Monday, October 25, 2010

Is Inspirational Romance your cup of tea?

At the Florida Writers Conference I attended (and at which I led two workshops) last weekend in Orlando, I was intrigued to learn the following 10 facts about "The Rules of Romance Writing" for the inspirational market:

1. There are 147 basic romance plots; these are used by all romance authors with minor variations.

2. 53% of all U.S. paperback books are romance fiction.

3. Christian fiction generally pays twice what secular fiction pays (in terms of author advances).

4. Christian romance book deals are usually trilogies rather than stand-alone novels. The second and third books are usually based on two minor characters from the first book.

5. A definite deal-breaker in Christian romance writing is to mention denominations, cursing, or sex acts, although sexual tension is perfectly acceptable.

6. In Christian romance, either the heroine or hero isn't a Christian; the believer tries to help the searcher work through his/her faith and by the end, the unbeliever comes around to seeing the light.

7. Romances are only considered romances if they have "happily ever after" endings. (I suppose that's why Romeo and Juliet was considered a tragedy.)

8. A true romance is always written from the perspective (POV) of the heroine.

9. Per a recent survey, the reason Americans buy so many Amish books is because their lives are so hectic, they want to slow down. Even slower heart rates are reported while reading Amish novels.

10. The three current biggest selling Inspirational romance genres: Romantic suspense, Historical set in 1800 America, and Amish (even mainstream publishers are now starting Amish lines).

References for this fascinating and useful information are author Stephanie Burkhart and literary agent Mary Sue Seymour.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Opportunites to Make $$ and Get Published

At our recent Florida Inspirational Writer's Retreat, author Cheri Cowell presented "Often Overlooked Opportunities to Get Published." With Cheri's permission, I'd like to share some of these with you.

Cheri pointed out the extremely helpful but seldom used section of Sally Stuart's Christian Writers' Market Guide called "Topical Listing of Periodicals." Alphabetically listed are every online or offline publication that comes out weekly or monthly (hence the term periodical), divided by age group and topic. Many single article ideas can be tailored to more than one periodical if they are tweaked a bit and freshened by varying the slant.

This "literary regifting" technique is perfectly acceptable legally, morally and ethically, and is underused by up and coming authors seeking to expand their platform in acquiring clips and extra cash.

Other excellent ways to make a freelance living from writing while you're awaiting your big six-figure book deal are:

1. Book reviews (an estimated 100 paying peridocals SEEKING articles are listed); also many for music, video, concert and website reviews.
2. Writing Curriculum for Sunday School, Bible Studies, small groups and homeschool groups
3. Gift/Specialty items: greeting cards, games, gifts, journals, software, toys, novelty
3. Profiles/Celebrity Pieces
4. Photos: submit with or without an article
5. Fillers: puzzles, games, crafts, cartoons, facts, jokes, prayers, quotes, word puzzles, recipes, tips (fillers are in constant demand by almost every periodical that exists)

These are just a few of the creative ideas Cheri proposed; you may contact her at

Monday, October 4, 2010

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

I received a request this week from a fellow who attended one of my writing workshops. He wondered if I might look over the attached article he intended to submit to The Christian Voice, a wonderful little newspaper that has hosted my Grace Notes column for the past 5 years.

As this well-meaning gentleman's 5-page saga yawned before me, I realized there are some basic journalism elements that could stand repeating for aspiring columnists:

1. Article length should usually be less than 400 words (the equivalent of two double-spaced pages); many require even less; check the guidelines of your targeted publication for specific requirements. Include your word count in your header for the editor's easy reference.

2. Edit, Edit, Edit! Always double-space manuscripts and eliminate everything not absolutely essential to your point. Remember, this is not a rambling river book - it's a brief, tightly written squirt with a fire hose.

3. Triple check for punctuation and grammatical errors. Spell check is NOT fool-proof, especially with multi-words like to, too, and two. The polished condition of your piece is a key factor in whether it will see the light of print or not. The AP Manual of Style is generally considered the reference Bible for newspaper articles.

4. Use short paragraphs (2-4 sentences) and emphasize important points by one-line paragraphs. Study the layout of your favorite newspaper column. Remember, a column is narrow and long so the larger the paragraph, the longer the column will look without a break. You need ample white space, not solid black lettering filling the page (not reader friendly).

5. Expert-quoting is good, but you must cite your references or a legitimate source. For all the reader knows, you're making up "facts." Stick to your main point and don't chase rabbit trails.

6. Avoid stylistic devices such as bold, color, or underlines; go easy on the italics, but they are usually acceptable for emphasizing words or citing book titles. Many editors find these devices distracting and unprofessional. Stick with Times Roman size 12 font and omit the copyright statement or symbol at the end (sign of an amateur). If it's in print, it's considered copyrighted; it's redundant to state it again and some editors find it insulting (like you're trying to make double sure they don't steal your material, which they have no intention of doing anyway).

7. Beware of repeating phrases or use of cliches. Use power verbs; avoid wimpy adjectives ending in -ly and excessive adverbs. Say more in fewer words.

8. Avoid pelting the reader with too many questions. One or two will draw them into the piece, but more (without answers) will leave them feeling hopeless and unfulfilled.

9. Using "we" instead of "one" is a warmer way to include the reader and hook him/her on your topic. For example, "One should never eat saturated fats" becomes "We can avoid saturated fats by omitting fried octopus from our diets." Avoid a "preachy" tone and present your ideas as though you and the reader are exploring them together. The more involved they are, the more they're likely to keep reading.

10. Open with a hook (grab the reader's attention) and close with a bang. Tie the piece together with a bow (can be achieved by referring, in the last paragraph, to something from the beginning of the piece) and leave them with this gift of an applicable take-away they will remember.

Hey, if I can do it, you can do it. Write tight and have fun!