Write, Revise, Submit

It’s a phone call no writer wants to receive.

“Um, we got your story.”

Now, let me say up front that if your editor personally calls you and begins the conversation with “Um”, there is a pretty good chance you need to start praying.

A few years back, this is exactly the call I received.  My editor, Kim, rang me on my cell.

“Um, we got your story.”

She hesitated.

“It’s just not, you know, there.”

Instead of anger or resentment, I felt a little bubble of relief burst inside me.  I knew it wasn’t there, and yet I had turned the article in. What kind freelance writer does that? A tired writer.

You see, here is the normal process:

  • Writer: Find story, pitch it.
  • Editor: Catch.
  • Writer: Interview, write, revise, submit.
  • Editor: Accept, publish.

I did all those things except when I got to the write and revise, I went at them in a half-hearted attempt. I was too close to the subject. I had done too much research. I had way too many interviews. By the time I sat down to write and revise, I had let the research snuff out the passion I had pitched the story with in the first place.

And I left no energy to revise.

edit one

Thank the Lord for editors in both the fiction world and the nonfiction world. Instead of killing the story, she asked me to re-write. All of it. In a day.

I have never, in all my years of writing, been asked to completely re-write an article until that moment, but that moment made me a stronger, better writer.

Yes, the research is important. Yes, the writing is important. But the rewriting absolutely cannot be overlooked.  Here are some tips to help with the writing and revision process:

  1. Do the work on the front end. Make a question list even if the questions seem obvious. Write in big, bold letters: I want to know/write ___ because ___.  For fiction writers, invest your time in writing what the industry calls a back cover blurb. This is usually three to four paragraphs and is basically a synopsis of the work. Once the writing is done, re-read the blurb. See which one needs to change.
  2. Focus, focus, focus. Too much information is often better than not enough information, but there are times when too much information is just too much. Remember your Who, What, When, Where, Why and How for magazines or journalism pieces. Remember to stay in the scope of the pitch or the assignment.
  3. Schedule time for the piece to rest. If you are working on novel length fiction, maybe you can finish chapter forty on Monday and go back to revise chapter one on Tuesday because there has been so much time between the two. If you are working on a nonfiction piece for a magazine, leave at least twenty-four hours between first draft and edit draft.
  4. Read your work out loud. Me? I head to the chicken coop. Even if my ladies think I’m stupid, they can do nothing more than cluck and peck at my shoe laces when I read through a draft.
  5. Get a second set of eyes on the piece. The eyes should not belong to your mother or your children. There is just something about those connections that do not jive with good editing. You’d have better luck at honesty with my chickens.
  6. Be open to those occasions when your editor will ask for clarification, or a complete re-write. In non-fiction, the work is often objective. In fiction, know the limits of your willingness in terms of what you feel comfortable adding or subtracting to make a piece work for a perceived audience. How far will you go to please those beyond the Lord? Some compromises are just not worth it.
  7. Write a thank you note – especially to the person, or people, who advised a rewrite. It is hard to tell someone their work doesn’t, well, work. It’s even harder to hear it. Having a teachable spirit goes a long way in the world of writing and beyond.
  8. When in doubt, pray. Wait. Listen.

Above all, remember that a rewrite doesn’t kill you, but the lack of one just might.

Click-to-Tweet: Be open to those occasions when your editor will ask for clarification, or a complete re-write. Write, Revise, Submit from @kristyhorine via @InspiredPrompt #amwriting #editing


Writing Prompt: Compose a quick sentence or short paragraph using this photo as inspiration.

The Incredible, Edible — Frittata?

By Kristy Horine

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there is such a thing as a frittata. And, yes, it is edible. (Unless you horribly burn it while you get caught up on the latest and greatest post from the Inspired Prompt Crew, and then it isn’t. Edible, that is.)

As a writer, wife, homeschooling mom, chicken keeper, pet wrangler, ministry do-er, I find I have a lot on my plate. I also find that if my family wants a lot on their plates at the end of the day, I need to get creative with food.

Easily creative.

Thus, the frittata.

Piping Hot

The frittata seems to be an Italian dish that includes eggs. Since I am a chicken keeper, eggs are abundant. Since I am busy, ANYTHING that is edible is a candidate for inclusion in said frittata.

The following pics will take you from chopped up veggies, to a plated product.

  1. Preheat oven to 350. I use a cast iron skillet (8 inch) and throw it in the oven to preheat, too. (DO NOT spray or oil before throwing skillet in oven. Smoke. Alarms. Chaos. It’s bad. We are going for simple here.)
  2. Choose your ingredients. Since we are going for edible, I choose meats and veggies my family will actually eat. Some suggestions include: broccoli, tomatoes, asparagus, spinach, squash, bacon, diced ham, chicken. If your veggies or meat choices are especially wet – like the tomatoes or spinach if you use the frozen kind – dry, drain, or seed them. Nobody likes a soggy frittata. If you get to Friday or Saturday and have a few pieces of this, or a cup full of that, throw it in the frittata. Here, I have included squash, zucchini, and green and red tomatoes. (This is the end of the harvest season ingredient list!) Veggies
  3. Whip eggs and cream or milk. The number of eggs depends on the size of your pan AND how many ingredients you include. If you find you whip up too many eggs and your pan is about to overflow, scramble the remaining eggs to give to your picky five year old who refuses to eat anything that she cannot identify, and most things that she can identify for that matter. (Apparently our version of ‘whole food’ means segregated food) eggs and cream

4. Remove HOT pan from oven. (NOTE TO SELF: Use oven mit that was not accidentally laid down in a wet spot on counter!) Spray with cooking oil or run a stick of butter around sides and bottom of pan until coated. Toss in ingredients, pour egg mixture over top, sprinkle with your fav cheese.

5. Bake until center is set and cheese has turned a golden brown – about 30 minutes. I usually bake on a cookie sheet to avoid overflow messes. Do not panic if product rises in pan, but then deflates slightly when taken out of oven. This is normal. Piping Hot

6. Allow to cool in pan for about ten minutes. Plate and serve! (I serve with a slice of homemade sourdough bread, and sometimes a salad, depending on the number of veggies already in the frittata.) Plated

Welcome to frittata bliss!

The Incredible, Edible — Frittata via @InspiredPrompt and @Kwriteone. If my family wants a lot on their plates…I need to get creative with food. #cooking #FridayThoughts [Click-to-Tweet]


Writing Prompt: You’ve invited the new preacher and his wife over for dinner. They will arrive in ONE HOUR. You planned a frittata feast, but when you pull the egg carton out of the fridge, it is strangely light. Much to your distress, you find the carton contains only two eggs, thanks to your teenage son. You make him march straight to the neighbor’s house, carton in hand, to beg for eggs. He returns, white-faced and stuttering. What in the world just happened?

How to Evaluate Story Ideas in Journalism

By Kristy Horine

I sat at the back table of the women’s ministry organizational meeting. The Christian in me focused on loving my sisters. The writer in me did a constant sweep for story.

And there it was, at the very end of the meeting. A prayer request for a young woman named Morgan who was going on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. She had worked so hard to raise funds. Had even learned how to sew to do it.

My story radar pinged and pinged hard.

After the meeting, I approached Morgan and gathered a little more information. “Would you mind if I pitched the idea of writing an article about your mission trip to the local paper?”

After she assented, I made notes of all her contact information, promised to pitch it to the local editor in the morning, and made sure I could schedule a future interview to get more in-depth information if the editor accepted the pitch.

The next morning, I shot off an email in which I pitched a human interest story, with pictures, in 800 words or less. Within two hours I had a reply: Yes.

How did this work so easily? Because the story was appealing and fit in with the local paper’s flavor and audience.

But how do you make this work in your own writing life?

Pay attention.

  1. Pay attention to your local newspaper. Read the headlines. Look at the photos.

There are typically two kinds of newspapers left in the world: the large syndicated rags, and the small, hometown papers. I’ll be really honest here, larger papers are not so inclined to take freelance writers, and they tend to hoard the good stories for their regular reporters. Most other stories they typically pull ‘off the wire’ in a news service that they pay for. That being said, there is no harm in asking. If you don’t ask, you won’t know, so pitch that story!

For smaller papers, if you don’t subscribe, then subscribe. Walk in to the office and let them see your face. Meet one of the editors or the publisher and ask if they are interested in articles from freelance writers. Again, no harm done in asking. Then, read the paper. All of the paper. Read the articles, the opinion pieces, the obituaries, the homemakers having a good time, the local churches having fish fry dinners, the advertisements, the sports stories even if your favorite sport is reading, and the classifieds. Know what they publish, and think about the audience who is reading what they publish.

  1. Pay attention to the story itself. Evaluate each story on the following attributes: Newsworthiness, Prominence, Timeliness, Proximity, Method, and Human Interest.

A Nose for News in Action

Let’s evaluate the above story about Morgan in terms of what newspapers generally look for in publishable articles.

Newsworthiness

To determine Newsworthiness, ask yourself a few questions: Does this matter? Will it inform how people make decisions?

The answers are yes, and yes. It matters to Morgan. It matters on an international scale. Morgan is a difference maker. That’s important. People make decisions about where and how they will spend their money and their time every single day. If no one knows about Morgan’s fund raising sewing endeavors, they might make an alternate decision about their money. In addition, people like to pray for other people. Give them something worthy to pray about.

Prominence

To determine Prominence, ask yourself a few questions: Who is this article about? Who will be impacted by reading this article?

Morgan is not a community celebrity like a politician might be, but her name and her family members are well known and well loved. That makes a difference. When thinking in terms of impact, the story itself is just inspiring, right? It can impact anyone who is within hearing/reading range of the story.

Timeliness

To determine Timeliness, ask yourself a few questions: Is this something that happened yesterday? Is it happening today? Will it happen tomorrow?

In Morgan’s case, I determined to pitch the idea, write the story and have it published well before her mission trip so that people who read her story would have time to decide if they wanted to help her by ordering a hand-sewn item. I could have waited until after her trip and included pictures of the trip itself. However, by publishing pre-event, this enabled the community to be more actively involved. Since news travels fast and dies fairly young, offering a fresh, timely piece is wise.

Proximity

To determine Proximity, ask yourself a few questions: Is this a local event/person/place? If this is foreign, is there a local connection?

Morgan lives in my home town. She just completed her freshman year at college in the next county over. Her mother is a school teacher at one of the local middle schools. Her grandmother lives here. Her sister lives here. Even though the mission trip was outside the US borders, the local connection is strong and interesting.

Method

To determine Method, ask yourself a few questions: Is this article about the same old same old? Is there a new flavor/spin/approach in this story?

When most people fund raise, they think bake sale, car wash, GoFundMe. It takes more time and gumption to learn a new skill that adds value to people’s lives, like sewing. That’s what worked with Morgan’s story. In addition to interviewing Morgan, I also interviewed her sewing mentor, Sue Ellen. Sue Ellen also works at the local middle school. By adding a broader sweep to the story, I increase the Proximity, the Prominence and the Newsworthiness. Bam! We have a Titus 2 operation going here. (Hmmm … sounds like an article I could pitch in a local Women’s Missionary Union magazine or website. Double duty for paying attention here.)

Human Interest

To determine Human Interest, ask yourself a few questions: Does this help me connect/reconnect with people? Will it help my readers stop and remember that people are more important than things?

In Morgan’s story, again the answer is yes to both questions. It is a touching story that can encourage and inspire.

And one more thing –

The local newspaper is a secular paper. Yes, the owners call themselves Christians, but a secular newspaper is a secular newspaper is a secular newspaper. As a journalist, no matter the print outlet, I must maintain unbiased journalistic integrity in my writing. I do not interject opinion. I do not use gushing adjectives. But what I can do is sincerely and honestly quote subjects who speak freely about Jesus, which both Morgan and Sue Ellen did.

Before I go into any story – whether it is a story I have found and am pitching, or if it is a story that the newspaper or magazine has assigned to me – I know my boundaries.

I determined long ago:

  • that I would tell the truth,
  • that I would not write a story celebrating sin,
  • that I would not put myself in a situation where I am alone with a male,
  • that I would not change a direct quote unless I had a paper trail of permissions,
  • that I would be teachable in terms of writing and editing, and
  • that I would obey God before ANY publisher or editor, no matter how much they offered to pay me.

The world needs journalists who understand there are things we just don’t compromise. That’s the best evaluation after all.

A week after Morgan’s story ran in the local newspaper, I received an email from the newspaper asking me to call a woman at a phone number. I called. She was from a different church close to our area. She wanted to have Morgan come and speak to her women’s group about the mission trip. Through the article, God opened a door for a kind and generous young woman to tell more of her story.

Click-to-Tweet: Pay attention. Evaluate. Pitch. See what God can do with the words He has created for you to use.

Writing Prompt: Your small town is holding a craft fair next summer. Several area crafters have gained national attention with their art. Brainstorm a human-interest story idea for the local newspaper.

Who You Gonna Call? Ghostwriter!

By Kristy Horine

The Great American Novel. It’s the dream of many a writer, but it’s not the only way to break into publication. During the month of July, the Inspired Prompt Team will bring you other publication options to explore. It is our prayer that you are drawn to just the right one at just the right time! Thanks for reading and write on.

Me? A ghostwriter?

I was nearing the end of a writers conference and I still couldn’t figure out why I was there. After all, I was a journalist, sitting with a bunch of fiction writers.

As I stood at the fringes of the group, a man I hadn’t seen before came up and asked, “So, what do you write?”

I took a deep breath and pushed out air and words, “I’m a freelance journalist.”

He paused. He stared. Then, he smiled.

“Cool,” he said. “I know someone who is interested in telling her story, but she doesn’t really write. Ever thought about ghostwriting?”

Since that providential meeting, I’ve learned much about ghostwriting, about me, and about the way God moves to equip and encourage His writers to work with excellence.

If you are considering ghostwriting, here are some aspects you need to think on:

Prayer

Ghostwriting is an intense endeavor. Cover every aspect in prayer. Pray not only for your writing abilities, but for your client’s storytelling abilities. Pray every day, for every step.

Compatibility

symbiosisIn science, a symbiotic relationship is one where two organisms live really close to one another, sometimes one within the other, in a way that could be beneficial to one or both of the parties involved. This is ghostwriting.

As a ghostwriter, you must be inside your client’s story, mind, and voice. You must be compatible enough – especially in your differences – so you can get the job done. How do you know if you are compatible? Compare your values and your missions. If those two things align, you’re probably going to be okay.

The Story

Ghostwriters can be contracted to work on many different types of writing:

  • Business Writing (web copy, newsletters, press releases, policy & procedures manuals)
  • Full-length non-fiction or fiction
  • Memoirs

No matter what type of writing you will produce, you must decide if you are willing and able to live with the moral, ethical, social, and cultural impact that the writing might have.

For example, if you are a vegetarian, you are probably not going to write for a meat packing plant. If you are a devout Christ-follower, you are likely not going to write the memoirs of a person entrenched in witchcraft. These are hyperbolic examples, but they do make good points. Can you live with the entire story that may or may not have your name attached to it?

Anonymity

“Am I willing to spend hours/days/weeks/months on a project that might not ever mention my name?” If the answer to this question is no, you might want to run now. If the answer is yes, then continue reading. Find out what your client has in mind in terms of attribution. Some clients don’t mind sharing the author spotlight and will include the ghostwriter’s name on the cover. Some clients will mention a ghostwriter in the acknowledgements page. Some clients want the world to think they alone are the brilliant writers. Most ghostwriters give up bylines in what is called a nondisclosure agreement.

Understanding where you are in terms of anonymity is very important.

  • If your name is on this story, is it a story you want to be associated with in ten years?
  • If the client doesn’t want anyone to know they hired a ghostwriter, what are the terms of your silence?
  • Will the client be willing to be a reference and acknowledge your work to a future client?

Decide what you are willing to live with and put it in writing.

Method

This is basically how the project will move from your client’s mind, through you, to the page.

  • Will your client hand you a box of papers and say, here are my notes, go at it?
  • Will your client write the bones and you fill in the blanks?
  • Will you transcribe recordings and write from them?

In addition to how you will gather the facts of the story in the first place, you also need to know what your client expects in terms of editing, marketing, revision, and so forth. Writing is a process that involves so much more than scratching words on a paper. Ghostwriting is no different in that respect. Make sure you talk about how your client expects you to gather information, write, and revise.

Fees

This is the hard part, right? Deciding how much your work and time are worth is tricky. To know the best fee scale for your business, and your life, you need to find out what your rhythms are, how good you are at record keeping, and the parameters of each job.

Consider:

  • Will you apply a per word, per hour, or per project fee?
  • Is there travel involved?
  • Will you be required to purchase extra supplies for the project?
  • Will you need to pay an attorney for contract fees?
  • Will you be responsible for marketing? For editing and revising?

Consider, also, that little issue of anonymity. Now, if you are like most people who are writing a book, you want to make sure that you receive every penny people are willing to pay for your work, not just now but in the future. Will you receive royalties? Will you give up royalties? If you ghostwrite a memoir that becomes a smash best seller for six months straight, that’s a lot of royalties to give up. How will you feel about that? What does your contract say about that?

contract

And speaking of contracts, make sure your ghostwriting contract addresses all of these questions according to each project. If you are writing web copy, you won’t mention royalties. But if you are writing a non-fiction book a publisher asks to be re-written or edited in any way, make sure your initial contract makes room for these contingencies.

One day after the writers conference where I first felt the tug of ghostwriting, I received a phone call. The potential client was a very high profile personality. She and I went back and forth. She interviewed several ghostwriters. I did a lot of research and offered a bid, or a proposal, on the project. Yes, she would include my name on the front cover. No, there would be no royalties. Yes, she was willing to pay a tidy sum for my ghostwriting fee. Yes, the book idea had already been accepted by a publisher, with a promise of more books to come.

After a few more weeks of negotiations, I had to write a hard email. I turned the project down, even though it would have meant more than a year’s worth of freelance income for me and my family.

Why?

Because even though the client initially said she wanted to glorify God and lead others to Christ, she didn’t want the names of God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit in the book at all. She wanted to use curse words in the narrative, and she didn’t mind being explicit in glorifying worldly passions and pursuits because she wanted to “be real.”

At the end of my days, I will stand before the Lord. I will make an account for my actions, my inaction, and every single word, even those I write that belong to someone else. When I stand, will the ghosts come back to haunt me?


Click-to-Tweet: No matter what type of writing you will produce, you must decide if you are willing and able to live with the moral, ethical, social, and cultural impact that the writing might have. Who You Gonna Call? Ghostwriter! via @InspiredPrompt

WRITING PROMPT: You are a ghostwriter. Your client is the only granddaughter of an heiress in your small Arkansas town. Before she can receive her inheritance, the granddaughter must find someone who can take an attic full of notes and transform them into a memoir to top all memoirs. You accept the project, are firing on all cylinders, until you find the box that will change the entire town forever. What does the box contain? 

Every Five Days: A Poetic Journey to Bread

By Kristy Horine

Sourdough. 

It’s been the bread of choice in my family for three generations. From Papaw, to Momma, to me. My “Secret Life” as a bread maker has waxed and waned over the years. I’ve received jars of starter, killed jars of starter, and baked hundreds of loaves of bread. Most bread I gave away. Sourdough to neighbors. Sourdough to strangers. Sourdough to bake sales for various ministries. Sourdough as communion bread. 

Over time, I’ve learned the process — feeding, waiting, kneading, waiting, baking, eating and waiting some more — is blessed with measures of faith, hope and love. The three that remain.  To honor the Lord who gave us His own body as bread, a poem:

Every fifth morning, I pull the pickle jar from the fridge.
(It used to live with Cathy Thompson,
The jar did.
She filled it with things that bubbled and soured.
Then, she gave it to me.)
I put the pickle jar on the counter.

Every fifth morning, into my two-cup glass measureFood for starters

I add:
One cup of perfect-warm water,
three, one-fourth cups sugar,
Three tablespoons potato flakes.
(The flakes look like snow.)
I stir and waterfall the warm, sweet, snow into the pickle jar.

Then,
I wait.

Every fifth night, I fetch my mixing bowl
From under the counter.
(Momma gave me a set of three at Christmas-time
One year)
I add:A measure of flour

One fourth cup sugar,
One half cup oil,
One tablespoon salt,
One cup swirled-up starter,
One and a half cups perfect-warm water
Six cups bread flour.
I stir. Turn out. Knead.

Then,
I wait.

Every sixth morning, I grease and flour my pans.
Punch down dough, turn out onto flour-dusted counter,
Twist in two places to make lumps of three.
I press and spread and roll the dough
With my fingers, floured white.
Dough pressed flat

I tuck the dough into pans, pull waxed paper covers up to their chins.

Then, I wait.

Every sixth evening, I turn the knob to start the
WHOOSH!
Of gas in my oven.
Thirty minutes in, a glance for golden brown, a thump on
Top for doneness.Sliced bread
I eat the heels
(straight away)
for they are my favorite parts:
Slathered with sweet cream salted butter,
Only half allowed to melt,
For the waiting has seemed so long.

WRITING PROMPT: You are a master baker, paid to produce the most exquisite morsels ever to be eaten. You have received an order for two plain loaves of bread to be delivered to a remote hillside. The client is willing to pay seventeen times what the bread is worth, as long as you deliver it in person at exactly three o’clock. Write about the conversation you have with the client upon delivery.


Click to Tweet: Every Five Days: A Poetic Journey to Bread via @inspiredprompt and @kristyhorine – sometimes the waiting seems long but the end product slathered with butter, totally worth it.