Let’s Get Technical

By Carlton Hughes

If I asked, “What is one thing you have written that would surprise others?” I would get numerous answers. What’s my answer?

I have two: standardized test questions and an instructor’s manual for a textbook.

Sounds thrilling, I know. Here’s the deal: they remain the highest-paying freelance jobs I have ever completed, by far.

First, how did I get into writing standardized test questions (and who would want to write those?). A friend’s mother knew a guy at a well-known company that needed writers. I submitted samples, and bam! I became that guy.

My job was to research any topic I wanted, provide some facts, and then write a summary in three different skill levels as a rubric. So I got paid to write on a scale from excellent to POOR about pot-bellied pigs, Babe Didrickson, and the history of radio. Good work if you can get it.

The textbook job was a bit more complicated. I’m a teacher by trade, and we get emails all the time from publishing companies. To be brutally honest, I usually ignore them, but one subject line caught my eye: “Take survey, get money!”

This company wanted feedback on the Interpersonal Communication textbook I have used for years. The survey required me to share my opinions in different areas. I provided highly detailed answers, probably longer than they wanted, but I like big sentences, I cannot lie. I hit “submit,” and, a few weeks later, I was twenty bucks richer.

A month later I was at a WRITERS CONFERENCE taking a continuing class on FREELANCING. Warning: irony ahead!

One morning I checked my email before class, and I had a message from this same company, offering me a contract to write the instructor’s manual for the new edition of the communication text. The money offered was ridiculously good, so I jumped at the chance. The work wasn’t exactly easy, but I did get to use knowledge I already had.

Here’s what I learned from my technical writing experiences:

  1. Write what you know. Most of us don’t sit around writing creative stuff all day (If you do, great!). You might work a public job or have hobbies or skills that could translate to the technical market.
  2. When opportunities come, take them. I took that seemingly innocent survey that led me to my biggest writing job ever; I heard a guy was looking for a question-writer and went for it.
  3. Don’t be a writing snob. Sure, I would love to write award-winning literary works that appear on bestseller lists. But I’m not going to dismiss other opportunities that will sharpen my skills (and pay really well).

So, if Johnny takes the train 200 miles south and then switches trains and goes 80 miles east, what topping will he choose for his pizza for supper?

I’ll wait for your answer . . .

 

Click-To-Tweet: #HowTo break into technical writing! Let’s Get Technical with @carltonwhughes via @InspiredPrompt #freelancewriter


Carlton Hughes wears many hats. By day, he’s a professor of communication at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College. On Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings, he does object lessons and songs with motions as Children’s Pastor of Lynch Church of God. In his “spare time,” he is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in numerous publications, including Chicken Soup for the Soul and several devotional books from Worthy Publishing—The Wonders of Nature, Let the Earth Rejoice, Just Breathe, So God Made a Dog, and Everyday Grace for Men. His book Adventures in Fatherhood, a 60-day devotional co-authored with Holland Webb, will release in Spring 2020. Carlton and his wife Kathy have two sons, Noah and Ethan, and a daughter-in-law, Kersyn. He is on the planning committee for Kentucky Christian Writers Conference and is a year-round volunteer for Operation Christmas child. Carlton is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.

Time to Write with Carlton & Kristy

Carlton Hughes–

Time to write? An interesting phenomenon I haven’t figured out.

My day job is teaching, and I currently teach at three different sites each week, in addition to completing community service and internal service. I serve my church as a children’s pastor, and I am a year-round volunteer with Operation Christmas Child. I am married and have two nearly-grown sons and lots of cats (we are the stray magnet in the neighborhood).

As if that isn’t enough, I am called to be a writer. Many times I’ll plan a day of writing, and here’s how that usually goes:

  • Wake up, do my devotional reading.
  • Quick check of social media—in case I have an important message, of course.
  • Eat breakfast (Can’t write on an empty stomach, can I?)
  • Sit down with my computer, open a Word file.
  • Type a title.
  • Remember there’s an I Love Lucy marathon on, watch an episode or three to jump-start my creativity.
  • Check episode guides online to get information about what I am watching.
  • Back to my computer, type a couple of sentences.
  • Realize I’m hungry, go eat lunch (Need strength for writing!).
  • Come back to my computer, another quick check of social media.
  • Watch a cat video.
  • Return to my computer, type another sentence or two.
  • Decide that’s enough, I’m tired, turn on the latest football or basketball game.

Does your adult ADHD kick in when you try to write? I have learned I make more time to write when I have a deadline. With that hanging over my head, I’ll leave behind the sitcoms, ball games, and social media sites to write.

Let’s open our computers and write! Oh, wait, another cat video . . .


Carlton Hughes

Carlton Hughes wears many hats: husband, father, college professor, children’s pastor, writer. He is a professor of communication at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College and the children’s pastor at Lynch Church of God. He and his wife Kathy have two sons, Noah and Ethan. You’ll find his tongue in his cheek as he contributes humorous inspirational pieces to two blogs and writes for devotions for publication.

 


Kristy Horine – A Peculiar Reveille

One of them started whining at 4:50 a.m. The other joined in with that short, sharp arf! a few minutes later.

I did ask for help with getting up at 5 a.m. to write, didn’t I?

Why, yes. Yes, I did. I asked and God answered.

For several months now, the dogs have sounded off like clockwork. The beauty of this wake-up call is that the dogs don’t have a snooze button I can smack. I actually have to get out of bed, put on a robe, my coat, and my shoes. I must be alert enough to deal with leashes, and then walk in the cold dark and wait while the pooches find that perfect place to … well, you know. By the time I get back into the house, I am completely awake and ready to write.

A peculiar, persistent reveille. Just what I needed. Just when I needed it.


Kristy Horine is a Kentucky writer: freelance journalist by trade; creative by God’s grace. Kristy writes a little bit of everything including poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. She makes her life in Bourbon County with her husband and is mother to four children. Her professional and creative work has been published in newspapers, magazines and anthologies in Kentucky and beyond. She is the founder of 3rd Letter Christian Writers in Lexington, Kentucky and is a contributing blogger at www.inspiredprompt.com.  Read more of her work at: www.writeonereallife.fistbump.press, and http://www.kentuckymonthly.com/blogs/a-kentuckian-in-paris or follow her on Twitter at @Kwriteone.


[Click to Tweet] Does your adult ADHD kick in when you try to write? Time to Write with Carlton & Kristy via @InspiredPrompt #amwriting #WriteTip

Writing Prompt: Choose one of the three photos above (cat, dogs, or bugler) and come up with a couple of intriguing questions to start a story.

Hopefully Devoted

by Carlton Hughes

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: God has a sense of humor.

Proof of this truth came during the final evening of the 2016 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. A faculty member announced that an editor friend needed new writers for a devotional book. If interested, attendees could drop by the faculty member’s book table for submission information for The Wonders of Nature, about finding God in the great outdoors.

There are two things you should know about me:

  1. At the time, I had never written a devotion and did not consider myself a devotional writer.
  2. I really love . . . the INDOORS! Had it been The Wonders of a Recliner, The Wonders of Air Conditioning, or The Wonders of Salty Snacks, it would have been a natural fit.

Even with these strikes against me, I returned to my room, pulled out my laptop, and prayed my usual prayer, God, give me something! A story came to mind about butterflies. I wrote a rough draft and polished it once I got home the next day. I sent it off and forgot about it.

Several days later, I got an acceptance and ended up signing a contract for ten devotions—me, in a book about nature! After I signed the contract, I sat at the keyboard staring at an empty page. What now, God? My prayer life increased as I searched for things to write about. Slowly but surely, I found the secret to devotional writing—look for God in the everyday moments of life.

I found Him in the most unusual places—a snow-covered football field, a brightly-colored autumn leaf, a rainy morning drive. If we are intentional about seeking Him, we will find Him in the tiniest of details, in the heat of every moment.

What to do when you find Him? Write about it! What is He teaching you in those moments? What scriptures line up with this thing? What prayer do you have to offer based on this situation? Think about that word “devotion.” Are we devoted to God in our everyday lives? How can we show it and give others insight about Him?

[Click to Tweet] God is there—you just have to look. And then write about it.

PROMPT: Go outdoors (or look out the window) and really notice your surroundings. What is the evidence of God there? Write about it.

Summer Fun: I Scream, You Scream . . .

I was just telling someone the other day that August is almost here. Call me “King of the Obvious.”

For many of you, August is a summer month. For those of us in the field of education, August means back-to-school.

Cue the “waaaah-waaaah” sound effect.

So far I have had a lot of summer fun, and there’s still more to come for a couple of weeks or so. I decided to create a “Summer Fun Top Ten List,” mostly because I couldn’t think of any other way to organize my thoughts (Keepin’ it real!):

1.            No matter what, no matter where, go for the ice cream.

2.            Never pass up a chance to do something fun with loved ones, whether it be enjoying a picnic, playing a game of putt-putt golf, or sharing ice cream.

3.            Always pack extra clothes for summer trips. Ice cream drips and gets messy sometimes.

4.            The summer heat is very hot. This seems to be a bigger issue now that I am older. Cooling off with ice cream helps.

5.            Reading, in the comfort of air conditioning, is a nice summer thing.

6.            Watching a new season of The Great British Baking Show, in the comfort of air conditioning, is also a nice summer thing.

7.            Eating ice cream, while watching a new season of The Great British Baking Show, in the comfort of air conditioning, is a most awesome summer thing.

8.            Long walks in the evening, when the heat isn’t so hot, are wonderful. Even better if they’re on a beach somewhere.

9.            If your job or life situation allows, sleeping in during summer days is refreshing. If only my internal alarm wasn’t so early!

And the final summer fun thing is . . .

Just add fruit to create a nutritious summer meal!

10.          Ice cream is a cool meal alternative when the summer heat makes it too hot to cook. Unless you’re a contestant on The Great British Baking Show, in which you would be burning up anyway in that tent.

NOTE: If you’re not a fan of ice cream (????) or cannot have it, substitute your favorite treat in the items above. Popsicles, slushies, sno cones, smoothies, etc.

 

[Click to Tweet] The “Summer Fun Top Ten List,” from @carltonwhughes via @InspiredPrompt – Warning: this post WILL make you hungry for ice cream, and may also make you giggle.  #summer #fun #icecream

WRITING PROMPT: Imagine you have a free summer day with no responsibilities.  What would you do? Where would you go? What would you eat?

Encouragement from Harlan County

by Carlton Hughes

“I’m proud to be a Kentucky woman from Harlan County!”

Those were the first words out of the mouth of Sandra Aldrich as she began her first keynote address at Kentucky Christian Writers Conference several years ago. I couldn’t believe my ears.

It was my second time attending the event, and I looked around the room—I was the ONLY attendee from Eastern Kentucky and certainly the ONLY one from Harlan County, as far Southeast as you can go in the state.

I listened intently as Sandra detailed her writing journey, from humble roots in our “neck of the Appalachian woods” to working for Focus on the Family and speaking all around the country. She lived up to her title of “encourager,” as her speech fired me up to not only write but to conquer the world.

At the break, I timidly (people who know me are laughing, but I WAS timid) approached Sandra and introduced myself, letting her know that I now lived in her home county. To say she was excited is an understatement. She asked to meet my family back at the hotel, and, later in the weekend, I won a drawing for a spot at her lunch table. I now want to apologize to the other people at our table because Sandra and I chatted and chatted until time was up, leaving little room for anyone else to get a word in edgewise.

We promised to keep in touch after the conference, and I bought two of her books, 101 Upward Glances and Bless Your Socks Off, devouring them when I got home. Sandra has a way of taking the simplest thing, like watching her grandmother remove biscuits from the oven, and finding God in it. Her work is encouraging and uplifting.

I had been home about two weeks when I got an email from Sandra.

“A couple of friends of mine from Jerry Jenkins’ Writers Guild are putting together a book. Here’s the information—submit something! Deadline is in two weeks.”

TWO WEEKS? Thanks, Sandra, but I don’t know . . .

I prayed about it, and God gave me a spark of an idea. I sat down at the computer and wrote the piece, editing and honing it over those two weeks. I finally hit “submit,” and the rest is history. That essay, “God Will Honor Your Sacrifice,” was my first major publication, featured in the book Simple Little Words.

Sandra and I have kept in touch over the years, and she returned to KCWC a couple of years ago, much to my delight. As always, we shared some great conversations and some hearty laughter. She continues to inspire me with her written words in her books, her spoken words in her speeches, and her encouraging words in our exchanges, both online and in person.

WRITING PROMPT: Write a “Thank You” note to a person who has encouraged you in your writing journey, detailing how that person inspired you.

Click to Tweet: Encouragement from Harlan County–Carlton Hughes: Sandra Aldrich continues to inspire me. How an author inspired me via @InspiredPrompt #amwriting #writerslife