The Co-Authoring Experience

My first experience with co-authoring was with the April Barker and the “What About Momma’s House?” series.

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Honestly, I was too chicken to write the first book by myself. I thought people would read more into it because we’d recently lost my beloved mother-in-law. Though there were some similarities between the Porter family and my own, the reader feedback quickly confirmed that many families struggle through misunderstandings and disagreements following the death of a matriarch.

When I first talked to April about the idea, she was elated. Of course, I was, too. April (who had dubbed me her writing mentor) is a great writer and we both looked forward to bouncing ideas off of each other. The idea of holding each other accountable never really crossed my mind, though I did feel some degree of self-imposed pressure to keep the ball moving as we wrote.

We started with prayer and a chapter outline. Since this book was going to be told in third person with one main character (Katrice) and two secondary characters (Montrel and Patrick aka “Junior”), it was easy to divvy up the responsibilities. We were shooting for a 30,000 word novella with 20 chapters, so each chapter needed to be about 1500 words. The way the outline fell, she’d write a few chapters from Katrice’s POV, and then I’d write the next two – from from Montrel, the next from Patrick. We ended up writing about 10 chapters each. The story was told sequentially, so we fed off of each other, one chapter after another, in order to make it seamless. We started writing in late July, 2013, and What About Momma’s House? was published September 2 of that same year.

The book was well-received by readers (THANK YOU!), and as soon as reviews started coming in, we knew we needed a sequel. We planned a second book, What About Love?, and published December 7. Finally, What About Tomorrow? was released March 24, 2014.

This year, I’ve begun the process of co-authoring again with CaSandra McLaughlin. I’ve known “Cassie” for about five years now through her involvement with  her church club. I also listen to her radio show when I happen to be up and about in the mornings. She’s got a bright, bubbly personality,  she devours Christian fiction books, and she’s somewhat “up” on the latest TV drama, so I knew she’d stretch me!

The Blended Blessings series would prove to be an even bigger co-authoring challenge because when Cassie and I sat down to discuss the idea at a fast food restaurant, a ton of ideas came pouring out. Here’s the official brainstorming page:

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Most of that stuff isn’t even in the book, but the process is what matters! In that hour and a half, we prayed and got direction for the series. The big difference between this one and the previous one, however, was the viewpoint. We were going first-person for the whole book, which meant the voice had to be consistent or readers might get confused. Thankfully, CaSandra and I have similar backgrounds and dialect, so it hasn’t been as big of a challenge as I thought it would be.

We brainstormed on January 10 and I wrote the outline the next day. We followed the 20-chapter outline, for the most part. I wrote the first three chapters, then Cassie wrote the next three, and so on. We both ended up writing more here and there as the plot unfolded. Lo and behold, the first novella in the Blended Blessings series, A New Beginning, was published on February 28.

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TIAFrontOnlyWe wrote book 2 (Through It All) in March and sent it to the editor yesterday (April 4). We met last week to plan book 3, which will probably come out in the summer.

So now that I’ve had this co-authoring experience five times over, there are a few things I’d like to share with those of you who are considering co-authoring:

1. Co-authoring is much faster than authoring alone. I know it seems like, “duh!” but that self-imposed pressure actually caused me to kick it into high gear. I’m already a “writing rabbit” – but co-authoring makes me a writing rabbit on steroids.

2. Have the same vision. Aside from praying for one another, one question keeps us  focused throughout each book: Where is Jesus? The series is filled with all the drama that comes with people’s imaginary lives, but the message of Christ centers the plot as well as the characters. Well, most of them…

3. Create a chapter outline. Both April and CaSandra were new to writing Christian fiction, so an outline was essential to helping make sure we were going in the right direction. As an experienced fiction writer, I did veer off a few times, but when I did, I went back and changed the outline so I wouldn’t lose my co-author. After that happened a few times, I think both April and CaSandra felt free to change things up as they wrote, too. Writing is art, after all!

4. Be clear about finances. With both authors, we set clear expectations. We went 50/50 on the cost of the book cover (whether contracting or just buying the art), editing, and promotions. We also split royalties 50/50. Once a monthly (usually a day or two after Kindle pays), April and I have lunch. I login to the different publishing platforms and open the reports. She pulls out her calculator, and we view the royalties in real-time together. We do the math. I write her a check for half the royalties and that’s it. At the end of the year, I write off what I paid her (form 1099), she reports it as income on her taxes so I don’t get taxed for both of us.

The same will happen when CaSandra and we start to receive royalties. (Woo hoo!) Note: We did order books for a book signing. We split the cost of books, then we split the profits. We’ve decided that after the next signing, we’ll just split the books we have leftover and it’ll be every man for himself with selling the rest from the trunk. It’s just too hard to keep track of every time I sell a book and owe her $4.

5. Co-authoring is a rewarding experience. Up until I wrote with April, I really thought of myself as a loner when it came to art. However, the shared creative experience opened me to the process of mentoring other writers and setting others up for success. I still have my own characters and my own ideas to pursue, but helping someone else give birth to their dreams can be just as exciting. Thanks to them, I’m regaining an appreciation for the awesomeness of this gift He has bestowed upon me.

Be blessed!

New Release – A Change of Heart

Book three in the “A Few Good Men” Series is now available, and boy was it a pleasure to write!

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The inspiration for this book was a conversation with a  relative of mine about a relationship in which two young people were basically “playing house.” Like the main characters in A Change of Heart, our Father graciously intervened. But it was quite nerve-wrecking to sit back and watch them make decisions that put both of their young lives at risk for consequences they weren’t prepared to handle.

I hope you’ll enjoy this novella!

Available on Kindle and Nook.

Print coming soon!

7 Unusual Sources of Inspiration

Here’s a Reblog from BlackChristianReads.com:

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At nearly every book signing, someone in the audience asks me, “Where did you get the idea for this book?” Of course, my short answer is, “From the Lord,” because, really, my life is quite boring. I don’t watch much television and I probably spend about 65% of my time alone. I have to trust Him to draw my attention to things that He knows will bless people.

While some of my storylines stem from likely sources (family members, co-workers, and my own experiences), I’d say most of them come from single observations made in a moment’s time. Those seeds took root and grew in my head until they blossomed into full-fledged plots.

Here are seven of the my most unusual sparks of inspiration…READ MORE

Three Hair Lessons

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This is my third time returning to natural hair. The first time, I changed my mind about six months into the process. I just couldn’t get over how big my face was (LOL!). I have no pictures from that attempt.

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The second time, I made it through but I was very discouraged along the way because I had no idea what my hair would look like in its natural state once it grew out.  I would look at other people’s natural hair and think, “Will mine will look like hers?” or “When will it be long enough to…?” and “Can my hair do that, too?”

I even called my aunt (who used to comb my hair before I got perms) and asked her if she remembered my original texture. She was like, “It laid down when I put water and lotion on it and brushed it.”

I thought to myself, “I suppose that’s good if I want to wear my hair in ponytails.”

Oh, the anxiety. What if I don’t even like it in the end?

Not until the fall of 2011 did I begin to really “feel” my hair. By that time, I’d gone through enough products to know what worked/didn’t work, how long I could go between shampoos, which conditioners made my hair too soft to hold a twist, and how many days it needed to dry in its twists to look “just right”. My bangs had even been trained to lay down on my forehead. Padow!

Then something happened and I had to take a break from being natural*. No biggie, but it was a nice break.

As of June, 2014, I started my third natural hair journey. But this time, I have no issues. I’m not impatient or anxious. Why? Well, because I’ve learned a few things…

THREE LESSONS FROM THESE JOURNEYS:

1) My hair isn’t exactly like anyone else’s. Even the same texture looks different on my face. Yes, my forehead is a five-head. Yes, I have a full face – I always have. Even when I was a  “po” (that’s what my grandma calls skinny people) I had an extra cheeky-face like hers and my great-grandfather’s. This is my face. God says it is good. I agree.

2) It’s okay to change things up. When I took the break from being natural (natural hair can be hard work, y’all) I actually enjoyed rocking my straight hair. It was kind of fun – except for the time I thought something was crawling on the back of my neck when, in actuality, it was just a loose strand. My daughter cracked up laughing. I cut it short after that.

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3) There’s something to be said about how you rest in the journey when you already have a vision for what the end will be like. Believers – RELAX! (Not your hair, necessarily, but definitely your soul!) Let’s live like we already know what the end’s gonna be because we DO! We WIN for eternity!

In His Love,

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Michelle Stimpson

* If you must know, what had happened was: I accidentally altered my curl pattern one day – left a texturizer on too long while sitting in front of the computer. This was after I had already started cutting on it because it was so thick and big, my neck and arms would hurt from all the different contortions needed to achieve my two-strand twists. I needed a break for real!

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Michelle Stimpson is the national bestselling author of 25 books and more than 50 short stories. Check out her latest books!

Meet Unoma Nwankwor!

A few years ago, I made a Facebook (FB) friend who is one of the sweetest FB friends I have to this day. While I cherish so many of my online relationships, it’s nice to meet fellow authors who are so supportive and always have something sweet to share.

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I’m so honored to know her and introduce to some (announce to others her latest work) to those who love Christian fiction. Be blessed!

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A Scoop of Love

The oldest of the Danjuma brothers, Rasheed was a self-made man. He’d learned at an early age that love and commitment brought with it complications he didn’t want to deal with. His single-minded focus had paid off. He was able to step into the shoes of his absentee father by taking care of his mother and twin brothers. But just when he thought he could stop carrying the weight of his family on his shoulders, he gets a call that could change the trajectory of Rasheed’s life.

Ibiso Jaja, a professional caterer, had gambled on the love of a man and lost. Through the redeeming love of God, she had picked herself up and was now living her dream as the owner of Bisso Bites, a bistro in the heart of Abuja. However circumstances conspire to threaten the bistro and bring her face to face with the type of man she has vowed to avoid. The attraction is instant.

Once again, Rasheed is forced to do something he has done all his life – put the needs of his family ahead of his own. This time however, he crosses path with the sassy, independent, Jesus-loving caterer who is bent on making him see the power of forgiveness and God’s love. Just when Rasheed lets his guard down, a deadly sabotage causes old demons to rise. Will Rasheed continue to pursue power and success or surrender to the light of God’s love?

About the Author: Unoma Nwankwor is a self- proclaimed romantic. She is passionate about telling stories that are uplifting and life changing sending the message of faith, hope and love. Her readers are in love with her unique way of telling stories that capture the essence of her present home base; Atlanta Georgia and her Nigerian culture. Her stories which center on forgiveness, faith and hope have been described as a fusion of faith, romance and African spice.

Unoma is also the published author of An Unexpected Blessing (2013) , The Christmas Ultimatum(2013) and When You Let Go (May,2014).

 Visit her online at http://www.unomanwankwor.com

Click Here to buy “A Scoop of Love” on Amazon

 

 

Two Ideas to Help You Write Your Book

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If you’re thinking about writing a book but you’re really not sure how to push through the often-frustrating process, you might consider hiring a writing coach or surrounding yourself with a group of writers to help you to “The End.”

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Writing Coaches

In a nutshell, a writing coach is like a physical trainer. They don’t do the work for you, but they can help you through the process.

A writing coach offers guidance through the developmental process. He or she will help you outline your book and plan the chapters. After defining the scope of your book, you and your coach will decide upon a calendar. Every week or so (depending on what you two decide), you’ll send a chapter to your coach via email. The coach will give feedback on each chapter. You’ll move forward through each chapter of the book with your coach’s input and a sense of accountability along the way.

Some coaches provide other services, but this is the basic gist of what writing coaches do and how one can help you reach your writing goals.

For the record, I am NOT a writing coach. I don’t use a writing coach, but I know authors who have used writing coaches, particularly for their first book or two.

The writing coaches I know well are all booked up for now, but you can send me an email if you’d like their contact info. If you’re a writing coach or if you know if a good writing coach, please feel free to post your contact info. in the comments!

Writing Critique Group

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My first experience with a critique group came at the home of award-winning, seasoned author Lena Nelson Dooley (thanks, Lena!).

Here’s how it worked: One evening each week, we met and circled up in her living room on chairs and couches—sometimes as few as 5, as many as 12 or so. Whoever had something to read (up to 10 pages double-spaced) read their work aloud. Everyone listened and followed along (if that person brought copies for everyone to read). Lena commented first, then everyone else went around the circle adding their two cents. Some of the comments were praise, most were suggestions for improvement, all were helpful. Even if I didn’t bring a chapter, I learned so much by listening to the other writers’ work as well as the following critique.

We all wrote Christian fiction or non-fiction. Most were members of the local ACFW chapter, but some were personally invited.

Several of us who used to go to Lena’s formed a smaller group, closer in proximity. It’s been absolutely amazing to celebrate the achievements of the group. Since we’ve been meeting, 3 have signed multi-contract deals with major publishers and several have self-published with amazing success.

If you don’t know any authors who might invite you to a critique group, consider forming a critique group of your own! Quick tips:

1) For safety’s sake, I’d host it in a public place (library or café) unless you know everyone

2) My groups have been all-women. When I hosted a group in my home, we did move it to a library when men wanted to start coming. I don’t think my husband would have taken kindly to some dudes sitting up in his living room with me when he came home from work

3) My groups have also been comprised of people who read and write in the same genre, for the most part. When people understand the genre’s expectations, they are able to provide critique that lines your work up with the standards

4) In my current group, we don’t bring physical copies of our work. We send it via email ahead of time. Everyone makes their comments through Microsoft’s reviewing options. We send the comments back to the author via email after having our conversations.

If you’re not the one for meeting face-to-face or one-on-one coaching, you might consider virtual support groups (Google hangouts, FB groups, etc.). Any more ideas for how to collaborate with others to finish your work? Please post in the comments!

The Creative Itch

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Are you multi-talented? Do you have, like, a TON of things you can do well? Don’t worry. You’re not alone. I’m a firm believer that if you’re faithful with your gifts, you get the chance to use even more (Luke 12:48).

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An artist is always thinking of ways to express creativity. When I break between projects, I pick up little fun things that keep my creative juices flowing.

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Scripture Bracelets

Scripture Bracelets – I started making these in 2006 to keep the word in my face constantly. Later, my daughter and I started making these. It was a bonding activity for us. However, when she turned 16 she got a “real” job that paid more than Momma. Now, I just make them when I get the chance.

Acting – In the last few months, I’ve received 2 invitations to make cameo appearances in plays. I’m in!

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Drawing of my daughter

Drawing – I drew this one of my daughter when she was 2 years old. I can’t draw mouths well, so I put a pacifier in her mouth. Hey – it worked. She always had the binky in her mouth anyway!

Exercise Video – When I tell people about my exercise video that only consists of words and music, they crack up! Who needs somebody on the screen if you already know the moves in your head?

Yes, this is the screenshot of the video. My favorite songs play. I know what to do!

Creating Book Covers – I dabbled in this last year and actually sold several of my pre-made designs. What I’ve learned, however, is that I’m really not that good at custom designs yet. It’s far too time-consuming for me at this point in my development. I think I still have 2 more that I’ve agreed to do, but I gotta slow down and perfect some things for now.

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By the way, these pre-made covers are available for $50 each! Email (stimpson.michelle at gmail.com) me if you want one!

What about you? How do you scratch that creative itch?

Last Day Free on Kindle !

Stepping Down

Stepping-Down-Lessons-Part-1.jpgHard at work on growing his church, Pastor Mark never realized that his own household was falling apart. Now a scandal threatens everything he stands for and has worked so hard to achieve. Together, can he and his wife learn to forgive? From a national bestselling author.

Download today for Kindle!

People and Stories in My Head

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Every writer I know has several ideas floating around in their heads. Sometimes, these ideas and characters keep me up throughout the night. One of the benefits of being in a critique group, teaching writing classes, and communicating with other writers online is that I get to bounce ideas around before I start writing.

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In a spirit of collaboration, I’d like to hear your thoughts about these ideas and hear some ideas you’ve got bouncing around, too!

Hope – She’s a typical “Superwoman” who’s in love with a guy who has been stringing her along for the longest time. When he finally told her had something really important to ask her, she thought he was going to pop the question. Unfortunately, the “big question” was a request to borrow money. I got that idea from watching an episode of Judge Mathis. It was hilarious but sad. I think I’m gonna do a series with Hope eventually.

Rev. Brown – He’s a man who was married multiple times in the past. He has 3 daughters from those relationships (3 different mothers). He’s a changed man in Christ and he’s trying to reconcile with his daughters, but it’s not easy. The daughters are also struggling through life because they have Daddy issues. This idea is not necessarily “new” but I’ve been studying the orphan spirit in preparation for exploring this topic deeply through fiction. Not sure when it will happen, but it’s on my heart.

A Mean Prophetess – I’m still trying to figure out if she really is mean or if that’s what people think of her because she does what Old Testament prophets do—she warns people before destruction and they don’t like it. I still have to research this, though, because I’m not sure what New Testament prophets are called to do. Is it different now that believers have the Holy Spirit to teach us? How can she warn people without condemning them? Is she really a prophet or is she just a mean, judgmental person who needs to learn humility underneath that title?

Mama B # 6 – I think I’d like to see Mama B and Frank on a cruise or in some place other than their house. I’ve been thinking about making Mama B a sleuth (which is what happened with her Caucasian quasi-counterpart, Miss Julia), but I have to read up on that series to study the transition.

Blotted – this is a different genre (Fantasy? Sci-fi? Adventure?) This book is about teen who knows whose name has been blotted out of the Book of Life. I’ve got a few chapters already. My son liked it. This is his genre, so I’ll probably finish it soon, but I don’t think it will end up being a short story. I still need to find out if there’s a difference between the Book of Life and the Lamb’s Book of Life in scripture.

Historical Fiction – this one will probably be a short story, too. Late 1800s. An African-American girl who’s who is in training to become a midwife but she doesn’t want this destiny. Something goes wrong during the birth of a white woman’s baby…that’s where the trouble starts. This will probably be a short story, too.

Deon Jackson – this is an 8-year-old boy who has ADHD. The family dynamics change when his grandfather (who has Alzheimer’s) come to live with them. My son didn’t like it. But Tia McCollors’s son is reading my first few chapters to let me know if it’s remotely interesting.

[*Note – nothing I write ever turns out the way I plan it—and even if it did, no two writers would write the story identically. Every writer has his/her own voice, so I don’t worry about people “stealing” my ideas. What God has for me is for me.]

So…which idea piques your interest? Any suggestions? Are you a writer, too? Who’s dancing around in your head?

A Day in the Life of a Writer

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For YEARS, I have been resistant to blogging. I’ve even blogged about how much I don’t blog very often because I just don’t have the time. But last week, after reading a blogger’s recap of her typical day, I caught the blogging bug. I mean, I really, really caught it.

Write Sign, Love for Writing, for writers and authors.

In hopes of inspiring those who have been trying to decide if writing is something you might want to do full-time, I’ll share my typical day (6 days a week):

7:30 am – Wake up but stay in bed. Change the channel from ESPN to TBN. Listen to Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, John Hagee and Joseph Prince while dozing in and out.

9:30 am – Get up, get dressed, eat breakfast. Replay episodes of ministers (from above) that I really wanted to listen to closely while I’m getting dressed. Stretch or maybe exercise for a little bit while listening.

10:15am – Go to the prayer closet. Read, study the Word, journal, pray.

12:15 pm – Write fiction

1:00 pm – Eat lunch.

1:30 pm – Return the morning’s phone calls. Handle inside-the-house business (i.e. update sales chart, schedule free books, sales, ads, read professional blogs, etc.)

2:30 pm – Write fiction, social media

4:00 pm – Handle outside business (i.e. post office, groceries, stuff my husband put on my list of things-to-do because he thinks I do nothing all day)

5:00 pm – Housework, listen to podcasts or other material that grows me professionally or spiritually. Eat.

6:00 pm – Write fiction

7:30 pm – Break. Watch TV with my husband while he unwinds. He likes reality TV shows or sports. I don’t like either of those, but I do what I have to do.

9:00 pm – Write. Might be fiction, might be a presentation, perhaps a blog J

11:00 pm – Update daily sales chart.

11:15 – Call it a night. Pack my husband’s lunch. Go to bed.

Following this schedule, I’ll get anywhere from 1500-2000 words of fiction written daily.

I answer email messages and phone calls as well as post on social media throughout the day. My husband is also home some days and may work at different times, so there’s some variety.

Sometimes I go to bed around 11:30 pm, sometimes I stay up until after midnight to write if I’m really on a roll or under a deadline. On those nights, I look like this video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abXri2-xGcQ

So, tell me…is this what you thought the writing life was like? If you’re an artist, what’s your typical day like?

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