Raise Your Bar

Raise Your Bar

by Jennifer Slattery

It seems everyone wants to be a writer. And who wouldn’t? You work from home, plan your own schedule, and live in a fantasy world much of the time. But of the tens of thousands (perhaps even millions?) around the globe longing to pen that first novel, only a small percentage will actually follow through. Even fewer will see their work in print. Peruse agent and editor blogs long enough and you’ll soon learn why this is true.

Most editors publish one out of every one hundred submissions.Some even less than that. Which means, if you want to succeed, you need to rise to the 99th percentile. A daunting task, I know. Like anything else, you won’t get there by accident, or by twiddling your thumbs. If you want to be part of that top one percent, you’ll need to work hard, when others rest. Persevere when others give up. Improve when others remain stagnant. Unless you view writing as a hobby, you’ll need to approach it with intentionality and determination. For me, that equates to setting daily, weekly, monthly, and annual goals.

At the risk of using a cliché…. They say “Shoot for the stars and you may hit the moon. Shoot for the ground and you’ll hit it every time.” Here’s how this plays out in writing. Set a daily word count goal, although you may not always reach it, chances are, you’ll pound your keyboard for a while. Let you writing “fit in as it may”, most likely, other things will often crowd it out. Plus, I believe, this trains negative habits and makes that first deadline much harder to meet.

I write fiction novels, freelance articles, review for Novel Reviews, do freelance editing and marking for Tiffany Colter, the Writing Career Coach, write for Christ to the World Ministries, do marketing and function as host for Clash of the Titles, and send material monthly to Internet Café Devotions, Samie Sisters, Devo Kids, and the Christian Pulse. This doesn’t leave a lot of flex time.

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When It Becomes Personal: A Memorial Day Devotional

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13 NIV

Some holidays, if I’m going to be completely honest, didn’t impact me very much when I was a child. For much time growing up, they were simply excuses not to go to school (or have an assembly). I never really thought about Labor Day, Memorial Day, President’s Day, or Veteran’s Day for their actual meanings. Or even if I did, it was just a lesson in school or a book.

And as I grew into adulthood, some of these holidays gained new meaning, while others didn’t. But no holidays changed as much for me in the past few years as Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day.

Yesterday, as you likely know, was Memorial Day. I’ve appreciated those in the military for as long as I’ve known what they were, but that appreciation became much more real – more personal – when someone in my family made the ultimate sacrifice for my, and our, freedom.

Well, not in my BLOOD family. And it wasn’t even anyone I knew very well (in fact, IF I met him, it was perhaps once or twice in passing). But this young man who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country almost five years ago was very important to some people who were very important to me. He was a member of my church family.

nick roushArmy Corporal Nick Roush was killed on Sunday, August 16, 2009, at age 22, in Afghanistan when an IED exploded. He was a local kid, an attendee of my local church (at the time) since he was a boy.

Like I said before, I never knew him. But I knew – and loved – people who did. His sweet parents. His dear friends. Those who grew up with him, and those who grew up with his parents. And suddenly, the war, and its tragedies, were personal.

I lined the road when the motorcade brought his body from the local airport to our church. I read every article I could find. I blogged about it: not once, not twice, not three times, but FOUR times on my personal blog. It clearly changed my perceptions – my perspective.

Christ is like that too. I’d heard of Him – barely in passing as a child, more as I grew older. But it wasn’t until it BECAME PERSONAL that it changed my life. Until he was more than a person – until He became my Savior. My friend. Until I really and truly understood His sacrifice – and that He did it for me.

Sometimes it takes death to make something personal – meaningful – to you.

I will never be the same.

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Words on Display

Words on Display
By Delia Latham

And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. ~1 Corinthians 9:25

“Temperate,” according to Merriam-Webster: 1 : marked by moderation: as keeping or held within limits; not extreme or excessive.

Sometimes less is more.

Unlike many familiar phrases, this one is true almost every time. (I have to admit, I don’t think that way when I’m trying to stretch too few dollars to make ends meet. In that case, more would definitely be more.)

But we’re not talking about money, or beauty, or weight loss. We’re talking about writing, and with that topic in mind, less is more.

Write tight. Be succinct. Make it short and snappy.

I could think of a dozen more ways to say the same thing, but it would defeat my purpose.

Want to know why editors slap our wrists for using too many adjectives and adverbs? Because they clutter, without serving any real purpose. They are crutches, and depending on them keeps us from making the effort to write better, tighter, cleaner prose.

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New Blogging Contest – What’s In Your Pocket?

FaithWriters has s new blogging contest going on right now,  and winners can get paid writing assignments or a free one-year Gold membership. The current contest is for the Pocket Testament League, a 120+-year-old organization whose their main focus is leading people to a saving knowledge of Christ and equipping others to do the same.

To enter the contest, you need to write a 750-word-or-less promotional review of their site/ministry whose goal is to encourage readers to click on the links to PTL’s website. Your article must include at least four links to the PTL website tied into certain key words (contextual links). And it must be posted in at least three places – on the “What’s In Your Pocket” post in the FaithWriters forums, in FaithWriters’ regular articles section, and one other place. See this page for the general guidelines, tips, and instruction on entering these contests, and this page for more details on this particular contest.

The deadline for this contest is 6pm ET on June 30, 2014, with winners announced as soon as they are determined.

So, are you wondering about prizes? Well, here they are:

1st Place (Upgraded member): Two paid writing assignments from Pocket Testament League ($150 total) and publication on 100 Christian blogs.

2nd Place (Upgraded member) One paid writing assignment from Pocket Testament League (worth $75)

Best Silver member entry: free one-year FaithWriters Gold membership

So, check out their website for ideas (or see the winners of the last PTL blogging contest a couple years ago) and get writing!

Are You Entering? What’s in Your Pocket?

 

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Filling the Well

Filling the Well

by Dorothy Love

Are you weary?  Out of ideas that excite you? Tired of wrestling that manuscript into shape while trying to follow the “rules” of writing a novel?  Worried that your new book is too tired, too trite, too…something? Me, too. Next week, I have a couple of projects due to my publishers. I’m digging deep to find the creative, emotional, and physical stamina  I need to meet my deadlines.  I know I’m not alone. All working writers regularly reach a point at which it seems impossible to finish the novel, write the blog post, make the book signing.

We need to refill the well. One thing that helps me is to read the words of others whose work is way better than mine. Some are funny,  some are profound, all of them encourage me and renew my love for this maddening, impossible and completely exhilarating work we call writing. Here are a few randomly selected quotes that helped me this week. I hope they will renew your spirits, too, or at least make you laugh,  regardless of where you are on your writing  journey.

“Whatever our theme in writing, it is old and tired. Whatever our place, it has been visited by the stranger; it will never be new again. It is only the vision that can be new, but that is enough.”   Eudora Welty

“If there  is a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”  Toni Morrison

“When the plot flags, bring in a man with a gun.”  Raymond Chandler

“The writer is the one who, embarking upon a task, does not know what to do.”  Donald Barthelme

“Most writers enjoy two periods of happiness–when a glorious idea comes to mind and, secondly when a last page has been written and you haven’t had time to know how much better it ought to be.”   Joseph Priestly

And, finally, this from EB White, author of Charlotte’s Web:  “I have no warm up exercises, other than to take an occasional drink.”

What’s your favorite quote?

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Dorothy LoveBefore moving to the inspirational market with her Hickory Ridge series of historical romances for adult readers, Dorothy Love published more than a dozen novels for preteens and young adults at major New York houses including Random House and Simon and Schuster. Beyond All Measure, her first Hickory Ridge title from Thomas Nelson debuted in June, 2011 to starred reviews from Library Journal and Romantic Times.  The second book, Beauty For Ashes, released  in early 2012. The third and final book, Every Perfect Gift, released at the end of 2012. CAROLINA GOLD, Dorothy’s next novel, a stand alone historical, was published in November of 2013. Dorothy shares a home in the Texas hill country with her husband and two golden retrievers. She loves chatting with readers through her website: www.DorothyLoveBooks.com or her author page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/dorothylovebooks

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Summer is Coming

In MY hemisphere, anyway. And for a lot of people (though by no means ALL people), it means a different schedule and/or routine. The kids are home more. Vacations are more likely. Things are…well…different. And the amount of time you have for your pursuits – including writing – often changes.

For some, summer means more time to write, and for others, less. Regardless, it isn’t wise to let an entire season go by without putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to exercise the writing muscles and gift God has given you.

And in case you didn’t know, FaithWriters does NOT go away for the summer – there are still plenty of opportunities to hone your craft, write to a topic, and all the other things you love about the site. So, check out the list of opportunities below and pick one or two to work on this summer.

FaithWriters’ second testimony book: if your testimony wasn’t published in FW’s first testimony book, upgraded members can submit one to this contest, whose deadline is August 15, 2014. Check out the link (and scroll down) for more details. Fifty testimonies will be chosen and included in this book, with authors participating in royalties.

2014 Non-Fiction Page Turner Contest: Platinum members can enter FaithWriters’ first chapter contest, with the possibility of winning $800 in cash and more in prizes. Submit the first chapter of your unpublished non-fiction manuscript, plus an overview of the book, and you could be the winner! Deadline for this contest is October 31, 2014. Check out this link for more details.

Xulon Christian Fiction Contest: Platinum members can submit the beginning and synopsis of an unpublished fiction manuscript to this contest, with the winner receiving a Xulon Press Bestseller Package for their manuscript, and free premium publicity and marketing for their finished novel on the FaithWriters’ site. Read more information here - the deadline for this contest is November 30, 2014.

And don’t forget FaithWriters’ continuing opportunities in the FaithWriters Writing Challenge, Free Reprints, and General Submissions.

What are YOUR writing plans for the summer?

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Keeping Your Writing Active

Keeping Your Writing Active

By Gail Gaymer Martin

Suspense, mysteries, and westerns aren’t the only genres that need action. Keeping your story filled with action-packed verbs helps the plot to move and helps create a page-turner. Passive voice is only one kind of inactive writing. Selecting inexplicit verbs and deadwood sentence structure also stops authors form creating a moving, active story.

Passive Voice
The English class definition of passive voice is exchanging the positions of the subject and the object in a sentence. In active voice, the subject is doer; it acts on something. Example: The child picked up his toy.  In passive voice, the subject receives the action. Ex: The toy was pickedup by the child. Or  ”The note was signed by him” rather than “He signed the note.” In most cases, the subject should carry the action, but on occasion when who did it isn’t as important as what was done, then use the passive. ”Twenty size children were injured in a school bus accident.”

Notice the word “was” in the first example. The “to be” verbs, such as: is, was, are, were, be, been, are usually connected with passive voice. Still, writers should not totally exclude these verbs in their writing. The “to be” verbs are often needed in predicate nominative and predicate adjective sentences, like, “She was beautiful” or “He was quiet. They were soldiers.” Though the author is smarter to show her beauty (Her beauty touched him) and show his quietness His silence disturbed her). When those ideas are not the focus of the sentence but only a lead in to something more important, then use the passive voice. Still an author should avoid passive voice when possible.

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FaithWriters’ Writing Challenge – our evolving language

So, have you entered the FaithWriters Writing Challenge yet this quarter? I can happily say that I did – after an almost two-year break. This quarter’s topics are especially fun, as they are new words and phrases that are in the Oxford English Dictionary. From “googled” to “digital detox” to this week’s topic “omnishambles,” the subjects are proof that our language does NOT stay the same year after year. We’re halfway through the topics right now – so even if the current one doesn’t strike you, keep your eyes open – five more words are on deck!

Want to enter? Ponder the topic (google it if necessary - here’s a link to the definition of this week’s topic), and write a piece between 150 and 750 words about it and submit your entry no later that 10:59 AM ET on Thursday, May 8. Gold and Platinum members can enter each week, while silver members can try out the challenge a total of four times total. You can also find a buddy group to look your entry over before you enter, and chat about the topic if you’d like on the FaithWriters forums. See more details on the rules/guidelines at the Challenge main page.

Once the topic closes, be sure to read and comment on others’ entries – there will certainly be gems for you. And watch the brick throwing thread on the boards for the all clear – this is a GREAT place to post the direct link to your entry once judging is completed (please do NOT share your entry publicly before you hear that judging is done to protect the integrity of the process). Then watch the FOLLOWING Thursday for the challenge winners.

As a regular challengeer for many years, I think my jump back in will likely mean I won’t be taking quite as long a break until my next entry. Join me?

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Six Ways to Back Up Your Writing Files

Six Ways to Back Up Your Writing Files

By Lynda Lee Schab

For writers, losing work is equivalent to losing a child. Well, not really, but you get the picture. Backing up files is essential. The way you choose to protect your work depends on what type of writing you do, and your particular lifestyle.

Here are 6 options to choose from:

1. EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE - Hooks up to your computer via USB port.

PROS – It’s portable, safe, holds huge amounts of data, is upgradable if you need more storage, and keeps your computer from getting clogged with downloads and large files.

CONS – You have to actually remember to do it; it’s a little bulky to transport; it’s pricey – it will cost you anywhere from $50 – $100+ for a decent one.

2. THUMB/FLASH DRIVE- Tiny device, hooks up to your computer via USB port.

PROS -It’s cheap, sturdy, and small enough to throw in your purse or attach to your keychain.

CONS- Not as much storage as an external hard drive, and easy to misplace. And again, you have to remember to manually transfer your data.

3. DROPBOX - Dropbox is a simple online virtual storage utility that allows you to make your files accessible from almost anywhere.

PROS – Everything is online, so no need to carry around a flash drive; Can share content with anyone you’d like.

CONS – Are some concerns about security; 2GB free, but costs extra for more storage; support only online.

4. MOZYDownloadable backup software that automatically saves all data twice per day to an online storage site.

PROS – Reliable security; affordable — 50 GB for $5.99 per month; Does not constantly run in background, but runs only during the file transfers; Flexible automatic schedule, so nothing to remember.

CONS – No file sharing; Can take up to 3 days for initial backup, No phone support

5. CARBONITE- Similar to Mozy, Carbonite is downloadable online backup software.

PROS – Unlimited storage; intuitive backup process; apt for beginners and inexperienced users; Phone support;.File searching offered; 15-day free trial.

CONS – Offers only annual plans (starting at $59.99), no monthly options available; Must purchase a new plan for each computer; Must manually select files to transfer.

6. EMAIL - Email yourself a copy of your manuscript every time you add to it.

PROS: Easy; Free; Can access from anywhere

CONS: Have to remember to actually do it; If email address is compromised, you may lose your most recent copy.

The most important thing, of course, isn’t which option you choose, but that you do it. How do you back up your work?

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lyndaschabLYNDA LEE SCHAB got her writing start in greeting cards and has many articles and stories published in magazines and online publications. She works behind the scenes at FaithWriters.com, is a regular book reviewer for FaithfulReader.com, but Lynda’s passion has always been fiction. Her novels, MIND OVER MADI and MADILY IN LOVE, are available in print and on Kindle. Lynda lives in Michigan with her two children. Learn more about Lynda on her website, www.LyndaSchab.com.

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Congrats to Latest Blog Contest Winners!

FaithWriters’ latest blogging contest, focused on The Set Apart Church, a new online non-denominational church without walls, is finished – and winners have been announced. Winners will receive recognition, the knowledge of blessing and ministering to those who might need a church like this, AND prizes.

And without further ado – congratulations to our winners – check out their entries in the FaithWriters forums!

First Place: Tear Down the Walls of the Church by Wayne Cook (wins two paid writing assignments from The Set Apart Church valued at $150)

Second Place: Something Larger Than Myself by Kathleen A. Trissel (wins one paid writing assignment from The Set Apart Church valued at $75)

Best Silver Entry: It’s Never too Late by Graham Keet (wins a free one-year gold membership to FaithWriters)

Congratulations to the winners! Watch the forums for the next blog contest.

 

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