The Wordsmiths’ Cafe- Edition 4: 3 Things to Do With a Rejection

“I could wallpaper an entire room with rejection letters,” my writing instructor said.

I wished he was kidding, but I knew it was true. There have been many times when I received an email I didn’t want to open. The subject line said it all.

“Thank you.”

In other words, thank you but no thank you. Thank you, but your piece doesn’t fit our needs at this time. If we get enough of those emails, we may decide writing is not our thing. It’s too hard, or perhaps we heard God wrong when we felt him calling us to do it.

After writing off and on in different genres for the past eight years, I’ve learned rejection will come. There is no question about it. But we can learn from it. It can make us grow instead of making us bitter, and we can become better writers because of it.

We have to see it as a stepping tool rather than a smack in the face. Even though it does feel like a smack in the face.

Here are 3 things you can do after a rejection:

  1. Ask yourself, “Is this the right market?” There are a lot of publications out there. It can be overwhelming, and it may take a while to find the right one for the piece you’re writing. But if you submit your place to a magazine, e-zine, etc. where it doesn’t fit, the only result will be frustration. Take time to read the publication’s back pieces and see if your manuscript will compliment what they write. If it doesn’t, keep looking.
  2. See if there are any opportunities outlined in your rejection email or letter. Sometimes you’ll receive an email saying the piece doesn’t fit their needs. So what are their needs? Does the publication have a list of themes they stick to each quarter? If so, you may be able to save your manuscript to submit later. Make sure you look at all the guidelines and needs of the publication before you submit. Doing so will not only save the editor time, but you as well.
  3. Take time to explore your niche. It can take years to find your niche and your voice as a writer. Don’t try to rush the process. Ask yourself, “Who am I writing to? What is her story? What are her struggles, her dreams and her beliefs?” Asking yourself these questions will not only make you a better writer, but target your audience. Because trying to write for everyone will essentially mean writing for no one.

Whatever you do, don’t give up! Remember, some of the best writers faced rejection many times before they saw success. Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Max Lucado and Lysa TerKeurst (just to name a few) all forged their way through letters saying “no” before they saw their first “yes.”

Time spent honing your craft and learning is never wasted. Writers write their way through doubt. So pick up the pen, pull out the laptop and keep going.

 

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The Wordsmiths’ Cafe: Edition 3

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Welcome to edition 3 of the Wordsmiths’ Cafe! Each quarter on the 15th of the month, I will be offering writing tips, resources and links I hope will help you in your writing journey. This newsletter is part of the Ladder to Rooftop Blogging academy started by my dear friend, Jami Amerine. You can find more info about the academy here.

3 Questions to Help You Self-Edit Before You Hit “Publish”

Have you ever wished you had a personal editor? I can’t count the number of times I have. As many times as I review, delete and reword the articles and blog posts that are published each week, I still find things to change. But since freelance writing doesn’t pay the bills and I haven’t written a bestseller, I’ve come up with several questions to ask myself each time my finger hovers over the “publish” button.

This list is not all-inclusive, but it helps me know whether my writing needs tightening or perhaps needs to be saved for a later season in life. If you’re looking for ways to help you self-edit, I hope you find this list a good place to start.

  1. Is the message of my post clear? Many times, I start one place and end in another. And that is okay as long as there is a clear message to the post, but often the reason I end up some place else is because I went down a rabbit trail. And then another and another. If your reader can’t pick out one or two main points to take away with them after they leave your site, they are probably not going to remember your post. “Sticky Statements” are a great way to highlight these points, but you can also communicate the main point with repetition, questions and bullet points. The possibilities are endless; just make sure your takeaway is clear.

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  1. Is this something that belongs in my journal instead of a blog post? Often, I read a post and it is though the person vomited all over the page. Whether the emotion is anger, pain or bitterness, it is obvious that the conflict is still raw and they haven’t had a chance to digest it or learn from the experience. Posts like this often come across as whiny or ranting and leave the reader feeling like they’ve just been slapped in the face rather than given encouragement or hope. While every post may not be encouraging, our goal as writers should be to propel our readers to do something other than bury their heads in the sand.
  1. Can this piece be tightened? The more I review things I’ve written, the more I see I have a habit of repeating myself. And while some repetition is good to get your point across, there is no need to say the same thing twenty different ways. When a reader hops over to your site to read a blog post, they typically want to be done within a few minutes. We live in a world where attention spans are getting shorter and shorter and if you are rambling on and on, your reader will get bored. Ask yourself if there are any unnecessary words, repetitive phrases or sentences that have nothing to do with your main focus. If so, you are probably safe to remove them. Also check to see of there are areas where you use the past perfect tense.
  • For example, this sentence is written in the past perfect tense. “I had wondered if it was possible to keep going.” If I change it to active voice, my writing stays moving and keeps the reader more engaged: “I wondered if it was possible to keep going.”

While everyone has their own style and ways to communicate their message, I’ve found most successful writers incorporate these steps in one way or another. Never compromise your voice or try to sound like someone else. God gave you a unique voice, and the more you use it, the more it will begin to fit you like a glove.

Write on, and remember to support others along the way by sharing what you learn.

 

*You can find edition 2 of the Wordsmiths’ Cafe here.

The Wordsmiths’ Cafe: Edition 2

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When the Cursor Won’t Stop Cursing You

If we write, chances are we’ve been there. We sit down at our laptops to put that piece together, and stare at the blank screen. Then we stare some more. The cursor blinks at us mockingly and the more it blinks, the harder it becomes to put words on the page.

First let me say this is normal. There is nothing wrong with you when writer’s block comes. It’s an unwelcome part of the process.

As Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly, and sometimes it’s like drilling rock and blasting it out with charges.”

And he’s right. There is no rule. But there are a few things that have helped me when the blank screen stares me in the face.

The next time the cursor mocks you, here are a few tips to try:

  1. Get away from your computer. Most writers I know type directly into their computer, although I do know a few who hand write their stuff and then transfer it over. But here’s the thing. Your blank computer screen will not fuel your creative juices. Get up, go for a walk, play with the dog, or whatever. Just do something else. Take a notepad or your phone if it had a notes/ idea app. When the words come to you, record them in the moment. You’ll be surprised what some movement can do for your creativity.
  1. Read something. (other than your own blog) Pick up a book, magazine, or novel and dig in. Good writers read, and they usually read more than they write. While you don’t want to copy what someone else has written, you will find inspiration or perhaps a new angle on a topic you’ve been thinking about.
  1. People watch. Observe nature. Take in your surroundings. And by your surroundings, I don’t mean your blank computer screen. Get and do life. Pay attention to the birds flying outside your window. Listen to your kids’ conversation. Trust me, there’s plenty of fodder there. (but exercise caution there, as your kids will one day read what you write, if they’re not already) Eavesdrop on a conversation at the mall. There is inspiration all around you. Sometimes we just have to stop hurrying from one place to another long enough to notice it.

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  1. Journal. It’s amazing how the words will flow when we’re not worried about sharing them with anyone. I once heard someone say we should journal more than we blog or write for an audience and I have to say, although I don’t always practice this, I agree. While we may not share those thoughts written in private with anyone but God, they will provide a jumping board for later writing. They will replenish our soul and allow the Spirit to work.
  1. Start with a story. This tip comes from a writer and speaker I’ve come to respect over the years, Lysa TerKeurst. If you’re still stumped about what to write, tell a story. We all have stories to be shared. Tell your readers one, whether it’s your own or something you heard, and go from there. See where the Spirit leads and ask yourself what life lessons can be applied from the story you share. The possibilities are endless.

Whatever you do, don’t give up. If you’re still hitting a roadblock, take some time off to recharge your batteries, but set a time when you will return so you’re not tempted to procrastinate.

Be yourself. You are the only “you” this world will ever have, and faking it won’t get you anywhere. It will only exhaust you and make you want to quit.

God has given you a voice, a story to share, and a desire to write. If he’s called you to do it, he will equip you. So let’s push forward with confidence.

 

*To read edition 1 of the Wordsmiths’ Cafe, click here.

*The Wordsmiths’ Cafe is part of the Ladder to Rooftop Blogging Academy. For more info, click here.

The Wordsmiths’ Cafe- Edition 1

wordsmiths' cafe

Welcome to edition 1 of the Wordsmiths’ Cafe! This is a section of the Ladder to Rooftop Blogging Academy, started by my dear friend Jami Amerine. You can access this amazing resource filled with hundreds of tips from other bloggers here.

On the first day of each month, I will be offering tips on blogging and the craft of writing. I will share things I’ve learned in the process, time saving strategies, and resources I’ve found helpful. My hope is that these tips will help you progress in your projects and save you some frustration.

Hosting Blog Series and Guest Posting

Do you ever wonder how bloggers keep up with posting two, three, sometimes more times per week and constantly have fresh ideas? I have. My idea mill is usually running and I can find inspiration in the strangest of places, but often I don’t have the time to put these ideas on the keyboard.

As a mom raising two young children and a schedule packed with other activities, my time to write is limited. Not only that, but I like to work on other projects such as book proposals, guest posts, and freelance articles.

Consistency is important to blogging. Whether you blog two or three times a week or less, it is important that you readers know what to expect.

One of the biggest tools I have found to help me maintain this consistency is hosting blog series with guest posts from other writers. Here are a few tips for how to going about doing this:

  • Find other writers in your niche. Whether your niche is fashion, faith, or food, you want to find other writers who blog about or have knowledge of this area. Even if they are not bloggers, you can easily interview them for a guest post. My blogging community has been a tremendous source of encouragement to me and has kept me moving forward on this journey. You can connect with other bloggers on link-ups, online blogging and writing courses, Blogging Facebook groups, etc. Here is a list of a few you many want to check out:
  • Compel Training
  • Hope Writers
  • Tribe Writers
  • Blogging Boost
  • Rise Up Writers

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  • Outline your expectations. I have found that the more specific you are, the better. If there are grey areas in your email, your guest writer will more than likely not know what you want. Specify word count, when you need the post (make sure you give yourself time for formatting, etc.), whether you want a teaser post on their blog, whether or not you want them to respond to comments, if there is a graphic needed with their post and what size, etc. Make sure you also ask them to include a bio and headshot.
  • Send an email or message inviting your fellow bloggers to guest post. Make sure you give them plenty of advanced notice. I like to give my guest posters at least a month to prepare. Give them general details such as the date and the theme or topic and if they’re interested, you can follow up with another email with specific details about what you need from them.
  • Create a format you will use for your posts and be consistent. I usually create a common graphic which I place at the beginning of each post in a series. This graphic will include the name of the series and my site. Your guest writers can share this graphic on social media to promote the series. You can also have your guests create their own unique graphic for each post with a quote from their post or something pertaining to it. Lately, I have been putting my my guest’s headshot and bio at the bottom of each post, but you can place it wherever you want. Just pick a layout and stick with it, so each of the posts in your series have a fluid look.
  • Have fun and be generous. Promote your guest writers’ posts on all of your social media outlets. Interact with the readers and let them know you appreciate them. This is a perfect opportunity to expand your network and your guest’s so be gracious in your interaction and don’t simply disconnect for the two or three weeks when you don’t have to constantly be producing content.

Hosting series and guest posts have become a crucial tool to help me work on other projects, expand my readership, and keep up with producing consistent content. I hope this strategy will become useful for you too as your progress in your writing and set new goals.

If you’d like to check out a guest post in my most recent series, you can find it here.

The Answer That Changes Everything

Spirit of God

“I believe in you.”

Four powerful words can propel us. We step into the unknown and take endeavors we never dreamed possible with a little push of encouragement.

But often our dreams are met with skepticism and negativity. We want to do a “new thing,” but when we mention it to those close to us we receive raised eyebrows or glossed over looks of boredom.

Sometimes this lack of understanding can freeze us in our tracks. Fear and self-doubt take over, and we figure we fooled ourselves by thinking we could make a difference in this big, vast world.

I get it. I’ve been there one too many times. But I also know it only takes once voice, one word of affirmation that rises above the others to change the course of our steps forever.

Do you know what the God of the universe says about you? You were created on purpose, for a purpose.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 NIV

The actual Greek word used here for “masterpiece” is “poema,” which has a similar meaning to our English word, “poem.” In other words, God is writing a poem to the world through you.

Did you get that? The same person who spoke the galaxies into existence is writing a poem to the world through you.

No one can write it in the same way you can, because each of us was created with a unique message, purpose and way of conveying God’s love.

When I started this blog two years ago, blogging was the last thing on my radar. I had no desire to start a website and was writing fiction. I was slowly submitting short stories to various publications and making little headway.

Something inside me ached to reach others right where they were, with no middle man deciding whether my words were worthy to be printed. I yearned to glorify my Creator by sharing my experiences with others, letting them know they weren’t alone in their struggles with insecurity, loneliness and striving.

Even though I knew God was calling me to write, I froze. For months I came up with excuses and reasons why I couldn’t move forward.

Often, the biggest doubter we have to overcome is the one playing on repeat in our heads.

Then one day in the face of my hesitancy, a few voices rose above the noise. And I went for it.

The Spirit of God is not one of complacency. He is ever on the move.

And when we move with him, beautiful happens. As we go forth in sync with the Spirit, there is no limit to what God do in us and through us.

Can I tell you something today? I believe in you. I believe God created you on purpose. And I believe he has a plan for your life that no one else on this earth has the ability to achieve but you.

Will you believe with me? The future of your life depends on it.

 

*Linking up with Kelly BalarieJennifer Dukes Lee and Holley Gerth to encourage and be encouraged. Come join us.

When You Feel Like an Imposter

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“Sometimes I feel like we’re just the wannabes. Like there’s this higher level of writers who have published books.”

I nod my head in agreement as I listen to my friend on the other end of the line. My eyes are wet with understanding.

Every day I put the pen to paper or hands to keyboard I fight this battle. What do I have to say? Hasn’t it been said before by someone more qualified than me?

If I listen to the voices of defeat telling me none of it matters, I will stop before I even begin. My list of qualifications will keep me from fulfilling my calling. So often, I talk to others who struggle with the same feelings of self-doubt.

If I were a real speaker or writer or musician, I would get paid.

If I were a real artist, I would have a gallery displaying my work.

If I were a real actor, I would have a more impressive portfolio.

Our lists steal the joy of doing our life’s work and tell us if we were the real deal, we would be better or more credentialed. We forget that some of the greatest achievements come from small beginnings.

We forget that our greatest qualifier is God, who takes our small offerings and turns them into something magnificent. When we are obedient, he equips us in ways we never envisioned.

Sometimes a simple step of faith can turn the unqualified into the empowered.

Do you need evidence? I did. And a few nights ago, He provided it. I had the opportunity to witness an act of bravery that I almost missed. A courageous woman threw doubt aside and simply did what needed to be done.

I took my six-year-old to see a live performance of Mary Poppins, our first play together as mom and son. We savored the singing, dancing and choreography, all which went off without a hitch.

The surprise came the next day when we arrived at church, and a friend we’d seen there asked how we enjoyed our evening. As I gushed about how impressed I was, he revealed a secret. The star role of Mary Poppins was played by a replacement. She wasn’t even in the original line-up of actors.

My mouth gaped as I recalled the stellar production and confidence of the main act. I was amazed.

The original cast member broke her ankle midway through the schedule of showings and was unable to perform. But can you imagine what would have happened if the replacement had said “no?”

I’m sure she felt unqualified. She was not an actor, but a choreographer. The play required her to sing and display abilities which were likely out of her realm of expertise.

Yet, she put aside her uncertainties and doubts and said, “Yes.” And the result was phenomenal.

The outcome was an audience full of people who didn’t know her from the original cast member, who gave a standing ovation when she floated onto the stage.

If we see ourselves as wannabes, our audience will too. But if we claim our call as bona fide, others will follow suit.

Will there be naysayers? Yes, always. But would you rather let a few negative people keep you from achieving your dreams, or go after it with everything that you have?

If you’re hiding behind a list of qualifications you think you need to claim what’s yours today, it’s time to step into the light. God did not call us to hide in the darkness until we attain credentials.

When we step out in faith, he takes our hand.

When we step out of the shadows into his radiance, I can promise you that others will take notice.

And what they say may surprise you.

 

*Linking up with Kelly Balarie & Friends and Jennifer Dukes Lee to encourage and be encouraged. Come join us.

Humbled and Grateful: The Liebster Award

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When Tiffany of Simply for One nominated my blog for the Liebster Award last week, I was humbled and grateful for this sweet friend’s encouragement. I have followed Tiffany’s posts for several months now, and I love her ability to bring fresh perspective and illuminate common subjects in a new way.

The Liebster Award is an award given by bloggers for bloggers. It helps draw attention to relatively new blogs and is a great way to introduce readers to quality writing and sites that they may not have discovered yet.

Liebster is a German word which means dearest, sweetest, kindest, lovely, and valued. I am honored that a fellow writer would use such a word to describe me, and am thrilled to be introducing you to some of the blogging community that has become so dear to me during this journey.

The Rules Are:

  • Post the award on your blog.
  • Offer thanks and a link back to the blogger who nominated you.
  • Share 5 random facts about yourself.
  • Nominate five other bloggers you feel deserve this award and who have less than 200 email subscribers.
  • Answer the questions asked by the person nominating you and ask 5 questions of your nominees.

*Disclaimer: I do not know how many subscribers all of my blogging friends have, so I did not base my picks on this info.

My Five Random Facts:

  1. I played three different musical instruments while growing up: the piano, the trumpet and the guitar. The guitar still is collecting dust in my closet, as I can’t bring myself to get rid of it. I am committed to finding time to play it again, eventually.
  2. I have Cherokee Indian roots. My great grandmother was on the Trail of Tears from North Carolina to Oklahoma. I am proud to have this family heritage and love learning about the history behind it.
  3. I cannot stand white walls. My husband and I have lived in several different houses since getting married, and one of the first projects we tackled in each one was painting. I love color.
  4. One of the careers I considered while growing up was an Interior Decorator. I love turning a house into a home and take pleasure in creating a welcoming environment.
  5. I am a Southern girl, through and through. I believe hospitality should be a way of life and not just an inconvenience. My accent comes out when talking to my family. I love real BBQ, boiled peanuts, and sweet tea. Marriage may have turned me into a gypsy, but my heart belongs in the South.

Questions from Tiffany @ Simply for One:

  1. Why do you blog? I have been passionate about writing for as long as I can remember, but for a long time I was very resistant to the idea of blogging. However, a little over a year ago I felt God gently pushing me to share my writing with others and I knew blogging was a way I could readily take this step. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and through sharing our experiences we can encourage one another and let someone we may never meet know they are not alone. I want my readers to know that their identity is rooted in who they are in Christ, not in the shifting shadows of this world.
  2. Where does your inspiration for your blog posts come from? Before I write, I always try to spend time with God first. Time in his Word and time in prayer. I don’t do this perfectly, but I know that without the prompting of the Spirit my writing will fall flat. I draw a lot of inspiration from simply doing life. My experiences as a mom and the funny things my kids say. I’m constantly looking for a new angle or way to illustrate a point of view.
  3. Share a favorite scripture or quote that encourages/ inspires you. This is a hard one for me as I have so many. I have to say one of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
  4. What is your favorite guilty pleasure? It has to be my TV shows. I love sitting on the couch to watch some mind-numbing TV with my husband after the kids go to bed. Some of my favorites are: The Voice, Parenthood, and Top Chef.
  5. If you could meet one person and ask them one question, who and what would it be? If the one person can be living or dead, I would pick the apostle John, and I would ask him how he kept his eyes fixed on Jesus through all of the persecution he faced. He wrote my favorite Gospel, and the Spirit never fails to speak to me when reading his writing.

Now, for the fun part! Here are the bloggers I nominate:

  1. Betsy at Faith Spilling Over: I love the way Betsy brings the truth of the Word to life in an applicable, practical way. Her writing is full if great insight and wisdom.
  2. Brandi at Faith 2 ShineBrandi’s writing is like putting on a warm pair of slippers by a crackling fire. She has a beautiful way with words, and her love for the Lord shines through each syllable.
  3. Amy at AmyDalke.comAmy’s writing is always real and authentic. She has a great sense of humor which she always weaves into her writing, making you feel right at home.
  4. Meredith at MeredithBernard.com: When I first read Meredith’s writing, it was like discovering a long lost friend. I can imagine myself sitting on the couch with her over coffee and laughing over the latest stories about our kids. Her heart for her reader and most of all for God shines bright.
  5. Ellen at EllenChauvin.comI love how Ellen uses nature and everyday occurrences which the typical person may overlook to illustrate her message. She always draws me into the story with the vivid picture she paints.

Dear Nominees, you are each deserving of this award, but your participation is voluntary. Should you accept the award, here are my questions for you:

  1. What prompted you to start writing?
  2. What is a secret talent you have?
  3. If you could visit any place in the world, where would you go?
  4. Did you have a childhood hero, and if so who was it?
  5. What is one of your favorite Bible verses or quotes?

Thank you so much staying with me on this journey, friends. This exercise certainly stretched me in new ways, and I hope you will enjoy these writers’ sites as much as I do. Happy reading!

Until next time,

Abby