The Craft of Writing: Resources for the Journey

By Jennifer Hallmark

Learning the craft, or making our work readable, is one of the more important ways to sell books, gain a readership, and be taken seriously in the writing world. But how do we do that?

College, online courses, or conferences can be a great place to start. But maybe they’re not in your budget or timeframe at the moment. Where else can we find resources for our author journey?

I’m so glad you asked. 🙂 The Crew and I want to share our personal favorites:

 Gail Johnson

Bonita Y. McCoy

Tammy Trail

Kristy Robinson Horine

  • Anything by KM Weiland is useful. Not only is there a blog, and books, she has a podcast that she transcribes so readers can listen or read.

    Brandilyn Collins has some great books out on characters, plot twists, why stories work, etc.  Steven James has a podcast called The Story Blender. It’s pretty good.

Jennifer Hallmark: I’ve read tons of books on craft in the past, but now I tend to read more blogs and listen to podcasts. Here are some of the best (IMHO):

And don’t forget about Inspired Prompt and our resources. Here are three links:

We want to see you become the best writer that you possibly can be. There’s no magic formula. As you study, learn, read, and write, your voice will emerge and your skills will increase. It has worked for our Inspired Prompt Crew and it will work for you.

Click to tweet: Learning the craft, or making our work readable, is one of the more important ways to sell books, gain a readership, and be taken seriously in the #writing world.  #pubtip

Writing Prompt: Commit to either reading a writing craft book, one blog post a week, or listen to a podcast a week to strengthen your writing.

The Importance of Sharpening Your Grammar and Punctuation Skills

By Fay Lamb

True story: I once had a favorite New York Times Bestselling author. I met her once at a book signing in which I traveled 600 miles to see her. Yes, I was a fan. Then one day, she responded to a comment I made on Facebook about the importance of editing well.

In very clear diva-style she said that her publisher paid people to edit her books. Her job was only to write the story. The editors would clean it up. My first thought was, “Aren’t you fortunate to be so beloved that you’ve gotten to the point where editors clamor to clean up your mess.” My second thought was “I’d hate to be your editor.”

Then she switched tracks in her career to an entirely new genre based upon a new interest. She’d gotten involved in a sport and had written two books involving it. However, her New York publishers weren’t interested in taking the risk. She found a small publisher in the South where her new interest is enjoyed by millions of people. This never-heard-of publisher jumped at the opportunity to publish a book by this well-known author. And publish they did.

I read the book.

I suppose this particular publisher assumed the author had a command of punctuation and grammar.

They assumed incorrectly, and if she read the galley, she proved that very well.

Oh, she could tell a story, but she could not spell or place a comma or determine where a sentence ended. And forget those misplaced modifiers or the split infinitives.

In the world of best sellers where this author came from, I’m sure that the editors were paid well to do what they did for her. I can attest. They did a fine job.

Editors who work for small publishers also work hard at bringing out the best manuscript possible, but I’m here as both a writer and an editor to tell you that mistakes happen. It is impossible to catch every mistake that will be made in a manuscript. Oh, I try. Believe me. I try. This is the best reason I can tell you for learning the basics of your craft. Those basics are spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

As a writer, it helps that I do know my stuff. I probably forget half of what I know in the process, but I do know it. When an editor has made a mistake, I can state with specificity why it is a mistake. On the other hand, when the editor calls me on a mistake, I am also able to understand what I’ve done incorrectly.

As an editor, it helps for me to be able to explain to an author why a comma should not go after a conjunction that starts a sentence or why I would use a comma in that instance on occasion. I can also explain to an author why some sentences can start with a conjunction and others should not.

Do you know the answer?

If not, you might want to learn the basics before you become a New York Bestseller and someone takes that privilege away from you.

Click to tweet: The Importance of Sharpening Your Grammar and Punctuation Skills by Fay Lamb.  Learn the basics. #self-edit #amwriting

Writing Prompt: Cecilia couldn’t believe her eyes. On the front page of their town’s daily newspaper…

The Importance of the Craft of Writing

By Jennifer Hallmark

Hi! This month, the Inspired Prompt Crew will be sharing articles about different aspects of the craft of writing.

Why?

Because knowing craft is imperative if you want to sell your book. If you don’t believe me, read a sample of ten self-published books on Amazon with less-than-stellar covers. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Oh, good. You’re back. See what I mean? I do understand that not all books with bad covers are badly written but if you don’t take the time or spend money on the appearance, how much time and money did you put into learning about sentence structure, self-editing, and typos?

You need both art and craft in a book. We want to hear your voice, your art, your creativity. But if you don’t have craft or structure, the real you is lost amidst errors, awkward wording, and bad grammar.

I see you cover your face and wail. “What can I do to learn more about craft?”

(((Hugs))) Don’t fret. Our Crew is here to help with articles on revision and editing, honing the craft, sharpening your skills, even great resources in books, blogs, and podcasts to make your journey a little easier.

There. Now, don’t you feel better? I’ll kick off the month by recommending one of my favorite books on the craft of writing.

Drum roll, please…

Writing the Breakout Novel: Insider Advice for Taking Your Fiction to the Next Level

by Donald Maass

In fact, I recommend any of his books. Here’s his Amazon page. 

Enjoy the month and let us know in the comments any questions or concerns you may have. We love to be helpful!

Click to tweet: The Importance of the Craft of Writing. @InspiredPrompt Crew can help with articles on #revision, editing, honing the craft, sharpening your skills, even great resources in books, blogs, and podcasts to make your journey a little easier. #authorslife

Writing Prompt: Determine to read one book this month on the craft of writing. Then read another. Study, read, learn, and practice. Repeat.

The Challenges of Category Cookery

By Laurel Blount

I am a sucker for cooking shows, aren’t you? My personal favorite is the Great British Baking Show, where contestants compete to create challenging dishes in a specified amount of time. It’s exciting to see the frantic bakers rushing around, trying their best to beat the clock and still produce a delicious, edible masterpiece.

It’s exciting, but it’s not all that realistic, is it? Because, honestly—those people have every ingredient they need at their fingertips, and even work in a special kitchen with lots of bells and whistles.

If you want to talk about a real challenge, ask a cook to create a nutritious, gluten-free, totally organic, easy-to-prepare meal for some very important guests—in an hour. And here’s the kicker, she can use only the specific ingredients currently available in her pantry. Oh, and one more thing: it has to taste so fabulous that everybody asks for a second helping!

I think we can all agree; the cook who pulls that off deserves all the praise and recognition we can shower upon her! And probably a nap.

This, my friends, is similar to the ninja-skills that writing high-quality Christian category romance requires. Ever since I tied on my own literary apron in this particular kitchen, let me tell you—my chef’s hat is off to all my much-more-skilled writer-sisters who offer their readers such delicious stories over and over again, all while staying within the boundaries of the genre.

My publisher, Love Inspired, is dedicated to producing a particular kind of experience for readers. They’ve developed some tried-and-true standards regarding the sort of hooks, plot tropes and characters they love to see in their books. My job as an author is to produce a story that fits within the Love Inspired brand, but which is also fresh and exciting—and which brings my readers back for more.

Just in case you’re ready to tie on your apron for this particular challenge—here are a few tips that you might find helpful:

  1. Start with the basic recipe. Study the guidelines and read the books. I know, I know, everybody tells you that! But the brand is very important in this category, and these elements aren’t usually negotiable. Think of it this way—whenever you cook for an important guest (and our wonderful readers are definitely our v.i.p.s!) you need to know what your parameters are. Gluten-free? Dairy-free? Organic? Diabetic-friendly? No matter how sumptuous a meal you prepare, if it doesn’t follow the requested guidelines it’s likely to be sent back to the kitchen. In one story proposal, I began with the hero already deeply in love with her heroine—who thought of him only as a friend. My editor explained that in Love Inspired, they preferred to see the love grow between the characters during the course of the story. He could be attracted to her, but his deeper feelings needed to develop over time. I changed that element and sold the book.
  2. Once you’ve got the basics down, take a good look into your own particular pantry. What spices can you mix in to make your story uniquely fresh and uniquely yours? For example, in my debut novel for Love Inspired A Family for the Farmer, I pulled on my country-girl experiences of milking a cow, being a midwife to a goat, and coping with a really opinionated goose to add some fun to my story. Sprinkle in your special touch to add a one-of-a-kind flavor to your book!
  3. And finally—be sure to pay close attention to any feedback or tips from the experts. The wonderful editors are the Julia Childs of category fiction. They know their biz inside and out, and they are dedicated to making each author’s story as delicious as it possibly can be! Emily Rodmell, an experienced editor at Love Inspired, frequently offers valuable writing tips via Twitter or Facebook. Look her up!

I’ll leave you with one last tidbit. You know what really draws me to The Great British Baking Show? The sweet camaraderie among the contestants! It warms my heart to see these folks cheering each other on, helping each other solve ticklish problems, and tearfully hugging when somebody gets sent home. They’re each dedicated to doing their individual best in the contest, but they’re equally dedicated to being supportive and helpful to their fellow bakers. I love that—and I’ve found the same type of warm-hearted fellowship among the Love Inspired authors.

If you’re interested in writing for this market, I’d strongly suggest you attend some conferences, attend the Love Inspired workshops and open house events, and meet some of these amazing writers and editors. And be sure to like and follow their professional accounts on social media and sign up for their newsletters, too! (I’d especially recommend joining the Love Inspired Authors and Readers Group on Facebook. That’s one of my favorites!) You won’t be sorry. Not only are these folks talented—they’re also just delightfully fun people!

Okay, enough talking, am I right? The oven timer is ticking, and it’s time to get to work. Grab your spoon—or pen—and start baking up a really fabulous story!

Click to tweet:  This, my friends, is similar to the ninja-skills that writing high-quality Christian category romance requires.


Laurel Blount lives on a small farm in middle Georgia with her husband, their four children, and an assortment of very spoiled animals. She divides her time between farm chores, homeschooling, and writing. She’s busy, but at least she’s never bored!
Laurel writes inspirational contemporary romance, and Hometown Hope is her third title for Harlequin’s Love Inspired. A fourth book is scheduled for publication on January 2020. She’s received a Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award for Excellence and has also finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards. She’s represented by Jessica Alvarez of Bookends Literary Agency.
Whenever she’s not working, you can find Laurel with a cup of tea at her elbow, a cat in her lap, and a good book in her hand. Stay in touch by signing up for Laurel’s monthly newsletter at www.laurelblountbooks.com.

The Importance of Return on Investment (ROI) for Writers

‎By Fay Lamb

I’m about to give you some cold, hard truth. Rick Castle is a fictional character. The number of authors who support themselves on royalties, let alone live in a condo in the middle of New York City or any other high-priced locale, are few and far between.

Oh, they do exist. I can name three of them without giving much thought to it.

However, in today’s world where, let’s face it, the market is saturated with people who believe they can write and readers who have been taken too many times, it is so much harder to support oneself on writing alone.

This is why every dollar invested in a writer’s career should be scrutinized. This careful examination of a writer’s budget should begin before the first word is written. For example, as a new author, how valuable is coaching to your career? When the first draft is written or the second or the third, what would be the reasonable cost of an edit? Then, glory hallelujah, a contract is written or a writer is skilled enough in the elements of their craft to publish a book. That’s when the cost of marketing must be considered. Make no mistake about it: even traditionally published authors must shell out payment for marketing. Facebook and Twitter are definitely not going to get the job done.

The mistake that most writers make is paying heavy fees on the front end without considering the return on investment they are likely to receive. They seek an editor or a coach, and they may find good ones, or they might find predators—individuals who have no idea what must go into a novel or a book of non-fiction to make it publishable. As an acquisition editor, a freelance editor, and an occasional writing coach, I have read many submissions in which I’ve commented that a freelance edit would benefit a writer only to learn that the work has already been edited, and I use that term loosely. Then I shudder at the price the person has paid for the edit or the coaching, knowing that the writer is likely never to recoup the money spent.

A key to hiring an editor is to ask for and review their resume. Ask them for author references and for titles that they’ve edited. Follow up on these references and ask the authors if they feel as if they received a good return for their investment. Then read what the editor has edited. Is it the type of editing you require?

Also, spell out for the editor what you require. A good fiction editor understands the elements that go into each genre of fiction. They’ll look for plot holes, for areas of inconsistency, and places where the elements are not strong. An editor of non-fiction understands the framework that publishers desire and will work to put the manuscript into that format.

Oh, and anyone who knows the industry is aware of the importance of return on investment. They will not charge you the same going rate they would charge a J.K. Rowling, or a James Patterson or a John Grisham. See, I told you I could name three authors who can live the Rick Castle lifestyle.

While those three authors have names that sell, you and I most likely do not. So, our only remedy is to get out there into the marketplace and make our names familiar. I’ve already said that Facebook and Twitter are not going to get the job done. We’re marketing to our own people group—mostly authors, and Facebook and Twitter are saturated. The return on investment is good, if you want nothing for nothing or a little for something. There are ways to make them work, but a savvy author needs to reach outside his or her comfort zone, to find traditional ads and marketing that costs them something. In the same way that they carefully examine the cost of an editor or a coach, they should ask questions of other authors who have tried different types of marketing. Authors are usually very kind to tell each other what works and doesn’t work. Authors should price various size ads on websites or in magazines or any venue they plan to work in and research the traffic for those venues.

Click to tweet: Return on Investment or ROI. A savvy author need to reach outside his or her comfort zone. Why? #amediting #IndieAuthors

Another suggestion to lower the individual cost for advertisement is to work in groups, either with authors who write the same genre for a publisher or who self-publish in the same genre. A caution, though: be sure that that the authors promoting with you write to the same standard whether it be social, morals, or in talent.

Start slow. You’ll have to pull from your own pocket at first. Always reinvest your earnings, seeking for a return on investment and eventually striving to put the money you invested back into your own pocket.

Writing Prompt: Jane stared at the returned manuscript proposal in front of her. The story is good. But have you thought about having it edited? The problem was…