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Monday, December 31, 2012

Project ADD: What is it? Do You have it?

Though in denial for years, I recently confessed to having Project A.D.D. and not being able to focus long enough to finish a project until there’s a looming deadline overhead. Maybe you can relate? If so, read on. If not, go ahead and make your New Year's resolutions, then skip to the comment section and tell the rest of us your secrets to getting things done.

How do you know if you have Project A.D.D.?

When I was little, my mom would say I always started things, but never finished them. Now I see it in my adult life. My office is piled with writing related projects. Outside my daughter's room sits discarded toys waiting to be donated or sold, in the craft room a half-finished scrapbook project waits, and in my computer is a lonely WIP I have yet to pick up again after a year of two book launches, marketing, freelance writing, and teaching distractions. And did I mention the novella I didn’t finish in time for Christmas?

So many things cluttering my mind waiting to be finished. So why do I do this? Why do you do this? Why do we start projects and bounce around from one to the other? Why can't we just focus on ONE and plow away until it's done? And more importantly how do we battle this project A.D.D. and keep our New Year’s resolutions this year? 

Since we’ve identified the symptoms of Project A.D.D., it might be time to explore the cause and solutions.

No Deadline
When I was a news editor for my college paper, I had a weekly deadline. I also had a full class schedule and was chaplain to 30 girls. How did I do it? Late nights barely making curfew and catching up homework on weekends with no social life, but the news section came out on time because I had a deadline.

Just last this month I turned in two paying freelance articles on deadline even though it seemed like I waited until the last minute to write them because of all the other pressing things in my life. I learned while pressure is not something I love, it does help me finish projects.

Solution: If you don't have a specific deadline, give yourself one and stick to it. Then tell someone you can be held accountable to and send the finished project to them.

No "To Do" List
I know when I make a “To Do” list I spend less time on social media "marketing" and more time crossing things off my list. So why don't I do it more often? Part of me thinks it might take too much energy or time to make a list, but in reality, it helps clear my mind, and helps me focus to accomplish the important things, thus saving me time.

Solution: Instead of a “To Do” list I have a three ring binder where I keep all my ongoing projects. Whenever I think of something else I need to do on a project, I write it down in the correct section. With a resource like this, I should never get off task. Then if one project becomes stalled for reasons beyond my control, I can work on another. Great advice, right? Now if only I’d be more consistent in using that binder!

No Motivation
Let's face it, without clear goals, how can I have the motivation to accomplish anything? Yet, even with clear goals it's not necessarily a given the task will get done. For example, I've needed to work on several scrapbooking projects for years, but there hasn't been a rush. Now with my son graduating high school, I feel the urgency to finish that scrapbook so he’ll have something to display at graduation.

Solution: Reevaluate your goals and prioritize things you want to do in your personal and professional life. What need to get done in the next week? Put those on the top of your “To Do” list.

Boredom
When a project takes too long or gets stalled, I get bored. That's when I look for another project which isn't always a terrible thing. For example, when I get stalled in a writing project and need a break from the computer, I try and do some laundry or clean my office. I'm still being focused and productive, but if I start gravitating toward Facebook without a plan, then it might be two hours later with nothing to show for it!

Solution: Make a “To Do” list that has different types of projects (remember that “To Do” binder?) and plan for down time. If you like to be on Facebook when you get bored, then put it on your “To Do” list and set a time limit. 

We may never be cured of our Project A.D.D., but if we remember the things that get us off task and prepare for them, I know we can be more productive.

How about you? How do you battle Project A.D.D. and what do you do to keep on task?



Gina Conroy is founder of Writer...Interrupted and is still learning how to balance a career with raising a family. Represented by Chip MacGregor, she writes fun, quirky mysteries full of depth. Her first book Cherry Blossom Capers, released from Barbour Publishing in January 2012 and her newest mystery, Digging Up Death  is available now.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Considering Time - M. Laycock


"Did having cancer alter your perspective on time?" My friend waited while I thought about her question. "I'm sure it has," I finally responded, "but I'm not quite sure how." As I thought about it, I was surprised to realize that I no longer look at time as rushing by. I no longer get a panicky feeling when I think of all the things I want to accomplish in my day, my week, my life. I am much more inclined to take the time to stop and consciously make myself aware of what's happening around me. 

That surprised me. I would have thought I'd feel more pressure, knowing that life is short and can end at any time. (waking up on a respirator in ICU makes you keenly aware of that fact). But, since having cancer, I'm not so focused on the urgency to do as the desire to be. I stepped out onto a windy winter street this morning and delighted in the falling snow and stood for a moment to watch the swirl of brown leaves kissing the gleaming windows of tall buildings. The urgency to get my Christmas shopping done fell away and time seemed to settle as softly as the falling snow. 

It's easy to get caught up in the "tyranny of the urgent," especially as we creep closer to the age when death is peeping around the corner. It's easy to get that panicky feeling in our stomachs as we approach the end of the year and know it's time to make plans for another. But it's also easy, I've discovered, to "be still and know" that He is God and that with His hand in ours fear and even the pounding pulse of time, melts away.
My husband is known for quoting John Piper who said that at the root of all sin is unbelief. I realized as I stood on that street the other day that my panicky feelings were just that, lack of faith in God. Knowing that I was seconds away from meeting Him face to face has restored that faith, given me peace, and yes, changed my perspective on time.

Time is no longer a task-master but simply the measure of the journey we are all taking, one that will lead to that face to face meeting with our Heavenly Father. I know I won't escape it and neither will you. I look forward to it, knowing it is not an end but a new beginning.
I will still sit down in early 2013 to make my list of writing goals and challenges for the New Year, but this time it will be with a smile on my face, not a frown, knowing that time may stop at any moment and that new beginning will be a shining reality.
****
Marcia's books are available on her website and online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble etc.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Publishing Options—What Kind of Publisher is Right for You?


Today’s marketplace has turned the publishing world into a new version of the Wild West. In some ways that’s good. But in other ways . . . well, not so good. For those wanting to publish book-length manuscripts things are especially rough. And the main reason is, even if the terms haven’t changed, some of the definitions have.

In this post I’m going to give you an up-to-date review of all your current options—from traditional print publishing to online to self-publishing. So it’s easier to understand, I’m breaking down the comparisons into several categories:
  • Author Investment
  • Author Advance
  • Royalties
  • Rights (who owns the work in question)

Traditional Publishers, (including print and eBook)—This option has always set the standard within the industry. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest is the fact that someone else judges your work to be so good they are willing to back the idea with money.

Author Investment – None. The publisher pays all the costs of publishing, warehousing and distributing the book. Generally print runs will be around 1500 or more. The books are warehoused in the publisher’s space.

Author Advance – Varies by publishing house. In addition to paying for the book to be published, the author is given an advance. This can vary in when the author receives it and how big it is. It’s called an advance because the author must earn it back in royalties before they receive additional money from royalties.

Royalties – This is the percentage of the purchase price given to the author. It also varies from house to house, but generally ranges between eight and fifteen percent of net for print and twenty-five to fifty percent on eBooks.

Rights – In traditional publishing, the publisher owns the rights. Frequently the contract contains a clause that allows for the right to revert back to the author or be purchased by the author when the book is no longer in print.

Important Note—It’s never considered a traditional arrangement if the author invests ANY money in the publishing of the book. This means if the publisher requires the author to buy books up front—even at a discount—it is NO LONGER a traditional agreement and has drifted into the murky realm of self or subsidy publishing

Independent Publishers, (including print and eBook)—This is a new breed on the publishing frontier and one that I personally believe is long overdue. The changes from traditional have more to do with the size of the house and publishing model or niche.

Author Investment – Still none. The publisher pays all the costs of publishing. A lot of independent publishers use a POD (Print-on-Demand) publishing model. This means they print the books as they’re ordered and not warehoused anywhere. Many independent also specialize in publishing eBooks.

Author Advance – This varies widely by publisher. When advances are offered, they’re generally much smaller than those offered by traditional publishers.

Royalties – These also vary by publisher, but on print books are generally around fifteen percent and as high as fifty percent or more on eBooks.

Rights – These are generally the same as traditional publishing.

Self Publishers, (including print and eBook)—This category is the most difficult of all to quantify. The publishers using this publishing model call themselves by various names—and seem to come up with new ones almost daily. One derogatory term occasionally still used in the industry is Vanity Press. Here are two of the more common ones you’ll see:
  • Subsidy Publishing
  • Partnership Publishing

Author Investment – With this publishing model, authors are expected to contribute to the cost of publishing their book. This can be required in many different ways, from an outright investment cost, to being required to purchase a set number of books in advance. Any time an author is expected to contribute to the publishing of their manuscript it’s some variation of self-publishing.

Author Advance – None. See reasons stated above.

Royalties – If the self-publisher retains the rights to the author’s manuscript, the author will be offered royalties and these can vary widely. But my thought is if I’m investing money, I should get the lion’s share of the profit.

Rights – This depends. But this is a very important thing to consider if you choose to self-publish.

It’s important for you to know that I am NOT against self-publishing—quite the contrary. There are many times when it’s the best option for the circumstances.  But I do think authors should be informed when they make a decision. 

What about you? Have you had any experience with any of the above models? What did you like/dislike about your experience?


Edie Melson is a freelance writer and editor with years of experience in the publishing industry. She’s a prolific writer, and has a popular writing blog, The Write Conversation. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, as well as a popular faculty member at numerous others. She’s also the social media columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and social media coach for My Book Therapy. Connect with her through Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Goals Can Get You There

Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, is one of my favorite books.

An exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat perfectly illustrates the importance of goal setting. Alice asks:

“Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?”

The cat replies, “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

“I don’t much care where—”

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

“—so long as I get somewhere.” 

Here at Novel Rocket, we recognize the value of goal-setting. We’re here to help you get to where you want to go as a writer.

Here are my writing and editing goals for 2013. Why don't you post yours, too? Sometimes just getting them out there for others to see provides the impetus you need.
  1. Revise my current manuscript and research the next.
  2. Start writing my new manuscript.
  3. Read The Art of War for Writers and one other craft book.
  4. Deepen my relationships with God, family, friends.
  5. Increase the traffic on my editing site, WritingOnTheFineLine.com
What are your resolutions—goals, if you prefer—for the coming year?

Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying his playground. He also plays with words as a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com, where he often takes a writer Into The Edit, pulling back the veil on the editing process. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.

Cat image courtesy of digital art / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Susan Norris ~ Rescuing Hope


 A powerful voice for hope, international speaker Susan Norris helps teens and women find freedom from strongholds in the areas of purity and spiritual identity. In her debut novel, Rescuing Hope, she frames the realities of sex trafficking in America. This woman of boldness, known to many as Miss Susan, spent countless hours with survivors, their families, detectives and a former pimp, emerging a voice for victims and a catalyst for action among her peers. She networks on behalf of organizations such as Resolution Hope, Not for Sale, and Out of Darkness, lobbies for stronger laws to protect victims and walks alongside rescued girls as they piece together shattered lives. Having graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a Master’s of Education, Susan taught in public and private schools and served as a leader for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes before being called to full time ministry. She lives with her family in Atlanta, Georgia, and considers them to be her highest calling. Susan can be found at her website, Twitter  @SusanCNorris, and Facebook.

Susan, what made you decide to write a novel about this?

I first heard about the issue of human sex trafficking two and a half years ago. Once I learned this was taking place in my city I had to do something about it. When I met with Mary Frances Bowley of Wellspring Living, she said we needed to make people aware this isn’t just a problem overseas, but it’s a problem in our backyards. Thus began my journey to write a book telling the story for those whose voice is not heard. I’d never written a book before, but I was willing to learn as I went.

How long did it take from conception to completed manuscript?

I spent six months researching the issue, interviewing survivors, family members of trafficked girls, detectives, organization that fight the issue and a former pimp so I could gain a variety of perspectives. I spent about nine months writing the manuscript and another ten to twelve months doing editing and revisions before it was finally ready for print. During the editing and revision writing, I met Brian Shivler of Resolution Hope who said they’d love to launch the book at their New Year’s Eve kick off to a national awareness campaign on human sex trafficking of minors. In order to have the book ready for the event, I had to self-publish. Resolution Hope’s New Year’s Eve event will take place in Pittsburgh, PA and there will be a simulcast location at Riverstone Church in Kennesaw, Georgia. The book will be available at both venues on New Year’s Eve as well as online.

Did anything unusual happen while you were researching?

The most unique or unusual thing that happened was having the opportunity to sit down with a man who had pimped for thirty years before he gave his life to Jesus. Hearing his take on the lifestyle and what has happened in his life since then was captivating. He is now on the front lines fighting against human trafficking, rescuing girls and getting them into treatment centers. It was encouraging to hear such a story of redemption. As I listened to him share stories of his childhood and how he ended up pimping, I realized the pimps and the johns are wounded and need Jesus just as much as their victims.

What type of writer are you?

I never thought of myself as a writer. Honestly, I’d say I’m more of an intercessor. It’s through prayer over all I had learned that the story of Rescuing Hope was birthed. Each day, while in my prayer closet, the Lord would show me glimpses of Hope’s story. I would record what I had seen and pull from my interview notes to bring the characters to life. With the assistance of a fabulous editor, we were able to clean things up a bit and deliver a powerful story.
Each day as I wrote, I played the song, Restoration, by David Brymer, Clay Edwards and Audra Hartke, as I sat down to write. It helped center my focus on what the message of Rescuing Hope was.

What's the most difficult part of writing for you?

I’m a former elementary school teacher and a public speaker. All my life I’ve been teaching and telling no matter what the topic. The hardest shift for me was to go from telling to showing. It felt like I wrote three million revisions of the manuscript shifting from telling to showing. Thankfully, I had a very skillful editor who pointed out when I got it right and when I needed to rewrite.

Where do you write?

Rescuing Hope was written in two different venues. When I needed a quiet place to focus and work without being disturbed, I locked myself in my office and dared anyone to come through the door. However, there were days I need people around, just not interacting with me. When that happened, I would sneak away to what I refer to as my satellite office, The Daily Grind. It’s a great little coffee shop where they know me well. They would have my Chai Latte ready and waiting on me as I unpacked my computer. If I worked through lunch, they would bring lunch to my table and I’d pay for it when I packed up to leave. It was like having an office staff take care of me while I worked. I can’t say enough fabulous things about the Daily Grind.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever heard?

Show, don’t tell. Obviously, it’s what I needed the most help with, so today, that’s the best piece of advice I’ve heard. I have so much to learn.

Any parting words or advice?

If God calls you to write, just do it. Don’t get hung up on what you don’t know. If He called you to do it, He’ll equip you or bring people into your life to help guide you along the way. There are countless people who have touched Rescuing Hope to make it the book it is today. If I had waited until I felt capable or trained enough to write it, I probably never would. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told God I never asked to write a book. He chuckles and reminds me that I did tell Him I wanted to be used by Him. We don’t always get to pick how He uses us. We have to be willing to do whatever He sends our way.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Matthew 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. 


Unto us a child is born! May His joy and peace fill your heart and home as you and your family celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Five Ways Writers Should Approach Criticism

Perhaps the worst part of writing is the criticism that will come.  It's inevitable. Publish something and someone's bound to not like it. Social media only compounds the issue, empowering reviewers with star ratings, Likes, and Top Reviewer statuses. You invest blood, sweat, and tears in your novel only to have someone you've never met pan it to 1K-plus followers. So if you're planning on lasting very long in this writing gig, learning how to approach criticism is a necessary survival skill.

Statistically speaking, for every complaint a business receives, another 24 unsatisfied customers never call. They just stop frequenting that business. The same is true for writers. You will never hear from the majority of readers who have an issue with your stuff. Most of them will probably just tell their friends what they didn't like and, perhaps, opt out of reading anything else written by you.

Which is why criticism offered can be a valuable thing.

Several years ago, I was contacted by a multi-published author who'd seen that I was reading their current novel. They wanted my honest feedback. As one with no shortage of opinions, I graciously outlined what I felt were pros and cons of the book. My critique was very balanced and measured; anything but a harsh, one-sided appraisal. However, the author took it hard. They bemoaned their sales and became defensive. I felt bad. I mean, Why ask if you're not prepared for honest critique?

The takeaway from that exchange was not that writers can be thin-skinned, but that navigating criticism is essential to longevity. And mental health. It is not within my power to control how readers will respond to my writing. It IS within my power to control how I respond to their opinions and criticism.

So how should writers approach criticism? Here's 5 suggestions:  
 
ONE: Appreciate those who take time with your book and who write a review or offer a critique – Treat criticism as a gift. I know, that's hard. But for every criticism you receive there's probably a dozen other readers who felt the same way. Even if you feel the criticism is unfair or mean, give the reviewer points for investing some of their precious time to read your novel and to write a review. Hopefully, no one's forced them to do either. Be thankful, at the least, for the time (and money), they spent on you.

TWO: Make it easy for people to offer suggestions and observations to you in the future. One way to do this is to not mope around, feel sorry for yourself, get defensive, or make the individual who offered their opinion feel guilty. It’s not easy to correspond with folks who think your book is flawed or slow or a waste of time.  Nevertheless, grit your teeth and thank them. One customer research firm found that customers who complained and their complaint was honored by the business, are up to 8% more loyal than if they had no problem at all. In other words, you may actually win some fans by not blowing off someone's criticism.

THREE: Even if a criticism seems inaccurate or is offered poorly, act like there’s some truth to it. In fact, there probably is! We call them "blind spots" for a reason. Every author has them. Don't be sidetracked by a reviewer's snark or poor choice of words. Try to see past the two-stars to the essence of the dislike. Sure, you don't have to agree with it. Neither do you have to be brought down by immature feedback. And unless you believe you and your story are perfect (see point number Five), there may be something instructive in the criticism that can, if applied, ultimately make you a better writer

FOUR: Discard what you can't use... without holding grudges. We writers have long memories, often in the worst ways. We keep mental ledgers of critical things written and said about our stories. This is cancerous! More than one novelist has failed to appreciate positive reviews given because they're too busy stewing over negative ones. If, after thoughtful, dispassionate consideration of some criticism rendered, you conclude it is without merit... can it! It's hard enough cranking out good stories on a regular basis. Why make the process more difficult? Some criticism belongs in the trash can, not the compost bin.

FIVE: Remember, you’re not perfect yet; there's always room to grow. I hate to break it to you, but sometimes your writing SHOULD be criticized. There's only one Man who walked on water. And last I checked, even He was criticized. A good rule to follow: When praised, don't crow; When criticized, don't croak. (Perhaps if we crowed less about our successes, we'd croak less often when criticized.) Even if you're criticized unjustly for something, you could be criticized justly for others.

Criticism is an inevitable part of writing. No author is immune from it. Which is why learning HOW to approach and handle criticism is so important. It is not within your power to control how readers will respond to your writing. It IS within your power to control how you respond to their opinions and criticism.

Question: What are some other ways that writers can constructively approach criticism?

* * *


Mike Duran is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket, and is represented by the rockin' Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Mike's novels include The TellingThe Resurrection, an ebook novella, Winterland, and his newly released short story anthology Subterranea  You can visit his website at www.mikeduran.com.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Blessing of Forgiveness



Especially at this time of year, when we’re locked in a small space with a group of people that we may not see the rest of the year, or perhaps with whom we have nothing in common outside of DNA, forgiveness is a timely and God-inspired topic for us to address. 

Receiving and giving forgiveness should be a way of life for Christ-followers, right?

 Matthew 6:12 puts a high priority on reconciliation, not only between us and God, but also between us and our fellow man.

Matthew 6:12
…and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.

There are many songs on the radio today that talk about forgiveness. We often sing along with the artist, but do we fully understand what “forgiveness” means?

While giving forgiveness can be challenging—even agonizing—for many of us, we all eagerly desire to be forgiven. However, pride can keep us from admitting when we’re wrong. And ignoring our fault (or our sin) has a price, especially when it involves sin that we do not or will not confess to God.

While we are forgiven for the past, present and future of our sin, we still need the cleansing experiences to put away sin that would otherwise cause guilt. We don’t want to be bogged down by guilt and bitterness. When we confess, it’s like fresh air and we don’t have that distance between us and God.

Unconfessed sin eats away at us— from the inside out—and puts a distance between us and God. And when we hold onto a grudge with both hands, when that slight or hurtful behavior begins to define the relationship, the wall grows – brick by brick – until we can hardly see that person on the other side. In both cases, when we humble ourselves and admit our mistakes, nothing is sweeter than being forgiven.


  # # #
  

Sandra D. Bricker is a best-selling and award-winning author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for the Christian market. Her most popular series (that started with Always the Baker Never the Bride) will conclude this spring with Always the Baker FINALLY the Bride, which is now available for pre-order at Amazon.

Sandie leads a team of writers in creating the Living It Out daily Bible study for CedarCreek Church. Today's devotion is based on the Living It Out study on the importance of forgiveness. If you enjoyed it, feel free to check out the daily studies by e-mail or audio podcast by clicking HERE.