November is National Writing Month

writeyourstory

November is national writing month. Why? Because the world needs your novel.

Some of you may think that writing is your hobby. Some of you have already participated in NaNoWriMo, an online movement meant to help you finish your novel in 30 days. And some of you might still feel lost when it comes to writing.

I am here to let you know the time to start is now.

Below are writing tips I’ve previously shared, which I am sharing to encourage you, once again! Don’t delay. Start writing today!

8 Tips to Write an eBook

Tip #1 – Start With an Outline. Open Microsoft Word and start typing your ideas for chapter titles. This will get the juices flowing. Over time you can expand and actually start writing certain chapters, or copy and paste them where you think they’d fit better. An outline is supposed to be messy. Sometimes I sit on a book title and/or outline of a book for a year (sometimes even years) before I get the inspiration and courage to follow through.

Tip #2 – Follow Through. If you say you’re going to do something then you need to do it. Write and keep writing. Write until you get sick to your stomach or feel weak in the fingers. Write until you break a pencil and your heart. Write until the words don’t stop flowing and you feel at peace. Write when you know your schedule is too busy and write when you’re procrastinating. Write when you’re wanting everything to be perfect and write when everything is a mess. The writing process, as ugly (or clean) as it may be, is part of the fun. You have to start somewhere. Never despise small beginnings.

Tip #3 – Search Amazon. Most eBooks are sold on Amazon. Start searching titles to see if yours is unique or if there are over hundreds with the same title. Keep keyword searches in mind. For instance, if you want to write about relationships like I did, keep your title relevant to keywords or phrases regarding relationships. This makes it easier for people who have never heard of you to search and find your new book.

Tip #4 – Set a Budget. There are plenty of people who are willing to take your money. Want to know how much I paid to self publish my eBook? I paid $269. Not $2,699 or $20 but $269. I paid $200 for editing and $69 for graphic design including the picture I bought off Shutterstock.com. This is not the time to start skimping or refuse to hire a professional. If you want to sell many copies than it needs to act and mimic other books that are professional (see: not self published). Let’s face it–there are many ugly and hideously cheap looking covers and words out there just waiting to bombard you. Make sure yours stands out. Take the time to get it right the first time. You only have one chance for your book cover to make a first impression. Also the first few sentences of the first paragraph of the first chapter are very important, and so on and so forth!

Tip #5 – Don’t Do it all Yourself. I want like to clarify that I did not upload Loves Me Not, my eBook, to Amazon, Smashwords, or Barnes and Noble. Since MagGregor Literary Agency represents me, and this is a service they provide for their authors–I went for it! This is also one of the reasons why I switched agents and literary agencies because as an author I want to make sure I am staying current with the trends. I also know my limits when it comes to formatting and technology and this is definitely something I did not want to attempt myself. That said, maybe you are gifted and maybe you don’t have an agency who will do it for you. Ask around. Hire someone if need be–otherwise here are the uploading and formatting requirements for Amazon and Smashwords. If that doesn’t help you can always Wiki the answer.

Tip #6 – Pricing Matters. You don’t want to price your book too high or too low. Did you know that Amazon takes 65% of books sold between $0.99-$1.99 and 30% between $2.99-$9.99? If you’ve never published with a traditional publisher you might not know how many pages would equal a certain dollar amount. I wouldn’t recommend self publishing an eBook for more than $4.99. An eBook is meant to be easily accessible, downloadable, and purchasable. You want to add value to your name, brand, website, etc–not ask for too much from people. See below for pricing and word count suggestions:

+ $0.99 – 5,000 words or less (for instance a Chapter, a teaser, a booklet, or a giveaway for your blog/website)
+ $1.99 – 5,000-10,000 words
+ $2.99 – 10,000-20,000 words
+ $3.99 – 20-000-30,000 words
+ $4.99 – 30,000-40,000 (plus) words

Tip #7 – Marketing Matters. Just because there are lots of crappy eBooks out there doesn’t mean if you follow these tips and make the most presentable, most professional eBook known to man are you guaranteed to sell a ton of copies. The great thing with eBooks is they never go out of print! Times have changed and sometimes it can take a book a while to catch on. With traditional publishing, they have sales reps who sell mass quantities (wholesale), that juice up your stats. When my first book, Faithbook of Jesus, released on March 8, 2010 the entire print run of 5,000 copies had already sold out. This is not the same with eBooks. There are no “limited” quantities or numbers of print runs. Please don’t be discouraged if your book doesn’t sell well in the first week or weeks. My literary agent, Amanda Luedeke just released her first eBook, The Extroverted Writer and in it she gives all sorts of amazing tips on how to market yourself (not just for eBook only authors, but for all authors). I suggest you buy a copy for yourself. She also said if you sell 400-500 copies in a month or the first few months you’re doing alright.

Tip #8 – Celebrate with friends, family, and food. It can be so easy to get caught up in the lonely life of a writer. Don’t neglect your family and friends. When you take the time, money, and effort to get that eBook out there–it’s time to celebrate and never look back! You can market all you want, but at the end of the day the people you’re living with mean (and should matter) the most. Even if that means sacrificing some key marketing time or writing one last article. If you’re a writer who wants to be around for the long haul you’ll quickly learn that it’s a marathon not a sprint. I tried that and got burnt out. Don’t get burnt out! Have fun and remember to enjoy the process and smell an iPad.

10 Tips to Start Writing Now

1. Follow Through. You may not feel you’re the smartest or most savvy writer/blogger/author, but that actually doesn’t matter. The ones who write and keep writing are the ones who succeed. My former boss actually told me that I wasn’t the most qualified for the position, but because of my follow through (sending emails, leaving voice mails) and not giving up–he gave me the job. That was the job that turned everything around for my writing.

If you have a burning passion then USE IT! Follow through and then keep following through, and after you’ve followed through then keep following through. Seriously!

2. Practice Makes Perfect. Most writers I meet are perfectionists. THIS DRIVES ME CRAZY. I have the type of personality where I am constantly asking myself, “when can I start?” Most people don’t have this strength. I realize that God has gifted me with not being afraid to mess up or be perfect to encourage others–especially other writers. There’s something about the permanent written word that causes the introverted perfectionist to stop practicing. WHAA? The focus becomes more on being perfect than the craft itself. If you are this person–PAY ATTENTION!

Want to be a great writer? Don’t be afraid to get your pen dirty and start writing now.

3. Don’t Hate Blogging. I’ve met a lot of writers both established and brand new who really don’t like blogging as a platform. You either don’t have enough time, don’t know how to make it purdy enough, or get easily frustrated at the lack of comments or blog love. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Each writer at some point needs to come to terms with the fact that publishers REQUIRE authors to have a blog and a platform. The economy and lack of area book stores push more readers online. The bigger your blog–the more readers you can reach. This is why I have found most bloggers to be the most friendly people around.

I started my first blog in 2004 and wrote a recent post on things I’ve learned in the past eight years of blogging and what you can learn too.

4.  Create An Online Community (Tribe, Following, Etc). Find 2-4 people you like, trust, or blog similar messages to you and form an online community. Read their blog. Comment on their blog. Learn what works for them and try it on your blog. Yes, it’s time consuming, but get over it. If you want people to care about you and read your blog–then you need to read others too! Not because you WANT something from him or her or them but because you actually care.

Building a tribe takes time, but the good news is social media including blogging, Twitter, Facebook, and websites are here to stay. Plus, you never know how many lifelong friends you can make through this arduous process.

5. Write Your Manifesto. What is your purpose for writing? Is it to share your story? A piece of your heart to encourage others? I write to spur others forward (Hebrews 10:24, 1 Corinthians 14:24-25).

If you don’t know your purpose as a writer you WILL become easily discouraged when other writers publish faster or become greater than you.

If your focus is to become famous then you’re writing the wrong manifesto. If your aim is to share the broken pieces of you to encourage others into wholeness and a deeper relationship with God THEN expect to experience the same kind of brokenness you’re writing about. The best writers are the ones who have been tested and found true.

Writing is a tough business. But the good news is–no one else has your story. Learn what you truly value and stick to it through thick and thin, through the good parts and the bad parts. This is what makes writers great!

6. Set Your Writing Business Now! This–I would have to say–is the most important tip I can share with you. It is also my GREATEST pet peeve. Most people do not believe in themselves enough, or have the confidence (balls, guts, etc) to start their business. But I’ve got news for you!

Turning your writing into a business isn’t as hard, scary, or difficult as you think!

Going back to #2–don’t let perfectionism STOP you from making a wise choice for you and your finances. I’m actually going to write a separate blog post on this tip because I believe in it so much. I will go into AS MUCH detail as I possibly can so you can start your writing business now!

7. Grow Your Platform. Don’t be afraid to grow your platform–and not because you have to, but because you want to become a better author. Start blogging consistently then add guest posts and articles. Once you have 3-5 articles, start a new page on your website. Just think at the beginning of 2012 I had ZERO articles written because I was always afraid I didn’t have what it takes. After you get comfortable writing for other people–then start a monthly newsletter and consider writing a short eBook. You can then offer it on your website to encourage people to sign up and subscribe to your monthly newsletter.

8. Finish Your Book Proposal. Shh! Want to know the secret to getting published? Finish your book proposal. I know it doesn’t sound glamorous or anything, but you’d be surprised how many people email me, message me, or want to meet with me in person without a book proposal to show me. How did I figure out what was an acceptable book proposal format? I asked another author who had already published a book. He was my friend and I wasn’t afraid to be audacious and because of my bravery–he helped me finish mine. I’ve also had the pleasure of helping others finish theirs–and even get them published.

The best way to find and acquire an agent is to have a solid book proposal–and a finished one at that!

9. Establish Brand Consistency. Brand consistency is key. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve spoken at writers conferences, workshops, or consulted with individual authors on keeping all branding consistent. If your name is one thing on Twitter, another on Facebook, and also different on your website–HOW ON EARTH WILL PEOPLE REMEMBER? 50% of people find me by googling me. I make it simple by keeping my branding consistent and memorable. For instance, you can have everything be the same–but if it doesn’t make sense then you’re not utilizing marketing the right way.

If you’re struggling to choose the right branding don’t be afraid to reach out to other authors to see what’s worked for them and how picking the right branding can work for you too!

10. Keep A Clean Website/Blog. Want to stand out from among the competition? Keep your website uncluttered. Keep it organized. Keep it snazzy. Keep it minimalistic. THERE ARE SO MAN BLOGS OUT THERE! The madness will never end. I recommend using WordPress.org. Go through Bluehost or whomever you feel comfortable with.

If you can create a cozy, comfortable, and relaxing atmosphere online–the more people will come back and keep coming back. THIS ALSO INCLUDES PUBLISHERS AND AGENTS!!

5 Tips to Start Your Writing Business

Here are 5 simple tips to start your own writing business today. 

  • Step #1 – Set up your Fictitious Business Name (FBN) at your local County Clerk’s office. It cost me about $35 plus another $20 to advertise in the newspaper (part of the FBN requirement).
  • Step #2 – Set up your Business Checking, Savings, Debit & Credit Cards. Bring your FBN to show proof of your new business name to open up your free business checking and savings. Also, for those of you who need to travel and might get paid at a later time, this is when having a business credit card will come in handy.
  • Step #3 – Set up your Business License at your City Hall. It cost me $45 per year. If you plan on working from home, you need to have a business license.
  • Step #4 – Keep track of your business receipts. One of the best and most exciting things (okay I’m weird) as a self employed person is being able to write off everything pertaining to the business including a portion of my mortgage and utilities. Consult a certified tax accountant to begin doing this properly and accurately (including how to measure the square feet of your office). Trust me it’s worth it and legally you kind of have to anyway.
  • Step #5 – Brand your website. Before setting up your fictitious business name, make sure that your website and social media outlets (like Twitter or Facebook) ALL MATCH. Do a search at godaddy.com orbluehost.com and see if your business name is available as a domain name. For instance, when I set up Devotional Diva, I made sure the domain was available. If you’re going to set up a freelance business as your name, make sure your name or a variation of your name is available. This step is probably the most important because everyone is trying to get noticed. Keep it simple (stupid). The more confused YOU, are the more difficult OTHERS are. Plus, how will they be to find and hire you if you have 5 different names?

I recently heard that Barnes and Noble fired its CEO, and might be headed towards bankruptcy after its Nook failed. In the next 10 years, Amazon will outsell Wal-Mart in the market place. WOW! Moving forward, this means 99.9% of books will be bought and sold online. No more Borders. No more Barnes and Noble. Who knows what will happen to Family Christian Stores, Lifeway, and other Christian bookstores. With the trend moving towards eBooks, here are a few articles to stay informed–and what that means for you as an author.

3 Tips to Start Journaling

1. Start with, “Dear God” instead of “Dear Journal” or “Dear Diary.” As I said in the video, life is busy and there isn’t a lot of time to write fluffy things or draw hearts and rainbows in your journal. Use your journal instead to be intentional during your quiet time or devotional time with God.

2. Journaling Brings Healing. I didn’t start out to be a writer or published author. In fact, I wanted to be a high school math teacher (algebra). It’s kind of cool to look back and see God’s fingerprints through the pages or my journal. Through journaling I was able to establish my relationship with God, discover my love for words, and my passion to find healing in its pages.

3. Find what works for you and be consistent. As I also said in the video–maybe journaling isn’t your thing. Then find what works for you and try repeating it every day for a month! Maybe it’s sitting down at an empty park or a crowded Starbucks. It’s not always easy to add a new routine, but if you can be consistent for about 30 days then it becomes a permanent habit.

Question: What is it that you need healing from and how can you be consistent daily in prayer and/or journaling to find what God is trying to say to you?

10 Tips to Start an Online Magazine

Tip #1. Launch a self-hosted WordPress blog in 20 minutes. Michael Hyatt, former Chairman & CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, created a step-by-step video that I highly recommend watching and following. I recommend using his affiliate link to go through Bluehost.com (the #1 recommended WordPress hosted site). A year’s worth of hosting will run you about $60 (give or take).

Tip #2. Buy a WordPress Premium Theme. If you google “wordpress premium themes” it displays over 34 million hits. Premium themes can run you between $39-109. It is well worth the investment and allows you to fully customize your site. Expert tip: Make sure to buy a responsive layout, which includes a mobile version that is compatible on any SmartPhone, iPad, Kindle, etc. Girly Tip: Want a cute or girly theme for WordPress? TryBluChic.com.

Tip #3. Decide Which Widgets To Add. There are a few essential widgets every blog or online magazine should have: Social Media buttons (including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and/or Instagram), Categories (there should be 3-6 in total), ans Subscription or Newsletter Sign ups. Expert Tip: Use MailChimp.com for all sign-ups including the HTML code to put inside a text widget. If you already use FeedBurner you can simply transfer them over to MailChimp (google a tutorial if you need too).

Tip #4. Where To Find Good Stock Photos. A photo really is worth a thousand words, but is it worth that much money? Chances are if you’re blogging you’re poor (hey!) and don’t have the time and/or money to search for expensive photos. Expert Tip: Search CreativeCommons for FREE photos (or CreationSwap.com for more “churchy” photos), and don’t forget to give photo credit in the blog (*see below). If you prefer buying your stock photos try: ShutterStock.com or iStockphoto.com.

If you’re terrible at PhotoShop like me, consider buying a year subscription to PicMonkey.com for about $30 bucks. You can create Facebook banners, add text, and create photo collages. The best 10-step tutorial on how to use PicMonkey.com is on Mary DeMuth’s site.

Tip #5. Use Your Browser Bookmarks. Your bookmarks are your friend. I love Firefox because it has a Bookmarks Toolbar. I have:BibleGateway, Gmail, Google Docs, My site (including WordPress Login page), Hootsuite, Twitter,Facebook, Creative Commons, Pinterest, PicMonkey, MailChimp.com, and more. Expert Tip: Bookmark every site you use to make a blog–that way you won’t forget when creating your blog.

Tip #6. Decide Which Plugins To Use. To keep your site running smoothly and efficiently, don’t install more than 10 or so plugins. Activate these plugins: Akismet, JetPack by WordPress.com, WordPress SEO, and Social Media Widget. Expert Tip: Learn how to use WordPress SEO. It keeps you from using more than one keyword in your title, post, picture, etc. It might be frustrating at first, but once you see the green light you know you’ve got it. (Don’t be afraid to ask others for help or google around until you find a tutorial).

Tip #7. Ask Others To Guest Post. It’s okay to ask other people you know and love you to guest post. It gives other like-minded writers the chance to share their story. However, I have noticed that sites can quickly become a click or closed off to new members. Obviously certain sites can’t respond to all new inquiries because of size or volume. Expert Tip: Stay open and inviting by creating monthly themes in advance and placing writing requirements for submissions.

Tip #8. Advertise on Blogs or Online Magazines. This requires a 150×150 or 300×250 logo. Create one in PicMonkey (like I did). Don’t be afraid to ask, bargain, or beg. Also this can later become a badge for people who post on your site. A great example of this is (in)courage.me. Every time they accept submissions they send you a sweet little button to post on your site to let others know that you guest posted for them!

Tip #9. Check Your Stats Weekly. Chart your progress of how many stats you currently have to what you would like to have. Maybe there’s a keyword people keep typing in to find your site. Consider turning that word or phrase into a monthly series, individual post–or ask someone else to write on the topic if you’re not comfortable. Expert Tip: Use Google Analytics or JetPack (a WordPress plugin) to track weekly stats.

P.s. It’s okay to cry if your stats and/or comments aren’t where you’d like them to be. Every author needs encouragement to know they’re on the right back. (Hugs).

Tip #10. Pick Daily, Weekly, or Monthly Themes. If your website is all about bananas you probably shouldn’t pick apples as your theme. For instance, I try to pick themes most 20/30-somethings would be comfortable reading and talking about. You might feel like you’re the only one, or you may feel like you’re one of many–but the key is to stay consistent.

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13 comments on “November is National Writing Month”

  1. Shirley Dietz says:

    I have way too many questions. Start with BluHost – I don’t understand what a host does and why it’s needed. And I’m not sure about branding either and may have started that wrong. Does it include domain address, blog name, and what else?

    1. Renee Fisher says:

      If you’re not sure what all of it means you can always google to find out. When you purchase a domain like “devotionaldiva.com” you have to buy it and then it’s your choice whether or not you want to host it as a website or just forward the domain to an existing website. Branding is your name and that should stay consistent on your blog/website/social media.

  2. Sistergirl says:

    Great advice, I am a writer finishing my first book. I plan to self-publish because everyone I know seems to be reading ebooks from Amazon. I’ve had this book in my head for years and I just want to get it out to the public so I haven’t even tried the traditional route. I am a blogger and will just advertise on my blog and do some blog tours to advertise and hook up with book clubs.

  3. jen says:

    Thanks for your great advice: ‘Want to be a great writer? Don’t be afraid to get your pen dirty and start writing now’. I have struggled with being a perfectionist and it’s only recently God has been speaking to me regarding not getting hung up on every single detail of grammar etc and simply writing because in the end it’s the message that counts. Thanks for endorsing that here.

    1. Renee Fisher says:

      Go for it! I guess I’m glad I’m not a perfectionist, but I often find myself comparing my writing to others who have waited or gotten it perfect. Either way, if we’re called to write we should WRITE! Right? 🙂

  4. Grace Pierpont says:

    Wow! Great advise! I have recently finished my first story and hope to have it published some day, but after doing some research, I am now starting to clearly see I have a long road ahead of me. and I think the thing that is scaring me the most is that proposal!

    1. Renee Fisher says:

      One step at a time. You can do it. Thanks for sharing, Grace!

  5. Tammy Sooveere says:

    Wow! And I mean that, Wow! So much information. So much so, that I’ve saved this in my bookmarks so I can read it and reread it again. I’m just starting out too. I’m like you, not a perfectionist but that in fact has held me back. Afraid to make a fool of myself. But God is pressing me to step out. To trust Him.
    I’m a Nutritionist and passionate about helping women fulfill their calling. Watch this space… I might just surprise myself.
    Thanks again for your post.

  6. Busi says:

    This is so beautiful and inspiring. I am just googling for info on starting a Blog and also writing an E-book and bang, its all here. I really appreciate the info you are sharing and hope to one day share that with you all.

  7. Paulette says:

    I enjoy journaling and journal almost every day. I believe God’s saying for me to use this discipline to start blogging. I’m looking for some hand holding and a step by step guide or training course to start. A friend helped me to put something on WordPress, but that’s as far as I’ve gone. Any training you can recommend?

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