How to Avoid the Second-Book Slump

How to Avoid the Second-Book Slump @JanalynVoigtWriting, like marriage, is an odd mixture of passion and duty. The same writers who speak of “falling in love” with a story complain about “having to” edit it. Some marriages are easier than others, and that’s also true of books. Some pearls make it to publication with few edits, but often, by the time a novel reaches readers, its writer is sick of working on it. Given these conditions, it’s not surprising to learn that the second book in a series frequently disappoints readers. Preventing this from happening to your second book requires a look at this syndrome’s causes.

Time Frame  

A debut novel usually benefits from years of labor as its author polishes it over and over in order to land a contract. But a second novel, when contracted from a synopsis and likely written in a matter of months, doesn’t go through as strenuous a process.

Solutions:

  • Simply being aware of this as a problem is half the battle. Commit to giving your second book your all, just as you did with your first.
  • Before you submit your second manuscript, make sure you put it in front of a number of “eyes.” Accept knowledgeable critiques, remarks from beta readers, and/or paid editorial advice.

Interruptions

A writer often has to set aside writing the second book in a series to work on edits and/or promotion for the first. While necessary, interruptions stifle the creative flow. Most writers find returning to a cold manuscript difficult.

Solutions:

  • Have all books in a series written before you submit them for publication. Previously, writers held off on writing a second book until the first had sold. This made sense because publication usually went through traditional publishers. These days it’s harder to win that traditional contract but easier to become published. Take this advice if you would hire an editor and independently publish your work, should it fail to land a traditional contract.
  • Learn to write your first draft quickly so that, by the time edits for the first book hit, you’re ready for them.
  • Dedicate part of your day to writing and part to editing, with a break in between. Your brain will learn to readily switch gears.

Conflicting Emotions

During edits, writers must face, accept, and overcome their own weaknesses. The angst this causes can attach itself in the writer’s mind to the series itself. To draw a parallel from marriage: While undergoing marital counseling , it can be hard to remember first love.

Solutions:

  • Go back over your notes or read earlier entries in a writing journal to remind yourself why you love this series.
  • Reconnect with your novel’s theme, which you hopefully drew from one of your passions.  Prayer and meditation can help.

Eroded Confidence

It’s common knowledge that artistic people are their own worst critics, and that’s certainly true of writers. As a result, while dealing with edits it’s easy to lose confidence and take fewer risks with the second book, which can rob it of zeal.

Solutions:

  • Re-read any endorsements or encouraging comments you received for your first novel.
  • Remind yourself that your publisher believes in you enough to work with you.
  • Give yourself permission to dream about what could happen in your story. Don’t censor your ideas, but simply write them down. And when you go back over your brainstorming session, be wise but bold.

Creative Desire  

When the passion in a marriage fizzles, it’s tempting to look elsewhere for fulfillment. In the same way, when a writer loses that loving feeling for a project, other tempting ideas can siphon creative energy and distract attention. This has an adulterating effect on the work at hand.

Solutions:

  • Rather than ignoring new ideas, write them down (briefly) and save them for later. This keeps them percolating on the back burner until you’re ready for them.
  • Stir your passion for the work at hand by dreaming about the story, exploring the nuances of its characters, and mentally writing the next scene.

If you follow these steps, you’ll soon recapture your passion for your series.

Can you suggest some other ways to revive your writing mid-series?

How to Avoid the Second-Book Slump was first published at Live Write Breathe, Janalyn Voigt’s website for writers.

The Cheater’s Guide to Building Your Author Platform – Part 3

Building Your Author Platform

To be a successful author, you need to think differently. Within your gut, an uncontainable passion burns. Your passion is to change the world.

Steve Jobs was a person who changed the world by promoting Apple products. I am typing this blog on my Mac with my I-phone 6 by my side. Watch this marketing video clip where Steve Jobs challenged a company to think differently:

Marketing is about values. In this noisy world, your message is a clarion call of what you stand for. Be clear about who you are and what you are about. Where do you fit in the world? More specifically, where do you fit in your niche?

Rejection is Your Friend

One of our main marketing mistakes is to try to be too general. We fail to touch anyone’s life because we are trying to touch everyone’s life. We “like to be liked.” We don’t want to be rejected.

There is already a beat of the drum that your soul marches to. There are other’s who feel the same way you do. They are your “tribe” and you all march to the beat of a different drum. Before you find your tribe, you will likely find rejection from people who don’t hear what you are hearing or see what you are seeing.

A friend of mine, Tracey Mitchell wrote Downside Up (page 15). She wrote this about rejection:

1. Rejection acts as a personal conductor, carefully arranging who and what qualifies for your future.

2. Rejection is a friend who witholds no secrets, exposes all enemies, and closes every wrong door.

3. Rejection is a golden opportunity to better understand God’s love, human relationships, and gifts of encouragement that lie within you.

Think differently about rejection. The closed door of rejection to your message prevents you from wasting your precious time with people who “don’t get you.” Smile at rejection as your friend.

I had a friendly conversation with a woman representing a publisher at the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB). I shared with her that my background was pastoral ministry. She then asked what my denomination was. When I said “The Foursquare Church” she quickly said, “I won’t be able to publish your future books.”

I sincerely thanked her for her honesty and then asked, “Why?” She then said, “Our constituents do not believe in women pastors and they are closed to Pentecostal Denominations.”

I was so thankful for her blunt honesty. I knew that this was not a publishing house that I would publish any of my future books with.

Fearless Marketing: Take the Risk and Get the Word Out

Fearlessly market to your tribe. Instead of spending time trying to get people that you already know to be interested in what you are doing, throw your net on the other side of the boat and find those who identify with your voice. Here are a few specific tactics to build your tribe and market your message.

Click the Picture for Instant Access to Free Ebook

1. Free Give Away Write a simple ebook and put it on the front of your website or at the end of your blog. You give it away for “free” when they type in their email address. The secret of the email address is that this person who is on your site may be a tribe member. Follow up with them with future blogs and products. Don’t worry about the perfection of your ebook. Click the picture for an example of one of my free ebooks.

2. Building Partnerships Are you spending time building relationships with others who are influencers? I had the privilege of sharing a meal with Dan Miller and his wife Joanne at a conference. As we built a relationship, Dan asked me to speak at the 48 Days Cruise that he is leading in February 2015. Michael Hyatt and his wife Gail are also speaking as well as other influencers.

Click Picture to Find out More about The Influence Cruise.

You never now where one relationship will lead you. Be intentional about networking. Invest in conferences and events where you will meet and learn from people who are impacting others. In fact, I want to invite you to sail to the Caribbean with me on The Influence Cruise. (Click the picture above to find out more information).The relationships that you build on these type of events can become joint-venture partners in the future.

3.Getting the Message Out Get outside of the box of being a traditional author who waits to be discovered. You have a message, so develop your message in such a way that you have additional products to offer your tribe. If they already love what you stand for, chances are they will appreciate other teaching and resources that you provide.

marketing building your platform

Click to view “Exploring Ephesians” Course

 

Here is an example of an online course that I have developed called “Exploring Ephesians.” As a course set up on Kajabi Next, it continues to be a source of encouragement to everyone who takes it. Sign up today to see the example of what I have done, then develop your own course. I’m sure you can do an even better job!

A Final Opportunity We are all learners. When God first spoke to my heart “to engage” in building a platform for the books He was calling me to write, I needed to take baby steps. Wherever you are on your journey as an author, let’s connect.

Let me know if I can help you in any way. Leave a comment below, or find me on social media. Let’s make Jesus famous as we share His message which will change the world.

 

 

Refusing the Writer’s Call

Refusal of the call questis a common element of great stories, fictional or historical. The hero is called to a quest, but, initially, he balks. He says, whether through word or deed, “I’m not big enough for this task.” Or maybe just, “I’ve got better things to do than sacrifice myself for that.”

From Jonah getting on a ship sailing in the opposite direction of Nineveh to Bilbo Baggins telling Gandalf that all he wants is a nice tidy hobbit house with tea served on time, heroes have been trying to escape the call since mankind has been telling stories around the fireside. And for just as long, the stories have been winning the hero over to the adventure.

Why? Few of us see ourselves as heroes. We know we’re not up to the task, whatever the task is, and we’re right. We’re not big enough, strong enough, brilliant enough or good enough for the task at hand. And yet, deep in our souls, we know God made us for more than having our tea on time.

In all good stories, the hero finally accepts the call. After trying to outrationalize his call, Dietrich Bonhoeffer takes on the role of hero as he boards what is likely the last ship home to Nazi Germany, a ship that takes him ultimately to his death.

Having been elected to archbishop because he is quiet and conservative, expecting to make no waves in an El Salvador on the brink of civil war, Oscar Romero finally accepts that he must speak out, as he stands over the bodies of two murdered priests.

Paul accepts what he must do as God calls his name in a flash of heavenly light.

Little Samuel answers God on the third call in his small child’s voice: “Speak, for your servant is listening.”  Not knowing, of course, that he was accepting a lifetime mantle as prophet.

We writers refuse our call, too. Sitting down at the computer and typing out a page is such a small thing, right? It’s tiny in comparison to the heroes that have been written about. And yet, it feels daunting.

There’s the courage it takes to face a fresh scene. Will it be beautiful or fall flat? It’s as if it’s a test of everything inside you.

And there’s the courage it takes to call yourself a writer. The voices are insistent. How many times have you told yourself that you should just concentrate on being a parent, give your talents to your church and your job, and live a peaceful, ordinary life? You don’t have time for this story? Or more likely, you’re not talented enough for the story you want to write?

But if God made you to write, you’re going to be restless until you do. You can play the role of Jonah, and get on the ship going in the opposite direction and fight it out with the big fish. Or you can accept that being brilliant and big-hearted enough for the story is not what’s at stake. If God made you for this writing quest, he’s planning on equipping you as you go. Sit down at your computer and get started.

How a Non-Writer Like Me Got Published (Part I)

I never aspired to be a writer. Truly. In fact, Mr. Johsen, my high school senior English teacher, once said to me, “Cofer, you will never graduate from college because you can’t write!”

grunge image of a fieldI also never really aspired to write a book. Seems most everyone who survives trying times hears from well-wishers the old adage, “You ought to write a book.” And many of us believe that we could… but never do.

Writing didn’t become a consideration in my life until, uh, well, God and Oprah suggested it. This happened during the height of the recession when my physician recruitment business of twenty years was struggling to pay the bills. Exasperated, I turned the computer off early one business day and shifted my attention to the Oprah show. A discussion was underway about women who had founded new businesses, many starting in a basement or garage. Mrs. Fields was among those featured, as was the creator of Spanx.

I was surprisingly inspired and then on my knees. “Lord, please show me a new way to be in the world. I’m likely too old to start a new business, and the garage is already full, but please weigh in if you have any ideas. What can I possibly do at this age to augment the business I already have?”

I was unprepared for the answer I received about ten days later. It was mid-morning on a Friday and I was alone in the house. The stillness was unnerving. I leaned on the door jam of my office and faced the darkened expanse of the room. I dreaded entering. The only thought in my head was the ever-present drone, get to work. And then it happened. I heard The Voice. It was that commanding “voice within my own” that William P. Young so beautifully describes in his book, The Shack. I’d heard it before.

“Write a book about the gifts you were given.”

Huh? God, is that you? Write a book… really?

I’d never written anything more than a decent consumer complaint letter, and yet I just heard God tell me to write a book. Like I knew how to do that.

But the nudge was unmistakable.

I knew too what He meant by “gifts.” I often thought of as gifts the lessons learned through my daughter’s addiction and recovery. Even at the moment when Annie broke into our house and literally stole the family jewels, the opportunity that event provided for intervention seemed a gift. Maybe the judicial system would stop her from killing herself with drugs.

If I was indeed to write a book, I first needed my daughter’s permission to share our story. Then in sustained recovery from drug addiction, Annie would be both antagonist and heroine in my memoir. Telling an authentic story would require vulnerability on both our parts, as well as a willingness to reveal some very private details from our lives. Were we ready for that kind of exposure?

Annie’s response was wholehearted. “Go for it, Mom!” I didn’t know at the time she was secretly musing, isn’t that precious? Mom thinks she’s going to write a book.

So the new entry on my daily To Do list became “write a book.” I mean, how hard could it be, right? I already knew the story, so I figured I could crank something out in a couple of months. Uh-huh. I really was that clueless.

My writing began one night at 10:00. I’d promised my husband not to take valuable time away from our business day in order to pursue my newest folly, plus late night hours also provided a peaceful quiet. The time was guilt free. Settled in with a cup of tea, I faced the blank Word document on the computer screen before me…and silently prayed.

Okay, God. Now what?

(Stay tuned for Part II about finding a voice, and the will to keep going.)

Was there something that happened to you that got you on the writing path?

Revising Aloud

Tihamér_Margitay_Exciting_story“Reading aloud,” I’m always telling my writing students, “is the best way to revise.”

I encourage them—sometimes require them—to find read-aloud partners or start writing groups in which they take turns reading their work aloud.

“Hearing your sentences spoken lets you know whether they’re clear and natural-sounding—whether someone actually could speak them,” I explain. “And it doesn’t work to read to an empty room. You need a warm body, a listener, to complete the communication. Speaking is, after all, a collaborative act.”

Finding that read-aloud partner is easy at college, where everyone’s engaged in writing all the time. Outside the college setting, though, finding someone willing to listen can be a challenge.800px-Anker_Sonntagnachmittag_1861 People are busy. Few have time to sit still for an hour while some verbose writer drones on. That’s how they’ll imagine it when you propose reading to them. We Americans have lost—or never had—the habit of listening to people read. We had only the shallowest tradition of serial novels, released chapter by chapter as Dickens’ novels were and read to the whole family at fireside. And no comfy pubs—without blaring TVs—like the one where C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and their writer buddies hung out, drank beer, and read their work to one another. Writers who give public readings these days will tell you it’s hard to get even close friends to attend. Our lives are too busy for read-alouds.

I often recommend to writer friends that they make use of the lonely people in their lives: shut-in relatives, kid-imprisoned friends who wish they had a grownup to talk to, recently retired colleagues with time on their hands. 1280px-Anker-_Die_Andacht_des_Grossvaters_1893It sounds terrible, this “making use” of others, taking advantage of their neediness to assuage your own, but in my experience such mutual exchanges not only helped my writing but also transformed intended acts of mercy—“I should spend more time with my mother-in-law,” I was always telling myself—into pleasurable time together, which we both looked forward to. My mother-in-law not only got longed-for company but also felt needed; I got my warm body but also genuine enjoyment, without having to chide myselfHugo_Bürkner_Lesestunde (usually in vain) to, as Paul recommends, “give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9.7 NRSV). The mutual benefit, I found, guaranteed that cheerfulness, for both of us—because attentive listening and being listened to can’t help but nurture relationships.

My daughter Lulu has been on semester break from college for the past month, with a couple more weeks to go. It’s tricky having a grown daughter home that long. We’ve long since put our Christmas CDs away, but I’m still in the throes of Bing Crosby’s parental prophecy for the season: “And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again!”

Luckily, Lulu’s engrossed in the final revision stages of her senior project—a hundred-Amédée_Guérard_Bibelstundepage translation of and critical introduction to an East German book—and I’m busy trying to cut 30,000 words from a novel before sending it out, so we have tasks to distract us from the inevitable mother-daughter combat. Also, since we’re in about the same place in our revisions—where what we need most is to hear them aloud and find out if they work—we’ve established a read-aloud schedule: I read her a couple short chapters during her late breakfast, and she reads me one long chapter while I trim vegetables for dinner.

I can’t say it’s the perfect exchange my mother-in-law and I had. Lulu doesn’t end my readings, as my mother-in-law always did, with “That’s the best thing you’ve ever written!” And, as a writer and teacher of writing, I give more critical feedback than Lulu really wants. But our reading fills two hours of our day with mostly pleasurable, mutually beneficial work. More importantly, the listening involved gives us both practice, at this complex juncture of our parental-filial journey, in navigating our new relationship as related but separate adults. As peers, in other words. Equals. Reciprocally heard, appreciated, and loved.

The Cheater’s Guide to Building Your Author Platform – Part 1

With a glazed look on my face, I obediently handed my phone over to “the expert” sitting beside me. As she looked up my twitter account which had an oval egg shape for my picture, I couldn’t help feeling intimidated by the task of building an author platform.

I had spent my entire life serving in pastoral ministry. When social media first came on the scene, I was suspect of the enemy’s evil intent to use the media to entrap our children.

Now here I was, listening to Michael Hyatt talk about the power and necessity of every author building a platform to launch their book. Much of what he was saying went over myplatform head. Yet as I listened for the still small voice of the Holy Spirit to guide me, I simply heard this word: engage.

As I engaged in the social media platform beginning that day two years ago, I grew from 4 twitter followers to over 21,000. I joined the social conversation and found a whole new world of influence.

Since my first book, 9 Traits of a Life-Giving Mom, hit #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases for Christian Women’s Issues, I regularly have authors seeking my advice on how to build their own platforms.

Let’s Begin at the Beginning

Watch Michael Hyatt’s simple video on Platform Building.

1. Start with a Blog

Begin to build a following. Give people an opportunity to get to know your heart. Use your blog as a spring board to all of your other social media engagement.

If you are an author of a number of books, you are probably your brand. You may write on a number of blogs. A foundational part of your strategy is your own blog where you can share your passion and build a loyal following. I chose to use my own name for my primary blog at SueDetweiler.com.

2. Develop a Social Media Strategy

You are unique. Social media needs to work for you. As you begin to see the power of social media, use these principles as a guide: 12-28-14 Social Media

  • Use Time Management Tools
  • Link Social Media Posts
  • Strategically Post Throughout the Day

The key to social media is to see it as an ongoing conversation with a friend. You are sharing about all the things that you care about. People who read your tweets will know what you enjoy. Don’t be afraid to share your personal story and pictures. Provide your tribe with ongoing helpful resources.

3. Be Real

Don’t try to appear to be anyone else than who you truly are. You don’t have to be perfect. In fact, one of the ways that people will be drawn to you is when they sense you are transparent. Don’t try to be Barbie or Ken; just be who God made you to be. Let your quirks come through in your social media platform.

Don’t be tripped up by your own perfectionism and fail to launch into a new thing. Allow yourself the freedom to try something new. Stoke the fires of your own adventurous spirit.

4. Use Video

Video can be really simple. The technology on your smart phone will allow you to do video in minutes. As an author, you can use the power of video to sell your book. Here’s a simple book trailer that was created for me on Fiverr.com. Video doesn’t have to cost you a fortune to be effective in telling your story.

I also used simple video introductions of each chapter of my book as an additionalbuilding your author platform resource. At the end of each chapter a simple code invites the readers to watch the video or download a printable of written prayers that enhance each chapter.

5. A Gateway to Traditional Media

As you build your platform as an author, others will become excited about your message and help get the word out about your book. Build relationships with other authors, radio hosts, and television hosts. Two events that I think are helpful to connect authors to traditional media are National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) and The International Christian Retail Show (ICRS). There may be other events that your publisher encourages you to attend to build relationships with the media.

Next Week

We are just scratching the surface of things that you can do to build your platform as an author. Join me here at The WordServeWaterCooler for part 2 of The Cheater’s Guide to Building Your Author Platform.

Also connect with me on social media! Let’s start a conversation. Let me know if there is any way I can help you get your message out.

Mastering the Essential Query Letter for Writers

Outlier's The Story of SuccessI finally read the book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. As I devoured the first few chapters, I thought about my quest as a professional writer. And my impatience in the early days. I wrote about it on my personal blog back in 2009.

But reading Gladwell’s research, I realized that even in 2009, I was well on my way to achieving my goals. I simply needed to take every necessary step.

According to studies cited in Outliers, it takes an average of 10,000 hours to master anything. I figure it took approximately five years of incessant practice, posts, and projects for me to near the 10,000 hour mark. Although I haven’t mastered the art, I’m certainly much better than I was six years ago.

And one of the most critical areas of improvement comes in my creation of query letters. Let’s face it, if you can’t write a strong query, you won’t arrest the attention of any agent, editor, or publisher. Early on, I spent a lot of time studying and honing the elements of this crucial piece.

1. Research

Writer's Digest Query Letter

Image Credit with Permission Writer’s Digest
http://www.writersdigestshop.com

  • Who specifically should you address your inquiry to? Name. Title.
  • Where should you send your query? Do they accept email only? Content as an attachment, or in the body of your email? Are they snail mail lovers? Do you have the correct address?
  • What are they looking for? Does your topic or slant match their needs? Have you formatted your submission according to their guidelines?
  • When are they accepting submissions, and do they have themes tied to calendars?
  • Why did you chose them? Did you read something that made you think you would connect? Are you familiar with their needs and believe your work can support them in their mission? If possible, find a common bond or at least prove you’ve studied what’s important to them.
  • How do they want queries packaged? Some prefer a simple one page letter, clearly stating your concept as it fits within their guidelines. If interested, they’ll ask for a proposal or manuscript later. Others request a proposal or manuscript at the same time you send the letter. Make sure you know what the person you are querying prefers.

2. Hook

No matter how well you’ve written your article or book content, without something to snatch the reader out of their doldrums on the average of the first seven seconds, your work will go no further. Ask that stirring question to make them think. Make a bold statement that flies in the face of an old cliché. Provide a heart-wrenching statistic, forcing them out of the skin of self. Make their belly shake with laughter.

3.  Double Check

Writer's DigestOnce you’ve written what you believe is a strong query letter, I suggest you run it through the Writer’s Digest Do’s and Don’ts of Writing a Query Letter. This brief but powerful list will show you how to write a query letter in the most effective way possible. Also have someone who knows something about professional writing read it.

A family member, or even a high school English teacher, are not going to provide the insights you need when it comes to publishing in the real world. As long as it’s a short, one-time read, many professional writers are willing to do this for someone else who’s starting out. We remember those days. Just respect their time, and if one writer can’t help, try someone else.

10,000 hours sounds like forever when you are starting out as a writer. But with patient and consistent practice, this important landmark will arrive faster than you think. Start small. Master the query letter first. Then one day, you’ll have the honor of mentoring someone else.

How many hours would you estimate you’ve invested in writing so far?