Before You Release Your Words Into the World…

If you’re writing a book you hope to see published, your words must serve the reader.

  • Maybe it’s a memoir.
  • Maybe it’s self-help book.
  • Maybe it’s the story of a remarkable relationship.
  • Maybe it’s tips about gardening.

No matter what you are writing, it has to have value for the reader.

So before you send your proposal or manuscript to an agent or editor (or before you send it to me to review!) imagine that the agent/editor/publisher will be reading your words with one question in her heart: What’s in it for the reader?

Questions I want you to ask, of your proposal/manuscript, before you release your words into the wild…

  • What is the value, for the reader, in this book?
  • When she finishes the first chapter, does she want to keep reading?
  • When she’s really tired, is there a reason for her to keep turning pages?
  • Does every sentence, every page, every chapter serve the reader?
  • When she finishes, can she articulate the single important takeaway of the book?
  • When the reader sets this book down, has she gained something from it that she wants to share with a friend over coffee?
  • Does she want to buy a copy for her sister because the book had so much value?
  • ls she able to apply what she’s learned to her own life?

If the answer to some of these questions is either “no” or “I don’t know,” I want you to return to your word-baby and review it one more time through the spectacles of an agent or editor. Name the value–write it out–that the reader gleans from each chapter.

If you can’t identify the takeaway value for the reader–the “payoff” for purchasing your book–then work at it until you can.

Ultimately, “your” book is not about you. It’s about the reader.

Serve the reader.

This post first appeared on Margot’s blog, Wordmelon

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Defining Real Writing Success

The new year has come and gone, and we’re in the full throes of fresh starts, new goals, and updated resolutions. This has me thinking about the definition of success — and more specifically, defining real writing success.

Most authors would say success is selling thousands of books, which means reaching thousands of people. It’s a worthy goal and necessary if you want to write professionally, long-term. But lately, as I’ve considered the time and energy required from an author, I realize the importance of balance. I’ll explain.

The more contracts I sign, as speaking engagements multiply, and because I’m selling more books, I’ve gotten a glimpse of the future. And it can go in one of two ways.

I don’t struggle with self-discipline as some do; instead, lately I’ve noticed my struggle to relax. When I can’t unwind, it’s time to make a change.

I have a choice. I can pour even more of my time and energy into my writing and speaking career, and to a degree, I need to, but I must exercise caution. As a natural workaholic, I could slip into a regular routine of fourteen to seventeen-hour work days. Because of deadlines, commitments, and special opportunities, there are times when I need to pull a writing day like that, but if it becomes the norm, I’m in danger. There’s a fine line between protecting your writing/speaking time and neglecting your family and close friends.

Life is Better with Friends

Recently, I imagined what it might look like to work myself into a frenzy, reaching success as many would define it, only to realize I might stand alone at the top. If we don’t have friends and family to share and celebrate with, what are we working so hard for?

This epiphany has put me on a mission to usher some balance back into my life. I adore the days I get to sequester and write, but I equally love spending down time with my family and friends. Both are valued activities to me, and they deserve equal time.

My work ethics and integrity are intact, but I am choosing to slow down enough to breathe  deeply, while on this crazy, thrilling, and daunting writing ride. To me, defining real writing success is simple.

I have goals to write and sell many more books, but part of my planning strategies now include more time set aside to enjoy walks with friends, cups of coffee with people I respect, and to laugh often with my family. I want to catch up on life, and I believe by doing so, I’ll have even more to write about. I don’t want to “make it” as a writer, only to look around and discover I’m perched in a precarious position — standing all alone.

How do you maintain balance between your writing and real life? 

20 Ways Writers Spread Joy

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You’ve heard it said before. The writing life is not for the fainthearted.

In addition to the actual writing, marketing, and everything our craft entails, there’s an added dimension. Because our work is solitary in nature, sometimes, loneliness nips at our heels. Toss in a few life events and trials, and we have the perfect recipe for conflict—an element integral to great fiction.

The reality is it’s real life. Our lives. And sometimes, it’s difficult for us to talk about what we’re going through. Transparency is tough. Uncomfortable.

The good thing?

When we experience heartache, we view others’ hardships through a fresh lens. We’re inclined to nitpick less, listen better, and love more. We’re considerate of the process and we’re moved to pay it forward.

 

Here are 20 ways writers spread joy:

 

1. Joy-minded writers write something worthy. They take the high road. They uplift. Motivate. Inspire. Love.

2. They comment, retweet, and share. They are intentional. They multiply fabulous thoughts!

3. They mentor others in their journey. Fifteen minutes, one day, a week, a month, or longer.

4. They lend an ear. And keep a confidence.

5. Joy-minded writers encourage. They offer a kind word. A smile. A hug.

6. They pay it forward. When someone extends a kindness their way, joyful writers keep the ball rolling!

7. They are authentic. They say the very thing you wish someone would have said to you. And they mean it.

8. They deliver a pep-talk. They accentuate the positive. They reboot a day gone south.

9. They share knowledge. Joyful writers aren’t selfish. If they know something that will help, they happily bear glad tidings!

10. Joy-minded writers toot others’ horns. They shine the spotlight on friends’ accomplishments and lavish praise accordingly.

11. They show appreciation. They send encouraging e-mails, cards, and well-wishes. Sometimes, they even mail goodie packages!

12. They solve a problem. They help without being asked. They “fix things” that are within their power to fix.

13. They compliment (and complement.) They find something good to say. They bring out the best without hidden agendas.

14. Joy-minded writers brainstorm. They weed through the “noise” to help with solutions.

15. They pray. They bear others up when the going gets tough.

16. They follow through on promises. Their word is their bond. If they commit, they finish the task with a joyful mindset.

17. They challenge. (In a good way.) They inspire others to rise to new heights.

18. They hook up. They link back to favorite websites and highlight folks in their sidebars.

19. They generate excitement. They host guest bloggers, offer book reviews, giveaways, and influence free gratis.

20. Joy-motivated writers stay the course. They persevere when, sometimes, they’d rather not, and they encourage others to do the same.

Today’s post is dedicated to those writers who spread the love—day in, day out, and expect nothing in return. I appreciate you and I know the folks you bless do, too!

 

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Original Image Credit: Engin_Akyurt/Pixabay

How will you spread joy this week?

How has someone shared joy with you?

What’s one thing that encourages you the most in your writing journey?

 

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Cynthia writes Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction from the beautiful Ozark Mountains. A hopeless romantic at heart, she enjoys penning stories about ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances.

“Cindy” has a degree in psychology and a background in social work. She is a member of ACFW, ACFW MozArks, and RWA.

Besides writing, Cindy enjoys spending time with family and friends. She has a fondness for gingerbread men, miniature teapots, and all things apple. She also adores a great cup of coffee and she never met a sticky note she didn’t like.

Cindy loves to connect with friends at: http://www.authorcynthiaherron.com/

She also hangs out here:

http://www.twitter.com/C_Herronauthor

http://www.facebook.com/authorcynthiaherron

http://www.pinterest.com/cynthia_herron/

For love, fun, and encouragement ~

Sign up for Cindy’s monthly e-NEWSLETTERS

Discovering Deep Secrets in the New Year

The Crosscut and Massacre Grounds trailhead usually has only a few cars parked in the dirt lot on the side of the First Water turnoff, but today we struggle to find a parking spot in the rows and rows of vehicles. The trailhead is named after a group of miners who lost their lives here in the 1800s, purportedly by a group of Apaches. Jacob Waltz, a Dutchman, claimed to have found that mine, but took the secret location to his grave, adding one more story to the legends and lore that surround these mountains.

We are not joining the thousands who have gone searching for the gold hidden in the area, but have taken the 45-minute drive from our home because we are looking for a different type of treasure.

Snow in the desert.

We cross the creek bed several times before climbing a gentle slope to a saddle. A dusting of snow covers the surrounding cholla and brittlebush, but our destination lies before us. The Superstitions are clothed in white.

Mollie, our rust-colored mutt, does not know what to think of her first frozen adventure. She stays on the trail, but as we stop to take photos of saguaros and prickly pear with their uncommon winter hats, Mollie forgets her fear and bounds after birds and other creatures, her tail a curled flag behind her.

The snow deepens as we dip into a narrow basin, the trail hedged by mesquite and hop sage bushes, the pink flowers peeking out of their white blanket.

 

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“It’s like Narnia,” my husband comments as we step around boughs weighted with snow, referring to a scene from the book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. The children in the story find themselves accidentally entering the world of Narnia through a wardrobe or closet.

As they step further in, pushing their way through the winter coats, the children are surprised by how much room is inside. Fur coats give way to pine boughs. Wooden floors give way to snow-covered paths.

Although it had first appeared small and confining, the wardrobe actually was a doorway to great adventure. The lives of the children would never be the same.

Cheryl Sacks and Arlyn Lawrence write in their book, Prayer-Saturated Kids, “[The children] discovered when they stepped into the wardrobe, the inside was larger than the outside” and “that the further up and further in you go, the bigger everything gets.”

1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (NLT) states, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.”

God’s deep secrets. I long for that here on the trail, in the desert. The thought intrigues me. Speaks to something inside me. More than secret gold lost in these hills, I desire to discover God’s deep secrets here in the new year. In my life. In my writing.  

What a treasure!

As the sun warms the mountain, we stop and listen. After quieting our breathing, we experience something I have never heard before: the sound of the desert melting.

 

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Sometimes new sounds … deep secrets … can only be heard in the standing still. The stillness beckons me to leave my ordinary world and discover Narnia.

Is it time for you to enter into that place? To quiet your life and meet God? To step further in and discover how much bigger everything gets as you open the door to prayer and enter the world of God’s secrets?

Perhaps if you are quiet enough, you will experience your own melting and you will find yourself walking on snow-covered paths that lead you to adventure.

 

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Against the backdrop of the Sonoran Desert, Lynne Hartke writes stories of courage, beauty and belonging–belonging to family, to community and to a loving God. Her book, Under a Desert Sky, was released in May 2017 with Revell/Baker Publishing. You can find Lynne on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. This post originally appeared on her blog at www.lynnehartke.com when it snowed on New Year’s Day 2015.

Impossible Writing Projects

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I sensed the Lord’s direction to share a particular story from my family’s life, and I began to write about it when we were still in the heat of the crisis.

Impossible journey. Every time I attempted to move forward with submitting this project for publication, something major would happen to prevent my progress.

By major, I don’t mean a little bump in the road. I’m referring to some impossible situations—like my mother’s terminal illness, my daughter’s two major surgeries and several difficult pregnancies, my father-in-law’s lengthy terminal illness, and more.

And I haven’t even mentioned the journey to publication. Oh, my! Where do I begin with that one?

Impossible project. As I approached this long-standing project about a crisis with my daughter Tara, red flags waved all around me, warning me of the impossibility of this effort. And to be honest, when I came home from her house recently, discouragement blanketed me again like a heavy, dark storm cloud. And I’ve been tempted to toss this project into the “impossible” pile once again.

Impossible calling. Then, I spent time in a study of Moses.

And I thought my task looked hopeless!

Moses faced the unimaginable tasks of his calling with great fear. He knew he didn’t have the strengths that he would need to complete the things that God had called him to.

Moses was well aware of his weaknesses and limitations. He wanted to embrace God’s promises, but everywhere he turned, he sensed the impossibility of God’s plans for his life.

Powerful Promises. Today, as I study more about Moses, I’m reminded once again of how God’s promises do not depend upon me. Even my unbelief, fear, and doubt will not change God’s plans. God will complete His work—with or without my involvement.

I know the story I need to write will be told to encourage others who might be experiencing a similar crisis. And I don’t want them to miss out on the blessing.

So, I’m choosing to go forward again, holding on to God’s promises.

Thankfully, I don’t believe God has given up on me like I’ve often given up on Him. He will forgive my complaining and blaming others for my failures. And He promises to provide all I need to complete the work that He has stirred up in me.

I pray if you are struggling over a similar circumstance, you will consider God’s promises to you again today.

“[Be] strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NLT)

Have you ever given up on a project because it seemed impossible?

How to write a GREAT book

What makes a book a great read?

If someone asked me to name the best books I read in 2017, four immediately come to mind: Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker, The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore, Be Strong in the Lord: Praying for the Armor of God for Your Children by Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers, and Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult.

But if you asked me why they were the best books of the year for me, I would have specific reasons for each. I choose Walker’s book because it literally changed my behavior in two ways: I now try to get more sleep to improve my health, and I refuse to drive a car if I’m in the least bit tired (yes, he scared the heck out of me with statistics!). Moore’s book impressed me deeply with its story of women who suffered terribly, yet fought industry to make it responsible for employees’ health on the job. Be Strong in the Lord deepened my faith for both my children and myself, and Picoult’s novel gave me new eyes and a new heart to confront racism in America.

These books changed my behavior and attitudes in specific, concrete ways. I am a different person because I read them.

And that is ultimately what makes a book a great read: it meets the reader where she lives, and changes her.

Book design, reviews, buzz, brilliant writing, thorough research, perfect plotting – authors dream that all those things will come together in their books to make it a bestseller, but the key to every book’s success, I believe, is in how the author connects to the reader about something important to that same reader. This means, naturally, that there exists a myriad of topics a writer can address (and they do!), which also means many – actually, probably MOST – books will never appeal to every reader, and because of that, every author needs to be mindful of the particular audience for whom they write. To best serve that audience, however, the successful author has to dig deep into his own wants and desires, unearth the most compelling, most universal, needs he can share with his readers, and then translate that into the written word.

The words “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone” are attributed to Ronald Reagan. Likewise, every book can’t be a great read for every reader, but for some reader, some book can be a great read. As you set forth on your writing journey in 2018, I hope you write that great book for some reader.

Who knows? You might even change my life.

WordServe December News & End of Year Update

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year! It’s been a great 2017 at WordServe, and as always, exciting things have been happening this month. But first, some reflections on the year as whole.

When I look back at 2017, the best word that describes it is “Eventful.”

We started the year with All the Gallant Men (Harper/Morrow) staying on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction list for 5 weeks. It’s gone on to sell nearly 160,000 copies, so far. A great tribute for Donald Stratton’s story of surviving the sinking of the Arizona at Pearl Harbor, and then rejoining the fight a year later after his injuries and burns had healed.

And then towards the end, Sensing the Rhythm by deaf jazz singer and “America’s Got Talent” 4th place finisher Mandy Harvey (written with Mark Atteberry) came out with Howard/Simon & Schuster.

In between, we had such notable releases at Dr. Daniel Amen’s new book Memory Rescue (Tyndale), Denise George and Rob Child’s WWII biography, The Lost Eleven (Berkley/Caliber), Steve and Misty Arterburn’s The Mediterranean Love Plan (Zondervan), Christian George’s The Lost Sermons of Charles Spurgeon, Vol I and II (Lifeway), Tricia Williford’s You Can Do This (NavPress) and Julie Cantrell’s Perennials (Thomas Nelson).

The agency continued a string of great books being released and signed:

  • 60 New books released, with 10 of these by first-time authors.
  • 65 New books under contract, with 13 by first-time authors.

As we head into 2018, the WordServe family gets a bit larger with agent Sarah Freese due to have her third child in April, and agent Keely Boeving having twins in January!

In the meantime, we wish all of our WaterCooler followers a very Happy and blessed New Year!

December News

New Releases

Craig Chapman released Battle-Hardened: An Infantry Officer’s Harrowing Journey from D-Day to VE-Day with Regnery Publishing. It tells the fascinating story of an American soldier’s growth from a 2nd Lieutenant eager to prove his worth in battle to a skilled and resolute commander over the course of the Northern European Campaign as he fought against the Nazis.

Shellie Rushing Tomlinson released Devotions for the Hungry Heart with Barbour. Grounded in scripture and Shellie’s signature storytelling style, this devotional invites you to God’s table for a continual feast. With themes including Sharing, Needing, Celebrating, Praying, Surrendering, and Being Intentional, you’ll be challenged and encouraged to develop God-honoring traits in your spiritual life.

New Contracts 

Amanda Anderson signed with Nelson for her book All My Friends Have Issues. An exploration of how even flawed women — and what other kind are there? — can find safe, sane friendships in which we help each other become who God intended us to be, it will publish in summer 2019.

Jim Burns signed with Zondervan for his next book, Doing Life With Your Adult Child, which tackles the tough issues and offers honest, practical advice on parenting your adult child.

New Clients

Anne Barbour and Rob Maaddi joined WordServe this month. Welcome!