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Sunday, June 13, 2021


Work Around Writing Obstacles


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

When you hit a writing obstacle, does it stop you or do you use a work around? Within the tech world, they talk about using a work around. Your current path has some blockage so you find a different way to get the same task done—or a work around.
 
For example, while traveling, I was using my laptop to update my Hootsuite and schedule social media posts.  On my screen, I could not schedule any posts for 1:05 pm within the program. How did I work around this glitch? I left that time blank for several days, then when I returned home I filled in those days with this missing post.
 
Our world is filled with technology and apps and new programs to learn. Almost every day I face some technical issue which is not working. When these situations happen, I have a choice. I can either figure out a work around the obstacle, quit the program and go on to something else. I've learned that persistence will pay off if you keep at it—which is the path I recommend. Normally there is some work around or way through the challenge.
 
The pandemic has thrown off many writing plans. Over a year ago, as a Morgan James Publishing editor, I participated in a three and a half hour virtual pitch session. A group of writers were physically in one place and pitching to different editors and literary agents. It was an intense series of meetings with pitch after pitch. To my knowledge. I was the only editor who tracked down the emails of these various writers and sent follow-up emails. A few weeks ago, I pulled out this list of writers—and sent a fresh set of emails to the various writers who I had never received their submissions. Why? I wanted them to know they had not missed their opportunity to submit their manuscripts. Because of the time lapse and the fact that I've been a writer for years, I assumed many of them believed the opportunity had passed—but it hasn't. A number of my emails did not get a response—but I heard from about a dozen of these authors. Many had gotten stalled yet had recently returned to working on their manuscript. Some of them had their manuscript out to beta readers and were getting feedback. Others were finalizing their work. Each of them were happy to know the opportunity was still out there.
 
I told this story for a reason. Many of you are facing obstacles for your writing. It could be any number of obstacles which have stood in your way. While some of these obstacles can be family or work related, other blocks are mental and internal. Your mindset in these situations is critical. How can you create a way forward to work around the obstable? It may be the difference maker for your writing life.
 
Maybe you wrote and published a book last year (or even further back). Is that book doing what you imagined in terms of selling and reaching readers? As I've written in the past, as the author, you are the best person to be telling other people about your book—and you can always begin fresh to promote and tell people about it. Look for new ways to promote the book. Check a marketing book out of the library or buy one and try a different method to reach your readers.
 
Whatever your obstacle, there is a work around for it—but you have to be taking action (not just thinking about it) to find that path. If I can help you, don't hesitate to reach out to me. I'm cheering and pulling for your success. Let me know how you are working around your writing obstacles in the comments below.
 

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Sunday, June 06, 2021


How Do You Kill Time?


As I write these words, I’m traveling to my first live event in 14 months. The connection on my flight got pushed back several hours. I had three hours to fill in my connecting airport which gave me plenty of time to reach my connecting gate. What do you do during those times of sitting around waiting?

Some people pull put a novel and read. Others sit and watch people. Others shop in the airport shops. I tend to pull out my AlphaSmart 3000 and do a bit of writing.


This little gismo is rarely seen—old technology yet it holds over 140 pages of text. A full size keyboard, you only see four lines on your screen and it is not connected to the Internet. It works on several AA batteries and you never lose anything you put into it.

Of course when I get to my computer, I move the material from my AlphaSmart to my computer for editing and safe keeping. This little keyboard is just for writing. I’ve written on airplane, in libraries and all sorts of places because it is so easy to use.

To be honest I am not skilled at texting on my phone.  If I were, I could possibly do this unexpected writing on my phone. You do have to plan ahead to carry the AlphaSmart with you and then pull it out and use it in these unplanned moments to kill time.

For each of us, unexpected things come in our day.  Maybe you plan a meeting and that person doesn’t come. Or you arrive at a session at the wrong time. Do you have something which feeds into your writing life to pull out and use in these spare moments? 

Here are some writing related ideas:

Listen to an audiobook. In the past, I’ve mentioned my love for audiobooks. I carry some ear buds. I’ve checked out these audiobooks through my local library (overdrive). If I have a few moments, I will put on my ear buds and listen to a few more minutes of my audiobook. I’ve listened when I’m standing in a long line and other places. I normally listen to nonfiction books which feed into my writing life. After I complete the audiobook, I usually take a few minutes and write a review to post on Goodreads and Amazon.  

Read a small physical book. I select a small book and carry it with me in my briefcase or travel bag. In these unexpected moments, I will read more pages in my book. Like the audiobook, when I complete it, I will write a short review.  

Plan a new writing project. Like most of us, I have more ideas than I can ever possibly write. When these ideas come, often I will make some notes and maybe the start of an outline for it to get it moving. For my writing life, capturing the essence of the idea is an important part of the process and can happen in these moments when I’m killing some time.

I’m probably missing some ways to kill time. Let me know your methods in the comments below.

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Sunday, May 30, 2021


On The Road Again


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

After 14 months off the road, when I publish these words, I will be traveling again. Like many other people, a worldwide pandemic has changed my writing life. I want to celebrate the return to normality and in this article talk about the advantages to attending live events.
 
On the surface, publishing looks like a simple business but from my experience it is complex with many options and possibilities. What people don't say is much of it is outside of the author's control. There are active steps you can take as a writer (which has been my focus for years and what I encourage you to do as well). Who you know is often as important as what you know. A random conversation at a conference can turn into a book deal or a writing opportunity—if you are aware of it, follow-up and take action.
 
Live events are a break in your normal routine and provide opportunities for your writing. These events will be coming back and I encourage you to plan them into your writing life. I'm in a Facebook group of writers preparing for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I've seen several people say they attended in the past but spent most of their time in their room. While I understand the majority of writers are introverts, don't hide in your room during a conference. You have to pace yourself not to get exhausted because they are intense—but I encourage you to be outside of your room with others as much as possible.
 
It might not seem natural to you but smile, greet others, start conversations and exchange business cards with as many people as you can throughout the event. Each person you meet can be an opportunity—for you to help them and for them to help you—no matter if they are a first=timer or have attended multiple conferences. Beginning and building relationships take time and you are offered this opportunity during a conference. These events are active (and at least for me) nonstop from early in the morning until late at night. They provide opportunities for me to tell people about my books and sell a few books plus even give books to key people who have influence in the publishing world.
 
I am teaching a continuing class which picked up on a key publishing buzzword: platform: What Is A Platform and how can I get one? I'm teaching about things that I do day to day but rarely teach these details to others. Conferences provide a wonderful opportunity to give back to others through your teaching and handouts. Years ago, I learned the importance of handouts in my classes and I put extra effort into providing handouts which have high value to the reader with additional links and resources.
 
The challenge I have attending these live events is to keep up (in some ways) my life as an editor and writer. The majority of my authors have no idea I'm away from my office and on the road. I will still get the regular stream of email and phone calls. Some of those emails I can put off until my return but others will require processing them on the road. The consistent communication with authors and others never stops and is a key part of my writing and editing life. Like everything, we make time for what we need to do—even on the road.

Some Recent Other Articles
 
In these articles, I've encouraged you to guest blog for others to reach new readers.  If you follow my Twitter feed, you will see that I regularly write for other places. Here's a couple of my recent articles for Writers on the Move (Why Writers Must Follow-up and Searching for a Magic Bullet)  and the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference blog (Writer, Use the Power of Asking and Why Writers Do More Than Write). I hope you will follow the links and read these articles then apply them to your own writing life.
 
How do you handle attending a live event? Are you planning on attending some live events this year? Let me know in the comments below.

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Sunday, May 23, 2021


Platform Essentials: Time, Focus and Tools


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

At the end of this month, I will be headed to Asheville, North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference. It is my first live event in over a year with this pandemic. I'm teaching a continung workshop about a publishing buzzword—platform. My continuing class is called What's a Platform and How do I Create one? While I work at my own platform every day (in many different ways), I do not often teach others about this important publishing topic. I will be giving much more detail during my workshop—and I would encourage you to attend in person (where you get the greatest value) or virtually (still valuable in many ways).
 
I've been thinking about some of the platform essentials and in this article I want to focus on three key elements: time, focus and tools.
 
Time
 
Everyone has the same amount of time  in each day. How are you using this limited resource? Do you waste it or do you make the most of it? Your awareness of how you are using this resource is important. Are you stuck in meetings or other things which require a lot of time? Continually evaluate and make adjustments to get the most mileage from each day. As I grow older, I'm keenly aware of the value of my time and the limited nature of it. Because of this awareness and my own personal bent and curiosity, I have created an intense schedule in my life. If I'm honest, the intensity of it is something I have made and filled my day with phone calls, emails, writing projects, and much more. 
 
Focus
 
Focus is another limited commodity. Do you have a big goal in mind such as write a book or sell a book? How are you focusing your time to gain more readers or entice people to learn about your book and then buy it? There are many different paths and possibilities in this process and much of your platform size will boil down to your focus. What proactive steps are you taking each week to grow your audience and build your email list? The world is full of shiny objects to take your attention off your focus and on to their product or video or article or book or ______.  Every writer (including me) needs to keep this goal and focus in mind as you go throughout your day.
 
Tools
 
I don't want to overwhelm you in this section but I use a number of tools every day. The key is to try these tools and use the ones which are effective for you. No one can be everywhere or do everything. You will have to make wise choices in this process and keep doing these things bit by bit. As I've written in the past, that's how you eat an elephant (one bite at a time).
 
One of my continued interest is communication and using different tools to become a more effective communicator. It has always been ironic to me that editors and agents are in the commuication business yet many of these people take a lengthy time to communicate. It's one of the ways I've been different in this business is to step up my own communication ability. While I can't control the speed of communication from others, I can control my own patterns—and I use a variety of tools in this proces. I encourage you to be aware of the different tools and use them effectively. Here's a few of the tools I use (some of them many times each day): Hootsuite (my main social media tool), my email list, mock up shots (a tool for creating various images), a variety of lead magnets or generators (follow this link to learn more details), various websites, websites, pop ups (I am not a huge fan but know they work so I used them), guest blog posts, comments on other blogs and many other things.
 
Here's some other wise details to consider in this process. No one can do everything. Every day you (and I) are making choices in this process—so make wise ones which will lead to your goals for your writing life. It's not easy or simple for any of us. Also keep working on building and maintaining your relationships with others (readers, editors, agents and other publishing professionals). Who you know is often as important as what you know. I encourage you to keep knocking on new doors and seeing what will open for your life and work.
 
These details are some of the platform essentials. I will be teaching in much more detail at the conference. I'd love to hear your comments below.

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Sunday, May 16, 2021


Why Do I Write Devotionals?


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Early in my writing life, I wrote a number of devotionals.  Several decades ago, I wrote two devotional books (as a work-made-for-hire project). Each book contained sixty devotionals and each book was in the bestselling category because it sold over 60,000 copies. I wrote these books on tight deadlines and through the years I occasionally get letters or emails from readers who say they read those words over and over.
 
For many years I've written other types of writing but not devotionals. Over a year ago, I was speaking with Susan King, a long-time editor at The Upper Room.  It had been decades since I had submitted any devotionals to them. She encouraged me to send something. Each of these devotions are in a specific format. You can see their guidelines here. I wrote and submitted four different devotions and one of them was accepted—and published last week. Yes I wrote three devotions which were rejected—and it happens to everyone. The editors are looking for the right fit and select the submissions for their publication. It may take some trial and error before you find one that will work. Why do it?  The Upper Room has a worldwide circulation of six million—which is a large audience for writing a small amount of words.  I've heard the editors like devotions from the Old Testament because they mostly get ones from the New Testament and also they like devotions from men because the majority of the submissions are from women. I hope these two details help you.  Also understand The Upper Room works way ahead. I wrote and submitted these devotions about a year ago.
 
Here's the link to my devotion which was published last week. You will notice my devotion focused on an unusual verse from Isaiah and I had a current application for my own life in it. I have not been published in The Upper Room for several decades.  After my devotion was accepted and scheduled, I got an email from the editors telling me that I could also submit a blog post which had guidelines, word counts, etc. and would post the same day. I followed those guidelines and met their deadline and here's the link to my blog post. From studying published blog posts, I noticed they occasionally included a website link in the blog post—but only one link. I included a link to my personal website at the end of my post and it was published as well. We write devotions to capture on paper our spiritual connection and to encourage others to have this relationship.
 
For my writing of these devotions, one of the keys is to have the right mindset. There are several basic principles for every writer in this process:

1. You have to follow the editor's guidelines. The Upper Room has an online submission place for their devotions. It was fairly easy to use but called for you to have the specific information for each field in their form (something you can do ahead of time).
2. You have to write what the editor wants then submit it. This step is true whether you are brand new or are a much-published author.
3. You will likely have to write more than one submission to get published.
4. If you get an extra opportunity such as writing a blog post, then follow the guidelines and do what is requested.
 
There are many publications which publish devotional writing. The 2021 Christian Writers Market Guide is one of the best places to find these publications. Make sure you are not using an old edition since you want to use current information. Every magazine has desired articles and a format. Every writer needs to know this information before submission. Here's where I have a detailed article about writing for magazines.
 
I plan on writing more devotions and fit them into my writing life. This process is a good discipline for any writer to see what you can capture in a few focused words. Do you write devotions? Let me know your experiences in the comments below.

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Sunday, May 09, 2021


Deadline Jolt


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

As a writer and editor in publishing, I have many different deadlines. Some of these deadlines are self-imposed and others come outside of my control. One of the keys to professional writing is meeting these various deadlines with quality and on-target submission (what the receiver is expecting and needing).  I use the reminders portion of my cell phone to make sure I meet a number of those deadlines.
 
Last week I checked my email late one night and got a short reminder about a deadline. I'm not going to tell you the specific deadline but talk about it in general terms. It was something that I've been doing faithfully each year for at least six years. My part is one aspect of a complex system with many different pieces in the process. Normally I'm aware of this annual deadline and process the information during several hours on a weekend. This year I knew about it on some level but totally forgot getting it done. This experience was my deadline jolt.
 
My first inclination was to apologize and say I would do it in the morning since there was only a few hours until their deadline. After sending that brief apologizing email, I reconsidered, decided to go ahead and meet the deadline. I sent a second brief email saying I would turn in my paperwork in a few hours. The task is complex with lots of pieces and parts to accomplish. While intense for a couple of hours, I completed it and sent in my assigned work—and was about ten minutes after midnight when I hit the send button.
 
This sort of sheer panic is not something I face often these days in my writing life. Yet I have certainly felt this sort of pressure many times in the past. As a young journalist, I worked at a daily newspaper in the pre-computer days. Yes we used a standard old-fashion typewriter to create our stories. Our story and assignment meetings would happen early in the morning and my deadline would be 11 am for my story. Sometimes I would have to interview a number of people, gather my thoughts and crank out my story before the deadline. Then my writing would be published in the afternoon newspaper—normally around 3 pm. These experiences called for a fast turnaround and provided excellent training about the importance of completing deadlines.
 
Now it was in the evening and normally a time when I curl up with a good book and relax. Instead I faced another jolt deadline—something that was due in a few hours and I had not handled it. I made a decision to not delay until tomorrow but to dig in and do the assignment. I knew my delay would cause likely cause problems for my colleagues. In the process of meeting the deadline, I tapped into my experience of meeting deadlines in the past and pure determination to get it done.
 
If I get the opportunity to do this task next year (it's something that we recommit to doing annually), this deadline will definitely be on the reminders in my phone. If I handle it with greater deliberation and planning, I will not have another deadline jolt.
 
Like most of us, I'm only using a small portion of the tools and power in my cell phone.  Every phone comes with reminders. Are you using reminders in your writing life? I do but sometimes I have missed something and have a jolt in the process. Have you had a deadline jolt? Tell me about it and how you handled it in the comments below.

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Sunday, May 02, 2021


Anticipate Your Future Actions


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Several months ago, I wrote an article about The Practice of Anticipation.  This article contains different information than the first article and I hope this will help you in your writing life. This process is about taking action today to anticipate the future. It is almost like this photo of a mom helping her child prepare a treat—anticipating your future needs.
 
As you write and work in the publishing community, do you regularly save data, photos and even social media posts, then you will be able to use them in the future? It's something I've been doing for years and call it the practice of anticipation.  When I come across some data, I use it for my current purpose, but I take a couple of extra seconds to save the data in a place and format, I can access it and use it in the future.
 
For example, I've been tracking down some old illustrations in one of my out of print books. I'm in the process of bringing this book back to print (more on that soon). I've purchased the rights to the old book but did not get some of the illustrations in a high resolution format. Through a series of phone calls and emails I met the printer for my old book—and I added the name, address, email and phone for this printer to my address book. I have no idea if I will need this information in the future or not, but I'm preserving it in  an accessible format—just in case.  I take these sorts of actions with emails, phone numbers, addresses, and other bits of information.
 
When I write an article for The Writing Life, at the bottom of the article, I use ClickToTweet to create an easy way for others to share the content. Then I take one more step, I save my ClickToTweet in a text file with tweets. Then I can easily cut and paste this post and use it another time.
 
I also anticipate using images again. Each day I begin my social media posts with an inspirational quote and a photograph. Social media posts gain a lot more exposure if they are more than text but also include a photo. I save these photos in a file on my desktop. When I travel, I copy this file so I can access it on the road. This file also includes the various royalty-free photos I use for my different articles. I can easily access these photos to use in another social media post—because I am anticipating using them again. For my writing life, it is all about being organized enough to save critical information in a format you can easily access it again if needed.
 
Several weeks ago I recorded a podcast with James Schramko in Australia—his episode number 820. I had no idea when this podcast would air but got the notice it had launched (follow the link if you want to watch or hear it.) I have promoted the podcast but also saved the various images and a social media post to use it again in the future. It's all about practicing anticipation.
 
I also anticipate my office supplies. For example, last week I used my last ream of paper for my printer. I ordered another ream of paper. I also used my last black ink cartridge in my printer and ordered more ink. Anticipation is important so when paper or ink need to be replaced, I have already anticipated it and have what I need rather than running to the store or quickly ordering it.
 
Another way to describe this practice of anticipation is taking steps today to prepare for future actions. What actions are you taking today that will help you in the future? Let me know in the comments below.
 
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