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Sunday, June 26, 2022


The Jigsaw Puzzle of a Writing Life


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

For each of us, the writing life is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. You try different pieces to see which ones will fit. You have to experiment to find the right combination for you and your writing. One of the online groups where I participate was talking about critique groups this week. Just like your writing, you have to experiment with critique groups to find the right fit for you—the right people with similar worldviews, the right mixture of people and whether it is in person or online or a little of both. Nothing is clear cut and nothing works for every writer. Instead like putting together a puzzle, you have to experiment and try different things to see which ones will work for you.
 
I suspect your schedule for the day is similar to my schedule—mostly blank unless I'm at a conference or event where my schedule is generally filled with meetings and activity. As an editor, I email people and schedule phone meetings. I also make phone calls to follow-up with authors and others but the bulk of my schedule is blank. My day is filled with a variety of activities.
 
This past week I had returned from a writer's conference where I met with many writers about their books. I spent a great deal of time, putting their information into my computer (to make it easy to access) then writing them emails and asking to submit their manuscript. While I encouraged them to send it when we were face to face and I gave them my business card, the email reinforces that I actually want them to send me their material. From doing this work for several years, I understand not every submission will be a good fit for Morgan James. There are many reasons this fit isn't the right one—but I know for certain they can't get into the consideration process if they don't submit their material.  I have had some good exchanges from these emails and expect more material will arrive in the days ahead from my follow-up work.
 
Also I had a zoom call with a journalist in the United Kingdom asking questions about my writing life. This interview was recorded then posted this week on a private group. Sometimes I will pitch a particular podcast or radio station to get this interview. Other times they will approach me and we will schedule the session. The majorty of the time I pitch myself to get these types of opportunities. When they happen, I ask for the recording then save this recording on my own website. Then I can promote the interview over and over on my social media and know the interview is not going to disappear.
 
I have several regular guest blogging assignments. I schedule reminders on my phone to help me to meet the deadlines for each one, which has a slightly different audience and focus. In this process, I will often recycle or slightly rewrite an older article so it can be done in a shorter amount of time than creating it from scratch. 

While each of my days are filled with different activities, there is a balance between immediate deadlines and long-term deadlines. I continue to write books for other people as well as promote my own work. As I've mentioned in these entries, there is always more work to be done. A particualr project will be completed but there are other tasks that need to be done.
 
I use tools like Hootsuite to schedule my social media posts and respond to those posts. Your consistent effort is an important part of the process. Throughout today I will be emailing and calling people as well as writing on different projects. These actions are all part of the jigsaw puzzle of my writing life. What steps are you taking? Let me know in the comments below.
 

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Sunday, June 19, 2022


Something Every Writer Can Do


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

I've always loved a good story—whether in the newspaper or a magazine or in a book. While I read some fiction, I've always been drawn to real stories. It's one of the reasons the majority of my own writing has been nonfiction. Whether you write them or not, many of us have interesting personal experiences. It could be in your family or a travel experience or any number of other things that you experience personally. It should not surprise you that one of the most common and popular type of magazine article is the personal experience article. If you look in the Christian Writer's Market Guide, a wide range of periodicals are actively looking for personal experience stories.

 
When you write these stories, they have to fit the magazine guidelines for length but they also have to contain the elements of any good story such as a grabber headline, an interesting opening, a solid middle and a conclusion which includes a takeaway point for the reader. Through the years, I've written a number of these types of magazine articles.
 
When I attend a writer's conference, I find many writers are focused on their book project whether a novel or nonfiction. Many of them have never considered the value of writing for magazines. In general you will reach more readers with your magazine article than you will reach with your book. It's relatively easy with a magazine article to reach 100,000 readers and if your book is going to sell 100,000 copies then that will be rare. Also magazine articles are a solid way to promote your book. This promotion happens in your bio at the end of the magaine article and is often limited to the name of your book and pointing to a website. I encourage writers to begin in the magazine area for the simple reason it is easier to learn the craft of writing working with a 1500 word article than a 50,000 or 100,000 word book manuscript.
 
When you write for magazines, you will need to read their guidelines and get familiar with the publication (even if you read their online articles). If the publication asks for a query, then learn to write a query and send the query letter. If the publication prefers complete articles, then write the full article on speculation and send it to the editor. I've written many articles on speculation which means uncertainty it will be published. I've also written numerous articles on assignment from the magazine. It's an important skill for writers to learn to write for magazines and some of those articles can be personal experience stories.
 
Here's something I do not see written about magazine writing: it's a choice which experiences and stories you decide to tell. I don't write about every personal experience. Some of them are too painful to relive and write about. To write a personal experience story, you have to relive the experience to capture those words and feelings. Some experiences are better left alone and that's a perfectly fine choice.
 
Do you write personal experience articles for magazines? Let me know your tips and insights in the comments below.
 
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Sunday, June 12, 2022


How to Prepare for a Conference


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Some of my most significant relationships in the publishing world started at a writer's conference. These events can be a huge boost to your writing life. As a writer, you can pitch your book ideas to editors and literary agents during these conferences. Also you can gain insights from their workshops, sit with them at meals and learn from them. Each event is different but many of them have keynote speakers who give inspirational messages. Often they have panels where the audience can ask questions and you can gain additional information. I've been attending and speaking at these types of events for years. With the pandemic many of these events turned virtual but as I've written about recently, live events have returned.
 
This coming week I travel to Chicago and the campus of Wheaton College for Write to Publish. I've met a number of writers at these events and Morgan James Publishing has published their books. It's also an opportunity for the various faculty members to reconnect and catch up with each other during the event. If you want the best results from attending such an event, then you need to prepare for them. In this article, I want to give you some ideas about what steps I take for preparation to help your writing life.
 
Several weeks ago, I noticed I was low on print copies of my latest book, Book Proposals That Sell. I ordered more some more copies which arrived before I'm leaving for the conference. The supply chain issues have affected the amount of time for books to print and reach you. I take books to sell at these events and it is an important part of the preparation process.
 
At every conference, it is important to have business cards to exchange with attendees and faculty. Earlier this spring, I created a new business card and got them printed. I will pack a qualtity of these cards and other print material to bring to the conference. Countless times during the years, I've met a new faculty member and exchanged cards. The other person will often dig through their wallet or purse and tell me they have forgotten business cards and give me one of the few they happened to have. No matter what your role at the conference, I encourage you to bring plenty of cards to exchange.
 
At Write to Publish, I'm teaching three workshops. While I've taught these workshops in other places, each time I review my handout to make sure all of the websites and extra material are up to date and working properly. I'm teaching on five ways to build a platform, social media and also understanding an negotiating contracts. These workshops are recorded and I always attempt to build great value into my handouts through links to extra material.
 
The conference has arranged pick me up at the airport and transportation to Wheaton College. I've been given the name of my driver and their cell number (which I put into my phone). It's all a part of the preparation for the conference. You may have to make travel arrangements or other important aspects to make sure you arrive and leave at the right time.
 
Another key in your conference preparation is to review the various faculty and their workshops. There are a number of other possibilities for attendees during each of my workshops. If you have reviewed these options ahead of time and made your selection, then you will be prepared for the conference. Also this review helps you know what the different editors and agents are looking for and who to pitch and what to pitch them during the event.
 
I'm looking forward to this event and the unplanned yet special conversations which happen during each of these conferences. I hope this article has given you some ideas and action steps to take as you prepare to attend a conference. What additional steps do you take or what feedback can you give me about this article? What steps are you taking? Let me know in the comments below.
 

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Sunday, June 05, 2022


The Writer's Relief


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

There is a feeling of relief for writers. It is hitting the send button and sending off a newly written article or a chapter or any number of other things that we have to send as writers. The bulk of these types of communications are done electronically these days. 

In recent days, I have sent a number of completed writing projects to editors or co-authors. To complete your deadline in a timely fashion is an important aspect of being a professional writer. In this article, I want to give you several steps that I take in this process in hopes it will give you some ideas for your writing life.
 
1. Keep track of your deadlines. It's easy to miss a deadline if you don't keep track of it. I use the reminder portion of my phone. I set a reminder and it allows me to hit these various deadline. For example, last week, my handouts for Write to Publish were due. Each time I teach at a conference I rework my handouts to make sure the various resources still work and everything is up to date. Hope to see some of you at this terrific conference on the campus of Wheaton College.
 
2. If you are going to be late (which does happen) then I encourage you to communicate as soon as you know this information. As I've written in other entries, publishing is a team effort and in general, your lateness will affect other people. Clear and transparent communication is a critical part of the process. It's an important part of the process.
 
3. Plan for interruptions and delays. From working in publishing for decades, I understand interruptions and delays are a normal part of the process.  You will still be able to meet your deadline if you understand this situation and plan it into your writing schedule.
 
4. Continue to move forward despite any setbacks. Rejection is a part of publishing. You are looking for a place that will be a fit for you and your writing. As an editor, authors will decide not to sign the contract that I've offered them. Other times my colleagues at Morgan James will decide to pass on the book and not offer a contract.  I've had projects cancel or go on hold or any number of other things happen in this writing life.  When these situations happen, I see the choices as simple. You can quit and do something else outside of publishing. I've watched many people make this choice over the years. Or you can continue writing, continue knocking on doors and looking for those opportunities. I have chosen to follow the second path which is often less traveled. I hope you will be on it as well.
 
In these days with electronic communication, before I hit the send button, I often will hold something in my “draft” folder or take one more look at it before I send it. Are there typos? Is there something which can be changed and said with greater clarity? I confess my communication is not perfect and there are times where I send it too quickly. It is key to keep sending it—even if imperfect.
 
The writer's relief is when you meet a deadline—whether for a publication, a book project or even sending your handouts for a writers' conference. It is a terrific feeling to meet another deadline and send another piece of writing into the market.
 
How are you on meeting deadlines? Have you had that feeling of the writer's relief wash over you after you have sent a submission? Let me know in the comments below. 
 

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Sunday, May 29, 2022


The Value of A Routine


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Consistency is one of the most important characteristics of a productive writer—at least from my decades of working in publishing. For example, I've been writing an original blog post every week for years. I write it and post it at the same time so people expect it—and read it. Not that I get a lot of feedback about them and often I hear nothing (crickets) yet I continue writing them. It is one of my consistent routines.
 
Another one of my consistent routines involves my posting on social media. I post 12–15 times every day and have been following this pattern for years. As I've mentioned in these posts I use Hootsuite. Because I use this scheduling tool, my posts appear whether I am in my office or traveling and away from my computer.  Some days I don't get a lot of engagement with these posts but I know people are reading them.
 
I encourage you to create your routines carefully and if you do, it will have tremendous value to your writing life. In this article, I want to use the details of my social media posts to give you ideas about when you create your writing habit or routine.
 
Each day, I've created a pattern for my posts. The bulk of my posts are from other people yet they are focused on helping you improve your skills as a writer (in the broadest sense of the word). At the beginning and end of each day I post something personal. The bulk of my posts from others go into specific spots in my grid for the day. It may appear random but I've pre-determined the spot for the majority of these posts. Because I've developed a routine or habit and considered these details, I don't use any decision time about where the posts go and instead simply put them into place. As an example, each day I begin with an inspirational quotation. Every one of my social media posts also includes an image becasue they have proven an image will draw the eye to the words. Admittedly it takes a bit of effort to find an image for each post but this effort pays off in increased readership.
 
My social media routine brings consistency. If you read my social media stream on a regular basis you cfan get educated about the world of publishing and grow in your writing career. From my decades in publishing I've learned there is always more to learn. I wrote this post to encourage you to create your own routines.
 
What routines have you created for your writing life and are you aware of the value? Let me know in the comments below.
 

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Sunday, May 22, 2022


You Can Always Find A Way


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

 As writers we love to make excuses and procrastinate. It’s one of the reasons that writers are notoriously late on their book deadlines. As an editor, I’ve heard every possible excuse when writers call or email me to extend their manuscript deadline or their deadline for a magazine article during my magazine editor days.

Every writer needs persistence and perseverance. In this article, I’m going to tell some personal stories for your encouragement. If you want to get published, you need to use your creativity to find your way forward through the task ahead of you. There is always a way even if it is not your first choice.
 
Last week I logged on my PayPal account and it was zero and a shock because it was supposed to have much more in it. I had a dozen transactions that I did not make. I reported these transactions and some of these funds are being restored. A day later I watched on my phone as another charge (which I did not make) came into my email, then several more emails which were suddenly deleted and my trash was emptied (to cover their tracks). All of my devices including my desktop, laptop and phone were hacked or controlled by an outside force. I took action and changed some critical passwords then I took my computers to be fixed.

I’m without my computers for a couple of days in this process but still using my phone (which has been made secure). I’m writing these words on my AlphaSmart 3000 which is not hooked to the internet and can hold up to 150 pages of text. 

While I have no computer, I’m still writing pages today and moving forward on several different writing projects. I have found a way to overcome the situation. If I can find that way in this situation, then I know that you can also find a way forward with your writing. Like many things in life, these steps are conscious choices.

I’m also currently facing a family situation where a family member is recovering from surgery and a short stay in the hospital. Yes, this fact consumes some of my day but I’m continuing to find a way to work and move forward. It’s part of my “no excuse” mentality and determination to keep moving forward—even if some days I’m only making small amounts of progress.

Planning Is Critical.

Before I turned in my computers for repair, I set up the majority of my social media posts for the week using Hootsuite. I’ve also made several other communication steps to move forward on projects and plan ahead. This type of effort keeps my various projects in motion. Without my computer, there are certainly some things which are not happening, but these can be done later or are not significant and don’t matter in the long run. Each of us can only do what we can do but you have to be persistent and keep moving forward.

I’ll be doing some new functions on my phone today because it is the only way I can do these tasks. In other cases, I’m sending email to explain the delays and I continue communicating even in the middle of these situations. I encourage you to keep clear communication because again these actions are some of the keys to keep your work and projects moving forward.

Our lives as writers are filled with challenges which maybe work related or personal. How do you handle these situations in your own life? Let me know in the comments below.
 
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Other articles I've Recently published:

Writers on the Move: What Drives your publishing? 



The Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers conference blog:  Adding Consistent Action To Your Writing 


The Pro-Active Author on The Wordsmith Journal: The Unexpected Value of Free

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Sunday, May 15, 2022


What To Do With a New Book Review


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Last week I got an email from our author support team at Morgan James Publishing. I'm intentionally starting the story here because from my years in publishing, it is important to select and work with a team who helps you in unexpected ways. The email told me about a new review for Book Proposals That Sell (the Revised Edition).  As an acquisitions editor, I watch many authors choose not to have a team but there are unexpected benefits from working with a team.
 
The author support email told me about a new review from a trade magazine. The team sends out review copies so I have no idea how the publication got my book for review. Typically publications receive many more books to review than they can possibly assign and publish. Many authors would like for their book to appear in a local newspaper yet that newspaper may only publish six or seven reviews a week—like what happens in my local Denver Post. These few published reviews come from hundreds of books which they receive.  Anytime you get a printed review it is rare.
 
In this article, I want to tell you about what I did next. You can use this information for any review for your book such as an online review which are public information just like my print review. I could have celebrated it and put it into a file. Instead I took additional actions and encourage you to do the same. It often takes author work to get reviews. The main way to get reviews is to ask people to review your book. I have a free teleseminar about getting reviews (just follow the link for this teaching).
 
When I received the review from the Morgan James author support team, the email had the text of the review in the email but they also sent the print review which included the entire publication. I could have cheered to myself and then filed the review and forgotten about it. But I didn't. Instead I loaded a program that I have called Corel PDF Fusion. Google the name to purchase it or you may use another tool. This program allowed me to load the PDF, then separate out the single page with my review.
 
After isolating the single page of my review, I carefully read the review several times and isolated a couple of glowing sentences from the review. Because I had isolated a single page for the review, I uploaded this page to my website (so it will always be there and not disappear).
 
For my next step, I loaded a program called Author Lab. Follow the link to learn more and gain lifetime access for only $80.  For my work in publishing, I use this program almost daily. It has royalty free stock photos for example that I use on my blog. 

One of the tools in this program is called Testimonial Builder. I read the review several times and look for a glowing statement or two. Then I opened Testimonial Builder. In a few mouse clicks, you can select a background and image (I selected a woman since it was a woman who reviewed my book). Then this tool allows you to add a sentence and her name, then save the image. I am not a designer but in a matter of minutes I created a professional image with a sentence from the review.
 
For my final step in the process, I created several social media posts (check here and here), then scheduled them on Hootsuite for release. Notice my social media post includes a link to the full review where I got the sentence for the image. I will be using these posts on a regular basis in the days ahead.

 
Every day potential customers are reading reviews and making buying decisions about your book. A key part of my personal philosophy is every author has to take 100% responsibility for their own success. I encourage you to take similar actions with your reviews to get them into the market.
 
What actions do you take with a new review? Let me know in the comments below.
 
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