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Be Unique to Grow Your Writing Platform

Building a writing platform is hard work. It takes more than words on the screen. It requires more investment than comments on social media. The experts will tell you what you have to do, but each expert will have different steps, different orders, or sometimes different directions altogether. You have to find YOUR way because your way is unique.

Top Secrets to Grow YOUR Writing Platform

Mike - unique

    – Remember that social media is first, and foremost, SOCIAL. Find an outlet that works for you and then utilize that outlet in a way that works for you. It is not just about the social media design but about how you work the social media.

    – Be younique. Take in all the advice and all the suggestions and then create a plan that suits your lifestyle, your personality, and your focus. You are different from everyone else so embrace that different.

    – Take unexpected steps. It can be interesting to look at what everyone else is doing and then try something that nobody else is doing just to see the results. And sometimes, through those unexpected tests you discover the gem that elevates your platform to unexpected levels.

    – Excel at what you are doing now before you move on. There are new social media and software popping up all the time (and you can even create your own social opportunities and apps) but that does not mean you need to do it all. Choose one and master it before moving on.

    – It is ALL about building relationships. Whatever you are doing or wherever you are going, relationships are the foundation. Invest in others to grow up the relationships that are going to hold up the walls of your writing platform.

It is not about the pattern that others followed or even the path that others took. It is all about finding the way that works for you. You are unique therefore you need to build your writing platform in a way that fits within and around your uniqueness.

SFW - Writing Challenge

Writing Challenge Grows Up Writing Abilities

A good Writing challenge pushes me to look beyond what I am doing. It stretches my word usage and focus. It builds up and hones my skills.

I LOVE challenges.

I have been involved with groups that had weekly challenges that focused on fiction – because they were fiction writing groups. I have used some of my challenge results to launch novel series. You never know where the words will go once you release them.

I also understand the value of writing outside your traditional genre. Nobody likes getting locked in a box, especially the creative minds of writers. Taking on challenges that are not part of your wheelhouse will keep the boxes at bay.

This week – the challenge is about your own journey. Where are you in your writing path or where do you want to be.

Writing challenge:

Choose one of these images. Let the place lead your story, end your essay, or start your story – that is up to you. Include the word path, journey, and focus. Keep it under 800 words.

If you post your story on your page, be sure to come back here and leave a link. If you decide to keep the words to yourself, that is okay as well. Come back and share any insights or ideas that may have been born in the exercise.

The more that I stretch my writing abilities, the more I have room to grow up my writing dreams. If I want more from my writing then I have to be willing to invest more in that writing.

Taking on writing challenges will not only provide me with new insight or opportunities, but it will give my words the freedom to roam through the unexpected.

Walk Write Challenge for Getting More Out of May

Katharine Grubb – author of The 10 Minute Novelist and fearless leader of the Facebook group with the same name – recently challenged me to a 5K day. Basically, I am to write 5000 words in a day AND complete a 5K on that same day.

IMPOSSIBLE!

Believe me, that was my first cry as well. “Come on. Is it not enough that you have challenged me to write 365K throughout the year?”

Someone else in the group pointed out that a 5K was only 3.1 miles. That changed things for me. I live in the woods and we have carved out a nice little walking trail. It is right at one mile. I could complete a 5K with just three laps around my yard.

POSSIBLE.

I decided to “train” for the big day by walking a lap a day until the big day. I timed my lap, and even at a leisurely stroll, it only took thirty minutes.

IDEA!

Writers get a bad rap for not being more active – mainly because writers sit a lot . . . so that we can write. I have been struggling to find a way to boost my energy for the second half of the day and Katharine’s challenged sparked a plan.

Each afternoon, I will take a lap around the yard. For one whole month, I will complete 1/1000. I will walk one mile and I will write 1000 words.

For the next month, I will complete 2/2000. I will walk two miles a day and write 2000 words a day.

My ultimate goal will be to work up to 5/5000. I have always loved hiking, but over the years the accumulation of inactivity stole that love. It is more of a labor than anything else. Working up to a five mile daily walk will make that love a possibility again – plus it will get a LOT of words down on paper.

Challenges can be the perfect route to accountability and accountability can drive your writing career. Will you join me in the 1/1000 Walk/Write Challenge for May?

Exposing the Truth about the Myths for Writers

I stood in front of the group to share the importance of building relationships for creating a successful writing career. The lady introducing me explained that she brought me to speak because writers are notoriously loners, hidden away in our writing dungeons.

My husband – and faithful roadie at these events – had stepped away from the seat next to me. I could see him across the room, laughing.

I am not a loner.
I do not hide away and write.
I am not drinking while staring at a blank screen.

And I do not believe for a moment that most writers are this way. I think “being a loner” is one of many myths piled on top of an already challenging career.

Top Ten Myths about Being a Writer

    Myth #1 – All writers are loners. Writers are just like every other group of people. There are writers that like to write alone. There are writers that prefer the crowd of the local coffee shop. There are writers that love to speak and teach. There are writers that love to research. In other words, writers come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. Most of us prefer NOT to get in a box.

    Mith #2 – All writers are good spellers. “You must have done great in English.” I get this comment a LOT when people find out I am a professional writer. I sometimes confess that I have a degree in Leisure Services, but it depends on how much time I have (because I then have to explain what a degree in Leisure Services does). Smart writers find great editors and software programs to help them with their struggles.

    Myth #3 – All writers just want to tell a good story. Some writers want to find ways to make money with the words they write. Some writers want to expose a hidden truth. Some writers just like seeing their words on paper. Again, the reasons writers write can be as diverse (or even more diverse) than the writers.

    Myth #4 – Successful writers make a lot of money.

    (Sorry – laughing too hard to respond).

    Myth #5 – All writers want a contract with a major publisher. Some writers prefer to maintain control of their creations. Indie publishing gives writers the power to direct the path of their story that is given up with signing with a publisher.

    Myth #6 – All writers are natural wordsmiths. Every skilled craftsman understands the importance of growing and expanding the skill. Most writers attend classes, workshops, and conferences to continue to understand words and how wield them with the most power.

    Myth #7 – All writers sit around all day writing. We wish! Writers have families. Many writers have second jobs. Most writers love words so much that the create time to put words to paper.

    Myth #8 – All writers hit the wall of writer’s block. Writer’s block never existed. The term refers to the writer’s creative ability to procrastinate and dodge the responsibility to putting down the words.

    Myth #9 – All writers are controlled by the muse. (See Myth #8) Writers that are actively pursuing words will find a way to make that muse dance.

    Myth #10 – All writers must write what they know. Writers should be writing their heart and their experiences, but they should also be writing their interests, their learning, and their growing. Besides, you and I can walk through the exact same path and experience two different journeys.

The next time you see a writer, look deeper for the person. All writers work with words, but the similarities stop there.

Organized to Write

“You are so organized.” The lady at church noticed my notebook. It has tabs for each class that I attend. It has a section for the church service. It even has a nice little pocket to hold my bible (which was purchased because it was thin and would fit in the pocket).

My notebook IS organized. I have invested time and energy into keeping it organized. She might not be so impressed if she looked at the rest of my life.

Building a successful writing career REQUIRES organization. If that was not clear enough, without organization in your writing you will spend more time spinning your wheels than making actual progress. Pursing writing as a paying career requires organization.

On the flip side, too much organization can lead you into a stall. It takes more than planning to reach that success. It takes action. You have to write if you want to be a writer. That is as fundamental as it gets.

Finding that balance between stalling and spinning will be a personal path. What works for one person may not work for another or may actually be the problem for that other. Learn from others. Experiment in your own walk. Keep what works. Modify or discard what does not work.

Ideas for Being Organized Write

    – Define organized. Being organized is just having a system that lets you find what you need when you need it. My husband and I have finally come to the conclusion that we have different systems (and we have been married for over two decades). He is systematic. If you write it in order it must be followed in that order. I am symbolic. It is written there to remind me that it needs to be done. I will start at the top, move to the bottom, and then hop around in the middle. I have stopped writing my husband lists.

    – Repeat what works. Think about something you have that is “organized” to the point that you can find what you need right now – and then look for ways to repeat that success in other areas. I have creating a writing schedule (an editorial calendar of sorts) that mimics my notebook. Each segment is color coded and it is all on one sheet for easy reference. Having it all right there together is one of the reasons I LOVE my notebook, so it made sense to repeat that with my writing.

    – Let it go. It is time to release the clutter from your life, from your schedule, and especially from your desk! If you are like me, those piles multiply on a minute by minute basis. I have started setting aside time one day a week to declutter (refile, file 13, and follow through) on all of those files piled up on my desk. We do the same thing through out the house. If it is not used (within the last year), loved, or honored, then it is time to find it a new home. The more space we create, the easier it is to enjoy. Make room for your writing by letting go of the clutter.

    – Think outside the box (or in my case IN the box) when it comes to creative organization. I am bad to jot down a title or an idea on a whole sheet of paper and sometimes in margins of other papers. Those notes would get lost in the shuffle. Last year, I transformed a recipe box that was my MIL into an idea box. I now write those ideas on index cards and file them in the box. If I hit a block or am struggling to get started, then I have a box full of ideas to inspire the words. Get creative when you are creating your organization.

    – Remember the time. Time is the only thing you will never be able to create. You get what you get, so you better use it with care. By taking steps to let go of the clutter and organize your writing, you will find you have more time to write. Make the most of this time. Chris Brogan encourages readers to use digital timers to focus. I have two timers – one set at 15 and one at 30. I set a timer and write like crazy for that time. After that, I work around the house or take a short break before plowing back in. Budgeting the time with precise care will open the door for more money making opportunities (and it will help you stay on target for all your deadlines).

Each person will create a unique path for being organized. Trying to fit down another path will just cause frustration, tire spinning, and possibly a stall. Make your own way. You are unique, so you should just embrace that idea and forge ahead. Finding your way to define organized, to clear the clutter, to implement a successful plan, and to make the most of your time will help you develop the habit of organized write.

Becoming a Working Writer

I am a writer – or I like to tell everyone that I am a writer. I sit down at my computer on a fairly regular basis and I pound out a few words. I make character folders and create story outlines. I attend writing workshops and conferences to talk with other writers and “maybe” writers. I check Amazon author ranks on a daily basis to see if other people think that I am a writer.

I do a lot of things that make me look like a writer and talk like a writer. And if it looks like a duck and talks like a duck . . .

Funny story, the other day, I had an image pop up on my Facebook page. It used that exact line but finished it different from anything I had heard before. “If it looks like a duck and talks like a duck then . . . you’re drunk. Ducks don’t talk.”

That struck me. I am doing a lot of things that I think I should be doing to show that I am a writer, but I am not WORKING like a writer.

Tips for Working Like a Writer

    – Working writers will work. It is a job. If I want my writing to be my career then I have to treat it in the same way that I would a traditional job. I have to write every day – whether I feel like or am inspired to write. A working write produces words.

    – Working writers have a set schedule. A traditional employee clocks in and clocks out. If I want my writing to be my employment then I have to treat the writing with the same diligence. I am using timers to focus my writing and word counts to measure my focus. A working writer needs to follow a schedule.

    – Working writers must (and this is not expressed enough) MUST set deadlines. Traditional employers set deadlines because workers accomplish the tasks when they are told to accomplish those tasks. Working writers need the same focus and motivation to get the words down. Working writers need deadlines to direct the word flow.

    – Working writers should be aiming for goals. If I want my writing to be more than words on paper then I have to know what I want them to become and then I have to be taking the actions that will move me in the direction of that vision. Working writers need to know where they are going if they are going to get there.

I recognized that the actions I had been taking were not those of a working writer, but more of a person that was hardly writing. I was on the edge or closing in on that direction, but I was not serious in my desire to pursue writing as a true career. It took a change in focus and a change in actions to begin pursuing the life of a working writer.

Making the Most of Your Tax Refund

It is that time. Tax refunds will soon be pouring into bank accounts all around. It is always nice when the government decides you can have your own money back. It is YOUR money. If you have any doubts about that, watch a self-employed person write out that quarterly tax check. It is painful to see it go. So delight when you see YOUR money return to your wallet.

A little extra money can be cause to do something extravagant. It could be cause to spend on things you would not normally consider. It could also be the key to jump start a change to financial freedom.

Top Tips for Tax Refunds

    – Get the whole family invested. Each person played a part in the tax refund. Give back to each family member a piece of the pie. Let this be the only “spending money” that comes out of the tax refund. Encourage the kids to work as a family to get those extra items that the family has discussed (like a new television, couch, or maybe even a vacation).

    – Set aside a portion for emergency use. The goal for an emergency fund is a full six months of monthly payments (the must haves) set aside in a designated account. Putting a portion of your tax refund towards this account can begin to move you in the right direction.

    – Pay off or at least pay down any debts that are owed. Interest payments end up costing more than the original item in most situations. Attack the debt by paying down the smallest first or by going after the one with the highest interest rate.

    – Use a portion of the refund to begin creating a long term savings plan. This will be money that you will only access five, ten or twenty years down the road.

The little steps will lead to big changes. By looking at YOUR money as an opportunity instead of a windfall, you can begin to map out financial success for your life.

The Son Who Chased a Dream – a Short Story by Kathryn C Lang

The Son that Chased a Dream

A Short Story by Kathryn C. Lang

The young man watched as his older brother finished the daily chores. He groaned. David always finished first and he was left to work alone. Despite his efforts, his smaller size and weaker upper body meant that David could finish first.

“Ha!” David tossed the taunt over his shoulder as he ran off to the house.

Stephen wanted to do better and he did try. It was just that the work before him was not the best work for him. He looked off into the horizon and dreamed again about what could be if he would only take the steps to make it happen.

He lost himself in the dream and it was only the sound of the dinner bell that brought him back to reality. Stephen finished up the last of his chores and then dashed to the house hoping that there would be something left for him from the evening meal.

“You’re late again.” Stephen rounded the corner of the house and ran into his dad.

“Yes, Sir.”

“We waited. Go get cleaned up.”

“Yes, Sir.” He cleaned up and changed his shirt before joining the rest of the family at the table. David glared at him as he took his seat, but David often glared at him. To David, Stephen was too slow, or too weak, or just too lazy to do what needed to be done.

Dad said the prayer over the food and soon food was being passed around the table while lively conversations filled the air. Stephen was quiet and on more than one occasion someone had to bump him to get his attention so that he could pass the food.

“Is something wrong?” His dad had watched him for most of the meal and waited until the others were focused on a lively debate about the local sports team.

“Nothing’s wrong.”

“You’ve been awfully quiet.” His dad leaned in closer to Stephen. “Has something happened?”

Stephen looked up at his dad and then across the table at David. He shrugged. “Nothing happened.” But something had happened. Stephen finally realized that no matter what he did, David would always be better or at least always be the one that everyone looked to for the help or the answer.

“There’s something. I can tell.” His dad leaned back and took another bite. He watched Stephen for a moment and then added. “Maybe you and I should continue this conversation alone?”

Stephen took a deep breath. “There’s no need.” It was time to take that step. “I’ve been thinking.”

“Uh Oh.” David had heard him from across the table. Their dad glanced over at David and he dropped his gaze and turned his attention to someone at the other end of the table.

“You were saying.”

Stephen tried not to smile. It was not that often that he saw someone put David in his place like that. “I was just saying I had been thinking about a business I’d like to start.”

“What were you thinking?” His dad took a sip of his water and then kept his attention on Stephen.

“I was just thinking that with the right backing I could get this business up and running.” And I would be in charge for a change. Stephen did not add the last part.

“What do you need?”

That was it? That was all there was to it? He had thought his dad would have questioned him or cornered him or made him beg. “I was just thinking that if I had my inheritance then I could make this happen.”

“If you think you can then it’s yours to do with as you see fit.”

Stephen stared at his dad for what felt like the rest of the night. The words needed time to settle in. Maybe he had heard wrong. Stephen looked around the table and knew from the look on David’s face that he had not heard wrong. His dad was giving him the funds he needed to pursue his dreams.

For once, Stephen cared little about what David thought.

The next morning he set out with his money in hand. He had noticed during a visit that a nearby town had some real estate he could use for his first venture. Stephen contacted the agent when he arrived in town and the agent worked out the details. The cost was a little more than Stephen had remembered, but he was certain he could make up the difference in no time.

The plan was in place. The pieces were in place. It was going to work.

And then the bottom fell out of the market and the economy crashed around him. The bill collectors continued to demand payment despite the crash. It was only a matter of time before Stephen found that he had nothing left to pay the bill collectors.

The agent that had been so helpful when he first arrived to town was the first to kick Stephen to the curb. The streets were not a nice place to live and Stephen found some refuge with a slop house at the edge of town. The owner treated him worse than the animals but Stephen was determined to make it work.

Each day he slipped through the muck to feed the animals and each day his stomach growled at the sight of their slop. On more than one occasion, Stephen considered eating the trash that he was supposed to be feeding the animals.

The night he came the closest, he remembered the way the workers in the barns had been treated on his dad’s farm. They ate regular meals. They had a warm place to sleep. His dad even made sure that they had clothes to wear.

“This is crazy.” Stephen announced to the pigs. “I want to eat your slop when I could be back working as a servant for my dad and eating real food.” He determined at that moment to return to his dad and explain what had happened.

Stephen left after he finished the night’s feedings. Even though he was leaving, he was not leaving the animals to be hungry as he had been hungry. He walked through the night and with each step his nerves became a little more raw. His dad had given him everything he deserved and he had lost it all. Stephen only hoped that his dad would be willing to put him to work if he was allowed to return.

He practiced his speech the whole walk home. The sun was just rising when he came up over the hill that looked down on his dad’s farm. He stopped for a moment and took in the sight. Stephen had forgotten how peaceful and inviting it looked with that morning light shining down.

In the distance, Stephen heard voices shouting. He looked around and prepared to assist or defend depending on the situation at hand. He lifted his hand to block some of the rising sun and noticed a figure running to him.

“Is that?”

Before his thoughts could catch up to his words, his dad was on him. His dad hugged him and kissed him and told him how happy he was that Stephen was home.

“But, I need to apologize. I messed up.”

“All that matters now is that you are home.”

– – –

We often hear the story of the prodigal son and assume that he went off and wasted all his inheritance. That is what the older brother implies. What if the younger son just went off to make his own way? What if the younger son just thought he had a better way of doing it than his dad had?

Too often, I look around at my life and realize I am that younger son. I tell God that I have a better plan or I take a path that I determine to be better for my end needs.

God knows the best way. God made me and He made all the ways. Until I accept that maybe I do NOT have all the answers and I return to His plan and His way, I will continue to struggle in the slop.

Be blessed,

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If you enjoyed this short story, you might also enjoy Kathryn’s mystery fiction series – Big Springs Novels.

RUN is the first book in the series and follows the path of Sara as she struggles to overcome the pain of her own past while confronting the secrets of her dead husband. Sara learns that sometimes the only way you can stop running it to turn around and face the past.

WATCH is book two of the series and it picks up in Big Springs where the death of a local leader has Karen (the reporter that befriended Beth in book one) digging into the shadows that have turned up around town. She finds that when you step into the darkness, you have to watch your back. The figures in the dark are determined that Karen will join her dead friend.

The Twists Make the Difference

It is all in the perspective. Building a successful writing career has required me to look at things from some very unique point of views. I no longer wait in the doctor’s office, but I have a moment to compile ideas form print publications (or I look through magazines to spark post ideas). A little flip in the perspective can open up a world of opportunities.

Not long ago, a news story ran about our rural community. The rest of the area cringed at the news. Letters to the editor poured in and the local leaders took to the soap box to declare the error. I smiled. Hearing that Guntersville, Alabama had been declared the sixth most dangerous city in Alabama actually made me smile.

According to the story, the information was compiled from a list provided by the FBI. I know that the leaders were concerned about the tourism dollars that might vanish with the news. I just thought about the new pitch I had for my novel series – Big Springs:

Big Spring Novels – RUN and WATCH – Based on the not-so-true and not true stories from the sixth most dangerous city in Alabama.

They saw the problems – I chose to see the possibilities. It was the same information, just seen with a different twist.

The twists allow me to write about things that might seem ordinary to the rest of those looking on. The twists allow me to find hope and peace despite the circumstances around me. The twists make the difference.

People ask me all the time where I get my ideas for what I write. I smile, look around, and shrug. If you do not see it then you do not need to be writing. My life abounds with chaos – home schooling my three sons, a husband that I work with, a father-in-law just across the yard, three dogs, two cats and the list goes on. I once fought the chaos and tried to make my work “orderly.” And then I twisted my perspective and gave into that chaos so that I could find my own unique path.

Today I am blessed to share over at the 10 Minute Novelists, a little more about how I find my ideas to write and what they become when I pursue those ideas. Just like the news article about the dangerous city list, you can see anything if you are willing to let your imagination run free.

My sons have insane creative natures, and I mean insane in a good way. I began to play off their ideas and even their dialogue when I would write. I took the concept to the next level when I let them actively participate in the process of creating “Mystery Rock.”

Read the full article over at 10 Minute Novelists

Twist your perspective – even just a little – and you can change your world.

Be blessed,
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Taking Charge of Your Freelance Writing Journey

Freelance writing must be more than just words. It is a business – and that business is me. I am selling myself. I am selling my ability to string together words to create an emotional response. I am selling a trust to the clients in my talents and skills.

I am my freelance writing product – not the words, the articles, or the content. It is me.

How to Determine the Value of a Freelance Writer

    1. What is the overhead? I need to know how much it costs to do everything (and yes, that means everything) involved with my writing. In my case, I will be including the cost of my portion of household expenses for my in-home office – because I have an office now. I will also include all of my hosting fees or internet expenses. Office supplies should be included. Make your list and write out the actual cost for the past year and the anticipated cost for the upcoming year.

    2. What is the going rate? I understand that freelance writing runs the gamut – from partial pennies to dollars per word. Look at writers that are in your field or have a similar experience in writing. If you have a relationship with that writer then ask him what he charges per word. Understanding the market will help you determine your asking price. Keep in mind that you are fixing a starting rate – circumstances often dictate adjustments.

    3. What kind of profit would you like to make? Have a low end profit (like breaking even) and a sky high profit (aim high but attainable with a stretch). My personal goal is to pay all the household monthly bills. Although my overhead already includes a percentage of those expenses, I would consider a living wage enough to cover them all on top of that.

    4. How many hours will you commit to the freelance writing work each day (or week, or month)? Remember, freelance writing IS a business. If you want to build up an income that reflects a successful business then you will have to invest some time. Knowing how long it takes to write the average articles (including research) can be critical for determining how much time you need to invest. Other jobs and obligations may also be a factor in determining your freelance writing time.

    Factor out all of the different elements discussed in the questions above to calculate your true value (initial charge + overhead + profit). This is the amount you will be seeking out in your search for freelance writing jobs.

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