment, interview and hosting techniques, editing, where to host your podcast, software and WordPress plug-ins, publicity and marketing, and more. In addition, there are websites offering the same information through free and paid courses about starting a podcast.

There are many options in podcasting. You can do a solo show or find one or more people to co-host with you. There are different formats: monologue, interview, back and forth banter with a co-host, and questions and answers are the most common. You determine the frequency of releasing new shows. Most podcasts are weekly, but some are twice a week. Shows can be any length. My shows are interview style. I edit my own shows and create a blog post page for each show.

Writers and authors can host a podcast about whatever interests them and they think will interest others. Fiction authors can do shows about their writing, how they do research, character and plot development, dialogue, and more. Non-fiction authors can record shows about their writing topics, research, style and structure, sections within their books, choosing topics, and more. Both of these, and poets and devotional writers, can read selections from their writing and dissect the content. Talk about motivation, writing skills and techniques that help you, finding time to write, and more. Give it a unique slant and title, determine your audience, decide on the format, practice recording, and then get set to go live.

In addition to my podcast, Writers & Authors on Fire, there are other faculty members at the conference who have podcasts. Kathi Lipp’s podcast is You’ve Got This with Kathi Lipp, Erin Taylor and Karen Ball co-host their Write From the Deep podcast, and Angela Breidenbach hosts Grace Under Pressure Radio. I know any of us would be willing to answer your podcasting questions. Kathi is also teaching a workshop on podcasting. I’m in the manuscript retrieval center during the conference and would be happy to share resources and help you brainstorm about whether podcasting could help build your platform, and possible topics.

I encourage you to listen to a few of the shows of the above podcasts before the conference. They are available through iTunes and Stitcher Radio, or your favorite podcasting app. You’ll be surprised at the variety of show topics and what you’ll learn.

________________________

Come meet John Vonhof at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

If you’re interested in learning more about podcasting, plan to attend Kathi Lipp’s afternoon workshop, Beginner’s Guide to Podcasting.

Click here to Register Now!

Become a Published Author by Writing Short Stories That Sell

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B.J. Taylor.2BLOGGER: B.J. TAYLOR

Editorial Representative, Guideposts Magazine

Teaching an Afternoon Workshop, Reviewing Pre-Conference Manuscripts and meeting with writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.

BECOME A PUBLISHED AUTHOR BY WRITING SHORT STORIES THAT SELL

You want to write novels. Me, too! But something happened along the way in my writing career. I became good at writing short stories that sell. And it helps me write novels. No kidding.

Here’s what happens when you write short stories:

It teaches you to write tight. If you can write a beginning, middle, and end in 1,200 to 1,500 words that captivate and entertain a reader, you can sell short stories. And with that, you have the ability to write a novel (which is a beginning, middle, and end). Think of your novel as also captivating and entertaining a reader one chapter at a time.

It teaches you to work with an editor. Every story you submit for publication goes through an editor who will work with you to make the story acceptable for the publication. You might be asked to make changes, delete some of your precious sentences, or cut a paragraph or two. When you graciously work with an editor, you build a reputation for being a joy to work with.

It teaches you to meet deadlines. Submissions must be received by a drop-dead date. Writing for a short story publication will help you to focus on a deadline and meet it.

It provides you with a byline. Seeing your name in print never gets old, even for me after 40 stories published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, multiple bylines in other magazines, and even on my nonfiction books. The fact that you’re a published author is huge! It will help you to snare an agent and even a publisher. Many will ask you where you’ve been published. If you can list your success, it’s a true bonus.

It provides you with an income. Hey, making $200 for a short story (or more depending on the market), is a lot more than fish bait. I never sneeze at an opportunity to sell my writing because every dollar counts in today’s expensive world. Would you agree?

It provides you with a shot in the arm. There isn’t anything better than feeling really good as a writer. And being published accomplishes that. As you toil on your novel writing, short story sales keep your spirits high and your enthusiasm soaring.

For more information on the formula used successfully by many short story writers, see the book on Amazon, P MS to a T: the Winning Formula for Writing Nonfiction Short Stories that Sell.

_________________

Come meet B.J. Taylor at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Ready to learn more about writing essays and short stories for periodicals? Plan to attend Jesse Florea’s Major Morning Track ~ Magazine Writing: Starting Point or Destination?

Click here to register.

Small Houses Offer Big First Choices

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Ann Byle smallerBLOGGER: ANN BYLE

A Literary Agent with Credo Communications, Ann will teach an Afternoon Workshop, participate in an Agents Q&A, and meet with potential clients at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference in March.

 

SMALL HOUSES OFFER BIG FIRST CHOICES

Publishing is difficult these days as publishers work hard to do more with less. Big houses are struggling to create sales in a market that isn’t buying as readily, reach readers whose attention wanders, and attract authors with monster platforms that promise big sales.

As publishers tighten their belts and raise the bar for authors, more and more writers are seeking publication. As an agent, I receive queries in my inbox sometimes once a day, including Saturday and Sunday. Sadly, most of these authors have little chance of getting a contract with a big, traditional Christian publishing house. Even authors with previously published books and a good platform have no guarantees.

Small publishers, once considered second best, are stepping into the widening gap between big houses and author contracts, offering authors publication credits and royalties. Here are a couple of reasons to consider a small house for your novel or nonfiction title.

  1. Small houses are more open to debut authors. One of my clients recently signed a contract with a growing house for her debut novel. The publisher was delighted with her writing and didn’t much care about her medium-sized platform.
  2. Small houses are great for niche-market books. A big house isn’t going to take on a book that reaches a relatively small market (such as parenting a special needs child or caring for elderly parents), but a small house can recognize the need for such a book and offer a contract.
  3. Small houses don’t need huge sales to make a profit. Of course small houses want to sell a lot of books, but they don’t need sales of 15-20,000 to break even. In fact, many small houses are thrilled with sales of 2,000 to 5,000. Which means they’ll look at books that will sell that many, thus allowing authors of really good books to find a home.
  4. Small houses offer personalized service. You won’t get lost in a sea of new books published the same time as yours, or in a backlist so vast it’s impossible to find your book. Usually a small house can devote a decent amount of attention to your book and you, offering advice and help when you need it.
  5. Small houses provide an avenue for sales. Authors can accrue good digital and print sales, which can mean additional book contracts and additional sales. If sales are large enough, a bigger house may take notice. Some authors, however, may want to stay with that smaller house for its personal service and good relationships.
  6. Small houses help authors build a deep contact list. Any author worth his or her salt will use their publication with a small house to build an email list, blog following, or website visit tally. A vital and growing contact list is worth more than gold, as any author and publisher knows.

As you research book publishers, consider a smaller house. These houses often offer the same benefits of a big house—marketing and publicity help, distribution network, quality editing and cover design—with a much more open acceptance policy. A small house may be the perfect fit for you.

_______________________

Come meet Ann Byle at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to Register Now!

Taming Time–Practical Tips to Increase Writing Productivity

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BLOGGER: SARAH SUNDIN

Historical novelist Sarah Sundin will serve as a mentor for the Morning Mentoring Clinic, teach an Afternoon Workshop, and serve on the Critique Team at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Sarah Sundin Taming Time image

 

“How on earth did you find time to write a book?” a friend asked.

Perhaps it was my ability to type at the speed of light or my complete lack of a personal life.

Um, no. Snails type faster than I do, and they don’t have fingers. I’m a mother of three, teach Sunday school, and have a part-time job. But I make time to write.

Four tools for increasing productivity are herding up goals, corralling blocks of time, lassoing the on-line beast, and harnessing snippets of time. Honestly, I don’t write Westerns.

Herd Up Goals

We’ve all been there—we finish a busy week and have nothing to show for it. Setting goals is the best way to prevent this. Even if you aren’t published yet, make deadlines. Set yearly goals, then break those goals down by month. At the beginning of each week, set daily goals. My goal sheet hangs over my desk. Staring at me.

Corral Blocks of Time

“I am a professional. I am a professional.” Repeat until you believe it.

Now, act like it. Keep office hours, no matter how short, and use them well. Review the day’s goals and get to work. No excuses, no distractions, no phone calls.

Having children at home complicates things, but even a toddler can learn to respect office hours. Despite what parenting blogs say, a child does not need constant entertainment—in fact, a child who learns to entertain himself becomes imaginative and independent.

Lasso the Internet

E-mail, blogs, Twitter, Facebook—they’re necessary, but they can drain away that time you corralled.

Designate a time for the internet, working with your schedule and personality. Reserve your best time of the day for writing and your less-productive times for the internet.

Then set strict time limits. A kitchen timer works wonders.

Harness Time Snippets

A great way to boost productivity is by using snippets of time while waiting at the soccer field or doctor’s office. Why not use that “wasted” time?

Here are some things you can do in ten minutes:

  • Research

As a writer of historical fiction, I always have a pile of books to read. A book and note paper, and I’m set.

  • Market Research

Study magazines or websites you’d like to target or read a book in your genre.

  • Pre-write

Outline an article or chapter, fill out character charts, or write a synopsis.

  • Edit

Editing is my favorite on-the-go activity, well suited to interruptions.

  • Critiques

Time snippets are great for reviewing your critique partners’ work.

  • Communications

With a smartphone, you can tackle e-mails and social media on the run—and free up time at home.

  • Publicity

Public writing means free publicity. People will ask what you’re doing. So tell them. Make sure you always bring business cards or bookmarks.

  • Write

Use a time snippet to write. Really. Try it.

How can you improve your time management?

___________________

Meet Sarah Sundin at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to Register Now!

Unleash Wonder in Your Writing

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Jan Kern smlBLOGGER: JAN KERN

Nonfiction Author

Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic Coordinator and Nonfiction Mentor

Morning Mentoring Nonfiction Coordinator and Nonfiction Mentor

UNLEASH WONDER IN YOUR WRITING

Living in California, drought metaphors come easily as we make our way through one of the driest years on record. I’m reminded every time I step out my door. But at my desk or in front of my computer screen, another kind of dryness threatens to invade my writing efforts. My fingers pause longer than I’d like above the keyboard.

Where am I going with this section of my book?

Is it what my readers are grappling with too?

Does my structure and voice make sense for this project?

What am I trying to say and can it really make the difference I hope for?

Where am I connecting with my potential readers so I can find out?

Is God leading me? Am I listening?

Sometimes we hit a writing drought and our creative progress crumbles like dry dust. We need reminders that rain is on its way.

Jan Kern WonderInDrought

 

Recently a ten-day vacation treated my husband and me to beautiful vistas of the northwest. While that area is also experiencing drought conditions, rain still falls. We saw evidence of that everywhere we looked. Lakes are nearly full. Waterfalls tumble down mountainsides. Rivers seemed to bounce and gurgle with life.

Home again, I stepped outside to enjoy a familiar walk along nearby pathways. The changes, even in the few days we had been away, were stark.  The drought continued to sap any remaining moisture. A bubbling spring-fed creek now dribbled into stagnant puddles. Manzanita seemed burnt, fragile and gray. My steps crunched on fallen brown leaves that had skipped their transitional colors of yellow or orange.

As I walked back toward my home, I prayed that I might catch glimpses of wonder in the drought-stricken landscape. I couldn’t see it. Not that day.

Waking the next morning, I pushed the covers aside and prayed, “Lord, let your Spirit flow through me today. Fill my heart with wonder again.”

Again?

The prayer startled me. Where had wonder gone? Had I let it drain away? With legs swung over the side of my bed, feet ready to hit the floor, I realized that my writing days had become much like my walk the day before—stagnant, lacking delight-filled engagement with wonder. I shifted my prayers toward more specific requests.

Lord, please unleash wonder in my rhythms of writing.

At that moment, wonder became the promise of rain for my writing drought.

Where do you need an infusion of wonder in your writing journey or current projects? Try these tips:

Reconnect to your purpose.

William Wordsworth wrote, “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. Sometimes we’ve lost our heart along the way to filling our word quotas. One of the greatest places of wonder is found in reconnecting with our initial passion for what we’re doing or to what God has been recently stirring inside. Write a small piece simply for creativity sake.

Remember your readers.

God captured Moses’ attention through a burning bush and called Moses to a specific purpose and people. Step outside and take a walk in a new direction. As you do remember those to whom God has called you to write and what is important to them. When you return to your writing, start in a new place with your readers in mind.

Create your inspiration.

Create a motto that inspires you to keep moving forward with wonder and inspiration, one that you post near your writing desk. Or borrow this one: “Ignite the power of faith and creativity. Be unquenchable!” This happens to be the tagline for the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Whatever you choose to do, keep moving forward, keep writing. As a friend very wisely said to me, even in the drought there is still life if you look for it.

One place you can be certain to find the promise of rain for a writing drought and to take your current writing project closer toward publication is through Mount Hermon’s Morning Mentoring Clinics. The 2016 groups—both fiction and nonfiction—will focus on specific genres and types of projects. Apply, meet your mentor, bring your project and anticipate wonder!

_______________________

You’ll meet Jan Kern at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 16-22, where she will coordinate the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinics and coordinate the Nonfiction Morning Mentoring Clinic. Jan is also a nonfiction mentor in both programs.

Q&A with Bethany House Publishers’ Fiction Acquisitions Editor

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

I’m loving hearing from our 2016 Conference Faculty on the Mount Hermon Writers blog each week. Today, an Acquisitions Editor answers some of your questions.

BLOGGER: RAELA SCHOENHERR

Fiction Acquisitions Editor, Bethany House Publishers

Raela is reviewing (at the conference) a few of the pre-submitted manuscripts and meeting with fiction writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.

Q&A WITH BETHANY HOUSE PUBLISHERS’ FICTION ACQUISITIONS EDITOR

Q: Since I’m guessing you would say that “strong writing” is what makes a manuscript stand out to you, what do you mean by that? What does that look like to you?

A: Here’s a laundry list of things of things that make for a good novel. This is far from comprehensive, but hopefully it’s a good start.

  • Interesting, varied word choice and use of the English language in a way that is appropriate to era, setting, characters, etc.
  • Non-generic narrative
  • Natural and readable dialogue
  • Distinct voices for POV (Point of View) characters
  • Delivering back story without info dumping
  • Foreshadowing without telegraphing
  • Clear character arcs for main characters
  • Secondary characters come alive
  • Logical, believable character choices
  • Pacing that neither drags nor makes awkward, abrupt jumps
  • Clear, compelling conflict
  • Paints the picture of a setting. Characters are clearly grounded in that setting and couldn’t be easily transplanted into another generic setting.
  • Distinct author voice. A very simplified example: if a reader was given a paragraph from you and three other authors, would she be able to tell yours apart from the others just by your tone and way of writing?

Q: What is one thing that makes an author stand out to you besides the writing quality of the manuscript?

A: Publishing savvy always makes authors stand out to me. Do they understand the world of publishing to some degree? Have they researched the industry? Have they read broadly in the industry? Do they have a realistic grasp for what sets them apart? If they’re writing something that sounds like a lot of other books in the market, can they articulate why their book is different? Or, if their book is pretty different from the rest of what’s in the market, can they articulate why it would appeal to our audience? Do they understand the aspects of being an author beyond simply writing a manuscript? Do they have ideas for helping to promote their book? Do they have connections or unique qualities we can leverage to help spread word of mouth? Do they have endorsements of themselves as an author or of their manuscript?

Q: What is one mistake you often see beginning writers make?

A: The showing vs. telling advice is a cliché for a reason. Authors who aren’t ready for publication often struggle with this—whether it’s info dumps, tedious setting descriptions that read like a “for sale” listing, clumsy and didactic explanations of character emotions and motivations, and so on.

Beginning writers often start their stories at the wrong place. Many times the story would be much stronger and more interesting if the reader is dropped right in the middle of a situation rather than having to wade through three chapters of set-up that explains how the characters got to where they are. And sometimes, but less often, beginning authors may start their stories too late. This is when all the interesting conflict has taken place in the past and only leaves the reader to learn about characters’ responses after-the-fact.

In general, conflict can be a big hang-up for beginning authors. Conflict needs to be believable and compelling enough to drive a reader to keep turning pages all the way until the end of a book. New authors might set up a good conflict but then not deliver on it, or they might have all external conflict and no internal (or vice versa). Conflict can’t be too easily resolved unless authors want to annoy or lose their readers. Beginning writers need to make the stakes as high as possible for their characters and put them into seemingly impossible situations—whether it’s solving the mystery, saving a life, defeating an enemy, chasing  a dream, or falling in love.

As for proposals, I can pretty quickly get a sense of an author’s industry savviness. For example, saying “I am available for book tours” and not much else under marketing shows a lack of understanding of the industry. Also, I always find the comparable titles section to be telling. I’ll have my own comparisons in mind, but I take note when an author’s are similar to mine or she makes an intelligent comparison I didn’t think of. On the other hand, if an author misses all the natural comparisons she should make or compares her novel to novels that are either nothing like her book or extremely out of date, I can tell she lacks an awareness of the market. Or, heaven forbid, if an author says there have never before been any other books like hers.

Q: How can writers best improve their craft?

A: Every time an aspiring fiction writer says they either don’t read fiction or don’t have time to read fiction, an angel loses his wings. Seriously though, I’ve gotten comments like this more times than I’d like to count and I have trouble not immediately dismissing those writers. Our authors here at Bethany House are some of the busiest people I know and most of them still find time to read because a) they like reading, and b) they realize it’s important for their career. Obviously a person who is trying to complete a manuscript is going to have less free time than someone who isn’t writing, but it’s nearly impossible to write a good book for your market if you have no awareness of what people are reading and you don’t have recent and consistent personal experience as a reader. Make time for reading, both in and outside of your genre.

Literary agent Rachelle Gardner has a great list of Resources for Writers on her blog. One I would add is Fiction University, a blog I follow and find often has great tips and resources. The Christian Writers Market Guide is always a good standby for general industry information. Most of your favorite authors will list their best writing resources on their own websites.

In general, I advise authors to learn as much as they can about the craft and technique of writing and then go out and make their writing their own. Everyone is going to have different rules and non-negotiables, so authors should do what makes the most reasonable sense for them. Just make sure it’s intentional and the result of research and not just laziness.

Thanks for having me on the blog today. I’m looking forward to meeting the writers attending the conference in a few months!

_____________________

Raela Schoenherr is a fiction acquisitions editor and has been with Bethany House Publishers since 2008. She grew up reading Christian fiction and enjoys being able to work with the kinds of books she always loved. When she’s not reading (or listening to audiobooks!), she’s probably cheering on the Green Bay Packers, running, or spending time with her wonderful family and friends. A graduate of Bethel University, she makes her home in Minneapolis, MN and is active on Twitter at @raelaschoenherr.

Come meet Raela at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference in March!

Ready to REGISTER for the conference?

 

Passive Vs. Active Verbs

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Kathy IdeBLOGGER: KATHY IDE

Coordinator of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference Critique Team

Freelance Editor

 

PASSIVE VS. ACTIVE VERBS

Wherever possible, strive to use strong, precise verbs rather than weak, vague verbs. Instead of saying, “They were going,” write, “They went.” Or better yet, show how they went. “They jogged,” “They raced,” “They ambled,” for example. A single descriptive action verb is almost always better than a weak passive verb.

Here are some examples:

Passive: It is believed by Sue that a curfew must be placed on her son, Matthew.
Active: Sue believes that she must place a curfew on her son, Matthew.

Passive: It was earlier demonstrated that Matthew could be intimidated by too much freedom.
Active: Friday’s party showed Sue that too much freedom could intimidate Matthew.

Passive verbs often indicate that a subject exists, or that something happens to the subject. Active verbs describe something a subject does.

Passive: Andrew had dark, curly hair and a bushy beard.
Active: Andrew ran his fingers through his dark, curly hair and stroked his bushy beard.

Passive: Two cups of coffee were on the table.
Active: Joe picked up two cups of coffee from the table.

In nonfiction, there are a few acceptable reasons to use passive verbs:

1. To emphasize the action rather than the subject.
Example: Jim’s bioengineering proposal was approved by the committee.

2. To keep the subject and focus consistent throughout a passage.
Example: The astrobiology department presented a controversial proposal to the committee. After long debate, the proposal was endorsed by …

3. To be tactful by not naming the subject.
Example: The e-mail message was misinterpreted.

4. To describe a condition in which the subject is unknown or irrelevant to the sentence.
Example: Every year, many people are diagnosed with Environmental Illness.

5. To create an authoritative tone.
Example: Visitors are not allowed after 9:00 p.m.

Even in fiction, the occasional use of a passive verb is acceptable. But do a search of your manuscript for is, was, are, were, be, been, would, could, has, had, and have, and wherever you find one of those words, see if there’s a way you can show what’s happening instead of just telling about it.

NOTE: It is an infringement of copyright law to reproduce this publication, in part or in whole, without the express permission of the author. To request permission, please e-mail Kathy@KathyIde.com.

How about it, are you seeing opportunities in your article or book proposal for tightening your writing using active vs. passive verbs?

___________________

You’ll meet Kathy Ide at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, where she serves as the coordinator of the Critique Team.

Register Me Now!

 

 

Getting Started with Novellas

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Joanne Bischof - Headshot 1BLOGGER: JOANNE BISCHOF

Joanne Bischof will serve as a fiction mentor in the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic, teach an Afternoon Workshop, and serve on the Critique Team at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.

GETTING STARTED WITH NOVELLAS

Though they are short, novellas are no simple thing to write. Yet they sometimes take on a bad rap of being too short, sweet, and simple. Today I want to share some tools that we can use to make these stories complex. It’s my belief that readers can be moved by a 300 page novel or a ten page short story. Basically, there’s an art to writing novellas, one that is somewhat different than full length works.

The Heritage Brides Collection This-Quiet-Sky-1

 

As the author of two novellas, one both a Christy and Carol Award finalist, I’m here to share with you a few of my must-haves for short fiction. So let’s get started!

Write tight, then write tighter

By writing tight, this gives you the word count to fit more into your novella. If it takes you one sentence to explain that the hero doesn’t like pie and two sentences to explain why he’s opposed to this flaky desert, why not try arranging all of that into one brief sentence? Maybe there’s an unexpected way you can phrase things that not only makes the description tight, but also intriguing. (For an example of this, see tip #3)

A great way to practice writing tight is by summarizing your fiction. Write a really, really strong synopsis. Then a really, really strong paragraph summary. If you can write an excellent one sentence pitch, you’re not only writing tight, you’re writing tighter. This is a key skill for fiction with limited word count. If you can express yourself eloquently in fifty words, then when given 30,000 – you’ll feel like you have tons of space to tell your story! I find that the more I practice writing tight, the bigger novellas feel. And most importantly, we can pass that feeling along to readers.

Keep things simple – but poignant

Chances are, your novella isn’t going to be a sweeping saga. I’m sure we can all agree that there just isn’t room. But what I find is that writers sometimes think that equates to telling a short and simple story with a basic beginning, middle, and end. I believe a strong novella needs to focus on the contrary – keep it simple but poignant by telling a portion of a sweeping saga. Elude to what comes before, elude to what may come after, and simply pluck out the most interesting section of a grand tale to suit your novella. Basically, you are giving readers a glimpse into a broader tale. There’s an art to this and it may take practice. Give your novella the respect of a novel. Treat it as profound and readers will walk away feeling like you’ve given them something really special.

Multi task

Many things in a novella will need to serve double and even triple duty. If you need to have a minor character in the story—perhaps a school teacher—also utilize them as a tool that can aid your character in his or her arc. Don’t just let that character be one-dimensional. That way, when the reader reaches the end, they look back and realize that much more was at hand then they initially realized. This can apply to many different parts of your story. Give each element as many dimensions as possible (while keeping things natural).

This can also apply to dialogue. Let your dialogue pack as much punch as possible.  Let’s draw on the above example of our hero not liking pie. Here are two of the ways it could be written:

“I don’t like pie,” he said.

Or to mutli-task you could say this:

“I haven’t eaten pie since I took one in the face for the school fundraiser last fall.”

In the second example, we’ve informed the reader that not only does he not like pie, but we’ve given them a glimpse into his past. A chance to learn something about his character: he volunteered his time—and his face—for charity! I don’t know about you, but that makes me like him more. This fundraiser doesn’t need to be a part of the novella, better yet if it’s not because we can utilize the limited word count to keep moving forward, but in those few words…something bigger was accomplished.

So those are a few of the tools I like to use for writing short fiction, but there are also many more.

Do you read novellas? Have you written a novella? What are some ideas that you have for making short fiction really stand out?

_________________

Come meet Joanne Bischof at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 16-22, 2016.

Click here to REGISTER!

Allowing God to Lead You

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Marla SchultzBLOGGER: MARLA SCHULTZ

Managing Editor, Molly Green Magazine

Reviewing Pre-Conference Manuscript Submissions and Meeting with Writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.

 

ALLOWING GOD TO LEAD YOU ON YOUR WRITING JOURNEY 

“Then Moses called Bezalel and Aholiab, and every gifted artisan in whose heart the LORD had put wisdom, everyone whose heart was stirred, to come and do the work” Exodus 36:2, NKJV

A few years ago our pastor challenged us to ask God to use us in our area of talent. My heart leapt and I immediately thought, “I want God to be glorified through my writing—I want Him to use me.”

This wasn’t something that unexpectedly pounced on me that morning. Since childhood I’ve enjoyed imagining and writing stories. I majored in Communication Arts, but in the busyness of raising and homeschooling six children and being a wife and homemaker, I pushed the desire to create to the sidelines. Occasionally I’d slip away to write, but rarely found or made time to do.

That Sunday morning something changed. I could feel it. God stirred my heart and I responded.

Within a short period of time I began to see Him answering. Completely unaware of my whispered prayer, I was asked to co-write the skits for the upcoming VBS at our church—an event that averages about 500 children a day. Then the Women’s Ministries offered another writing opportunity. My dormant desire was being nourished and once again I began working on my unfinished books and stories, as well as these other projects.

In 2012, after an incredible and encouraging experience at Mount Hermon Writers’ Conference, I decided I needed a platform. Within a few months I stumbled on an opportunity—writing literature unit studies for a homeschooling website—perfect for this season of my life. This opportunity led to writing articles, as well, but also to my current position as the Managing Editor of a magazine that covers topics that highly interest me and still allows me to home educate our children.

As I look back on the past few years, I see how faithful God has been to answer my prayer to be used in an area I love, and to guide my steps—even when I feel like I’m flailing.

Maybe for years you’ve had a desire to write, but the circumstances in your life haven’t allowed you to be able to commit the time needed. Is now the time? Is your heart being stirred like the artisans in Exodus to come and do the work and allow God to direct your writing journey?

Ask Him.

Perhaps attending the Mount Hermon Writers’ Conference in 2016 is the next step and will help lead you to a new season in your life. If your heart is being stirred, He’s the one inspiring you.

What will your journey look like?

_____________________

Come meet Marla Schultz at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

REGISTER NOW!

Weaving Grace into Non-Fiction Writing

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Bill GiovannettiBLOGGER: DR. BILL GIOVANNETTI

A Nonfiction Mentor for the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic.

Serving on the Critique Team and teaching a one-hour workshop at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.

 

WEAVING GRACE INTO NONFICTION WRITING

My equipment consisted of a hammer, an empty soda can, and a stool. Over a thousand people watched me set the can on the stool and crush it flat by a hundred little taps. No, not a skills test, but a sermon before the church that calls me pastor.

My goal was to illustrate a painful point: so much of the Christian message seems to consist of a thousand little chores. People are tired. So many come to church worn out. What do they get? Hope? No. A glimpse of the power of God to transcend their mundane problems? No. A promise to claim? Another attribute of God to rest upon? No. No. No.

What they get is another item for their already backed up to-do list. Tap! We need help in the nursery. Tap! Did you pray/read/study this week? Tap. Integrity matters. Tap. Tap. Have you fallen into crazy love with Jesus? Tap! Tap! Tap! Be radical! Tap! Get to work, Mary! Go help Martha!

No crushing blow. No giant wagging foam finger of shame. But a thousand micro-guilt-trips, delivered courtesy the most sincere Christian communicator, resulting in a dispirited readership that would, if it had the clarity of mind, would through the offending book across the room, in Christian love.

Non-fiction writers, like pastors, need to weave grace into their writings. You may look at your body of work and protest, “Well, I never pound my readers on the head.” Amen! I’m happy to hear that. Now look more deeply. Study hard the thrust of your words. What are you writing about? Duty? Obligation? Practices? Christian chores?

Right, you may not pound. But do you tap?

Relentless tapping is today’s literary equivalent of yesterday’s water-drip torture.

Here are three ways to weave grace into your writings.

  1. Emphasize the DECLARATIVE over the IMPERATIVE.

Only in a writer’s blog could I get away with that statement. The bulk of Scripture is written in the in declarative mode. Scripture-writers relish to lay out a feast of who God is: his character, attributes, names, and deeds. They revel in his promises, and reveal his provision. They blaze forth the message of a God able to lead his people through the wilderness, and prepare them a table in the presence of their enemies. Without shying away from life’s painful realities, they nurture hope by pointing to eternal realities, more real and lasting and significant than anything we see with our eyes or feel with our senses.

As non-fiction writers, we have an embarrassment of riches from which to work. Yes, there is most definitely a place for the imperatives of the Christian life. But let us be sure to anchor them in the abiding declaratives. That is the only way our readers will know both the reasons for their obedience, and the power from which that obedience flows.

  1. Emphasize IDENTITY over ACTIVITY.

As a Christian author, you are naturally concerned with the way of life your readers embrace. It’s tempting to spell out that way of life in so much detail you begin to rival the Pharisees. The simple reality remains that people act out of who they are. More correctly, the act out of who they think they are. If they label themselves stupid, or weak, or victim, or ugly, their lifestyles invariably take on those hues.

If you really want your writing projects to speak to hearts and change lives, then speak to your readers’ identity. Who are you in God’s eyes? How does he label you? What does it mean to be truly beloved, wanted, cherished, protected, provisioned, enabled, empowered, and accepted in Christ?

If you spend a little more time telling people who they are than you “tap” their craniums with what they should do, you’ll see the grace take root and grow up like a tree.

  1. Emphasize TRANSCENDENCE over PRACTICAL APPLICATION.

Yes, the Holy Grail of modern Christian writing is, in my mind, woefully misplaced. What are we, Oprah with Jesus sprinkled on top? Dr. Phil Got Religion?

Of course, readers need tips for living. But those tips are just taps unless they’re rooted in something heavenly, something miraculous, something that transcends the mundane stuff of tabloid and Internet advice.

When a writer lifts that veil that separates earth from heaven’s throne, and describes a glimpse of God’s never ceasing labors in your everyday affairs, when you lift your reader’s mind above the humdrum of daily existence to the glories of the world above, when you make your reader’s heart skip a beat over the angelic watchers, and gasp at the glories to come, you have strengthened them to face the day by the matchless grace of God.

Sometimes “practical” is code for “tap, tap, tap.” Write to thrill the heart with the never-ceasing love of God, and you will have a your band of raving fans… not of you, but of the grace you proclaim.

Oh, and they’ll buy and sell your books too.

The saintly Robert Murray M’Cheyne wrote, “For every look at self take ten looks at Christ.” That’s what I’m talking about. Instead of tap-tap-tapping on your readers with what remains undone, fill their hearts with what has been done for them, perfectly, completely, and irrevocably by God’s matchless grace.

_____________________

Come meet Bill Giovannetti at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.

 

Registration is Now Open!

Writing for Middle Grade Boys

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Tim ShoemakerBLOGGER: TIM SHOEMAKER

Serving as a fiction mentor for a Morning Mentoring Clinic at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Leading a bonus session Friday night, Preparing for the Appointment 

 

WRITING FOR MIDDLE GRADE BOYS

If you’re writing for middle grade kids, you may be making a critical mistake. Writing for “kids” suggests you’re targeting both boys and girls. Do that and you’ll likely only get the girls.

A better technique? Write for boys. You’ll get the boys and the girls if you do it right. Girls will read great writing targeted for boys, but many boys won’t read something they sense is written for girls. Lets look at things your writing for boys needs, and things you need to avoid.

Three Things Writing for Boys Needs

White Space– If you have too much margin-to-margin text your book looks like work to read—instead of fun. Many boys will simply close the book. Break up the page with dialogue, interior thought, etc.

Short Chapters– Some boys count the pages for a chapter before they read it. If the chapter is too long, they may not even start. Sometimes a boy only has fifteen minutes to read. If they can’t finish the chapter they’ll be frustrated. Find a good place to end the chapter sooner. I often average five or six pages. And remember … more chapters mean more cliffhangers—which is exactly what you need for boys.

Strong Starts– You know you need this. Your story is like a car on the line at a drag strip. When the reader opens to Chapter One, that’s the green light. You can’t be adjusting your mirrors and showing the reader what the track looks like. On the first line of the book you pop the clutch and stand on the gas. From the very first line you want to intrigue your reader … hint at danger. And not just the first line of the book, but the first line of every chapter.

Three Things Writing for Boys Must Avoid

Romance– Middle grade is a tricky time. Some boys are interested in girls, some aren’t. Many writers want to put a little romance in their stories just to keep the girls interested. Don’t do it. You’ll lose too many boys, and it isn’t needed. Girls will read—and love—a well-written story that has no romance.

Preachy– A good, well-written story will teach subtle spiritual truth. Including portions of a sermon the junior high character just happens to remember comes off as hokey. And so do many conversion scenes. They won’t seem real to the boy reader. When the story doesn’t seem real you’ll lose much of the potential impact your book could have had.

Lengthy Descriptions– The detailed descriptions you think will bring life to your story will more likely kill it. Boys skim descriptions—unless you’re describing a weapon, a cool machine, etc. They don’t care what most rooms look like. Honest. Limit your description only to the details that matter to your POV character at the moment, and give it to the readers in very small doses.

You want to write for middle grade kids?

Excellent. Target the boys, and you’ll get them all.

___________________

Come meet Tim Shoemaker at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Registration is Now Open!

Building Your Platform with a New “P” Word–Potential

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B.J. Taylor.2BLOGGER: B.J. TAYLOR

Editorial Representative, Guideposts Magazine

Teaching an Afternoon Workshop, Reviewing Pre-Conference Manuscripts and meeting with writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.

BUILDING YOUR PLATFORM WITH A NEW “P” WORD–POTENTIAL

You’re hard at work on a novel or nonfiction book. You sign up to attend the conference and are eager to discuss your work with agents and publishers. Along with feedback, get ready to hear this question, “What’s your platform?” Right now you might have to say, “I don’t have one,” but you can change that.

Don’t despair. Everyone has a platform. It is built on YOU! And you can start right now to construct yours or add to what you already have. Friends, family, acquaintances, even other writers, are a great beginning. And it’s what I call the new “P” word: Potential.

Start small and add to it weekly. Join Twitter, or Pinterest, or any of the social media sites. How do you get started? Google “how to get started on (blank)” in the search bar (insert one of the following into the blank space: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest). You’ll be amazed at the information that pops up to help you.

A large platform doesn’t happen overnight. A novel doesn’t get written in a day, and thousands of followers and friends don’t just drop out of the air one night. Layer your platform one step at a time, like building the foundation of a house, or constructing a novel. You may already have a Facebook account. Build it up by making friends outside of your circle of family. Not on Twitter? It’s not hard, but like everything else, there is a learning curve. The same with Pinterest or any of the other sites. Take time now to invest in your platform, then look forward to those meetings at the conference.

Set goals and work toward them. Do a little bit more on social media than you have done in the past. Post a few times a week on your sites. Taken one small step at a time it’s not so scary, not so insurmountable, not the big bad “P” word you thought it to be. You can answer an agent or publisher the next time they say, “What’s your platform?” with the following response, “I’m building it, and it has great potential.”

________________________

Can you name three things you’re doing to build your platform?

Come meet B.J. Taylor at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Ready to learn more about Platform and work with a mentor to build your writer’s platform? Join us for the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic and participate in Kathi Lipp’s Platform Workshop.

Click here to register for the Next Level Clinic and the Main Conference!

 

Registration is Open for the 2016 Writers’ Conference!

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Strike up the band . . . for the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.

The Mount Hermon Writers’ website is (mostly) updated!

Wait there’s more ~ Registration is open!

conversation amidst the trees

 

March 16-18, 2016 ~ Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic

March 18-22, 2016 ~ Main Conference

March 16-18, 2016 ~ Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic and Main Conference

 

Check out the stellar 2016 faculty . . .

Keynote Speaker

Editors

Agents

Workshop Leaders

Critique Team

Resource Team

 

Randy in conversation after class

 

Peruse the power-packed program . . .

Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic

Major Morning Tracks

Morning Mentoring Clinics

Afternoon Workshops

Night Owls

 

meal conversations

 

Don’t miss the Special Features and Resources, including . . .

Free Manuscript Review and/or Critique

The Critique Team

Airport Shuttle Service

 

Critique Team in action cropped

Click here for a peek at the 2016 Conference Schedule.

playdoh 1

 

“Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame.

Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant.

Don’t quit in hard times….” 

Romans 12:11-12 MSG

We can inspire and equip you to Be Unquenchable!

Emilies and others photo opp classroom conversation

 

Plan now to join us in the California Redwoods in March for Community, Instruction, Inspiration, Connection, encouragement, Spiritual Refreshment, and Blessing.

REGISTER NOW!

Writing and Selling Your Memoir: It’s All About Theme

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Memoir Cartoon

BLOGGER: ALICE CRIDER

Associate Editor, Nonfiction, David C. Cook Publishing

Reviewing Pre-Conference Manuscript Submissions and meeting with writers, March 18-22, 2016

 

WRITING AND SELLING YOUR MEMOIR: IT’S ALL ABOUT THEME

“Memoir is about handing over your life to someone and saying, ‘This is what I went through, this is who I am, and maybe you can learn something from it.’ It’s honestly sharing what you think, feel, and have gone through. If you can do that effectively, then somebody gets the wisdom and benefit of your experience without having to live it.” ~ Jeanette Walls, author of The Glass Castle

You have a personal story. It may have been tragic or traumatic or very emotional, and you not only survived it, you learned valuable life lessons from it. Perhaps it can help others if you share it. So, what do you need to know about writing and selling your memoir?

Here are some basic writing guidelines:

  1. Rule #1: Your memoir is not about you. There’s more to crafting a memoir than writing your life story. It isn’t one long journal written in chronological order. It also isn’t a book-length rant. Writing your memoir can be cathartic, but good memoir is geared more toward the reader’s experience.
  2. Tell the truth. With recent books having been fabricated, it’s more important than ever to make sure you’ve got your story straight. That doesn’t mean you have to remember what color shirt you were wearing on a certain day, or that you have to include every factual detail. It means be honest, don’t embellish, don’t exaggerate. Also, you’ll want to document facts, especially if you have legal or medical aspects to your story.
  3. Use fiction techniques. Every page must drive your story forward, so you need to create tension and remember to show, not tell. A good memoir often begins with an intense, emotion-packed moment of drama.
  4. Make ‘em hungry. Only include things that will actually interest your reader and make them want more. So what if your cat hacked up a hairball? Just because something happened, doesn’t mean it’s interesting. Keep in mind that the reader wants an emotional experience, and they’re always looking for what’s in your story for

Annie Dillard says, “You have to take pains in a memoir not to hang on the reader’s arms, like a drunk, and say, ‘And then I did this and it was so interesting.’”

What do agents and editors want to see in a memoir?

  1. A query with a strong hook. Unless you’ve met in person with an agent or an editor, don’t send anything more than a query letter. Make your letter stand out by creating a compelling hook for it.
  2. A complete, compelling proposal. Follow agency guidelines when submitting to agents. If you haven’t already written a book proposal, do this even before you finish your manuscript. A book proposal is like a business plan for a book. It will help you fully evaluate your audience, your market, and your own merit for writing a memoir.
  3. Excellent writing—an absolute must. Do not send your manuscript to an agent or editor until it is ready! The worst thing you can do is to be in a hurry to publish. Have a professional critique and/or edit your manuscript and proposal first, and be willing to do revisions if needed.
  4. A sensational or highly emotional story. Readers only keep reading memoir that holds meaning for them personally. They want an experience, not just lovely prose. Also, note that Christian publishers prefer a redemptive ending.
  5. A considerable platform and/or media attention. This is especially important to publishers these days, so you’ll want to give it your best effort.

Finally, remember that writing your memoir, even though it’s your story and what you learned along the way, is not about you. It’s about your reader—their life, their issues, and what they care about. And readers only read because they want to.

Alice CriderCome meet Alice Crider at the conference, March 18-22, 2016!

Registration is Now Open!

A Courage Challenge

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Many thanks to our 2016 Faculty for supplying two posts a week through the conference in March. 

Jan Kern smlBLOGGER: JAN KERN

Nonfiction Author

Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic Coordinator and Nonfiction Mentor

Morning Mentoring Nonfiction Coordinator and Nonfiction Mentor

 

A COURAGE CHALLENGE

Artist Vincent van Gogh asked the question, “What would life be like if we had courage enough to attempt anything?”

As a writer who is also a credentialed life coach, I love asking questions like this. They are big dream questions that lift us out of the narrow scope of vision we are living. They help us explore, not simply possibilities, but where our heart might be already longing to go, where perhaps God has been inviting us to go next.

But what is courage enough for us as writers?

Courage enough to…

  • slash what isn’t working in our stuck plotline
  • cut open the tough places of our own story
  • take that leap toward a different reader-audience focus
  • face down the daily taunts of inadequacy
  • add our voice to a seemingly satiated market
  • compose those first difficult words of a new project

These are what stir our writer’s gut with longing or fear, where we find we are holding our breath.

What is stirring for you as you look at your unique writing projects or publishing hopes and dreams? Capture a clear picture and then allow me to add one more—a courage challenge:

Courage enough to trust God to take you wherever he needs to in order to shape you as his writer so he might powerfully set loose words and stories through you for his purposes.

Where might he take you? Can you imagine the heights? Or does hesitancy keep you grounded? You might have already seen and been inspired by the popular quote by contemporary poet, Erin Hanson:

There is freedom waiting for you,

On the breezes of the sky.

And you ask, “What if I fall?”

“Oh but darling,

What if you fly?”

In those words, and really throughout Scripture, we see a companion to courage called trust. The question that begins and ends the whole adventure of flying is God’s: “Do you trust me in this?”

______________________

Where do you struggle most with courage?

You’ll meet Jan Kern at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 16-22, where she will coordinate the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinics and coordinate the Nonfiction Morning Mentoring Clinic. Jan is also a nonfiction mentor in both programs.