There comes a time in every productive artist’s life when he/she sits down and goes, “Hmmm…what other creative things can I do?”
[As a side note to fellow authors, many of us who were publishing on KDP before 2014 have seen a sharp decline in income after Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited. That’s got us asking the hmmm…question for real!]
After writing 40+ books, I’ve come to that same question and the answers have been quite surprising! After attending several webinars, I’ve dabbled in a few projects over the past couple of months that have opened my eyes to so many possibilities with technology, print, and online learning. I’m trying to stop my brain from going into creative ADD-mode, where I get so excited about one project that I neglect the one I started before it.
That’s bad…in a good way. The possibilities cause me to jump out of bed every day ready to roll! At this point, my prayer is that I don’t get myself off track by chasing down all these opportunities. I have to admit, though, I’d rather be too excited about life than bored to tears.
So, what have I been up to?
Well, in case you missed it, I created a coloring book with scriptures.
This has been a game-changer for me at face-to-face events. I usually bring 5-7 books with me when I go places to sell books. Often, these events have tons of authors present but not many book-buying readers. Having something at the table for other authors (like my 21-Day Publishing Plan) as well as something for anyone who needs relaxation has proven profitable. Yes, people still buy my fiction, but that coloring book will pull almost anyone to my table.
I’ve also created a few journals. Sermon journals help connect the message to “real life”,
and Reader’s journals help readers keep track of what they’ve read and reflect on the characters/lessons in every book.
So far, I’ve just been sharing these with friends/family. I’ve got an order from a local church and they are on sale on Amazon, but I’m not sure how much time/energy I want to put into the marketing. They were just really fun to make!
Finally, I’ve got a new non-fiction book for wives that just released! It’s a hybrid-book: part fiction, part professional commentary. It’s like watching a reality show with a counselor to help you understand what just happened and how you can address the issues if they’re happening in your life.
And, of course, I’m working on webinars. Over the past eight months or so, I conducted several in-person workshops but there’s only so much I can do in person in my sweet little corner of the state of Texas. So, I’m branching out into webinars and online courses. Hopefully and prayerfully, I’ll be able to teach other artists how to expand their creativity and create multiple streams of income. I’d also like to use the web-based classes to minister to women who were never taught how to wives. (It does need to be taught, by the way, according to Titus 2.)
So now I’ll got to ask you: What ideas are you working on? What’s got you super-excited about your life right now?
- “We need to talk!” As a new author, I was very unsure about the culture of the industry. But one day Tiffany L. Warren and I sat around after a book signing talking, chatting, and comparing notes. It showed me that authors need to learn to stick together and share what works.
- “You don’t need to write like anybody else.” Fellow Walk Worthy Press author Stanice Anderson told me this before I had even finished the first draft of my first novel. Her advice freed me to just write what the Lord had put on my heart and not compare myself to others.
- “Get up!” If you’re sitting at your book table/booth at an event, do not sit down and hide behind your books. Get up, pass out your bookmark and meet people! Advice given by the late Francis Ray. She was also the first author to tell me that, often, the advance is the only money a writer will ever see, so negotiate for as much up front as possible when you’re dealing with a major publisher.
- “The best way to promote books and build your audience is to write more good books.” I learned this from following J.A. Konrath’s blog. I have never met him in person, but his blog was an invaluable resource to me when I went indie back in 2012. While I think the landscape of promoting ebooks has changed, this was such a fire-starter.
- “Write the books and publish them!” Vanessa Miller was ahead of the curve when it came to independently publishing ebooks on Kindle. When she and I sat down and really talked strategy as well as money, it made all the difference in my career (see #2)!
- “Either you publish these short stories or I will publish them and you can sue me later.” A co-worker whose students loved my short stories pushed me to start WeGottaRead.com, where I’ve published over 50 short stories and been read by thousands of kids/teachers worldwide.
- “I’ll find some stock art for the cover.” Okay. This is kinda bad and kinda not bad. Here goes: I was considering hiring this guy to do a book cover for me. He said he was going to charge me $600 and that he would find “stock art” to make the cover. I thought $600 was quite expensive, so I didn’t hire him. But that term “stock art” stuck in my head because it sounded like something…well…”in stock.” So after our meeting, I Googled the term. A whole new world opened up to me, and I knew there was no way I was gonna pay somebody $600 to go find a $20 picture for me and slap some words on it. Granted, there’s more to making a book cover than this, but this experience taught me to do my homework before hiring folks in this industry. Experts do need to be paid for their time/effort, but in my book, $600 is exorbitant unless the designer is actually having a photo session with models and the picture will be exclusive.
- “Are you ready to write your next book?” When my first publisher, Denise Stinson, spoke these words to me, I was like, “Huh?” I honestly thought Boaz Brown would be my one-hit-wonder. I was gonna write one book, be able to call myself an “author” for the rest of my life, and be happy. While this book is still of my most beloved titles to date, I didn’t realize that it was only the beginning. Denise’s question made me think differently about myself as a professional writer.
- “Can you bring home some milk?” On the flip side to #8, this is the question my daughter asked me on the phone after I’d finished telling her that I had been nominated for an award. Kids don’t really care what you do, how “famous” we are, or if we’ve been called for Oprah’s book club. They really just want to know that Momma is there and will take care of them. Having a family in the midst of all this writing has kept me grounded.
- “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” Psalm 23:6. Somehow, some way, this verse spoke to me when I was about 23 years old. I just took it straight out of the Bible and made it mine. So when I wrote my first book five years later and sent it off to the first publisher who came to mind, I wasn’t deterred by the rejection letter. I just sent it off to the next publisher, and they wanted it. In fact, they published it in hardcover (I didn’t know that was a big deal at the time). I also didn’t know how hard it was supposed to be to snag a deal with a major publisher, particularly as an African-American in 2001. In retrospect, I’m GLAD I didn’t know. Had I focused on all the difficulties instead of Psalm 23:6, I might have thrown in the towel before ever trying. Because of His love and His Word, I expect goodness and mercy, and that has made all the difference in my life as a writer and beyond. He is good!
As I write, I keep a file of “thrown out” lines and scenes that don’t work with the plot. When I have a strong outline, this doesn’t happen so much. But when I’m winging-it, I may end up throwing out an entire character. I tell writers all the time: Don’t be married to your first draft.
And yet, I know how hard it is to part with words. In fact, I still haven’t gotten get rid of the “thrown out” files on my computer. They are my friends. It’s like I’m a digital hoarder! I keep thinking, “Maybe one day I’ll use that line or that scene!”
Well, it seems today is the day. Perhaps someone can use them and/or learn from the reasons why there were cut to help make choices about their own drafts. (See – I knew I there was a reason why I couldn’t rid of them!)
When I tell you God was not happy about me askin’, I ain’t lyin’. I’m not saying He was mad. Just saying I got the feelin’ He didn’t like me pokin’ around in Frank’s past.
Why was it cut? I think Mama B did actually go pokin’ into his past a little bit!
My first novel, Boaz Brown, had playground chants at the beginning of every chapter to open up the childhood flashbacks. But they were cut at the last minute because the editor felt that they were a distraction. I was too hurt! I really wanted to have “Down, down, baby, down by the roller coaster” in my book. In retrospect, I think my editor was right. But I’m still gonna make a coffee table book out of those songs one day!
From Falling Into Grace
Ronald was right, too. Kyra didn’t need to pimp herself to people like John David who asked her to do stupid stuff like join churches so she could sing. But what if she hadn’t joined the church? What if she’s never joined the choir? She never would have met Ronald.
Why was it cut? Well, a person’s name was changed (Kyra became Camille). And “pimp” is a strong word for Christian Fiction (at least it was at the time).
From Last Temptation
He followed me back to the table and we began discussing Eric’s situation. The weight settled back in my chest again. When I had a job, there was no question in my mind that Eric would be getting all the care and services necessary to overcome his academic challenges. If I didn’t get a job in the next two or three months, I might have to make a choice—did I want Eric to be able to read or eat?
Why was it cut? I made this more of a “showing” than a “telling”.
Why was Daphne trying to turn his world upside down?Maybe he should just leave her alone. Drop this whole relationship and find somebody he didn’t have so much history with.
Why was it cut? I moved it until later in the book, and by then he was too far in love to think these exact words.
From Stepping Down
None of them had done what the doctors described as “unimaginable”—keeping him pinned to his seat at the point of impact so that he didn’t go flying out the window. Only One God had done that.
Why was it cut? I can’t remember, but now I kinda wish I had kept it!
After writing more than 40 books, you can imagine that I’ve got plenty more lines sitting on the virtual cutting room floor. But this is what writing is all about – doing what needs to be done with words to convey a strong message. Sometimes, great words must be sacrificed on the altars of plot, consistency, and necessity. Getting rid of extra words, lines, scenes, or even characters will only help your writing become more succinct!
Fellow author Jeaninne Stokes and I recently corresponded about a common question: How do you keep from getting distracted by your writing while writing. Specifically, if you’re working on chapter three, how do you keep from going back and fixing something in chapter one without getting stuck in chapter one again?
Just so you know: I am not the queen of staying-on-track. However, I have devised a few tricks that keep me from getting completely derailed when I write.
1. Write description later – If I’m writing a restaurant scene and I have no idea what the restaurant looks like, but I know exactly what I want my characters to say to one another at their table conversation, I skip to the conversation because I don’t want to mess up my flow. I make myself a note in the text (see below) and then I come back through and describe the restaurant when I revise (which is AFTER I finish the entire first draft). By the time I start revisions, I probably will have gone out to a restaurant with my friends and thought, “Oh! This looks like the kind of place for that scene!” and then I’ll insert the description. One note: Now that I’m more conscious of using “character as setting” thanks to my critique buddy Lynne Gentry, I want to make sure to include details that add to the mood of the scene.
2. Research small things later – If a character was born on a Tuesday in October of 1947, I may need to know an actual date so I’m going to have to look this up. But if I stop writing and skip on over to the internet to look up the 1947 calendar, there’s a good chance I’ll get distracted by a whole bunch of stuff that took place in 1947 and I really don’t need to be in the internet at that moment. So, I make myself a note within the text (like above) and come back to it later. The Internet is probably my #1 distraction when it comes to writing. I try to stay off of it when I’m composing.
3. Keep a document called “Things to Fix Later” – While I’m working, I keep another word processing file open entitled “Things to Fix Later.” Every single book I’ve written has had such a file in its folder. In that file, I keep notes about what needs to change in a previous chapter now that something relevant has unfolded in a later chapter. Even if I have a pretty good outline, things still change as I write. (Spoiler alert – the picture below is from my book The Start of a Good Thing.
When I go through the revision process, I fix these issues.
Okay, my fellow authors, that’s all I have to share for today. I hope these little hints will help you make your way to the final chapter! Please feel free to add to the conversation in the comments.
Hey everybody! Hope you’re having a wonderful week thus far! Just wanted to tell you all about my new coloring book that will, prayerfully, give you a chance to relax, meditate on God’s Word, and explore your creative side as well!
First, here’s the video:
Secondly, let me tell you a little something about the process for creating this book. I am NOT much of an artist. I mean, I have had my good-drawing days. However, when it comes to creating digital art, I don’t know about all that. What I did learn came by watching a webinar and practicing what I learned until I actually came across some designs that I thought were kinda cute. Some of the artwork in this book I purchased outright, some I created with a little technical know-how. A few weeks after watching the video, I had a coloring book on my hands.
That brings me to a point that I’d like to share with you: It’s never too late to learn and try new things! I’ve written 40+ traditional books. This is my first coloring book and, actually, I had a wonderful time creating it. Finding the pictures, researching the scriptures, learning how to create the template for printing a book with images that stretch all the way to the edge of the page was a new experience for me. A little daunting at first, but once I got the hang of it, I was good to go.
Honestly, I think there are many things in life like this. You just have to (prayerfully) try it and see what happens. You can sit around wondering, “Hmmm…what would happen if…” for months, years, or decades. Or you can at least start learning and trying it today. And a year from now, you might be saying, “Wow! I’m so glad I did that!” or (at worst), “Well, I tried it and it didn’t go as I thought it would. But at least now I know. I may try it again and do something different next time.”
There’s a scripture that comes to mind for me. (Isn’t it neat how there’s a Word for EVERYTHING we face in life?)
He who watches the wind [waiting for all conditions to be perfect] will not sow [seed], and he who looks at the clouds will not reap [a harvest]. Ecclesiastes 11:4, AMP
Good news: All conditions and circumstances do not have to be perfect in order for us to move forward and pursue or God-given dreams and purposes. In fact, it’s not even a requirement that you know everything before you get started. Everything you need has already been supplied in Christ (Ephesians 1:3) and is simply waiting to be revealed as you go.
I hope that you’ll enjoy this coloring book during the moments when you’re NOT busy pursuing your God-given dream directly. (This coloring book is for relaxing, not distracting-LOL!) It’s available on Amazon for only $8.99. Makes a great gift for Mother’s Day, for those who are homebound, or for anyone who wants to use their down-time to refuel with something positive.
I’m glad to be a part of your life and help edify you in the Lord! Be blessed!
Well, folks, it has finally happened. Being holed up for hours at a time writing has changed my sense of fashion completely. I’ve gotten to the point where I pretty much only buy clothes and shoes that are comfortable on my body and feet. I rarely wear belts. I only wear heels when I know I’ll have the option of sitting down. Baseball-style hats abound in my closet.
Recently, I went so far as to buy a muu-muu, as though my onesie pajamas weren’t comfortable enough.
And you know what? I really enjoy them both. I can see right now that if I weren’t married, I would have already “let myself go” all the way, for real.
But wait—is “letting myself go” a bad thing? Maybe myself isn’t “going” so much as it’s “coming home” to the Michelle who (despite a great deal of public speaking) is actually quite a loner and very much a home-body. Honestly, I try to schedule all of my out-of-the-house business to be accomplished one or two days so that I can reduce the number of times I have to comb my hair in a week.
I have turned into the woman who doesn’t care if my jeans are classified as “Mommy” jeans because…well…I am somebody’s Mommy. I’m not trying to look 20 again because…well…I’m not 20 nor would I ever want to be 20 again. And I’m not trying to look “sexy” everywhere I go because…well…the word “sexy” literally means “arousing sexual energy” and I’m really not trying to do that for total strangers in Wal-Mart.
(Sigh.) These are just the musings of a writer who has another birthday coming up next week. The older I get, the more comfortable I become in my own skin, the less I care what anyone thinks. The more I see God’s love for me, the greater the desire to perfect what He counts as beauty. This is good.
I know it matters how I look to my husband and how I present myself as a speaker in a world where people do evaluate others based on appearance. And I do like wearing a cute outfit here and there. But the truth is: Because of the indwelling Holy Spirit, I’m beautiful from the inside out no matter what I’m wearing. For that, I’m grateful.
* * * * *
So what’s up with you and your fashion sense? Has it changed over the years? Do you enjoy getting made up and wearing stylish clothes? Has your faith impacted your wardrobe in any way? Would you wear pajamas everywhere if they were socially and professionally acceptable? LOL! Let me know!
Hope to see you there!
Click here to register: http://tinyurl.com/MLSWorkshops
Hello everyone! I just wanted to touch bases and say “Merry Christmas” to you all! The Stimpsons have finished ripping and running, and we’ve even got some experimental cooking planned for Christmas Day-pray for us, y’all!
As I reflect on this “writing” year, I’m so grateful for those of you who continue to read and recommend books by lil’ ol’ me. As of today, I’ve written or co-authored a total of 39 books and about 50 short stories.
BLESS THE LORD!
Prayerfully, I will catch up to my age in books this year
I want to express my sincere thanks to God for all of you who continue to read the words that pour off my fingertips in the wee hours of the morning. It’s my pleasure to write stories that bring hope, entertainment, and even direction to your lives.
My prayer for you as we close out this year and prepare for 2016 is based on Colossians 1:9-12.
I pray that God will fill you with the exact knowledge of His will through all the wisdom that the Spirit gives so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way. I pray that your life will bear fruit in every good work so that those who are in need of what you have will be nourished by Him through you. As you continue growing in the knowledge of God, I pray that you are strengthened with all power according to His glorious might. I pray great endurance and patience for you, always giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light through Christ.
In Jesus’ Name I Pray, Amen.
A few weeks, ago, I stumbled upon a book entitled “How to Write a Novella in 24 Hours”. Of course, I was intrigued by that title and had to read it, thinking…if I could write a novella in 24 hours, I could write 4 books a month!
Of course, the first draft of such a work would probably require at least a week’s worth of revisions before heading off to an editor. But still…that’s a lot of writing!
Since then, I’ve heard from fellow authors Rhonda McKnight and Unoma Osiegbu-Nwankwor about the book’s content. Aside from making us laugh, the book has challenged us to train ourselves to use our spare moments well. Ten minutes here and fifteen minutes there adds up to thousands of words in just a few days.
Then author Piper Huguley “piped up” (I couldn’t resist) and mentioned how she uses an old contraption called an Alphasmart to type almost anywhere. I’d never heard of such a device until last week! Compared to the price of a laptop or a table, it’s very inexpensive ($30 or less).
Basically, it’s an old-school keyboard with a little screen. You type, it saves automatically. When you get back to your computer, it uploads beautifully. The three best things: It’s portable (would fit in an oversized purse, runs on AA batteries that rarely need replacing), it’s a REAL keyboard (no tapping on a flat screen), and because it’s pretty ancient, it provides distraction-free writing (no internet, no pop-ups, it’s just you and the words, baby). Since they’re so old, you’ll have to get one on Ebay or an alternate seller on Amazon. (Be sure to get the Neo version.)
Finally, I told my writing group about my desire to write well in shorter periods of time, and they added me to their Facebook Messenger group so I could do “writing sprints” with them. Basically, either Jackie Castle, Patti Carroll, or Margi Laine will ask if anyone wants to do a round of writing. Each round is 30 minutes. Someone sets a timer, writes “Go” and we’re off.
Half an hour later, the timekeeper sends a message to stop. We all put up our word counts and congratulate one another.
I got in 647 words this morning in the first round. Then I had a lunch meeting. When I got back, I did another round with Jackie and ended up with another 565 words. Normally, with a lunch meeting and all, I wouldn’t have even thought to write before heading out the door. Mind you, I didn’t get to comb my hair (I wore a hat), but still…I’ve got 1200 words in and don’t usually start creative writing until late afternoon/evening.
Anywho, just wanted to encourage those of you who are writing to keep up the good work and find ways to use your downtime (without robbing yourself of much-needed rest).
And for those of you on the other end of all this — the readers–we appreciate you and promise not to publish the first drafts of these quickly written works. We’re still gonna fix ’em up for you!
And speaking of such, Mama B #6 is almost ready for the readin’! If you haven’t pre-ordered, watchu waitin’ on? LOL!