Seasons for Writers: Saying Good-bye and Hello

Zoe’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

Learn more at the end of the post.

Are you fighting against entering a new season in your writing journey? I hope my experience will give you ideas to consider as you say good-bye to a season and hello to a new season.

Recently, I knew to survive in my writing and speaking career, one or more of my projects had to go. I was trying to juggle too many major commitments. Important ones kept getting tabled. 

Major Writing and Speaking Commitments

  • Writing and teaching the weekly community Bible Study
  • Planning with a group of women a spiritual retreat for our community in which I’ll be the speaker
  • Re-editing and updating two books of contemporary Christian allegories that my business partner and husband will put on Amazon
  • Applying my editors edits to the book in a new romance series
  • Teaching writing workshops at conferences, writers’ groups, and in webinars to promote my book on writing
  • Writing a speculative novel that I sensed God put on my heart
  • Serving as treasurer on the board of a national writers group’s state chapter 
  • Doing my part in our crazy book promotion and marketing efforts

Letting Go

Overwhelmed, I knew I was overdue in sitting down with God to determine what he was calling me to do? Hadn’t I prayed about these activities and believed God had called me to pursue them? 

Through my conversation with God, I realized I was holding on to projects from prior God-directed seasons. I discerned from God that my calling priorities are:

  • Writing inspirational novels
  • teaching God’s word
  • teaching writing principles

During the last couple of years, I was to concentrate on scheduling conference and writers’ group workshops to present the book I’d written to help writers complete and tailor their manuscripts. Although I’m to continue to teach writing principles, the push was part of a past season. 

Two years ago, I’d discerned that in paying forward the writing help I’d received was to volunteer on the Virginia chapter’s board of a national writers organization. The responsibilities and tasks have grown over the two years. When I prayed about accepting another year on the board, God confirmed this season was complete and I was to step down.

Letting go of these two major commitments, will free much of my time. As the year closes, I’ve been energized to complete the speculative novel and work on the spiritual retreat next year. 

Welcoming a New Season

Then a couple of weeks ago, an email arrived offering me a new opportunity that would turn my writing and our marketing habits upside down. Through prayer, I discerned I was to accept the opportunity and revamp and focus my writing and marketing efforts into a new, more defined mold. 

I’ll have to learn to write faster. But once our learning curve is accomplished, my husband and I will be able to concentrate our marketing into two major activities—limiting the craziness we’ve experienced—for a greater return and reach … for a season.

What seems to be calling you to let go of old activities and enter into a new writing season?

Buy Page

I finished reading Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I have AND will highly recommend it to anyone who dabbles in fiction. It’s one of the best “how to” books I’ve ever read.

—Marsha Hubler, Director Montrose Christian Writers Conference

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  

—Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! 

—Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan.

—Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling cozy mystery author of the “Myrtle Clover Mysteries,” the “Southern Quilting Mysteries,” and the “Memphis Barbeque Mysteries,” http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/  

Zoe has developed a guiding resource for beginning writers. Her method is designed for brainstorming, shaping, and revising the early draft of a manuscript. General and specific tips are offered for applying rules of writing to enhance one’s story for a workable second draft. By exploring the plot line of Love Comes Softly, writers may examine their own work for stronger plot and characterization. Valuable tools are offered that enable the writer to develop a workable draft in only 30 days!

—Yvonne Lehman, award-winning, best-selling author of 48 novels

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is chock-full of practical techniques. Numerous examples clarify problem areas and provide workable solutions. The action steps and blah busters McCarthy suggests will help you improve every sentence, every paragraph of your novel. If you follow her advice and implement her strategies, a publisher will be much more likely to issue you a contract.

—Denise K. Loock, freelance editor, lightningeditingservices.com

A concise, detailed, step by step resource for all writers. 

— Jamie West, editor coordinator, Pelican Book Group

Zoe’s writing blog has always intrigued me. As a high school English teacher, I can attest that her tips on good grammar and her hints for excellent sentence and paragraph structure are spot on. But as an author, I also appreciate her ever-present advice that excellent skills are not enough: you must tell a good story, too. This book clearly shows how to do it all.

—Tanya Hanson, “Writing the Trails to Tenderness,” author of Christmas Lights, Outlaw Heart, Hearts Crossing Ranch anthology, and coming in 2019, Tainted Lady, Heart of Hope, and Angel Heart. www.tanyahanson.com

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools.

–Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

Confidence-Building Public Speaking Tips for Introverted Writers

I used to be incredibly afraid of public speaking. I started with five people, then I’d speak to 10 people. I made it up to 75 people, up to 100, and now I can speak to a very large group, and it feels similar to speaking to you one-on-one. — Robin S. Sharma

image by GooKingSword
image by GooKingSword

As writers are expected to perform more marketing tasks to promote their books, speaking ability becomes more crucial. Being prepared is key in holding the jitters to a healthy level and feeling confident.

  1. Consider your audience before you develop a new talk or rework one you’ve already presented.

image by klimkin
image by ClkerFreeVectorImages

Why it makes sense: Wouldn’t it be nice to know the person you approach at a social gathering is a widow before you start promoting your book on saving marriages? It’s the same with a larger audience.

 

 

  • Ask for the demographics of the audience.
  • Gear your humor, illustrations, and focus to your audience.
  • Give lead-ins where necessary; don’t assume attendees know things.

If your audience feels comfortable with you, you’ll receive more smiles and nods of encouragement. 

  1. Include stories—from your personal life and those you’ve collected.

image by ClkerFreeVectorImages
image by ClkerFreeVectorImages

Why it makes sense: You’re a writer. You know people enjoy listening to and learning from stories.

  • some should be funny (not jokes!)
  • some should touch emotions
  • personal ones should also be universal so the audience identifies
  • they should fit the theme or lesson of the talk
  • they should have a point
  • they should be told, not read
  • they should include details, e.g. my skeptical girlfriends vs. my women friends
  • real-life ones should include twists or exaggeration for greater pay off—emotional or humorous (writer’s license, but don’t veer too far from the truth)

If you know your stories, you have less to freeze up on.

  1. Write out your talk, record it, rewrite it, and practice, practice, practice. 

image by mvscreativos
image by mvscreativos

 

Why it makes sense: These help you get to what will work for you on stage. And, you’re mapping out your audience’s experience and takeaway.

 

 

  • Tell the audience what you’re going to say, say it, and then tell them what you said.
  • Keep your talk focused; refuse to ramble.
  • Search for the right words:
    • For more power, use words starting with hard consonants (gripped vs. held; his lip curled vs. his lip rose)
    • For humor, look for funny words (gussied up vs. dressed nicely)
  • Work on pauses and natural-looking gestures.

If you’ve thought out your talk ahead of time and practiced, practiced, practiced, your talk will be like singing a song you know. And, you won’t be making decisions of what to say on stage.

  1. Tell a Self-deprecating humorous story.

image by ClkerFreeVectorImages
image by ClkerFreeVectorImages

Why it makes sense: People like to laugh. And these stories help people connect with you.

  • It’s all right to be vulnerable, but avoid confessions for shock value.
  • Even tough life-moments can be written in a humorous manner and make a point or inspire.
  • Telling a relevant, humorous self-deprecating story can give the audience a rest from hard, emotional stuff you’ve just covered.

If you tell funny stories on yourself, you may feel more comfortable that you aren’t picking on anyone else. They may be easier to tell because you know what happened and how you felt.

Tips to help introverted writers give confident talks. Click to tweet.

What is the one part of speaking that scares you the most?

The Best Way to Prepare to Speak at Live Author Events

“Creating a personal catalog of stories associated with various emotions is a useful resource.” — Nancy Duarte

 

Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’re an introvert like I am, you may dread people asking you questions at live author events. You may wonder what you could possibly say at these functions that would interest readers. You may not be gifted in pulling together concise, yet witty, answers in the presence of—gasp!—people.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here’s what I learned was THE best activity that helped me in live events for Calculated Risk.

In prep for live author events, obtain as many guest interviews on others’ blogs as you can. Click to tweet.

Why?

1.  You’ll receive a full gamete of possible questions. So, you’ll encounter few surprises at live events.

Some blog interviewers request you choose a certain number of questions to answer from a myriad of questions. They’ll list the possible questions under such categories as: your book; your writing journey; your writing preferences; you as a writer; and you as a person.

2.  You can formulate your answers in the quiet of your writing space. You can write and rewrite them until they’re concise and witty.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

3.  You’ll write the answers over and over for all your guest blog interviews. Some blogs want short answers. Some want long chatty answers. Every time you prepare your answers for a guest post, you’re learning the best way to answer questions. The answers are becoming ingrained in your brain. You feel more and more comfortable with the questions.

For example, after ten or so blog interviews you’ll now know the silliest, the most exotic, and the gutsiest thing you’ve ever done. Questions about these are commonly asked. If you’d never thought to identify these oddest moments in your life, you’d probably get flustered or silent at a live event when asked such questions. But now, after scanning your life for these moments off stage, you’re ready for that kind of question.

4.  You can keep all your guest blog interviews’ questions and answers handy in one place so you can review your answers in preparing for the live event.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to get invited for blog guest interviews.

  1. Join email and other social media author loops. I belong to my agent’s yahoo group, my publisher’s author group, and American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) main and regional groups. Request for guest bloggers come up on these loops all the time when bloggers are filling their interview schedules.
  1. Visit blogs that do interviews and contact the owners with a request to be interviewed.
  1. Apply to writing organizations and magazines for spotlights they offer in their publications. I applied for a spotlight on ACFW and received a spot January 12.                                        

Obtaining author interviews on blogs is easy when you belong to writer groups. Click to tweet.

What are the most unusual questions you’ve seen asked in interviews? Share them with us so we can add them to our cache of get-ready questions.