Farewell to October

A brooding calm in all the air,
A dreamy quiet everywhere…
A golden glow to light the day
That fades in purple mists away—
This soothing calm, this presence bright,
October’s sweet and mellow light.
~Phebe A. Holder, “A Song of October,”
in The Queries Magazine, October 1890 – courtesy of Quote Garden

And so October is on the wane. This final, eventful week will pass in a rush of activity for most of us. November is upon us and Ho! Oh no! Just a few more weeks to prepare for the holidays.

What a month we’ve had here at Inspired Prompt. I hope you’ve enjoyed our posts and added a few books to your TBR pile. Jennifer’s resources post should have you well supplied with the best in writing help. I have a few of those on my desk, ready to help in a moment of need.

As we leave fair October behind and gird ourselves for that which lies ahead, let us hear from you. If you’re a follower of our blog, what has helped you this year? What would you like to see more of in the future? Please leave us a comment and let us know, because you are the reason we’re here.

The goal of the Inspired Prompt blog is to educate and inform writers, with an emphasis on new and Indie writers. We provide clear, basic information in four areas: how-to, marketing, encouragement, and our “signature” prompts, thoughts, and ideas. We hope to inspire writers/authors to reach for and attain their personal best.

Inspiration. Encouragement. Education. Those are what we strive to present to you, our readers, to share what we’ve gleaned and learned along our own “write road.” Some of you are about to launch into the NaNoWriMo season. If so, I salute you. It’s a great challenge for a writer. And I would like to issue some challenges of my own:

  1. Focus on the positive.
  2. Write with abandon.
  3. Nourish the joy of writing.

November’s coming, and with it, a brand new theme. Join me here on Friday to find out what’s coming up in November besides NaNo, pumpkin pie, and turkey. Together, we’ll learn more about this wonderful calling—the path of the writer.

Click-to-Tweet: Inspiration. Encouragement. Education … are what we strive to present to our readers, to share what we’ve gleaned and learned along our own “write road.” #amwriting #inspiration

Writing Prompt: Begin a story using the photo below as inspiration. Remember to answer the questions: who, what, when, where…

Image by Matthew Morse from Pixabay

Wipe Your Face Girl, and Act Right.

By Tammy Trail

This past summer I went back to the state of my birth to visit family and friends. I attended a reunion with my mother and a group of her grade school friends. I recalled that they had grown up in a time where rules, like etiquette, still mattered. Unlike today, where you see people grocery shopping in their pajamas. A personal pet peeve of mine.

Is there any part of our society that still follows rules of etiquette, you may ask?  Why yes, there is. Allow me to point out that as writers we have standards we should follow, at least until you are established enough to break them.

First let’s determine what etiquette is: A code of polite conduct. Should you practice proper etiquette you are less likely to offend or annoy people – you may even charm them.

For writers, it is no different. I remember when I first attended a writer’s meeting for my local chapter group. A multi-published author was a member of our group. Being new to the whole scene I gushed to my two writer friends about this author. They both looked at me like I had a cat on my head. “You’re not going to go all weird on us, are you? They might frown on that.”  I assure them both that I did know how to act right! Yes, it’s a funny story, and I did wait to be introduced before telling said author that I enjoyed her books.

In the publishing world there are a few “rules” to follow while submitting your work to an editor, or for an agent’s consideration for representation:

  1. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Please take the time to look for an agent that wants to represent your genre. For example, you wouldn’t send a Young Adult Fantasy proposal to an agent who only wants to represent Historical Romance. If you do your homework, you can find an agent’s bio and what kind of manuscripts they are looking for, simply by googling their name.
  1. FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES. Once you have settled on the agent or editor you would like to work with, do look for their query guidelines to submit your proposal to them for consideration. You can find these on most websites under a submissions. There you may also find what they are looking for in the genre, and how they would like the email to be sent along with the email address. 

  1. SELF EDIT. Look over your proposal very carefully. Punctuation and grammar, as well as spelling errors  are telling. If your proposal is not up to standard, chances are a professional will assume your manuscript is written in the same manner. Don’t get a strikeout at first base, get a home run by taking just a few more minutes to read your proposal with more care. Then get to work on editing that manuscript too. 
  1. DON’T RESPOND TO REJECTION. There are often many reasons why an agent may send a rejection. Perhaps they have enough historical fiction manuscripts. Maybe your story is too closely written like another writer they represent. Or perhaps you need to become more seasoned in your writing. If you should get a bit of a response from your query that gives positive feedback, consider yourself on your way. Take those grains of wisdom and look at your manuscript with new eyes. We can always do better. 
  1. TAKE THE TIME TO LEARN THE CRAFT. Writing is hard and not for the faint of heart. I often remind myself to stay focused on writing the best story of my ability. Getting published is a wonderful goal. But to get there, we all need to stay in the trench and dig out the story before we can go to higher ground and have that book in our hands with an author credit. In all things, seek God’s wisdom and direction. In doing so, you can never fail.

Click-to-Tweet: Etiquette for Writers – In the publishing world there are a few rules to follow while submitting your work to an editor or for an agent’s consideration for representation. #publishing #etiquette

Writing Prompt: Compose a short email message, thanking an editor for your latest rejection.

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.

Writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul

By Harriet Michael

Chicken Soup for the Soul publishes around a dozen books a year, each with 101 stories in it. That’s approximately 1,200 chances to have a story you wrote published per year. Sounds pretty great, right? It is and it isn’t. It is not as easy as it may seem to have your story selected for one of their titles. But if/when that happens, then yes, it’s pretty great!

This year’s Christmas themed book titled, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, will have a story in it written by me.

Chicken Soup Christmas book

This is the fourth story I have had selected for Chicken Soup. While that’s exciting and an honor, I must share an insight that I have in their selection process. This is just my opinion and others may disagree with me, but it seems to me that it is harder to have your first story chosen by them than subsequent stories. At least that is my experience.

I am a prolific freelance writer. I have submitted many, many short pieces (articles, devotions, short stories) to many different publications since I began sending submissions in 2009. After over ten years of freelance writing, I have had a lot of acceptances but also a lot of rejections. However, my rejection percentage with Chicken Soup for the Soul was 100% for the first few years. That was definitely not the norm for me with other publications. I sent several stories a year and never received even a notice that it was being considered for one of their books. Finally, in 2014, after about four years of rejections, I got an e-mail telling me one of my stories had made it to the final round of selection. I danced with joy when I read that email!

Since then I have had four stories selected. This experience has made me conclude that it is harder to get a first story chosen but slightly easier after that. My experience may only be coincidental, but it prompts me to encourage writers to keep sending Chicken Soup stories. Keep on keeping on!

Chicken Soup publishes inspirational true stories from ordinary people. They want stories under 1200 words (with 1,000 being closer to their sweet spot) written to one of their book topics or themes. If your story is chosen, you will first get an email telling you that your story has made it to the final round. This email will include a publishing contract that will be discarded if your story is not chosen for the actual book. Most stories that reach this round make it to the book, but a few don’t. I have never had one dropped after this stage, but my sister has. Then, the fun part—you receive 10 free copies of the book about a month before its release date and a check for $200 about a month after the release date.

And because I’m a stickler about writer’s rights, I asked them when the rights would return to me. The contract states that they are buying 1st rights but does not say when the rights revert back to the author. Most of my freelance contracts contain this information. Chicken Soup replied that I owned the rights again as soon as the book releases, or one day afterward, I suppose, since 1st rights mean they have the right to be the first to publish it.

Writing for Chicken Soup is fun and rewarding. I highly recommend giving it a try and like the old saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

And make sure to join us in September as we tackle a fun topic: Cooking for Writers…


Writing prompt / Exercise: Go to https://www.chickensoup.com/ and click on “Submit your story” at the bottom of the page. That will take you to a site that has book titles/themes, guidelines, and the online submission form. Familiarize yourself with these and then, if inspired, write a story for one of their Book topics.

Click-to-Tweet: Chicken Soup for the Soul publishes around a dozen books a year, each with 101 stories in it. That’s approximately 1,200 chances to have a story you wrote published per year.–Harriet E. Michael via @inspiredprompt #amwriting #freelance

Writing for Devotional Sites

by Diana C. Derringer

A roller-coaster ride, newlywed misunderstandings, fishing adventures, middle-of-the-night foster care placements, family health miracles, and talking fruit trees have all weaved their way into my online devotional submissions.

At first, I wrote devotions solely for print magazines, both freelance and assigned. I knew devotional websites existed and read a few. However, I never seriously considered submitting to them. As I learned more about online opportunities, that gradually changed.

Possibilities

Some magazines publish both online and hard copy. The Upper Room Magazine’s online version maintains a massive community of followers, who not only leave frequent comments for writers but also for one another.

In addition to the devotion, Upper Room invites writers to join a larger online conversation by writing a blog post and sharing a photo the same day their devotions appear. The post may or may not relate to the devotion. It allows readers to learn a bit more about writers’ personal or professional lives. Links to writer websites or blogs often lead to new followers and friends. Other devotional sites, such as Christian Devotions appear exclusively online. Many are non-paying markets. However, their devotions offer a word of encouragement or moment of ministry to a diverse audience. Regular appearances also add to a writer’s platform. I recall walking into The Kentucky Christian Writers Conference one year, and a woman greeted me with, “Oh, I hoped I would meet you here.” She had read my work and seen my picture on the Christian Devotions site. Well-known non-paying sites may lead to writing assignments within the paying market.

I typically offer first rights to paying markets and reprint rights to non-paying.

Preparation

In order to point people to Jesus, many devotional sites suggest writers:

  • Begin with prayer.
  • Study the Bible verse(s) to accompany the devotion.
  • Write on less well-known verses to offer readers a new perspective and increase the likelihood of an editor’s acceptance.
  • Never underestimate the power of personal stories.

What initially appears inconsequential may lead to the most significant devotions. Who would have thought tiny crocheted elephants could have much impact? Yet, they did when first crocheted and later through a devotion about them.

Neither should unpublished writers feel inconsequential. Many devotional sites welcome them along with established and multi-published writers and authors. The sites encourage new writers to follow God’s leadership and take advantage of opportunities to learn and strengthen their craft.

Guidelines

Although details such as word count or preferred Bible version vary, most print or online devotional sites have similar guidelines. Most want a:

  • Short catchy title
  • Bible verse (Some also desire a longer suggested Bible passage.)
  • Devotion related to the verse

Many conclude with a thought for the day and/or a prayer.

Regardless of the subject, editors want writers to stick to one main point. From the title to the closing prayer, everything must tie together. A devotion’s limited word count (often 100-400 words) allows no room for digression. Although it does not offer intense theological study, it does seek to increase the reader’s understanding of the Bible and relationship with God.

Other helpful reminders for online writers:

  • Write simple sentences and short paragraphs.
  • Cut the clutter and write tight.
  • Use active rather than passive verbs.
  • Lead readers to hear, feel, taste, see, or touch the devotional content.
  • Always adhere to the site’s guidelines.

Outlines

Editors expect writers to immediately capture the readers’ attention, tie their introduction to the Bible verse and devotional theme, and relate their summary and application to God’s truth for daily life.

Christian Devotions uses the following format:

  • HOOK: Catch the reader’s interest with a brief story or shocking statement.
  • BOOK: Declare your key point and your interpretation of the passage.
  • LOOK: Present the big picture and offer practical life application lessons and tips.
  • TOOK: Lead to a decision; close with an action statement and challenge the reader to change.

Submissions

Sites vary on the submission method. Some have an online submission page. Others request email submissions with the devotion included either as an attachment or in the body of the email. Those who use attachments typically favor:

  • Word documents
  • Single spacing with a double space between paragraphs and no indents
  • Times New Roman, 12-point font

Writing for devotional sights offer limited financial rewards. However, their eternal worth cannot be measured this side of heaven.

Writing Prompt: Think of a recent event in your life. Use the hook, book, look, and took method to write a brief devotion.

Click to Tweet: A roller-coaster ride, newlywed misunderstandings…middle-of-the-night foster care placements, family health #miracles, and talking fruit trees have all weaved their way into my online #devotional submissions. Story via @InspiredPrompt @DianaDerringer


Diana Derringer is an award-winning writer and author of Beyond Bethlehem and Calvary: 12 Dramas for Christmas, Easter, and More! Hundreds of her devotions, articles, dramas, planning guides, Bible studies, and poems appear in 40-plus publications, including The Upper Room, The Christian Communicator, Clubhouse, Kentucky Monthly, Seek, and Missions Mosaic, plus several anthologies. She also writes radio drama for Christ to the World Ministries. Her adventures as a social worker, adjunct professor, youth Sunday school teacher, and friendship family for international university students supply a constant flow of writing ideas. Visit her at dianaderringer.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Goodreads, Pinterest, and her Amazon page.


Beyond Bethlehem and Calvary

12 Dramas for Christmas, Easter and More!

Flexibility, ease of production, and themes that meet us where we live make this drama collection suitable for large or small groups, whether in a church setting or on the most rugged mission trip.