Spiral Learning Applies To Writers

A comment on a post I’d left on a writer’s group Facebook page gave me pause. It was something I re-blogged because the writer’s honesty encouraged me. I love sharing writing tips, mine and others. The commenter remarked, “every writer knows this stuff, and this post was a waste.”  I shook my head and decided to explain on my blog why “I beg to differ.”spiral

Spiral Learning

Educators explain people learn in a spiral. Simply put, reviewing the basics before adding a new concept helps a student retain and expand on the information. Therefore, material is repeated at every grade level year after year. The basics of math and reading are reviewed in early elementary school. It takes a few years to master the foundation. Every grade level through high school spend the first portion of the year reviewing the materials last presented in the previous year. Most students don’t remember enough from past lessons in earlier years to build on a new concept. We remember it while we are using it.  (Think high school French class.) Then we forget some or all of what we learned. We continue to relearn, remember, forget, relearn until we own the skill and don’t forget.

Spiral Refreshing

The same applies to writing. I attended a writing retreat years ago. One subject was correct grammar. Later someone bemoaned the waste of time. After all, writers know this stuff. For me, there were things I’d forgotten. And punctuation issues, I needed clarity on.

Reviewing what you know

Familiar topics on writers’ conference brochures could be the deciding factor to skip the event when we’ve attended those same classes before.

I’ve discovered I’m always learning things I missed the first time. The review refreshes my knowledge. Applying what I learn may take a few times of hearing it to get it right.

If we’re honest, we can list at least one new thing we learned and determined to apply, but didn’t. It can take several more classes, blog posts or articles, before we followed through.

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Learning to avoid bad advice

How many times have you seen those ads that promise big bucks, even if you don’t know how to write? Everyone knows not to pursue it. But writers do. A desire to write full-time and quit a day job can drive an aspiring writer to waste time on content mills. How many will raise their hand along with me and say… “I did.” After I was so foolish, I read many articles debunking my choice, and I own that concept now.

Blog information

My email fills with several blog subscriptions weekly. I’m amazed when the familiar comes along right when I need it. Recently, a post reminded me of the ten most common novel writing errors. It reset my mind and put me in tune with those things as I edit my latest WIP. I knew the tips well, but knowing and doing can sometimes trip over each other.

Relearn from each other

Although I am a traditionally published author, I subscribe to indie authors blogs. Both traditional and Indie can teach me things. One example: why multiple levels of editing are important. As a traditional author, I get those edits from my publisher. But indies need to hire the editors or do it themselves. I’m more mindful of what to expect from the publishers I work with.  Another example: marketing. Most authors struggle to remember what and how to do it correctly and consistently. It helps me to decide what types of marketing beyond what my publisher offers I might want to explore.

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Final Word

My tip when we are tempted to say, “we all know this stuff.” Don’t.  Someone may not be familiar at all. I’m amazed how the old adage, “You don’t know what you don’t know” applies to me. I’ve seen best-selling authors taking copious notes in classes on subjects I assumed they were an expert. Often, they remark. “I’ve learned something new.”

What new or review information were you grateful to have received in your Inbox or social media? Were you at the learn or forget stage when you read it?

Comment below I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Ten years in the Making: A Book Contract

contract

 

If you follow me on Facebook, you saw my recent announcement. I received my first book contract. It only took 10 years to get there. Oh, let’s not forget 20 rejections, many rewrites and several edits. Years of improving my writing skills through online writing courses and writing books.  Ten years of attending conferences. Submitting to magazines and websites with both success and failure. I’ve made the acquaintance of many writers, both newbies and seasoned pros. During my ten year journey I have added agents and publishers to that list of acquaintances.

Help others on the journey

I’ve written over a hundred book reviews and supported my fellow-writers anyway I can. I enjoy helping promote their books and sharing words of affirmation when they were discouraged. I have purposed to invest in others while I worked toward the illusive contract.

Keep learning

Actions such as joining critique groups, following writing blogs and reading a lot propelled me toward the goal of publication. This has been ten years of perseverance and determination. I’d confess “I am a writer” when I wanted to keep that proclamation to myself. Established writers encouraged me to learn how to use social media.  Then I started this blog, Writer’s Patchwork, where all these writerly parts are sown together into the bigger quilt of gaining a contract. (Clever play on words.)

Cindy's Editor's Choice Award-2

My award. I am so blessed.

Never give up

Anyway, the point I’m trying to press home is don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged and keep helping others in the industry. Keep focusing on your goal and over time you’ll get that book contract.

Come follow me

It will probably be a year before my novel will be available for sale. During that time, I will be posting the next stretch of my journey. Even though I have a contract, a mountain-load of work remains to be done before I see my book in print. I’ll share my experiences in hopes of inspiring all of you to keep going. And give you a glimpse into the process of contract to book shelf.

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Three Ways Your Life Experience Can Be Shared With The World

 

Book heart-2

Your true story doesn’t have to be written by you. Check out a professional.

Often I hear from people who learn I’m a writer that they are going to write a book someday. Many people may profess it, but few actually do it. I’ve read a variety of blogs and heard speakers tell of people sharing how everyone says their life should be a book and their story needs to be told to the world. Those bloggers and speakers share helpful hints with their audience on how to determine whether your message should be dispensed in book form.

Because most of my posts for the next two months are going to be reposts of my ten conference tips, I thought this subject blended well. Because at every conference there are people with a passion to get their story told but no idea how. They hope to find an agent or publisher to agree to publish it.

Is this a book of my heart?

There are many things that have happened in my life—true miracles. There are tragedies as well. None of which I have felt at the present are a book of my heart. Some of those experiences take form in some of my characters in my fictional world however. But if one or more of your life experiences burns in your heart to be told, then I’ll help you explore ways to accomplish this.

Scenario one

Let’s pretend for the sake of this blog post that I have had a wondrous experience, and every time I share it people insist I need to write a book.  I’ve never written anything so I find the idea daunting. Yet, the thought takes root in my heart and won’t let go.

Let’s assume I know a writer. And I share my story and my desire to write a book. They smile politely and tell me to take some writing classes to learn the craft. I’m a little offended that they should suggest such a thing. After all, this story needs to be told. I don’t have time to waste on classes. Besides don’t publishers fix your mistakes?

So I attend a writer’s conference with the intent of finding an agent or publisher. I have a handwritten copy of my story and determination on my side. Okay, so maybe I have a typed copy, but it is single spaced. Perhaps I have a copy in 16-point font, single spaced on pink paper all neatly bound in a colorful cover.  A few copies even. You see where I am going with this.  No publisher or agent takes these kind of presentations seriously. There are industry standards which I will not discuss here.

Even though I strike out achieving my original goal, I make a connection. A writer hears my story and suggests I get a ghost writer. She connects me up with a fellow-writer. During a meeting he decides what I need is a writing coach to help bring my story to light.

Another scenario

This time I am joined at my conference lunch table by a magazine editor. I share my story and my battle plan for getting it published. He asks, “Have you ever consider writing an article about your experience.”

“But I want to write a book.” I declare. I am thinking a magazine article would not have the same impact.

“Our magazine has a circulation of 100,000. I’d love to publish your story.”

“Wow! I had no idea.”

 

Heart microphone-2

Sharing your story to groups of people may be another way to get a publishers attention.

Still another scenario

During a break I am trying to decide what class to take when I overhear someone singing the praises of the Speaker class. My curiosity is piqued and I attend. There I discover a new possibility. Speaking in various venues. I learn how to get the word out about the story I want to share. I immediately order all CDs.

 

My point

Book form may not be the best way to get the story of your heart before your desired audience. At least not at first. A magazine has large readership and gives your story a great chance to be read by many more than you may get in book sales. The article or series of articles could get you the attention of a publisher and be the outline for a book. Again, learning the craft of article writing is a must.

Perhaps sharing your story in a speaker’s format is more effective. Some stories are best shared orally. These days it’s easy to place stuff on You Tube or create a podcast to share your story.

A writing coach or ghost writer might be the best way to get your message in book form quickly. Otherwise it is imperative to learn the craft of writing well. And that can take years.

Ghost writer pic-2

Ghost writers and writing coaches may be just the ticket to getting your story told in a compelling way.

Be aware that coaches and ghost writers do this for a living and will expect to be paid. It is worth every penny to give your story its best chance at sales. Many wonderful true stories which have soared to the best seller list were written for the individual by professional writers. Ninety Minutes in Heaven is a great example.

If you have a book in your heart, perhaps these tips will help you decide how you want to share it with the world.

 

I’d love to hear any questions from those who want to get their story out there. And if you’ve successfully shared your life experience to the masses, please tell us about it.

 

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Home from the Conference Now What?

Clip board do list

Now that you’re home from your writer’s conference, it’s time to get organized. While you are decompressing that first day back, take time to send thank you notes. Yes, thank-you notes are still in vogue even though they may be electronic ones.

Thank you notes

Send them to all the people you had appointments with, thanking them for their time. You could send a note to the conference organizer and the instructors whose classes you attended. Gratefulness is an attribute every writer should practice. We all know how good it makes us feel to be thanked and appreciated. Go forth and do likewise.

Send stuff

If anyone requested information you mentioned you had (not proposals), send it now. It is easy to get busy and forget, and when you see them next at a conference, it will be awkward and embarrassing.

Request stuff

Some teachers will say, “If you email me, I will send you my notes.” Or they might have a special email for submission not available at the conference. Be sure to email your request for those things right away. It may take them a little while depending on their schedule to get back to you.

Sort, friend and follow

Sort through the pile of business cards you collected, and if they are not a friend on FB, add them. Follow them on tweeter, and if you use Linkedin, make the connection. Add them to your email list. All those connections are golden.

Post comments and photos on social media. Tag you new friends in pics or mentioned them in your comments.

Organize and rewrite

Organize all your notes. Don’t just place the notebooks on a shelf without perusing pages. You may find you wrote a vital piece of contact information in the midst of your workshop notes. Search for web addresses and books mentioned by teachers, and transfer the info to another sheet. I had written proposal request information from an editor who didn’t have a handout on a page of my notebook. Good thing I found it.

Calendars and time

Time Management is mentioned many times and in many ways at conferences. Plan how you are going to conquer it. Write down your commitment. Get out your calendar (whether on paper or PC) and plot your writing projects. Set goals for completion and days, hours, minutes you plan to write to reach those goals. You don’t want to let a whole year pass and conference time rolls around and you still haven’t submitted to all those who requested your work. Be sure to plan time to edit the things editors and critique groups suggested.

Read and Listen

Go through the books and CDs you purchase and plan when you will read and listen. If you commute to work, you can make that a classroom time with your CDs. Most writers are avid readers so I’m sure you know when your primo reading time is.

Do it now to gain success

The sooner you do these things the more like a writer you are going to feel. The discipline of reaching your conference goals builds confidence. Confidence is just another step toward the success you desired when you attended the conference in the first place.

What’s the first task you do when you come home from a conference?

 

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Conference Tip # 2 Prepare a One Sheet

A One Sheet is an important tool for pitching your manuscript. But to a newbie it is a mystery.

A One Sheet is an important tool for pitching your manuscript. But to a newbie it is a mystery.

When I attended my first conference, I didn’t have one of these. I had nothing to really pitch. No one told me about them, and I never saw one before that first conference. If you have a book to pitch, a one sheet helps showcase it and draw the attention of editors and agents.

A one sheet sometimes called a pitch sheet or a sell sheet is a page of information. The most important things about your book and you are available at a glance. It contains a blurb about your book and your bio. It can have artwork or be plain. If you aren’t good at creating flyers, I would definitely suggest keeping it simple. Use a one-sheet for both fiction and non-fiction.

Here are two links for examples. Fiction and Nonfiction.

The simplest one sheet has the book blurb, biography, and your business card stapled to the corner. (This is another important use for that business card.)

Parts of a sell sheet

Personal info: Name, address, phone, email and website and/or blog links. The most common place for this info is in the banner at the top. But it can be placed on the bottom or anywhere it is easy to see.

Hook:

A sentence or two capturing the books uniqueness. You want agents and editors to keep reading.

Blurb

Make sure the blurb is as concise and interesting as you can make it. Look at back covers on your favorite books for examples. It should be a brief description of your book. Like back cover it should draw the reader to your story, introduce main characters, and give a glimpse of the conflict. Don’t tell the whole story or ending. No questions. (You know: How will she manage to resist him?) Save those for the synopsis.

For non-fiction you want to capture the urgency of your subject matter. Again check out the back cover of books.

In both cases you don’t want the blurb to be more than a short paragraph or two. Short being the operative word.

Genre

List the genre, i.e. Mystery, Romance or Romance Mystery. For non-fiction, examples would be Contemporary Christian Living, Apologetics, or Women’s Issues.

Word Count

Fiction must be finished so the word count is specific. Whether it is 50,000 or 90,000 mention it. This lets the interested party see if your word count meets their needs.

Non-fiction may not be finished so write an estimate with a projected completion date.

Biography

A short bio listing any writing credits and a bit about yourself. Any qualifications for writing your non-fiction such as degrees, ministry, and personal experience goes here as well. Write it in third person. Again be concise and interesting. A few lines focusing on you as it relates to this manuscript.

Photo

This photo is optional. If you choose to use one, be sure your headshot is professional-looking. No selfies. Here is where you can staple your business card to your sheet instead. FYI: My one-sheet is of the simple variety.

Check and double check

If you are comfortable adding pictures or artwork, great. These can make your single sheet pop. But a plain white sheet neatly done with no grammar or punctuation errors can go further than a fancy one with poorly written content. Be sure to have at least two others check for errors. Nothing is more blaring than an obvious word misspelled or the use of their when you mean they’re. A well-done one-sheet should encourage agents, editors and publishers to ask further questions. Hopefully, one of those will be: can you send me your proposal.

But I have no book

Create a one-sheet describing your short stories, poems or articles you want to pitch. Or skip the one-sheet all together. There are other ways to pitch your work at a conference and I’ll talk about those in an upcoming post.

Here is a link further explaining a one sheet.

The Pitch-Sheet and One-Sheet http://kayedacus.com/2007/08/28/beyond-the-first-draft%E2%80%94the-pitch-sheet-and-one-sheet/

Those of you who have created one-sheets I would love to hear your tips.

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Attending a Writers Conference Part 2 Tips On Preparing

Here is another repost this week for preparing to attend a writers conference. Its not to early to start preparing for those coming up this summer. Hope you find these tips helpful.

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Before you attend a writers’ conference there are some things you need to do to prepare.

  • Research all the publishers and agents attending the event. Go to their websites and get to know them. Decide which ones you want to have appointments.
  • Have a clean copy of the first chapter of your manuscript or article.
  • Prepare a memorized pitch—a short description of your story idea that can be said in 90 seconds or less. Be brief but concise. Memorize it until it flows smoothly from your tongue.
  • Have written proposal. There are usual guidelines on the individual websites as well as many books available on the subject.
  • Clips—samples of other published work- if you have it. Magazine editors are interested in these.
  • Bring a business card. Minimum content your name and email address. Better with a headshot and website, blog and other links.  These you will exchange with other writes and give to those you pitch too.

Doing these things ahead of time prepares you for whatever the appoint time morphs into. Some pubs want a pitch others want to see a sample of your writing.

Things not to do at a conference

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  • Don’t waste the individuals time pitching something their company does not publish. This screams amateur. If the conference offers a panel of editors—attend that session. You will get the latest updates on their needs which could change you initial list of who to have appointments with.
  • Be open to criticism. One meeting may bring you rave reviews another may leave you feeling like the worse writer on the planet.
  • Don’t be late or an appointment and don’t go over you allotted time.
  • Keep your criticisms to yourself. If you are having a bad day don’t rain on others great ones. Your next appointment or workshop maybe the very thing you need to turn your attitude around.

An idea for newbies

I heard a great idea at the last conference I attended. One young lady set appointments with agents and publishers to ask questions. She had nothing to pitch but wanted to know more about how these professions worked. It gave her a feel for how to approach them in the future when she had something to pitch. She made contacts who would not be strangers when she pitched her stuff later making her less nervous.

Do what is required after the conference

Be prepared to return home and work. Work on proposals that were requested. Work on articles, not to mention perfecting those three chapters. Or work on rewriting, reworking and resubmitting based on the things you learned and the input you were given.

I’d love to hear your tips on maximizing your conference experience.

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Guest Blog -Birthdays always a time to reflect

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While I spend time with my father who is recuperating from surgery Charlotte Snead has graciously agreed to fill in. Loved her candor.

Many folks my age are retired, traveling the world or content with their laurels. Some of my friends have died. I’ve reared five incredible children who are making contributions to society, and one foster daughter, who says she wouldn’t know Jesus if we hadn’t been her mama and papa. (She’s my best salesperson, as a beautician, she talks my books up to her customers!) I’ve had a good life, and if I die tomorrow, I’ve had it all, but I can’t be content. I published my first book, His Brother’s Wife, in 2011 and two more last summer (2013). My husband is an orthopedic surgeon. He will be 75 in April, but he studies, goes to conferences, and operates. (He has cut back to four days a week.) Every day we pray he has the opportunity to lift up Jesus to his staff, his patients, and his colleagues.

Is something wrong with us? I think not. Something is very right with us. We are abundantly blessed, and we continue to be on fire to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, each of us in our own way, and both of us agreeing for one another. I write from my experiences—fiction, but novels that contain conversations I have had in my work in Pregnancy Care ministry, as the mother of a Special Forces soldier (who has been in dangerous situations), and as a MOPS mentor, teaching women to revere Life and to love their husbands.

My first book and the second one, Invisible Wounds, deal with our brave young warriors and the wounds, both physical and psychological, that they carry. Recovered and Free, the first of a 4-book series, about a recovered alcoholic and his musical family, is set in my beloved West Virginia, where blue grass music and the Christian faith are alive and well. It’s been a journey, going to writers’ conferences, writing seminars and critique group, but I want to write well to touch hearts.

I believe the best writing comes from personal experience. Married 52 years, I know the choices that improve or hurt a marriage. My mother was alcoholic—I’ve lived that, too. As the mother of a son who has buried over 60 close friends, I know the pain of serving in war. I founded and directed a pregnancy care ministry and still serve on its board, so I know the heartbreak of unplanned pregnancy and abandonment. As a MOPS mentor, I deal with the struggles of young married women. Some might say I go over the edge, speak too frankly, but I have had these conversations. I am earthy and Real–a real Titus 2 woman, teaching about real issues, and praying my little stories will enable others to face their lives, holding tightly to God’s hand.

As long as readers tell me my books are healing or saved a life, or someone found Christ. I’ll keep writing.

Charlotte Snead pic

Charlotte Snead, published by Oak Tara, has three romance novels in print: His Brother’s Wife, Invisible Wounds, and Recovered and Free. Married to Dr. Joseph Snead, they have five adult children and one foster daughter. They have seven grandsons and live on twenty acres in rural West Virginia.

A reminder to all commenters. Your name will be put in a drawing for Charlotte’s novel Recovered and Free: The Prodigal Father. Just leave a comment with your email written in this format- myemail at myserver dot com. I will contact the winner for a snail mail address to forward to Charlotte.

Here are the links to her books.

His Brother’s Wife

Invisible Wounds

Recovered and Free

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