Friday, May 30, 2014

Statements I Hate to Hear from Writers (Part 1 of 3)

(an encore post)

"I know there are mistakes, but an editor can fix it. That's what editors do, isn't it?" While I was doing a Q & A on a radio station, a caller said those words.

Yes, that is what editors do—after they accept a manuscript. They expect well written, grammatically correct submissions. Their job is to improve a good manuscript and make it into an excellent one. As a professional, I'd be ashamed to send anything to an editor that was less than my best work.

"I want to write good," one woman said at a writers conference. (She should have said well.) "But if I spent all my time learning to spell and write better English, I wouldn't get any good writing done."

"I wouldn't hire a carpenter who didn't know how to use a hammer," I replied. "Good writers know their craft—that's their box of tools. If you don't know sentence structure, learn before you submit."

She shrugged and walked away.

Professional writers take pride in presenting quality manuscripts; 
those who don't care remain amateurs.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why I Write (Part 3 of 3)

Do I have to be gifted to be a writer? That's a natural question and the answer is simple: No one else can answer that but you and God. Too many people seem to assume that because they wrote something and it was published that they're gifted.

As I see it, gifted writers are those with that "something extra" in the way they write. Their words are memorable; their stories or illustrations stay with us. When we read, the rhythm of their prose carries us along and we're hardly aware of the writing.

By contrast, haven't all of us read books and articles that were laborious and wooden? We might even ask ourselves, Why am I reading this? Lack of ability has never stopped people. Some less-than-good writers get by with excellent plotting or interesting characters.

We also have to allow for taste. I rarely read literary fiction, even though my friends tell me some of those authors are highly talented. When I was a pastor, our organist believed nothing of true beauty had ever been written after the baroque period.

You are the only one to whom the answer is important. If you recognize you're gifted, your continued improvement shows your giftedness. If others comment on your improvement that may be a hint of your having talent.

Along that line, I had to take a series of tests before I could enter graduate school and I scored quite well. "Am I really smart?" I asked the man who scored the test. "Or is it that I work hard?"

He laughed. "If you weren't smart, it wouldn't have mattered how hard you worked."

Apply that to writing. If there is no ability, you won't improve. You won't learn. And I've had a few students like that. No matter how much I tried to help, they couldn't understand what was wrong with their prose.

If I can improve my writing (and do so)
that implies some level of giftedness.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Why Do I Write (Part 2 of 3)

Panelists for TheWritersView post questions for three-day periods and members can answer. On my reason for writing I posted a second time. "I write because it is a gift.”

God endowed all of us with gifts—call them talents or abilities—and in varying qualities. Although I wanted to believe I had the gift, a long time lapsed before I admitted that truth—even to myself. Perhaps it was lack of self-confidence, but I felt I would be presumptuous in using the term.

As I wrote on the loop, I didn't want God to be blamed for my ineptitude. Like other newbies, my writing wasn't very good, even though it was the best I could do. I had published between 100 and 200 articles and four books before I said to anyone in conversation, "God gave me the gift to write."

That also means something more. With a given ability comes responsibility to improve and to continue to learn. God gave me the raw talent and it has been up to me to develop and nurture that.

Today I can say—easily—that I have a gift, but that's not to mean, "This is wonderful, so don't criticize it." For me, the statement means I have continued to develop, polish, and mature in my expressions. I'm still learning.

Are you gifted?

An affirmative answer doesn't indicate that you've sold millions of books or hit the best-seller lists. It states that one of the talents God gave you is to write. If you answer yes, then you have to ask God a question: How do I actualize my gift?

Am I gifted to write?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why Do I Write? (Part 1 of 3)

About ten years after I began to write professionally, I heard the question, "Why do I write?" Until then, I hadn't considered the reason; I focused on how—how I could get the time to write.

Recently, on TheWritersView loop[1], Frank Ball asked the why question and a number of members responded. Their reasons varied. Some were practical, a few quite spiritual in tone, and I wouldn't argue with any of them.

Here's my response: I write because I'm so full of myself I believe the world is waiting to read my words. I went on to say that it takes a certain amount of conceit to be a writer.

One member objected to the word conceit, but I stick by my statement. I assume she objected to the implication of pride or self-importance, but that's exactly the point I wanted to make. What is more arrogant than to think that I could write words to enrich or change others? Even if my purpose is purely entertainment, doesn't that suggest smugness? Try it another way: Who am I to think that I could entertain or enlighten someone else?

To be a successful writer takes a certain amount of conceit.
It means I believe that I have something significant to say.

[1] TheWritersView@yahoo.com

Friday, May 16, 2014

Bad Ways to Build Your Platform (Part 4 of 4)

(another post from Twila)

I bantered with a publishing house editor as I waited for an appointment with another industry professional at a conference. His crazy personality reminded me of my brother’s, and for a fraction of a second I lost control of my senses. “You’re such a dork,” I said. Yes, I called an editor of a publishing house a dork! That surely left a lasting impression—and it gave me a creative connecting point for the query letter I later sent him—BUT I don’t recommend this method for building a platform.

When building our platforms we want to be memorable. We also need to keep in mind that there are good ways and bad ways to make an impact on our readers and on the industry professionals who give us opportunities.

If we want people to remember us as an obnoxious fool, we will force our books on them.

If we want people to remember us as stupid and insecure, we will put down other authors’ books because they’re not as good as ours.

If we want people to remember us as a pompous twit, we will insist we’ve written a book that everybody needs.

If we want industry professionals to remember us as rude and disrespectful, and if we want to make a bad name for ourselves in the industry, we will throw hissy fits and say horrible things to those who’ve given us opportunities.

If we want people to remember us as a diva, we should work in Hollywood.

BUT if we want people to remember us as a writer worth reading, we will maintain control of our senses. We will use wisdom and discernment. We will show kindness and grace. And we will act with professionalism.

We can learn a lot of things about building our platforms from other people’s mistakes, or even from our own. What bad examples have you seen?

* * * * *

Twila Belk, aka The Gotta Tell Somebody Gal, is a writer and speaker who loves braggin’ on God. She works full time with best-selling author Cecil Murphey and enjoys teaching at writers conferences across the nation. Twila has written or co-written five books and contributed to several others. For more info, visit www.gottatellsomebody.com.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bad Ways to Build Your Platform (Part 3 of 4)

(another post from Twila)

Cec and I contracted to do a compilation book with Guideposts and we carefully chose our stories from hundreds that came in. The submission guidelines clearly stated that the publisher’s senior editor would make final decisions for inclusion in the book. At the stage just before the publisher sent the manuscript to the printer, the editor had to cut two stories. It wasn’t because they were bad; it was because the pagination in the book was off.

The editor felt terrible about the situation, and I felt even worse because I had the unfortunate task of informing the two contributors. In the email to them I apologized on the editor’s behalf and told the two ladies that he offered to send their stories to the editor-in-chief of another Guideposts publication with a circulation of half a million. Not only was it an opportunity for greater exposure, but they would also get paid a second time for the use of their stories.

Contributor #1 did not respond well. She acted as though we were best friends up to that point, but the news I delivered caused her to become a vicious, evil woman. I became the target of her wrath through Facebook messages and several emails (with copies sent to Cec, the editor, and contributor #2). She also emailed contributor #2 privately and said harsh things. She used an abundance of words to make it clear that the situation was not acceptable to her and why.

It turned into a huge mess, and Cec was ready to pay big bucks to send me to therapy. He stepped in and told her that such actions are not unusual in publication and that it was a professional issue and not a personal one. The editor attempted to calm her down with a thorough explanation of why he had to cut her story.

After her tirade neared an end—finally—she emailed again and asked if she should still contact the editor at Guideposts about the other publishing possibility, “or did I overstep the line when I shared my honest feelings with you?”

Contributor #2 was, of course, disappointed her story had to be cut, but she responded professionally with grace and kindness. She continues to stay in contact with us, and Cec wrote the foreword to her new book. Contributor #1 unfriended me on Facebook and unsubscribed from Cec’s monthly newsletter.

My advice? If you truly want to build your platform, think twice about the way you treat the ones giving you publishing opportunities.

* * * * *

Twila Belk, aka The Gotta Tell Somebody Gal, is a writer and speaker who loves braggin’ on God. She works full time with best-selling author Cecil Murphey and enjoys teaching at writers conferences across the nation. Twila has written or co-written five books and contributed to several others. For more info, visit www.gottatellsomebody.com.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Bad Ways to Build Your Platform (Part 2 of 4)

(another post from Twila)

When Cec and I were accepting submissions for our book Heavenly Company: Entertaining Angels Unaware, we received this email.
Dear Mr. Cec Murphey, 
How are you doing lately? Hope that you are well. I am one of those who submitted an article for your book contarcte with Guideposts. 
Please refer us to your family and friends who are business-minded and churches and mission fundraisers. 
We need a favor, can you help us out? My husband and I work with a new company and real close to winning a contest. We need to have 50 people watch a short video and answer five questions. Can you do that for us? 
Here is the website (link included here) 
If you have questions or concerns you can email us on (email address) or call us at (phone number)
By the way, you will also be registered for a Free Cancun Vacation for Two Contest sponsored by the company twice a year. 
We will inform you of the winner as the draw take place.Thank you for your time. 
Deep in my heart, blessings form our home to yours,
(Name)
(Website of business)
(Phone number)
This type of email is NOT a good way to build your platform. It’s unprofessional. It’s poor etiquette. And it causes the receiver to think snarky thoughts.

What do you think?

* * * * *

Twila Belk, aka The Gotta Tell Somebody Gal, is a writer and speaker who loves braggin’ on God. She works full time with best-selling author Cecil Murphey and enjoys teaching at writers conferences across the nation. Twila has written or co-written five books and contributed to several others. For more info, visit www.gottatellsomebody.com.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Bad Ways to Build Your Platform (Part 1 of 4)

(another post from Twila)

We’ve discussed several good ways to build our platforms. Now I want to give you a few examples that will have the reverse effect.

At one time Cec and I hosted an online radio show. I received three emails within a short period of time from a man pitching himself as a guest. Here are excerpts:

Tuesday, 8:13 p.m.
I am (name of person), author of a powerful book entitled (name of book) and I want you both to have a free copy of my book. It is about Christ and how one may be born again. You will love it because it is a book like no other. If you write me at the email address up above, I can send you the screen version for your enjoyment, or I can mail you a paperback, or you can purchase one at Amazon for cheapest. Quite simply, when people read my book, they get saved. I am always happy to talk about it and, of course, I would jump at any invitation to discuss Christ's plan of salvation on your show.
Thursday, 3:57 p.m.
Hello Twila! Hello Cec!

I'm (name here), and ya'll are in for a real treat! This book is going to be something you won't want to put down… Once you start reading this book, you won't be able to put it down; however, because this book is sooooooo powerful, Twila and Cec, the devil will do everything in his power to keep you from reading it. Satan will even try to convince you that it's a waste of time. The "father of lies" will do everything in his limited power to keep you from feasting on the nourishment contained within my humble book -- so, don't let him win. Satan will win if you drop your guard. This book is such a weapon against him that he will utilize everything within his means to keep you from reading/understanding it, or even "giving it a chance."

Feel free to ask questions. If, at some future point, you'd like to have me on your show, everyone is in for a real treat. Many will get saved. Christ will be honored. And, of course, we will not mention any names that appear in my book (I believe in good taste!).

ATTACHED you will find:
1) the book
2) the book's cover

Please read it slowly. Let it sink in. Read the whole work, Cec. Read the whole work, Twila. Each chapter is unique and will please you, challenge you, disturb you, thrill you, and make you appreciate Christ all the more. I guarantee it.

IN SUM, I'm just a regular fellow. I teach English at: ____________.
He attached a press release and encouraged us to look at his “one small, yet powerful, review on Amazon!” And he closed with this: “P.S. -- there are only about 3 grammatical errors in the entire 160 pages -- see if you can spot them!”

Thursday, 5:29 p.m.
Just a follow-up...
Dear Twila, I'm just trying to make sure you got the copy of my book that I sent to you (via email) earlier today.

Twila, if it never reached you, let me know and I'll send the original email again. My Internet Service Provider has had issues in the past, so, I just wanted to see if you got it.

In sum, I can't wait until you and Cec delve in to my book. It's unlike anything else you've ever read, before! As such, and because we have an arch enemy who doesn't want it to reach you, I'm attaching it again "just in case."
BTW—I checked out his book on Amazon and noticed the title had a misspelled word in it.

If you hosted a radio program, would you want to have him on your show? Tell me your thoughts.

* * * * *

Twila Belk, aka The Gotta Tell Somebody Gal, is a writer and speaker who loves braggin’ on God. She works full time with best-selling author Cecil Murphey and enjoys teaching at writers conferences across the nation. Twila has written or co-written five books and contributed to several others. For more info, visit www.gottatellsomebody.com.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Twila's Tips for Building Your Platform (Part 8 of 8)

As writers who want to be read, we have to think about our platform, and sometimes it weighs heavily on our minds. The whole idea of marketing can be overwhelming to us, and because of the magnitude of it we might become paralyzed and do nothing.

We’re bombarded with messages from agents, editors, publishers, and other industry professionals that we gotta do this and we gotta do that and we gotta, gotta, gotta. We see all the things Suzy and Bob are doing to promote their books and we wonder how they were blessed with 12 extra hours in their day. Then we start feeling guilty because we can’t do enough. We might just want to scream and say forget it all.

I give you permission to stop thinking you have to do everything that others are doing. I give you permission to stop thinking you have to do everything people say you gotta do. My advice is to do one thing and do it well. Then move on to the next thing and gradually add to what you’re doing. Find what works for you. Discover what you really enjoy and spend time with that. And realize that everyone’s marketing plan and strategy is different. What works for one person doesn’t work the same way for all.

Eventually the things we do to increase our platform—small touches and big--work together and build momentum. I liken it to the way a flywheel works. A flywheel requires a lot of pushing to get it spinning, but once it’s spinning it continues on its own.

Remember this: If you do nothing, you can expect nothing. Start with one thing—no matter how small—build on it little by little, and see great results once you get that flywheel turning.

* * * * *

Twila Belk, aka The Gotta Tell Somebody Gal, is a writer and speaker who loves braggin’ on God. She works full time with best-selling author Cecil Murphey and enjoys teaching at writers conferences across the nation. Twila has written or co-written five books and contributed to several others. For more info, visit www.gottatellsomebody.com.