Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Shooing the Fly and other Great Time Management Tips

Okay you writerly types...these brilliant tips have been earned from my own personal battle scars.

Tip 1: As much as possible, work ahead of schedule. Put the manuscript away for a few days, then read through it again. You’ll see it with fresh eyes and—I guarantee—it will be a better end product. It’s a trick I learned in college—my grades took a sharp rise. Finally.

Tip 2: Take care of other things that can distract you—like bill paying or returning phone calls. Otherwise, you're "shooing the fly."

Tip 3: If you work at home, like I do, try to establish “business hours” and let your friends know when you’re available and when you’re not.

Tip 4: Simplify other areas in your life. Menu planning. Shopping. Running errands. I try to combine three errands together to justify a trip out.

Tip 5: Protect your creative time. For me, that’s morning. Arrange activities around that highly creative time of the day. For example, shift doing the laundry or emptying the dishwasher to late afternoon.

These really, really, really work. Print them out and tape them to your bathroom mirror. Repeat them every day. Then, in a year, when you are getting picked up in a limo to be sent to a booksigning event for your bestselling novel, drop me an e-mail and thank me.

Monday, September 29, 2008 won't always be brilliant

I normally write my Monday morning post right after my last kid walks out the door to school. This morning I was making pancakes for overnight guests. My neighbor needed me, I had two appointments, I squeezed lunch with my parents in between.

This writing-gig is tough business. Which is exactly why it has to be treated like a business. A real live business with deadlines, commitments. Essentials if you want to succeed.

But just remember. Successful or not, there will always be days like this. You won't always be brilliant. For those days I recommend giving yourself a lot of grace. (And me too, please.)

After today I'm going to make myself a new file folder. It will be entitled "blog posts for really busy days."

Until next Monday...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Author of the Week: Linda Danis

Linda Danis is the author of the bestselling book, 365 Things Every New Mom Should Know (Harvest House). She contributed many quotes to Grit for the Oyster and generously endorsed the book. The mother of four, Linda is known in her community for having a gracious heart and a giving spirit.

Hi Linda! Welcome to Grit for the Oyster.
Thanks so much for inviting me!

Can you give us a little bit of information about your publishing history?

My book 365 Things Every New Mom Should Know was published in 2002 by Harvest House Publishers. Six years later, it is still in print and is in its ninth printing. I have had numerous “Wow!” moments with its publication including when I found out it was being translated into Indonesian and when it was featured on the television program, “Friends”. 365 Things… guides a new mom through the first year of her baby’s life, one day at a time, giving practical tips, encouragement, and godly insight. It makes a great baby shower gift!

When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?

My original intent in writing the book was to give it as a gift to friends when they had a new baby. As a mother or four, people often came to me for mothering advice, so I thought this would make a nice, personalized gift. As I began sharing it with others, many said, “This is really good! You should consider getting it published.”
After hearing this several times, I began to do a little research on how to publish a book. The more I read, the more I realized that it was going to take a lot of time and energy, of which I had little with four young children at home. I decided to just begin taking the initial steps and perhaps when all my children were in school, I would then pursue a publisher. I worked on my query letter and book proposal, made a list of possible publishers, and read as much as I could about what it takes to write, publish, and market a book. Little did I know I was laying the ground work, for an incredible opportunity that awaited me.

My husband was on a business trip and struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to him. They had much in common and conversed back and forth during the flight. As they approached the end of the flight, the gentleman mentioned he was the founder and president of Harvest House Publishers. My husband told him about my manuscript and, amazingly, Mr. Hawkins said they might be interested! Fortunately, I had everything ready, so I sent off my manuscript and book proposal thinking he was probably just being polite in offering to look at it. Yet, six months later I received a call from the acquisitions editor saying they were interested in publishing my book!

What has been the best part about being published?

The best part is knowing that my book is helping new moms through that exciting, yet often overwhelming, first year of their baby’s life. My desire is to help and encourage other women in what I think is the most important job and ministry we will ever have – motherhood. Knowing that I can help moms in this way is what motivates me to write. I don’t think about the number of books sold, but instead stand in awe that I have had the privilege of helping over 40,000 moms.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

Most of my book was written between midnight and 2:00 a.m., because that was when everyone was tucked in bed, fast asleep. Now that I have teenagers who keep later hours than I do, my best time for writing is in the morning!

Do you have plans to write another book?

My publisher has invited me to write additional books, but I have had to turn down the offers due to several serious illnesses in my family. I believe God wants me to focus my attention and energy on these family members, instead of on writing, for this season of my life. Most of the time I feel at peace about it, but sometimes I think, “Why God? Why would you want me to pass up on all these great opportunities?” But, I know that when the time is right, He will once again open up the doors, just like He did the first time. In the mean time, all these experiences will be “grit for the oyster”!

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have learned in your life as a writer?

Sometimes, as writers, we let perfectionism and self-doubt get the better of us. I would recommend trying to turn off the critical side of your brain and just let the words flow. Give yourself permission to write poorly at first. Our desire to choose just the right words and say it in just the right way often paralyzes us from beginning to write. For the first draft, focus only on getting the words and ideas out on paper. Then and only then, should you begin the important process of editing.

What do you wish you had known when you first started out as a writer for publication?

That writing a book is only one part of being a published author. Most of your time and effort will be in promoting your book, first to potential publishers then to potential readers. Most of us think once we sign a contract, our publisher will put all their marketing dollars behind our masterpiece and will advertise in every media outlet possible. Reality is that publishers have a limited marketing budget and it is often spent on their established authors where there is a better chance they will receive a good return on their investment. Publishing, yes even Christian publishing, is a business and their goal is to make a profit. It’s our job as authors to help them make that profit by promoting our work.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

Fortunately, it has been pretty smooth sailing. Trying to find time to write subsequent books has proven to be the more challenging task!

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

Promotion is very important, yet the idea of “self” promotion is difficult. I hated anything that seemed remotely like I was trying to push my own book. Even telling friends about it was awkward, because I didn’t want to seem prideful. But then another author told me, “God has given you this opportunity to share what you feel is very helpful for new moms. How can God ever use it in their lives if they don’t even know the book exists?” That helped me have a new perspective. I am not promoting “myself” or “my” book, but instead I’m promoting a book that I truly believe will help and encourage other mothers.

I have found radio and TV interviews to be the most effective marketing tools, even though they are the most nerve-wracking. Each time I do an interview, I see an immediate increase in sales. Magazine articles are great as well, because they reach such a large audience and they usually focus on your target market.

Where can readers find a copy of your book?

At their local bookstore or on

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers here?

My parting words would be stay focused, stay positive, and don’t let the statistics deter you from writing. It’s true that getting a book published is difficult, but it is possible. The authors of Chicken Soup for the Soul were rejected by 33 publishers before they found one who was willing to publish it. Editors' jobs depend on finding new writers and new manuscripts. Your book may be just the one they are looking for!

Thank you, Linda,for stopping by our blog. We wish you great success!

Thank you so much for having me and I wish you much success on your new book, Grit for the Oyster. I think all writers, whether published or unpublished, will be inspired to take their writing to the next level after reading it!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

One writer's prayer:

I need an invasion of you
without it I cannot write.
My soul is tired.
My thoughts are many and clamoring and futile.
They lead me down rabbit trails to flatness and despair.
I think them.
I re-think them.
I unwrap, unfold, examine them.
I squeeze the essence from them--
and realize the essence will harm me.

Dear God, invade me.
Let me live near You.
Replace my futile thoughts with thoughts of thanks to You.
Replace hopelessness with the sureness of Your nearness.
Take my thoughts, tame them, turn them to You.
Then, my ideas will be worth writing.

Grit Happens

I'm already miffed about the 50% consignment the bookstore insists upon to carry Grit for the Oyster on consignment. Other retail outlets offer 60/40 or even 70/30, which allows me to make a bit of profit, but 50/50? It's hardly worth my gas to bring the books down here.

So when I arrive for the writer's mini-workshop I had prearranged three weeks earlier, my blood pressure blows out my split ends.

"I'll only need you to supply a table for my materials and at least twenty-five chairs for attendees," I had told the manager. "I'll bring everything else."

"Sure, sure," he had replied. "No problem." I called again the day before the well advertised event (all my effort, of course) to make sure we were good to go and the manager assured me everything had been taken care of. Except that I would have to bring my own table. Okay. I can deal with that.

As I lug my heavy table and bulky boxes of books, a crate of props and case of posters through the door a half-hour before the event is scheduled to start, I find that there are no chairs whatsoever.

"Where are the chairs?" I manage to ask through gritted teeth. He won't meet my gaze. "There aren't any," he mutters. "I tried to borrow some from a church but it fell through."

I stare at him in disbelief. "And you didn't try another church...or funeral home...or rental place...why????" My voice squeaks like my dog's chew toy.

He shrugs.

I'm speechless. I finally gather my wits enough to ask in a calm voice edged with steel, "What are the people supposed to do for a whole hour during the workshop?"

Then comes the kick in the teeth. "I guess they can sit on the floor."

Okay, I'll spare you the rest of the maddening details. Thanks to my quick-acting husband, we managed to seat half of the 45 people on chairs begged, borrowed, or stolen from friends, neighbors and nearby businesses. I kept apologizing for "the misunderstanding with the chairs" and thankfully nobody left. They just stood for a solid hour. There were four elderly people and a cerebral palsied lady in leg braces for whom some very nice men gave up their chairs.

I hoped the manager had nightmares about them wallowing all over the floor. But retaliation is not my point (he is, in fact, no longer with that company).

The point is to share one of the many bumps in the road that occur to every author (at least I hope it's not just me) during their writing journey. Some may be simple speed humps, while others may be teeth-jarring potholes. But the road will not be straight and smooth. So prepare yourself for twists and turns; prepare to persevere when your transmission falters and your gas tank is empty; prepare to ditch old maps and search for new routes when the road is blocked.

Prepare. And by the grace of God, your destination awaits you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Time Management Tips for Writers

I found these tips the other day and thought they hit the nail on the head. They're from an article called "Six Ways for Writers to Produce in Volume" by Michele Beardsley.


Does it take you an hour to write two pages? Or can you write one page in ten minutes? Some writers produce many pages in a short amount of time, others need longer amounts of time to write just a few pages. Once you figure out your own writing style, you can determine how many hours or pages per week you can commit to without setting yourself up for failure.


Are you writing a novel, short story, or article? If you're under contract or preparing an editor-requested submission, it will make a difference in how you set your goals because more than likely, you already have a deadline to meet. However, if you're not writing against a deadline, it's up to you to determine:
A. How much time do you have each day to write?
B. What kinds of projects do you want to finish?


Devise a schedule or chart and post it near your computer. Each day, when you complete your daily goals, mark them off. If you don't complete your pages for the day, don't make yourself crazy by adding those pages to the next day. Goals must be attainable! If you get overwhelmed, it's easier to give up. If you find you're consistently unable to meet your daily goals-change them. And remember, even if your muse decides to take a vacation,
write your pages anyway. You can decide what to change or discard during the re-writes.

Decide which projects you must complete first, second, and so forth, and write on each one in order of importance. If a deadline looms near, you might need to drop working on everything else except the project du jour until it's complete.


Do not your use writing time for anything other than writing. If you need to write a query, follow up on a submission, work on promotion, prepare a contest entry, or update your Web site, then figure out other times of the day you can devote to the "business" end of writing. You can even use the same kind of chart to help you finish writing-related projects.


If you're re-writing a novel, starting another one, finishing a short story for submission, working on a couple of articles, and so forth, you'll get overwhelmed fast. Consider how much time each day you have to devote to writing and limit the number of projects. If you have two hours of writing time, then choose one or two projects. If you have several hours during the day, you might choose four or five, or you might decide to devote more time to two projects, thus completing them faster.


Whenever you finish your project (or just your daily or weekly goals) then reward yourself. Buy a book, go to the movies, eat chocolate, or just relax. Rewarding yourself for jobs well done will go a long way toward helping you complete the next set of goals.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Although I call myself a writer, I am particularly good at not writing. Even when I have a big project due. (Okay. Especially when I have a big project due.)

You would not believe the things that capture my attention. Suddenly the coat closet has to be vacuumed, my car needs detailing and that darn silverware drawer has one too many toast crumbs in it. I can waste vast quantities of time reading about writing, reading what other people write and in general doing just about anything but writing. Over the years I've learned that the only way to get the big job done is to actually do it, but that doesn't stop me from trying not to.

In her book, Letters to a Young Therapist, author and psychologist Mary Pipher writes a fabulous essay called Therapy & Writing. Since I'm studying to become a therapist and am also a writer I find this essay to be particularly inspirational.

The gist of her message is that writing (and therapy) require hard work, persistence and patience. If you want to be a good writer, follow Rosellen Brown's and Mary Pipher's advice: show up, pay attention, tell the truth and don't be attached to results. Most importantly, sit down and write.

"There are three secrets to writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."~Somerset Maugham

Friday, September 19, 2008

Author of the Week: Karina Fabian

Karina Fabian writes Christian science-fiction. You can find more about her on her website:

Hello and welcome to our blog, Karina.

Hi, and thanks for hosting me.

Let’s start with getting to know you a little better. List five things you feel define you as a person.

Family, Faith, Fiction, Fun, Workaholic. (Couldn't think of a word for that that starts with F.)

Tell us a little bit about what you do with writing. What motivates you?

Usually the characters in my head. I'll come up with an interesting idea for a character, and pretty soon, they are living their lives out in my mind--and telling me all about it or making me live it with them. I've often said that I write in order to stay sane.

Where did the inspiration for your story come from?

Which one? I have so many, and they come from a wide variety of sources. However, I'd never say my stories ideas come "from life." "Snakes on a Spaceship" has nothing to do with my life--and I'm so grateful! (Incidentally, despite the title, it did not come from the movie, either. I refuse to watch the movie. I hate snakes.)

My Rescue Sisters stories (Infinite Space, Infinite God and Leaps of Faith) came from conversations my husband and I had while on a date. We're very good at communicating around chaos, so we don't really go on dates to have serious discussions. Instead, we take a notebook and hash out stories. We came up with the Order of Our Lady of the Rescue in 1999, while I was doing a series of articles on religious orders and Rob was very involved with Artemis Society. (Artemis was looking to put a commercial presence on the moon.) As we combined those interests, we came up with a near-future universe where humankind has populated the solar system in a rough but plausible way. The Rescue Sisters perform search and rescue operations in space, everything from safety evaluations to daring rescues of ships and people in distress. As for individual stories, either I read something that sparks an idea, or Rob and I sit over dinner and say, "Let's explore this! How can we do that in space?"

My DragonEye universe (Firestorm of Dragons and the soon-to-be-published novels Magic, Mensa and Mayhem and Live and Let Fly) came directly from an anthology and comedy television. I wanted to write something for Firestorm of Dragons and wanted a character no one had ever seen before. After racking my brains, I gave up and went to watch Whose Line is it, Anyway? with the kids. The comedians were doing a film noir spoof and they had such fun with the snappy, sarcastic dialogue, that I thought, "I can do that with a dragon!" Thus Vern, a Faerie dragon working as a detective on the wrong side of the Interdimensional Gap was born. Vern is hilarious fun to write, because I can twist clichés, make snide comments and shoehorn two completely disparate legends or myths into a noir-style mystery: elf war and the Plague of Locusts; 007 and Ragnarok; amusement parks and fairy tale creatures (OK, not a stretch, but wait until you see what I did with them!)

What are your dreams for your writing? Where do you see yourself in five years both as a writer and as a person?

I'd like to see DragonEye develop a following like the Myth, Inc series. (In my wildest dreams, I'd say, "like Discworld," but can anyone compare to Terry Pratchett?) I'd also like my Miscria trilogy published. I'd like to be publishing a book every 12-18 months with stories in between.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given/learned in your life as a writer?

Don't take rejection personally. It's not always about the writing or the story. Evaluate any advice they have, then send the manuscript elsewhere.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers here (advice, website, etc)?

I'm pleased to announce Leaps of Faith, an anthology of Christian sci-fi I edited with my husband Rob, is coming out in November from the Writers' Café Press.

Find Karina on-line at: You'll find links to my published works, articles, tips and even a free workshop for writers, and other goodies. You'll find my e-zine, Faith-Filled Fiction, there. In my blog, I post funnies having to do with sci, fi, fantasy, writing or family life. Plus, every Friday, I blog about my writing journey. These posts contain personal experience and general advice, a progress report (word count, etc) and a snippet from the current WIP. If you like dragons, detectives and twisted humor, check out the DragonEye, PI website. In addition to information about the characters and the universe, Vern blogs on the home page once or twice a week. Here I post information about books, from self-published to national best sellers. It's a good place to discover a new author or (if you are an author) to give your work some exposure. (Look for Suzanne's book there!)

I also have separate websites for my anthologies: Infinite Space, Infinite God--thought-provoking sci-fi with a Catholic twist! Dragons as you've never seen them before Leaps of Faith: Christian Sci-Fi, because faith and science can support each other.

Thank you very much for coming by this blog. we wish you great success!

Thank you!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

On Fire

"Don't you love it when you feel on fire with words?" a writing friend once asked.

"Don't know. Never felt that way."

"I mean when you are so inspired, the ideas just flow, your fingers just fly over the keys," she looked at me expectantly.

"Nope. Never happened to me."

It must be a personality thing. I run a few miles every week. I never feel in-the-zone. I write. I never feel on fire as I do it. I think. I write a few words. I delete a few words. I think some more.

I never feel on fire when I write. But I'm so focused that a building could burn down around me and I might not notice.

It almost happened once. I was making pancakes for my then young sons. As I poured the batter in the frying pan an idea for a revision that would strengthen the article I was working on crossed my mind. I ran to the keyboard and started revising.

Awhile later, one of my sons appeared at my elbow. "Mom, I know you don't like me to bother you when you write. But you might want to know this."

Scowling at my revisions, I kept typing. I wanted to get the words just right.

"Mom, I think you might want to know this."

"Yeah," his brother chimed in. "you might want to know this."

These boys had called me to the living room five times the day before to see them holding different denominations of monopoly money over their heads. "Come see us. We're under the money. We're under the money," they had shouted in glee. I had left my writing and gone to look five times. Surely, they owed me a few minutes to revise.

I kept typing.

"Mom. You probably want to know it,"they shouted. "The kitchen curtains are on fire."

Sure enough. The pancake was in flames so tall they'd reached out to successfully gobble the kitchen curtains.

With all that focus, it's probably good that I've never been on fire when I write. Fire plus focus might equal double disaster. But sometimes, I think I'd like to know what that on fire feeling feels like.

What about you? What kind of writer are you? Focused? On fire? If you're an on fire writer, will you tell me how you get that way?


My sharp inhale nearly chokes me. My careening heart thuds against my ribcage. Whoa, Mama! Will you look at that?

Right there, plain as the zit on my noggin, is a name I never thought I'd see in my inbox: Terri Blockstock. Terri Blackstock! One of my literary heroes is sending me an e-mail!

And within the course of a few weeks, unbelievably, as if suspended in a surreal sea, I see more amazing names from my Writers Hall of Fame show up in my incoming correspondence: Liz Curtis Higgs, BJ Hoff, James Scott Bell, Martha Bolton, Rhonda Rhea, Dr. Gary Chapman.

Has God ever blessed your socks off with an experience that you just couldn't believe?

I have to admit, mine was not because of any particular merit of my own. We co-authors of Grit for the Oyster had contacted a host of successful inspirational authors requesting writing tips to share with fellow aspiring writers in our book. These generous writerly legends were kind enough to respond. And you, readers of Grit, are the fortunate beneficiary of their selflessness.

There is so much encouragement in those pages, I've had readers tell me they even couldn't wait to finish the book before lunging for their pad and pen to finally tackle that project that seemed too daunting for too long. I find myself re-reading Grit for the fifth time just to feel the motivational surge I receive every time I sink my eyeballs in those words of hope, affirmation and fuel for my inner fire.

Our hope and prayer is that Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers will give you the same thrill. The very same high as if you found an incoming message just for you from your e-pal Terri or Liz or Jim Bell . . . or Suzanne, Jo, Faith, or Deb!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Time Tips for Writers

I spent most of Saturday in a quiet house, as my family had scattered. I got up at seven and started writing…next thing I knew it was noon. Next thing, six in the evening.

When I am absorbed in a writing project that I’m excited about (and I am)…the hours simply vanish!

And still, I did not get as much done as I would have liked!

Writing well takes time, and for me, lots of re-writes. A lot. The beauty of a computer is that we can try something out. “Nope. It’s awful.” Delete. Then, try again.

But good writing can’t be rushed. It can be helped, though.

A couple of tips that are working for me:

My writing opportunities started to take off when I took writing very seriously. I made time for it, every day. I set goals.

I’ve come to the conclusion that to write well, you have to take writing seriously.

It requires commitment. And time. A lot of it.

But…you just can’t take yourself too seriously. Remember…you need a very tough skin and a lot of perseverance in this field. No one is looking for you.

It helps to organize your day so that your mind is available for writing when it’s at its best. For me, that’s morning time. (Sadly, every activity wants my mornings! Bible study, tennis, coffee dates with friends. Sigh. If only a day could have two mornings.)

Another suggestion that has helped me is to push off activities that require less brain synapses' firing to a period in the day when I’m not quite as cognitively sharp. Like, from noon on.

For the next four Tuesdays, I'm going to write about time management tips that help the writing process.

If you have a time tip to share, leave a comment or pop me an e-mail: For the next four weeks, I'm going to draw a name a week to win a free, signed copy of Grit for the Oyster.

So what's your best tip? How do you balance priorities: time with the Lord, family, friendships, church, other obligations? We want to know!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Deadlines & Writer's Block

I have a book manuscript due in two weeks. I'm roughly (and I mean roughly) halfway through. Don't tell my editor.

Sigh. I wish I wouldn't always work right up until the deadline, but inevitably I do, whether it's a research paper or paying bills or washing my son's football uniform--I'm always pushing the deadline.

For me a deadline is like a carrot dangling just out of my reach. The closer I get the faster I run.

Until I get stuck. Like now. Several times this weekend I opened the computer file containing my book manuscript. I scrolled to the place I where I last wrote and...

Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

This morning I woke up early hoping that cavernous empty page would be less imposing after a good night's sleep.

Nope...still nothing.

So I cleaned the bathroom.

I also did something else that actually got me over the hump. I took my topic with me and mulled it over while I scrubbed. I determined not to think about anything else until I figured out what I was supposed to write next.

And it came to me.

Writer's block is no fun--especially when there's a looming deadline.

The next time you're up against a wall, try taking a proactive step away from the computer. Take a piece of your story with you and ponder it while you're doing something completely unrelated.

You'd be surprised what comes to you as you peer into the toilet bowl.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Author of the week: Patricia Fry

Hi Patricia! Welcome to Grit for the Oyster!

Can you give us a little bit of information about your publishing history?

A: I’ve been writing for publication for 35 years. I started out in 1973 writing articles for magazines on a manual typewriter. When they used to say, “Pounding out an article or a story,” back then, they meant it. And the only way to adequately correct any mistakes was to retype the entire page (or sometimes the whole manuscript).

I started out writing for horse magazines, but soon branched out into business, regional, women’s, religious, spiritual, cat, parenting and other publications.

In 1978, A.S. Barnes Publishers, with offices in New York and London, published my first book, Hints for the Backyard Rider. It didn’t make the bestseller list. It was a niche book, after all, but it did come out in paperback and hardcover and it was for sale in bookstores nationwide.

I established my own publishing company in 1983 and produced a comprehensive history of the Ojai Valley, (in California.). I now have 28 books to my credit. Some of them are self-published (through Matilija Press) and others were produced through traditional royalty publishers.

When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?A: Most of my books relate to writing and publishing. I teach courses for authors and I travel around and lecture on the subject of publishing and book promotion. I suggest to hopeful authors that they choose an A, B and C list of publishers long before they complete their books. And they should begin approaching appropriate publishers when they have a book proposal to show or they are close to having a completed, edited manuscript.

What struggles have you had on the road to being published?A:

When I was first published, 30 years ago, things were easier. Today, authors must somehow overcome enormous competition. Although, I didn’t experience many struggles on my road to being published, I am fully aware of what authors today face and, in fact, devote a lot of my time to helping educate authors so they have a more successful publishing experience.

Of course, this is not to say that I haven’t had my share of rejections from magazine editors and book publishers. Of course, I have. I have a few book manuscripts that never got off the ground. Since I am a career writer, I have to go on and pursue those opportunities that are available to me. I can’t spend a lot of time dwelling on what isn’t working.

What has been the best part about being published?A:

Well, for me, publishing is my way of justifying my passion for writing. So it is something I must do. In 1988, I began supporting myself through my writing and publishing. And I’m still doing so.

Will you share with us how you come up with ideas for your books?

A: My books are mostly audience-driven. I see a need for hopeful authors to understand more about the publishing industry, for grandparents to bond with their long-distance grandchildren, for young people to learn how to journal, for authors to discover new book promotion techniques and for freelance writers to learn the process of article submissions, for example. And I decide to produce a book in response to these needs.

I am working on a book of cat stories, however, which is purely for my pleasure.

Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?

A: I write nonfiction and I typically do create an outline for my books. I recommend it.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer? Any tips or suggestions for writers?

A: I am definitely a morning person. I get up every morning around 5 and start my day at the computer with a glass of orange juice. Of course, my suggestion would be, to follow your biological clock and schedule writing time when you are freshest—most alert, awake and productive.

What are your dreams for your writing? Where do you see yourself in five years both as a writer and as a person?

A: After 35 years in the business, I keep thinking that I should retire. But I can only see more writing in my future. Maybe this hardcore nonfiction, give-me-the-facts style writer will eventually write a novel. That would be novel.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given/learned in your life as a writer?

A: My whole life is about giving advice. After turning writer after writer down when they asked me to get involved in their projects, I have finally hung out my shingle. For the last 6 years, I’ve worked with dozens of authors on their projects. Since my roots are so deeply imbedded in publishing as well as in writing, I have become an all around editor and consultant, advisor, etc. for authors and freelance writers. I edit their projects and then advise them as to locating and approaching a publisher, establishing their platform, building promotion into their books, creating a marketing plan, finding a distributor and so much more. My authors have found the best of all worlds in my services, when they are new to the whole publishing scene.

In fact, I strongly suggest that all of my authors, before working with me, purchase and read my book, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book. Many of them already have, which is why they contacted me in the first place.

What do you wish you had known when you first started out as a writer for publication?

A: That’s a good question. I started out just like everyone else, with little knowledge and understanding. However, I did spend several years studying my field—writing articles for magazines—before jumping in and doing it. I knew, when my daughters were quite small, that I wanted to become a writer. But I put it off until they were young teenagers. During the interim, I studied my field and my craft.

When I published my first book, the publishing industry was more straightforward. It was not nearly as complicated and complex as it is today. What I tell new authors today, however, is study the publishing industry. Knowledge is the best gift that you can give yourself if you desire to enter into this highly competitive, complex industry.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

A: For me, it was fairly smooth with only a few bumps that are pretty much long forgotten. Once you become a published author, you must forget about the hassles and devote all of your concentration on promoting your book.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

A: I had an agent once who turned out to be a scam artist. You must be careful when seeking representation. I recommend

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

A: A publicist! I’ve known authors who have sold thousands of books, and, by the way, kept extremely busy, once they hired a publicist.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

A: Self-promotion is crucial. If you want to sell books, no matter what publishing option you choose, you must promote, promote, promote. I promote my writing-related books through my website, my blog (I try to post daily), through newsletters, websites and magazines related to writing and publishing. I work hard to become known in circles where my audience is online and off. Outside of the internet, I travel to conferences and speak and conduct workshops. I also set up presentations at writers group meetings. During the last few years, I’ve conducted workshops in Nashville, San Francisco, Seattle, Wisconsin, Atlanta, Baltimore, the San Diego State University Writer’s Conference, and I’ve done several gigs locally.

Where can readers find a copy of your book?,, Barnes and Noble Stores. For a showcase of my books,

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers here (advice, website, etc)? Do you have a website for readers to go to? Visit my informative blog often, I am also the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network). This is a 14-year-old networking organization and resource center for anyone who is interested in being published.

Thank you very much for stopping by our blog. We wish you great success!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


My husband has decided to put his stamp collection up for sale on e-bay. He doesn't collect anymore. Hasn't for years. He thinks his collection might be worth money to someone.

One of our sons has an enormous sport card collection. He doesn't collect anymore. We put his collection in the attic. It might be worth money someday.

All this collection moving has reminded me of the items I collected as a kid. My favorite collection was my word collection. When I heard a word that intrigued me, I printed it neatly on a scrap of paper and stuffed it into a shoe box that I'd wrapped in quote-covered paper.

I don't have the shoe box anymore, but I can remember some of the words I collected. Like the word picayune. My Dad used to say that word all the time. As in: "Don't give me anymore of your picayune excuses." He was the only person I ever heard say that word. I thought he'd made it up. Then one day, I read it in a story. I printed it on paper and put it in my box.

Another word I put in my box was the word raunchy. I hated that word. But my strong reaction intrigued me.

I don't put words in a box anymore. But I still collect them. the word I collected this month is: volunteers. Not the people volunteers. The plant volunteers.

I never knew plants were called volunteers. And then last week, I went to the garden to pick tomatoes. I came back with a huge bowl of cherry tomatoes--my favorite kind.

"I didn't know you planted cherry tomatoes," I said to my husband Steve.

"Those are the volunteers," he said.

I thought he'd made it up. He didn't. It's in the dictionary. The plants that come back on their own are called volunteers.

I just love the plant volunteers. Maybe it's because I'm a mom and I would just faint if anyone volunteered to help me with household tasks. Maybe it's because I'm a teacher and when I ask for a volunteer, no one raises a hand.

"We know we're apathetic," said a student. "And we don't care that we're apathetic."

I work everyday to combat that attitude. So maybe that's why I admire the volunteers. Nobody planted them. They're just out in our garden reproducing like crazy.

So what about you? What word intrigued you today?

Just Show Up

The day after I spoke at a woman's brunch, a friend who had attended called me to rave about how everyone loved it and that God was using my words to touch hearts.

Huh? I thought. That had to be the worst presentation I've ever done. I'd neglected to mention two of my five key points, dropped three pages of notes, which fanned out across the floor for me to unceremoniously squat in my skirt and retrieve, tripped over a microphone cord, and forgot the lyrics to the song I wrote. What else could have gone wrong?

I ruminated on my friend's erroneous impressions. She had even commented that it was refreshing to see a Christian woman who looked stylish and not dowdy and boring like many of the speakers they'd had in the past. She said it added to the lively spirit and excitement of the born-again message of joy we should all exude. Ha! I guess she didn't notice the red magic marker I'd scribbled into all the scuff marks on the old red pumps I'd worn with the hand-me-down suit given to me by a neighbor.

Then I realized that the person my friend saw speaking was not actually me. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit had miraculously interceded somewhere between the real speaker and the person the audience thought they saw.

My conclusion? God can use anyone and anything to His glory if we just show up.

It's the same with our writing. We don't have to be Liz Curtis Higgs or Dr. Gary Chapman. If we're sincerely writing for God's glory, He has the power to intercede between the written page and the minds of our readers so that they glean the exact timely message He has for them.

All we have to do is show up hour after hour, day after day, plunked into our computer chairs, pounding those keys to the best of our ability. The results are up to Him.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Seven Reasons to Write for Magazines

A lot of writers have a dream of writing a book.

Not to knock books, but magazine writing might be the way to start your publishing history.

I would even argue that it is a better path. Books can take YEARS to write, even a few more years to get published. The average book, according to Publisher's Weekly, sells 500 books.

The average magazine? Thousands of subscribers!

Seven reasons you should try writing articles for magazines:

1. You sharpen your writing skills by writing concisely.
2. You are developing interview/research skills.
3. You widen your influence as a writer, since thousands more eyes will see your words. (The average magazine is passed around two to three times.)
4. You might be able to increase your earnings, since each publication will pay for the second rights (although generally less than you were paid for first rights.)
5. You develop relationships with editors new--and influential--to you.
6. You may get assigned an article from some of these editors.
7. Perhaps the most important of all...your confidence is growing.

Then, you'll be ready to tackle that book.

Monday, September 8, 2008


I am not very good at the business side of writing.

I get lost in details and tend to resist too much structure. The creative side of me yearns to be free to create--whatever and whenever the mood strikes me. But I've learned that it's essential for writers--especially freelancers--to balance their creativity with administration. Here are some things that have helped me conduct myself in a more business-like fashion:

  • My planner: While I tend to be the computer-savviest author on the Grit team, I prefer pencil and paper for my planner. I keep this little book with me at all times, writing deadlines on the calendar (with reminders a week or two before the deadline), to-do lists in the back, and random thoughts with ideas for future projects. My planner keeps me organized and focused. Plus there's something extremely satisfying about checking off completed tasks with a perfect 0.7 lead mechanical pencil.
  • My mentor: I have recently fallen into a relationship with a business mentor and I must say it is fabulous. She is helping me focus and provides accountability. She asks great questions and is a wonderful listener. Find someone to play this role in your life. It could be a fellow writer, or a task-oriented friend. Perhaps you could barter one of your services for theirs.
  • My software: I recently purchased a great little piece of software called On the Job. It's for Macs, but surely there's something comparable for PC's. I love it because it enables me to keep accurate time-records for my freelance clients (so that I can bill properly). It's also handy for keeping me focused when I'm working on book projects--something about being on the clock keeps me from drifting into the laundry room.
  • My schedule: I've mentioned I resist structure. But my mentor taught me that it's important to make some kind of weekly schedule. It can be as structured or unstructured as you wish, but a schedule provides a framework for getting your work done. Be sure to include business development time each week--time to network, write queries, read up on the craft--the nuts and bolts that will help expand your business.

I'd love to hear about the things you do to run your writing business.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Author of the Week: Alyice Edrich

Hi Alyice! Welcome to Grit for the Oyster!

Can you give us a little bit of information about your publishing history?

I started writing professionally back in 1999. I started out writing for small print publications and a few online sources. One day, I thought I had a book in me and began researching the possibilities of getting it published. I opted to self-publish the book.

A year or so later, I was asked to take my grief journal and turn it into a book. I sought publishers, but was told that my particular idea for a grief journal—while intriguing—had too narrow a market. I eventually found a small publisher willing to publish the book, but just as the final edits were completed, the publisher went out of business. At that time, I opted to pull the book as too many grief journals were now making their way to Christian bookstores. Of course, it could have just been that my eyes were opened since researching the industry, but I felt it wasn’t a necessary book, so I pulled it. Now, I only hand it out to people I feel will be blessed by it and I do so, in e-book format.

Today, I’ve written ten e-books, two of which are distributed as free downloads and the rest I sell online.

I’ve also been included in a few print books, but never had one of my own, or even co-authored one.

What are the titles of your books?

Electronic Books: Author
Tid-Bits for New Signing Agents, e-book © 1999, 2003, 2005
Tid-Bits For Making Money With E-books, e-book © 2005
Tid-Bits for Marketing Your Business With Articles, e-book © 2004
Good Mourning Lord, e-book © 2004
Tid-Bits for New Daycare Providers, e-book © 2003
Mystery Shopping Earns You Perks!, e-book © 2002, 2003
Work-at-Home or Stay-at-Home? You can do both, e-book © 2002
Build Upon a Firm Foundation: Financial help with a biblical twist, e-book © 2002

Electronic Books: Compilation Editor & Contributor
Krack'd Pot Moms Anthology, e-book © 2005
TDM Speaks With Successful Authors, Vol. 1, e-book © 2005
Queries And Published Samples Anthology, e-book © 2005

Print Books: Contributing Writer
Fear of Writing, sequel to be published
Girlfriend's Guide To Grief, to be published
What Can I Do: Ideas To Help Those Who Have Experienced Loss ,
ISBN: 0-806-65327-2, published by Augsburg Books, 2007
From Entrepreneur to Infopreneur: Make Money Selling Information Products , pages 118-123
ISBN: 0-470-05086-1, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006
The Writersville Charity Cookbook, pages 96-97
ISBN 1-58961-108-X published by PageFree Publishing, 2003

eBooks: Contributing Writer
Daily Marketing Ace's Top 200 Tips (So Far), e-book © 2004
Copywriting-Success, e-book © 2003
I’ll Write when the Kids are Grown, e-book © 2001
Writers-Exchange 2000, e-book © 2000

What struggles have you had on the road to being published?

Since I am an author of electronically downloadable e-books, my biggest struggle is convincing potential buyers that my books are not “crap” and they offer real value.

What has been the best part about being published?

I can’t lie. It’s the residual income.

Second to that, it’s knowing that something I’ve written can help someone long after the research, the interviews, the writing, the editing, the tweaking, the promoting, the marketing, the interviewing is all done. It’s knowing that something I have written can possibly make a difference in the life of another human being.

Will you share with us how you come up with ideas for your books?

Currently, I write books based upon my personal experience. Once I feel that I’ve mastered a particular topic or skill, I set out to show others how to do it. Aside from that, I do like to see what’s currently available on the market and if the market is oversaturated for my idea, because if it is, I won’t be able to sell a thing. There is a drawback, however, I can sometimes pick a topic that has yet to be tapped into and within two years the market will be flooded with like-minded books.

Do you plan your books first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?

I plan a generalized outline on how I want the book to progress. I don’t go into huge detail, just enough to help me get from point A to point B.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer? Any tips or suggestions for writers?

I am a spur of the minute writer. I write when the mood strikes. That can be morning, noon, night, midnight. It all depends on when creativity hits because once I start writing I can’t stop. If, however, I force myself to write, it can take hours just to get started.

Do you have plans to write another book?

Yes, I have five outlines already written—four for e-books, and one for a print book. I’m currently slimming down my workload to make room for more writing time as writing a book takes more time and concentration than writing an article.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given/learned in your life as a writer?

Never stop learning. It’s important to not allow pride to stand in the way of corrections or critiques. We must listen, take a step back, and see things with an open mind. Sometimes change can actually make the piece stronger. Other times, the change isn’t really necessary and you can leave it alone.

What do you wish you had known when you first started out as a writer for publication?

That it was a hard road, especially financially. You send in a query letter to request permission to write on a specific topic, then you must wait weeks—sometimes months—for an acceptance or a rejection. Once you get the acceptance and write the piece, you may not see publication or payment for another 6 months to 2 years.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

When it came to self-publishing it was a fairly smooth ride. I did a lot of research, a lot of interviewing, a lot of learning before I ventured out onto my own. Then as I learned new things along the way I implemented them. It’s been a fairy tale ride—even if it can be difficult at times.

When it comes to print publications, definitely a bumpy ride. There’s lots of competition out there and sometimes it’s a matter of who you know or if you can beat the next guy to the punch. It’s unbelievably surreal how many of the same ideas are floating around out there.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

It is VITALLY important to the success of any book—whether in print or download. It’s also vitally important to the success of a freelance writer who wants to write for magazines and/or small businesses.

Promotion comes in many forms: interviews, press releases, article marketing, blogs, social networking in person and online, workshops, conferences, newsletters, and definitely word of mouth.

Where can readers find a copy of your book?

The Dabbling Mum’s e-bookstore at or

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers here (advice, website, etc)? Do you have a website for readers to go to?

Don’t hesitate to stop by my magazine’s writing center where you will find a wealth of free information for aspiring and veteran writers:

And finally, don’t forget to invest in a website and/or blog. A lot of writers I know have gotten great paying writing gigs from their online presence.

Alyice, thank you very much for stopping by our blog. We wish you great success!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

My Favorite Summer Observation

One day this past summer I sat on a bench at the town dock in Noank, Connecticut.

As the sun layered my skin in warmth, I watched boats glide by on the Mystic River, sunbeams dance on the waves at the entrance to Long Island Sound and a young, skinny boy jump in and out of the water that lapped the sand on the tiny beach.

The boy collected shells which he lined up on a large rock. Snail shell, clam shell, broken piece of scallop shell and another snail shell. Once he arranged his shells, he bent over them and began to hum. "Hmm, hmm. Hmm, hmm." His hum was a tuneless, creaking seasaw.

Eventually, he looked up and noted me watching. With a smile as wide as his waist he said, "Sometimes they come out if you hum."

That scene was my favorite summer observation.

Observation. We writers do a lot of it. And then we tuck our observations away to use in future pieces. I'm already imagining a piece which will include the boy and his shells.

What scenes have you noticed lately?

By the way, I think he was hoping for emerging hermit crabs.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Let's go Shoe Shopping!

I recently came across vintage advice to aspiring writers from Henry James that is just as pertinent today as it was when he wrote it for "The Writer" magazine in 1899: "Don't think too much about optimism and pessimism; try to catch the color of life itself."

And this gem from Erle Stanley Gardner in 1939: "The beginning writer should write all types of stories for all sorts of markets until he has found his particular niche in the literary world. The veteran writer who would keep from going stale must take a fling at new slants, at new angles. As you go through life, wade out to meet things halfway. Never give up. Never quit fighting. Never dodge, and life will pay you dividends."

I adore those quotes, don't you? Isn't catching the color of life itself what we all try to accomplish first and foremost as writers? And when we finally get it right, when our words resonate truth, when the hammer hits the literary nail squarely on the head, the resulting inner glow of satisfaction and success can't be matched by anything on earth. We have reached our ultimate goal. We've accomplished what we were put here to do. We feel in tune with God and the universe.

Mr. Gardner's advice is a bit tougher, at least for me. Trying different genre's, styles and markets is like trying on every pair of shoes in the shoe store to find one that fits. Some pinch and chafe. Some look pretty but some vague, barely indiscernible thing about them is wrong. You feel like you're wasting time and energy in the shopping. But then that perfect pair adorns your tootsies and you know it's right. They're comfortable, affordable, and look oh, so marvelous.

I've tried on several genre's in my six-year career as a writer: novelist, newspaper columnist, magazine writer, devotionals...and feel that my best fit is women's humor. I love reading it, and I love writing it. I believe God has called me to it. And He provides more than enough ridiculous, bizarre events in my life as fodder for my stories.

Have you tried on any new and unusual literary shoes lately? Maybe you've always admired stiletto heels but you never had the nerve. Or those awesome leather boots that speak to your inner motorcycle mama. You just never know which pair may turn out to be your favs!

Hugs and kisses,
Debora M. Coty

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The First Line

How important is a first line to you when you read a book? Probably pretty darn important.

The next time you're in a bookstore, go to the fiction section and open several random novels. Read the first line . . . and see which ones make you want to keep reading.

My favorite first line of all is from a Jodi Picoult novel: "Ross Wakeman succeeded the first time he tried to kill himself, but not the second or the third."

There are even contests just for first lines of novels. I remember reading last year's winner: "Her wedding dress was never worn."

In your own work, you’ve got to work hard on that first line. Really, really hard. Then do it over. Read it aloud to someone who will be brutally honest with you and ask him how effective the line was at “hooking” his attention.

If it doesn’t score a ten, toss it out and start again. It's that important.