Making Connections

Publishing is a funny beast. The author wears many hats – writer, editor, marketer, publicist, sometimes frazzled human being (all right, maybe it’s most of the time). There are moments when the load seems overwhelming and I feel incapable of wearing every hat with excellence.

Kariss' teamMarketing tends to be my weakest link. I’m passionate about my books, love to talk about them, enjoy sharing the story of God’s faithfulness. But when it comes to selling the idea of why others should read them, I prefer to let people determine the quality on their own.

I know. I know. I’m still learning how to do this well. But the key is that I’m learning. Guest posts, social media, contests, etc. are all great tools that I am adding to my belt, but the most powerful tool in my arsenal is my network. These people fall into multiple categories, and every group is important

  1. Close friends and family.
    You’ve got to love this group. They are your biggest fans and cheerleaders. Occasionally they may be more biased than constructive with their feedback, but enjoy the affirmation. They’ve watched the journey, battled the insecurities and joy with you, and want to celebrate the finished product.
  2. Fringe friends and acquaintances.
    These are the people familiar enough with you to ask about the book every time they see you. They are also the ones who bought the book out of curiosity and support and are excited to watch the journey from a distance. If they love the story, you better believe they will share with their friends and family.
  3. Unknown readers.
    These are the people whose constructive opinion you can count on most. If they love the book, then job well done. They hail from all over the country, sometimes out of the country, and their word of mouth is powerful. They don’t know you, but love the heart in your books and will shout it from the mountaintops and anxiously wait for the next book. I love networking with this group. Their excitement fuels my own.
  4. Critics and commentators.
    These are your influencers, bloggers, Amazon comment critics, etc. I don’t necessarily advocate taking their opinions as gospel. But often, they have a powerful voice in their particular online spheres. Learn what they love and what they don’t, filter it to see if there is truth, and build on these admonitions in your next book.
  5. The unreached.
    The good news is that with all these other groups on board, the unreached are now reachable. Diligently work to add this group to the fold. Build relationships with your readers. Write stories that people can’t ignore. And don’t grow discouraged. This is a journey, not a short-distance sprint. Growth happens over time, and it’s exciting to see.

Shadowed_AUG 1 (1)But there is one connection that is the most important. Talking to the Master Storyteller. He knows your story intimately, and He alone can weave your network into something beautiful.

Prayer is powerful. In moments of frustrated marketing, I’ve prayed that the Lord will get Shaken and Shadowed into the hands of people who need to read them, despite my best efforts.

And He has.

Some of my favorite interactions from readers come from those who never heard about the book but wandered into a bookstore, loved the story, laughed, cried, and found hope in Christ. Every time I read one of these messages, I praise the Master Marketer. In spite of my best efforts, He is still placing these books in strategic places.

More than spinning a great story and growing my craft, I want to make an impact. And that only comes through surrendering my ideas in marketing to the One who knows best. I figure with Him at the wheel, I’ll do what I can and let Him do the rest.

The Power of Story

It was pitch black as my car slowly followed Micah’s along the winding mountain roads, our tires kicking up dust in our wake. My adrenaline sizzled, preparing both my mind and body for the next hours of our night hike up Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs.

My friend Brad sat next to me in the passenger seat, keeping my mind occupied on our conversation. I shared with him about my last year – graduation, what the Lord had been teaching me at Focus on the Family that summer. As he thanked me for sharing, a response spilled from my mouth without my permission.

“It’s not my story to withhold. God’s writing it. I’m just living it.”

My mind froze as I replayed that comment over and over in my head, realizing both the truth and the responsibility that came with it. Have you ever had one of those thoughts? You know it didn’t come from you because there is no way that you are that brilliant. And it both hits you and spills out of your mouth in the same breath with the unmistakable ring of truth to it. I knew it was a Holy Spirit inspired response. Divinely inspired light bulbs are great, aren’t they?

Kariss mountains

In the few years since that night hike that changed so many things for me, I have come to understand and value the power of story. The more I read and watch, I realize that there are only two stories that matter in life and everything else is a cheap imitation.

1) The story of Jesus Christ

2) Your story

That’s right! Your story is the second most important story in history. Why?

There was a man in the Bible named Nicodemus. For those of you reading this who do not claim to be Christians, you are in good company. Nicodemus wasn’t either, at least he wasn’t at the time he talked with Jesus. He was curious and confused. He came to talk with Jesus in the middle of the night. In John 3:11, Jesus tells him, “I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen…”

Never mistake that Jesus has the most powerful and influential story in history. But because He made you and gave you life, your story is the second most influential to people in your sphere of influence. Most people do not appreciate a know-it-all. However, your story automatically has credibility because you are standing before them and telling it, physically present and accessible to them. You lived it and they can relate to it, or at least ask questions.

Story is a powerful thing. We live in a culture where we want to hear what the next Hollywood star is up to or which politician created a national scandal. People want to know stories. No matter how nondescript you feel yours may be, you have the ability to influence people mightily for Jesus through a willingness to share what God has brought you through.

My mom has always told me, “Never forget from whence you came.” You don’t have to have a successful career or a story worthy of Lifetime. You simply have to be willing and open to share.

Let your writing imitate life in the best ways. In fiction, no one has to know where some of the intimate details come from, but I have learned that what some of my readers love the most came from experiences I had or watched.

What the Lord laid on my heart to share with Brad is very true. My story isn’t mine to withhold. Listen for His gentle whispers. He will give you the words to say when the time comes, and He will use your story, in writing and in life. The pressure is off of you! So share. You have a powerful story because it was and is being written by a mighty God!

How have you seen God use your story to impact others?

Working with an Editor

Kariss manuscriptsThey say that all good things must come to an end. Sadly, the same holds true in writing. As you turn your manuscript in to the publisher, you abdicate your position as ruler of your own fictional kingdom in favor of an advisor who tells you all the wonderful things you did wrong and how you can fix them. (For example, my editor would have asked me who “they” is in that opening line.)

But this “bad” thing doesn’t actually have to be bad. In fact, think of it as iron sharpening iron. Who knows your story and characters better than you? And who better to help you improve than an unbiased person who likes to read and knows a whole lot about writing and how to craft a story?

I am by no means an expert, but as I edit my second book, I realize how much I learned while editing Shaken. As you prepare your book for the editing process, here are some ways to prepare yourself, as well.

1. Check your pride at the door.

First of all, realize your editor is there to HELP you, not hurt you. Don’t take it personally. I thought I understood that, but I didn’t really grasp it until I received my first round of notes. Then my pride took a nose dive and shattered in a very ugly pile around my feet. This process is meant to refine both you and your story. I tend to write in a steady stream of consciousness, wrapped up in my story world. It takes someone looking at it from the outside to show me where the issues are and help me to change them.

2. Kill your darlings.

In Texas, we call this “killin’ your darlin’.” Your editor believes in your story, too, or they wouldn’t spend countless hours helping you. They want to make it better, but sometimes that means cutting important characters or scenes you love. This is the part I hated in the editing process.

It is challenging to dig into your story, delete scenes, and create new ones where you originally imagined something different. There were times my editor suggested a line of copy or dialogue that made me cringe, not because she wasn’t right, but because it wasn’t in the exact voice my character would have said it. Here’s where camaraderie came into effect. She could see the holes. I could keep the story true. We made a great team. Killing my darlings made my story stronger.

3. Fight for your story.

This may seem to contradict the previous point, but trust me, it doesn’t. Like I’ve said before, NO ONE knows your story or characters better than you. Here’s where discernment comes into play. At the beginning of the editing process, my editor asked me to cut several characters. No matter how much I played with this request, something didn’t sit right. So I fought for these characters, explained the role they would play in future books, and stood my ground. I knew keeping them would benefit the story. Once I explained their importance (and not just my emotional attachment), my editor listened and immediately replied with ways I could make these characters even stronger than what I had in mind.

It turns out that the characters I fought to keep have been some of the favorites for readers. If you know in your gut something needs to stay, fight for it. Just make sure to check your emotional attachment at the door and identify exactly why this piece adds to the story.

So, take what I’ve learned. Add your own insight. And I’ll add to the list after I finish this round of edits. I never want to be a bratty author who says I know best. I do want to collaborate. Yes, I know my story, but I need people who will help me make it better. I’m pretty excited about the possibilities. Bring on the next challenge.

What lessons have you learned while working with your editor?

Travel to Write, Write to Travel

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” St. Augustine

I’m an Irish girl, both by heart and by blood. As a teenager, I remember dreaming of visiting Ireland and Scotland and seeing the hallowed halls of my ancestors’ castles. The idea is more romanticized than real – the Lynch castle in Ireland is now a bank and the Chisholm castle in Scotland is a renovated weekend getaway.

Kariss - IrelandAs a kid, I loved studying the old folk tales, imaginative stories of the tricks and heroism of the wee folk. I grew up on a steady dose of faith and fairy tales. One nursed my convictions, the other my creativity. Three years ago, my dream came true. I spent three weeks on the British Isles. I didn’t see any of the wee folk, though I walked through the fairy gardens at Blarney Castle.

But this rainy tour wasn’t the beginning of my adventures. The travel bug bit me in middle school, and since then I’ve tried to visit new states and new countries, fascinated by the culture. Nothing stimulates my creative side more than exploring new sights, scents, and scenery.

Over the years, I’ve learned this serves me in my writing. All the sensory details, the tiny quirks, the cultural differences influence my settings and characters. I’m learning to identify different textures, not just what they look like but how they feel. I identify different scents with different people and memories. Color takes on vibrancy all its own, enhancing character features, scenery, and what the character experiences.

My travel stimulation reached new heights when I visited Haiti a couple of years ago. I had written and finished my first book, Shaken, which is partially set in Haiti around the time of the earthquake. I researched, talked to those who experienced the earthquake and those who visited before and after, and watched documentaries and the news. But when I finally had the chance to experience this tiny island for myself, I walked away changed with a perspective that enhanced the editing of Shaken.

Kariss - HaitiI remember the stifling humidity and heat as I stepped off the plane. Haitian men stood waiting in the small hangar where they tried to take our luggage off the conveyor belt and then quickly exit to the street as we chased them, hoping we would pay them to get our luggage back. While corralling our luggage was a challenge, I silently cheered their ingenuity and resourcefulness in a poverty-ridden city.

I caught my first glimpse of Port-au-Prince as I hopped in the back of a pick-up and gripped the seat as we played chicken on a two-lane highway, winding past people walking less than two feet from the side of the road. An old man bathed in plain view. Women balanced enormous baskets or jugs on their heads as their daughters trailed behind them with smaller cargo. The air reeked of garbage and burning plastic. Plastic bags that used to hold water littered the street.

Kids ran past in oversized American hand-me-down clothes or no clothes at all. Buses called tap-taps, that looked like a skittle pack blew up, wove in and out of traffic, people hanging onto the back of the cab. The people are down-to-earth and friendly. Those that work, work hard, and the kids are curious and intelligent.

ShakenWhile travel shows me the differences in this wide world, it also shows me the similarities. I noticed that the cement block homes on this tiny island resembled the colored homes in Ireland. I learned that cultures are not as different as we think, that people are people, no matter where you go. I learned to look at the human condition, the driving motivations behind actions, the heart, the hurt, the dreams.

Travel shapes my writing. Haiti certainly shaped Shaken, and adventures I had years ago in Ukraine shaped a few scenes in Shadowed, book two in the Heart of a Warrior series.

So, let the travel bug bite hard, and choose one new city, state, or country to visit each year. What places, people groups, or cultures have influenced your stories?

Writing is a Team Sport

olympics

As I write this, the Olympics are in full swing, and I don’t know about you, but I am glued to my television every night, cheering on Team USA.

I am blown away by the dedication of these athletes. As I watch them compete, I see similarities in their job and mine, in their passion and in my passion. And of course as a writer, I see an analogy in EVERYTHING. So here are my take-aways from the Olympics:

1. Identify your team.

Kariss' teamWhat strikes me about so many of these Olympic events is that they are solo endeavors, meaning the athlete competes alone and is scored individually, even though they are part of a larger team for his/her particular discipline and country. But regardless of the individual scoring, each athlete also has a support system, usually consisting of coaches, trainers, and family and friends. Writing so often feels like an isolated career. Unless I sit down and place my fingers on the keyboard, it doesn’t happen. A month before my first book, Shaken, released, I panicked. I needed help, but not with the writing. I have a great publisher, editor, and agent, but I needed a local team. In January, I invited a group of my friends to participate with me in the dreaming and execution. I call them my “Creative Brain Trust.” And, man, did they have ideas. They are the reason for all the buzz leading up to release day. They not only encouraged, but jumped in to help.

2. Have the courage to share your passion.

One thing I LOVE about watching these incredible athletes is the pure joy they feel in participating in and sharing their sport with the watching world. Writing is a vulnerable career. We splash our hearts and thoughts across bound pages and put it into the hands of those who can criticize. That is the beauty and the struggle of art. These athletes are no different. There is something beautiful about watching a snowboarder catapult in the air on a jump, stick the landing, and grin from ear-to-ear as they coast to a stop. What a rush! Move past the possibility of criticism and fear of what people think. Find the joy in writing, and be unafraid to share that with others.

3. Dedication and training pay off.

KLshaken

What is your Olympic moment? What are you training for? For a couple of years, I wondered if my training would pay off. I flew to out-of-state conferences, bought training books, took classes, spent money on professional editing, joined associations. It didn’t seem to lead anywhere. But my Olympic moment just came February 4 with the release of Shaken, book one in the Heart of a Warrior series. I look back and see all the training and dedication coming down to this one moment. And I’m not done yet. I’m gearing up for my next Olympic moment next winter with the release of Shadowed. In the meantime, back to training.

4. Be innovative and take risks.

I heard a snowboarder from Canada say that his sport is always changing. In order to succeed and stay on top, he has to be willing to change with it. But change in itself isn’t enough. He has to be willing to blaze the trail for new tricks, new techniques, and new skill. That’s what I love about writing. It’s fluid. Though the rules are specific, they allow for personal style. Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries of this field and make it your own. There is value in following the rules of the market, but there is also value in standing apart. Find the balance. I’m still learning what this looks like, but I relish the challenge.

5. Celebrate the victories.

Whether or not they win a medal, at the end of the day these athletes are Olympians, and so many of them celebrate that fact alone. I loved watching a first time cross-country skier celebrate eighth place because it was a personal best for her. She even talked about where she could be four years from now in the next winter Olympics.

At the end of the day, you are a writer. Celebrate the success and release of your work. Take a break and rest. Then get back on the horse and crank out something even better for your next Olympics. You have accomplished something great. Now, set your sights on something greater.

What lessons are you learning during the Olympics? What would you add to this list? Happy writing, and Go USA!

WordServe News: January 2014

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books releasing in the upcoming month along with a recap of WordServe client news from the current month.

New Releases

ScrapsBarbara Cameron released Scraps of Evidence (Abingdon Fiction).

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ForgivingLeslie Leyland Fields released Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers (Thomas Nelson).

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WintersPromiseKen Gire released Winter’s Promise (Harvest House Publishers).

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FleshHugh Halter released Flesh (David C. Cook).

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HandsofDarknessHeather James’s Hands of Darkness (Kregel). This is book #2 in the Lure of the Serpent series.

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ShakenKariss Lynch’s debut novel, Shaken, releases February 4th (Charisma Media).

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The KnightTara McLary Reeves and Amanda Jenkins released The Knight and the Firefly (B&H Kids).

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YouFoundKeith Robinson released You Found Me (Regal Books). His first book!

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RethinkDave Stoop released Rethink How You Think (Revell).

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WayfarerJanalyn Voigt released WayFarer (Harbourlight Books). This is book #2 of the Tales of Faeraven series.

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LifeComesBackTricia Williford released And Life Comes Back with (WaterBrook Press). Her debut book!

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New WordServe Clients

Linda Kuhar, miraculous cancer survivor, Certified Christian Life Coach, and teacher on Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Studies’ Executive Leadership Team signed with Alice Crider.

New Contracts

Arnie Cole and Michael Ross, in combination with Back to the Bible Ministries, have signed a 13 book contract with Barbour Publishers to launch a series of books in the “goTandem” line, primarily direct-to-church, in support of the goTandem Bible engagement app being launched May 1st of this year.

Tami Weissert signed with Authentic Publishers for a book with a working title of Off the Page (and into your heart), 12 stories of how women in different stages of life engage with God’s Word.

What We’re Celebrating!!

FlightCongratulations to Capt. Dale Black and Ken Gire. Their non-fiction book, Flight to Heaven, made the New York Times Best Seller List!

Wounded Women of the Bible co-author Dena Dyer was recently honored with two “Best Of” awards for her articles on The High Calling, an online magazine sponsored by The Foundations for Laity Renewal. The two articles, chosen out of hundreds which ran on the site in 2013, were Resting my Mind in the faith category and Confessions of a Homeschooling Mom in the family category.

Amy K. Sorrels, author of soon-to-be-released How Sweet the Sound, received a wonderful review in Publishers Weekly: “Debut inspirational novelist Sorrells opens her story powerfully, with a rape and double murder within the Harlan family, who grow pecans in Bay Spring, Ala. This strong stuff is Southern gothic, but it’s also biblical, a retelling of the story of Tamar, who is raped by her brother, a son of King David. The story of this event and its tangled consequences is narrated alternately by Anniston, who is 13 and has seen her father murdered, and her aunt Comfort, the rape victim. The family’s secrets emerge, even as healing, propelled by faith, begins. Sorrells’s ambitious work has beautiful elements, chief among them the strong voice of Anniston. Others need work: Princella, the Harlans’ matriarch, could use more development and subtlety, and so could the prose (“The haze of quiet sunlight floated into the room like a slow dance between dreaming and waking up”). Sorrells will likely move many readers of faith, and she’s worth watching. Agent: Sarah Freese, WordServe Literary Agency. (Mar.)”

Lucille Zimmerman got a guest post gig on Michael Hyatt’s blog. Here is the link to her thoughts on “The Placebo Effect.” How’d she get it? She asked. Great lesson, Lucille. Remember, the worst anyone can say is “no.”

Finding Your Place

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 9.35.24 AMFrom an early age, we seek a purpose and earn an identity. No matter the person or age, there is a deep yearning in all of our hearts to matter, to do something with our lives, something bigger than us, something of eternal significance. It’s what we constantly strive for.

Recently, I was asked to speak to a group of young singles about finding their place. Initially, I balked at the idea. I definitely am not an expert, nor do I have all the answers. But I have a direction and I’m moving toward that end. I don’t control the outcomes, but I do control my commitment.

So I shared my story because it is the one area of my life where I am an expert (well…sometimes). If you desire to find your place/purpose in life, in writing, or in your career, here are a few pointers that have shaped my journey:

1) Start somewhere.

Realize that how God has wired you is perfect. Because you are an image-bearer, you are created uniquely with an ability to create, think, and impact. Don’t forfeit that! What do you need to do to reach your goal? Determine a course of action and take one step at a time.

I’ve heard an analogy of a person standing on a frozen lake with the thing they most desire waiting on the other side, but the person doesn’t realize that the ice is already cracking all around them. Their only option is to take one small, steady step at a time to reach their goal. You may have to avoid or change course because of cracks or weak spots, but forward movement will ALWAYS get you to the other side.

2) Allow experience to shape you.

Failure is inevitable. It’s how you weather it that counts. I received twelve grad school rejection letters before I identified the direction I needed to take. At first I cried with every closed-door. Before the last letter arrived, I began to ask the Lord, “What’s next?” Every moment of victory or defeat gives you an opportunity to speak into others’ struggles later on. Allow them to shape your character, your giftedness, and your calling.

3) Discover your giftings.

Every day when I wake up, I must choose to look at who I am in light of the great I AM. And He has gifted me uniquely, just like He has gifted you uniquely. Know who you are and how He’s wired you. Take personality tests, love language tests, StrengthsFinder, and a spiritual gifts test. Not only will they help you understand your tendencies, but these tests will help you shape well-rounded characters, as well. As you seek direction and dig into your talents and skills, ask yourself:

  • What breaks my heart and baffles my mind?
  • What stirs my affections for Christ?
  • What passions and gifts has the Lord instilled in me?
  • How and where can I use these for His glory?
  • What’s my purpose?

Where the answers intersect, take action and develop those skills and passions.

4) Be faithful where you are.

Don’t miss the opportunities you currently have around you as you pursue whatphoto copy God has called you to. William Arthur Ward said, “There are three keys to more abundant living: caring about others, daring for others, and sharing with others.” As a writer, your goal should be to care about people around you and allow that to shape how you care about your readers during the writing process. Budget time for writing and reading. And take time to live life in the company of those around you. It will improve your writing and help you make the most of every opportunity.

Finding our place in life has more to do with seeking His face than seeking our dreams. Start somewhere, allow experience to shape you, discover your giftings, and be faithful where you are until God moves you to the next step. Be faithful to steward your time, talents, and treasure, and expect big things to happen!

What steps have shaped your writing journey?