Puppies, Unicorns and Dolphin-Shaped Balloons

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Have you heard of the term bait-and-switch? Yep. This is one of them, and for good cause. If the title had read “3 Reasons to Outline,” would you seriously have stayed tuned? Not only is the topic of outlining boring, it often causes big hivey welts to break out on some people. So if you need to slug back a few gulps of Benadryl, go for it, and let’s move forward with…

3 REASONS TO OUTLINE

1. To keep from crashing head first into the lack of confidence wall.

Yes, you can write an entire novel without drafting an outline, but the chances of losing steam and curling into the fetal position about midway through are pretty high. What you thought was a plot screeches to a halt. Characters wander around like zombies on steroids. Your narrative is a flaming train wreck of twisted words. Reaching this state of mind has a way of sucking all the confidence marrow from your bones. This is where an outline comes in handy. Think of it as a safety net and/or anti-zombie mega-gun. When you hit midway in your story, you can reach out and grab the outline rope to pull yourself up to the grand summit of a finale.

2. So you know where you’re going.

I’m not a huge map fan. I can’t fold the dang things. I know. I know. There’s this great new invention called MapQuest. Yeah. That’d be great if I had a smart phone—which I don’t. Even so, there have been a few family vacations where I’ve been awfully thankful for a map. That’s what your outline is. Writing a story is a lot like going on a road trip. Sure you can throw your bags in the car and hope for the best, but what happens when you hit construction? Or worse…road closed? That’s when a map is your best friend. Same thing with a meandering story. An outline will keep you on track to end up where you wanted to go.

3. It works out the kinks.

Don’t get me wrong. Writing an outline is not a magic pill that takes you to happy writer land (but if you could market that, you’d make scads of money.) Planning out the major scenes ahead of time, thinking through all the what-if-that-happens scenarios, straightens out your plot so you’ll be less likely to have to rewrite unnecessary chapters.

Convinced yet that outlining is the greatest thing ever? I wouldn’t be, either. Outlining sounds about as much fun as scrubbing the toilet—outlining as in Roman Numerals and sub-points and all that analytical falderal. I say it’s time to start thinking outside that no-fun box and reinvent the outline.

Newsflash: there’s no law that says you have to write a text-on-screen outline.

Maybe you’re a Pinterest type of person who creates story boards. That counts. Perhaps you love the smell of dry erase markers and get off on mind mapping a tale on a large whiteboard. Shoot, I even know some writers who adore 3M sticky notes and plan out a novel by decorating a wall with their scenes. Go ahead and get creative. That’s what fiction is about, folks.

One parting thought to shoot down the scare factor of outlining. You have my permission to outline only chunks at a time. If scribbling down the entire story totally freaks you out, just do the first third, then take a break and write the first chapter. Before you end the first third, however, you should plan the next third. Savvy?

Outlining does not have to steal the joy from your writing. Turn it around to enhance the joy of your writing…and keep from having a nervous breakdown halfway through.

What about you? Are you fans of the outline or more pantsers types?

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Beyond Boring Bookmarks

bookmarksThere’s no way around it anymore. A writer has to market. You can flail your arms and scream like a little girl all you want, but other than scoring yourself some raised eyebrows or possibly a straitjacket, you will need to market your writing. Allow me to teach you the three most important words I taught my children. No, it’s not “please” and “thank you”…it’s “Get over it!”

Now that we’re past the lecture, let’s move on with some ideas to get your book out there that don’t involve the standard lukewarm fare of Twitter and Facebook. Not that I have anything against social media, mind you. It’s just that all the authorly Who’s from Whoville are already there, shouting their little lungs out.

Create a “Night Out” Event

This is a great way to cross-promote local businesses and your book. Look for small restaurants, clothing stores, kitchen gadget shops, whatever you can possibly tie into your book. Approach them with an idea to have a Women’s Night Out or Man Cave Night wherein you’ll offer to do a reading, or demonstration, or if you’re really confident, to be the chump in a rousing round of Stump the Chump for cheap little prizes.

Meet-Up Groups

Locate some meet-up groups in your area that might be interested in your book. Does your story have a sweet little dog as a character? Find a dog walking group. In my recent release, A HEART DECEIVED, I talk about the cook’s fantastic marmalade, so I’d go for a cooking group. Offer to speak to those groups for free (with a handy dandy book table at the back for afterwards). Need help finding a group? Meetup is the place for you.

Direct Marketing

Unless you live in Podunksville, USA, you’ve probably got a local company that ships products directly to customers. Ask if you can place postcards advertising your book in with their shipments. Obviously, if your novel is a romance, you probably don’t want a card going out with an order of hedgehog vitamins (not even kidding…check this out). Make it related in some way.

Sales Parties

Yes, Tupperware ladies are still around, but they’re not the only ones who do in-home parties. Pitch an offer to some reps to come along to one of their shows and do a short reading as an icebreaker. Sales people frequently love opening a conversation with potential buyers by talking about a novel instead of trying to do an immediate hard sell. It gets your name out there, and more importantly, gets people talking about your book.

BOGOMy latest scheme involves offering a BOGO (Buy One Get One) for my recent release. Since my book is set in England, I used the Keep Calm-o-Matic site to create my own poster. For one weekend, July 12-14, I’m offering to mail a signed copy to anyone who can show me a receipt for a book they’ve purchased. Details here.

Remember: the goal of promoting your work is to entice people to buy. Whapping them upside the head with BUY ME, BUY ME not only isn’t going to work, it’s going to annoy potential buyers to swerve way around your train wreck of a marketing ploy.

After all, one can own only so many bookmarks before the recycle bin is filled to the brim.

WordServe News: June 2013

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

TheBrotherhoodTerry Brennan’s second novel, The Brotherhood Conspiracy, has come out with Kregel.

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Too BlessedDebora Coty had her 2014 Planner based on Too Blessed to Be Stressed released through Barbour.

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QueenofShebaRoberta Kells Dorr (deceased many years ago) had another of her out of print biblical novels released. This one, Queen of Sheba (Moody).

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AHeartDeceivedMichelle Griep has her first novel released through David C. Cook, A Heart Deceived.

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New WordServe Clients

Victor Watts just signed with Sarah Freese. Victor is a great writer, and we look forward to what he will contribute to the WordServe team!

Bill Donahue, leadership and community expert writing nonfiction.

New Contracts

Arnie Cole and Michael Ross signed with Authentic Publishers to write The Worry-Free Family.

Cris Krusen signed with Baker Books to write Buried Treasure: History Makers of the Faith. A look at 12-15 little known people of faith who made an impact in the world, even though they were not known as full time ministers.

Ema McKinley signed a one-book contract with Zondervan for her miracle healing story, Jesus in My Room. Cheryl Ricker is her collaborator.

Lisa Velthouse signed on with Lauren Scruggs to collaborate with her on Believing You’re Beautiful: Choosing to Be Who God Says You Are. Tyndale will publish in 2014.

Bob Welch signed with Thomas Nelson for two books: 52 Life Lessons from Les Miserables, and 52 Life Lessons From A Christmas Carol.

What We’re Celebrating!!

IntotheFreeVery happy, proud, and honored . . . for Julie Cantrell who was awarded two Christy Awards (the Christian awards for the previous year’s novels) at last week’s ICRS convention. She not only won in the “Debut Novel” category, but the Christy’s also added a new category this year: Novel of the Year. And Into the Free, Julie’s first novel, was awarded the best novel in all of Christian publishing for 2012. Wow. A starred review in Pubisher’s Weekly, a New York Time’s bestseller…and now this. Way to go, Julie! It couldn’t happen to a nicer lady.

Jan Drexler’s The Prodigal Son Returns continues to do well. She recently received news that she is a double finalist in the TARA contest. Way to go, Jan!

Jordyn Redwood’s debut novel, Proof, became a finalist in the Carol Awards in the “Debut Novel” category. Awards will be given at this September’s ACFW in Indianapolis. As we all like to say around here, “Strong work!”

What can we help you celebrate?

WordServe News: April 2013

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

TestedArnie Cole and Michael Ross Tempted, Tested, True (Bethany House)

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ConfessoinsAmanda Jenkins Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist (Tyndale House)

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StressTestRichard Mabry Stress Test (Thomas Nelson)

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DiscipleshiftJim Putman with Marcus Brotherton Discipleshift (Zondervan)

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New WordServe Clients

Jennie Atkins signed with Sarah Freese. Excited to have her join our other wonderful WordServe authors!

New Contracts

Judy Morrow signed with Regal Publishing for her devotional titled Listenings.

Keith Robinson signed with Regal Publishing for his non-fiction book titled Is Anybody Out There? 

Rachel Moore signed an ebook contract with Cook Communications for her novel titled Language of Sparrows.

Barb Stoefen signed with Zondervan for her memoir titled A Very Fine House: A Mother’s Story of Love, Faith and Crystal Meth

Mike Yorkey signed with B&H Publishing to write the story of Tampa Bay Devil Ray infielder Ben Zobrist, along with his wife Julianne, who is a budding Christian singer.

Dr. Kara Powell from the Fuller Youth Institute signed with Zondervan to write The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Unique Family.

Michelle Griep signed an ebook contract with Cook Communications for her novel, A Heart Deceived.
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What We’re Celebrating!!

Julie Cantrell is a finalist in the “new author” category for this year’s Christy Awards for her debut novel Into the Free.

Jordyn Redwood for her debut novel Proof, which was a ForeWord Reviews finalist for religious adult fiction.

And Julie and Jordyn both made the Inspy Award Short List for their debut novels.

Maureen Lang’s book Bees in the Butterfly Garden hit the ECPA fiction list again, this time at #6.

A Higher Call by Adam Makos continues to stay on the New York Times hard cover nonfiction list, having made it in the top-15 every Sunday in April.

Thank you to Writer’s Digest magazine for naming the WordServe Water Cooler one of their 101 best websites for writers for 2013. We are honored!

What can we help you celebrate?