Yes someone has already written your book. Yes you should still write it.

yes someone has already written your book.

Christian author Emily Freeman recounts a recent experience she had while listening to another author’s audio book:

I’ve been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, in my car as I drive around town this week… but as I listen to her read, I am pleased by this one thought: I’m so relieved I already wrote my own Big Magic. It’s called A Million Little Ways and it came out in 2013.

Why did she feel this way? She goes on to explain:

…while I listen to Big Magic, to Elizabeth Gilbert walk the same circles around creativity that so many of us have walked around and then written about, I realize I am deeply grateful.

Because while our perspective and world view are vastly different, while our personality and theology might not mix well, and while her book sits high up on bestseller lists while mine is mostly unknown by the majority of the population, I feel a certain kinship with Elizabeth Gilbert as I listen to her book.

And I am thankful that, at least this time, I do not feel threatened by the voice of another author who is saying similar things I’ve said.

You see, Ms. Freeman had a choice. She could have allowed this experience to demean her own work in her eyes. But instead, she chose to be grateful that she’d been able to contribute to the subject of creativity, yet also appreciate similar writing by another author.

The truth is that many writers and would-be writers are intimidated by the quantity of books already written on their subject, causing them to ask: Why should I write a book that has already been written? How can I possibly add to (or stand out from) the surplus of high caliber work that currently exists?

Perhaps we can find comfort in the words of King Solomon:

What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done,
    and there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

While Ms. Freeman was able to appreciate that her subject (creativity) has been so extensively studied and explored, bestselling author Jon Acuff comes at the situation from a different angle, as he expressed in this tweet:

He makes the point that – yes your subject has been written about – but not by you. Your peculiar voice matters. It turns a rote topic into a unique and indispensable part of the subject’s greater lexicon.

Once we can accept these two truthsthat our theme or revelation is not particularly unique, but our voice isthere is freedom:

  • Freedom from the need to write an exhaustive dissertation
  • Freedom to narrow your writing to the areas where you have the most revelation, knowledge, and experience
  • Freedom from comparison with those who have greater academic or theological insight on the subject

Now we can begin to ask:

  • What is my contribution to this subject?
  • How can I use my individual experience, perspective, and voice to further the discussion and broaden the audience’s understanding?
  • How has God uniquely crafted me to speak on this topic?

This self-awareness allows us to avoid many of the traps writers fall into, such as writing for other authors and comparing our work unnecessarily. We are now free to write the book that is within us to write, and nothing more.

At Certa Publishing we believe that each of our authors possesses a unique and God-given voice, along with a high calling to use that voice to impact the Kingdom. Through our distinct “partner publishing” model, we come alongside writers to support them in their publishing process. Contact us today to find out more!

 

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Paul’s Choice: How one decision reverberated through the ages

Did you know that the apostle Paul felt unqualified and unskilled as a public speaker? He mentions his insecurities several times in his writings:

I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! (2 Cor. 10:1)

I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. (2 Cor 11:6)

For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.”  (2 Cor. 10:10)

What if Paul had put his writing on hold in order to work on his public speaking? Can’t you imagine him in today’s world… watching Ted Talks, taking speech classes at his local community college and practicing in the mirror at home? He quickly sends off an email to encourage a church but then refocuses on his speaking. Yet each time he sends these emails, he gets deluged with encouragement. Paul, keep these coming man! I love your writing! or Dude, there’s a special anointing when you write… you should write more! Paul appreciates the comments but turns his thoughts back to his speaking deficiencies. He eventually improves and is pleased that he has been able to share the Gospel with his community.

But no one is recording his speeches. They’re not on Facebook Live. They won’t go viral on YouTube. Yes, they will have an immediate impact, but will soon be forgotten.

Aren’t we glad that Paul didn’t take this approach? What an incredible loss for the Church through the ages. Imagine if at least 13 books of the Bible didn’t exist. It is hard to comprehend possessing a Bible without such transcendent verses as:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (Corinthians 13:1)

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:3 )

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 )

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)

Can you relate somewhat to Paul? Perhaps writing comes easily to you. Typing up a meaningful blog entry or social media post is a breeze. People often compliment your work and encourage you to do more. And yet, you long for a different gift. A more visible skill. The talent you see in someone else.

I Peter 4:10 exhorts us to use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

Could it be that God withheld the skill of public speaking from Paul, so that instead he would pick up a pen? Did God look down through time and see you and I studying the Pauline epistles, gleaning from his writing? Was Paul’s lack of oratory skills actually a gift to the Body? Then let us consider our own lives and God’s sovereign design for each of us. Let’s embrace our strengths and use them to the Glory of God, leaving behind our yearnings for other talents.

At Certa Publishing, we strive to see our writers as God sees them… gifted and anointed for His purposes. And through our partner publishing model, we are able to come alongside you in this process, becoming your biggest cheerleader and supporter. We would love to know how we can help you. Contact us today.

 

3 Steps to Better Sentences

You know your writing needs to improve, but you’re not sure where to start. Enroll in a pricey writing course? Check out every writing book in the library? Consume all the writing blogs you can find? It may not be as complicated as you think.

Stefanie Flaxman, writer for Copyblogger, suggests a simple editing technique in her post 3 Advanced Ways to Craft Better Sentences, which we have excerpted here:

While the goal of “improving your content writing” may seem complex, it’s not necessarily more complicated than improving each sentence you write.

Better sentences add up to better content.

So, let’s break down content writing into sentence writing.

I’m not about to show you how to write a “perfect” sentence. Instead, these three tips will help you remember that every sentence you write is an opportunity to practice.

And during your writing practice, you can implement smart changes that keep your reader focused on your message.

1. No sentence is an island

Even if you’re examining just one individual sentence, it’s helpful to review the sentences that surround it.

There are two main reasons why:

  1. You may have overused a word. Sometimes you’ll intentionally repeat a word for emphasis or because it fits the rhythm of your writing. But we often overuse words without meaning to. When you review your writing, vary your word choice to create a more stimulating reading experience.
  2. You may have belabored a point. Give each sentence you write a specific purpose. If you communicate the exact same idea in two different sentences, it’s probably wise to delete one.

When you look at the broader context of your writing while aiming to improve one sentence, you kick off a sort of domino effect. Noticing one weakness helps you correct other weaker sections.

2. Writing skin needs exfoliation

The most “advanced” skill you can learn is to examine your own writing with a critical eye.

A critical eye doesn’t mean you’re so hard on yourself that you get discouraged. It just lets you swiftly identify areas of your sentences that either hinder comprehension or lack the details that magnetically hold attention.

I like the comparison to skin exfoliation because rough drafts, like dry skin, are … rough.

For example, you’re probably already familiar with the benefits of using active verbs instead of passive verbs.

Changing a sentence from “Joplin was devastated by the twister” to “The twister devastated Joplin” exfoliates the sentence to make it smoother.

Removing extra words is another form of exfoliation.

Here’s an example from my recent article on finding more loyal readers. I’ve bolded the extra words in the draft of this paragraph.

Edith likes Frank’s article idea, but she needs to consult with him andeducate him on the type of content that is the right fit for Cosmopolitan. She’ll give him their writer guidelines so he can use them to match the tone and style of his article to the publication’s specifications.

Here’s the published version of that paragraph.

Edith likes Frank’s article idea, but she needs to educate him on the type of content that is the right fit for Cosmopolitan. She’ll give him their writer guidelines so he can match the tone and style of his article to the publication’s specifications.

To give you one more example, in the draft of this article I wrote, “Here’s the final version of the paragraph that we published.” As you can see above, that sentence turned into, “Here’s the published version of that paragraph.”

Developing an eye for excess will sharpen your writing.

3. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

When I edit, I always have a browser tab with a Google search bar open.

Why?

Because I’m constantly looking up the meanings of words or idioms that I don’t consider straightforward — anything that sticks out and makes me question whether or not it is correct.

Even if I’m 95 percent certain, it’s always beneficial to verify that it’s the most appropriate word or phrase.

My Google search browser tab is also helpful for double-checking the spellings of proper names, places, products, and companies.

The bottom line here is valuing professional editorial standards that help guarantee accuracy. Take the time to ensure your readers effortlessly understand your content and aren’t distracted by a misspelling, or the incorrect use of a word or idiom.

At Certa Publishing, we are passionate about the editing process. How can we help you?

From Sermon to Book: Four keys to make it work

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could simply transcribe all of your sermons or teachings into a book and send it to be published? But of course, it’s not that simple.

Have you ever read the transcription of an interview instead of watching the video? More than likely you didn’t make it to the end. This proves that an interesting conversation or teaching doesn’t necessarily translate into an interesting read.

Converting your sermons into a book will take some skill. But it can certainly be done. So how can you make your book different than an anthology of sermons? Here are four ways.

Break it up

More than likely, your sermons are given in one sitting. The audience sits and listens until the end. However, a book is not (usually) consumed at once. Your reader needs to feel the freedom to come and go from the text. Obviously, this is accomplished with chapters, but also with subheadings, sections, and inserts. These breaks allow the reader to breathe and offers them a sense of accomplishment, without completing the book. Also, shorter sentences are best. Remember that words don’t have the benefit of your voice inflection, so long sentences become cumbersome.

Appreciate the value of a dynamic cover

Your message is incredible. Everyone who hears it remarks on its power and suggests you should make this into a book! But the average consumer scrolling through Amazon doesn’t know that yet. To them, your book is just one of hundreds, if not thousands of books in the same category. Like it or not, you must have a dynamic cover to draw their attention.

A recent study by a graphic design firm found that books with redesigned covers achieved an “improvement in click-through rate [which] ranged from 6% on the low end, to 122% on the high end.”

You may be surprised at how much is involved in an effective cover design. There is so much more to it than fonts and appealing images. In a recent article on Kobo Writing Life, JD Smith wrote on Cover Design Essentials. Smith states that a successful cover design will take into consideration the following:

  • The taste of your target market
  • The right balance of text, colors and images
  • Complementary colors that stand out but don’t clash
  • Proper composition of the text, including title, author and subtitles
  • Branding considerations (if this book becomes the first in a series, can the design be replicated in the future?)

Given all of these factors, it’s clear that the investment in a professionally-designed cover will be well worth the cost.

Add personality to your writing

Have you noticed that your audience often perks up as soon as you begin to tell a story or give a personal example during your sermon or teaching? Why is this? Because we all love a good story and we enjoy getting to know the person we are listening to.

A book is no different. No matter the depths of your theology or the heights of your insights, there is likely another book with similar content. What sets yours apart is how this theology and insight has transformed your life and those around you. Tell those stories. Offer that personal application. This is what keeps your reader coming back for more.

Expand and expound

Often a great sermon has more content trimmed out than left in. Editing all that research down to a 20-30 minute teaching can be agonizing. Writing a book offers you the chance to pick up those discarded nuggets and use them to expound on your subject. Now is the time to dig into the etymology, historical context, and geographical details. What do the experts say? What do the detractors say? Add in those rich insights.

If someone has taken the time to purchase and read your book, chances are they are looking for more information than is typically found in a Sunday morning talk. They want to dig deeper and really study the subject. By expanding and expounding, your book can offer them the knowledge they are looking for.

Great sermons can become great books. By implementing the techniques of text breaks, cover design, an infusion of your personality, and expanded content, you can offer the reader a rich and beneficial read that allows your sermons to continue blessing people and furthering the Kingdom of God.

At Certa Publishing, we specialize in helping pastors and teachers through this exact process. We offer expert assistance every step of the way, from concept to editing to cover design. We believe that the message God put inside of you needs to be told! Contact us today so we can begin this journey with you.

Why You Should Always Carry a Notebook

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written by Srinivas Rao (lightly edited by Certa Publishing)

There isn’t one prolific creator of any kind that I know that hasn’t abided by the policy of carrying a notebook. I have stacks of Moleskine notebooks on my bookshelves. All the projects, books, and ideas that I’ve turned into reality started in the pages of my notebooks.

If you let it, a notebook can become a platform for your imagination.
It can give you the opportunity to rewrite the story of your life.
It can enable you to create more than you consume

AJ Leon wrote the following:

I use a tiny Moleskine as my idea notebook. I jot down every business idea, prospect idea, project idea, potential blog post, poem, art or social project, whatever. Every single thing I’ve done in the last four years can be traced to one of my notebooks.

In his piece on advice for recent graduates, Austin Kleon said the following:

Carry your journal around with you and write in it all the time: make notes in between job interviews, doodle while you’re watching Netflix, daydream about what you want out of life, etc. Any old notebook and pen will do…

Ideas Emerge at Odd Times

Like falling in love, moments that announce themselves as your subject are rare, and there’s a magic to them. Ignore them at your own peril. —Dani Shapiro

If you haven’t noticed, ideas don’t always show up according to our schedule. The muse is fickle and makes appearances at her own convenience.

Ideas emerge when we’re at dinner and someone says something.

Ideas emerge when we’re at the gym, surfing the perfect wave or flying down a mountain on a snowboard.

Ideas emerge when you’re sitting in LA traffic wondering why anybody in their right mind would voluntarily drive in this city.

If you’re going to consistently come up with ideas to write about or do something with, you have to be able to capture them regardless of when they show up.

Ideas don’t show up fully formed

Ideas are like babies. They don’t show up in our lives fully formed. They need time to bake, grow, and evolve. They have to be nurtured and cared for. When we don’t put them down in our notebooks, it’s like letting our kids play in traffic in the middle of a busy intersection.

Notebooks are fertile soil for creative seeds

Creative success requires us to plant seeds and play the infinite game. A notebook is fertile soil in which you can plant those seeds. While you could plant the same seeds on your computer, just think of all the other seeds that have been planted there. The likelihood of the seed bearing fruit in a digital wasteland is lessened.

In a recent article Benjamin P. Hardy said the following:

Your thoughts are the blueprint of the life you are building one day at a time. When you learn to channel your thinking — both consciously and subconsciously — you create the conditions that make the achievement of your goals inevitable.

Garry Reynold tells the following story about visiting a designer at Apple:

Most professional designers- even young new media designers who’ve grown up on computers- usually do much of their planning and brainstorming on paper.

This became very clear to me one day at Apple when I visited a senior director for one of the creative teams on the other side of the Apple campus to get his input on the project we were working on. He said he had sketched out a lot of ideas the wanted to show me. I assumed that he had prepared some slides or a movie or at least printed out some color images in illustrator or Photoshop to show me. But when I arrived at his office, I found that the beautiful Apple Cinema Display on his desk was off. (I learned later at this talented creative director worked forays without ever turning on his Mac)

I always write by hand before I ever turn on my computer. It allows you to limit the inflow, and there’s tremendous power to pen and paper in an increasingly digital world.

What Should You Put in the Notebook?

 Sometimes people get tripped up because they have no idea what they’ll put in their notebooks. Other times they don’t want to ruin something as beautiful as a Moleskine with their chicken scratch. But as Amber Rae once said to me, “Fall in love with your chicken scratch. Accumulate pages not judgments.”

Any of the following can be put into your notebook:
Quotes
Ideas
Thoughts
Sketches

The surprisingly simple act of carrying a notebook can change your life and allow you to become the author of your narrative.

Naming Your Book

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Your book is written, the manuscript is in the final editing stages, and it’s time to finally nail down the official title of your work. Perhaps you’ve been using a working title, but its incredibly important that you sit down with multiple people in the business (your publisher, literary agent, trusted writer friends, unbiased professionals, people in your target audience, etc.) to develop the perfect title. Because the fact of the matter is…

There’s nothing more important than a strong, engaging title.

Potential readers consume in the following order: the title, the front and back covers, the first pages of content, and the price. If they aren’t grabbed by the title (and the front cover doesn’t make up for what the title lacks), then you’ve lost your potential customer.

So how do you develop and choose the most effective title for your book? Here are 11 things to consider when naming your book.

  1. Make a promise, create intrigue, identify a need, or simply state the content. (think PINC)
  2. Appeal to your target audience’s demographics and psychographics. It is of utmost importance to consider the following: gender, age grouping, education, race, breath or narrowness of religious doctrines, exact denominations, likes and dislikes of how that particular audience likes to buy or be sold to.
  3. Be unexpected. Your title shouldn’t be something so basic that a customer would easily glance over it. Your title should be enticing and engaging.
  4. Leave room for mystery. Don’t tell your audience exactly what or how to think about your book. Compel them to pick it up themselves.
  5. When deciding between going with what the majority of your largest target audience would like and what a lesser segment of your audience would like…choose the majority.
  6. Once you’ve narrowed down the possible selections to 5-8 possibilities, form a focus group of independent people within your target audience who are not bent towards you or your publishing team (not friends of yours), and ask them to consider your title options.
  7. Beware of not liking your own ideas and the ideas of your close friends (which may or may not also be your publishing team) so much that you agree with their ideas too quickly and blindly. Try to look at all of the options from an unbiased perspective.
  8. Be aware of any similarities that your publishing team might have with you. Force them (and yourself) to separate their mindsets to “think” like the majority within the target audience.
  9. Although a title that creates intrigue is great, consider all of the definitions or interpretations of the word or phrase. You don’t want to be blindsided by a less than pleasant definition or interpretation a couple months after your book launch.
  10. Particularly when writing nonfiction, always keep the “what’s in it for me” factor in the forefront of your considerations.
  11. Along with #10, heavily consider titles that seem to propose a solution. Why? Most readers of non-fiction or non-biographies are reading to engage and find answers.

Consider these things as you work on naming your next book. While the message of the book itself is what makes it your book, it’s the title that gets readers to pick it up in the first place. And we all need readers!

Do you have any suggestions for coming up with a book title? Leave your comments below!

Persistence is essential.

Success has many determining factors, including dumb luck. But I’ve noticed one indispensable ingredient, without which, you cannot possibly hope to succeed: that’s persistence. We’ve all seen talented, smart, and well-trained people bottom out.

Success takes something more—the willingness to keep going even when the odds are bad and our enthusiasm has waned.

President Calvin Coolidge supposedly said, ‘Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.’ The line actually goes back even farther, but the truth is indisputable.

Persistence is essential.

– Michael Hyatt

7 Habits of Determined Writers

Most writers dream of writing for hours on end each day, publishing multiple books, and seeing them climb to the top of bestseller lists. I say “dream” because all of this is much easier to think about than to do. It takes a lot of drive and determination to make these dreams a reality, but it can be done! Out of numerous successful authors and their helpful writing tips, here are a few tips constantly being suggested over and over again.

Consider adding some or all of these 7 habits into your daily life. If you do, you’re sure to see an improvement not only in your writing process, but in the end results, as well.

1. Read

You’ve heard it before. You’ve experienced the benefits. But for some reason, the days can roll by without you ever picking up a book. Authors can get so involved in our own writing projects, that we forget to soak up the works of others. Reading about your subject area as well as branching out into other topics allows you to create a deeper foundation of knowledge and fresh ideas. Read to rejuvenate your inner writer and keep your style from becoming stale. The undeniable power of reading is what inspired you to start writing, right?

2. Schedule Your Writing Time

Decide when you’re going to write. During the day? After work? On the weekends? For a few hours? For 15 minutes at a time? Be specific and allot time for yourself to sit down and focus only on writing. Commit yourself to your schedule, track your hours if you need to, be a boss to yourself. After a bit of practice, your diligence will pay off, while helping you better estimate how much you can produce in a given period of time. This will help you meet deadlines and successfully make goals for yourself. Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration – teach your muse to show up at a particular time.

3. Set Goals

The natural next step is to set goals for yourself once you’ve scheduled your writing time. Start by making easy-to-achieve goals so you can always step away from your writing sessions feeling successful and productive. Whether you decide to write a couple pages or a couple chapters, make sure you complete your goal. If you’re having trouble finding the time to write without distractions, try getting up a littler earlier or staying awake a little later until you can fully complete your goals.

4. Manage Your Environment

What is your ideal writing environment? Where are you most productive? I prefer writing in a coffeehouse setting with the dull din of people’s conversations and coffee grinders bleeding into the music playing through my headphones. Do you write in your car on your lunch break? In a quiet room of your house? The backyard or a park? Wherever it is, find or create the right space for you to be the most productive in your writing zone.

5. Set Boundaries

If writing isn’t your full time job, it can be hard for family and friends to give you the space required for you to devote yourself to your writing. Your loved ones must accept the fact that your writing is important to you, though. While it may take time away from them, be firm in your belief that writing is more than a hobby, but a calling and a passion. Demonstrate devotion to your craft by helping them understand how important it is to you. If your scheduled writing time provides too many distractions, work with the people in your life to find a more suitable time or space.

6. Finish Your Drafts

Be sure to finish your first drafts! Don’t spend too much time over-editing small parts of your work without ever actually finishing the piece. You don’t want a perfect first chapter, only to have an unusable remainder of a book. Finish your draft, then go back to polish and fine tune each section. If you’re rereading what you wrote during your last session, go ahead and make a quick edit or two, but don’t delay the completion of your overall writing goals by over-editing your first draft. Leave the nitpicking for the second draft.

7. Love Your Readers

Love isn’t just a feeling, as you know, but an action. Take the time to show your readers how much you appreciate their commitment to reading your work! Let their support encourage you to continue doing your best work. But don’t stop there. Take the next step and communicate with your fans. Make yourself available to them – provide an email address and always reply to their messages, host a Twitter Q&A, answer questions on your blog or Youtube channel. Be honest, insightful, and never condescending in your replies. Be the author you wished you could talk to at the start of your career!

Which of these are already habits for you? What tips are you going to try and implement into your writing life?
Comment below!

Write Your Author Manifesto

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You’ve written your author bio, your book summary, and the introductory post on your blog. You may have gotten into a fluid routine of describing your writing to people while in conversation with them, but have you crafted an all encompassing declaration of your craft, your passion, and your writerly mission?

A manifesto is the perfect way to tell people who you are, what you do, and why you do it. It helps you shrink your sprawling ideas and thoughts about yourself as a writer into one condensed, downloadable, and shareable format. A manifesto not only allows your readers to more fully understand your core intent and ultimate message, but also your style and personality. Your blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts, etc. are all tidbits of what you stand for, but, as manifesto-writer Jeff Goins says, “This is the reason why people write books instead of just publishing a series of magazine articles. Sometimes, you have more to say than can be contained in short, bite-sized pieces.”

If you have anything to say that is powerful, thought-provoking, mind-changing, or action-inducing, you need to write a manifesto.

Maybe that sounds intimidating. But whatever it is you’re writing, no matter how many followers you have or don’t have, if you think it’s worth writing and posting, the chances are that it’s important to somebody else, too. If you’re just starting to build your online presence – whether you’ve already published a book or not – writing a manifesto is a great way to dive in.

Here are a few tips for writing your own author manifesto:

1. Set a deadline for yourself.

Write down when you’d like to have your first and final drafts done, and try your hardest to stick to them.

 

2. Clarify your message.

Brainstorm what you think your current writing portrays, what you want it to portray, and how you can bridge the two together. Write out what your message is. Take the time to scribble on a sketchpad if you’re more visual or write a stream of conscious rant – whatever works for you.

 

3. Decide who your audience is.

Figure out what your ideal reader looks like. Take into consideration who your current fan base is, and how your ideal and your reality line up. Who do you want to impact and help through your writing? What are their needs and desires? How can you meet them?

 

4. Describe what you offer.

Help your readers understand what you have to offer them. Even if you’re not asking them to buy something from you with cash or their email addresses, they are at least exchanging their time and trust in order to receive something from you – be it advice, inspiration, an ebook, a newsletter, etc.

 

5. Include an action step.

What do you want your readers to do when they’re finished reading your work? This can be simple and small, like signing up for your newsletter, or inspirationally large, like living a healthier life in some way. Whichever it is (or if it’s both), be clear about what your hopes are for your readers and what you’d like them to do.

 

6. Write & review.

With your brainstorming in front of you, start writing your piece. Get the first draft down, then take a break and step away from it. When you’re ready, read through it and review. Using your notes as a reference, make sure you’ve clarified your message and created your own voice. Have people proofread it and share any questions they have. Once you’ve repeated this process, decide how you want to release it to your readers. Consider having a designer create a cover or graphic for it, turn it into an ebook or sleek pdf, and go for it!

 

– Closing tip –

I strongly suggest making your manifesto your first email sign-up incentive. What does this mean? It means that when your “Sign up for email updates” window pops up in the center, corner, or sidebar of your blog, it advertises a free download of your manifesto. Make an image, use an engaging font, and your readers will gladly enter their email addresses in order to read your manifesto. This not only gets your content in front of them, but it gets their email addresses into your database. If you want to know more about building your online platform, read 5 Steps to Grow Your Platform and keep an eye out for an upcoming article on the importance of creating and promoting an email sign-up incentive.

Read & Respond: Christmas Traditions

The holidays are hard to dislike.

Extra lights illuminating houses, yards, store windows, and bicycles—yes, even bikes…keep reading! Festive banners and garland don city streetlights and buildings. Red, gold, green, silver, blue. Warm smiles and warmer drinks. Even here in Florida, where I’ve broken a sweat on more Christmas Days than not, there is an undeniably festive buzz.

When I was a kid, Christmas Eve dinner at Grandma’s and church service led the way to the much anticipated morning of December 25th. Still in our pajamas, my older brother and sister and I would crouch on the stairs right around the corner from the tree decorated with miscellaneous ornaments.

Each year before Christmas Day, we would carefully pick out a new ornament to add to our personal collections. My sister would pick the cutest ones she could find, while I would go on a hunt to pick something that most accurately depicted my year. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but it had to be symbolic. For 3 years straight I had different breeds of horses added to the tree; in 7th grade I played a waiter in the musical Hello, Dolly!, so it was a reindeer with an apron and tray; just a few years ago, I chose a german shepherd dog to represent my new puppy.

But back to Christmas morning. As my siblings and I sat huddled together in the stairwell, we could hear my parents arranging the gifts and laying the stockings on the couch as the coffee brewed and the cinnamon rolls baked.

Years later, the anticipation is much less heightened, the gifts less in the spotlight, and our ornament shopping sometimes forgotten till after the season passes. My brother is states away, and my sister has a family of her own.  But the magic is still attainable. What reaches beyond the commercial celebration of Christmas is the connection that happens between family and friends. I’ve been blessed with a tightly knit family. This year was different from other prior holidays, but in the best of ways. I noticed growth and positive change. For presents, my family drew names and were able to really focus on the person we were buying for without breaking the bank. Our Christmas Eve dinner took place at my sister’s to relieve my grandma. My 16-month-old nephew brought a new element of complete joy and sweet entertainment that is often missed when a family’s children grow up.

Another new tradition I started this year was a “Lights by Bikes” event. My roommates and I threw a party for our friends where we decorated our bikes with garland and lights, then rode them around town to enjoy the decorated houses around us.

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Whether it’s a childhood time of wonder and glee, a teenage phase of apathetic participation, a stress-filled time of shopping, or a mellow month of reflection and thankfulness, for me, Christmas has always been a season of sweet details and evolving traditions.

Written by Emiley Jones.

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What about you? What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? How have they changed over the years? What made this last season more special or more difficult than past years?

If you want to write your own response, go ahead and send it to us so we can feature it later this year!