Friday, July 26, 2013

How Writers Work: Rick Barry

I welcome Rick Barry to my blog in the third and final installment of the How Writers Work Series. Rick is a writer with a full-time job, a published novelist and President of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers)-Indiana Chapter.

Give a brief description of your current life situation.
In college, I earned a B.S. in Foreign Language Education. For the next five years, I worked as an editor for BJU Press. In 1987 I began evening Russian studies and got involved in Christian ministry to Russia. I now serve as Director of Church Planting Ministries at Baptist International Evangelistic Ministries (BIEM), where I use Russian regularly.

However, during my college years, I began freelancing articles and short stories for various publications. To this day, I continue freelancing, and I also edit Answers magazine for Answers in Genesis. My two published novels to date are Gunner’s Run, a tale of World War II, and Kiriath’s Quest, a young-adult fantasy.

With the responsibilities of a full-time job, how do you schedule your writing time?

I believe most writers understand the challenge of writing for publication while holding down a full-time job of any kind. I have tried writing at just about every time of the day. While I will often cram in 20 minutes here or 30 minutes during lunch at my office, those little spurts can leave a writer frustrated despite the fact that the words add up over time. I make the most rapid progress when I make sure my head is on the pillow by 10 pm so that I can rise at 5 am to start the coffee, read my Bible, and then resume writing. You can get a lot done early in the day, at a time when no one interrupts you.

Are there any helpful things you use, such as software programs, etc. to help you prioritize and organize?

Personally, I use no special software. However, for a project of any length at all, I will have two Word docs for the project. One document is the actual story. The other document contains all the miscellaneous bits and pieces of research, details, and plot ideas that I might incorporate int the story. If I get an inspiration for a cool plot twist while driving, I might jot it down on a napkin (yes, while driving--Yikes!), but as soon as I can, I will add that note to my ideas document. When I actually use an element from the Idea document, I highlight it in gray to remind myself that I've already incorporated it into the story.

How do you balance your other commitments such as family and church obligations and still maintain a consistent writing schedule?

For me, family time trumps my creative compulsion. Occasionally, we have had family gatherings at stages where my author side is dying to get back to the keyboard, but the manuscript must wait. Real family is a God-given responsibility for everyone, including authors. The same is true of church attendance and the ministries of my church. If I were to start skipping church in order to write stories for the Lord, that would be more than a little hypocritical. So I do attend services, substitute teach for Sunday school, and stay involved in other ways, but at the same time, I don't say "Yes" to every request.


What advice would you give to writers who want to quit their “day jobs” to write?

Early in my freelance writing, I was shocked when I heard a writing coach make the statement that most writers have a regular job to earn a living, and then they write on the side. I would not advise anyone to rush a decision to quit his or her day job in order to write full time. Especially not a person who is the breadwinner of a family. It's easy to get stars in your eyes and think of the wonderful literary masterpieces you could produce if only you weren't tied to a day job. But reality bites hard at those who make this jump prematurely. Unless you have a patron who will support you, I would recommend waiting until you have a lineup of editors who eagerly want your stories, an equally long lineup of ideas for future projects, an agent who love your work, and enough money in the bank that you could live for the better part of a year without income.

Thank you, Rick, for sharing your writing life with my readers.

You can read more about Rick at:

How about you? What is one thing that keeps your writing time consistent?





Friday, July 19, 2013

How Writers Work: Edie Melson

The second interview in the series, How Writers Work, is with Edie Melson. Edie is a full-time writer and she gives us some great insight into her working life.

Edie Melson is the author of four books, as well as a freelance writer and editor with years of experience in the publishing industry. She’s a prolific writer, and has a popular writing blog, TheWrite Conversation. She’s the co-director of the Blue RidgeMountains Christian Writers Conference, as well as a popular faculty member at numerous others. She’s also the social media columnist for SouthernWriters Magazine and social media coach for My Book Therapy. Connect with her through Twitter and Facebook.

Please, give us a brief description of your current life situation.

 My husband and I both work at home—we’ve shared an office for the past 15 years. Our three sons are grown and I’m experiencing a lot of freedom to schedule my time.

As a full-time writer, how do you divide your day (writing, editing, marketing, etc.)?

Outside of writing deadlines—when all schedules get thrown out—I’m very strict about scheduling my day. Here’s my schedule:

My Daily Schedule 

·      8 – 9: I answer email (I have two accounts), and I use Hootsuite to schedule my main social media for the entire day. I use this hour to get connected.

·      9 – 11:30: I use this time as my creative writing time, because it’s the time when I’m most creative.

·      11:30 – 12: I answer emails and phone calls that have come in and check FB, Twitter and my blog.

·      12-1: lunch.

·      1-3 I: work on things that have a deadline and once a week write all my blog posts during this time.

·      3:30 – 4: I again check email, phone messages, FB, Twitter and my blog. Then, before I go to bed again check email, FB, Twitter and my blog.

·      Also, about once an hour I get up and walk around to relieve my back and when I sit back down, I check Hootsuite. That way, if anyone has mentioned me or retweeted something I can reply. It’s important to keep the conversation going throughout the day and this is how I do it. BUT, I only allow myself 5-10 minutes each hour or two.

How did you develop the discipline to become a full-time writer?

By accepting assignments and turning things in on time. Blogging on a schedule has also helped as well. But the best way to develop discipline is practice.

What would you advise to those who want to go full-time? What should be in place before someone takes this leap?

I think you need to prove to yourself you’ll spend the time you need marketing. So many people I talk to want to write full-time, but they’re not willing to send out queries to get the work. They want someone to drop it from the sky. Full-time anything is hard work and takes dedication.

If you’re not already sending out queries and writing regularly, get started. As a full-time writer, you’ll need to spend about 50% of your time marketing. That’s true whether you write books or are a full-time freelancer.

How important is social media in the life a writer? How much time should a writer spend on social media?

I built my career on social media—and I’m not talking about becoming a social media expert. I built my platform using my blog, Twitter and Facebook. When I was freelancing full-time (I now write books full-time) I got at least 60% of my clients from people who visited my blog. Then, when I switched to writing books, the fact that I had a solid, viable platform made me attractive to potential publishers.

I don’t, however, recommend writers spend the majority of their time building social media. Do it CONSISTENTLY for about 30 minutes a day and within a year you’ll also have a solid platform.

Thanks, Edie. That was great info. Edie has also written a book about social media, especially for writers: Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers. I reviewed it on this blog, check it out. 

How about you? What is or would be your greatest challenge as a full-time writer?  

Friday, July 12, 2013

How Writers Work: Cindy Huff, Prioritize and Do the Work

Over the next three weeks, I will feature writers in various stages of life, sharing how they write.

We begin with Cindy Huff, a writer with a part-time day job. She shares a home with a husband, four adult children, grandchildren and pets. She shares how she fits writing into her daily life. She can be found at Writer's Patchwork Blog. 

How do you plan your writing time?

Each day I have a goal of doing something writerly. (Barring the creek don’t rise and a family emergency doesn’t take away all my time.) By writerly thing (writerly may not be a word but I love it), I mean fifteen minutes in the morning before going to my job, writing a really, really rough draft of an article. Ten minutes of research for later use or finding the right picture to add.  Time spent in the evening posting finished articles to my blog and other places. A few minutes of emailing devos, articles, and stories to various publishers all qualify as writerly things. Spending time reading craft books or books I want to review also qualify. Grabbing moments on days I work is necessary before total fatigue sets in.

Because I work part-time, I plan the majority of my writing for my days off. However, I also have elderly parents to check on and that can take hours out of those days. On my days off I plan more intense things on my to-do-list. I finish articles and rewrite. Anything that I have a deadline on gets most of those hours such as paid editing jobs and requested submissions.

Do you have writing goals?

I have monthly and weekly goals. I have committed myself to two blog posts a month for Splickety magazine’s Lightning Blog, one article a week for my parenting column, and one blog post a month (more if I can) for my own blog, Writer’s Patchwork. Since the Write-to-Publish Conference, I have all kinds of ideas I hope to submit. So, once a month I hope to send to a new market.

How do you juggle your writing vs. editing time?

My best writing time is early morning. I try to start with writing new stuff. How early? I have a habit of getting up at 4:30 every morning. Most of my household is not up and it is quiet and on work days it gives me time to do those writerly things before I leave at 6:45. I prioritize. Editing jobs or article deadlines get top slots. My best rewriting and revising is done in the morning. Right now I am rewriting my historical fiction novel again, and editing for others. So I try to balance those with writing new stuff. Plans can change by the hour—no by the minute around here, so I try not to get to disturbed when I don’t complete my list.

How do you explain to your family that it is important that you have time to write?

I have been writing off and on since I was in high school. Raising and homeschooling five kids took time away from writing. Rarely did my kids read my stuff; unless it was a skit they were in. During those years it was easy to let life squeeze out writing time. Now that they are all grown they are much more supportive. It’s like a light bulb went on in their head that Mom is a writer. My hubby has always been supportive. We got our first computer (a long time ago) so it would be easier for me to write.  As you know Tammie, I have a house full of people. Three of my adult children and their dogs moved back home due to the economy and my eldest son and his family moved in after he left the army to pursue college. Because of their light bulb moments they give me lots of space to write. My granddaughters know to knock on my office door and ask permission. This makes me push myself to not waste time.

During weeks when the unexpected happens, what do you do with your writing to help you feel you are still moving ahead?

I do those small writerly things I mentioned earlier. I have found that some of those unexpected things get woven into a devotional and article or a story line. As they say it’s a win, win. You have to look at those interruptions through the eyes of the Spirit and not your own understanding or you will fall into despair.

When it comes to social media, how do you prioritize your time and which elements do you use and feel are important to you, i.e. blog, Twitter, Pinterest?

I am still trying to figure that out. Social media can be a real time waster. I have Facebook and LinkdIn and my own a blog. I limit my daily time on Facebook and try to post things that interest people. I post free e-books that are available and I post links to my articles and blog posts. I try to comment on others posts  Checking to see if someone messaged me or responding to my previous posts takes less than a minute when you click on the icons at the top of the home page. Facebook is the social media I use the most. I haven’t figured out the value of LinkdIn. It hasn’t done much for me but I don’t take a lot time with it. I don’t tweet or use Pinterest. I might in the future. Guest blogging has helped to network and get noticed. My own blog is slowly growing.

Thanks, Cindy, for sharing with us.

How about you? How do you make time for your writing?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Terry Whalin and Morgan James Publishing

I welcome Terry Whalin, of Morgan James Publishing, to my blog this week. He has some great information and insight into the publishing profession.

Terry, Give us a short description of your resume in writing and publishing.

I’ve been in publishing over 25 years and worked as a magazine editor, a book acquisitions editor (three publishers) and a former literary agent. I’ve written for more than 50 print publications and I’ve written more than 60 books for traditional publishers. I regularly speak at writer's conferences and my blog on the Writing Life has over 1200 searchable entries ( Also I’m the creator of Right-Writing which has a lot of free information for writers at: In addition, I have a number of free teleseminars online to help writers such as: or

The climate is really changing in publishing and there are many avenues available for writers to become authors (self-publishing, e-books, etc.). What would be your advice to an unpublished writer wanting to get his work in print?

1. Look carefully before you leap. You are right there are many different ways a writer can get published. First a caution, many unpublished authors jump too quickly without understanding what they are doing. For example, I’ve seen many unpublished authors jump into book writing too soon. They turn to Create Space or WestBow or CrossBooks thinking they are getting the attention of a traditional publisher like Thomas Nelson or Lifeway. In reality they could be spending money (on average $8,000) for a poorly produced book. Just look at the numbers for self-published books in 2011: People fall for a “sales pitch” and persistent calls from companies, without understanding the personal and financial cost. Use Google and ask questions on writer’s forums before you make such a leap of faith. Horror stories abound in publishing and the new writer needs to move cautiously. That’s my first bit of advice.

2. Learn the craft of writing. There is a skill to crafting a good story and telling it well. You can learn this skill but it comes through practice. Most writers want to publish a book yet don’t understand that a good sales number for a book is about 5,000 in the life of the book. You will reach many more people and be able to practice your craft on a shorter form if you are writing for print magazines. Print magazines have a higher standard than online publications and are more respected by other publishing professionals. The magazine world is a great place to learn how to write for a specific reader and tell good stories. It’s much better to learn on a 1,000 to 2,000 word article than to write a 80,000 novel that doesn’t get published. Here’s an article that I wrote to help you get started:

3. Join a critique group to get unbiased feedback on your writing. Your friends or relatives will almost always spare your feelings and love your writing but a group of trusted writer friends will give you the straight story. Whether you meet in person or online, you need this feedback. I’ve got an article about critique groups at:

4. Invest in a good writer’s conference. Attending one of these events will help you meet other writers and editors and can cut years off your learning curve. You can see more of my reasons at: I also have a list of conferences at: Getting to these events involve an investment of time and money but will be well worth it to your desire to get published.

5. Read how-to write books on a regular basis. There are many excellent books. I blog about some of these books but I also have written a couple including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams or Book Proposals That Sell. Check the books out of your library or buy them and mark them up but take consistent action from what you learn in these books. I read a writing how-to book at least once a month and have done this for years.

Tell us about Morgan James Publishing where you currently serve as Acquisitions Editor.

Morgan James Publishing is a New York based publishing house. I work remote and live in Southern California. We publish about 150 books a year (nonfiction, fiction and a small number of children’s books). About 30% of our books are Christian and our books have been on the New York Times list 20 different times (five different books). The only way I know to get on the New York Times list is to sell many books inside the brick and mortar bookstores—which is a key part of our publishing program. We receive about 5,000 submissions a year so if I manage to get you a book contract, I believe it is a huge hurdle that you’ve crossed. As an acquisitions editor, I’m actively looking for great books to champion to my publication board. If you have something you want me to consider, I encourage you to email me at I gave a lot more detail and a short audio on my blog (follow this link).

A key part of the way I operate in the marketplace is to help other writers. If I can help you, then follow me on twitter and reach out to me. I look forward to helping you.

Thanks, Terry.  

How many of you read a how-to write book per month? Or how many attend a conference each year?