Friday, December 31, 2010

A Writers Covenant for 2011

I wanted to share this post from one of my favorite blogs - mbtponderers. It's written by Ponderer, Dee Topliff. If you haven't visited their site you are definitely missing out! Put them on the top of your places to go list for 2011. 

A Writers Covenant
by Dee Topliff

Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning, God created ... "
John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

God is the master communicator, the great initiator. He shapes us in His image and imprints in us His same desire to create and communicate. He ignites the creative spark, which becomes the catalyst for our desire to craft stories that cause others to respond.

God also cares about what each of us writes, custom-tailoring our messages and stories to who we are--while teaching us life lessons as His inspiration flows through us.

As 2010 draws to a close, consider this Writer's Covenant for the coming year:
Since ancient times, God has used human language to reach men and women. God Himself first wrote His messages on stone (Exodus 31:18), then in His Son (John 1: 1-2), and now in our hearts (2 Corinthians 3:2). We are indebted to both His written Word and to the writings of gifted men and women. Though we are imperfect tools, in God's hands and with his Help, we resolve that this year we will:

  • stir up God's gift within us
  • persevere when writing is hard, when we are tired, when our attempts are rejected
  • remember that when others seem to have greater gifts or natural ability, no one else possesses our combination of personality or experience
  • submit our talents and efforts for God's use and direction
  • seek to learn more of our craft while working to develop our skills so that we grow as writers and as God's keen instruments
To achieve these goals, we covenant with Him to:
Date___________ Signed__________________________________________

Lord, sharpen our ears to hear your thoughts and inspirations. When You speak, help us give undivided attention, so that we receive the full impact of who You are, producing results infused with the maximum of You, the minimum of us.

Open our eyes to see clearly, glimpsing your long-range cause and effects, identifying triggering story events and far-reaching consequences.

Open our hearts to change and grow through encountering You, through loving You as You deserve, and to give out of the overflowing abundance.

Open our mouths to praise You and to encourage others.
Strengthen our hands to write as your inspired and faithful scribes.

~Delores Topliff

(Covenant adapted from an unknown source)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Clash of the Titles Conquerors!

Clash of the Titles Competitors!
by Jennifer Slattery

Jennifer Slattery is the marketing representative for Clash of the Titles. Find out more about her and her writing at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.  

This morning I spent a fair amount of time researching dissociative disorders for a romance novel I’m working on, (don’t ask). According to the mental health experts, we all have a tendency to mentally check out once in awhile, to temporarily leave our problems and to-do lists behind and dive into a world of our own making—or of someone else’s making. COTT conquerors, Erin Rainwater and Cathy Bryant, have done a wonderful job of drawing the reader into their story worlds.

Erin Rainwater
I loved Erin’s competing excerpt because she did a great job of using deep POV. I review for Novel Reviews and as a reviewer, there is nothing more irritating than an overabundance of dialogue tags:

“Can we go?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he said.
“Why not?” she questioned.

Aaargh! Notice the difference in Erin’s competing excerpt from The Arrow that Flieth by Day:

            Her hand moved toward his bare shoulder. She stroked it gently, stirring him into wakefulness. 

            "What is it?"
            "Will you hold me?" Silence pressed heavily upon her. "Please, Dakota? I'm scared."
            "There's no need to be. We're locked up tight. Nothing can get in."
            She felt dejected, but entreated him again. "Please?"
            He sighed deeply, then rolled over. He did not reach for her, but studied her careworn face in the dim light of the one chandelier lamp they had left burning at night during Gregg's illness.

And notice how our readers responded:
“The emotion in first scene was over powering. The guilt is spot on, having been in that situation, even if the outcome was slightly different and the drs ended up saving our son.”

In The Arrow that Flieth by Day, Mandy Berringer is on the last leg of a homebound journey to Denver when a mistaken accusation by Indian warriors diverts the course of her life. Believed dead by her family, Mandy will do anything to get home. But a disabling accident, an epidemic, an unexpected love and a tragic loss prolong her separation from her family until she is finally reunited with them—only to be devastated by what she finds. The man she loves undergoes crushing trials of his own, and their search for each other leads them on separate journeys into new tests of faith and enduring love.

Intrigued? We were, too! Find out more about Erin Rainwater, The Arrow that Flieth by Day, and her other great novels at

Cathy Bryant
Cathy Bryant’s novel, Texas Roads, competed during the week of November 29th, in The Best Action Scene category. Action scenes are very hard to do well. Extra words slow the reader down; yet lack of details leave them on the surface level. It’s like walking on a literary tightrope. Often it comes down to that precise word--ran or sped, trembled or shook—used to convey the desired emotion. In the excerpt Cathy chose, visuals effectively demonstrated chaos and an overall sense of urgency. 

Notice how the trucks were parked.
            “Fire trucks parked at odd angles in the street outside Granny's Kitchen, and Will Coleman, the fire chief, barked orders to the volunteer firemen.”

And notice the imagery Cathy used to convey the emotion of her characters.
            “Icy tentacles wrapped around his throat and threatened his ability to breathe.”

Then, in three concise sentences, Cathy tells us exactly what’s at stake.
            “Was she lying somewhere hurt? He searched the area around the depot where a large blaze still lingered. A lone figure fought against the fire. Dani!”

In Cathy Bryant’s Texas Roads, City gal Dani Davis just wants to find a place to call home. Miller's Creek, Texas, with its country charm and quirky citizens seems like the perfect place to start over. Perfect, that is, except for the cowboy who gives her a ride into town... Dani secretly finances renovations to downtown Miller's Creek, but malicious rumors force her to choose between keeping her involvement a secret and the home for which she's always longed. Then the discovery of an age-old secret propels her down a road she never expected to travel. Steve Miller is determined to save his dying hometown. When vandalism jeopardizes the Miller's Creek restoration project, he can't help but suspect Dani, whose strange behavior has become fodder for local gossips. Will Steve and Dani be able to call a truce for a higher cause, and in the process help Dani understand the true meaning of home?

You can find out more about Cathy and her books at

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Challenge

"Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord." Luke 1:45

When God speaks about His plans, He does so with everything already in place to fulfill His Word. God never speaks hypothetically. He knows exactly what will come to pass. He simply asks you to believe Him. You will experience great blessing when you place your absolute trust in Him. Mary could not have dreamed all that would result from her faithful obedience. Likewise, you cannot possibly imagine all that God has in store for you  when you trust Him. He knows exactly what he will do to bring salvation to someone you have prayed for or to heal your friend or to provide your needs. God has everything in place.

Will you believe Him?

-an excerpt from Experiencing God Day by Day" by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Clash of the Titles

Clash of the Titles
by April Gardner

Today's post is shared by April Gardner, author of Wounded Spirits

There’s something for everyone at Clash of the Titles, but today we’ll hear what authors JoAnn Durgin and Margaret Brownley took away from it. These two talented ladies competed in our Back-cover Blurbs week. This particular challenge was unique in that the authors were revealed from the first day and encouraged to spread the word about their appearance on COTT.
Today, they’re here to tell us what they thought about it.

What motivated you to participate in COTT’s literary challenge?
Margret Brownley
Margaret: It sounded like fun. So many blogs are similar but this was refreshingly different.
JoAnn: My book was just on the cusp of release, and the marketing phase had begun. Time to get my name out there and gain some visibility. Plus, I love a good challenge, and wanted to see if my back cover copy would pass muster.
April: Marketing can be a big, scary monster. At COTT, we aim to make it a little easier for authors. I hope we did just that for both of you.

What did you find most enjoyable, or perhaps surprising, during your week?
Margaret: It was fun reading and responding to comments.  It didn’t feel like a contest, it was more of a celebration—a week long party!
JoAnn Durgin
JoAnn: I loved the comments and questions from readers and other writers. You can learn so much from the give-and-take and observations, and it helps me as an author to gain the unique insight into what readers like and can take away from what I’ve written. It’s gratifying and enlightening.
April: The comments are a lot of fun, aren’t they? An author can always use encouragement!

Did you think you would win?
Margaret: I think we both won because of the great exposure.  Contests are so subjective you never know how they will turn out.  I figured if most of the responders were western fans I had a chance.  If not, so what, it was fun.
April: Margaret, you’re so right! Great exposure is what we aim to achieve for all our visiting authors.
JoAnn: I honestly had no idea. My worthy competitor writes a totally different genre, and I believed it was more a matter of who voted and which genre they preferred. I’m so thankful we all have different tastes – something for everyone, and that’s the way it should be.
April: Congratulations, JoAnn!

Tell us about the book you entered in the clash.
JoAnn: Awakening is my first published book, although I’ve written many. This particular book was written about 12 years ago, and is loosely-based on my love story with my husband. It is the beginning of a series and introduces my core characters, Sam Lewis and Lexa Clarke. It is a contemporary romantic adventure set in Texas, and I believe it fills a void in contemporary Christian romance – it has everything from humor, drama, emotion, mystery and adventure – you name it. I don’t adhere to the “only three kisses per book” rule, and I don’t keep my characters apart until the very end where they share epiphanies, a sweet kiss and ride off into the sunset together. I feel it’s a greater test of faith and love when a couple works through difficulties and challenges together throughout the course of the book.
Margaret:  In A Suitor for Jenny, confirmed bachelors aren’t the only problem that confronts Jenny Higgins when she rolls into Rocky Creek, Texas determined to find suitable husbands for her two younger sisters.  The town falls short of her expectations, but she refuses to be discouraged. Once her sisters are safely married, Jenny plans to put the past behind her, move far, far away and start afresh. 
Armed with “The Complete and Authoritative Manual for Attracting and Procuring a Husband,” she follows every rule in the book.  Much to her dismay none of the men meet the stringent requirements, one of which is passing the PHAT  (Potential Husband Attitude Test).  
Jenny thinks she knows how to pick perfect husbands and it take two rebellious sisters, a handsome marshal, and a whole lot of faith to convince her otherwise.

I have struggled to write some back cover blurbs and breezed through writing others. Did you find it difficult to write the back cover blurb for your book?
JoAnn:  Not especially. Ironically enough, I find it more difficult to write a synopsis, but the back cover copy was fun. With Awakening, I worried that I was giving away too much. However, I realized that you have to dangle a carrot in front of the reader to whet her appetite – but then not give away all the book’s secrets. A writer needs to give the reader enough details about her characters to showcase why her book is different and why they should choose that particular book to read. I love the element of surprise, and there are a number of them in Sam and Lexa’s story. But you need to read it to find out!
Margaret:  Some back covers are easier to write than others. A Suitor for Jenny was a dream to write because there were so many fun elements to work with.  Who can resist the Potential Husband Attitude Test (PHAT)?

April:  Thank you, ladies, for chatting with us about your experience on Clash of the Titles. You’re both great sports. Come back to play with us any day!
Margaret:  Thank you for letting me share my thoughts on COTT.  What a great group!  I can be reached through my website: If you just want a laugh check out Stagecoach Etiquette for Readers:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Does My Blog Enhance My Brand?

Your blog should make sense with your brand. It should help complete the picture of who you are. This goes hand in hand with last week’s post about audience. It also takes into account the purpose of your blog. All of these things must work together to present a clear picture of who you are and what you have to offer your audience.

Trying to figure out your brand can sometimes difficult. Here are some things to consider when looking for your brand: 
  • What is your passion? You’ll only be able to sustain a blog about something you’re passionate about. 
  • What do you know that could help someone else? We all have things we’re good at.
  • What do you want to become an expert about? If you want to learn about something the best way to do it is teach someone else.

The final thing to do is get started. All blogs evolve and get better with time. All the research in the world can’t take the place of actually doing the work. So don’t hesitate, take a chance and try out blogging!

And . . . don’t forget to join the conversation!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weekend Worship—Real Life

Love is patient . . .
Today is our 29th wedding anniversary. And while it may seem strange to use a devotion post to talk about my marriage it really isn’t. You see, I’ve experienced the love of Christ through my marriage.

Now a lot of us have probably had moments where the love of Jesus shone through someone’s act of love or kindness, but I’ve lived in that place for 29 years. Kirk has modeled Jesus’ love for me moment by moment and year by year.

He’s shown me that while love is a great feeling—the fulfillment is of it is truly an action.

He encourages my dreams, supports me when I falter, and most of all, forgives my faults. He doesn’t just love me in spite of my imperfections—he loves me through them.

To me, I Corinthians is real life, because of my husband.

I love you, Sweetheart!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thursday Review—Nook Color

I just received an early Christmas present from my DH (that’s Darling Husband for those who don’t know common web lingo). I have to confess, I love it so much I feel like a kid! Yes, I even sleep with it on the table beside my bed.

Now you may be wondering why I chose to review an e-book reader on a writing blog. But the truth is, as writers we need to be familiar with the medium that delivers our words. And e-books are here to stay.

So what made me choose a Nook Color over all the other options on the market? I’m going to share those with you—but with a caveat. There really aren’t any bad options in e-readers, but some may fit your personal circumstances better than others. I’ll explain what made the Nook Color the best choice for me.

These are the reasons I like the Nook Color.
  • It can read more than one type of e-book file. It can read epub, text, and pdf to just name a few. It cannot read a Kindle e-book if it’s protected.
  • I can add an SD card and increase the memory.
  • I can change my own battery. Now, admittedly, if I take care of my device I shouldn’t have to. But I like to have the option.
  • It interfaces seamlessly with websites that offer free e-books, like
  • It also works well with the Calibre http. Calibre defines itself best:“Calibre is a free and open source e-book library management application developed by users of e-books for users of e-books.”
  • Nook Color also allows me to surf the web.
  • It gives me great access to Facebook and Twitter, important for writers like me who write for numerous websites and blogs.
Some of these criteria are met by other e-book readers, but not all. Not even iPad offers everything I mention above. It’s also a great deal heavier and bulkier than other options. That, combined with price pushed it out of consideration for me.

So now it’s your turn. Do you have an e-book reader? If so, which one and how do you like it?

Don't forget to join the conversation!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Clash of the Titles Conquerors!

It's Wednesday so it's time once again for Clash of the Titles! This week's post was written by Lisa Lickel, COTT Advertising Executive and author of Meander Scar. When you're considering new books, I highly recommend Lisa's, as well as the two that competed in COTT.

Clash of the Titles
by Lisa Lickel

Clash of the Titles recent participants Eleanor Gustafson and Gail Palotta ( share about their experiences.

Ellie Gustafson
Ellie: Some blog hosts have really good ideas, and Clash of the Titles is one of them. The approach is fresh and intriguing for the participants, as well as for the site visitors. Some of my friends who participated really enjoyed the process.

Gail: I was thrilled to have my excerpt chosen for Clash of the Titles. It offered exposure for Love Turns the Tide in such a unique way. Even though putting one’s work up for voting is difficult, I liked the idea of letting the readers decide.

How did you both learn about Clash of the Titles?

Gail: I saw an announcement about it on the ACFW loop.

Ellie: I learned about COTT through the ACFW Loop—a fountain of information and opportunity!

Gail Palotta
What motivated you to participate in their literary challenge?

Ellie: As I am always willing to take advantage of such things, I was quick to respond.

Gail: Exposure for Love Turns the Tide and letting the readers decide.

What did you find most enjoyable, or perhaps surprising, during your week?

Gail: Winning.

Ellie: I was surprised—mostly by the tie vote, but also by the comments—to which I am paying attention! Some found my weather selection good but challenging to read. I could blame it on the necessity of disguising character names, but the David story is complex. It deals with ugliness but also glows with grace. AND The Stones makes the Bible version of David’s life come alive for most readers. Try it, and let me know—thumbs up or down. Check the Amazon comments—all of them five star.

What do you think are the three top essentials to a great story?

Ellie: In defense of a challenging read, I would say that the top essentials to a great story would be:
  1. The story must have substance and be worth telling. Les Miserable is heavy going but a powerful read.
  2. Characters must be authentic and complex, supported by dialogue that drives the plot.
  3. Assuming we’re talking about Christian fiction, the “message” must grow out of the plot and not be simply pasted on. My fear of sounding hokey drives me to dig deep through both good and evil to the spiritual bedrock of our redemptive God. I doubt that anyone ever accused Victor Hugo of being hokey in Les Miserable!
Gail: Interesting characters with problems to solve, a plot with twists and turns and a setting that allows readers to escape to an intriguing place.

Tell us about your books.

Gail: In Love Turns the Tide Cammie O’Shea suffers through a broken engagement and relocates to Destin, Florida to take a new job. Struggling to get over her heartache and loneliness, she tries to renew her faith in the midst of petty crimes committed at her condo. When Vic Deleona comes to her rescue, she grows fond of him. But she gets an offer to return home. Amid fear and confusion she must make difficult decisions.

Ellie: The Stones: A Novel of the Life of King David is hot-blooded drama —a biblical novel that takes in the sweep of King David’s life from his encounter with Goliath to the devastating consequences of counting his fighting men. He is a man of titanic proportions, at once commanding, poetic, earthy, in touch with God. In the story, stones themselves serve as a metaphor that fits well with the contours of David’s life: stones of learning, of victory, of stumbling, of humbling, of hardship, of grief, of sacrifice.

The authors share a fun fact:

Gail: Since publishing Love Turns the Tide, I’ve been amazed at how a person’s personality can come across over the internet. Visiting sites, such as Clash of the Titles, and finding friends is a great experience.

Ellie: And for fun, here’s how NOT to start a novel. I came across an old computer file labeled, “Worst Novels.” I don’t think I wrote the excerpts myself; I probably found them and felt they were worth keeping. Here’s one.
Where to start in the telling of a hypochondriac's awesome battle with the L-germ over 32,940.25 long days [that, dear reader, translates to 89 and 364/365 years], on nineteen continents and thirty-five dorkshires?
The other is even funnier, so email me if you’d like to laugh over that one, too.

Go thou and write better!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why Blog—Define Your Audience

Today we’re continuing our Why Blog series. If you’ve missed the first post or the second one, take a moment and visit. Today we’re going to talk about defining your audience. This is vitally important to your blog’s viability.

A poorly targeted audience is a frequent reason for a blog’s lack of success.

The target of your blog may seem like an obvious thing, but I’m continually amazed at the number of writers who get off track here.

Common Misconception
I’m a writer, so my blog should target other writers.

Unless you’re teaching writers about craft your audience isn’t other writers.

The Fix
This goes back to the purpose of your blog. Many novelists use a blog to connect with their readers. If that is the purpose of yours then your audience is your reader—not other novelists.

So what does this look like in application?

For a suspense writer it would look like Brandilyn Collins site. She does a great job of connecting to her readers. She also has a site that targets other writers because she is a popular conference instructor and teaches others the craft.

Suppose you’re a freelance writer, then your site should showcase your work and connect you with the people you write for. My site, for instance, targets businesses who need someone to write web content. This provides me with the opportunity to teach writers the craft of writing for the Internet and proves my expertise to potential customers.

Now it’s your turn. What have you found that works to connect you with your audience? Have you seen some things (maybe tried some things) that haven’t worked? Let’s learn from each other.

Don't forget to join the conversation!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thursday Review—A Novel Idea, Best Advice on Writing Inspirational Fiction

Today I'd like to introduce you to fellow writer, Renee' Cassidy. She'll be contributing regularly to our Thursday Review Section and I know you'll enjoy getting to know her as she gives us her ideas on tools that can help writers. Join me in welcoming her to the Write Conversation family!

A Novel Idea
Best Advice on Writing Inspirational Fiction
by Chi Libris
a review by Renee' Cassidy

Poignant advice from some of America’s top selling novelists makes this a MUST HAVE book for both reference and reflection. The threads of a Christian journey and fundamentals of writing fiction make this book both entertaining and informative.

This book is clear, concise, and well organized within 300 pages. Through four parts, it gleans the heart and purpose of a Christian writer. The vast experience of the writers highlighted commands a broad audience for the would-be fiction writer.

Included in the four part-sections are Fiction Fundamentals, Development of Writing, Marketing and the Distinctive of Christian Fiction. The book’s sidebars tip the scales for me—making this truly a book to treasure. My favorite is the Francine Rivers interview where she shares her experiences with some tough subjects in her honest and humble tone. I greatly admire her work and her honesty in her interview is inspiring beyond words. Another great section is “Discerning your calling” which distinguishes this book from any other secular how to write fiction book.

The fundamentals of Fiction are solid and include the basic elements of a story, plot, characters, dialogue, point of view, pacing, setting and descriptions. The Developing Your Craft section is written for both the novice and expert writer, it reminds us of the importance of a writer’s craft. We must work hard, write, rewrite and then rewrite again. How refreshing it is to catch a real life glimpse of how these bestselling authors had the same struggles as any new writer would have.

The last section deals with the last and most important part of a writer’s work. To write a good book is one thing, but equally important is to make the book the best it can be. This section deals with a critique group’s relationship to making a writer’s work better. The final step of an author is to break into publishing and this book covers the steps of proposals, formatting, and then attending writer’s conferences and promoting the work.

The tidbits of each contributing writer’s personality and love of their craft—as well as God—binds us as readers to the book and our calling.

Don't forget to join the conversation!

Renee Cassidy is an experienced freelance writer and photographer. In 2006 she won the Writer's Digest Short Story Contest and has gone on to write for multiple publications. With a degree in marketing she brings her varied experience to the benefit of her clients.
She has two grown children and currently lives with the two men in her life - Fritz, her German Shephered and Australian Cash, her quarter horse.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Clash of the Title Conquerors!

Wednesday means Clash of the Titles
I promised you we'd debut a new category in our line-up on The Write Conversation and with this series on blogging the timing couldn't be better! The website, Clash of the Titles, does everything right. Jennifer can explain the concept behind the title much better than me, so I'll turn it over to her.

Clash of the Title Conquerors!
by Jennifer Slattery

Nearly two months ago, Clash of the Titles officially launched. It was the brain child of Senior Editor, April Gardner, author of Wounded Spirits. The response received by authors and readers has far exceeded our expectations. On the day of launch, we had over 150 views, and continually draw new readers from across the globe.

Our first week was a bit shaky, not in terms of performance, or even in terms of response. It was shaky on our end—at the gut level. We had no idea what to expect. It was a great idea, but would readers buy it? And, more importantly, would authors participate. It’s one thing to have your book lying on a shelf. It’s quite another to throw it into a competition—a competition not based on clearly defines rules, but instead, on reader’s opinion. Yep, it’s pretty subjective, but so is the market, because if the readers don’t like it, they won’t buy it and if readers don’t buy it, editors won’t either.

But what about those potential readers that haven’t discovered you yet? Now those are the readers we target! That is what Clash of the Titles is all about—introducing new authors to new readers. And it has worked beautifully! Readers come to our site for a fun competition and a chance to win a book, read an excerpt perhaps from a genre they’d never considered before, and leave wanting more. It’s a win-win for everyone!

C.S. Lakin
In hindsight. But that first week was a gamble, which is why I have such respect for our first two conquerors, Susan, (writing as C.S. Lakin) author of Someone to Blame, and Lena Nelson Dooley, author of Love Finds You in Golden New Mexico. Lena heard about COTT through April Gardner and Susan learned about us through Twitter. Yep, good old social media networking—that tends to be our biggest draw.

Susan submitted right away. “My novel was just about to release and the category fit! [It] sounded like a lot of fun! I had no idea [I’d win], but it was a nice surprise.”

As did Lena. “I liked the idea. It’s a unique way to connect with readers and get them connected with authors. I loved reading the feedback from those who voted.”

That has been a highlight for COTT staff, as well. It is interesting to read the varied opinions offered by readers, and most often, they express difficulty in choosing. Most of our votes have been extremely close!

After their competition, I asked Lena and Susan what they thought made a great story and a great opening hook.

Lena Nelson Dooley
According to Lena, a great opening is one “that will draw the reader into the action and reveal one of the characters.” And a great story is one that “has a wow storyline, and enough tension to carry the plotline.”

Susan is drawn to the talent of the writer. “As a literary writer, I’m taken more than anything by voice and style of writing. Most books I read, after two paragraphs, sound just like everyone else—plain, uncreative, predictable. I like a book that shocks me by its style or voice in the first few sentences—and that hold up for the rest of the book.”

What three essentials does Susan believe necessary for a great story? “It first needs to be a great story. I’ve read many books that are well written, but the premise or story is really uninteresting. Second, it needs to be written in a fresh, creative way—the writing, the treatment, the tone—any or all of those things. And third, there needs to be a heart that beats underneath the whole book, a passion that infuses the story coming from the author’s heart. Otherwise it’s just a lot of words. I want to read books that strike my heart, not just entertain me.

Visit Lena's website to find out more about her and her plethora of books and catch up with Susan at C.S. Lakin.

Jennifer Slattery is the marketing representative for the literary website Clash of the Titles. She is also a freelance writer, novelist and columnist. Visit Clash of the Titles to find out more about this fun, author friendly, reader-driven website. Visit Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud to find out more about Jennifer Slattery.

Why Blog—Defining the Purpose of Your Blog

I promised we’d dig into the murky subject of blogging and today we’ll start with the rock bottom foundation of any good blog

The Purpose
For years there has been an unwritten—oft repeated—rule of speaking.
  • Tell the audience what you’re going to say
  • Say it
  • Tell the audience what you just said
Even though this formula is a cliché of epic proportions there is a foundational truth of communication found within it. It’s vital that your audience to know what to expect before they’ll invest time in reading what you have to share. People are busy and they have to make choices about where they’ll spend their time. It’s your first job to give them the information they need to make that choice.

So how do you find a purpose for your blog?
Ask yourself what you want to accomplish from it.
  • If you want to share your passion start with that.
  • Do you want to make a difference in the world? Ask yourself what you think would make the world a better place.
  • Is your purpose just to build a platform? Then do some research and decide who will be interested in your platform and go after those viewers.
Focus is paramount importance when it comes to blogging.
  • An unfocused blog is an unvisited blog
Refine It
Once you have your primary purpose it’s time to refine it.
Think out of the box and find a niche or a unique perspective that hasn’t been explored to death yet.

I’ll use my blog as an example. I knew I wanted to provide a blog to teach and empower writers. Most writing sites also incorporate book reviews. How could I tweak that to be original and fresh? I review books and tools for writers.

Most of all, keep refining, even after your blog is live. That’s one of the advantages of blogging—you can respond to changes in what your readers want and how the market is changing.

Now it’s your turn, how have you made your blog unique? Do you have any questions on how to further refine an idea? Don’t be afraid to give away an idea—that’s the great thing about writers—we all already have more ideas than we know what do to with. Let us help you take your concept to the next level!

Don't forget to join the conversation!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Weekend Worship—Declare Yourself!

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be loyal to the one and despise the other… Matthew 6:24, NKJV

In today’s busy world, trying to stay on track seems to be an unattainable fantasy. We’re pulled from thing to thing—urgency and immediate need pushing away thoughts of priority.

The Bible warns us of trying to do too much at once—God calls it trying to serve two masters. Just try to follow the directions of two people at the exact same time. Stand between two people, letting them shout conflicting directions to you and try to follow them. Your feet will wobble as you turn this way and that. You will begin to go in one direction only to turn and stumble the other way. Your walk, if you make progress at all, will be slow and ineffective. This is what happens when you are torn between the way of the world and the way of Christ.

The world is constantly shouting conflicting directions—it always has and it always will—we can’t change that. But we can change whether we listen to it. It ‘s our responsibility to be so tuned in to the way of Christ that those directions fall upon deaf ears. We must turn completely to Jesus, following His directions without hesitation, standing tall and moving with grace and power. God has given us the freewill to choose the way in which we will go. When we call ourselves followers of Christ, we must choose God’s way.

To avoid a walk that is slow and ineffective, don’t wobble between the world and Christ. Live for God and God alone and life will be new every day.

What steps do you take to stay on track?
Don't forget to join the conversation!

A special announcement!
Starting this next Wednesday, December 8, I will add another regular post to the weekly schedule. Wednesdays will highlight interviews from authors competing on the site, Clash of the Titles. I'm really excited about this reader-driven site and know you will be also.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thursday Review—Interview with an Internal Editor

Join me in welcoming Lynn Huggins Blackburn back as guest blogger!

Interview with an Internal Editor
by Lynn Huggins Blackburn

I successfully completed my 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo. It’s been a fantastic experience. However, my internal editor, well, let’s just say she sees things a bit differently. I thought you might enjoy eavesdropping on our conversation from earlier this week.

Lynn Huggins Blackburn (LHB): Hi!
Internal Editor (IE): I’m sorry. Did you say something?
LHB: You sound awful IE. Do you have a cold?
IE: No, I do not have a cold. I’ve been yelling at the top of my lungs for the past month.
LHB: Could I get you some, tea?
IE: I don’t want tea. I want answers. I want to know why you’ve been ignoring me. We were a team in September. Then November rolls around and it’s “See ya, IE.”
LHB: I thought I’d explained. It’s NaNoWriMo time. Time to churn out words and save the editing for later.
IE: You explained . . . and chose to ignore the fact that I told you this was a mistake. And I was right.
LHB: I don’t think so.
IE: You don’t. Well, let’s look at the facts, shall we. How about that little scene you wrote where your heroine spends 48-hours on a plane. Do you realize that unless the sun has started setting west to east, you’ve got some timeline issues?
LHB: Yeah, but—
IE: How about that subplot you started around 1/3 of the way in . . . and NEVER picked up.
LHB: I know I need to add a few—
IE: A few? You’ve left out the entire “suspense” subplot in the first 30K. I’m sorry, but you do claim to write romantic suspense, do you not?
LHB: I have some research to do—
IE: Ya think? I noticed all those notes you made in your Scrivener files. “Need to find out what kind of fish people catch off the Outer Banks.” You couldn’t take five minutes to find out?
LHB: Well, no. That’s the whole point. I’ll fix it while I’m editing and re-writing. I didn’t want to lose the flow of the story.
IE: Lose the flow . . . sweetheart, you barely have a story. You’ve got pages of drivel. By the way, do the initials R.U.E. mean anything to you?
LHB: Resist the Urge to Explain.
IE: Then how do you explain the way you seem to think your reader is an imbecile?
LHB: I think I’ll resist the urge to explain that.
IE: You think you’re funny, don’t you. Well, while you were enjoying your 30 days and nights of literary abandon, I’ve been looking at my new work load. In the 50K you’ve written so far, you used “was” 636 times. You can’t think that’s acceptable.
LHB: Some sentences will need to be re-written—
IE: And let’s not even get started on your pitiful excuses for speaker beats. How many times are you going have that poor girl nod her head or shrug? At least have her reach for a cup of coffee or brush a piece of lint off her pants.
LHB: People do shrug. Hey, did you just roll your eyes?
IE: Yeah. I did. But not as much as the characters in your story do.
LHB: Look, I get what you’re saying. But let me ask you this, what did you edit in October?
IE: Several blog posts, a book review, a few devotions.
LHB: Keep you busy?
IE: No, not really.
LHB: And how much do you have to work on now?
IE: 50,000 sloppy words. I’m getting a headache just thinking about it.
LHB: Well, don’t worry. You’ve got some time.
IE: Time? What do you mean time? We’ve got to get busy.
LHB: Um . . . I thought you understood. The novel isn’t complete. I’ve got another 50K to write. I don’t think I’ll finish until January or February.
IE: You’ve got to be joking. You . . . you can’t do this to me! You need me!
LHB: I do. But not yet. I’ll touch base with you in a few months, OK?
IE: A few months? But . . . but . . .NOOOOOOOO!

She’s not very happy with me, I’m afraid. Poor thing has lost her voice completely. Not that she isn’t still mouthing insults at me. Still, she loves a challenge. I’m sure she’ll come around when I need her.

In January.

So how was your November? Did you dive into NaNoWriMo? Let us know how it went. And if your internal editor is still speaking to you.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Lynn Huggins Blackburn has been telling herself stories since she was five and finally started writing them down. On her blog Out of the Boat she writes about faith and family while her blog Perpetual Motion documents the joys and challenges of loving and rearing a child with special needs. A graduate of Clemson University, Lynn lives in South Carolina where she writes, reads, knits, takes care of two amazing children, one fabulous man and one spoiled rotten Boston Terrier.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why Blog?

Quick Heads Up
I don't do this often, but in this season I love what writer Jennifer Slattery is doing on her blog for December. Stop by and be encouraged as she lists a top 20 of this year's blog posts. These aren't posts by her, but ones written by others.
Now back to our regularly scheduled post!

Why Blog?
by Edie Melson

For several years, blogging has been touted as the end all way of reaching an audience—especially for writers of all types. Now, enough time has passed that it’s possible to get a good statistical foundation of whether or not blogging really is a good use of a writer’s time.

And the answer is . . .
it depends.

I know, I can hear the groans from here, and I feel your pain. Everyone was promised, “Blog and they will come.” Well, that is only partly true and here’s the nitty gritty of blogging.

Blogging works for writers under these circumstances -
  • The blog/blogger has a clear purpose to blogging.
  • The audience is clearly defined. (For example, a novelist is writing for readers—not other writers)
  • The blog fits the picture of who the writer is. Or, in other words, it enhances—not contradicts—the author’s brand.
  • The rest of your branding makes sense with your blog.
Blogging DOES NOT work for writers under these circumstances -
  • The point of the blog is vague and undefined.
  • The audience isn’t clearly defined.
  • The blog leads readers to a different picture of the writer—not a deeper picture—but totally different.
Over the next few weeks I will address each point and show you how to make your blog work for you, instead of being a time waster for you and your reader. But for now, I’d like to know where you are with blogging.
  • Do you have a blog?
  • Is your audience for it growing?
  • Does it deliver results?
Chime in with your comments and questions.

And . . . Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Writing for the Internet—Part Three

The last part of Writing for the Internet that I want to cover is the importance of graphic elements in what we write. This includes much more than pictures—we discussed sentence structure, formatting and font choice in the first post. Today we’ll go deeper into what makes a webpage readable.

In years past, the emphasis with writing was simply that—writing. Now, as our society has become more and more visual we, as writers, must also evolve. This is especially true on the Internet. We must broaden our horizons and become designers. Trends and statistics are clear; in less than 5 years 85% of what is viewed on the Internet will be video.

Important Factors to Consider
  • Wide margins – approx 12 words per line max.
  • If your text is longer than 1-2 printed pages, try to break it up into separate web pages. It’ll be easier to read and the pages will download faster, especially if the user has a dial-up connection.
  • Avoid a busy background or frame.
  • Consider contrast between text and background. Although white is a good background color, consider a shade that is barely off-white as this is usually easier on the eyes.
  • Choose your font wisely. Times New Roman isn’t a good choice for reading on the computer. Arial, Helvetica, Verdana and Georgia are better choices. (This site is designed using only Verdana) Also take into account font size.
As writers we often view our words within a box, or at least our minds. We don't pay attention to the whole picture. We can no longer afford that mindset. When writing for the web, we have to educate ourselves. Often writers will be consulted or at least asked to voice an opinion.
Things to Consider
  • Study the web pages you go back to again and again. Make a list of what catches your eye. 
  • Look at web pages that frustrate you and make a list of your frustrations. 
  • Notice why the pictures and graphics help hold your attention when you're reading a magazine article.
All of these tools will help you become a more savvy content writer. Beyond that, make a commitment to stay current on the trends in your business—the Internet and all things digital. To that end, here are some websites I recommend to help you stay up to date on the changing market.

Now it's your turn. Where do you go to stay plugged into the digital revolution?

Don't forget to join the conversation!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekend Worship—The Apple of My Daddy’s Eye

Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Thy wings, Ps 17:8 (NASB)

I grew up hearing my parents and grandparents use the expression apple of my eye. I was often told I was the apple of my daddy’s eye. There was even a polished, wooden apple, with a small picture of me in it, sitting on my daddy’s desk. It was a constant reminder that I was precious and important to my daddy.

One day, I began to wonder what that phrase actually meant and very shortly was surprised to discover the saying originated in the Bible, specifically, the Old Testament. So I went back to Hebrew, the original language of the Old Testament and discovered that the apple of someone’s eye is the pupil. It’s even more than that—it’s the reflection of yourself in the pupil of someone’s eye. Imagine standing close enough to someone to see yourself reflected in their eye. This is a perfect picture of the close relationship God wants to have with us. He holds us so close and so precious that we can see ourselves reflected in His eye.

So what does that have to do with my writing life? It has to do with God’s character—Who He is. He is a creative God. The very first thing we see Him doing, in the first chapter of Genesis, is creating. We all have that aspect of God somewhere within. For me, it’s reflected in my writing. And I’m never more in tune with God than when I’m writing. Rather than looking tolerantly at me when I’m writing, I know God is rejoicing that I’m using the gift He’s given me to create.

So I encourage you, draw close, gaze into your Creator’s eye—revel in the fact that He loves you with a love that defies description—and then feel His joy as you become a living example of Who He is.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Writing for the Internet—Part Two

Anyone who’s spent any time writing content for the web or even researching this market, has run across the acronym SEO. This stands for Search Engine Optimization. It's basically where, in the list of millions, your content will show up when searched by a reader (search engine). When you use different search engines—google, yahoo, etc., you'll notice that each will give slightly different results from any given search. But there are things we can do as writers to move our content up in the rankings. To accomplish this we have to have a basic understanding of how SEO algorithms work.

There’s also a common myth that an article’s search engine rank is determined by the number of times the keyword is used. There was a time—early in the history of the Internet—when this was partly true. But no more

If this were the case, all a website would have to do is have pages of nothing but keywords to up its search engine ranking. Search Engine Algorithms have done away with that method of cheating. Algorithms are too well written to fall for that—and many have built in sensors that penalize websites for trying to cheat.

Here are some other truths about Search Engines
  • Nowadays, Search Engine Algorithms take words literally—and that can be good or bad
This means that they don't understand it when we make a play on words. For example, a recipe for vegetarian chili titled, Too Hot to Handle Chili will rank lower than one titled, Homemade Vegetarian Chili. This is because an algorithm uses the literal meaning of words and the first title doesn’t even have the word “vegetarian” in it. Often times a clever title will result in fewer clicks.
This doesn't mean we can't be clever—only that we have to be deliberate in where we're clever. Take that chili recipe, give it a title that can be searched literally, like Hot and Spicy Vegetarian Chili, but in the description use the clever tag line as too hot to handle.
This blog—The Write Conversation—is a clever play on words that works. The reason being I want this site to be searchable for the keyword “write” as well as be clever about educating writers as an ongoing “conversation.”

  • Search Engine Algorithms also look for keywords.
Keywords are the words that appear on the website that describe that page. When writing content for a client they will often give you a list of keywords. It's your responsibility to use those keywords effectively. This is called Keyword Density and refers to the number of times a keyword is used on a page.

Search engines read from the top of a webpage to the bottom, searching to see that important keywords are used throughout the page.

Here’s a good rule of thumb when determining keyword density
  • Always use the keyword in the title.
  • Repeat the keyword at least once in the first 50 words.
  • Spread the use of the keyword naturally and evenly throughout the rest of the article. In a 400 word article that would mean using the keyword a minimum of three more times.
This should give any writer a good working knowledge of SEO. You can apply it to your own personal blog or website or you can use it to write effectively for clients.

Let me know if you have any questions about writing for the Internet because next week I’ll be wrapping up this series.

Don't forget to join the conversation!