Friday, January 18, 2019

Finding Your Writing Path Through Rejection

By Susan Neal 

Writers understand rejection. But sometimes the doors that close and those that open may be divinely ordained. Persevering through the ups and downs of this career is key to success.

The writing life surges with rejection. Part of it has to do with learning the craft. It takes a while to grasp grammar, learn plotting, or appropriately research a topic. Even choosing the right genre can be challenging.

At first, I tried young adult fiction, then Chicken Soup stories, Upper Room devotions, and a multitude of magazine articles. I received a rejection letter with everything I tried. However, I read that Stephen King nailed a spike to a wall and hung each rejection letter on the spike. That gave me hope, so I kept writing.

Year after year, I continued to hone my craft. I joined a Word Weaver writing group and attended writers’ conferences. I pitched my book ideas to publishers and agents, all to no avail. Finally, I self-published my books. My first two books sold very few copies, definitely nothing to write home about.

Nevertheless, I kept trying because I felt spiritually lead to pursue this career. One day, I got the idea to write a book to help others quit eating sugar and refined carbohydrates. I intertwined my personal story of how I lost and regained my health and my sister’s story of getting off sugar and gluten into the book. Currently, this book sells over 400 copies per month.

Suddenly, the doors of opportunity opened. Now, magazines publish my health-related articles instead of rejecting them (see January 2019 Southern Writers article “How to Sell One Thousand Books in Three Months”). Last month, a dream came true when my interview on Christian Television Network’s Bridges Show aired across the nation.

All those years of rejection ultimately led to a path where I could use my nursing background and own heartfelt experience to help others regain their health. I am finally pursuing a divine direction, but it took me years to figure it out. I wasn’t supposed to be a fiction or devotional author; I was supposed to use my background to assist others with health issues. I encountered much rejection along the way, but I continued to persevere. Have you determined the spiritual writing path that you should pursue? 
Susan U. Neal, RN, MBA, MHS, has a mission is to improve the health of the body of Christ. She has her RN and MBA degrees, as well as a master’s in health science. She published five books, the Selah award winner 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and CarbohydratesChristian Study Guide for 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and CarbohydratesHealthy Living JournalScripture Yoga a #1 Amazon best-selling yoga book, and Yoga for Beginners. She published two sets of Christian Yoga Card Decks and two Christian Yoga DVDs. To learn more visit SusanUNeal.comSusan blogs and provides healthy menus, recipes, and corresponding grocery lists on can follow Susan on:

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Write a Christmas Story during Winter Hibernation

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

The weather outside may be frightful. The news may be horrific, but for me, winter is a favorite time of year. I enjoy the season of winter hibernation. It’s the perfect time to write a Christmas story. I’ve got my fingers crossed the weekend storm system includes some fluffy white snow.

My high school friend, Debra is a retired librarian and avid reader. She recently posted on FaceBook this beautiful picture looking out into her backyard after a recent snowfall. The beautiful picture gave me the idea that we could be inspired to write a Christmas story now, while Christmas 2018 is fresh in our minds, and the weather has some of us housebound.

Four years ago I read an article titled, “Writing a Good Christmas Story: Four Things to Consider” by Scott D. Southward. This is the link with his observations. It’s kind of like a Christmas story formula. His article informs the parts of classic Christmas stories that resonate for readers' Christmas story writing plan.

Another article by Jess Zafarris titled “4 Writing Techniques to Borrow from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol” explores techniques that resonated with generations of readers making “The Christmas Carol.” Here is the link so you can consider these techniques used by author, Charles Dickens:

Thanks to my friend Debra and her inspiring photo. I ask Debra about her yard, I thought her backyard was maybe joining a golf green. She told me “The space between the iron fence and the wood fence is for the horse path, and past the wood fence is a horse farm. There’s another horse farm on the other side of our neighbor.” After finding out more, my imagination is running wild like these horses on YouTube.

Join me if you're snowed in this weekend and write a Christmas story. Are y’all in?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Save it All!

By Jill Weatherholt

Each year during the month of November, the buzz word is NaNoWriMo. Even if you’re not a writer, you’ll see postings on blogs, Twitter or Facebook about National Novel Writing Month. Thirty days of writing frantically to reach the goal of fifty thousand words in 30 days. Easy right?

Not really…at least it’s never been for this girl.

So why participate? For me, it’s to get the words on the page. I’m easily distracted, so popping up to clean this or pick up that is often part of my writing routine. Not so during the month of November because when I commit to something, I do it…even when some days, it feels impossible.

You might wonder why I’m talking about this when November is a distant memory and we’re focusing on a new year. It’s because my third book, to be published this year by Harlequin, was my sloppy mess of a draft written during the month of November in 2016. So that makes three participations resulting in three published books. My 2012 entry was rewritten and contracted in 2016.

Were these stories suitable for publication on November 30th? Heck no! But the characters and the plots were solid, so rewriting was the next order of business once the books were contracted.

When I first heard about NaNoWriMo in 2010 and committed myself, I never imagined in 2015 the first book I’d ever write would be published. Did I work on it for five years? No way! I could never stay with a story for that long. I simply pulled it off my hard drive and decided to revisit my characters after they’d been ignored for years.

So, my advice to writers is to never toss out your written words—even if you think it’s rubbish. All writing can be rewritten, edited, polished and hopefully one day result in a contract, but not if you trash it.

Do you like to clear the clutter?
By day, Jill Weatherholt works for the City of Charlotte. At night, and on the weekend, she writes contemporary stories about love, faith and forgiveness. Raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., she now resides in Charlotte, North Carolina, but her heart belongs to Virginia. She holds a degree in Psychology from George Mason University and Paralegal Studies Certification from Duke University. She shares her life with her real-life hero and number one supporter. Their relationship grew on the golf course, and now they have one in their backyard. Jill believes in enjoying every moment of this journey because God has everything under control. Jill loves to blog @  Her website is: Twitter@JillWeatherholt Facebook:

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

How to Prevent Your Book from Dying an Early Death?

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine

Have you ever wondered how many books die before they ever get to the publishing circuit? Unfortunately, I don’t have a count, but I would imagine a great many. 

You see, many people start to write a book. Some can even get to 28,000 words, then life takes over, interest wanes, and it is put on the back burner, where it dries up.

Then there’s the writer who is so excited, has the perfect story line, sits down and puts a few paragraphs on paper; gets interrupted, loses train of thought. They think they will continue tomorrow but alas; other things get in the way. Another book dies where it is.

So, what happened? The writer didn’t set a goal to write nor did they make a true commitment.  Like most things we do in life, there must be a goal, so we will be committed and work towards the goal to achieve our desire.

A goal can be based on how many words to write or how much time each day.  Choose one that is comfortable. But set a goal.

I personally like to write several words per day. Example: if I set a goal to write 750 words today, and my thought process runs out of words to write I keep putting words on the paper to reach my goal. The important thing is that I reach that goal today, regardless of the last few words I am writing. Why?  I am trying to establish a habit with my writing time. (And yes. The next day I come in, read what I wrote and remove any gibberish and then continue to reach today’s goal.)

One important piece of advice, remove any distractions.  I turn my phone, TV, and anything that can make a noise off. I know some people like to play music while they write. If it helps them write, sets the mood, that’s great. For me, I must have everything turned off.

Goals are important. Les Brown said, “Your goals are the road maps that guide you and show you what is possible for your life.”

Another quote I like is from Brian Tracy, “Goals allow you to control the direction of change in your favor.”

Without goals, how do you know where you are going and when you have reached what you were striving for?

By setting your goals your book won’t die of an early death!

Monday, January 14, 2019

To Agent or Not to Agent?

By Irene Hannon, author of Driftwood Bay

When I launched my fiction-writing career many years ago, I thought having an agent would be advantageous—not to mention prestigious. It was a sentiment shared by most authors I knew.

But my early career ended up being focused on category romance, and as I quickly learned, an agent in that situation is little more than an unnecessary expense. Category romance contracts are boilerplate and largely nonnegotiable (aside from a couple of items like author copies). So, an agent won’t be able to get you anything you can’t ask for yourself—yet they’ll still take their full fifteen percent.

When I decided to branch into longer, trade-length books, I knew I’d need to switch publishers. By then, it had become more difficult to connect with non-category publishers without an agent.

So, I got one—and he did sell my first suspense series.

However, having spent more than two decades in an executive level position at a Fortune 500 company, I was familiar with the give and take of negotiation. I had also educated myself through the years on publishing contracts. So other than making that initial connection, my agent did very little for me.

When it came time to pitch a second series, I sent him a one-page proposal, with a one-paragraph synopsis of each of the books. He passed it on to my publisher—and they bought it immediately. Virtually no work was required on his part…yet he collected his fifteen percent (and continues to collect it to this day, since the series is still selling).

At this point, I decided the agent model wasn’t working for me. I was comfortable reviewing contracts and asking for what I wanted, and I anticipated a long run with my publisher. What value was my agent adding?

Just as I was about to sever our relationship, my publisher contacted him and asked for another contract. Absolutely zero work was required on his part. But since he was still the agent of record, he got his percentage.

Needless to say, we’ve since parted ways. I now negotiate my own contracts, though I do have a literary attorney in New York who I use on occasion. But that’s a pay-as-you-go arrangement, which works far better for me.

While I realize an agent may make sense for some authors who intend to take advantage of the smorgasbord of services they offer—publisher contacts, industry information, contract negotiation, contract analysis, manuscript review, hand holding. However, all I ever used my agent for was negotiating contracts. So, I was paying for a smorgasbord I didn’t need.

For those still waiting for their first contract, a literary agent may help you get your work in front of an editor. But remember that many editors attend writing conferences, and you may be able to make a personal connection yourself. It’s an option that could be worth exploring.

Whether you decide to get an agent or not, I’ll share one piece of advice. Educate yourself on the industry and on contracts—and review every contract word for word. Because no one will ever care as much about your career as you do.
Irene Hannon is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than fifty contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. In addition to her many other honors, she is a three-time winner of the prestigious RITA Award from Romance Writers of America (the “Oscar” of romance fiction) and is also a member of that organization’s elite Hall of Fame. In 2016, she received a Career Achievement award from RT Book Reviews magazine for her entire body of work. Millions of copies of her books have been sold worldwide, and they have been translated into multiple languages. She’s active on social media, and especially loves to chat with readers on Facebook and Twitter! Social Media links:

Friday, January 11, 2019

Your Presence is Required

By Betty Thomason Owens

It’s like finding a parking spot on Black Friday. Sometimes, you have to circle the lot until someone leaves. Then, if you’re quick, you can snatch their slot before another driver takes it. Too many shoppers. Too few parking spots. Is it worth all the stress? If you find the perfect gifts for a great price—definitely.

I spend months writing and editing a book for publication. Release day comes. Will it find a spot? Are there too many books and too few spots? Is it worth all the stress? That depends.
Unlike the seasonal shopping rush, book sales never cease. Do you know that Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca” has never been out of print? I don’t know about you, but I’m impressed by that. Is it possible to create such a timeless story today? I believe in the possibility.

In du Maurier’s day, the work of selling books was in someone else’s hands. Today, the author is the main seller. I don’t have a set of unique bullet-point items to help with sales, but I do have one suggestion to offer: Be present.

What does that mean? We’re all familiar with the need for a platform. If I have a sizable platform and good numbers of social media followers, a book release should be easier. Yes, that’s true. I’ve worked hard to build a network and a following. But the work didn’t cease when I reached a certain number. Now I need to stay present. I need to interact with those followers. I need to be approachable. 


One of my author heroes is a constant presence on my Facebook profile. She shares a daily journal and includes photos that engage and add warmth. She’s become a real friend to me, though I seldom see her in person. It’s her on-screen presence that creates that bond. I’m not surprised by the fact that she sells a lot of books.

I don’t have to copy her approach by creating a lookalike strategy. I’d be pretty lame. I don’t have her background and talent. So, I set out to find my own unique path—a minefield, as it turns out. I’ve tried a few things that blew up in my face or fizzled out. And I’ve returned to start several times. Gradually, a pattern emerged.

The pattern is this—stay present—engaged. Whether I create memes, post famous quotes, personal photography, or myriad other things, my presence and approachability generate friendship. In the end, friendship is key. Friends comment on my posts and share my updates. I reciprocate, share their updates, comment on their posts. Friendship begets friendship.

It’s become more about relationship than sales. This is pure gold and not only that, but I’ve scored a major goal. I’ve created a platform built of friendship, held together by mutual trust. As a living, breathing thing, this type of platform requires attention. Presence.
Betty Thomason Owens considers herself a word-weaver, writing stories that touch the heart. Besides her work on the KCWC planning committee, she also leads the Louisville Area ACFW group and is a co-founder of the multi-author Inspired Prompt blog. Married forty-four years, she’s a mother of three, and a grandmother of eight. A part-time bookkeeper at her day-job, she writes for Write Integrity Press, and has seven novels in publication. You can learn more about her Connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram.