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Using Words to Leave a Legacy

Using words to leave a legacyA pastor-friend once preached a message on how to leave a legacy. Legacies were on his mind because he had been recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. He had been thinking a lot about his own legacy, which in turn motivated me to think about mine.

I wasn’t sure I had a legacy, or if I even needed one. We don’t have children, and I considered the subject irrelevant. Still, his message struck a chord in me.

My family and friends have children and grandchildren. Most of the participants in the Bible studies I teach also have children and grandchildren. But physical descendants are not the only recipients of a legacy. I could choose to live in a way that passes the baton of faith to the next generation, even if the next generation is not my own.

Investing in these young lives isn’t just about teaching Sunday school or mid-week Bible study. It’s about spending time with the younger generation. Learning their likes and dislikes instead of complaining about our differences. Sincerely attempting to relate to their interests, even if I’m not always successful. Most of all, it’s about being interested in them as individuals.

More than thirty years have passed since I first heard that message. A few months ago, I began to wonder how effective I’ve been in investing in the next generation.

A partial answer came through Facebook during this past Christmas season. Several young people commented on childhood memories of decorating gingerbread houses at our home each year. Now married with children, they talked about carrying on that tradition in their own families.

Decorating gingerbread houses may not be especially spiritual. Still, I pray the candy and icing are only a small portion of their memories. Perhaps they also remember bits and pieces of our conversations. Maybe they don’t recall the conversations at all – but they remember a warm, welcoming, loving environment as we celebrated Jesus’ birth. And perhaps, that’s enough…for them and for their own children.

However, as writers—especially writers for children—we have the privilege of leaving a legacy another way. We can communicate eternal concepts with the gift of words. Whether it’s sharing the gospel or writing novels with a biblical world view, we can give our young readers a solid foundation. A solid foundation that will help enable them to grow into the godly men and women the Lord intends them to be.

May the words we write leave a legacy for the good of our readers, but most of all for God’s glory. Let’s use our words to fulfill the psalmist’s proclamation: “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord” (Psalm 78:4 NIV).

 

* A version of this post first appeared on Ava’s inspirational blog.

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More Than Called…

Called

Each of us has been called to serve our mighty God in a unique way. But we can become too busy fulfilling our call that we only focus on the “doing.” We want to do better—to write well, to teach effectively, to do whatever we’ve been called to do to the best of our ability

Yet our ability is limited. We often struggle with our inadequacy as we represent the King of Kings. And of course, and we seek His enabling to accomplish His purposes.

Continue reading More Than Called…

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Editors – Should an English Teacher Edit Your Book?

Editors & editing

Write2Ignite 2019 is history, but now your work begins! We hope you’re primed and ready to tackle a new project or pull out an old one that needs editing and polishing.

No matter how well we write, we all need someone with an objective perspective to critique our books. That’s why writing critique partners and groups are so valuable to us.

Still, we need to be careful. How do we process the feedback we receive? What is the background or experience of the people offering their critique?

We need to be especially intentional about the people we hire to edit our books. Are they familiar with the contemporary publishing industry? Someone with an in-depth knowledge of English or even classic literature may not be the best individual to edit our books. Which brings us to English teachers…

English teachers as editors?

At first blush, an English teacher sounds like the perfect editor. But the grammar and punctuation rules a teacher may follow might not be the same as those used by editors familiar with contemporary books in your genre.

For example, most of us were taught that sentence fragments are inappropriate. Yet they’re in frequent use today. And many classic literary works are heavy on flowery descriptions which contemporary fiction readers tend to pass over. As Elmore Leonard once said, “When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.”

Additionally, English teachers frequently encourage creative substitutes for the word “said.” However, in today’s publishing world “said” is better to be as invisible as possible. An even better choice is to replace it with physical beats. For example:

“No way!” Mary exclaimed.

As opposed to:

Mary slammed her fist on the table. “No way!”

Another example is the use of punctuation. From the perspective of an English teacher, semi-colons can be correctly used in fiction. However, in contemporary publishing, semi-colons are often discouraged in fiction. Why? They tend to pull the reader out of the story.

All that to say English teachers can be great editors as long as they also understand the current publishing environment.

Of course, they can be terrific at critiquing plot flow and character development. And they would also serve well as beta readers to provide feedback on whether your book held their interest.

So, definitely seek out critique partners and editors. But don’t make your choice based on titles or vocations. And when it comes to hiring an editor, connect with the individual to determine if they’re the right person to edit your work.

Bottom line: understand your genre’s standards and ensure your editor understands them, too!

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It’s Not Self-Promotion

Marketing & Promotion

I was excited when my first book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God, was published several years ago. But my delight at the release of this project was tempered by the need to market it through a website, blog posts, newsletters, Facebook author page, Twitter, book signings, and other activities.

A conversation with an acquaintance highlighted the tension inherent in promotional activities. “Why are you doing book signings?” he asked. “If God wants your book to sell, then it will sell. You should trust Him.” His voice was tinged with reproach and his meaning was clear: a mature Christian should trust God rather than fall prey to the sin of self-promotion.

Marketing and promotion. I confess I’m uncomfortable with this part of a writer’s job. I dislike doing it and I hate that others—even family members—might mistake my actions for self-aggrandizement.

After all, I’m a Christian. The Bible tells me to be humble, to put others first, and—in the vernacular—to not toot my own horn. Proverbs 27:2 says to “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”

Still, publishing is a business, and that includes Christian publishing. In these days of staff cuts and diminishing budgets, most authors can no longer expect their publishers to roll out the red carpet to market their books. Even before a book is contracted these days, a traditional publisher wants to know what specific marketing plans you have for the project. If you’re not willing to promote your book, they probably won’t be willing to publish it.

My goal is to glorify God with my life. That includes my writing, which I believe is a gift He has given me. If this is true, then my goal must also be to glorify God in my marketing, just as I sought to glorify Him in writing.

This is not about me. I never want my marketing efforts to be self-aggrandizement. I don’t want to be the one waving her book high in the air, shouting “Look at me! Look at what I’ve done! Buy my book!”

Rather, I want to promote my books because they represent work God has done in and through me. He gave me an ability to use words for His glory. And He opened doors to publication in order to bless others. This is about what God has done. That’s what I want to say. I want to shout, “Look at my Creator! Look at my Redeemer! Look at what He has done! Look what He can do for you!”

The Bible tells us, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31 NIV).

If, in order to do that, I need to “put myself out there” then that’s what I do. But I do it in the hope that others will be blessed by the work He gave me. And they, in turn, will proclaim what God is doing and has done for His glory.

So, yes, I will continue to tell people about what I’ve published. Not because I want to draw attention to myself, but because I believe what I write will be used by God to touch others for His glory. And if that’s what I truly believe, how can I not tell others? How can you not tell others what God has given you for His glory?

What has God given you to bless others? What are you doing with your gift?

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Benefits of Growing Your Email Distribution List

Email ListsPlatform.

We hear it so often we want to scream, “Enough, already!” Yes, we know we need a growing platform. It’s why we spend hours on social media, trying to grow our lists of friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter and Instagram. And it’s why we wrack our brain attempting to come up with clever posts and memes that will generate lots of likes and hopefully go viral.

After all that work, oh look! I gained 5 friends and 3 followers! Or perhaps I have 3,000 followers, but the Facebook algorithm displayed my post on a mere 25 feeds.

So what should you do? Give up?

Don’t give up on social media. But do rearrange your platform priorities.

Here are five benefits of growing your email distribution list:

  1. You own your list.

Social media platforms such as Facebook own their site. They can—and do!—change their algorithms to suit their needs. So although you may have 3,000 “Likes” on your author page, Facebook might release your post to the newsfeeds of 50-100 of your followers, if you’re fortunate. To ensure all your followers see your post, you’d need to “boost” it (aka pay) for your post to be seen.

  1. Email is more popular than social media.

More people have email than are on social media. Which means you can reach more people by email than by all the social media accounts combined.

  1. Email behavior is trackable.

You have a wealth of information available through your email newsletter provider. Open rates, click-through rates – it’s all available. This information will help you craft future emails that are more targeted.

  1. Segmented lists mean more personalized communication.

Based on how you segment your list, you can personalize your email communication. This will encourage increased open rates. Or you can personally target subscribers who have not opened your recent emails to encourage renewed interest.

  1. Email newsletters will help grow your social media accounts.

Include links in your emails to your social media accounts to help grow your followers!

So as you work to grow your platform, don’t stop your efforts on social media. But do make building your email newsletter distribution list your new priority!

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Classic Keys for Writing for Children

The Four R's

If you’re like me, you probably have bookshelves crammed with books. Too many to keep and too precious to give away. As I look through my bookcases, I enjoy finding a long-forgotten treasure. Even better, on occasion I’ll make a new discovery—a book that made it onto the shelf without being read.

I recently came across a gem I first read more than twenty years ago: Wes Haystead’s Teaching Your Child About God, published by Regal Books in 1995. Haystead talked about the four “R’s”—relationship, relevance, repetition, and realization in teaching children.

I believe these four “R’s” are equally important in our writing.

  1. Relationship:
    Haystead noted parents who live out their faith for their children to see will more effectively communicate spiritual truth to them.
    As writers, we usually don’t have the opportunity to form relationships with our individual readers. Still, a type of relationship does form as readers relate to our content and decide they enjoy certain authors. How we write can either facilitate this relationship or become a barrier to it. Barriers might include being preachy or failing to use age-appropriate vocabulary.
  2. Relevance:
    Relevance is another important aspect of teaching children and it’s equally important in writing for children.
    Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, do you use illustrations familiar to your readers’ frame of reference? A helpful tool is the Mindset List. This annual list includes what has “always” or “never” been true for entering college students—a good reminder for those of us who can remember a way of life that is merely history for our readers!
  3. Repetition:
    Haystead included repetition as a critical component of the learning process.
    In our blogs, short stories, and books, we don’t want to repeat ourselves. But we can share truth and demonstrate it in multiple ways. Bible passages with varied translations, stories that illustrate our points, and quotes are just some of the ways we can reinforce the points we make.
  4. Realization:
    The fourth “R” Haystead includes is realization—acknowledging that children learn from their experiences.
    The more our writing relates to our readers’ experiences, hopes, and dreams, the more they will connect with our fiction and nonfiction. Do we include references they can relate to because they’ve lived it or want to live it? How does what we write relate to their experience.

By incorporating the concepts of relationship, relevance, repetition, and realization into our writing, we can increase the chances of our readers connecting with us and our books!

How are you including the four R’s in your writing for children?

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Easy Video Tool for Social Media

social media

Ever feel like Sisyphos? In Greek mythology, the gods punished Sisyphos for his greed and deceit by assigning an impossible task. He had to roll a huge boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down when it reached near the top. And he had to do it for eternity.

Gaining traction for social media author pages often feels like a Sisyphean ordeal. Just when we think we’ve reached our goal—whether deciphering Facebook algorithms or reaching a new level of followers—the standards change. The proverbial boulder rolls back down the hill and we have to start again.

For example, first we needed engaging posts. Then we were told the posts needed images. Now the experts tell us static images are not enough. Videos are the way to engage our followers.

Social videos can do more than entertain. They can educate, tell a story, promote an event, highlight a testimonial, or provide a summary of your publications.

Still, many of us lack the time, money, or technical know-how to create engaging videos week after week, myself included. But I recently discovered Lumen5, a free app (there’s also a paid version with additional features) that enables me to create video stories with ease from my blog posts.

The first week I tried Lumen5, my Facebook engagement statistics achieved a significant increase. Weekly reach jumped 288%–from 861 to 3.35K. By the 3rd week, my weekly reach jumped to 5.8K. People engaged increased 164%, from 100 to 264 and then to 645. Even my Page “likes” increased. People I did not know shared the post and then became followers. All in the first 3 weeks! And that trend continued with subsequent video posts.

Using Lumen5 is easy, even for a non-techy like me:

  1. I uploaded my blog link (or you can copy and paste your content from Word):

Lumen5

  1. Select a format by clicking on one of the three options. I chose landscape…

Lumen5 format

  1. …And click on a theme:

Lumen5 themes

  1. Then I scrolled through the content and clicked on the significant sentences I wanted included in the video. Each time you click on a new sentence, it’s automatically paired with a new suggested visual slide.

Lumen5 content

  1. I went back and swapped out some of the photos for ones that were a better match. Click on Media and choose a different suggested image or use the search feature for more suggestions. Or upload your own photo.

Lumen5 photos

  1. You can also edit the text, reposition the text on the image, and highlight particular words for emphasis:

Lumen5 edits

  1. Then choose music to accompany your video. I chose a calm selection to fit my content.

Lumen5 music

  1. Finally, preview your video.

Lumen5 preview

  1. You can always go back to edit it further before you select Finish.

Lumen5 finalize

 

Here’s the final result:

Give it a try! Then share a link to your results in the comments!

(Note: this post first appeared on Blogging Bistro.)