5 Benefits of Collaborative Writing

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Franz Kafka, the famous author of “The Metamorphosis,” once wrote that writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.

Although Mr. Kafka sounds a bit creepy, I get it.

As a mother to four kids, I relish hours alone with clicking fingers and thoughts. It’s just me and my laptop, or a pen and a piece of paper, and I’m hurled into a different time, place, or life. “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” said the great E. M. Forster.

I concur.

Solitude is a treasured gift in my writing life.

But as I’ve delved into my career, the importance and benefits of collaborative writing have become undeniable. I’ve realized, with time, that my writing can get blurry. My business plan can be smudged. Enter collaborative writing.

When I say collaborative writing, I mean sharing my work with others, helping fellow writers along the way, and receiving criticism and suggestions regarding my work. I need people. I need editors, and proofreaders, and cheerleaders. I need instruction, shared experience, correction.

Col·lab·o·ra·tion: The action of working with someone to produce or create something.

Letting people into my solitary writing life has been a great experience. I create more. I create better. How? In what ways?

I’m glad you asked.

Here are 5 benefits of collaborative writing:

1. Collaboration strengthens writing skills

After I committed to writing my personal story about having a child with Down syndrome in the former Soviet Union, I looked into taking a writing class. God hooked me up with a great group. We read and discuss memoir, submit pages, and critique each other’s work. This sort of collaboration with other writers has strengthened my writing muscles and encouraged me greatly. Plus, I made writer friends!

2. Collaboration helps keep the green monster at bay

Let’s face it. All writers struggle with jealousy. I surely do.

When I collaborate with others, whether I’m reading or editing someone’s work, promoting Facebook fan pages, or having a friend guest post on my blog, it’s more difficult to for me to be jealous. Instead of racing for the win, I become a fellow sojourner along the path. If you find yourself repeatedly jealous over another writer’s success, I suggest you attempt to collaborate with him/her. It will change your attitude.

3. Collaboration builds platform

Nine times out of ten, when I’ve helped another writer, he or she ended up helping me too. Like someone’s post, share a fan page, host a blog parade. People will notice your generosity. And maybe next time, they will promote you.

4. Collaboration pushes deadlines

Whether you are submitting new pages to a group, or working with an editor on a freelance project, or in the final stages of line editing with your publishing house, deadlines push you. In order to write more, often, and better, collaborate with others. You will be forced to meet deadlines, which, in turn, will force you to write more.

5. Collaboration makes me an upstanding literary citizen

I’m convinced that as writers, we need to contribute to the literary society to which we belong. Read. Buy books. Share articles. Subscribe to magazines. And I would add collaborate with other authors.

Collaboration is a win for all involved.

George Orwell said that good writing is like a windowpane. I’m convinced that in order to write well, I need others around me holding the Windex bottle, spraying, and wiping my purpose, productivity, and prose clean with wadded up old newspaper.

What about you? How have you/do you collaborate with other writers?

It’s A Parade!!

Welcome to WordServe Water Cooler’s Very First Blog Parade!!

Listed below are links to many of The Cooler’s authors and we are all writing on this topic: First steps we took to becoming an agented and/or published author!

The goal of today’s post is to give you some great advice and to allow you to see some of the personal blogs of our authors where they offer their ponderings. I think you’ll be amazed at the variety of helpfulness each author gives to the community.

Thank you, our faithful readers, for making the WordServe Water Cooler a great community. Enjoy the parade!

1. Anita Agers-Brooks: Anita Fresh Faith

2. Julie Cantrell: Julie’s Journal

3. Dianne Christner: …plain girl romanticizing

4. Dena Ratliff Dyer: Mother Inferior

5. Jan Dunlap: Jan Dunlap’s Blog

6. Michelle Griep: Writer Off Leash

7. Karen Jordan: BLESSED Legacy Stories

8. Sharon Lavy: Sharon Lavy’s Blogspot.

9. Gillian Marchenko: Gillian Marchenko’s Blog

10. Katy McKenna: Fallible

11. Melissa K. Norris: Inspiring Your Faith and Pioneer Roots

12. Jordyn Redwood: Redwood’s Medical Edge

13. Cheryl Ricker: Fresh Air

14. Kimberly Vargas: Kimberly Vargas’s Blog

15. Janalyn Voigt: Live Write Breath

16. Lucille Zimmerman: Lucille Zimmerman

Hope you enjoyed our parade!

Standing as a Writer, a Lesson Learned from My Daughter with Down Syndrome

My four children are blessings.

But they also make it challenging for me as a writer to, well, write.

After reading Heather St. James’ hilarious post last week about writing with kids in tow, a thought occurred to me. Yes, it is challenging to write with kids, but they also are life-sized object lessons to spur on my pursuit of publication.

Here’s an example.

Our third daughter, Polly, who was born with Down syndrome, has low muscle tone. When she was two and a half years old she wasn’t close to walking, so her therapist suggested a stander; a wooden contraption with Velcro and steel to buckle your child into. The hope was that Polly would bear weight on her legs, build muscle, and start to tolerate the sensation of standing.

She was to stand for three hours. Every. Day. Did I mention she was two?

The first few days Polly was ambivalent. “Polly, time to stand,” I’d sign and say (sign language at the time being her primary form of communication), and she’d shrug her shoulders as I strapped her in.

Soon, though, she grew combative. She learned a few tricks, like to hike her rear up over the thick leather strap to make a seat to rest on, or to pull the Velcro strap apart one-handed, thus freeing herself from her therapeutic shackles.

I’d raise my eyebrow, and she’d look at me like, “What? I’m standing?”

The season of the stander was a difficult time for our family. But the strength my daughter acquired was undeniable. After two months, she pulled to stand on her own, with a triumphant, cheeky grin plastered on her face.

How does this relate to writing?

When I first started writing, I don’t think I actually wanted to write. I wanted to be known as a writer. I wanted to see my name in print. I craved the imagined silence of hours ticking away at a computer somewhere, alone, without my kids hanging on my legs.

But I lacked writing muscle. When it actually came to “butt on the chair” time (to quote Mary DeMuth in her book 11 Secrets to Getting Published), I waxed and waned between ambivalence and combativeness. I wanted to write the next great American story in one sitting. I didn’t want to have to work at it.

I discovered that good writing demanded writing muscles: write consistently, set deadlines, read about the craft of writing, learn from others living a writing life. Also, growing muscle required humility. I needed to ‘fess up’ when I, like Polly, tampered with the shackles of a literary life and attempted to squirm free.

If I let myself get out of hard work consistently, I will never learn to stand as a writer.

Sometimes when I write, the vision of Polly in her stander pops up in my mind. There are several other things besides writing, too numerous and embarrassing to list, that I try to sabotage in my life. I kick. I undo. I push.

My daughter–patient, diligent, and courageous in her daily attempts to do things I take for granted–teaches me a valuable lesson.

If I want to publish a book, or even as Papa Hemingway says, “write one true sentence,” I need to put in the time, effort, humility, and courage to grow strong enough to stand on my own as a writer.

P.S. An update on Polly. She is now six years old. She walks, runs, climbs stairs and in fact, we can’t get her to slow down.

Marketing with Integrity: 5 Tips On What Not To Do

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Most writers prefer to focus on craft instead of marketing. But let’s face it. These days, authors need a platform to jump from in the publishing world. Without flexing the mammoth muscle of the internet, our publishing goals may not materialize.

Humph.

I’m new in the business. I’ve written a memoir about having a baby with Down syndrome while living as a missionary in Ukraine. I’ve landed an agent. I now participate in the shaky step of pitching my project to editors.

And I’ve already committed marketing blunders.

Here are 5 tips on WHAT NOT TO DO in marketing.  

1. Don’t use your kids to get ‘likes.’ 

After my amazing agent Sarah Joy Freese encouraged me to attract more likes on my Facebook Fan page, I went a little nuts. I hosted a giveaway on my blog in exchange for Facebook likes and Twitter followers. I then convinced my four children to write and perform a “likes rap” video. They were cute. It was fun. It killed an afternoon at our house.

Giveaways and videos are great marketing tools. But I went overboard. I posted the video, and re-posted, and re-posted until my kids were even tired of watching themselves perform. My idea morphed into a “look at me” festival until a friend sent me a gentle message saying, “Really, Gillian? This isn’t you.”

2. Don’t spam.

Spam is no longer just canned pork.

According to About.com, “Spam is any unsolicited commercial advertisement distributed online.” If you post links repeatedly on social media without engaging in community and conversation, you may be considered a spammer and people are going to find you annoying.

3. Don’t just ask. Give.

It is better to give than to receive. Let’s face it. People don’t care about us. Readers want a takeaway. They want perspective, a lighter mood, encouragement, escape.

In marketing, it is essential to give. Share links. Retweet. Interview people on your blog. Ask questions on your Facebook page. My writing tribe is best formed through reciprocal interaction and authentic interest.

4. Don’t market without a plan.

My marketing blunders have stemmed from too much excitement and lack of preparation. At first, I had no marketing plan. It’s difficult to have integrity at high-speed. Now, I try to step back and see the big picture. What marketing strategies will best utilize my schedule, gifts, and goals? I am no longer allowed to dream up an idea and run with it before a time of reflection, planning, and prayer.

5. Don’t forget to write.

Marketing pursuits easily swallow work hours. When my time is not structured, I blog, tweet, update statuses, and read about marketing. But I might not write.

Thus enters the need for limits. Some writers allow a half hour in the morning and again at night. Others (insert ME!) require a little extra help. Turning off the internet is a great tip. Author Media, a website dedicated to help writers build their platforms, has a post providing seven apps that assist a writer’s occasional lack of self-control.

What’s your marketing strategy? Do you have a blunder you’d like to share? Where are your boundaries when it comes to marketing integrity?

And would you like to use my children in a rap video? If so, contact me. (God’s still working on me.)

WordServe News: June 2012

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

Will Davis, Enough, Revell (Agent: Greg Johnson)

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Katie Ganshert, Wildflowers From Winter, WaterBrook Press (Agent: Rachelle Gardner)

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Ken Gire, Relentless Pursuit, Bethany House Publishers (Agent: Greg Johnson)

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Lisa Jordan, Lakeside Family, Love Inspired (Agent: Rachelle Gardner)

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Maureen Lang, Bees in the Butterfly Garden, Tyndale House Publishers (Agent: Rachelle Gardner)

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Kathi Lipp, Praying God’s Word for Your Husband, Revell (Agent: Rachelle Gardner)

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Gilbert Morris, The River Rose, B&H Publishing Group (Agent: Greg Johnson)

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Jordyn Redwood, Proof, Kregel Publishers (Agent: Greg Johnson)

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Beth Vogt, Wish You Were Here, Howard Publishers (Agent: Rachelle Gardner)

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Karen Witemeyer, Short-Straw Bride, Bethany House Publishers (Agent: Rachelle Gardner)

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Mike Yorkey, Tim Tebow, Barbour Publishers (Agent: Greg Johnson)

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Mike Yorkey, Linspired (Kids Edition, too), Barbour Publishers (Agent: Greg Johnson)

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New WordServe Clients

Caesar Kalinowski is one of the thought leaders in the missional church movement and a trainer and founder of the Soma Communities in the Tacoma, Wash, area. (Agent: Greg Johnson)

Gillian Marchenko is a small town girl from Michigan who has spent the majority of her married life in big cities: first Kiev, Ukraine and now Chicago, Illinois where she lives with her husband, Sergei, and their four daughters. Gillian writes and speaks about parenthood, stumbling faith, adoption, and special needs. Gillian has written a memoir about the birth of her third daughter, Polly, and her diagnosis of Down syndrome in the former Soviet Union. Her writing has appeared in MomSense Magazine, EFCA TODAY, Four Cornered Universe, CHICAGO PARENT, Story Bleed, and CHICAGO SPECIAL PARENT. Check out Gillian’s website at www.gillianmarchenko.com. (Agent: Sarah Joy Freese)

Laurie Polich-Short, veteran youth speaker and author, is making the leap to adult non-fiction for women. (Agent: Greg Johnson)

New Contracts

Marcus Brotherton signed with Zondervan Publishing House to collaborate and write DiscipleShift with pastors and authors Jim Putman and Bob Harrington. The book will be the lead book for the April 2013 Exponential Conference. (Agent: Greg Johnson)

Julie Cantrell has signed with David C. Cook for two more untitled novels. (Agent: Greg Johnson)

Jan Drexler, a debut author, has signed a contract with Harlequin’s Love Inspired line of Christian fiction for her Amish book Love Bears All Things. With her Anabaptist upbringing and ancestral ties to the Amish church, Jan brings a unique understanding of Amish traditions, doctrine, and theology to her writing. Her ancestors were among the first Amish immigrants to Pennsylvania, fleeing intense religious persecution in Europe in the 17th century, and then continued west, arriving in northern Indiana in the mid-1800’s. Their experiences are the basis for her stories. Jan holds a B.A. in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis from Kalamazoo College in Michigan. She lives with her husband and two of her four children in the Black Hills of South Dakota. (Agent: Barbara Scott)

Pamela Binnings Ewen, an award-winning fiction author, signed a contract with B&H Publishing Group for the second edition of her non-fiction apologetics book titled Faith on Trial: Would the Testimony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John Stand Up in Court? The first edition of Faith on Trial was published in 1999 and was listed on many best-seller lists and even used as a textbook at Yale University in a course on Law and Religion. Pamela practiced law for twenty-five years in Houston before retiring in 2004 to write full time. (Agent: Barbara Scott)

Denver Pastor Michael Hidalgo signed with IVP for two books. The first is called Unlost, a book about stopping our search for God and standing still long enough for Him to find us. The second book is untitled. (Agent: Greg Johnson)

Amanda Jenkins recently signed a contract with Tyndale House Publishers for her memoir tentatively titled Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist. Before life as a homemaker and mother of four, Amanda worked in sales and marketing for a number of Christian retailers, as well as in visual communications and advertising. She spent ten years in L.A. alongside her film-making husband Dallas Jenkins, son of bestselling author Jerry Jenkins. Amanda attended Northwestern Bible College and graduated with a degree in Biblical Studies and Communications. She has taught Bible studies for women of all ages for the past fourteen years and is passionate about communicating truth in a culturally relevant and humorous way. (Agent: Barbara Scott)

Our own Becky Johnson and her daughter, Rachel Randolph, have signed a two-book contract with Zondervan Publishing House. The first book will mirror the title of their food blog, We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook.  It’s a book of vignettes about mother-daughter life up to and after the birth of Rachel’s first child.  The second book is tentatively titled Getting Momma Fit, Getting Daughter Relaxed. (Agent: Greg Johnson)

Jerry and Carolyn Parr signed with Tyndale House Publishers to write their memoir. Jerry was a Secret Service Agent for 25 years. Jerry was the agent who pushed Ronald Reagan into the limo after he was shot by John Hinckley and then made the decision to immediately go the hospital, a decision that saved the President’s life. After retiring, he went to seminary, and he and his wife spent more than 15 years serving the poor and homeless of Washington D.C. (Agent: Greg Johnson)

Debut author Amy Sorrells signed a two-book contract with David C. Cook. Her first novel is tentatively titled Canary Song and was the winner of the recent Women of Faith writing contest under the title of Comfort and Salvation. As well as an author, Amy is currently a registered nurse for Indiana University Health North Hospital in Carmel, Indiana. Her professional writing has been featured in numerous national journals. She lives with her husband, three boys, and three golden retrievers in central Indiana.  (Agent: Barbara Scott)

Mike Yorkey and Jesse Florea have signed with Barbour Publishers to do a shorter book on New York Yankees future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera. (Agent: Greg Johnson)

Mike Yorkey signed with Barbour Publishers to write a “Playing with Purpose” book on a broad range of NFL stars. (Agent: Greg Johnson)

Mike Yorkey signed with Harper Collins Publishers as the collaborator for the Eric LeGrand story that will be published this fall. Eric was the Rutgers University football player who suffered a spinal cord injury and yet has inspired millions with his courage. (Agent: Greg Johnson)

What We’re Celebrating!!

Jordyn Redwood received a starred review from Library Journal for her debut medical thriller Proof. Their Verdict: Strong writing, terrific plot twists, and a great premise make this debut medical thriller a must-read. Recommend it to fans of Richard L. Mabry and Robin Cook.

Dave Runyon was featured in the June 2012 issue of Christianity Today. It highlights Dave’s work in the Arvada, Colo., area pulling churches together to be better neighbors. His book, written with Arvada pastor Jay Pathak, The Art of Neighboring, will be releasing in August. (www.artofneighboring.com)

Karen Witemeyer’s book Short-Straw Bride was #14 on the CBA Fiction list for July (May sales).

What can we help you celebrate?