My GPS Writing Life: “Recalculating” – Elva Cobb Martin

gpsDriving the other day with our GPS, I suddenly saw how my writing life resembles this navigational gadget. My husband looked on with raised brows as I burst into fits of uproarious laughter. If you read on, get ready to laugh and release some healthy endorphins into your system.

In writing I “put in” my goals and happily slam my foot on the gas doing what I love most these days, writing. But then I find the pavement running out from beneath my wings and must “recalculate.”

Goal: Write the dream novel.
Fall in love with an idea, a genre, a character, a setting, a theme.
Research, research and read tons of novel writing books.
Join a writers’ group.
Attend an expensive writers’ conference.
Plan like crazy getting the main plot points, conflict, MRU’s in order.
Gas up to the speed limit, getting the first draft down on paper.
Email: “Cozy mysteries are no longer selling well.”


Goal: Get an Agent
Research sites, friends, writing groups, the kitchen sink and the fence post.
Research query letters
Research agents not on any predators’ list and their submission guidelines and blogs
Revise, critique, and polish the query. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Send it to The Agent
Email: “Sorry The Agent is no longer accepting fiction clients.”


Goal: Submit to an Editor Myself
Research, study, fiction editors and publishers. Repeat, repeat.
Learn how to do a great One Sheet
Join or start another writers’ group heavy on critiquing.
Attend some more expensive writers’ conferences.
Get editor appointments
Get some nibbles
Memorize every word the editors say.
Revise, get critiques, polish, check DPOV, pesky words and tricky errors. Repeat till done
(or till you hate the novel).
Send full to first editor asap
1st Editor Response: I really like this but we have just bought a novel with similar theme
and setting. Sorry.
Repeat most of above
2nd Editor Response: I like this so far, but we are really looking for novels of 90 – 100,000
words. You’re about 20,000 words short.
Repeat most of above
3rd Editor Response: I like this but it’s too wordy. You need to cut about 20,000 words.

RECALCULATING! The thing I now do best.

What about your writing life? Ever feel like you are on a GPS merry-go-round?

The good news is that my auto GPS, most of the time, even with several recalculations, manages to get me to my destination. I hope the same holds true for my writing life, especially since I have the best model on the market, GHS. God’s Holy Spirit.
If this article made you smile and feel less alone as a writer on the uphill journey to publication, please leave a comment, tweet the article, and share it on Facebook.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

ElvaElva Cobb Martin is president of the South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a former school teacher and a graduate of Anderson University and Erskine College. Decision, Charisma, and Home Life have published her articles. She has completed two inspirational romances. In a Pirate’s Debt is being considered by a literary agency for representation. A mother finally promoted to grandmother, Elva lives with her husband Dwayne and a mini-dachshund writing helper (Lucy) in Anderson, South Carolina. She and her husband are retired ministers. Connect with her on her web site, her blog on Twitter, and on Facebook. (Yes, that’s a flower behind my ear. Why not live life celebrating, whether published or not).

Over-Edit? – Assignment 5

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

By Steven James

Is it possible to over-edit? Or, is there a point where the story is unsalvageable?

Editing is like sharpening a knife. You hone the story like you would a blade, but if you overdo it you’re no longer sharpening the blade but actually weakening it.
When you’re editing there’s eventually a matter of diminishing returns regarding the time you put into a draft and the quality of the final story. At a certain point, the time that it would take you to read the entire book isn’t worth the handful of changes that you might be making.

For me, as an artist (read—annoying, neurotic, perfectionist) that’s a hard line to draw, and admittedly, I tend to keep going over my work again and again until I’m convinced that it’s the very best I have to offer.

In my view most people don’t need to worry at all about over-editing. They don’t spend nearly enough time on the editing in the first place.

There’s no point at which a story is unsalvageable, but most people aren’t willing to take the time to make the major, or in some cases seismic, changes that would be necessary to tell that story well. It might take less time to start over or write a different story entirely.

Telling a great story always requires five things: the inevitable movement of the story from the origination to the resolution (that is, every event is caused by the one that precedes it), believability, escalation, motivation, and surprise. Apart from grammatical errors and copyediting, these areas are the biggest problems most stories face.

So, it’s vital that as you work on your story, you continue to ask:
(1) Inevitability: Are there gaps in narrative logic? Do things happen for no reason—other than that I think they need to in order to make my outline work?
(2) Believability: Is everything that happens believable even if it’s impossible? Does the character act in a way that’s consistent with his or her core attitudes, desires, inner turmoil and outer circumstances?
(3) Escalation: Are the stakes being raised? Is the danger becoming more imminent or more unstoppable?
(4) Motivation: What drives this character to act? In other words, what does the character want more than anything else? How far is he or she willing to go to get it? Is every action that the character takes sufficiently motivated by the story events?
(5) Surprise: Do the scenes, the acts, and the story as a whole end in a way that people won’t see coming, but that also follow inevitably from what precedes it?

If you continually ask yourself these questions as you’re working on your story, you’ll find less need to have to start over, or get to the point at which it’s not worth your time to rework the story to salvage it.

Your assignment this week – (should you choose to accept it) is as follows:

Read the first chapter of your work in progress. Search first for the obvious grammatical errors.  Look for chatty spots and tighten them. Then apply the above 5 steps to your work. This is hard. You’re required to be  critical of the work you do. But it’s worth the effort.

Is Your Blog Healthy?

old typewriterBy Edie Melson

One thing I get asked a lot is how to grow a healthy blog. At first, I used to answer with the steps I recommend:

Find a focus.
Post regularly.
Answer comments.
Be active on social media.

About half the time the person asking the question would reply that they were already doing that, but it wasn’t working. Finally it dawned on me that most people don’t really know what healthy blog growth looks like.

Growing a blog’s audience is an organic process. It’s not a mathematical equation where we plug in the correct variables and success happens in a predetermined pace. So today I’d like to give you some ways to gauge how healthy your blog is.

But first, realize that there are lots of exceptions to how fast a blog can grow. All I’m giving you is reasonable expectations for blog growth. We can all find examples of blogs that have grown incredibly fast, but we should never judge the growth of our own blogs by the exceptions.

That said, I do believe there are reasonable expectations. That growth is predicated on certain variables:

The predictability of blog posts—A blog that’s posted regularly will grow much faster than one that is posted sporadically.
The frequency of blog posts—A blog with fresh content on a daily basis will usually grow faster than one that only offers new content once a week.
The consistent use of social media—If you regularly Tweet and post on Facebook abut your blog more people will hear about it.
The interaction with your audience—It’s critical to answer comments and take time to comment on the blogs of your readers.
I’m a huge fan of growing your blog organically, through relationships and targeted social media. Frequently this will cause your blog to grow slower during the first year or so, but this will give you a solid base of readers and tend to speed growth in the following years.

Stage One
In this day and time, networking can usually jump start a blog with 20 – 40 followers at the startup. These followers are your first foundation, but not all of them will be part of your permanent foundation. These are friends and associates who want to help a fellow entrepreneur get started. They’re a great help because they’ll spread the word to their friends and associates who will comprise your foundation.

This means your first six months to a year will see little forward momentum. You’ll gain new followers, and loose some of the original ones. It will feel almost like two steps forward and three steps back. But this is a critical time because you’re cementing the core of your audience. I think of this as gathering the snow and solidifying it into a snowball.

During this time, many bloggers get discouraged from the slow growth because they don’t understand what’s happening. When I talk with someone in the first year of their blog, I try to give them insight into this process so they can watch for it and rejoice as it happens.

Stage Two
After stage one comes six to nine months of small but consistent growth. Your blog has enough history at this point to have a proven track record of consistent, valuable posts. This makes your core group more willing to share your site with others.

During this stage is a good time to search out valuable guest posts. Find people you respect and invite them to write a post or ask permission to repost one of their old posts. This stage is like beginning to roll your snowball through the snow, gathering a more solid ball that will hold together when you roll it down the hill.

Stage Three
This is when your blog really starts to take off. Your blog’s audience begins to grow a lot faster and you’ll begin to spend less tie promoting yourself on social media because other’s will be doing it for you. They’ll be talking about your blog because it’s valuable to their followers and friends, not just because they like you personally.

Now the fun is beginning, you’ll find yourself asked to guest post on other blogs, and you’ll be asked permission to repost your older blog posts. I think of this stage as when you push your snowball off the top of the hill and it begins to gain momentum on it’s own.

Interim Stage
During this downhill stage you’ll still hit road blocks and times when you have to give your snowball a push. The key is to stay flexible, continue to listen to your audience and don’t let up on the interactions.

As I said at the beginning, this is an organic process and these stages are just loose guidelines of how the growth of a normal blog should be measured. If you’re neglecting one or more of the following things in your blog plan, your blog will probably see slower growth.

A regular posting schedule, with a minimum of one post per week.
The consistent use of Social Media, especially Facebook and Twitter.
Constant interaction between you and your audience by answering comments and visiting their blogs and living comments.

Now I have a couple of questions for you.
Have you seen this kind of growth in your own site?
Where are you in the blogging process, Stage One, Two or Three?

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Photo courtesy of and koratmember.

The One Sheet – Assignment 4

Courtesy & Seemann
Courtesy & Seemann

It’s a scary thing – the one sheet.  You’ve either never heard of it or you’re unsure how or what to do to prepare one.

The one sheet, also known as a pitch sheet, is just what the name says. It’s one simple page with the pertinent information an agent or publisher needs. When you’re gearing up for conference season and your manuscript is polished and ready for presentation, it’s important to have a one sheet handy.

It’s been said, a writer should be able to bolt out of a dead sleep and recite their elevator pitch. A one sheet is a nice back up to help you make your presentation to an editor or agent smooth, concise, and impressive. Once you’ve totally blown publishing professionals away with your pitch, they can carry your one sheet back to the office and have all the valuable details they need to contact you and request the proposal and manuscript.

A one sheet should contain the following information:
* Title
* Genre, word count, and if the manuscript is complete or estimated time it will be finished (i.e. Historial Fiction, 90,000 words, completed)
* Targeted audience (Women 25-40, Young Adult, etc.)
* Two or three short, knock-out paragraphs about the book that makes those agents hungry for more (think back book text).
* Professional Bio – Remember make it concise, relevant, and professional. It doesn’t need to contain every writing credit you’ve ever done. Only what is
current and creditable. Show your personality and flare but don’t over do it. Editors don’t care if you have six dogs and nine cats.
* Current, high-resolution photo – Investing in a few professional shots is well worth your money. It’s much better than you on the beach, in shorts with
frog-eyed sunglasses – cute but not professional.
* Website and contact information. Please, please, please, if you don’t already have one, get an email that contains your name. Don’t give a publisher your family fun email address ( A) They would not open a return email from an off-the-wall email address for fear of cyber attack or shady content. B) They can’t connect you to jellyjaws. Again, cute but not professional.  If you have an agent, you’ll use their contact information.

Pare this information down to the sharpest and tightest writing you can do, place it nicely on the front of ONE SHEET and you’re ready to roll.

Click the link for a sample one sheet.
MAE IN JUNEonesheetJune2010

Your assignment is to make your one sheet. Bring it with you to Boot Camp so you’ll have it to present to editors, agents, and publishers.

Conferences – Finding Direction Navigating Your Writing Success

raleigh map

By: La-Tan Roland Murphy

Writing without direction is like driving in Raleigh.

The road systems in Raleigh, North Carolina are frustrating and confusing. I often hear grumbling from new transplants about the difficulty of learning their way around the Triangle area. Ok, I confess; I did my own fair share of complaining when we moved to the Raleigh/Durham area back in 1994.

As confusing as the road systems were back then, they are even more confusing today. There’s the Outer Belt-Line, Inner Belt-Line, I-40, I 440 and I-540—to name a few. And now to further add to the confusion, there is a major road repair construction project called: Fortify 40. Each of these roadways was designed to provide alternative traffic flow by offering multiple route options around the city, thus preventing road blocks.

Perhaps, you find yourself feeling frustrated and confused with too many route options. Do you lack direction? The world of writing is ever-changing. Let’s agree to familiarize ourselves with new roadways offered. We must move forward in order to remain current and confident. Otherwise, we will find our efforts leading us down roads loaded with more road blocks than thoroughfares. How frustrating it is to think we are on the right road to success, only to discover there was a much better route to take all along.

Attending Writer’s conferences is one of the best ways to gain understanding and find direction for your writing career. Allow me the honor of sharing a few ideas that have helped my (often confusing) navigation process:

• Passion – Write about things that you are passionate about. Otherwise, you will find yourself stuck for sure!
• Authenticity – Express yourself authentically. Do NOT try to be someone else, or write like someone else.
Authenticity is the best approach to writing, or speaking powerfully.
• Credibility – The most powerful books are written by people who keep their story-line true to themselves. For example: If
you grew up in Europe, you have much to say about European culture. If your book is about depression,
credibility would prove most powerful as you share YOUR story, instead of scientific facts only.
• Rest – In order to keep your thought processes flowing and moving in a productive direction, make sure to get plenty of
rest the night before you begin an important writing venture. A clear mind equals no mental traffic jams! (Coffee
always helps too!)
• Research – Be sure to do your homework, after choosing your topic. Topical writing requires time and research.
• Relate – work hard at relating to your reader by drawing them into your story-line both intellectually and emotionally.
• Voice – be diligent about finding your voice in both written and spoken word.
• Attend writer’s conferences regularly. New roadways are being developed each and every day in the publishing industry.

I look forward to leading worship and to meeting each one of you at: The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, February 20-22, 2015. There is nothing more inspiring than coming together with a group of like-minded people, in order to grow and develop the craft of writing. Attending Writer’s ADVANCE Boot Camp will help you refocus and find direction. You will be inspired, challenged, equipped, and renewed as you spend time learning from excellent professionals in the writing and publishing industry.

Register Today:

La-Tan-Murphy LaTan Murphy is a writer, a speaker, and a worship leader. Her gifts are amazing. We’re thrilled to have her as staff at Writers Boot Camp. – Cin

God asks us to ADVANCE not retreat. Writers ADVANCE!