5 Things Your Editor Wishes You Knew

Blog 5 things

We can hardly over-emphasize the benefit you will receive from a productive, understanding relationship with a quality editor. And yet many writers struggle to achieve this partnership. Imagine you sat down with an editor for an honest conversation. Here are a few things you might hear:

1. I’m on your side

It’s human nature. When someone criticizes your work, you recoil. Get defensive. Push them away. And yet you asked me for this criticism. You even paid me to do it! So please keep in mind that I am on your side. As I mark the text, strikeout sentences and even question entire chapters of your manuscript, I only do so for your best interest. The sooner you can adopt this perspective, the sooner we can move forward as a team toward the best version of your work.

In a recent article, Alexandra Samuel of the Harvard Business Review Press wrote,

Think of your editor as a therapist for your writing — someone who is actually going to help you think, argue and write better. You wouldn’t go to a therapist hoping to hold onto all your crazy issues…so bring the same attitude to your editor, and get excited about the idea that someone is going to pay real attention to your writing, and help make it better.

2. Be on time

If you’ve agreed to send me something by next Thursday, chances are that I’ve scheduled time that day or the next to review the submission. So when you’re late, it’s as if you’ve missed an appointment. Please extend the same courtesy to your editor that you would any colleague with whom you’ve made an appointment. Be on time as often as possible and give ample notice when you will be late.

3. I know my stuff

If I say you need a comma there… you need a comma there. If I critique your constant use of passive voice, it’s because… you’ve over-used the passive voice. Let’s decide early on that you are the expert at your topic, content, and narrative, and that I am the expert at grammar, structure, and voice. Can there be give and take? Of course. But if you are going to question every em dash and semicolon, this is going to be a long road.

Again, refer to my first point. I am on your side, even if my edits seem strict and numerous. Blake Atwood of the Write Life speaks of editors this way:

Their edits may be short, direct and bereft of personality, but that concision and clarity prove their expertise. In most cases, they can make a definitive edit because they know it’s correct, or, at least, they’ve verified that it’s correct.

4. I can only work with facts

Editors are used to finding grammar, structure, and flow errors. What we don’t like to find are factual mistakes. Please fact-check your work before you send it to me. Once I find these types of errors, I can’t go on and the process comes to a halt.

In a recent article for Media Bistro, Amanda Layman Low spoke to several editors and recounted the following:

Chandra Turner, executive editor of Parents magazine, says that nothing drives an editor crazier than reading a wonderful piece and having it fall apart in fact checking. Writers, she says, “should source all their content. Have your backup for everything that you’ve written.”

Trust me. It’s better to find these mistakes in the writing process than for a reader to find them and tell everyone in their Amazon review. Be vigilant about accuracy and we will both benefit.

5. I’m your first reader

“You know what you mean.” I don’t. I come at your work with fresh eyes, just like your readers will. If you sound self-important, I’ll notice. If you get awkwardly personal, I’ll squirm. If you assume I know more than I do about your field of expertise, I will sense that.

Let me offer that perspective and ways to fix what’s off. Remember, I’m here for you. It’s my job to protect you from what you may not see, and to help you remedy the problem.

Did you know that Certa Publishing has professional, expert editors on staff? We would love to take a look at your manuscript and discuss how we can partner with you to bring your work to fruition. Contact us today.

 

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Stop beating yourself up

Blog Stop beating yourself up

Self-criticism will sabotage your writing career at every turn. You simply must get it under control. This is especially true for those of us who have put our faith in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Knowing we are sons and daughters of God requires us to silence the negative self-speak with the truth of His Word:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  (1 John 3:1)

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. (Jeremiah 1:5)

Author and communications consultant RiShawn Biddle wrote on this very subject in a recent post for Michael Hyatt’s blog, titled Stop Being Your Own Worst Critic, which we have excerpted here:

Does this one ring a bell? You, reader, are your own worst critic. Your penchant for nitpicking every detail and harshly critiquing your accomplishments makes it difficult for you to make progress or sometimes even get simple work done.

If it doesn’t apply to you or someone close to you, then you have a great day. If it does, then read on, Macduff.

What your inner self-critics needs to do is learn is that focusing on your strengths is a better pathway to success than fixating on weaknesses. Take these three steps and you will become your best critic and champion.

1. Realize you are more than enough

Self-criticism is normal and even healthy in small doses. But as the saying goes, the dose makes the poison. When you always approach your work with negativity, it’s paralyzing. It also makes you more susceptible to criticism from others who may not have your best interests at heart.

You need to know that much of the criticism in your head has no resemblance to what you are actually doing in real time. More often than not, you are more than enough to tackle the task at hand.

Realizing you are enough starts by applying Apple Founder Steve Jobs’s famed adage that “you can only connect [the dots] looking backward.” Often, it means looking at your past successes, as well as previous pitfalls, and how they can help you tackle the challenges ahead.

2. Stop with the negative talk

Self-criticism starts with negative words. It’s not just the I-can’ts and the not-good-enoughs. Every time you critique a meaningless detail, or nitpick a perfectly good presentation, you put yourself on the path to lifelong self-sabotage.

Simply ignoring the words of criticism isn’t enough. You must combat them with affirmations of your capacity to succeed. This starts at the end of the day by looking at the big picture of success as well as listing and reciting I cans, I ams, and even I wills — affirming your ability to achieve. By affirming these things before going to bed, you get ready for success the next day.

Another strategy is to embrace the concept of good enough. Along the lines of what Wired revealed about what consumers wanted, your colleagues expect your projects be successful, simple, economical, not perfect. Once you change your expectations of what you should do, you become less self-critical.

Finally, write down your past successes so you can reference them every now and then. Even the simplest signposted achievement can cause you to feel positive about your ability to succeed in the future. Those positive words can crowd out the negative words stuck on repeat in your head.

3. Keep building your strengths

One reason why we are so self-critical is that we become fixated on our shortcomings. It becomes easier to focus on what we lack rather on our considerable skills and successes.

This is a mistake. Fixating on weaknesses takes precious time needed from building upon the strengths you already have.

More often than not, your shortcomings are the flip sides of those very strengths you already possess. Lacking a master’s degree, for example, may be the reason why you put so much time mastering your work. Your blunt speaking is the result of your leadership skills. Your stumbles in public speaking are matched by your considerable rhetorical skills as a writer.

Put your energy into building up your strengths. That includes learning more about your strengths as well as the key tools you will need to get better. And learn to tout these strengths instead of talking about your shortcomings.

What you say will affect how you think about yourself. At some point it will probably dawn on you that you were more than enough, after all.

If you find yourself in the text of this article, we hope that you will take its advice to heart, as well as the truths of what God says about you.

At Certa Publishing, we hate the thought of any of our authors beating themselves up through self-criticism. We believe in you and what God has put within you! If you need encouragement today, please reach out.

5 creative (and slightly ridiculous) ways to deal with writer’s block

Blog writer's block

Writer’s block happens to the best of writers. While there are plenty of traditional ways to deal with it, we thought we’d focus on a few you might not have thought of. In fact, we were inspired by Dennis Upper, a psychologist from the 1970’s, who managed his writer’s block by submitting a practically empty academic paper to the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, who then published it, if only for its comedic value. We appreciated the reviewer comments in the footnote, which read:

I have studied this manuscript very carefully with lemon juice and X-rays and have not detected a single flaw in either design or writing style. I suggest it be published without revision. Clearly it is the most concise manuscript I have ever seen.

Who knew that even learned psychologists suffered from writer’s block (or that academic publication editors had such a sense of humor?)

While we don’t advise that you submit an empty manuscript to your publisher, we have brought together a few ideas that might help.

1. Do something mindless

Paint a room. Mow the yard. Take a shower. Weed the garden. Pick any task that you can do without much mental focus. You’ll be amazed at how well your thoughts flow during this time. In fact, this is why “Shower Thoughts” has an entire subreddit, where members can post the epiphanies they have while bathing.

But there is one condition. This task mustn’t involve screens of any kind. Your brain needs the space to wander without the “blinging” of notifications or temptation to check the score of the game.

2. Read someone else’s writing

Stop writing and start reading. (Hey, that sounds a lot like the title of our recent blog post!) Yes, a great way to get past writer’s block is to stop writing and read someone else’s work. Which authors do you most want to emulate? Pick up a copy of their work. Read just enough that you are reminded of their style, syntax, flow, and timing. This exercise will inspire you and perhaps remind you of what you are working towards.

3. Call your mom

When you were first inspired to write your book, who did you tell? Was it your mom, a co-worker or best friend? Who did you sit down with and gush out your story idea to? Who did you first confide in that you were going to embark on this crazy journey of writing? Call that person. Ask them to remind you of what you said in those moments.

Ask:

  • Why did I want to write this book?
  • Who did I think it would help or delight?
  • What made me take the first step?
  • What was my inspiration?

Hearing your own words and thoughts from someone else can be very enlightening. You’ll be surprised how much the work of writing has caused you to forget the why of writing.

4. Read your own writing

Dig up your old journals. Find those ancient blog posts. Re-read emails you’ve sent (well, the long, letter-type ones). As you do this, pay attention to what you like about your writing. Perhaps it is your conversational style. Or maybe you’re witty in just the right places, or you have a way with a story.

Whatever it is that you like about your own writing, try it out in your current work. Look for ways to be more conversational or witty or narrative. Let your own strengths pull their weight.

5. Do some mind mapping

Sounds a bit painful, doesn’t it? Well, never fear. This one is simple. So simple that it works. Just take a piece of paper and write your topic in the center (the topic that you are struggling to write about). Then as fast as you can, surround that topic with everything you can think of about it, no matter how mundane or ridiculous.

For example, if the topic is childhood sleep habits, your surrounding words might include:

  • bed
  • bedtimes
  • stuffed animal
  • dark room
  • night terrors
  • bedwetting
  • bedtime stories
  • schedule
  • consistency
  • health concerns
  • REM
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Diet

Now that you have these sub-topics on the paper, you can begin surrounding each of them with their own associations, and so on and so forth.

While you may not write about everything you put on your mind map, it is a great way of quickly getting scattered ideas out of your head and onto paper.

Of course there are apps that do this as well. The Sweet Setup recently posted about several apps that might be helpful and they also have a great example on their page.

At Certa Publishing, we understand that writers get stuck. We love to talk on the phone, grab coffee, or Skype to help get your pen flowing or your keyboard clicking away again. Contact us today to see how we can help.

 

Should Pastors be Writers?

Blog Should pastors be writers_

If we asked you why pastors should not write books, you could probably quickly rattle off some reasons. Distractions, temptation to seek fame, etc. However, have you considered why pastors should write? This was the very theme of a recent Gospel Coalition interview with pastor and author Anthony Carter, which we have excerpted here:

It’s no secret: pastors like books. We read them, we quote them, we give them away. After all, the foundation for our entire ministry is the written Word of God himself. Take away that book and we have no ministry.

But what about the writing of books? How should pastors think about putting words on paper for publication? Anthony Carter, lead pastor of East Point Church in Georgia, has written, co-authored, and contributed to a number of books, including most recently Blood Work.  Carter warns against the desire for attention and the distraction that writing can take away from pastoral ministry but also encourages pastors to pursue writing and publishing if they can.

Should a pastor write? Is writing a valid part of pastoral ministry, or does it distract us from the people we’re called to care for? 

Carter_PX_webAll pastors are writers. For me, writing is just an extension of preaching ministry. Every week I write a sermon. All preachers do. Whether you write a full manuscript during sermon preparation or not, writing is indispensable to good preaching. Therefore, it is not a distraction; it is what all preachers do. Nevertheless, if the pastor pursues it apart from the pastoral ministry, then it could be a distraction and become a source of pride.

A young pastor comes to you wanting to be a published writer. What advice do you give him? How should a pastor evaluate and pursue a call to write?

All pastors should seek to get published. The process of writing and being published is a great learning experience. It causes you to think about how you communicate outside of sermonic sound bites and gives you another venue through which you can communicate to the congregation. So I would encourage the young pastor to write.

However, I would caution him against thinking more highly of his writing than he should. As I said, consider writing as an extension of the pastoral calling, and be contented if no one but people in your local congregation read your book. After all, you have been called to the local flock, not the world. If my congregation reads and is encouraged by what I write, I should consider myself blessed.

Writing for publication brings a measure of national attention. How does a published pastor resist temptations to pride and cultivate humility?  

Actually, most books get published with little to no national attention. If you write for national attention, you are writing for the wrong reasons. I would encourage any pastor to remember and take to heart this sobering reality: Most people won’t even know that you have published a book, and the rest won’t care.

In his book Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue, Andreas Köstenberger says, “Writing never just happens. If you are called to write, you must actively plan for it and doggedly persevere in it.” Take us into your writing routine. How do you actively plan for and doggedly persevere in the writing task?  

I write sermons practically every week. This is the bulk of my writing, and where my writing is primarily concentrated. Writing books or blogs is more a fruit of the preaching ministry than anything else. Consequently, I plan my writing like I plan my sermons. First, I start with an idea that grabs my attention. If I am not interested in what I am writing, I doubt others will be either. Second, I outline my thoughts with the end in mind. What do I want people to take away from this article or book? Then I develop the outline seeking to get myself, and subsequently my readers, to that end. Third, I set aside time where I can spend on the deliberate exercise of writing. Like anything else, writing takes discipline. Discipline is time and effort.

Are there any practices or disciplines that have helped you develop skill as a writer?  

I don’t know how much skill I have as a writer. I am sure many would say not much, and I would tend to agree. However, I find that I write better when I read good writing. Good reading is the best discipline I know for being a good writer. In fact, when I read good writers, it does two things: one, I am reminded of how weak my writing is and, two, I am encouraged to try and write better.

What do you think? Do you agree with Pastor Carter’s thoughts on the subject? Comment below to let us know.

At Certa Publishing, we have helped many, many pastors become authors. In fact, we would consider this one of our specialties. Contact us today to find out how to get started on your writing journey.

Stop Writing & Start Reading

Stop writing

We don’t have to tell you that the digital world we live in doesn’t lend itself well to reading books. Especially good books. You know those. The type that you have to chew on slowly. That sometimes require a dictionary or even a concordance. The books that hold weight and substance. The books that make a lasting change in your life.

Instead, we consume tweets, Instagram quotes, 700-word blog posts (like this!), easy reading self-help books, and beguiling fiction that are offered to us in a limitless buffet.

Laura Miller of Slate describes the trend this way:

Books are the intellectual equivalent of slow food; you know it’s better for you and tastes better, too, but you’re too rushed and frantic to care as you white-knuckle it through an avalanche of push alerts.

If we aren’t proactive, we may find those “slow food” books harder and harder to read and easier and easier to neglect.

As you can imagine, we find this trend disturbing for the general population. However, we find it exceptionally disturbing when writers only consume that which is easy. There is a tremendous benefit in doing the work of reading well. And yes, it can be work. Choosing C.S. Lewis over Danielle Steele is tough. Picking up Chesterton instead of the latest Fox News host’s release is hard. However, we believe you will see the benefit—not only in the knowledge you will gain—but in your writing as well.

Karen Swallow Prior, an English professor at Liberty University in Virginia, recently authored On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books, a book extolling the virtues of… well… reading well.  In a recent interview with Christianity Today, Mrs. Prior explains how choosing good books can actually cultivate virtue in our lives:

Reading good literature well is in itself a practice of virtue. Literary art—as opposed to words strung together to communicate facts and information—requires the exercise of the imagination, the practice of patience, the delay of gratification, and the sustaining of attention and intellectual rigor.

These are all activities that build character in ways in which mindlessly scrolling through a Twitter or Facebook timeline cannot. So simply the way we read literature in contrast to other kinds of reading cultivates virtue. Additionally, what we read contributes to virtue when we read timeless works that convey universal human experiences that transcend time, place, and social position.

In the book, I show how we can learn about diligence from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, patience from Jane Austen’s Persuasion, justice from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities—and much more.

So why does good reading create good writing? Here are 3 ways:

1. Imitation brings improvement

Raise your hand if you took music lessons as a kid. Now, thinking back to the early years of lessons, how often did your instructor ask you to compose your own piece of music? Probably never, right? Instead, you were given the great pieces of music to learn, practice, and eventually master. If you did reach the level of creating your own work, you were only able to do so because of the time you had spent with these great compositions.

Reading good writers has the same effect. We notice the vocabulary choices, the way the narrative is structured, how the emotions are evoked. And often these observations happen almost unconsciously (lest you think you must now read with a notebook and pen at the ready to take notes). No. As you ingest quality writing, your own work will naturally begin to imitate it.

2. Good books expand your perspective

No matter how hard you try, your book can only contain as much perspective as you possess as the author. It’s hard to write about public education if you were homeschooled or to write about the vegetarian lifestyle if bacon is your best friend. Good reading is a great way to broaden your horizons and “experience” life through the eyes of others. What is public education really like? How is it different than the stereotypes you may hold? What really motivates the vegetarian to choose that lifestyle? Reading opens the door on cultures, lifestyles, socio-economic situations, and upbringings, allowing you to write with confidence and clarity on these subjects.

3. A healthy diet is cleansing

Most of us have struggled through the first few weeks of a diet, as our body adjusts to healthier food and detoxes from the junk it is sorely missing. But then we reach the other side where we think, “I feel so much better! Why didn’t I do this a long time ago?”

Why do we feel better? Because our bodies are now being fueled instead of stymied. We are giving our system what it needs to perform at top efficiency.

Reading well does the same for our writing minds. It brings us back to what is true, virtuous and timeless. Karen Swallow Prior advises:

It is the challenge [of good books] that makes reading them so rewarding. They do more than kill time or amuse for a few moments. The best books linger in our minds and souls for days or even years.

For a while we may miss the hot takes and Facebook posts that used to occupy our reading time, but it won’t be long until we find our minds stimulated and our pens inspired.

At Certa Publishing, we want nothing more than to see our writers stimulated and inspired. How can we help you? Contact us today.

 

Who are you on social media?

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As a writer, your presence on social media is key. If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ve seen us discuss follower counts, Twitter, platforms, and social media in depth. Today we’re looking at who you are on social media. You’re probably thinking, “Um, I’m me. Who else would I be? And why are you asking me to be someone I’m not?” Think of it more like a persona or a character.

Still not sure? We’re going to let Christy Huggins of Eventbrite explain in this excerpt of her recent post for Grammarly.

Refining your personality on social media can be a daunting process.

Individuals and brands get into trouble trying to create an entirely new personality on their social media accounts. Social should be a channel for you to deliver and develop a personality—but not to create an entirely new one. That can come off as forced and inauthentic.

If you’re writing social content on behalf of a company or brand, finetuning your personality is about writing copy that taps into your followers’ emotions.

That’s why we teamed up with Grammarly [on a] project where we unveiled five characters that accounts like yours should embody on social media. Find the one that most aligns with your personal or brand voice, and discover the emotions you can inspire.

Character #1: The Cool Curator

We all have that one friend who’s always in the know—the early adopter of new apps and the person we turn to when we need fresh music recommendations. Everyone wants to hang out with her. We want what she’s got.

The types of things your team will post:

  • Behind-the-scenes and in-the-know details
  • Artist or guest speaker sneak peeks
  • Breaking industry news

The emotion you’re going for:

  • Excitement, novelty

Newport Folk Festival is the oldest and most well-known folk festival in the U.S. The brand’s social media presence taps into its deep connections with folk superstars new and old.

Character #2: The Trusted Advisor

When you need advice, you know that this person has done his research, weighed the pros and cons, and possesses innate wisdom. He’s your “expert” friend, and you trust him implicitly.

As a brand, this persona is a thought leader of its genre. If you’re a rock music festival, you’re the rock music festival. Or if you’re a yoga and mindfulness brand, you know how to prove your mettle.

The types of things you’ll post:

  • Insight on a theme, not just about your event or product
  • Friendly advice from well-known personalities
  • “Did you know?” tips

The emotion you’re going for:

  • Confidence

The 3% Conference shares career inspiration, articles with expert guidance, and job opportunities on their Twitter page, which has nearly 20,000 followers.

Character #3: The Feel-Good Friend

Sometimes, we just want to hang out with someone goofy and low-pressure. This is our friend who sees the humor in every situation and is always up for fun just for the sake of it. If this is your persona, your posts will run the gamut from whimsical to humorous, and will typically use bright colors and short, quippy text.

The types of things you’ll post:

  • Colorful images
  • Whimsical captions
  • Funny GIFs
  • Cool memes
  • Inspirational quotes

The emotion you’re going for:

  • Happiness

National pop-up, The Museum of Ice Cream, consistently uses bright, ice-cream-worthy colors and whimsical themes in its social media posts. 

Character #4: The Tempter

The tempter knows the best bars and most picturesque hiking locations. Whether a foodie, a travel inspirer, or a fashionista, his posts always make you want to splurge on something.

The types of things you’ll post:

  • Gorgeous, high-quality shots of refreshments and libations
  • Images and video of attendees enjoying themselves
  • First looks at new vendors

The emotion you’re going for:

  • Desire

 

Eat Drink SF’s social media pages are visual feasts, showcasing the best of San Francisco eats year round — not just when the annual festival approaches. 

Character #5: The Innovator

Your innovator friend is often a tech visionary or an artist. Whatever medium they belong to, one thing is always for sure—they do things their own way.

As a social media persona, the Innovator finds new ways to post and share content. Posts are eye-catching, with a certain spark that makes you want to know more.

The types of things you’ll post:

  • Images and video from new angles
  • Videos capturing unusual situations
  • Think pieces and articles

The emotion you’re going for:

  • Curiosity

San Francisco Ballet is a legendary ballet company, and its social media presence is equally creative. Shots like this are made up of individual posts chopped into sections, then pieced back together in the profile like a visual puzzle.

See, we knew you would understand! So, as a writer, what will your online persona be? Often writers make fabulous “trusted advisors” on their particular topic. However, you could certainly use any of these characters as a voice for your social media brand.

At Certa Publishing we are constantly amazed by the creativity of our writers. But what if the creative marketing juices just aren’t flowing? We’re here for you! Contact us today to learn more about our marketing services, including full-service social media management.

Opening the door on the hard parts of your story

opening the door

Which of these sentences impacts you more?

Children who witness domestic abuse suffer for years with anxiety.

Even 20 years later, my heart races when I recall the sound of his heavy footsteps in the hall, his hurled insults slurred by alcohol and my mother’s pleading for him to please, please leave her alone.

Both sentences carry the same theme. But the second carries the weight.

What is the difference? Vulnerability.

All writers must make this choice. Will you be brutally honest and open with your reader, allowing your own experience to become a character in the book? Or will you write from a distance, holding the reader at arm’s length?

We believe that your ability to be vulnerable with your readers is one of the key indicators of the success and impact of your book.

What holds you back?

1. People will judge me

You’re right. They will. People who have never met you in person will read your book and make certain assumptions about you, which you will likely never have the chance to correct.

However, we believe this is a risk worth taking if it means that your story offers a message of hope and healing to those who would otherwise not hear it.

In his post for Reader’s Digest, Chuck Sambuchino wrote,

I think as writers sometimes we’re afraid to let people know that we feel as deeply as we do. We’re tempted to write half-truths in the fear of being judged.

In fact, Mr. Sambuchino advises that the fear you feel in your gut is actually a good thing:

When what you’re writing scares you, it’s usually a sign that you’re being real. When you start to worry about what others will think, that is the writing that will affect people the most. The only way to achieve that is by going to your most vulnerable places.

2.  My story will be too difficult or downbeat

The complete Gospel story is good news. This can lead us to think that all of our writing should be cheerful, peppy, and bright. However, the Gospel story is full of shadows, tragedy, and momentary defeats. We would cheapen it if we left out the hard parts like the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas’ betrayal, or the burial of our Lord. It is these hard parts that set the stage for the redemptive power of Christ. Thank goodness the New Testament writers didn’t whitewash the story of Jesus’ life!

In the same way, your story contains hard parts. To gloss over or minimize them is to rob the reader of the true sense of what God has done for you. Your reader is not reading your book for the glossy, shiny moments. They want to know how you walked through the valleys, navigated the obstacles, and stayed the course amid the crashing waves.

In his article The Key to Whole-Hearted Writing: Embrace Vulnerability, Grant Faulkner says,

Life is so mysterious, nuanced, ineffable—equally disturbing as it is beautiful—so I decided it was my duty as a writer to be brave enough to risk ridicule in order to bring my truths to light. Why write a sanitized version of life?

The ultimate example

Few writers have bared their soul like one of the writers of the book of Psalms, David. Whether he was being chased by King Saul, in anguish over the death of his son, or wallowing in the shame of his sin, David left it all on the page.

Consider this excerpt from Psalm 44 as David addresses God:

But now you have rejected and humbled us;
    you no longer go out with our armies. 

You gave us up to be devoured like sheep
    and have scattered us among the nations.

You sold your people for a pittance,
    gaining nothing from their sale.

Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
    Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.

Why do you hide your face
    and forget our misery and oppression?

We like the way The Message paraphrases the last two sections:

Get up, God! Are you going to sleep all day?
    Wake up! Don’t you care what happens to us?

Why do you bury your face in the pillow?
    Why pretend things are just fine with us?

Clearly, David’s writing is as open and honest as it can be and yet the Bible tells us that God considered him a “man after God’s own heart.”

Here at Certa Publishing, we encourage you to follow in the footsteps of the Psalmist. Be honest. Be open. Tell the hard parts. And watch the Lord use your story to provide hope, healing, and encouragement to a hurting world.

Are your worried that your manuscript tells too little, or perhaps too much? We would love to look it over for you. Contact us today.

What is your writer’s toolbox missing?

What is your writer's toolbox missing_

 

Have you ever been working on a home project, then discovered a new tool or device that significantly streamlined the process or sped up the project? Such a eureka moment! What if such “tools” existed for writing?

The Writing Routines site recently posted Pens, Paper, and Processors: What 18 Bestselling Writer’s Use to Do The Work, which allows us to peek into the toolbox of some of our favorite authors. Enjoy this excerpt:

Microsoft Word or Google Docs? Or Both?

“I use a Mac with Word for Mac. I can’t work with anything else. The intuition built into the Apple lineage is my intuition. Whoever developed that way back when for Mac, it was built for people as computer dumb as me.”

 Steven Kotler, a New York Times bestselling author, an award-winning journalist and one of the world’s leading experts on ultimate human performance.

“I use Microsoft Word in part because I see no reason to change, but I probably also use Microsoft Word because I’m being lazy about change. I will say that I think Google Docs are an impediment to productivity. Anything that takes us online runs the risk of diverting our attention”

– Paul Shirley, former professional basketball player and author of Stories I Tell on Dates

“I have a love-hate relationship with Microsoft Word, which I use for all my book and script writing. The View/Outline feature allows me to expand and compress a document or move chapters or snippets of the material around with ease.”

 Dr. Barbara Oakley, bestselling author of A Mind for Numbers and former Army Captain

“I use separate Google Docs for each [working chapter] but there comes an important inflection point in my progress, where I begin to combine these independent chapters into one Word Document. I basically go from online writing to offline editing and re-writing.”

 Ryan Holidaybestselling authora ghost-writera columnistan essayist, a Grammy-award winning producer, and book marketer

SCRIVENER

“Scrivener has a set of tools that make long-arc writing projects super easy. I am a non-linear writer, meaning that I often write books from the inside-out, and Scrivener allows me to tackle sections of the book at a time and move them around later instead of having to work through the project in linear fashion. It also helps me stay on track by giving me a daily word count that keeps me on-course for my manuscript target.”

 Todd Henry, author of The Accidental CreativeDie EmptyLouder Than Wordsand Herding Tigers and is the creator and host of The Accidental Creative Podcast

I write books in Scrivener because I find it the easiest to jump around and organize ideas without having to incessantly scroll. That’s my style. I jump around a lot, from idea to idea, chapter to chapter. Then I go back and edit it to make it cohesive. I need a tool that satisfies that style of working.”

 Jeff Goins, Bestselling author of five books including Real Artists Don’t Starve and The Art of Work

EVERNOTE

“Evernote is hands down my most important tool as a writer. I spend a lot of time taking notes and organizing and outlining everything before I get down to composing.”

 Shane Snow, journalist, entrepreneur, bestselling author of Smartcutsand Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart.

“All day long, I capture ideas using the app Drafts. These get dumped into Evernote, where I have a folder full of ideas and prompts for when I’m feeling dry in the creativity department.”

 Jeff Goins, Bestselling author of five books including Real Artists Don’t Starve and The Art of Work

Not Just Any Pen

“I get out one of my quadrille ruled engineering pads and a sharpened Palomino Blackwing pencil (I keep a Staedtler manual pencil sharpener beside me), and I set out three short tasks. One of them is doing a Pomodoro (25 minutes) on whatever I’m writing.”

 Dr. Barbara Oakley, bestselling author of A Mind for Numbers and former Army Captain

“My favorite analog toolkit is a Blackwing 602 pencil and a Moleskine notebook. Because I think I’m living in the ’30s or something? I don’t know. But I love Blackwings so much that I have one tattooed on my inner arm.”

 Shane Snow, journalist, entrepreneur, bestselling author of Smartcutsand Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart.

“Pen and paper are lovely.  I’m fond of the Pentel EnerGel and the MiracleBind notebook by Blueline.”

– Jessica Bendinger, a screenwriter whose movies have grossed over $500 million worldwide. Her original script Bring It On debuted at #1 in the box office and remained there for two weeks.

“I often sketch things out by hand first. Small notebooks with soft covers. And I’ve been using the same blue Bic pens my whole adult life. I mean literally the same pens, not just the same type of pen. I bought one package at a CVS fifteen years ago and a handful are still good. They’re the clear plastic ones with the ridges, not the opaque white ones. I should write to Bic and tell them. I don’t know what I’ll do when they all run out.”

 Aaron Thier, Author of The Ghost AppleMr. Eternity, and The World is a Narrow Bridge and recipient of a literature fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

NOTECARDS

“During my research phase, my favorite tools are 4×6 notecards and these photo storage boxes. The entire book is outlined and organized on these cards and filed accordingly to which part, which subsection the thoughts or research on that card will be put towards. So each book will literally be made up of thousands of these cards, which are often synthesis from books I’ve read, interviews I’ve done, random thoughts I’ve had and so on. The cards are done by hand—pen, pencil, whatever is close.”

 Ryan Holiday, Ryan Holiday, bestselling authora ghost-writera columnistan essayist, a Grammy-award winning producer, and book marketer

“For books, I obsessively outline on index cards that I post on a large cork board in my office – each card represents a new scene, and that’s how I write chapters.”

 Bryan Mealer, author of The Kings of Big SpringMuck City and the New York Times bestseller The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Pads

“Waiter’s pad for ideas. Why waiter’s pad? It’s cheap to get 100 of them. It’s not a big notebook so you can’t write a diary. just a list of ideas. And it’s always a conversation piece in meetings. “I’ll take fries with that burger” is a joke i hear ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of the time in meetings and then allows me to explain why I have a waiter’s pad.”

 James Altucher, author of Choose Yourself, listed as one of USA Today’s “Best Business Books of All Time,” and Reinvent Yourself, a #1 book overall on Amazon.com.

Bigger Pads

“[I was] introduced to the most elegant solution by a friend, the author Ashley Cardiff: A sketchpad. A 9-by-12-inch artist’s sketchpad. This has been my great revelation. It’s unlined so I can read my bad handwriting and large enough that I can group several ideas together on the same page. Plus, it gives me an excuse to buy fancy mechanical pencils.”

– Liana Maeby, author of South on Highland, which actor/writer BJ Novak called “the kind of book kids will steal from each other.”

Even Bigger Pads!

“For outlining and structuring a book or even a chapter, I often use a giant pad of paper, the kind that sits on an easel. They’re not cheap (about $30 for 100 sheets) but they allow a view of an entire storyboard or outline at a single glance, and have room for all kinds of arrows, exclamation points, and other notes. I got this idea from a film producer I know who keeps storyboards of his projects on the wall of his office. The ability to see a story represented as a whole – without needing to advance screens or flip pages—has been a revelation to me.”

 Robert Kurson, author of New York Times bestselling books, Shadow Divers and Pirate Hunters

Whether you prefer Word over Docs or pencils over BIC pens, we hope you’ve been inspired to add a few new tools to your writer’s toolkit.

At Certa Publishing we desire to equip our writers with all the tools and resources you need to bring your manuscript to life. How can we help you today? We’d love to hear from you.

Elisabeth Elliot: An author profile

elisabethelliot

A life detoured

She was not an aspiring author and yet her anthology of work persists today among the greats of Christian literature. No, Elisabeth Elliot’s early aspirations didn’t include bestseller lists or writing and speaking circuits, and yet, that is how her life evolved.

What happened?

Tragedy.

After her marriage to Jim Elliot in 1953, Elisabeth’s new husband and his colleagues followed God’s call to the unreached Auca people of Ecuador. Their attempt to evangelize this remote tribe ended quickly in martyrdom, as the Aucas speared them to death in the jungle.

Elisabeth’s response to this immense tragedy stunned her family, friends, and still stuns anyone newly introduced to her story. She chose to stay in Ecuador with her 10-month-old daughter, living with a native tribe and learning the language of the Acau. Elisabeth and her young daughter eventually received the welcome from the Acau tribe that her husband had been denied, and went on to live with and serve them for several years.

While in Ecuador, Elisabeth began to tell her story with the pen and wrote Through Gates of Splendor (an account of her husband’s tragic end), Shadow of the Almighty (a biography of her husband), and The Savage, My Kinsmen (a summary of her own time among the Aucas).

Upon her return to the United States in 1963, the widowed missionary continued to tell her story through books and speeches, providing inspiration and courage to an entire generation of women and missionaries.

Her story is your story

Your life’s narrative may not include spears, unreached people groups, or martyrdom. But your story is more similar to Ms. Elliot’s than you think. Your current circumstances surely include events, tragedies, twists, and turns that you never anticipated in your early life. Divorce, death, miscarriage, financial loss, ministry setbacks, and illness all steer our lives in unexpected directions. Like Elisabeth Elliot, many of us have found ourselves forced to respond to detours we could have never anticipated.

And yet, it is from these life detours that our greatest impact can be made. Ms. Elliot’s work has reached far and wide to affect millions of readers, whose faith has been built up by her testimony.

Joshua Harris, author of the bestseller I Kissed Dating Goodbye, recounts the effect Ms. Elliot’s work had on him in his article for the Washington Post titled How Elisabeth Elliot messed up my love life:

My mother had given me a copy of “Passion & Purity” [by Elisabeth Elliot] and asked me to read it. I was immediately suspicious… So I skimmed the book to appease my mom and tossed it aside…

But after a few years of frustration with my own approach to dating (and without the pressure of my mom forcing me to read it) I picked up Elliot’s book again. This time it changed my life. I read the story of Jim and Elisabeth — two people who were passionately in love and yet chose to put Jesus first. Before their romantic longings. Before their own timetable for marriage. Before their sexual desires…

I guess a lot of people who read her writing would consider it all very backward and old-fashioned, but when I read it I can’t shake the sense that this woman had a real relationship with a glorious God. And then chose to cut the crap and take God seriously in every part of her life. I love that about her. I need her directness. I think our whole generation of evangelicals needs her directness…

Five years after I dissed Elliot’s book, I was 21 and typing with trembling hands a letter to her to ask if she’d be willing to review the unpublished manuscript of a book I was writing called “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.”

I’ll never forget the day I received a typed, postcard reply from her. It read: “Bravissimo! I applaud your forthrightness, courage, God-given conviction, and ability to articulate a message that is desperately needed.” I still have that little note taped in a journal. Her encouragement fueled me to keep writing. And helped me to sell my book to a publisher and not a few readers.

Upon Elisabeth’s death in 2015, famed pastor and author John Piper wrote a remembrance piece about her life, in which he recounted a journal entry that he had written in 1997:

This morning, as I jogged and listened to a message by Elisabeth Elliot which she had given in Kansas City, I was deeply moved concerning my own inability to suffer magnanimously and without pouting. She was vintage Elliot and the message was the same as ever: Don’t get in touch with your feelings, submit radically to God, and do what is right no matter what. Put your love life on the altar and keep it there until God takes it off. Suffering is normal. Have you no scars, no wounds, with Jesus on the Calvary road?

These two testimonials offer just a minuscule representation of the impact Ms. Elliot has had upon the Body of Christ. Yet this was only possible because she chose to embrace her life’s detour and use her pen and voice to build the faith of her audience.

Will you make the same choice? Will you embrace your detour and the opportunity it offers you to share the Gospel and encourage the Body? Certa Publishing has the unique opportunity to offer Christian authors a platform for their message. Contact us today so that we can partner with you.

Author Websites: Everything else you need to know

author websites 2

Having a dedicated author website is more important than you think. It offers credibility, access and a one-stop resource for your readers. But where do you start?

Last week we shared part of Kimberly Grabas’ post entitled 11 Author Website Must Have Elements, which clearly lays out everything you need to set up the perfect site.

We discussed the need for:

  • A good first impression
  • About/bio page
  • Contact information
  • Email sign-up/updates
  • Testimonials

Here is the remainder of her advice:

6. Social Media

There are two areas to focus on when it comes to social media and your site. The first, is to provide visitors the ability to find and follow you on your various social media platforms.

To encourage follows and Likes, add links to your social media profiles (Twitter, Facebook) on your Homepage, About page, and Contact page. Then ask people to follow or Like you. It’s just crazy enough to work. Let’s try it

The second area to focus on regarding social media, is making it super easy for people to share your site and your content with others. To do this:

  • Write amazing content
  • Add a sharing plugin to every page on your site, so visitors can share your pages via all the major social networks.

The free plugin I use on YWP is called SumoMe, but there are many to choose from.

7. Books, Products and Services

Depending on what you have to offer, you may have separate pages for your books, products and services, or combine everything in one. For books, include a large cover shot, an enticing blurb and clear details on purchase options (with links).

You may want to feature your current project on your Homepage. Provide a link to your Book page for visitors to get additional information about the book, get some behind-the-scenes info or promotional materials. (A press/media Kit for each book would be ideal).

Tip: If your books are available on Amazon, join Amazon Associates and you will be provided a code to link your book. You will also get a percentage of whatever a buyer purchases after they click your link–even if it’s not your book (lets hope it’s a T.V.). Once you have signed up for an account, type in your book title. When your title pops up, click “get link”, and Amazon will give you a variety of options to customize your link. Just copy and paste that code where you want it on your site (sidebar, Book page), and your book will show up with a buy link.

8. A Blog

Websites with blogs get 55% more traffic than websites with no blog. As well, having a blog creates fresh, additional pages of content which is great for SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

If your goals are to be seen by more people, drive potential book buyers back to your site, and establish yourself as an industry authority and thought leader, you need to include a blog on your site.

Here are a few more additional benefits:

  • You can entice your current and future fans with exclusive, unpublished content, inside information and downloadable extras, like sample chapters.
  • Readers find it especially appealing to find out who their favourite author reads or recommends. This is often a missed opportunity to not only engage with your readers, but network with and support your peers. No matter how famous, everyone loves recognition and appreciation, so share the love! This is also a great way to get inbound links–other sites linking back to your site. This too, increases your importance in the eyes of Google.
  • Utilize your blog’s comment section to converse and engage with your audience. You can even encourage interaction between your readers by encouraging them to comment or reply to each others comments.
  • You can have excerpts of your most recent blog posts on your Homepage, which will dynamically update each time you publish. This keeps the content on your Homepage fresh, and encourages people to return for more.
  • A blog gives you the freedom to add additional content and bonuses (see below) without cluttering up your Homepage.

9. Appearances/Speaking Engagements/Latest News/Events

Include a section or page on your site that allows you to inform your fans of your whereabouts and upcoming events. Include things like:

  • Latest News/Events: interviews, blog mentions, reviews and other media coverage items you can share with your audience.
  • Appearances: book readings and signings, speaking engagements, interviews, conferences and professional events, workshops and so on, so your fans can find out the details and attend.

10. Press Page/Media Kit

The purpose of a press page or media kit is to easily provide the media, or anyone wishing to profile you, with the info they need to feature you in their piece.

The contents of a press kit will vary, but here are some of the basics of what you should include:

  • Basic author bio, including contact info.
  • Author photo (use a professional-looking headshot), and any additional photos that can be used when writing about the book.
  • Information about the book, including a sample review, sample chapters.
  • Press release.
  • Testimonials.

The simplest way to make your media kit available is to turn the contents into a PDF. Provide a brief description and a link on a page on your site. Make it easy to find, and consider carrying around a few hardcopies at conferences/events, in case you receive a request for a copy.

11. Bonuses/Extras

Get the creative juices flowing! There are many fantastic ways to build value into your website for your readers and to keep them coming back for more.

  • You can include a slideshow of photographs, sketches, illustrations of characters and locations in your book, and other meaningful images.
  • Add other multimedia like audio files, a podcast, YouTube video and video trailers.
  • Additional research material.
  • If you are an expert in your field, and your book is an extension of your career, include things that spring from the larger context of your work and experience.
  • Younger fans are often interested in contests, games and prizes (autographed books).
  • An author’s favourite book, music, and movie recommendations are also fan favourites, so include these and some of your other influences.
  • Include sneak peeks, additional content that isn’t in your books, main character bios, extra chapters, alternate character POV’s and any other bits that didn’t make the cut. Your readers will love it!

At Certa Publishing, we believe that our authors’ content has the power to transform lives and communities, so we are passionate about people finding your books. An author website is absolutely essential to your marketing. If you still feel intimidated by the process, we would love to help. We can either tweak what you already have or help you find the perfect partner to create one from start to finish. Contact us today!