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Friday, November 30, 2012

Everything is Content by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Authors are finding themselves in competition with so many and mired down with the obligation to not only keep up their social media sites, but to also blog and find original, entertaining, informative and relevant content. Without it, other content steals our readers' attention (these days, we are cultured to have short attention-spans) and our creative flow is being divided between writing great stories and social media content.

Too many of us spend too much time racking our brains for the next piece of content that will resonate with our readers. Granted, we need to stay on topic and within the expectation of the tone or theme of the brand we have set for ourselves, but that doesn't mean we can't expand the horizons of what we do and how we do it.

Your daily experiences, revelations, photo opportunities, and interactions from others are all usable content--an extension of you since these are YOUR experiences. You don't always have to dig deep inside yourself, using your own reservoir of energy to generate original content. Instead, redefine your idea of what content is.

Sometimes a photo can generate more comments and discussions than the most thought provocative quotation, statement or question. This is why Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube have been so successful and made such an impact on our social media culture.

Aaron Dun, VP of Marketing & Strategy for Percussion Software said it best in his guest post The New Marketing Machine on Duct Tape Marketing.

"Everything is Content: Stop looking for discrete pieces of content. Start by reshaping your definition of content and you will begin to see all of the content that is around you today. Customer support calls are content, blog comments are content, photos from an event are content…and on it goes. Once you realize that all of these daily moments are in fact discrete pieces of content, you will never worry about having enough content again."

What are your thoughts? Is your blog zapping your energy and time? 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Guest post by Terry's editorial asst Linda Yezak



Who Do You Write For?

Are you a Christian Fiction author? If so, who do you write for? Do you know?

I didn't realize who I wrote for until I took a course author/agent Terry Burns taught at the East Texas Baptist University's Christian Writer's Conference called "Writing for the Unbeliever." He started the class by revealing something I've never heard from anyone else: There's a difference between being called to write and offering your writing to God. A calling, according to Terry, can be for one specific book which He will not let you publish until you've written it His way--and until you're His way. He has a specific purpose for it which you yourself may not recognize. Out of the forty or so books Terry has published, he can point to only one he was called to write, Mysterious Ways. That novel has garnered more response for the Lord than any of his other books. After the first few emails from folks he'd reached, he had to find the passage God used to reach them and reread it through their eyes. He was astounded at what he'd written.

Mysterious Ways is intended for unbelievers, and the format relies heavily on story to induce the reader to finish the book even after the salvation message is being presented, which is considerably later in the book. And it makes sense--if you bombard an unbeliever with Christian jargon and principles right off the bat, they're going to put the book down. They're not interested. Terry believes they're afraid of being convicted by the truth. He may be right.

Writing for unbelievers, then, means developing a story so intriguing and hooking the reader so securely that she can't put the book down. She'll continue reading through the salvation message because she wants to know how the story ends. But the story itself is vital. The author can't stop writing once the main character is saved, because it's too contrived, too "in your face," and it can turn off the reader. The story must continue to its natural end. The best story for a salvation theme is one in which you can yank the salvation thread out, and the story still stands. The salvation message has to be woven in carefully and has to evolve naturally as part of the story.

The other audience Terry mentions in his course is the believers, those who want the faith issue right up front. These readers want to delve immediately into what the Christian main character faces, then watch his battle and his victorious outcome, which leaves him closer to God. This isn't a salvation-message kind of book. It's a faith-building, giant-facing, walking-with-God kind of a book written for people who want to know they're not alone in their struggles and want the affirmation that God will see them through. This book is opposite the one for the nonbeliever--if you yank out the faith issue, this story will collapse.

But what if you don't write for believers or nonbelievers? What if you write for the backsliders, the nominal Christians, the ones who are Christian by heritage and tradition only? Or what if you write for seekers, the ones who are hearing the call, but aren't ready to accept?

These other two audiences weren't covered in Terry's outline, but by the time his class was over, we'd analyzed them. Some  write for backsliders, nominal Christians, etc. That message is basically, "Come back, He still loves you," and hits on the issues that keep Christians from seeking a more fulfilling relationship. Others write for seekers. In a large way, this gentle message is "Come on in, the Water's fine!"

Writing for backsliders is similar in format to writing for nonbelievers: hit the story hard and wrap the reader up in it before presenting the Christian theme. Unlike novels for nonbelievers, the message isn't salvation, but "return to your first love," and can be presented through one of the multitude of reasons people don't seek a personal relationship with God. Like books for non-Christians, the goal is to convict the reader and bring (or return) him to Christ. The story structure is the same, but you can present general Christian principles earlier--as long as you don't harp on them--because you're writing for people who consider themselves Christians. The story is key here, too, but if you yank out the Christian message, you'll have some serious tweeking to do.

The author who writes for seekers would follow the format of writing for believers: hit the faith issues early. The issues here aren't the same as the ones for Christians. These are the challenging, "If there's a God, then why . . . " issues. Seekers have, to a certain extent, accepted that there's more to life then the temporal, but something is holding them back from taking that final step to recognizing the one true God. The plot is derived from that "something," whatever it is, and the theme is a gentle calling to take that step in faith. In these stories, like the ones for believers, if you yank the faith thread out, your story will completely unravel. The writing difference between these books and the ones written for unbelievers lies entirely in its audience. Unbelievers have either a belligerent disbelief or a complete lack of knowledge of anything spiritual. Seekers realize there's more, but have to be convinced God is the answer.

So, here's the recap both of Terry's outline and how the class amended it:

For nonbelievers, you need a strong story in which the Christian message is delayed until the reader is thoroughly hooked. The theme is salvation.

For believers, jump immediately into the faith issue, without which the story will crumble. Themes include God is sufficient, all things work together for good--anything that strengthens the Christian through trials, and is presented through any temptation or pain a Christian faces and has to respond to/overcome within the confines of her faith.

For "backsliders," write a strong story in which Christian elements are presented early, but the message is delayed until the reader is hooked. The theme, "Return to your first love," is presented through any issue that can separate the believer from his faith.

For seekers, hit the faith issue up front, without which the story collapses. The theme is generally "I am the Way," and can be presented through any issue that keeps a seeker from taking that final leap of faith.

Keep in mind, the story always has to be strong, it doesn't matter who you're writing for. Give any reader a poorly written story, and the message will never get read. The difference is where in the story the Christian message is presented.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana Flegal

Good Wednesday to you all. I hope you have recovered from your Thanksgiving festivities and are back to your writing.

Today we are featuring a inspirational nonfiction page for your critique. Let us know if you would read on.



For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
            When I began my journey out of the ashes of pity into the beauty of purpose I had no formal direction. At the age of sixteen I had an unplanned abortion that left me unable to cope with realities of  life. I quickly found myself drowning in a quagmire of drugs and unprotected sex. I no longer cared about myself, those close to me, or even God. I shut down and turned off.
            I was lost on a path to nowhere headed toward the road of destruction. After my abortion I hid deep within my soul. I became a dead soul. Love was no longer part of me. It was dead as well.
            For several years I hungered for affection. I was starved for something I felt I didn't deserve. I left God on the side of the road, but He never left me. God took me on many journey's before I found my way back.
            Throughout those journey's, He never left. He guided me into the woman I am now. I traveled down many roads to discover what God wanted and what I needed. I climbed out of the ashes of pity and into the beauty of purpose.
             I faltered and failed, but God picked me up and showed me where I needed to be. He showed me I could turn my ashes into beauty, I had purpose, and I COULD learn to live again.
            This book is not about me or my abortion. It is about YOU! Every woman at some point in her life has suffered, hurt, and lost their way. This book was born out of my suffering to help you realize there is hope. God loves you. You can get through the journey, you can climb out of the ashes, you can find your purpose. You can learn to live again, and you can create a new you.


Would you read on? Kindly let us know by leaving a comment below.
We appreciate your stopping by.
Write on!


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Writing Dreams by Andy Scheer

I planned to write this first thing Monday morning—expecting that would mean about 8 a.m. Instead I sketched it about 2:30 a.m.

It made sense to jot some notes then, because I'd just been dreaming about writing.

Actually I dreamed about editing, but it morphed into aspects I could teach to writers.

No, I didn't eat anything strange before bedtime (unless you consider pilot crackers strange). But I had spent an hour that evening reading a recently published general market novel—one I had edited for the author six months earlier.

I struggled to stay inside the story. Instead I kept looking at details of the craft and hunting for changes the New York house had made to my work.

In my dream an editor called me to task for something I'd overlooked. In this paragraph I allowed the same word to be used three times, when the author could have made the point more effectively with synonyms.

Guilty. In my list of problems to address while editing, that one doesn't rank at the top. And in the novel's first paragraph, the final editor had corrected one instance I failed to catch.

So I'm adding that to my list of points to teach others and to apply myself. It won't happen again—in my dreams.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Where my heart goes on Thanksgiving by Terry Burns



I can’t help it.

When it comes time to give thanks one of the things I am most thankful for is family. So it makes sense that’s where my thoughts go on this special day.

When I was young Thanksgiving (not to mention Christmas) meant a mandatory trip to Mamaw’s house in Electra TX. There was no choice . . . but we didn’t want a choice. That’s where all of us wanted to be. The aromas that would come from that kitchen were torture, and it seemed to take forever before it was time to eat. How that many ladies managed to be involved in that small a space is something I can’t wrap my head around today, and as to where we all slept in that tiny house? I have no idea.

I was the oldest of my generation, the only one slightly ahead of the baby-boomers which meant I presided over the second table. The men were around the first table and the women would eat later. (I presume they were able to do this because they did a lot of sampling as they cooked) Whether that was true or not, that’s how Mamaw decreed it would be and that diminutive little lady was the queen. The year there would have been an opening at the first table was also the year Mamaw died so I never got to get one of those coveted seats.

After her death Mother became the Mamaw of her own tribe, and we were all just as loyal. No matter what was going on in our lives Thanksgiving and Christmas were mandatory appearances there in Pampa TX. Wonderful, wonderful times and it often seems that the happiest times of my life centered around the gatherings in the two towns.

My father and my brother passed on within months of each other, my brother actually at Christmas. By some unspoken assent Christmas and Thanksgiving passed to my wife and I although mom was with us and clearly still presided. I loved these gatherings and the happy memories continued.

Finally, Christmas shifted to my son’s house. It just made sense to have it there as they had the room and it was much less to try to pack and carry the things they need to carry with three kids. Thanksgiving became just mom, Saundra and I with an occasional guest or two. After she passed, we began just inviting a couple of people over, the last couple of years the pastor and his wife. Much smaller, but still great memories.

My life seems to be summed up in these rites of passage measured by the passing of the baton for hosting these joyous events. All are special to me and the memories flood around me at this time of year. Each definitively mark a period in my life, and perhaps the passage of time make each more dear, particularly those early days at Mamaw’s house.

I do hope your Thanksgiving is every bit as special and your memories just as dear. When it comes time to count blessings, these are some I count without fail.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hearts Full of His Glory Psalm 19 First Page Diana Flegal



This week many of us will gather with family and friends and speak of all we are thankful for. I have been meditating on this theme myself for a few weeks now; considering this past years blessings.
 
Psalm 19 speaks of  so much I have enjoyed from my office window each day.


     Psalm 19

     The heaven's declare the Glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork.

     Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.

     There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

     Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath He set a  tabernacle for the sun.

     Which is a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.

     His going forth is from the end of heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.


We have a creative and wondrous God who speaks to us through the painting of sky and landscape, shouts to our hearts of His Glory and whispers goodnight through a sunset. As you walk out to begin your day or head home, look up and read the letter He has penned for you. He is so worthy of our love and adoration. 

We want to thank all of the contributing authors that have shared their first pages with us this past year. So many of us have enjoyed them and learned much from your kind constructive criticism. Consider sharing with us one of your first pages with our readers. Contact Diana Flegal at diana@hartlineliterary.com.

And a HUGE thank you to last weeks courageous author, Lisa Fowler. Please encourage Lisa by stopping by her new website.

Happy Thanksgiving ya'all!

Diana

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ideas Lost and Found by Andy Scheer

This morning I spent a half-hour searching the house for a scrap of paper. I had plenty more like it—discarded sheets from a page-a-day calendar. What made this paper valuable was what I'd scribbled on the back.

Most Saturday nights I scratch my head about what topic I'll address in my next blog. Then it happens. An idea springs to mind. I grab a sheet from my stack of Dilbert calendar pages and jot that idea—and the supporting elements that follow the inspiration.

With the ideas captured, I can go to sleep, secure in the knowledge I have a point of entry to a topic. I know from experience that over the next two days, more elements will fall into place and I'll be ready to sit at the keyboard Monday morning.

But everything hinges on that 4½ x 5½ scrap of paper. This morning it went missing. I looked everywhere—twice. Nothing.

I remembered the basics of what I wanted to write. But some key observations had vanished. Should I still pursue the topic—knowing it would never be quite what I had envisioned? Or, because I wasn't writing to an assigned topic, should I simply shift gears?

This morning I got a third option. I found the paper—in plain sight on my desk. But the incident gave me a new topic: what do you do when a key piece of work disappears?

I know all about backing up computer files. But a colleague recently had his computer crash—and multiple conversations with tech experts revealed the online backup system hadn't been set up correctly. This past weekend my 8GB flash drive failed; all the backup files on it disappeared. I've enjoyed times of amazing writing productivity—followed by some glitch that trashed the last five, ten, or fifteen minutes of inspiration.

No matter how good you think your backup systems, eventually some treasure will vanish from beneath your fingertips. When that happens, how do you move forward?