Freelance Writing: Find Your Strength and Focus

This month’s topic is Freelance Writing. It’s a great way to break into the world of publishing and make a little extra money to boot. Here’s a great thought by my friend, Kathy Cheek. Also check out the information about her new devotional release, First Breath of Morning, at the end of the post…

By Kathy Cheek

As I navigated my freelance writing journey I developed a practice that helped me make decisions and move forward in my goals. Today I will share that with you.

Find Your Strength and Focus, then do the thing you are good at with excellence.

The objective I applied in this practice was to look for areas of God’s blessing. What was I doing that I could see He was actively blessing? Where was He opening doors of opportunity? Where was He closing doors?

This will help examine where you should place your focus and will help you recognize your strengths and keep you from spreading yourself too thinly.

You don’t need to keep doing everything you started out doing. As you move forward after a time of trial and error—trying to see what works and what doesn’t, what you like and don’t like, you will most likely discover what is more beneficial to your goals.

Setting Goals for 2017 by Karen Jurgens

Yes, at first you should try everything and then with experience find the areas which you can narrow and focus.

In my experience it was realizing my strength would be devotional writing since I like to be able to pack a powerful message in few words, similar to a poet or songwriter. But there isn’t a market for poetry and I am not a songwriter.

I had tried feature writing, Bible study pieces, lifestyle blog posts, and inspirational pieces, but kept coming back to the devotional writing with my own style and flare. Then I targeted the devotional market and built a reputation and resume as a devotional writer in print and online.  I worked toward the goal of a devotional book, and my first book, First Breath of Morning, has been published and was just made available this week!  (See Below)

I was much happier and more satisfied when I found my strength and could focus my efforts on a writing style that worked well for me. If that changes, I will change my focus. I think it is also important to be open to our dreams changing and shifting over time. Which brings me to my last two thoughts: Be attentive and follow God’s lead. Be ready for Him to open brand new doors.

Kathy’s book, First Breath of Morning – Where God Waits For You Every Day – A 90 Day Devotional is newly released, click on title for ordering info.

Click to tweet: Want to become a freelance writer? Kathy Cheek says, “Find Your Strength and Focus, then do the thing you are good at with excellence.” #WritingAdvice #amwriting

First Breath of Morning – Where God Waits For You Every Day

First Breath of Morning is multi-themed with 90 devotions in six chapters that portray a beautiful picture of our walk with God through drawing near, growing our relationship, leaning into His love, strengthening our faith, trusting Him through every circumstance, and exalting Him in worship. The messages in First Breath of Morning will refresh your faith and renew your trust in God. First Breath of Morning is an Invitation to the relationship God wants to have with us every day and it starts in the first breath of each new morning where He is already waiting for you.

You can find out more about her book at this link on her Devotions from the Heart website: First Breath of Morning Book Info Page.

First Breath of Morning: Click Here To Purchase Paperback  
Click Here to Purchase eBook.

Kathy Cheek writes faith-filled devotions and is published in LifeWay’s Journey magazine and Mature Living, and also contributes to several devotional sites, including Thoughts About God, Christian Devotions, and

Her favorite subject to write about is the rich relationship God desires to have with us and the deep trust it takes to live it out. She and her husband of 33 years live in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas and they have two daughters and one son-in-law who also reside in the Dallas area. You can read more of her devotions at

Kathy is thrilled to announce her book First Breath of Morning – A 90 Day Devotional was contracted to be published and is now available ! You will find info and a description of the book on her Book News page at Devotions from the Heart.

Do you Know your Rights?

Google search

I am an author, but I’m also a multi-published freelance writer. In fact, I got my start in writing by freelancing small pieces such as articles, devotions, stories for anthologies, etc. I have been freelancing successfully since 2010 and now have somewhere around 200 published pieces in numerous publications. I also teach workshops on freelancing at writers’ conferences. When I do, I always start with a brief lesson on writer’s rights. Understanding the different types of rights is so important!

These rights are true regardless of whether you are negotiating a contract for a small piece or a larger work. It’s always good to know what your contract says; what rights you are selling the publication / publisher and what rights you are keeping.

Types of rights:

First Rights also called First American Serial Rights (FASR): If you sell a publication First Rights, it means you are selling them the right to be first to publish the piece. (In other words, you are telling them that it has not been published before, and you will not allow it to be published until after whatever time stipulated in the contract. Contracts differ on this—many say one year after the date it appears in their publication, others say six months, and a few say it can be published again immediately after the date it first appears in their publication.)

When you sell first rights, after the time stipulated in the contract, the rights revert to you as the author and you can use it any way you like (you can post it in a compilation of your own, or sell a reprint to it.)

First rights can only be sold once—the first time it is published.

Reprint Rights sometimes called Second American Serial Rights: If you sell a piece that has already been published, you are selling the new publication reprint rights, i. e. the right to publish a reprint of your work. Not all magazines will purchase reprints and those that do often pay less. Not always though; my highest paying article the first time for .25 a word (it was a 1500 word article so that came to $380), the second time as a reprint for another $375 to a magazine that paid just as much for reprints as it did for 1st rights, and has sold two more reprints since then (for $75 & $240) and I’ll sell it again if the opportunity presents itself.

You can sell reprint rights as many times as you can find someone to purchase them. You own the rights to the piece.

One-time Rights are a little tricky. They work more like reprint rights in that the writer owns the rights to his or her piece and can sell them as often as possible. Some well-established writers sell these because there is a demand for that writer’s work. Most publications do not buy these, though. Most stipulate in the writers’ guidelines what kind of rights they are willing to buy, and it is usually first rights, reprint rights, or all rights.

All rights or Exclusive Rights: I generally caution against selling all rights or exclusive rights to a piece. If a magazine buys all rights that means they will own the piece if the writer is willing to sell it. Personally, I do not ever sell all rights to my work. It feels to me like I am selling my babies. They are mine, created from my head and though I am happy for someone to publish it, I do not want that entity to then own it. I want to own my own work! All rights you sell only once, because then it is no longer yours to sell. Selling all rights do, however, tend to pay more and some writers are happy to sell them.

Work for Hire is a term that also refers to the kind of rights a writer will have to a piece. It means the publication has hired you to write for them. Therefore, that publication owns whatever you write. Many journalism jobs are work for hire—where the writer writes for that newspaper, or magazine and as such, writes whatever that magazine wants them to write, and the magazine then owns the content.

I do take some work for hire jobs. I have taken and will continue to take assignments from a couple different devotional magazines. These assignments are considered work for hire, so I do not own the devotions I have written for them. The two I write for are Open Windows (Lifeway) and Reflections (Smyth & Helwys) These are the only instances where I give up ownership of anything I write.

That’s it in a nutshell. Usually you find the rights a magazine wishes to buy in their writers’ guidelines.

Click to Tweet: From @harrietemichael Do You Know Your Rights? What you need to know about writers’ rights. @InspiredPrompt #devotional #writer

Writing Prompt: Write why you would or would not be willing to write on assignment where the publication keeps the rights to your work.

Journaling: A Good Practice – Part 1

journaling.jpgJournals take a myriad of forms these days. For some, their social media posts are their journals. Some prefer handwriting their journal entries, others prefer to type them. I have an elderly friend who can no longer see well enough to write or type, so her grandson set her up to make voice recorded journal entries.

Journaling is a must for those who aspire to be writers—recreationally or professionally.

My dad, a Navy Corpsman attached to the 3rd Marine Division on Iwo Jima and Guam during WWII, kept a journal of names, injuries, scene descriptions, sketches of the islands, and stories that he used as a basis for a book he wrote over 40 years later.

I have kept a journal since my late teens and strongly encourage those I know to journal, particularly when they are in the midst of major changes and/or struggles. We always think we will remember the details, but we don’t. Most of the devotionals and blogs I have written are based on my journal entries.

I was encouraging one of my counselees to journal, she replied, “Journaling isn’t for me! I don’t have the patience, time, or inclination to learn how to do something new!”

I responded,

“Make your own rules! Your unique personality will shine brightly through entries that reflect the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical aspects of your life.”

Writing Prompt: I was at the grocery story and over heard a lady say …

Following are some of the things I shared with my young friend about my current journaling practices.

Recording the following in my journal during my daily morning quiet time:

  • Prayers confessing my sin with notations of Scripture referencing an aspect of God’s character.
  • My feelings: anxiety, fear, sadness, excitement, happiness, depression, ambivalence.
  • At least three things for which I am thankful—these often surface while reading past entries that remind me of God’s mercy, grace, faithfulness, and love that has enabled me to walk through every situation.
  • Scripture I read in my quiet time. Any words or phrases that stand out to me and related passages that come to mind. Ideas for further study, teaching, counseling, and writing.
  • Prayer requests—my own and for others. Leave a little space to record how and when the request is answered.
  • Spiritual, emotional, mental and physical areas in which I need to improve.

Throughout the day as thoughts and ideas come to mind, I may record some of the following:

  • All sorts of things that happen.
  • I try to record related Scriptures. (Writers, these are good fodder for devotionals, articles, and even books!)
  • Ideas for study, teaching, and writing.
  • Add to my “want to read” list.
  • Names of people and ways to encourage them.
  • Decision-making charts.
  • Ministry evaluation.
  • New people I meet and pertinent facts about them.
  • Goals, plans, dreams.
  • Brain download of random thoughts, ideas from the day.

Before I go to bed, I pull all the things I have written, emailed and texted to myself into my journal. And, I usually think of things I need to add!

Don’t get bogged down with how you journal or what you put in your journal—just start journaling!

Don’t miss Pt. 2! Find it here tomorrow morning.

Click to Tweet: Make your own rules! Your unique personality will shine brightly through entries that reflect the spiritual, emotional, mental, and phsycial aspects of your life. –Shirley Crowder on Journaling: A Good Practice (Part 1) #InspiredPrompt #journaling

3 Questions Wednesday with Shirley Crowder

Welcome to 3 Questions Wednesday.

I first met Shirley Crowder at the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference. We usually share a book table and have a great time. She writes devotionals and non-fiction and is a beautiful, delightful lady.

So, let’s see how she answers our 3 Questions–

Question: Shirley, what inspires you?

Shirley:  Music inspires me. The combination of the melody and harmonies, in concert with the dynamics, help give depth, color, and richness to the words. Through music I can express my awe, love, and gratitude to the Sovereign God of the Universe, my Savior. Music also allows me to admit my dependence upon God, confess and repent of my sin, ask Him for strength, thank Him for my salvation, and praise Him for Who He is. Then, I am able to go forth into the world and make disciple-makers as I write, teach, counsel, and minister to others.

What a wonderful answer!

Next question–You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

Shirley: It would definitely have to be a shade of purple named Passion. It would represent that I am a daughter of the King of kings and set-apart by God to do ministry. It would also have an element of unpredictability and fun. If you looked at something in this shade, you would wonder what is coming next!

Oh, I know you love purple! Lovers of purple are said to be witty and sensitive. It’s definitely your color.

Final Question–As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Shirley: I always wanted to be a mom and have a dozen children. Six biological and six adopted. Instead of twelve, the Lord has given me more children than I can count. OK, before those who do not know me faint, let me explain. The Lord has given me spiritual children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren who are now serving the Lord in The States and in about fifty countries throughout the world.

I love that answer. God places us in families, and you are many times blessed.

Thanks, Shirley, for visiting 3 Questions Wednesday, and giving our readers the chance to get to know you better. Readers, Shirley will be a contributor to the blog in 2018, so look for more from her. You can also find her at Through the Lens of Scripture.

Click to tweet: Shirley Crowder is a missionary kid who was born in Nigeria, West Africa. How will she answer our #3Questions? #InspiredPrompt

Shirley Crowder is a missionary kid (MK) who was born in Nigeria, West Africa. She has a passion for disciple-making and loves to share about her spiritual children who are scattered across the world serving the Lord. She is a biblical counselor; a regular guest on “Think on These Things,” a Birmingham Alabama radio/TV program for women; and a freelance writer. Shirley is commissioned by, and serves on the national Advisory Committee for, The Addiction Connection. She authored “Study Guide on Prayer—A Companion to Prayer: It’s Not About You”; co-authored a seasonal devotional book “Glimpses of the Savior”; co-authored “Hope for New Beginnings” with Dr. Howard Eyrich; co-authored the chapter, “Paul and Women in Ministry” in the book “Paul the Counselor” published by Focus Publishing; and has several articles which have appeared in “The Gadsden Times” Faith section’s Paper Pulpit.

Glimpses of Prayer – a devotional

Shirley Crowder and Writing Prompts contributor, Harriet Michael have co-authored another devotional! Here are the details:

God is looking for prayer warriors. • Start each day meditating on prayers in the Bible. • Strengthen your relationship with God through prayer. We have two primary means of communicating with God—the Bible and prayer. But what is prayer, really? This book of 50 devotions will help you look at many facets of prayer. Each devotion is centered around prayer and focuses on verses from the Old Testament and the New Testament that speak about prayer. We pray the Holy Spirit would work through these devotions to help you gain a better understanding of prayer and to ignite or deepen your passion to know Him better, resulting in you experiencing a richer more powerful prayer life.

And don’t forget to enter our “Once Upon a Christmas Giveaway III” — you’ll see a “click-meme” in the sidebar on the right, or if you’re on your phone, you can click here to enter: Rafflecopter Giveaway











3 Questions Wednesday with Harriet Michael

IMG_5245Today’s 3 Questions Wednesday guest is Harriet Michael. We’ve recently welcomed Harriet as a guest contributor here on the Writing Prompts blog, so you’ll see her posts from time to time. How did she do with our 3 questions? Read on. I think you’ll find it very interesting!

Welcome to 3 Questions Wednesday, Harriet. Here’s the first question:

Which author would you never get tired of, and why?

Harriet:  I read a wide variety of authors, both fiction, and nonfiction. Often I only read one sample of their work, because I have so many others I want to sample. But one author whose book I loved and intend to read another is Christian nonfiction author, Brennan Manning. I loved his Raggamuffin Gospel and am told by a close friend whose opinion I value, that “Abba’s Child” is also great. I hope to read it at some point too.

I collect quotes and two of Brennan Manning’s are among my favorites. He is quoted as saying, “On the last day, Jesus will look us over not for medals, diplomas, or honors, but for scars.”

And in his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, he wrote: “Most of the descriptions of the victorious life do not match the reality of my own. Hyperbole, bloated rhetoric, and grandiose testimonies create the impression that once Jesus is acknowledged as Lord, the Christian life becomes a picnic on a green lawn; marriage blossoms into connubial bliss, physical health flourishes, acne disappears, sinking careers suddenly soar… The New Testament depicts another picture of the victorious life: Jesus on Calvary. The Biblical image of the victorious life reads more like the victorious limp.”

Who is your favorite fictional villain?

Harriet:  Perhaps my favorite fiction book is Lorna Doone, by R.D Blackmoore. Written in the early 1800’s, the story is set in England in the late 1700’s. It’s a bit of a challenge to read because of the old English used, but after a while, you get the hang of it. Muddling through the tricky old English wording is well worth it! The book is a classic in every way—plot, romance, and characters. The story’s villain, Carver Doone, is a great example of a fictional villain. Blackmoore did a great job of juxtaposing him to the hero, John Ridd. Of course, they vie for the hand of the leading lady, Lorna Doone. It’s a terrific read that I highly recommend.

Great villain! And lastly…

What project are you currently working on?

Harriet:  As is the norm for me, I am working on several things at the same time. I am always writing and freelancing nonfiction articles and devotions to a variety of publications. Sometimes I am under a deadline for assignments too, though that is not the case right now. My first two books were recently released; a seasonal devotional book and a Biblically based study of prayer. They are both nonfiction.

I am also in the editing stages of my first fiction manuscript. It is a character-driven novel based on my parent’s lives. My parents were foreign missionaries to the African nation of Nigeria. They met when my mom was in nursing school and my dad in medical school. My mother’s family was quite poor. She was the first in her family to graduate from high school. Her father dropped out of school to work in a textile mill after the third grade and her two older brothers did the same after sixth grade. Back then they did not have child labor laws. My father, on the other hand, was a medical doctor, as were his father and grandfather before him. He grew up vacationing in a family owned beach house while my mom grew up without electricity or indoor plumbing and drawing water from a well. She didn’t know what a vacation was. Her father, a widowed farmer, supported himself, his four children, and two old-maid aunts with what he could grow and sell on his farm and the little he and his sons brought home from the mill.

So there was a lot to draw from in writing this story. I have been a nonfiction writer since I began writing in 2009. But I have discovered that I absolutely love writing fiction! It feels like I am a child again playing pretend.

I am beginning to formulate ideas for my next nonfiction book too. It will be a follow-up to my recent release about prayer.

Thanks so much, Harriet, for taking the time to complete our 3 Questions.

More about Harriet Michael:  Born in Nigeria, West Africa, as the daughter of missionaries, Harriet Michael is a writer, gardener, wife of over 35 years, mother of four, and grandmother of one.

She holds a BS in nursing from West Virginia University but has discovered her passion for writing. Since her first published article in 2010, she now has over a hundred and fifty published articles and devotions.

Harriet is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Louisville Christian Writers. Her book, Prayer: It’s Not About You, a finalist in the 2011 Women of Faith book contest, is set for release in September 2015 by Pix-N-Pens Publishing Company.