About Melissa K. Norris

Melissa K. Norris is a 5th generation homesteader who believes homegrown and Mason jars should be the foundation of every kitchen and healthy food can also taste amazing, life is too short for anything else. She’s the voice of the popular Pioneering Today podcast, author of The Made-from-Scratch Life and Hand Made, and founder of the Pioneering Today Academy, along with her blog at melissaknorris.com she teaches people old-fashioned skill sets and back to basic living in a modern world. When she had her stomach and esophagus biopsied for cancer nearly a decade ago, she and her husband were determined to raise more of their own food in the footsteps of our ancestors for their health and peace of mind. While still working day jobs, sometimes multiple ones, they raise all of their own organic grass-fed beef, pork, meat chickens, hens for eggs and close to 65% of their own fruits and vegetables in just a few hours a week. Some of Melissa’s earliest memories are of being in the vegetable garden. Her family has been saving their own strain of heirloom Tarheel green pole beans for over 100 years. They grow an all heirloom garden, seed save, and try to produce as much of their own food because they believe a garden isn’t just food for the body, but food for the soul as well. They strive to produce a year’s worth of food with as many crops as possible and heirloom tomatoes are one of those, even in the rainy Pacific Northwest and with a short growing season, because once you go vine ripened, you’ll never go back.

7 Tips for Self-Editing Your Novel

Before I signed with my awesome agent, Barbara Scott, I knew my novel needed another round of edits. I looked at several freelance editors, but I just couldn’t afford the cost. So, I rolled up my shirt sleeves, prayed, and decided to do it myself. Again.

At this point, I’d already gone through my book for grammatical errors, typos, etc. I’d had a published writer and several beta readers go through it. Three other agents expressed interest if I could go back and make my novel stronger.

Here are the tips I learned that pushed my book from a maybe to yes.

1. Print it out. I fought this (don’t ask me why, my frugalness I suppose, sounds better than stubbornness), but it truly makes a huge difference. Your eye will catch things on the printed page you won’t see on the computer screen.

2. Only edit one thing at a time. Go through your manuscript focusing on one thing at a time. Do a sweep for dialogue. Is there useless chatter? Talking that doesn’t move the story forward? Do you have too many tags? Then go back for description. And so forth.

3. Examine every character. Don’t waste time with cardboard characters or the stereotypical bad guy. I highly recommend Deb Dixon’s Goal Motivation and Conflict.

4. Setting. Regardless if you write historical or contemporary, you need to research your setting. Find some of the not so common places to set your characters in. For example, lots of scenes are in restaurants, change it up and put them on a picnic at some fantastic landmark.

5. Hooks and cliff-hangers. Check out the beginning of every chapter and the ending. What can you do to make it stronger? What could happen that would ensure the reader couldn’t put your book down because they have to know what happens next? Is your heroine being chased by a wolf? Then make it a pack of wolves and have her twist her ankle. Take it a step further and do this to every scene. I recommend James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self-Editing.

6. Description. Remember to include things beyond sight. Let us know how it smells, tastes, feels, and sounds. Is the rain splattering or pounding? Are the hero’s hands calloused or warm? See Frontierinternetservices.com.

7. Wrapping up all the ends. Make sure all the sub-plots and story lines are resolved. You can set things up for a sequel, but you can’t leave things undone. Readers will feel cheated if they have to buy the next book to find out what happens to the main storyline in book one.

What are some of your favorite non-fiction writing books? Do you have any tips or tricks you use when editing?

Building Your Author Platform Before The Contract

I remember attending a writer’s conference where the agent I was pitching stated debut authors needed a platform, even for fiction, in their proposal. She said if a query piqued her interest, she’d google the author’s name to see what came up. If there was hardly anything, she’d think long and hard before asking to see more of their book. And, she said editors do the same thing.

Yikes. I didn’t have anything up. I thought that all came after the book deal.

First thing do to is establish yourself as a professional writer. I recommend starting a Facebook page as a writer, not a profile, but a page. Announce to people that you are a writer and believe it!

Do the same with your Twitter account. Don’t have one, here’s my post on How to Effectively Use Twitter for Authors.

You need a website. Don’t panic. There are plenty of free sites that can provide you with a website. I use wordpress.com You don’t have to start a blog yet, though I would recommend it later. You can simply have an about page and a contact page. You can check out my about page here for ideas. Visit your favorite author sites to see what you like and don’t like.

Now, you’ve got these pages up, but what do you do with them. Here’s where it get’s a little bit harder. You need to figure out who your target audience is. You’ll need this for your book proposal, so now is a good time to start on it.

Who will be interested in your books? If you’re writing inspirational fiction, then you’ve already got a faith element. Christians are interested in your books. If you’re writing historical, then what time period? What groups of people or hobbies would go along with this?

This is just scratching the surface. Go deep with this. I recommend making a list of possible interests. Now, you can write some guest posts to blogs targeting this area. Tweet and share Facebook links with articles written by other people on these subjects.

Ask questions on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re coming up with a name for a new character, list two and have people vote.

You are well on your way to establishing a platform.

What ideas or tips do you have to make your platform even more effective? How often do spend social networking? Should you be engaging even more?

How to Effectively Use Twitter for Authors

We all know that as successful authors we’re expected to market ourselves and this includes social media sites. Most find Facebook easy to use, but I’ve seen several authors confused or disheartened by Twitter.

I used to be one of them. For basic Twitter use, including #hashtags and follow back explanations, check out 8 Twitter Tips for Authors at the Blogging Bistro’s site. (She’s got great content, search through her archives & consider signing up for her daily tips.)

1. Who are you marketing to? Remember who your target audience is. Every tweet or link you share should provide value to this audience. You should tweet links to your blog posts and website, but here’s a good rule of thumb, for every 10 tweets, only 1 should be about your blog/book/website.

Retweet others, it’s a great way to build report, but remember, only retweet things that you think your audience will find useful in someway.

2. Finding followers. Here’s where #hashtags come in to play. Search for the key words that define your target audience. I often look up #quilting, #crocheting, #cooking, and #christianfiction. Start a conversation with these folks. After all, that’s what Twitter is about. Most times, they will follow you back.

Don’t start a conversation simply for a follow back. Talk with them because you have something in common. People know when you’re being phony. Even if it’s just two folks a day, it adds up over time.

3. Use Lists. I’ve heard the argument that it’s impossible to keep up with hundreds and thousands of friends/followers. Yes, that’s true, but Twitter has the glory of lists. You can make a list and categorize your followers there. I have several, you can make them private if you don’t want people to see how you have them listed, or public and others can follow your list.

For example, I have a list of readers where I put folks who chat about the books they’re reading. I have one for my fellow writer friends. The possibilities are endless and you can pull up your list and chat w/ folks about that subject when you’re in the mood or have time.

Lists are the key to making Twitter work in my opinion.

4. Engage with other users. If you never talk with people, you’ve missed the point of Twitter. It is called Social media for a reason. In fact, if someone follows me and I check out their profile (I always do) if I don’t see Tweets including other people’s @handle, then I don’t follow them. I want to talk w/ people, not have them just talk at me.

Are you a Twitter user? What’s some of your tips or cool people who you’ve found via Twitter?

Follow me on Twitter and let me know if you found me from this blog. 🙂

Surrender Your Dreams to God

 

I started writing towards the goal of publication eleven years ago. I attended writer’s groups, conferences, read books on craft, and did my best to educate myself on this business of being an author.

All of this was good, except God had called me to be a Christian writer. I forgot about the Christian side of things. Now my books had all the elements of an inspirational story, but I didn’t include God in my plans.

My prayers were, God please let this agent be the one. I want this so badly. Help me to win this contest or let this query be the one that opens doors.

After beating my head against the keyboard, I finally surrendered my writing to God. I asked Him to tell me if I should pursue writing for publication or if I should give it up. If I was to give it up, then I asked for His guidance toward the thing I was supposed to be doing for Him.

I finally trusted Him enough to give Him control of my life and my dreams.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

I was thrilled when He answered that I was to write for Him and to pursue publication. But if He’d answered differently, I was prepared to follow. And it wasn’t until I included Him in my dreams that He could begin to do things I’d never imagined and could have never done on my own.

So, no matter what your dream is, I urge you to give it to God. He will never break His promise, and His promise is good things for us.

Have you given your dreams to God? Has He answered your prayers differently than you expected?